Coming off back to back losses to out of conference ranked teams, the Virginia Cavaliers are now shifting their mindset past those two tests and towards the final two games of the regular season which will determine the ACC Coastal division and — in many ways — just how successful this season will be.
A game at Pitt on Saturday is the first step for the Wahoos’ path to a second consecutive Coastal title. Sitting at 5-1 in the conference, the Panthers would fall behind the currently 4-2 Cavaliers due to a head-to-head tiebreaker if Virginia came out on top on Saturday. Then, assuming Pitt takes care of business at Syracuse on November 27th, UVA would need to beat Virginia Tech at home to take the Coastal crown.
Bronco Mendenhall emphasizes that the team’s mindset from the previous two contests to the two upcoming won’t change. He says that “I would love to say it’s a completely different approach, there’s now this brand-new I touch the team with a wand and we move into some other realm, go through the wardrobe, there’s some other sphere that we’re into.”
On the contrary, Mendenhall is much more a realist. “We played two really meaningful games,” he notes, emphasizing that “we wanted to win them both. In the meantime, we learned a lot about our team.”
He points out the advantages of playing these last two games and how “we had weaknesses exposed at a high level at BYU, responded really well at Notre Dame,” as they “made some corrections needed.” On the other side of the ball, “we saw Jay [Woolfolk] now as our backup quarterback becoming our starter, [seeing] where he is, what that looks like now, which is great information going into the finish of the Coastal [Division].”
He finishes his thought, matter of factly stating that “we would have preferred to win both [games], but [had] key learnings along the way.”
As for what a chance to win the Coastal means for the program, Mendenhall says that “you can’t put more emphasis on it than we have,” as he adds that “that’s the expectation that I have for our program. It’s that we’re the Coastal Champion every year. We have every chance to do that with two Coastal games remaining.”
Mendenhall doubles down on his excitement for these two contests, noting how “I don’t think there’s a chance for two games to be more meaningful for a season and to our team than these two with the implications than anything that would come after the results of these two.”
He says “I like that opportunity and I like how hard the program has worked to earn that chance. Yeah, so here we go.”
Here we go indeed as these final two games of the season will significantly impact how this team and year will be assessed. Winning both along with the Coastal and getting a chance at the ACC Championship would make this an incredibly successful season for the Wahoo program. Lose one or both and things get much murkier.