CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va.— Consecutive lopsided losses caused Virginia coach Bronco Mendenhall to do an about face.
Instead of ignoring the elephant in the room — the Cavaliers’ need to win at least one more game to be bowl eligible for the first time since 2011 — Mendenhall acknowledged the situation, hoping to help refocus his team.
“The brutal fact is, yes, this is the case,” the coach said. “This is what the rest of the season will look like, this is the quality of opponents, this is how we’re playing, this is what we need to do to improve it. So now that hopefully we’ve said all that and got it out, now can we go back to preparing and playing the way we’re capable of.”
He’ll find out whether embracing the situation worked when Virginia (5-3, 2-2 Atlantic Coast Conference) plays host to Georgia Tech (4-3, 3-2) in what could be a Coastal Division elimination game. Miami would clinch the division with a victory against Virginia Tech, but a Hurricanes’ loss keeps the race wide open.
Mendenhall’s team handled Georgia Tech and coach Paul Johnson’s triple-option offense twice in as many tries when he was at BYU, and the Cavaliers played the Yellow Jackets tight last season.
The Cavaliers appeared to have turned a corner when they started this season winning five of their first six, but with bowl eligibility there for the taking, they lost 41-10 at home to Boston College and 31-14 at Pitt.
“They came out of the gate really strong, and they kind of hit a buzz saw against BC, but BC has been playing well,” Johnson said. “And then last week at Pitt, that game kind of got out of hand with the punt return.”