Football prepares for North Carolina on the road

Cavaliers will look to start ACC play 2-0

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Saturday’s game between the Cavaliers and Tar Heels is scheduled to start at 3:30 p.m. at Kenan Memorial Stadium in Chapel Hill, N.C.

Mariana Fraser | Cavalier Daily

The Virginia football team carries a three-game winning streak into Chapel Hill this weekend, as it gets ready to take on North Carolina for its second ACC matchup of the season. Virginia (4-1, 1-0 ACC) is coming off of a gutsy 28-21 win over Duke, in which the Cavaliers proved that they are capable of beating a good team even when they aren’t playing at their very best — as they had in their two previous wins against Connecticut and Boise State. 

North Carolina (1-5, 0-3 ACC) comes into the game reeling, having lost three-straight games, and suffering a litany of injuries. Despite the injuries, Virginia junior outside linebacker Chris Peace said the Tar Heels are still a good team that can give Virginia some trouble. 

“I know they have a few injuries … They’re a young team right now,” Peace said. “But, they’re very capable so far from what I’ve seen, so we definitely don’t want to overlook them.” 

For the first time in several seasons, Virginia is facing increased expectations. Following their win over Duke, the Cavaliers are determined to stay focused on the goal of winning one week at a time, rather than looking ahead at the fact that they only have to win two of their remaining seven games to reach a bowl game. 

A key part of that ideology remaining vigilant, as players on the team, including senior inside linebacker Micah Kiser, went through a similar start to the season three seasons ago and stumbled down the stretch. The Cavaliers started the 2014 season 4-2 and failed to earn a bowl berth. Virginia Coach Bronco Mendenhall talked about the stress of Kiser, one of the team’s leaders. 

“It's reasonable because [Kiser is] realistic in addressing the brutal facts of what the possibilities are,” Mendenhall said. “All this — any momentum can be extinguished … One game or one win or one loss doesn't determine the outcome of a season, but yet the teams that are able to focus on the next game — cliché as it is, like it's the only game — have the best chance.”

Thus, Virginia is taking a week-by-week approach to their schedule and not overlooking anybody. Peace said that he will approach facing North Carolina’s redshirt freshman quarterback Chazz Surratt the same way he would if the quarterback was a senior. 

“I’m not going to just jump to it just because he’s a freshman,” Peace said. “I’m not going to overlook anybody. He’s capable, just like anybody else. I’m heading into this week playing just like I would [with] a senior quarterback.”

Despite North Carolina’s 1-5 record, Mendenhall said that the Tar Heels are a very adept team and Virginia will need to be prepared — at its best. 

“They're a capable team,” Mendenhall said. “It's still so early. It's early for rankings. It's early for records. It's early for anything.”

This game will only be Virginia’s second road game of the season. Mendenhall said Saturday’s game — being on the road, rather than at home — will not be turned into a big deal.

“It's just the same game and different location,” Mendenhall said. “I'm just not a believer in making more of something, regardless of history, than it needs to be.”

Mendenhall added that putting too much emphasis on the fact that the game is on the road takes away from the focus and energy that can be used to help prepare for the actual game. 

“I like all of our focus to be on our current preparation, our current assignments [and] our current application of what we're being taught,” Mendenhall said. “There's just not much more room for anything else to occupy their minds.”

Saturday’s game between the Cavaliers and Tar Heels is scheduled to start at 3:30 p.m. at Kenan Memorial Stadium in Chapel Hill, N.C.

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