UVA Football: Is there a Belk Bowl Blowout without the Blacksburg Beatdown?

UVA footballUVA sports fans remember fondly the 87-52 loss at Tennessee in 2013 that marked an odd turning point for Virginia basketball.

Coach Tony Bennett responded to the defeat by inserting freshman point guard London Perrantes into the starting lineup, and the rest is history.

Augusta Free Press coverage of the 2018 Belk Bowl is presented by Bear Creek. AFP’s coverage is also sponsored by Studio 3•6 on East Market Street in Charlottesville.

Bennett’s teams have gone 134-29 since the loss to Tennessee.

Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.

UVA football, and how this story about the loss at Tennessee relates: what if the loss at Virginia Tech last month was Bronco Mendenhall’s Tennessee?

“We’ve worked tirelessly from our last overtime loss to this one. We clearly weren’t satisfied with our loss to Virginia Tech, and we had a lot to play for and still have a lot to play for. Our players embraced a pretty fierce work ethic,” Mendenhall said after his team had just dispatched favored South Carolina by a 28-0 final in the Belk Bowl on Saturday.

How fierce was this work ethic? Mendenhall practiced his team, hard, on Christmas Day, before shoving off for Charlotte for the bowl game.

Under the premises, according to Mendenhall, that “the best Christmas gift I that could give them is work with the best chance to have these memories.”

The weeping, figuratively speaking, and maybe literally, to a degree, lingered for more than a night after the loss at Tech.

Mendenhall said after the Belk Bowl win that his team had sowed the seeds for the strong finish to the 2018 season a year earlier, after another loss, in the Military Bowl.

Navy dominated, embarrassed, humiliated, Virginia in that one, winning 49-7.

Mendenhall said his team had decided by the time it had made it back to the UVA Grounds that it wanted to set two main goals for its 2018 season: beating Virginia Tech, and winning a bowl game.

In that context, then, losing the Tech game, against a team that went 6-6 in the regular season, and lost by two touchdowns to ODU, that was tough.

But the sting of the loss served as motivation to work hard to play with South Carolina, who everybody had going in as the prohibitive favorite, because, come to think of it, is the SEC tag really worth that much?

Either way, the Gamecocks were favored, and not really all that respectful in talking with media members ahead of the game.

Which, of course, added more fuel to the fire for the ‘Hoos, who have been playing with chips on their shoulders for the better part of two years now, picked seventh in the ACC Coastal in 2017 and 2018, then willing themselves into the program’s first bowl appearance in six years a season ago, and the first bowl win since 2005 on Saturday in Charlotte.

Does that happen if Virginia wins at Virginia Tech?

We will, of course, never know. It could certainly be the case that a win at Tech would boost the team’s confidence, and that boost would fuel game prep and execution on the field that would resemble what we saw at Bank of America Stadium on Saturday.

Maybe the Tennessee loss is more lore than what we assign to it in terms of significance.

And why is it that people are always wanting to talk about how you have to lose in order to find the will to win.

We’ve all watched too many cliché-driven sports movies.

You can think that all you want. The Tennessee loss was a turning point that I’m expecting to be memorialized in song before we get too much further down the road.

And I think the loss at Virginia Tech will be looked at similarly.

That was a pissed off UVA football team that beat the absolute crap out of South Carolina in the Belk Bowl.

Schedule some conditioning drills for Easter, Mother’s Day, the Fourth of July, guys’ birthdays, and the rest.

That edge will bring the joy in the morning.

Column by Chris Graham


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