CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — Virginia need only to look at Georgia Tech to see how quickly the outlook of a team can improve.
The Yellow Jackets (4-3, 3-2 Atlantic Coast Conference) ended a three-game losing streak a week ago by beating Syracuse 56-0, their largest victory in an ACC game.
Suddenly, a season that was going off the rails has been infused with promise again.
“On Monday, I pointed out that there’s a huge difference between 5-3 and 4-4,” Jackets coach Paul Johnson said this week. “It’s a conference game and nobody knows what’s going to happen. We didn’t know we would be in the conference championship game a year ago and, lo and behold, there we were. You just keep plugging and keep playing and let that take care of itself. One game at a time. It’ll work itself out.”
The Cavaliers (2-5, 0-3) sorely need a day that works out. They have lost fourin a row, blew a 22-point lead against Duke last week at home and probably won’t be favored in another game this season.
The game against the Blue Devils also drew only 39,071 fans, 22,000 below Scott Stadium’s capacity.
Tight end Jake McGee said it’s on the team to turn things around.
“If there’s no one there or it’s a packed house, it’s on us to get up for the games and get the guys motivated to win,” said McGee, who leads the Cavaliers in receptions with 31. “Regardless of who’s in the stands, it really starts with the players and coaches to achieve the success we want.”
Several times this season, Virginia has started fast, then faded.
“Coming out fast and playing with enthusiasm and passion, those things are critically important,” coach Mike London said. “And then sustaining it for four quarters – that’s the issue for us right now.”
The Yellow Jackets have always posed a challenge on offense with their unique triple option, but they look even more daunting this year, arriving with a defense allowing 328 yards per game, 12th nationally.