That ugly loss wasn’t the way 2020 should have ended for Virginia football
The football game – final score: Virginia Tech 33, Virginia 15 – isn’t worth writing about. The story is the team – players, staff, coaches – that gave the last five and a half months to play football in pandemic 2020.
“I think it hurts, kind of, no matter what,” UVA coach Bronco Mendenhall said, at what appears to be the conclusion to the 2020 season for the program, though at 5-5 you could expect a bowl bid to be in the offing.
More on that toward the end of this.
Bowl games that aren’t New Year’s Six or CFP games are glorified exhibitions.
I’m editorializing, yes.
They’re not the big deal that they were even 10 years ago, is the point.
It is a big deal, if you ask me, that Virginia got 10 games in this season.
Every time they were asked, they were ready to go.
Back in mid-September, when Virginia Tech couldn’t go for the planned season opener because of COVID issues, Virginia was ready.
Louisville had to reschedule. Virginia got ready twice.
Florida State had to cancel at the last minute. Virginia was in Tallahassee, ready to go.
It was five and a half months of commitment.
Virginia didn’t get spring practice. That got shut down when the world shut down because of COVID.
The spring and early summer, it was a team that existed because of an app, Zoom, that none of us had heard of a few months ago.
Then they got back on Grounds, in July, for training and conditioning, eventually getting to practice actual football, not knowing if there would even be a season at first.
When they finally got to play games, they won their opener, then lost four straight.
When Virginia was 1-4, no one would have blamed anybody for throwing in the towel.
They dug down, beat #15 North Carolina, went on to win four in a row.
That they’d run out of steam five and a half months into what was basically football lockdown … is what it is.
The reaction from the supposed UVA Athletics fan base – casting aspersions left and right, intimating that the kids lacked effort, didn’t show up, were lifeless – also is what it is.
“It hurts,” linebacker Nick Jackson said. “We poured our hearts into this season, poured our hearts into this game, and it hurts. It’s a chip on my shoulder, going into the offseason, going into this next bowl game, going into whenever we choose to play. I’m excited. Definitely use it as momentum. Definitely gonna use it with an edge. Whoever we play next, got to.”
Safety Joey Blount made headlines earlier in the week when he told reporters via Zoom that he would prefer not to play a bowl game, making the case that the five and a half months in quarantine has been enough, thank you, that he’d prefer to be home for the holidays, to see his family for the first time since the summer, the rest.
Wideout Terrell Jana, a team captain, is obviously torn on that.
On the one hand, the ugly loss here tonight is not the final brush stroke that you want to put on this masterpiece.
On the other …
“I think, my teammates voted me as captain, they put their trust in me. So for me it’s, whatever they want to do, is what I want to do,” Jana said.
“I don’t want to force guys that don’t want to play football into a game. And also, I don’t want to take that opportunity away from them. I know this would be one of the few teams that goes to four bowl games in a row, and then I don’t think any team has ever gone five in a row.
“So, I don’t want to take the opportunity away from the guys below us, but at the same time, I just want to hear them out, hear what they want to say, and as a team we will come together and make a decision.”
There’s your reminder that they’re kids, it’s a game, they pour their hearts, their every waking moment, into it, they’re sorry they let you down when they lose, if only you can forgive them.
Story by Chris Graham