Coach focusing on finishing strong for Virginia's seniors
Virginia coach Mike London hopes a strong finish can temper the disappointment of another season without a bowl appearance.
Eliminated from bowl consideration for the fourth year in a row and with his future uncertain, London is focusing his attention on seeing the Cavaliers finish strong for seniors.
Virginia (3-7, 2-4 Atlantic Coast Conference) will be looking to end two losing streaks as it closes the season at home against Duke and Virginia Tech. The Blue Devils have won the last three meetings, and the Hokies have won the last 11. London would love to see his team give its leaders an end-of-year highlight.
''We're focused on trying to get a winning record here at home,'' London said Monday. ''We're currently 3-2 and have an opportunity to win games here at home. We're focusing on the opportunity to go 4-4 in the conference, which is important. Probably one of the biggest things is to focus on our seniors, the guys that are finishing their eligibility, to go out on a positive note. We've talked about unity all season long, dealing with adversity, being resilient.
''I feel very strongly about finishing strong for these individuals.''
The Blue Devils (6-4, 3-3), once flying high at 6-1, have dropped three straight, the first a home loss to Miami on a game-ending, eight-lateral kickoff return that got the officiating crew suspended for the next two weeks. They've since been blown out by North Carolina and Pittsburgh.
The Cavaliers, whose road losing streak stretched to 15 with Saturday's 38-31 loss at Louisville, lead the nation with 13 graduate students on their roster, and hoped to use that experience to get back to a bowl game.
Instead, they have had a series of near misses with four losses coming by a touchdown or less.
The most painful of those may have been a 34-27 setback against Notre Dame on a 39-yard touchdown pass with 12 seconds to play.
Unlike in some seasons, when continued losing has led to splintering in the Cavaliers' locker room, this team has remained together and determined.
Hired in 2009 to replace Al Groh after winning the 2008 FCS national championship at Richmond and going 24-5 in two seasons, London has compiled just a 26-45 record at Virginia and went to a bowl game just once, in 2011. Against ACC competition, he's won only 10 of 38 games, and last season was given just a one-year contract extension.
But London said struggling to win games doesn't have to be the last thought players have as they move on. The final two games could go a long way toward not only providing rare highlights, but reinforcing some of the lessons London hopes he has instilled.
''Four losses this season by a touchdown or less. That's disappointment,'' London said. ''How do you handle it? Do you wallow around in misery and woe is me, or do you just keep getting back up, going back out to practice, talking about the things that can help you win, minimizing mistakes? That's what we keep talking about.''
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