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Football Drops Last Second Heartbreaker

September 19, 1998

By HANK KURZ Jr. AP Sports WriterCHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (AP) – As the clocked ticked down to the final minute, Todd Braverman stood alone on the sidelines and said he wasn’t all that nervous. Many of his Virginia teammates couldn’t say the same.

“My heart was in my throat,” safety Anthony Poindexter said Saturday after Braverman’s 30-yard field goal with 49 seconds left – and some help from the officials – gave the No. 10 Cavaliers a 20-18 victory over Clemson.

“After the Auburn game, everybody was getting on me a little bit for missing an extra point and a field goal,” Braverman said. “I sat down, thought I had to prepare mentally a little harder and come through.”

Braverman’s fifth career field goal capped a 54-yard drive twice kept alive by penalties after the Cavaliers failed to convert third-down plays.

The first call came at the Cavaliers 36, after a third-and-8 pass missed, the second when Tigers defensive back Alex Ardley was whistled for pass interference against Kevin Coffey on third-and-10 from Virginia’s 46.

“I feel like we got lucky,” said Virginia quarterback Aaron Brooks, who was 21-for-34 for 310 yards and one touchdown. “The ref made a good call on the pass interference, but he could have easily kept it in his pocket.”

Instead, Brooks completed two more passes and Thomas Jones ran 17 yards to the Tigers 12. Three runs into the line set the stage for Braverman, who hadn’t kicked a game-winner since his junior year in high school.

As the kick sailed through, its impact hit the sophomore.

“I thought I was going to have a heart attack out there,” he said. “I was running around, everybody pounding on my head. … It was a struggle.”

The Tigers had one last chance to win it, driving to the Cavaliers 41 with eight seconds left. But Brandon Streeter’s pass on the final play came up short of the end zone and was batted down by a handful of Cavaliers.

“I don’t know if I’ve ever been prouder of a football team for the guts and effort they put into this game,” said Tigers coach Tommy West, whose team was beaten 37-0 at home by Virginia Tech last week.

“I hurt for our players right now because I know what they went through this week,” he said.

Virginia (3-0, 1-0 Atlantic Coast Conference) won for the fifth time in the 1990s against Clemson (1-2, 0-1) after losing 29 straight before then.

It was the second straight tougher-than-expected home victory for Virginia, which beat Maryland 31-19 last week in its home opener.

After going ahead 17-3 in the first quarter, the Cavaliers twice lost fumbles deep in Clemson territory, hurt themselves repeatedly with penalties and appeared to have allowed the Tigers to hang in a little too long.

The Cavaliers were flagged 13 times for 112 yards.

A safety followed by Antwan Edwards’ school-record 93-yard fumble return drew the Tigers to 17-11 midway through the third quarter. And with Virginia’s offense suddenly doing little, Streeter’s 54-yard touchdown pass to Brian Wofford with 12:08 remaining looked like it might be enough.

It may well have been had the officials not intervened.

“All good teams get breaks, and I think we got some today,” Poindexter said. “We got some break, but we made some plays, too.”

Jones rushed for a career-high 118 yards on 24 attempts for Virginia, including a 31-yard touchdown run for the gme’s first points. Brooks also hit Kevin Coffey for a 20-yard TD and Braverman had a 42-yard field goal.