CHARLOTTESVILLE — As a professed University of Georgia fan who grew up going to football games at 95,000-seat Sanford Stadium, Virginia linebacker Rob Snyder has a reference point for judging big events.
“It reminded me of, down South, going to those SEC games,” Snyder said Monday, two days after UVa’s 31-24 win over Florida State.
The crowd was announced at 57,826 at Scott Stadium, where capacity is listed at 61,500.
It was Virginia’s 21st home football game in Bronco Mendenhall’s four seasons as head coach and the first with an announced crowd of 50,000 or more.
Snyder, a redshirt junior from Lawrenceville, Georgia, was in Mendenhall’s first recruiting class in 2016.
“This was the craziest I’ve seen Scott Stadium since I’ve been here,” Snyder said.
Only eight of the previous 20 UVa home crowds had topped the 40,000 mark. The biggest crowd of the Mendenhall era, prior to Saturday night’s game, was a turnout of 49,270 in his Cavalier debut against Richmond. UVa drew 48,609 for Mendenhall’s sole home game with Virginia Tech, which kicked off at 8:05 p.m. in chilly conditions on the Friday after Thanksgiving in 2017.
Unlike most of the UVa crowds in recent years, fans stayed till the end and stormed the field as the final horn sounded.
It wasn’t a first. In 2017, fans came onto the field after Virginia defeated Georgia Tech 40-36 and became bowl-eligible.
It happened again last year, when UVa held off 16th-ranked Miami 16-13 for its first victory over a Top 25 team under Mendenhall.
When Florida State came into Scott Stadium this past Saturday, it was a rare case of UVa being ranked (No. 25) and the Seminoles not. Still, FSU’s nation-power reputation made it an attractive opponent.
“When we played Miami at Miami, the atmosphere was a little close to this one.” said senior wide receiver Hasise Dubois, referring to a 2017 game that drew 63,415 spectators against the Hurricanes, then ranked No. 2, “But I would say this was the most crowd noise I’ve experienced since I’ve been in college football.
“The energy that it brought us, I feel that we fed off that.”
Fellow wideout Joe Reed said, “It was very electric and that is what we need more of — more energy in the stadium. Between that and the energy on the sideline, it will be hard to beat this.”
Quarterback Bryce Perkins was among the first players to reach the locker room and that was one of the reasons that he was chosen to shatter “the rock,” a ritual after UVa victories.
“Wayne should have broken the rock,” said Perkins of sophomore running back Wayne Taulapapa, who ran for three touchdowns. “We just couldn’t find him.”
Clearly, the field was more congested than usual.
“I was telling some of my brothers before we went out on that last series, ‘This is what we came here for,’ All-ACC defensive back Bryce Hall said. “This is why we play this game — for moments like that.”