In his 31st game as Virginia’s head football coach, Bronco Mendenhall has the opportunity for a first on Saturday.
The Cavaliers’ opponent for a 7 p.m. kickoff at Scott Stadium is a 16th-ranked Miami team that is on a five-game winning streak.
Virginia is 0-5 against top 25 teams during Mendenhall’s tenure, and UVa has lost eight straight games to ranked teams going back to predecessor Mike London’s days.
Since the 2012 season, UVa is 1-12 against the Top 25, with the lone victory occurring in a 23-21 victory over then-No. 21 Louisville at Scott Stadium in 2014.
Attendance for that game, which kicked off at 12:30 p.m., was listed at 34,816. Recent home crowds have not come close to the listed capacity of 61,500 and Scott Stadium has been particularly barren for noon kickoffs.
Mendenhall suspects there will be a little more buzz surrounding Saturday’s nighttime kickoff and not just because Miami is in town.
“It’s an interesting thought,” Mendenhall said Wednesday on an ACC coaches’ teleconference.
“I’ve just been at Virginia long enough and I guess the sample size is getting big enough that I made the comment to our administration the other day that it appears to me that there’s more electricity and vibrancy in the evening.
“That’s one of my takeaways.”
For the most part, Virginia has little choice in the matter because the ACC announces the game times after consulting with TV networks.
“Even though I don’t like night games because of how hard it is to manage the day before you play and the down time, it seems that our fans like that kind of [nighttime] environment,” Mendenhall said.
“If that’s the case, I’m all for it.”
The closest Virginia has come to a home night game this season was its Sept. 1 opener with Richmond. Kickoff was set for 6 p.m. but storm warnings pushed back the start till 6:40.
Attendance for that game was 40,524, and Virginia hopes to surpass that with all the alumni in town for homecoming weekend and students unlikely to oversleep a 7 p.m. kickoff.
“I don’t really like night games,” senior free safety Juan Thornhill said. “I like to wake up and get ready to play football. I also watch film to make sure I’m prepared. I watch games on TV, too, whenever I get some free time to calm down and relax.”
Much has been made of a Miami change at quarterback, with redshirt freshman N’Kosi Perry taking over for Malik Rosier, a veteran QB who led the Hurricanes’ comeback against visiting Virginia last year, when No. 2 Miami trailed 28-14 in the second half before rallying for a 44-28 victory.
There is no quarterback controversy at Virginia, where junior-college transfer Bryce Perkins has accounted for 14 touchdowns — 11 passing and three on the ground. Perkins has not thrown fewer than two touchdown passes in any game.
“I love hard, tough games, grimy games [and] games that you come out of so sore that you can hardly walk,” Perkins said of his first meeting with the Hurricanes. “I live for those games.”
Mendenhall’s third season at Virginia coincides with Mark Richt’s third season at Miami. Richt, who is in his 18th year as a head coach at the Football Bowl Subdivision level, and Mendenhall, who is in his 14th season, have been colleagues on the board of the American Football Coaches Association.
“We have a great challenge ahead of us,” said Richt, whose Hurricanes are coming off of a 28-27 victory over Florida State, which led Miami 27-7 in the second half. “We’re going into [UVa’s] house. Their fans will be riled up, I’m sure.
“They’ll be well-rested because they had an open date. We had an emotional ballgame and had to turn around pretty quick to get ready for this. Hopefully, that won’t come into play by the end of it.”