Bowling them over: UVA football looks to return to postseason

Bowling them over: UVA football looks to return to postseason


UVaHelmet_1David Dean was a redshirt in 2011, when UVA played in the Chick-fil-A Bowl at the end of coach Mike London’s second season.

It seemed like things were back on the upswing with Virginia football. London was named ACC coach of the year, given a lucrative extension.

Bowl games seemed to be part of the natural order for Dean and his classmates.

“It was awesome,” Dean recalled in a conversation with reporters at the 2015 ACC Football Kickoff. “The experience was great. Got taken care of for the whole five, six days. Free Chick-fil-A. It was something special. It was something I can’t wait to get back to. Just playing in that environment, something for our fans to travel to. It’s really great. I can’t wait to get back to that environment.”

UVA hasn’t been back to a bowl since the 2011 Chick-fil-A Bowl.

“We took it for granted, my class,” said Dean, a defensive tackle. “We just thought the seniors set the standard for us. We didn’t follow up in the years to come. We just felt that it was something that was given to you. Last year, we started thinking, you actually have to go out here and grind for it, work for it, actually earn it. That’s something that’s earned in the offseason. That’s something that you didn’t realize until later.”

The 2014 team seemed talented enough to end the bowl-less streak, but fell short with a 5-7 record. Among the seven losses were two blown fourth-quarter leads (North Carolina, Virginia Tech) and losses marred by issues with turnovers (UCLA, Duke.

“With the big win over Louisville, the big win over Miami, battling against UCLA, battling against Florida State, that’s the key for me, and that’s what drives me and my teammates. What it’s going to take is finishing. The word is finish. Finish out reps, finish the workout, finish the seven-on-seven, finish the quarterback throwing reps to receivers. That will turn over to the season,” wide receiver Canaan Severin said.

London noted that the ‘Hoos lost five games in 2014 by eight points or less, and how close losses often “boil down to the details of execution or technique.”

That message has resonated with the players.

“We have a lot of individuals on the team that were putting in the work, but as a group, I don’t know that we were putting in the necessary time in walk-throughs, other things that make you that much better as a defense, as an offense, special teams,” Dean said. “One, two, three plays can determine the game, and mistakes, missed opportunities, that will be the game for you. That’s what was happening in the games. We weren’t taking advantage of each and every play.”

The 2015 Cavs “have a confidence,” Dean said. “We believe we can play with the best teams.”

Few outside the locker room share in that belief. The ACC media picked Virginia seventh and last in the Coastal Division preseason poll.

The team has its sights on surpassing those low expectations. Dean said the goal is getting back to a bowl game.

“That would be awesome,” Dean said. “That would be a testament to our work as a team, what we did all offseason, that we all bought in as a team. That’s our job as captains, to set the expectations so that we have to meet them. That’s the goal, and we won’t meet it if the whole entire team doesn’t buy in.”

– Story by Chris Graham



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