Wisconsin and Virginia had survived the wind, snow and freezing temperatures to outlast 24 other teams and meet in one of the most prestigious fall tournaments of the year.
Both of these teams finished last season at Nationals and both have serious goals about making it to Madison for Nationals this year. However, only one of the two would emerge as the champion of the fifty-third installment of the Classic City Classic.
While we had seen Virginia handle Georgia Tech with relative ease we had also seen Wisconsin outrun Georgia in the second half of semifinals. Suffice it to say that Wisconsin was coming into the game with plenty of momentum as was Virginia.
However, Wisconsin looked much more ready at the beginning of the game than Virginia did as the Hodags put heavy defensive pressure on in the first point and forced a Virginia turnover and quickly turned that into the first break of the game to take a 1-0 lead.
After this the teams were content to trade points all the way until Wisconsin took a 7-6 lead. Highlights through this point in the game included huge air blocks from UVA’s Alex Dagley and smart offensive cutting from the Hodag’s Dave Wiseman.
At which point UVA turned to its senior captain Tyler Conger to make things happen on offense. While Conger had been putting on a throwing clinic all weekend, the point just before half asked even him to do too much. It seemed that Conger touched the disc almost every other throw and Wisconsin’s defense was doing its best to deny him the disc.
Night Train forced it to Conger one too many times and a miscommunication on the goaline led to a turn that Wisconsin took advantage of by getting its second break of the game and taking half 8-6.
The Hodags received out of halftime and quickly scored in order to take a 9-6 lead. It was hard to feel that this lead was anything but insurmountable as Wisconsin’s John Bergman and Evan Klane were conserving the disc as the main O-line handlers for the Hodags. On top of handler disc conservation, the Hodags owed a big thanks to junior Pat Donovan, Donovan spent a lot of time in the air on both offense and defense against UVA, pulling down and blocking many hucks.
Virginia and Conger refused to go away though. Night Train opened its offense back up and senior Tom Licitra got active downfield while UVA’s other handlers started to make their presence known both by moving the disc and finding receivers in the endzone. Night Train even had the disc on the goaline with the score Wisconsin 12 Virginia 10 but couldn’t convert. Virginia stuck with Wisconsin all the way until 14-11.
“We need to work on converting off of turnovers,” Conger told us after the game. “We had some opportunities that we didn’t take advantage of.”
At this point, it was clear that Virginia had a long road to go for victory but, in a different manner than earlier in the game, Conger made his presence known. After picking the disc up on the goaline he sent a thumber directly into the slight breeze that had picked up and narrowed the gap to 14-12. On the next possession a UVA handler let a throw to cutting-in Conger get away from him and, just when everyone thought that Wisconsin was going to get the turn, Conger laid out in between two Hodag defenders at shoulder height to save the possession. Night Train would turn that point into a break and get within one, 14-13.
However, that would be as close as UW would let Virginia get as the next possession saw a huck go up to a wide open Hodag in the endzone. Wisconsin shut down any hopes of a comeback and won its fifth straight Classic City Class by a count of 15-13.
While a fifth straight victory is impressive, senior captain Jake Smart is already looking towards the spring.
“Primarily, I would say throws, I would say other teams have better throws than us,” Smart told us. “(We need to work on our) handler D and our marks, we need to keep conditioning.”