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'Hoos Exceeding Mendenhall's Expectations in Year Two

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Wolf Gohlke with the 'Hoos in D.C. Wolf Gohlke with the 'Hoos in D.C.
ANNAPOLIS, Md (WVIR) -

The Virginia football team will play in a bowl game for the first time since 2011 on Thursday, as the Cavaliers will face Navy in the Military Bowl in Annapolis, Maryland.

UVa will be looking for its first postseason victory since beating Minnesota 34-31 in the Music City Bowl in 2005.

Virginia did not qualify for a bowl game in Bronco Mendenhall's first season with the team in 2016, and the head coach says the Cavaliers have exceeded his expectations in his second season.

"To be in a bowl game in Year Two, that's faster than what I anticipated," says Mendenhall.  "After Year One, I thought it would then take longer.  And so, I probably missed targets on both ends.  Started beneath what I expected, and accelerated faster in Year Two than what I anticipated."

Mendenhall says the extra practices granted by making a bowl game have allowed the program to accelerate faster this year versus last year, when the team didn't have the opportunity for extra work.

"Oh sure," says Mendenhall.  "That's not even close.  It's essential, especially with the climate of expected growth, and continuing to improve."

Senior linebacker Micah Kiser says, "We're here for a reason.  We're here because we won games, and we want to keep winning games.  Navy is a program that really mirrors ours.  Coach Mendenhall and their coach seem very much alike, so it'll be the clashing of two similar cultures, and hopefully we come out on top."

"They're a great team," says senior safety Quin Blanding.  "They're going to run the ball.  They're going to run, and they're going to try to look for open plays where they think they got you sleeping, and try to throw the ball, but with our mindset, and the way we prepared, that's not going to happen."

Navy runs an option-style offense similar to that of Georgia Tech.

Virginia beat the Yellow Jackets 40-36 earlier this year to become bowl eligible.

UVa and Navy kickoff on Thursday at 1:30 PM in Annapolis, Maryland.