Over the past five seasons, the Duke football program has never finished better than fourth in ACC's Coastal Division. But the Blue Devils have won four of their five meetings with Virginia in that span.
But for players on this year's Virginia team, who have lost their last three games after a 2-1 start, the fact that it's Duke who will visit Scott Stadium this Saturday is beside the point.
"It doesn't matter as much that it's Duke this week," UVa sophomore offensive lineman Jay Whitmire said Monday. "No matter what, we need to get a win this week. We need to get everything back on track."
"A game is a game, whoever the opponent is," said junior linebacker Henry Coley. "I wouldn't mind if we were playing Savannah State, like other people have played them. A game is a game, and every opportunity is a day whether you can win or you can lose. Whoever the opponent is."
The Cavaliers had an opportunity to get a win at Maryland on Saturday. But a late 3rd-and-22 conversion by the Terrapins led to the go-ahead score, and UVa missed a last-second field goal to give Maryland a 27-26 win.
"We're still not over it," UVa freshman defensive tackle Donte Wilkins said Monday. "The bitter taste is still in our mouth. It'll probably be in our mouth until the end of the season. We just want to keep working hard, and remember these losses. Remember how they feel, so we don't get them again."
"That taste is just something that we have to keep in the back of our heads," said sophomore quarterback David Watford. "Just that losing, and how we're "that" close. Coach London always says we're "this" close, and we really were that close to winning that game. And that could have been the turning point in our season that we needed. That spark that we needed to just get us on the right path."
Coach Mike London said Monday that there were "no moral victories" in the Maryland loss, but also talked of the progress he saw from his team on Saturday. The Cavaliers went from four turnovers in their previous loss to Ball State to none against the Terps, and cut their penalties from 13 to five.
London expects continued improvement from his team entering the second half of the season. And the hope is that progress will lead to more success in the win column.
"The obvious goal is to win. Whether you've got older guys, younger guys, whatever it is. I mean, the psychology of winning -- winning begets winning," London said. "If you keep harping on things that are parts of the game that are important parts of the game, and they have success at it, I believe that winning comes with that. The attitudes come with that."
"I could take the effort from that Maryland game anytime," said Watford. "Because we made mistakes, we didn't play our best game, but we fought. That's the most important thing, we fought until the very last play."
"We can correct the mistakes. We can build off of that type of stuff," Watford added. "But that kind of effort is something that we have to bring to every single game. We've just got to come out fighting."
"The guys have been playing inspired football. We're "this" far away, in a lot of the games we've played this year," said Coley. "And guys just need to keep playing inspired football. We can't be lackadaisical."
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