BLANK: Reasons to remember the name

sp-FootballLevrone-CourtesyVirginiaAthletics

Given his performance this season, wide receiver Andre Levrone has become a name Virginia fans should know.

Courtesy Virginia Athletics | Courtesy Virginia Athletics

If you were to walk around Grounds and pick a random student, it’s likely he or she could name a good portion of the basketball team. After a key game, it’s common to hear discussion in class, whether bemoaning a loss or celebrating a victory.

However, if you were to try the same exercise with the football team, the same students would struggle to remember a single player. It’s common for students to swipe into a football game just for the Sabre Points, which exist solely to increase the odds of getting a ticket to a basketball game.

There’s a reason for this relative ambivalence about football, as Virginia hasn’t been very good, or even decent, since most students have gotten here. Even when Virginia has shown enough potential to get students to believe — before Mendenhall’s first game, or at home games against Notre Dame in 2015 and Louisville in 2016 — those who believed in the team got burned. This string of painful seasons has left the fan base calloused. Losses can’t hurt if you stop caring about wins.

However, it’s time for fans to open themselves back up again — this team has earned another try. This week, Virginia received votes in the Coaches Poll Top 25 for the first time in five years, signaling a return to competitiveness.

More importantly for fans, the team has been fun to follow. Compelling players have been racking up accolades for the Cavaliers, including on a national scale.

On defense, senior linebacker Micah Kiser and senior safety Quin Blanding are currently ranked first and second in the ACC in tackles, as they both were last season and the season prior. Blanding has more career tackles than any other active FBS player, and the fourth most in Virginia’s history.

On offense, senior wide receiver Andre Levrone ranks first in the ACC and fourth in the NCAA FBS in yards per reception, and senior quarterback Kurt Benkert has the third most career touchdowns in program history.

There’s no sense in waiting until next year to give Virginia football a try, as this may be the best team we have for a while. With winnable games against Boston College and Pittsburgh in the next two weeks, there’s no better time to try caring about Virginia football again. 

Of course, none of this is to say that the Cavaliers won’t break fans’ hearts if they reinvest — no team can avoid that, as Virginia basketball fans have learned in recent NCAA tournaments. Virginia may have games where they struggle, as the Cavaliers will likely be underdogs in all four of their final games.

However, the team has done everything fans could ask. They went on the road and handed Boise State their worst home loss since 2001 and took care of rivals Duke and North Carolina.

At the beginning of the season, I outlined what a reasonably successful season would look like for the Cavaliers. While it’s still early, the Cavaliers are outpacing what almost any fan could have expected — it’s time for fans to return the favor.

Kiser and Blanding passed up NFL opportunities to return to Virginia for one final year, and they’ve both had careers so remarkable it’s fair to wonder whether their jerseys get retired some day. Benkert may be the best Cavalier quarterback since Matt Schaub left over a decade ago. 

These seniors have given fans more than enough reasons to remember their names. If fans start caring about Virginia football again, I think they’ll enjoy the experience.

Jake Blank is a Senior Associate Sports Editor and Columnist for The Cavalier Daily. He can be reached at j.blank@cavalierdaily.com or on Twitter at @Jake_33.

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