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Wahoos set for season-opener Saturday against Duke

The Blue Devils are already Virginia’s fifth different scheduled opening opponent this year.
Published: Sep. 25, 2020 at 8:53 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WDBJ) - First, it was Georgia.

Then VMI, Virginia Tech, Clemson, and now, finally, Duke, as the Virginia football team sets its sights on the visiting Blue Devils for Saturday’s home opener.

“The simplest narrative is probably of the Boy Who Cried Wolf and the players, I think, realize now that we’ve made it to a Monday of game-week that this one is real,” said Virginia head coach Bronco Mendenhall at his weekly press conference.

With their opening opponent changing four different times over the course of the year, the Cavaliers are grateful to finally have a chance to take the field in 2020.

“It will kind of just be like a normal first game for us," said senior linebacker Charles Snowden. "Obviously, turnovers are a big thing. Tackling is very important as well, and so those two things are really where we’re trying to focus in on, and it’ll be different because they’ve already had two games under their belt, where we haven’t had any.”

Those two games were both Blue Devils losses to Boston College and new ACC foe Notre Dame.

Still, head coach Bronco Mendenhall said having that game experience gives Duke a knowledge of its own personnel that his team doesn’t have yet.

“It’s a significant concern," Mendenhall said. "Playing is the only real feedback and accurate feedback that you get, and after a game, it becomes so much clearer where your team stands, where your position groups are, and who’s capable and consistent and finishing plays. Then, there’s usually a significant jump between game one and game two, which adds to that narrative and allows identity to be formed and forged at even a higher level.”

U.V.A.’s coach speaks often about progress within his program.

From 2-10 in his first season to the school’s first division title last year, Mendenhall’s Cavaliers have improved at every step of the way.

And though this year’s team has already faced a season’s worth of adversity, its leaders are poised to continue that progress in 2020.

“Having Tech as our first game, emotionally, we were ready to go," said senior wide receiver Terrell Jana. "We were really hyped up. With that game, unfortunately, being canceled, going into this one, I think Coach Mendenhall had a good approach of allowing some time off for the guys to kind of get ready for Duke. Going into this week, I think we have a good approach again, and it’s just trying to maximize our performance, our mental, emotional and physical performance come Saturday.”

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