Quiet confidence: UVA football focused heading into 2015
Don’t tell that to the locker room, which is full of guys ready to turn things around.
“We want to win the ACC,” said senior defensive end Mike Moore, setting the tone on Media Day.
Never mind that the writers and broadcasters who cover the ACC pegged the Cavs for seventh and dead last in the Coastal Division, about as far away from winning the conference as you can get.
“We’re not concerned with anything that writers are saying or outside people are saying. We’re just concerned with ourselves as a team,” senior defensive tackle David Dean said.
“We know we have great potential in our room, on our team. All we have to do is take it to the field and play with confidence, play smart, not make little mistakes, and just keep continuing to grind and do whatever is necessary to put us in postseason play,” Dean said.
Virginia made incremental strides in 2014, finishing 5-7, but losing five of its last six after a 4-2 start. The ‘Hoos were competitive every week but one, the 35-10 loss to Georgia Tech in early November, giving defending national champ Florida State a game into the fourth quarter in Tallahassee, and losing late leads at home to North Carolina and on the road at Virginia Tech.
It won’t be easy, to say the least, to get back to the postseason for the first time since 2011. Virginia opens with three games in the first four weeks against teams ranked in the preseason Top 25 – at #10 UCLA for the opener, at home against #11 Notre Dame in Week 2, and then at home against #16 Boise State in Week 4.
“It’s pretty exciting that we get to play teams like that,” Moore said. “Those are all Top 25 teams, and it gets you pretty excited that we’re going to be playing those type of caliber football teams.”
“When you’re playing the best, you have to be on your A game at all times, every play, special teams, offense, defense. We understand that,” Dean said.
“We love being the underdog, and we’re just going to continue to work and prove everyone wrong,” Dean said.
It will be incumbent on the Cavs to get off to a good start against that schedule, ranked by The Sporting News the toughest non-conference schedule in the country.
“We’ve just got to get everything straight,” sophomore free safety Quin Blanding said. “I know we’ve got a tough schedule this year. That’s what we want. If we want to be the best, we’ve got to play the best, like Coach London always says. This type of preparation is going to prepare us for the long run and for us to be playing in the postseason.”
That’s the goal, anyway. It would seem to be clear that Virginia will need to get into a bowl to save coach Mike London’s job.
That’s a modest goal, but when your program has played in one bowl game in the past seven years, it would be a big step in the right direction.
“We’re going to attack game by game by game by game,” said junior quarterback Matt Johns, in his first season as the full-time starter. “If you look too far ahead, sometimes you lose control of what’s in front of you right now. Our mindset is just attack every single day, attack every single play, and just work, just work.
“There’s a lot less talk, and I think that’s where the confidence has been. Kids aren’t saying, we’re going to be this, we’re going to go 12-0. You can’t say that. We haven’t done anything the past few years to say that. So our mindset is, shut up and work.”
– Story by Chris Graham