Game week has arrived for the Virginia football team.
"I think it hit me yesterday," offensive lineman Conner Davis said at Monday's press conference, as the Cavaliers discussed Saturday's season opener at Scott Stadium against seventh-ranked UCLA.
"A normal Sunday, in-season. Practice, work out, get to meetings; that's when we got our opponent details and all that," Davis added. "I mean, when the schedule came out, we were like, UCLA. The whole summer we were thinking about UCLA. And that's what we were, that's what we trained for. We're not thinking about anything else right now."
Mike London enters his fifth season as coach of the Cavaliers with an 18-31 record at UVa (2-10 in 2013), but 4-0 in season openers. Saturday will mark just the second time in London's tenure that the Cavaliers have kicked off against an FBS opponent -- UVa beat BYU 19-16 at Scott Stadium in last year's opener -- and the first time under London that the Wahoos have faced a ranked opponent.
London is 3-6 at UVa against ranked opponents. That includes a pair of losses at home to top-10 teams last season, Oregon (ranked second at the time) and Clemson (ranked ninth).
"Our players have taken a step-by-step approach to not only how they prepare, but the season, and holding each other accountable and responsible for where we are and where we want to go," London said Monday. "So it's right in front of us, as we stare down these opponents, and UCLA is the biggest opponent right now for us."
"This year we're just going to try to stay as focused as possible, and try to bust our tails to really have a great season. And stay focused throughout the whole season," said junior defensive tackle David Dean. "Do it for us, do it for our fans, do it for our coaches."
"That's why you can say this team is more unified than ever before, is because we're all on the same page in what we're trying to accomplish," said sophomore quarterback Greyson Lambert. "We want to win games, we want to go to a bowl game, we want to win the ACC, we want to do everything that every other team in the ACC wants to do. But this time, we believe it."
The updated depth chart for Saturday's game confirmed what had long been expected -- Lambert will make the first start of his college career against the Bruins. Lambert appeared in seven games as David Watford's backup last season, then entered this summer as the team's No. 1 quarterback this summer after a strong performance last spring.
"It's what you train for, it's what you go through," Lambert said. "You know, two-a-days and camp and workouts all with your teammates. Just for this reason, to go out there on Saturday and perform and play against some of the best in the country. And so I'm excited."
"I believe he has done a really good job this camp in fostering the attitude of "you can count on me." And we are going to count on him to do well and play well," said London. "And we are relying in the fact that being an experienced player, having the same coordinator, with the same terminology, having what we believe really good wide receivers surrounded by running backs, those type of things we think can help."
The release of the depth chart also answered the biggest question that had been surrounding the UVa offense this preseason -- the five starters along the offensive line against UCLA.
Sophomores Michael Mooney and Ryan Doull will each make their first college starts against the Bruins, at left tackle and left guard, respectively. Ross Burbank will start at center, after spending much of the summer at right guard. Burbank started the Cavaliers' first four games at center last season.
Davis will start at right guard, after spending time at both left tackle and right tackle at points this preseason. Davis started seven games at left guard last year. Eric Smith will start at right tackle, the spot where he started the final eight games of last season as a true freshman.
The depth chart also confirmed that five-star freshman Quin Blanding will start at free safety, while fellow five-star Andrew Brown is listed as a co-starter with sophomore Donte Wilkins at one of the defensive tackle spots.