Virginia Coach Al Groh fashions himself a classic rock-and-roll fan -- he recently attended the Rolling Stones concert at Scott Stadium and is known to listen to Journey rather loudly in his office.
So as Groh's No. 23 Cavaliers prepare to play at North Carolina today, Groh wants to make sure his team doesn't become college football's version of Edie Brickell and the New Bohemians -- one-hit wonders whose body of work was otherwise unremarkable.
The Cavaliers (4-2, 2-2 ACC), who play the Tar Heels at noon today at Kenan Stadium in Chapel Hill, are coming off their most impressive victory during Groh's five seasons as coach of his alma mater. But losing at North Carolina would not only erase the momentum of last week's 26-21 upset of then-No. 4 Florida State, it would also leave the Cavaliers only one game above .500 entering the last month of the season.
"We can't let that game define our season," Virginia quarterback Marques Hagans said. "We've got a long way to go. Coach said that as soon as we came into the locker room" after the Florida State game "and he was adamant about that."
The Cavaliers didn't have to look far last Saturday night to see a team that failed to capitalize on a monumental upset. Many players from the 1995 Cavaliers team, which had been the last Virginia team to beat Florida State and the first ACC team to beat the Seminoles in a conference game, were honored at halftime. But after upsetting the Seminoles with a last-second goal line stand, the 1995 Cavaliers squandered a 15-point lead in the final 13 minutes against Virginia Tech and lost, 36-29.
Last season, two other ACC teams -- Clemson and Maryland -- had what seemed to be turnaround victories. Clemson upset Miami, 24-17 in overtime in the Orange Bowl, and then inexplicably lost at Duke the following week. A struggling Maryland team, which had scored only 17 points in three consecutive losses, stunned Florida State, 20-17. But the Terrapins lost two of their next three games and finished 5-6, missing the postseason for the first time in Coach Ralph Friedgen's tenure.
"We all understand that this was a good win for us," Groh said. "It wasn't a season-ending win. There are more games to come, and to make this really worthwhile we need to be ready to win again."
Groh said he isn't worried about his team being overconfident against the Tar Heels. Before last week, the Cavaliers were criticized mightily after losing consecutive road games at Maryland and Boston College.
"Last week, we didn't really care what anybody said about us," Groh said. "We don't really care this week. We know what we have to do this week to keep it going. What we care about is winning and losing, and staying together as a team, and trying to play the kind of sound, solid, tough, aggressive football that we like to think is our trademark."
Winning on the road hasn't necessarily been Virginia's trademark during recent seasons. The Cavaliers are 9-16 in road games during Groh's tenure, including 1-2 this season.
Before losing at Boston College and Maryland, the Cavaliers barely beat Syracuse, 27-24, on Connor Hughes's 19-yard field goal as time expired. The Orange is 1-5 and lost its last two games to Connecticut and Rutgers by a combined score of 57-16.
While Groh admits his team tends to play better at home, he doesn't seem overly concerned about playing on the road for the fourth time this season. Even two-time defending national champion Southern California has struggled on the road this season, falling behind at halftime in three of its road games.
"That seems to be the trend with most teams, except for the truly dominant ones," Groh said. "I guess you could say that, while they've been winning, all of USC's closest games have come on the road. That seems to be very much significant in college football and it seems to be underscored this year."
But a rare road victory by the Cavaliers would put them in an inviting position for November, when they play three of their last four games at home.
"It's really still pretty early," Groh said. "We're only at the halfway mark. At that stage, I think it's too early to get hyped up about whether you have a great team and it's a little premature to be running around like Chicken Little saying, 'The sky is falling.' "