UVA Football: The unbearable lightness of #BeatTech

uva footballI was all in last year on Bronco Mendenhall’s #BeatTech theme, until just before halftime of the game down in Blacksburg.

Something about how that 14-0 Tech lead came to be, how tight the Virginia team looked for that first hour and a half, brought me to where most of y’all were all along.

That it was too much emphasis on that one game, that kind of thing.

OK, so, that said, I’m all in again, this time on the playoff beard.

“I love baseball. I framed the finish of our season four weeks ago as the playoffs. This is the fourth week. The beard stays as long as we’re winning,” Mendenhall told reporters on Monday.

Just so you know, Coach, I’m so all in on this, I’m not shaving, either.

(I just started mine this week. Apologies. Nobody clued me in ahead of time …)

His wife, Holly, has “mixed feelings.”

(I’m getting that from my missus, too, for the record, not that you care. It’s my burden.)

“It’s just fun,” Mendenhall said. “There’s no real significance other than just one other thing to celebrate the successes of our team, acknowledge a tangible and visible thing from the head coach, kind of from a baseball perspective of playoff tradition.

“But I thought that was the right way to frame the finish of our year. With the chance to get to the Coastal championship, each game became more important than the next. The players have taken it that way. So, I’m paying the price with my attempt to grow a beard.”

Also, for the record, in addition to my weak effort at a playoff beard, I will be wearing my lucky running shoes to Scott Stadium on Friday.

Why, you ask, are they my “lucky running shoes”?

They touched the floor at U.S. Bank Stadium on Monday, April 8, as confetti fell, and “One Shining Moment” played.

I’ve worn them once since. Put them on in the fifth inning of Game 7 of the World Series.

You know how that turned out.

Ahem.

All right, seriously, now.

Last year was all about #BeatTech. This year, I fear we may be going overboard pretending that it’s just another game.

“It’s honestly just another game to accomplish our goals,” senior linebacker Jordan Mack said.

See? He said it, exactly.

“Just another game.”

This is not good.

“Like I said last week, whenever you have set goals, and you have the opportunity to achieve them, it means a lot. This is just another step to achieve the goals that we set before the season,” Mack said.

Color me unconvinced.

Virginia Tech has won 15 of these in a row.

We’re talking about this being so long ago, and you’re tired of reading this in one of my pre-game Virginia Tech week columns, but here we go, again:

It was 2003. Facebook didn’t launch until 2004.

YouTube: 2005. Twitter: 2006.

You’re a UVA fan, you’ve not been able to post on Facebook or Twitter, or upload a new video to YouTube, celebrating a football win over Virginia Tech.

Ever.

So, on the one hand, yeah, maybe don’t overemphasize things, but also, come on …

“Ending the streak means that we’re going to represent the Coastal in the ACC Championship. That’s our biggest emphasis this week, is taking care of business on Friday, so that we can play Clemson in the ACC Championship,” senior wideout Joe Reed said.

We’re doubling down on this, y’all.

Not liking it.

Back to Bronco. The beard is rocking, if I can say that.

“I think there’s a misconception, now that it’s this week, all these things become different, we’re really going to practice hard now and really try hard in the game, coaches are really going to work long hours. I mean, we try every week to do that. So do the players,” Mendenhall said.

“The rivalry games just make the impact and the outcome of the game so much more tangible and vibrant for the supporters, because we’re in the same state, right? That’s the difference. It doesn’t mean that we won’t try as hard as we can, prepare as hard as we can.

“Just the thought that that’s this giant departure from what has gotten us to the Coastal championship game, seems like that wouldn’t be very smart, you’re going to depart from what’s already working to depart from that to become something you haven’t been yet. We just want to be the next best version of what we’ve already become.”

Fair points, all.

But still, this one isn’t Pitt, FSU, ODU, Liberty. Every win counts as one, sure, and eventually, between now and the end of human history, UVA is going to win this one, but wouldn’t it be better to never have to answer this question ever again?

(UVA Basketball, happy to never have to talk again about UMBC, says: yes.)

“I think the reality is to try to pretend the game isn’t important or that it’s not different is not real. It is. It’s important to the university. It’s important to the state. It’s important to the UVA alumni. It seemed important to me, because I like being transparent with my team, to acknowledge that,” Mendenhall said.

“It’s counting down the entire year. I’m not saying that we even pay much attention to it other than when we get to this week. But I like the constant presence of it while we just go about our business knowing that that also is something that goes at the same time.

“That’s life, right? We go one week at a time, but we still have bigger goals that we’re pursuing. It’s good to keep track of those even while every other bit of attention we have is on our current task.”

Coach, man, you got me.

I know what you’re saying here.

Mendenhall isn’t saying to ignore the fact that it’s Tech Week.

Far from it.

“Acknowledge it. Just brutal fact-wise,” he said, embracing the way things have gone for, well, forever.

“Then say it’s ‘19 versus ‘19, mean that Virginia Tech’s ’19 team is playing the University of Virginia’s ‘19 team. Anything beyond that is interference and not relevant to me. It’s this year, this team, this week, after clearly acknowledging what the record has been.”

Playoff beard, lucky shoes, OK, all ready.

Story by Chris Graham



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