The Virginia Cavaliers have gotten off to a slow 1-3 start this season, but head coach Mike London remains optimistic. Virginia opened the season with a 34-16 road loss to UCLA but came back the very next week and almost beat Notre Dame, ultimately losing 34-27.
So while the Cavaliers may be 1-3, they’ve faced some stiff competition.
“I believe coming out of the stretch of the non-conference games, our guys learned a lot,” London said on CBS Sports Radio’s Tiki and Tierney. “Obviously you learn that you got to be in every game. You’re right. Twelve seconds and it’s a great win at home against Notre Dame, and then you don’t play well enough (to win). You give the ball away. Then you have the kind of game that you have against Boise State (a 56-14 loss). But I believe the competition that we’ve played has put us in a better state of mind, a better position, a better understanding of what it takes to finish and win games as we go into the Coastal. Our first league game is this Saturday against Pittsburgh. So the mindset and the leadership has been phenomenal.”
Interestingly enough, London’s brother, Paul, played defensive back at Virginia with Tiki Barber’s brother, Ronde. Those Virginia teams were known for their ability to force turnovers, especially interceptions.
London wants to see more of that from this year’s squad.
“We haven’t been getting those things,” London said, “but I believe they can come. I believe they can come in droves. I believe they can come if you keep talking about it. I just remember that time when you guys were playing back then how it became a mindset and a culture. Sometimes the ball bounces crazy ways, but we got to get our share of turnovers. Obviously we can’t have the type of game where we gave the ball up to Boise, and (we have to) utilize our playmakers. So our team’s mindset is tremendous. It’s great. And we’re looking forward to having a chance to take what you’ve learned – the good and the bad of it – and go play our first conference game. We’re 0-0 right now.”
Barber asked London whether there’s one Cavalier who needs to step up, lead and put the team on his back.
“This year’s team is different obviously,” London said. “When you look at last year’s team, there was an Anthony Harris and there was a Henry Coley and a Daquan Romero – there were more voices defensively. This year, it’s flipped. There’s more voices offensively. Canaan Severin, Matt Johns, T.J. Thorpe – you can just go on and on. Obviously Maurice Canady is a guy that’s one of our leaders that is always a guy that has the assignment of taking the other team’s best player. He’s a quiet guy, but he also deserves the right to speak up and be heard and to grab the attention of a lot of guys when it comes to turnovers or when it comes to a high amount of play, a high amount of energy. He’s a good player in his own right and good players, as you know, sometimes have to raise to a level that gets them out of their own comfort zone to get everybody else to rise to that level. I believe Maurice is that kind of player, and I believe he’ll deliver.”
Virginia and Pitt (3-1, 1-0) kick off Saturday at 12:30 p.m. ET.