An offseason spent overhauling a coaching staff, dealing with roster attrition and assembling what many consider the best home schedule in Virginia football history is finally over. The Cavaliers begin their quest to rebound from last year’s 4-8 campaign with a game against BYU on Saturday, hopeful they can score a crucial nonconference victory.
Though some have wondered whether it’s to the program’s benefit to play two bowl teams to start the season — No. 3 Oregon comes to Charlottesville next week and CBSSports.com recently ranked Virginia’s nonconference schedule as the 10th-toughest in the country this year — the Cavs have embraced the challenge.
“Guys want to create a dream season,” junior safety Anthony Harris said this week. “In order to do that, you have to create a dream schedule. Guys are very excited. We obviously believe in our talents. We believe we can play with the best. This gives us an opportunity right here to see where we can measure up.”
Coach Mike London is quick to point out this Virginia team is heavy with “freshmen, redshirt freshmen and sophomores.” There are just eight seniors on the roster, tied for the second-fewest in the entire country this year, according to Virginia’s sports information department.
And the age factor will be hard to miss facing the Cougars, who have a lineup loaded with players who have been on Mormon missions. As senior offensive lineman Luke Bowanko noted this week, he looked at BYU’s roster and noticed one player actually played for the Cougars in 2007, when Bowanko was a sophomore at Centreville High.
But that hasn’t stopped Virginia from looking at this opener as an opportunity to show how much progress has been made with a new offensive coordinator, defensive coordinator and special teams coach this offseason. Not to mention Scott Stadium should be near capacity, although don’t be surprised if there are plenty of BYU fans who have made the trek to Charlottesville from the Washington area.
“It’ll be a broader audience,” Bowanko said. “They’ll be watching to see what BYU’s going to do and hopefully by the end of the game they’ll be like, ‘Wow, those kids from Virginia can play ball.’ It’s great having the spotlight on you. It helps you motivate yourself. Obviously, BYU’s the first opponent and we’re only worried about them right now. But they pose a lot of specific things that they do that’s going to be difficult to handle. We’re ready for the challenge.”