Despite being 17-point underdogs at undefeated Miami on Saturday, the Virginia football team will feel right at home at Hard Rock Stadium, so long as the Cavaliers remember to pack their trusty toaster.
After Virginia went 1-5 in Charlottesville last season, second-year coach Bronco Mendenhall moved most of the Cavaliers’ spring practices out of the comfort of the team’s $13 million indoor facility and into Scott Stadium. The idea was for Virginia’s players to get comfortable and develop confidence on the same field they’d use for games. To help make the unfamiliar surroundings feel a little more like home, Mendenhall started making toast.
“It’s hard to eat breakfast unless you’re home, and it smells like toast when you walk into our locker room, which helps you know you’re home,” Mendenhall told the Virginian-Pilot’s David Hall in April.
For the first time since 2011, the 6-4 Cavaliers won’t be home for bowl season. Virginia became bowl eligible with a come-from-behind 40-36 win over Georgia Tech on Nov. 4 at Scott Stadium, where the Cavaliers are 4-2. As Mendenhall explained on his weekly coach’s show last week, the smell of toast has wafted through Virginia’s locker room before every game, home and away, this year.
“We actually play at Scott Stadium and so we were really comfortable at our practice facility but we weren’t very comfortable playing the game in our own stadium,” Mendenhall told Virginia play-by-play voice Dave Koehn. “So, we moved the team there, but then we realized something was missing. The players can tell you about this, but it didn’t smell like home. That may not sound like much to anyone else, but for whatever reason, I forget, we started making toast. So now, our locker room smells like toast and when it smells like toast, we know we’re home.”
The live audience at Charlottesville’s Birdwood Grill laughed.
“Every stadium we go into, we bring a toaster and we have toast, and so when we go, we know we’re home,” Mendenhall continued. “It’s kind of been symbolic. I usually take a piece of toast with me the night before the game, just to remember that I get to go back home the next day. Not that I don’t love my home, my family’s here, I love that home, but this is kind of my second home, and toast is the link to that. That might not make any sense to anyone listening, other than my players that are here, but it makes sense to us.”
Miami can have its turnover chain; Virginia has its toaster.
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