Home News and Notes: UVA gets ready for huge test at #1 Clemson

News and Notes: UVA gets ready for huge test at #1 Clemson

Chris Graham

uva footballThe Monday presser in college football world is mostly about looking ahead to next Saturday. Forgive UVA coach Bronco Mendenhall for taking a moment to look back.

“Yeah, man, one of the amazing experiences at the game on Saturday was seeing players look up in the stands to their families, because they haven’t seen them since July,” Mendenhall said. “I mean, they haven’t been able to go home, their families haven’t been able to come visit and there was a lot of emotion, with families wanting to connect and not being able to. Even in that setting, so it’s been a long time.”

It was also good just to play an actual football game, after 12 weeks of time on Grounds in workouts and then summer training camp, with the Duke game the fourth scheduled season opener since everybody reconnected in early July.

“It feels really good to have played a football game. Our players needed it. They needed a reinforcement that the work they’ve been putting in had a real and tangible outcome or opportunity,” Mendenhall said.

“I was so happy they had success, and they were able to get a victory, as well just to recognize again and reinforce the effort and sacrifices that they made so far,” Mendenhall said. “It was fun to see just everyone happy and celebrating and being together, playing, playing the game. I’m really encouraged by a lot of things that I saw in the opener, plenty of things to work on no question. But just excited for the process and excited to continue to develop this theme and our team and our players. So, looking forward to our first road game. And another great test.”

Protocols for the road

Virginia (1-0) faces #1 Clemson (2-0) in Death Valley in prime time on the ACC Network Saturday night.

After nearly three months of practicing in what was essentially a bubble in Charlottesville, it’s time to take the show on the road.

Which means: uncertainty.

“In terms of going on the road, just the next challenge and it won’t be a normal road game. In fact, our approach has been really the more that it looked like a normal road game, the less likely we are to be doing it right,” Mendenhall said.

“It’ll be a lot of just hotel, grab and go dinner, and show up to the stadium and play. We’re really streamlining it down to more of a special operations unit, where they track it out, rather than maybe all the fanfare that comes with normal travel, and some of the things that are associated with the normal college football game. It’ll be just the opposite and stripped down and simplified as much as we can make it.”

Complicating things: it’s a night game.

“Night games are my least favorite, just because the hotel stay is so dang long on Saturdays without much to do,” Mendenhall said. “Another reason I’m glad some other games are being played so we can watch college football on Saturday before our game, and that’ll just help pass the time for myself and our team.”

Update on Joey Blount

Senior safety Joey Blount was helped off the field in the fourth quarter of Saturday’s 38-20 win over Duke.

His status as of Monday: no update.

“We don’t practice on Mondays. We have a walkthrough Monday evening, but when I was leaving the stadium on Saturday, I saw him as you did. He looked in good spirits, and he said he’s going be fine. So, that’s all I heard today,” Mendenhall said.

Jana’s nameless jersey

Senior wideout Terrell Jana’s #13 jersey is nameless. That wasn’t an omission.

“I think that was about 10 days out, maybe two weeks out from the opener, roughly in that time period. Terrell asked to come into my office to see me,” Mendenhall said. “He just said that, as he sat down, the Enslaved Laborer Memorial had a profound impact on him. And I had just done the ‘Take Back Our Grounds’ march as well. And I understood, because I saw the names, or lack of names on the memorial. And he just said, in his own way, he thought that would be really profound to acknowledge those that weren’t even remembered, not a name. Not a mother, father, sibling. Not even a place within the family hierarchy. And not even their occupation. And so, I thought, it was tasteful. I thought it was substantiative. I thought it was well thought out and, and I thought it was powerful. With him not drawing attention to himself, but possibly just asking folks to contemplate, How could that be. And so, I was in support of it.”

Story by Chris Graham

Chris Graham

Chris Graham

Chris Graham is the founder and editor of Augusta Free Press. A 1994 alum of the University of Virginia, Chris is the author and co-author of seven books, including Poverty of Imagination, a memoir published in 2019, and Team of Destiny: Inside Virginia Basketball’s Run to the 2019 National Championship, and The Worst Wrestling Pay-Per-View Ever, published in 2018. For his commentaries on news, sports and politics, go to his YouTube page, or subscribe to his Street Knowledge podcast. Email Chris at [email protected].