CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — Now that Bronco Mendenhall has his first victory as Virginia’s coach, the Cavaliers want to end a 17-game road losing streak that stretches to November 2012.
Mendenhall and right tackle Eric Smith both said Monday they had no idea how many game it has been since the Cavaliers (1-2) won on the road. They also had somewhat different views on how they will approach it this week as they prepare to play at Duke (2-2, 0-1 Atlantic Coast Conference).
The last time Virginia won in Durham, North Carolina, was in 2006.
“It’s something that we talk about,” Smith said on Monday. “What would it be like to win this away game and break the streak? That’s a big thing.”
Mendenhall, who recorded his 100th career victory when the Cavaliers beat Central Michigan 49-35 on Saturday, saw his team come up short in excruciating fashion two weeks ago at Connecticut. A third-down play was stopped at the 2 yard-line and a hurried 20-yard field goal to tie the game failed in the 13-10 loss.
The coach is not eager to focus on the past or even on breaking the streak, but rather on continuing to improve.
“I don’t think it’s something that, other than how fiercely we need to prepare, needs to be addressed,” Mendenhall said. “Right now we play Duke and I know exactly where our team has to improve and grow and where our focus needs to be. … I’m looking forward on what we can do, not what hasn’t been done.”
Linebacker Zach Bradshaw hopes the venue will matter less to the Cavaliers than the task at hand in Durham.
“I know a lot of people think that there’s some mystery about winning on the road,” he said. “But I think that if we just prepare like we prepared last week, we’ll win.”
Smith has some ideas of what needs to be done, and much of relates as much to mental preparation as what happens on the field.
“If anything, I’d just say finish. We’ve definitely been up in away games. It’s how we finish,” the senior said. “I feel like, how we come out the second half is just big with UVA football. In the past, we haven’t had the second-half kind of mentality of finishing or having the hunger that we came out (with) in the first half. It’s just always been either kind of complacent or playing kind of scared.”
That started to change in the second half of a 44-26 loss at Oregon in Week 2.
Despite trailing 30-6 at halftime, the Cavaliers remained upbeat and outscored the Ducks 20-14 after halftime.
“If anything, that was the most excited we’ve ever been,” Smith said, speaking of the team’s demeanor on the sideline. “But the hump, I would say we have to get over going away, going against Duke, is ourselves. We’re not worried about any outside sources. It’s what are we going to do.”
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