Virginia 34, Minnesota 31
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) -- Virginia had a distracting December with four coaches departing for new jobs. Marques Hagans and his fellow Cavaliers got their focus back in the Music City Bowl. Connor Hughes kicked a 39-yard field goal with 1:08 left, and Hagans threw for a career-high 358 yards in helping Virginia overcome a 14-point deficit to beat Minnesota 34-31 Friday.
Defensive coordinator Al Golden left to coach Temple, taking special teams and linebackers coach Mark D'Onofrio with him as his coordinator, leaving head coach Al Groh to lead the defense. Offensive coordinator Ron Prince took over Kansas State and associate head coach Danny Rocco went to Liberty.
"It's good those coaches got promoted to the jobs they did ...," Hagans said. "I think the team rallied together and everyone assumed individual responsibility, and the win is good. It's gratifying."
The Gophers (7-5) might have been distracted themselves in what could be coach Glen Mason's final game at Minnesota. He has a year left, but school officials want to make a decision by Saturday night when they must either terminate his assistants' contracts or see them roll over to 2006.
"I haven't been very emotional about this thing," Mason said. "The emotional side of coaching is dealing with the kids. I've been a college coach for 34 years. I understand the business side. I might not like the decision that they make, but that is their prerogative."
Minnesota had every opportunity to blow the Cavaliers out and win this bowl for the third time in four years, but the nation's fifth-best offense bogged down after taking a 31-24 lead early in the fourth quarter.
The Gophers had one last chance to pull out their fourth straight bowl victory, but Marcus Hamilton intercepted Bryan Cupito's ill-advised pass into double coverage in the end zone with 36 seconds remaining to seal the game for Virginia. It was the Cavaliers' first bowl win since the 2003 Continental Tire Bowl over Pittsburgh.
Virginia (7-5) already had forced the Gophers to punt twice, and Hagans overcame an interception in the fourth quarter to rally the Cavaliers with 10 straight points to end the game.
The Cavs outgained Minnesota 468-461 in total offense with its best performance of the season.
Hagans moved the Cavaliers on drives of 77 and 75 yards in the fourth, with the first capped by Wali Lundy's second TD run of the game -- a 2-yarder that tied the score at 31 with 8:48 left. But the senior quarterback, who turned 23 on Thursday, was at his best on the Cavs' final drive.
"A couple of those plays were Marques Hagans' productions," Groh said.
Nearly tackled in the end zone for a safety on the opening play from the Cavaliers 3, he escaped back to the line of scrimmage. Then he connected with Deyon Williams on a 19-yarder for a little room, and he later scrambled around before finding Emmanuel Byers for 19 yards on third-and-6 to the Minnesota 25.
"I couldn't go back to the sideline with a safety on the board facing coach Groh. So there was no way ... I would've thrown it in the stands before they took me down," Hagans said.
Four plays later, Hughes kicked his second field goal to clinch the victory.
Minnesota led 21-7 and had a chance to pad its lead before turning the ball over on downs when Cupito overthrew Logan Payne on fourth-and-6 at the end of the first half. Hagans used the final 50 seconds to set up Hughes' 32-yarder as time expired to pull within 21-10.
That was the first of four straight scoring possessions for the Cavaliers, helping them tie the game at 31.
Cupito threw a career-high four TD passes for the Gophers, who jumped out to a 14-0 lead. But the nation's second-best rushing game that had been averaging 279.91 yards per game was held to 198 yards, including only 74 in the second half.
"It definitely was disappointing we didn't put them away early," Cupito said.
Gophers running back Laurence Maroney finished with 26 carries for 109 yards, giving him a school-record 1,464 for the season. The junior immediately announced he would enter the NFL Draft.
"I talked to my mom a lot about it and she felt like it was the right time and I felt like it is the right time," he said.