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Opinion: Virginia Fans Showed Up For Military Bowl. The Team Didn’t.

UVA deserved a better end to the 2017 campaign.

NCAA Football: Military Bowl-Virginia vs Navy Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

What is there to say, really, about Virginia’s performance in the Military Bowl?

The Cavaliers got embarrassed. They got whooped. Spanked. Crushed. Demolished. Picked apart. Run off the field. Rolled. Punked. Manhandled. Exposed. Cooked.

They looked lost. They looked hapless. Outmatched. Outcoached. Unprepared. Ineffective. Unable to execute. Lost. And cold. Very cold. Extremely cold.

I could go on, but you get the point.

Above all, two things jumped out at me from UVA’s 49-7 loss to Navy on Thursday. The first is that the team’s poor showing stood in stark contrast to the Virginia fans who traveled to Annapolis en masse, layered up, liquored up (for warmth, of course), and sat ready to celebrate. The second is that Virginia missed yet another chance to prove itself on the national stage. Unfortunately, I think those two things will cloud how we remember an otherwise positive 2017 season.

The Cavaliers, you might recall, woke up 5-1 on Sunday, October 15. They finished 1-6 afterwards. They got demolished by Boston College, Pitt, Louisville, and Navy. They let a golden upset opportunity slip away against Miami. And they lost their 14th straight to Virginia Tech.

But Virginia made significant progress this season. 6-7 beats the heck out of 2-10, and wins over Boise State, Duke, North Carolina, and Georgia Tech helped restore a sense of excitement and pride around the program. Just by making a bowl game, Virginia likely set itself up for improved success on the recruiting trail.

The late-season slide, however, leaves a bitter taste and more than a few question marks. Instead of a springboard into 2018, Virginia’s bowl performance could pump the brakes on enthusiasm among the Wahoo fans. UVA, which lost by 40 to a Navy team that had lost 6 of its last 7, now must replace Micah Kiser and Quin Blanding. That’s enough to make even the most diehard football fan ready for ACC hoops.

On the subject of fans, it should be noted that the Wahoo faithful showed up to the Military Bowl with gusto. The UVA side of the stadium was completely full, and the Virginia parking lot sections overflowed with tailgaters willing to brave the frigid temperatures. The place erupted during Joe Reed’s kickoff return. Unfortunately, there wasn’t anything else to cheer.

The story will ultimately go on, of course. There will be other opponents and other opportunities for Bronco Mendenhall’s squad to get to where it wants to go. There will (hopefully) be more bowl games where Virginia fans can travel and cheer on their favorite players.

But this one stings. I mentioned a few weeks ago that I thought the Military Bowl was the perfect chance to help grow fan enthusiasm. I stand by that statement. Annapolis was a wonderful host city and all of the elements were in place for a great party if Virginia had won.

A win would have been a great exclamation mark for a team that had experienced so much joy throughout the fall. The Cavaliers deserved better. To have their season end like it did boggles the mind.