Here’s a pop quiz question for Virginia football fans. The good news is that I’ll accept multiple answers. The bad news is that you can’t use your notes, your textbooks, or the internet. Are you ready? Here it is:
When was the last time the Wahoos won three games in a row?
If you answered “the 2011 season,” then you’re a winner. I’ll also give credit for “I don’t know” and “It was too damn long ago to remember.”
Such has been the state of things in Charlottesville in recent years. Virginia only racked up one three-game winning streak in six years under former Cavalier coach Mike London. The Wahoos actually won four straight games that year, beating Miami, Maryland, Duke, and Florida State en route to earning a Chick-Fil-A Bowl Bid against Auburn. Those were heady times.
During London’s last four seasons, there was a sense that the program couldn’t sustain any momentum. A dearth of winning streaks likely didn’t help. London’s teams beat consecutive opponents eight times during his tenure. They went 1-7 the following weeks. It’s hard for fans to get too excited about a team that loses more often than not. By comparison, Al Groh’s Cavaliers had 13 two-game winning “streaks” throughout his nine seasons. They went 8-5 the following weeks. And subjectively, the Groh era seemed a lot more fun.
Bronco Mendenhall gets a crack at his first three-game streak when Virginia faces Pitt at home this Saturday. UVA has improved each week, and its performance against Duke was its best of the year. But the Panthers present an even tougher challenge. Pat Narduzzi’s squad is a solid ACC Coastal contender whose only two losses came in the final minutes of road games at North Carolina and Oklahoma State. Sagarin ranks Pitt at 41st, which is 37 slots ahead of UVA and 27 slots ahead of Duke.
Still, Mendenhall will have to win lots of games like this one to take the Virginia program to the heights that he and fans hope to reach. Both Groh and London pulled off big wins during their first seasons. London’s 2010 team beat a ranked Miami opponent and Groh’s first team beat Clemson, Georgia Tech, and Penn State. Those wins provided hope that the program was trending in the right direction. A win against the Panthers may not necessarily be the statement game the program is looking for, but it would certainly show that same trend.