Former UVA players reflect on Charlotte bowl memories

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (CBS19 SPORTS) -- 15 years later the 'Hoos are headed back to Charlotte, a stadium they owned in the first two installments of the Continental Tire Bowl.

"It kind of felt like home," former UVA wide receiver and quarterback and current wide receivers coach Marques Hagans said, "We never thought of it as anything else, but just getting to play one more game it just happened to be in Charlotte."

The Belk Bowl goes back to 2002 then it was known as the Continental Tire Bowl, when an Al Groh lead Virginia team took on 13th ranked West Virginia in one of the biggest crowds in the game's history.

"You add West Virginia fans and UVA fans in Charlotte, so I just felt like it was a perfect storm," former UVA fullback Brandon Isaiah said, who now coaches at Albemarle High School.

"Some words I probably can't say on camera," Hagans said when remembering Mountaineer fans, "But they were some interesting group of people."

Both players remember the Cavaliers pulling themselves out of a hole that season after starting 0-2, the team rattled off six straight wins to finish 8-5 and get a trip to Charlotte.

"A memorable walkout, I think we actually walked out and we came into the game as a team, holding hands," Isaiah said, "I think that kind of set the stage for a big football game."

For players and fans the game was littered with classics from Hagans' trick play touchdown pass to Wali Lundy for the first touchdown pass in bowl history, to Hagans' breakout punt return touchdown.

"Everybody knows that, you give the ball to number 18 and he's going to make things happen," Isaiah said.

"I'll never forget that moment it was kind of a pivotal moment in the game," Hagans remembered, "I think somebody threw a drink on me when I scored."

The Cavaliers returned a year later to defend their turf against Pittsburgh in another win.

"You're the greatest fans in the world, this one's for you, we got a twin now for the one we got last year," then UVA Head Coach Al Groh said to a see of Cavalier fans in Charlotte, while holding the 2003 Continental Tire Bowl trophy.

Now the 'Hoos of the past are pushing these players to make their own moments.

"Just enjoy the moment too," Hagans tells his players now before heading to Charlotte, "This is a fun time that you won't be able to get back. This is the last time that this team will be together."

"You can go to five bowl games or four bowl games, but your numbers are short," Isaiah said, "You don't have as many as you think you do."

The Cavaliers play South Carolina at 12:00 pm on ABC16 on December 29th.

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