Virginia has tough road to reach bowl eligibility
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (AP) — Home games ahead against Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech. Road trips to Louisville and Miami.
Virginia is coming off not-even-close losses to Boston College and Pittsburgh and, two weeks after there was talk of an ACC Coastal Division championship, the Cavaliers can’t help but wonder if a bowl game is still in the cards.
Coach Bronco Mendenhall said Monday he thinks the loss to the Eagles hurt them again on Saturday.
“The reality of where we currently are is the Boston College loss was I think a surprise in the way the game played out,” he said of the 41-10 loss at Scott Stadium . “I think it hurt our team more than what I anticipated.
“I thought our team played sluggish and uninspired after watching it. We were right by assignment a lot of the time on Saturday, but not right by mindset and edge and emotion and passion. There were some lingering effects.”
Despite outgaining Pittsburgh 314-310, the Cavaliers fell behind 21-0 and were never in the 31-14 loss .
Mendenhall addressed it when he met with his team on Monday morning and hopes he got their attention.
Message received, linebacker and tri-captain Micah Kiser said.
“I think we went from, early on in the season we were happy with any kind of success that we were getting,” he said. “It was all about just those little victories, whether it be playing William & Mary. When we beat William & Mary you would have thought we had just won the Super Bowl just because it was a step forward for us. When we got third-down stops, every one of them was a huge deal. We were out there and we were celebrating with each other.
“This last game, it was kind of disheartening. We started the game with a three-and-out and there was an incomplete pass on third down and no one even celebrated when we walked off the field.”
Mendenhall set a tone Monday of “resetting” the mindset of the Cavaliers (5-3, 2-2 Atlantic Coast Conference) in advance of Saturday’s game against the Yellow Jackets (4-3, 3-2), but said only game day will tell.
Talk of becoming bowl eligible for the first time since 2011 has decreased significantly, quarterback Kurt Benkert, another tri-captain said, “because I think that kind of shot us in the foot a little bit.”
Two weeks ago, the games with B.C. and Pitt were seen as the most likely bowl-clinching opportunities.
“I think that definitely some of us got ahead of ourselves, and I think that us as leaders need to do a better job of keeping things in check and keeping it one game at a time,” Benkert said. “At the beginning of the year, like Micah said, we were celebrating every little victory that we had on the field, and I think that the focus has shifted to ... just one big victory to get bowl eligibility, and that’s not what it’s about. We need to get back to what we were doing earlier in the year, and I think that’ll allow us to enjoy this more.”
Kiser, who turned heads after a 28-21 victory against Duke put the Cavaliers at 4-1 by noting that the 2014 team started 4-2, starting thinking bowl game. The 2014 team went on to lose five of its last six games to finish 5-7.
“We just have to get back to having fun, playing for the love of the game, flying around and just playing because, hey, these are your brothers that you were grinding with all winter, all summer,” he said. “For us to just go out there and roll our helmets out would be, not only is it disappointing but it’s a travesty to the program and all the work that we’ve done, so I think you’ll see a freshened, more ... more enthusiastic defense.”