Virginia's Cavaliers had a dream. They were unbeaten, they were ranked No. 1 in both the AP (media) and UPI (coaches) polls, and they were en route to their first national championship _ until Georgia Tech wrecked everything.
In the first November meeting of unbeaten ACC teams, Scott Sisson's 37-yard field goal with seven seconds remaining gave the visiting Yellow Jackets their victory on Nov. 3, 1990. They went into the game 14th in the UPI poll, 16th in AP. They came out of it seventh in both. Two months later they were co-national champions, voted No. 1 by the coaches (Colorado was the media choice).
The way the Cavaliers lost was as devastating as the loss itself. In the closing minutes, two killer mistakes contributed to a goal-line stand by Georgia Tech that forced Virginia to settle for a tying 23-yard field goal by Jake McInerney.
With first down at the GT 1-yard line, guard Chris Stearns jumped offside for a 5-yard penalty. Two plays later, again from the 1, Shawn Moore threw an apparent touchdown to tight end Aaron Mundy. It was nullified by an illegal-procedure penalty, another 5-yard loss. The Cavaliers could go for it on fourth and goal from the 6 ("My God!" Virginia coach George Welsh exclaimed later, "what are the chances of that?") or they could take the three points and hope to get the ball back.
They got it back with time enough for one play, Moore's desperation pass into a crowd that Erick Fry intercepted with no time left.
Virginia scored on its first five possessions and built a 28-14 halftime lead on three TD dives by Moore. But the Yellow Jackets responded by scoring on five of their six possessions in the second half. Shawn Jones threw for two scores and ran for a third. Virginia gained 512 yards but gave up 463. "It was almost like a track race," Jones said. "I said all week it was going to be like this. They kept scoring, so we had to keep scoring."
_ BRUCE LOWITT