With eight home games on the schedule, there isn't much room for road trips for the Virginia football team this season. But the first comes this weekend, when the Cavaliers travel to Pittsburgh for their ACC opener.
And the Cavaliers are ready to play the role of the "bad guy" at Heinz Field.
"I believe that when you go to an away game, you're the villain out there, and you've only got to rely on your teammates," junior cornerback Tra' Nicholson said Monday. "So it's going to be a chance for our team to come together and play together, and be a unit."
"Home crowds, you sort of build off the crowd with positive energy. And then the road games, it's still off the crowd, but it's a crowd that's against you," said junior tight end Jake McGee. "So it fires you up in that way, too, where you have a group of people that you want to send home unhappy."
UVa will take a 2-1 record to Pittsburgh this weekend, following last Saturday's one-sided 49-0 win over VMI at Scott Stadium. The UVa defense recorded its first shutout since blanking Maryland in October of 2008, while the offense put up its highest point total since scoring 51 on Temple in November of 2005.
Mike London has started 2-1 in each of his first three seasons as head coach of the Cavaliers -- but has never gotten to 3-1. Including Saturday's game at Pitt, five of the Cavaliers' next six opponents played in bowl games last season.
"We know the challenges that are ahead," London said Monday. "And the biggest challenge is on the road against Pittsburgh, and everything else will take care of itself after that."
"But our goal is to be successful. Our goal is to win football games, London added. "And our goal is to go on the road and win our first on-the-road game. So it's important that our mindset is just focused on the right here and now."
The Cavaliers have dropped six of their last seven road openers, with the only win in that span coming at Indiana two years ago. David Watford appeared in that game as a true freshman, but Saturday's game will be his first career start on the road.
"I don't really feel like my approach has to change," said the sophomore quarterback. "We just have to just have a solid week of practice. We have to be able to execute, and get of to a fast start. Just being able to put points on the board. And that's really what we're going to focus on this week, just being able to execute."
"Human nature, you get all the "Ooh's" and the "Aah's" out of the way," said London. "And you just boil down to the fact that it's a hundred-yard field. Just like it is at Scott Stadium; just like it is at the McCue Center where we practice. And what matters is what happens. We've heard it before, what happens between the white lines."
Another trend London's team can change on Saturday is his winless record in ACC openers as UVa's head coach. The Cavaliers last won their ACC opener at North Carolina in 2009.
"It would be huge for us. For our confidence level, for us as a team. For our fans; for everything," said junior linebacker Daquan Romero. "I feel like us coming out of here, to be 1-0 to start the ACC is huge. That might be the most important thing as of today, as of right now."
"That would be perfect," agreed Watford. "That's a great start for us. Because if we're able to string together win after win after win, we'll be back in a bowl game in December. That's exactly where we want to be. So that would be a great start for us, 1-0 in the ACC."
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