Coach says Virginia needs to rebound, focus on Pittsburgh

October 23, 2017

Virginia head coach Bronco Mendenhall directs his team during the first half of an NCAA college football game against Boston College in Charlottesville, Va., Saturday, Oct. 21, 2017. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (AP) — Linebacker Micah Kiser thought Virginia might have been overconfident, enjoying its success a little too much. Now, he and the Cavaliers need to get back up after getting a dose of reality.

Virginia had its four-game winning streak come to a humbling halt in a 41-10 dismantling by Boston College. Coach Bronco Mendenhall wants to see how his team responds.

“I think that it’s the next lesson,” the second-year coach said Monday. “It doesn’t mean I wanted to go through it and it doesn’t mean I chose to prepare the team to go through it. But if indeed they were looking or anticipating or expecting to get win No. 6 and that took anything off their focus, that’s a valuable lesson.”

There was talk leading up to the Eagles’ visit that a victory would make the Cavaliers (5-2, 2-1 Atlantic Coast Conference) bowl eligible for the first time since 2011. It also would have kept them unbeaten in league play.

After taking Sunday off, the team met with the coaching staff Monday. Mendenhall reiterated what he told the players after the loss, and how their approach needs to change ahead of Saturday’s game at Pittsburgh (3-5, 1-3).

“Any thought, any minute, any moment, any conversation that’s not happening about today’s practice, our focus, our assignments, our performance actually eliminates the chance for us to have success that week,” he said. “That’s not where the program is. However, if we’re completely focused and execute our plan on all sides, that gets us a chance to be right in it there at the end, and that played out exactly” against Boston College.

Some of the older Cavaliers had already discussed the disappointment — and solutions — among themselves.

“Me and Micah, Quin (Blanding) just talked about getting back to how it was in the beginning of the year,” linebacker Chris Peace said. “That’s one game, tough loss, learned a lot of things, but it doesn’t define the season.

“Just a little learning curve, not to get too ahead of ourselves,” the junior added. “I think some of us probably jumped the gun on looking ahead instead of looking at the task at hand, at one game at a time.”

The nature of the loss — Boston College had two 76-yard scoring plays in the first quarter and led 24-0 early in the second quarter — helped drive home the idea that Virginia has to stay on task, Peace said.

“Yeah, that was a wakeup call, for sure. We definitely didn’t expect the game to go the way it did,” Peace said. “But now that we actually endured that, that just knocked us back down to reality.”

Two-way player De’Vante Crooss, who saw significant time in the secondary against the Eagles after starting cornerback Juan Thornhill was injured, said he detected a renewed determination at the morning meeting.

“It was great. It was a positive vibe. We all know what happened Saturday,” said the redshirt freshman, who also plays wide receiver. “We all watched the film. We all corrected it. Now we’ve got to go 1-0 this week.”


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