There is a strong possibility, following Friday night’s 52-17 pasting of William and Mary, that Virginia’s football team will return to the top 25 for the first time since 2011.
The question becomes, “Are the Cavaliers worthy?”
You could ask that of a lot of teams before the start of conference play.
Virginia is in an unusual situation in that it began the season against a conference opponent, Pittsburgh, for the first time since 2003
The Cavaliers were impressive in a 30-14 victory at Heinz Field on Aug. 31 and were the leading vote-getters among teams that did not make the first in-season top 25.
UVa was hardly unimpressive against William and Mary, but the game got out of hand so quickly, with the Cavaliers taking a 35-3 halftime lead that later stretched to 42-3, it was hard to judge.
Virginia was sloppy at times, with quarterbacks Bryce Perkins and Brennan Armstrong yielding a combined three interceptions, but coach Bronco Mendenhall had been hoping to get some playing time for Armstrong, currently Perkins’ heir apparent.
Armstrong, a redshirt freshman, completed nine of 10 passes for 103 yards and also had an 11-yard run in the fourth quarter.
It was a night for Virginia fans to get a first look at players like true freshman Mike Hollins, a 5-foot-9, 200-pounder who had a team-high 11 carries for a game-high 78 yards and two touchdowns.
Hollins rushed for 1,645 yards and scored 33 touchdowns last year at University Lab High School in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and was named MVP of the 2018 state championship after rushing for 237 yards and four touchdowns.
One week earlier, sophomore Wayne Taulapappa had led the Cavaliers in rushing against Pittsburgh but sustained an undisclosed injury that kept him out of Saturday’s game. It is not expected to persist.
“That depth is what we’d like to have at every position,” Mendenhall said.
Much was made of the return to Scott Stadium of William and Mary’s first-year head coach Mike London. The Cavaliers’ head coach from 2010-15, met with his successor during warm-ups and again after the final horn.
It wasn’t the first time for such an exchange. Mendenhall was the head coach at Brigham Young when the Cougars had a home-and-home series with UVa in 2013-14.
On those occasions, there was a perfunctory meeting at midfield. On Friday, the past and present UVa coaches had a more extended talk as teams took the field for pregame warm-ups.
“I’m just impressed with Mike London as a person,” Mendenhall said. “Always have been. We had a really nice conversation before the game and his values and my values align very well.
“I like who he is and I’d love to see him have success. I don’t know Mike well, but I know him well enough in the world of college football.”
Next up is Florida State, a team from the ACC’s Atlantic Division that the Cavaliers, a Coastal Division affiliate, haven’t faced since 2014. One of the more noteworthy victories in UVa’s program history was in 1995, when then-No. 24 UVa upset second-ranked Florida State 33-28 at Scott Stadium.
The Seminoles proceeded to win the next nine games between the teams, but they haven’t played regularly since the ACC went to divisional play. After the two played 15 years in a row from 1992-2006, UVa and Florida State have met only once since 2011.
Neither is currently ranked, which would not have been the case during the Seminoles’ heyday. However, FSU hasn’t been as consistently strong since Bobby Bowden’s retirement following the 2009 season.
Still, it’s a 15-time ACC champion with which the Cavaliers have to contend and this is an opponent not to be taking lightly, not that there’s been any hint of that.