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Colter Phillips finally gets his big play

During Virginia's season-opening win over Richmond, sophomore tight end Colter Phillips caught a 12-yard pass and extended the ball into the end zone. Or at least, that's what it looked like to most everyone in attendance at Scott Stadium. The officials ruled Phillips was down inches short of the goal line.

During Virginia's road game at Southern California the following week, Phillips caught a fake punt pass that went for 36 yards. Or at least, it would have been a 36-yard completion had officials not incorrectly assessed an illegal block below the waist penalty against Virginia that nullified the play.

For Phillips -- whose father died in a plane crash in Alaska in August -- either one of those plays would have served as a relief, as another step in the coping process. Instead, the joy he felt was thwarted each time.

So when true freshman quarterback Michael Rocco directed a 17-yard pass toward Phillips in the end zone during the fourth quarter Saturday against Virginia Military Institute, Virginia Coach Mike London held his breath, watched the ball fall into Phillips's hands and waited for the nearby official to signal it was, indeed, a touchdown before exhaling.

"He's going through a tough time," London said of Phillips, who served as one of Virginia's captains Saturday. "God bless him, you know? I've encouraged people to continue to have thoughts and prayers for him, because he's adjusting and going through a hard time. It was great to see him have some success by getting the call. That touchdown I'm sure meant a lot to him in a lot of ways."

By Steve Yanda  | September 27, 2010; 4:06 PM ET
 
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