Former Virginia quarterback Marques Hagans still carries a memento of one of the greatest games of his career around with him everywhere he goes.
Hagans and his wife Lauren, who played for former Virginia women’s basketball coach Debbie Ryan, weren’t dating at the time, and she had never been to a game in Scott Stadium. But on Oct. 15, 2005, she decided to go watch the Cavaliers taken on No. 4 Florida State, and to get in for free, she had to go get her student ID.
Hagans still has that ID. He carries it with him in his wallet.
“It was a special night and she went out of her way to come watch me play, so after I heard that story, I keep it with me every day,” Hagans said.
Lauren Hagans (formerly Swierczek) picked the right game to go to a game.
From the stands, she watched her future husband throw for a career-high 306 yards, find the end zone twice through the air and frustrate not only one of the best defenses in the country but one of the greatest head coaches in college football history.
“I’ve never seen a quarterback make as many one-man plays as he made tonight,” former Florida State head coach Bobby Bowden said after Virginia’s 26-21 victory. “We couldn’t stop that dadgum No. 18.”
A decade had passed since Virginia pulled off its historic first win over Florida State in program history. In 1995, Tiki and Ronde Barber led the Cavaliers past Warrick Dunn and the Seminoles. The only time it has happened since 2005 was 2011, when former quarterback Michael Rocco led the team into Tallahassee, Florida, and they left with a 14-13 victory.
UVa is 3-15 all-time against the Seminoles.
“For all the dudes I played with and all the coaches, that’s a memory we’ll have for years to come,” Hagans said. “To this day, that’s a memorable game and I’m just appreciative to be a part of it.”
Hagans is now the Cavaliers’ wide receivers coach, which is the same role he filled on former coach Mike London’s staff. He said he doesn’t talk to his players about the game or act like “Uncle Rico” of Napoleon Dynamite fame and try to relive his glory days.
“I’d rather be their coach than a historian, living in the past, and I don’t think my time has anything to do with their story,” Hagans said. “If they dig it up and watch it, more power to them. I feel like those guys are their own team and my time and the games I played were back then, and I don’t try to bridge those gaps. I’m just happy to be here and part of the legacy and the stories that they are making each day.”
Hagans may not like to brag on himself, but his former head coach, Al Groh, doesn’t mind.
“I think that was one of the better performances any Virginia quarterback has ever had,” Groh said. “Marques was spectacular at extending plays, not so much as a runner but as a passer after extending plays with his legs.”
There wasn’t much real estate to be had on the ground that night. Virginia managed 20 total rushing yards and Hagans finished with negative-4, but Groh said that was to be expected and, at least in part, by design.
“Nobody had been running on them,” Groh said. “We knew we were going to have to create some big plays and move the ball that way. We were going to play the equivalent of fast-break basketball and push the ball up the field at every opportunity.”
Hagans dodged pass rusher after pass rusher and completed passes of 20 yards or longer to four different receivers, and 11 players caught at least one pass.
“He’s a remarkable competitor and he welcomed the moment,” Groh said. “The coaching point that day to the receivers was just to continue your routes, stay alert and stay alive because Marques was going to extend plays and you’ve got to be ready for the ball at any moment.”
The final horn sounded, the hill emptied and fans and players alike celebrated one the biggest wins in program history. Virginia finished the 2005 season 7-5 and beat Minnesota, 34-31, in the Music City Bowl, but Groh said there wasn’t another moment that year that could top celebrating in the locker room after such a monumental upset.
“This is the greatest of team sports, and those moments in the locker room after a game like that are one of the finest things about being a football player and a football coach,” Groh said.
Hagans said he hasn’t watched the game since the team studied the game film in the days after the win. But he smiles and plays along when fans stop him to chat about it and he stays in contact with most of the teammates he shared the field with that day.
He and former kicker Connor Hughes were reminiscing just the other day about the four field goals Hughes hit in the win and the fifth, which was negated by a penalty.
“That was a long game and I remember we were in the locker room a long time [after the game], but I just remember having so much fun that night,” Hagans said. “We just had so much fun as a team, the crowd was electric and that was a big win for us at a pivotal point in our season.”
Hanging just outside of current head coach Bronco Mendenhall’s office is a framed photo of Scott Stadium taken during the 2005 win. It’s an aerial shot of 63,106 fans, which ranks No. 4 on the venue’s all-time attendance list. The record is 64,947 in 2008 against Southern California.
“I couldn’t find an empty seat as I looked at the stadium,” Mendenhall said. “I thought, ‘This is UVa football,’ and it will take all of us – our team, our coaches and the community – to return it to that.”
Virginia’s home opener last weekend against William & Mary attracted 45,250 fans, which is more than any home game last season.
Mendenhall was especially pleased to see as many as 10,000 students cheering from the stands and hill behind the north end zone.
“It was noticeable to me,” Mendenhall said. “I pay attention usually just before the game, and then they have to be pretty loud for me to notice during the game, and I noticed not only their section, but the grass hill on the end. It just started looking like, ‘Hey, this is starting to take shape.’”
There are rumblings about Saturday night’s game nearing sell-out levels as Florida State comes to Charlottesville as a 7.5-point underdog. With a win, many of the postseason aspirations No. 25 Virginia entered the season with will begin to take shape.