Virginia coach Bronco Mendenhall was surprised how quickly a losing attitude dragged down the Cavaliers in their season-opening loss.
The first-year Virginia coach had spent spring ball and fall camp trying to install a new mindset. The Cavaliers even professed bolstered confidence heading in their opener against Richmond, but when things went bad early, Mendenhall saw the demeanor of his team shift quickly from hopeful to despondent.
Mendenhall is pulling out some old film to try to snap Virginia out of the funk days before it takes on No. 24 Oregon.
Mendenhall showed Virginia video of his old team, BYU, to highlight how winning teams behave.
“We had a really unique bowl game, down like 35 points in nine minutes or something, and there was a time in the second quarter (when) it was 35-14 and I showed a clip of the sideline, and BYU’s sideline was cheering like we had just won the game,” Mendenhall said, referring to the Las Vegas Bowl last December. “All we did was make a stop on third down, but the entire side believed that they were going to come back and win.”
He compared that to tape of the Cavaliers on the sideline after falling behind Richmond.
Now, he hopes, they understand. Like they did in the preseason, the players are saying the right things.
“We have to regroup and get guys to believe in themselves,” running back Albert Reid said. “During camp, I feel like we believed. Talking about things, the sideline, in camp, when the defense made plays the defensive sideline went crazy. It was like complete chaos on the defensive sideline. Offense, too. You could tell a big difference between what we showed in the game this weekend and in camp. It wasn’t the same team that we saw in camp.”
The illustration was eye-opening, said freshman defensive lineman Eli Hanback.
“Prior to coach talking about it today, I don’t think it’s something that we had necessarily focused on,” he said, “but it’s something we should because in football, momentum is a big thing.”
The Cavaliers didn’t look excited once they got down against the Spiders, and certainly didn’t appear to be having fun.
Virginia allowed two field goals before ever running an offensive play from scrimmage. The Cavaliers responded and were poised to take the lead, but then fumbled the ball after driving inside the Spiders’ 10. After Richmond drove 95 yards for a touchdown and a 13-0 lead, dejection set in.
And while the Spiders are a very good Football Championship Subdivision team, the Cavaliers face another reality that could further challenge their attitude: Virginia has not won a road game since Nov. 3, 2012 at N.C. State. The Cavaliers have lost 15 straight away from Scott Stadium and are prohibitive underdogs against the Ducks.
Expectations and resurgent confidence, Reid said, will be critical to ending that drought.
“It’s going to take a win,” he said. “There’s no such thing as going into a game thinking that, All right, we just want to improve the play from what we had last weekend.’ You’ve got to go into the game thinking, ‘We have to win the game.’ Just like we have to think for every game this season — we have to win the game.”
Then they have to actually get it done.
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