No team is quite the same from one year to the next, no matter how similar the personnel might be. Few teams are as markedly different as Virginia’s 2011 and 2012 editions.
Last year’s squad won five of six one-score games. Early, ugly wins over Indiana (34-31) and Idaho (21-20) gave UVA the confidence it needed to top No. 12 Georgia Tech (24-21), Miami (28-21), and No. 23 Florida State (14-13) en route to eight wins and a Chick-fil-a Bowl berth. It was a composed team that learned how to win.
A season later, Virginia is timid and unsure, completely devoid of the bravado it displayed in 2011.
These Cavaliers have lost three games by a single score – all to teams with inferior talent. A loss Saturday would mark the program’s longest losing streak since 1981, Dick Bestwick’s final season as coach.
“We desperately want to win a game,” Mike London said. “We want to play and win a game. That’s priority for us.”
Virginia focused its attention inwardly during the bye week, a fine choice for a team that ranks near the bottom of so many statistical categories.
Said London: “We don’t get a lot of time to go out and practice the fundamentals of what we do, what we need to do, and that was a large portion of spending those practice opportunities in getting better but also making sure that we correct a lot of things, whether it’s personnel, scheme-wise, that we take a good look at what we’re doing and how we’re doing it and who’s doing it. Those are things that an open week allows you to do, and we try and take full advantage of that.”
London suspended three players for violations of team rules during the week off, effectively sending the message that the team’s record shall have no impact on how his charges conduct themselves.
Virginia (2-6) travels to N.C. State (5-3) this weekend for the first time since 2007. The Wahoos have won 15 of the last 24 meetings between the schools, but dropped last year’s game, 28-14, in Charlottesville.