On November 4th, 2017, Virginia defeated Georgia Tech 40-36 on a rainy night at Scott Stadium. Kurt Benkert threw a 27-yard touchdown to Andre Levrone to give the Hoos the lead with just 1:22 left in the fourth quarter. The Cavaliers held on for the win and despite the wet and cold conditions, a considerable number of fans stormed the field as the game concluded.
Why did the fans rush the field following a Virginia win in the middle of the regular season? With the victory, the Hoos won their sixth game of the season and became bowl eligible for the first time since 2011. After five straight losing seasons, including a 2-10 record in Bronco Mendenhall’s first season in 2016, the joy and excitement about UVA having a winning football team could not be contained to the stands at Scott Stadium. It was a pivotal moment for a rebuilding Cavalier football program.
Almost four years later, Virginia defeated Georgia Tech at Scott Stadium for its sixth win of the season again. This time, however, the fact that the Cavaliers became bowl eligible as a result of their victory over the Yellow Jackets was merely an afterthought.
“I didn’t hear anyone even talk about being bowl eligible for five times in six years,” UVA head coach Bronco Mendenhall said on Monday. “I remember my second year the fans rushed the field when we got our sixth win.”
Mendenhall’s Cavaliers have won four games in a row as part of a 6-2 start to the season. The players and coaches are far from satisfied with just being bowl eligible, though. UVA has four games remaining in the regular season against some very tough competition: at No. 25 BYU, at home against No. 11 Notre Dame, at No. 17 Pittsburgh, and at home against archrival Virginia Tech. The Hoos have every intention of winning all four of those games.
“You want to win every single game, you want to go 10-2,” said junior linebacker Nick Jackson. “That’s the mindset right now and I truly believe that we’re going to go 10-2. As a competitor, you want to win these games. You’re going to BYU in a very good environment and you got to play some good football to beat them. And you got all those other games, but we want to focus on being 1-0 each week. We can’t look too far ahead.”
In the early years of the Bronco Mendenhall era, the goal was to just win games and try to achieve a winning season as part of “The New Standard” of Virginia football. Now, success is simply called “The Standard” for the UVA football program.
From Virginia’s four-game winning streak to Brennan Armstrong’s brilliant play as the nation’s leading passer, much of the Cavaliers’ accomplishments through this point in the season have gone under the radar in the national college football scene. That does not bother the Hoos, who are laser-focused on winning the next game.
“We’re going to play our football. We’re going to play UVA football at the end of the day,” says Nick Jackson. “We’re going to play our game and we’re not really worried about the media. We’re not really worried about the national attention. We’re going to worry about us. And if we keep winning, then that’s going to speak for itself.”