Football looks to continue magical season against Louisville

Cavaliers will go on road to take on the Cardinals

Bronco Mendenhall

Virginia Coach Bronco Mendenhall stressed putting the Georgia Tech win behind the Cavlaiers as they start to prepare for another challenge this upcoming weekend. 

Mariana Fraser | Cavalier Daily

After a two-game skid that saw them drop from 5-1 to 5-3, the Virginia football team snapped out of its funk in thrilling fashion, defeating Georgia Tech 40-36 in a rain-filled, down-to-the-wire stunner. In the process, the Cavaliers (6-3, 3-2 ACC) clinched a bowl berth for the first time since 2011, despite failing to do so in the previous two weekends. 

The Yellow Jackets (4-4, 3-3 ACC) stormed out to a 28-13 lead in the second half. The Yellow Jackets were looking to secure their fifth win and send Virginia into a tailspin, as the Cavaliers head into a vaunted three-game ending season stretch in which they play three of the better teams in the country. However, the Cavaliers didn’t fold, showcased their resiliency and pulled out arguably the biggest win for the program in over half a decade.

Despite this past weekend’s success, Virginia knows it will need to refocus this week as they get set to take on Louisville and last year’s Heisman Trophy winner — junior quarterback Lamar Jackson. 

Virginia junior tight end Evan Butts said that despite his team’s bowl berth, the Cavaliers will continue to take it one play at a time and stay hungry. 

“I feel like we’ll keep that mindset … Just one play at a time, and dominating the man in front of you,” Butts said. “I think our team will incorporate that throughout the rest of the season.”

Butts said Virginia Coach Bronco Mendenhall stressed the importance of the Louisville game (5-4, 2-4 ACC) and putting the Georgia Tech win behind them as they start to prepare for another challenge this upcoming weekend. 

“After coach made a few remarks, we’re on to Louisville now,” Butts said. “As much as that win against Georgia Tech was huge for us ... We have three more games to play and a lot of football left to play, so we’re moving along and we’re focused.”

Going up against Louisville means going up against arguably the most dynamic player in the country, Jackson. Jackson has had another strong season, completing 60.4 percent of his passes for 2,808 yards, including 18 touchdowns and six interceptions. Jackson has continued to display his phenomenal rushing ability as well, picking up 14 touchdowns through the ground thus far, and putting together six games of at least 100 rushing yards. 

Mendenhall said facing Jackson will be a challenge. 

“Any play can go the whole distance,” Mendenhall said. “One player to get him down is difficult. He can make anybody miss, and any play can score.” 

Mendenhall also noted that Jackson has made progress as a passer since Virginia last played against Louisville last season and that Jackson is one of the toughest players he has ever had to face.

“I don't remember ever defending a player with the same athleticism or skill set,” Mendenhall said. “Early in my career, we defended Reggie Bush and USC. He was a dynamic player, but didn't touch the ball every down. That's the difference with Lamar. Not only can he throw it, but he can scramble and keep plays alive and pull it down and run.” 

With a bowl berth secured, Virginia will now look to continue their winning ways for a chance to potentially play in the ACC Championship game. The Cavaliers’ final three games of the regular season will all be against teams that were at some point ranked in the AP Top 25 this year, and will feature challenges the team has yet to take on. 

Virginia will look to get off to a good start to this three-game stretch, as they travel to Louisville, Ky. this weekend to take on the Cardinals. The game is scheduled to start at 3:30 p.m. at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium Saturday. 

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