Alonso gets second chance on his home turf

By Jerry Ratcliffe

Virginia Tech QB Hendon Hooker fumbles in the end zone after being hit by Virginia’s Mandy Alonso. The Cavaliers recovered for the game’s final and pivotal TD (Photo by John Markon).

Mandy Alonso is going home — again.

Alonso, who played at Miami’s Gulliver Prep and Port Charlotte High Schools, is a junior defensive end for Virginia’s Cavaliers, whose destination at the end of the month is the Orange Bowl, where they will play the Florida Gators.

It will be Alonso and UVA’s second visit to his home this season. The previous visit didn’t turn out so well when the Cavaliers dropped a 17-9 decision to Miami in the same Hard Rock Stadium. Alonso is hoping this trip turns out better, although the No. 6-ranked Gators are a two-touchdown favorite by the oddsmakers.

“I always grew up watching all the big Orange Bowl games on TV, I think I went to one game when I was really little,” Alonso said. “It’s amazing that I’m getting to do this. I never dreamed I’d get to play in this game.”

The 6-foot-2, 280-pound defender started nine of Virginia’s 13 games this season, recorded 21 tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss, two sacks (including a huge one that sealed the win over Virginia Tech), two passes broken up, four quarterback hurries, one forced fumble and two fumble recoveries.

Having grown up in South Florida, Alonso naturally rooted for the Miami Hurricanes when he was younger, and grew a strong dislike for the Gators.

“I’m sure those emotions will come back real quick,” Alonso said. “I didn’t like the outcome of our other visit down there, so we get one more chance. I’ll be playing in front of my family and friends, so that is going to be awesome.

“I’ll be asking around for tickets.”

Virginia is 9-3 and hoping to become only the second team in program history to post a 10-win season. The only one came in 1989.

“Coach [Bronco] Mendenhall has been focusing in on getting 10 wins,” Alonso said. “We need to come out and make history.”

Alonso said that it’s exciting and “awesome” for the program to play in a New Year’s Six bowl game.

“It’s an amazing feat. We’re excited to be among the top teams in college football playing in one of these elite bowl games.”


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