Coach: Perspective key in looking at Virginia’s rough finish
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (AP) — Virginia coach Bronco Mendenhall wants his Cavaliers to keep everything they have accomplished in perspective as they face a challenging stretch to end the regular season.
As the Cavaliers prepare to play at Miami, Mendenhall said many of his players are still upset after their performance against Louisville.
“They’re disappointed. They’re kind of angry, to be honest,” Mendenhall said Monday when talking about Virginia’s 38-21 loss at Louisville on Saturday. “They knew they could play better and wanted to play better and are still struggling with finding that exact right balance to be able to carry it from one week to the next.”
Virginia’s come-from-behind, 40-36 victory against Georgia Tech on Nov. 4 had prompted a raucous postgame celebration. The win assured the Cavaliers of bowl eligibility for the first time since 2011. It also seemed to set Virginia (6-4, 3-3 Atlantic Coast Conference) up for what could have been a big run toward the finish of the regular season, but they stumbled against the Cardinals.
Now, with remaining games against No. 2 Miami (9-0, 6-0) and then Virginia Tech (7-3, 3-3), which has won the last 13 games in the series — two contests in which the Cavaliers will be the underdogs — Mendenhall believes there’s a need to make sure his team keeps what it has accomplished in Year Two of a rebuilding effort in perspective.
“I lose sleep over it. We have a pretty simple equation and that’s ‘better than, not equal to.’ That means each day and each week, I would like us to perform and prepare better than, not equal to what we’ve done at this point,” Mendenhall said. “And I’m measuring that against what I think our team is capable of rather than against our opponent.”
Wide receiver Andre Levrone agreed, and said victories on the road at Boise State, where the Broncos rarely lose, and the comeback against the Yellow Jackets showed the Cavaliers’ potential. By the same token, the Louisville loss had the similar feel of setbacks against Indiana, Boston College and Pittsburgh where they played poorly.
“Having put those things on film already and knowing what we’re capable of, and then resorting back and falling back to where we’ve been in games that have had negative outcomes, it’s disappointing to see,” the fifth-year senior said of the Louisville loss. “You want to be consistent — not just as individuals, but as a team.
“So moving forward, definitely want to correct the things from even an energy standpoint and definitely and execution standpoint offensively.”
Safety Quin Blanding, the school’s record-holder with 454 tackles, looks forward to the upcoming challenge.
“It’s what you prepare for your whole life. This is what football is all about — you get to go against the best. That’s what we’re about to go against,” Blanding said. “And we’re going to put our best foot forward.”
Brandon Pertile, a graduate transfer from Oklahoma State, is the only member of Virginia’s offensive line to have started every game at the same position, and the right tackle is not only eager to get a shot at Miami, but to also get rid of the taste of a poor effort.
“I think that they’re going to bring their best, just like they would any week. And I know that we’re going to bring our best, because we definitely got punched in the mouth last week,” Pertile said. “We want to come back strong. It hurts a lot. It’s Monday and we still haven’t even gotten to practice again. I’m still (upset) about it.”
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