Virginia touches down in South Florida: Notes from Orange Bowl

uva footballIt feels more real now, that Virginia Football is about to play in its first Orange Bowl, with the team now officially in South Florida.

The 24th-ranked Cavaliers touched down in Fort Lauderdale on Thursday ahead of the Dec. 30 matchup with #9 Florida.

UVA coach Bronco Mendenhall admitted to the moment feeling a “little surreal.”

“Acknowledging the journey we’ve been on and how hard our players have worked, this is the next step for our program, and we can’t wait to capitalize and do our very best,” Mendenhall said.

For senior quarterback Bryce Perkins, whose journey to the Orange Bowl included a broken neck at Arizona State, a year in JUCO ball, then a two-year odyssey as the starting QB at UVA, it’s been a long time coming.

“Seeing all of this, it makes you feel like that we are finally here,” Perkins said. “All offseason, we’ve been practicing, and it feels like fall camp all over again. We’ve been anxious to get here and compete and after our loss in the ACC Championship, we’ve been eager to get back out and play football again.”

The team began its bowl prep last week in Charlottesville. It’s time to step things up with the team now on site.

“The reality that this is happening, and that we are here, it’s one thing to practice in Charlottesville, to go through Christmas together and manage all the time we’ve had. It’s another thing to arrive on site, and the urgency already is different,” Mendenhall said.

The ‘Hoos will have their first South Florida practice Friday afternoon, followed by a student-athlete charity dinner Friday night.

The hard part to a bowl experience is balancing out the fun and the work.

“Football is fun, and you shouldn’t be playing if you’re not having fun,” Perkins said. “We definitely took our time to reflect and enjoy the moment and enjoy the progress of this program. The guys, our mindset is dead serious when we come out here. We know what we got to do, and we know how to do it to reach our goal.”

“I think framing is everything,” Mendenhall said. “The bowl experience and the whole Orange Bowl experience is an educational and life-transformative event for all of our players. That’s a part of what college is, but so is preparing and performing well when you have an opportunity. Balancing life is a part of becoming an adult and this will be a great test and challenge for them to learn, grow and advance.”

Story by Chris Graham

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