CHARLOTTESVILLE, V.A. (WVIR) - The Virginia football team arrived in South Florida on Thursday night, as the Cavaliers landed at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport via private charter flight.
UVa will take on the University of Florida in the 86th Orange Bowl on Monday at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida.
The Gators had a much shorter trip to the site of the Orange Bowl, though Gainesville, Florida, is more than 300 miles north of Miami.
It’s a five-hour drive, or a one-hour flight.
Florida made its arrival Wednesday night, and the team was greeted officially by Orange Bowl Committee members prior to a team meeting at the Intercontinental Miami, which means they were given gift bags and citrus fruit by guys and gals in orange blazers.
The Gators have a record of 10-2 this year, and they’re ranked sixth in the nation in the latest AP Top 25 Poll.
Florida was on the practice field in Miami for the first time on Thursday afternoon.
The Wahoos did not practice on Thursday, but they have spent a lot of time practicing since the end of the regular season.
First, it was for the ACC Championship Game.
Now it’s for the Orange Bowl.
But either way, it’s a bonus for the Cavaliers.
Teams that make a bowl game can continue practicing, which can be a big advantage for building a program.
The extra practice time allows coaches the chance to take a look at some younger players, or work on specific plays, which they would not have been able to do, otherwise, during the weekly grind of the regular season.
Teams that don’t make a bowl game, don’t have that opportunity.
Virginia is playing in a bowl game for the third year in a row, and they have seen the results of those extra practices.
Head coach Bronco Mendenhall says, “Every minute we spend preparing, our program is growing, and benefiting, from the points of reference, and the stretch and thought process that it’s taking, to then match up and have our best chance to win, and be competitive in that game. Every minute we’re spending is accelerating our program.”
Junior guard Dillon Reinkensmeyer adds, “It’s a huge advantage, making a bowl game and having those extra practices. It’s like Fall Camp 2.0, in a sense, of just getting a lot of young guys reps, and things you couldn’t really get throughout the season, really focusing on technique stuff.”
“I think it helped me a lot my first two years, making a bowl game," says junior linebacker Zane Zandier. "Just those extra couple of week of practice, that other teams aren’t getting, I think it helps the development.”
Virginia and Florida faceoff in the Orange Bowl on Monday at 8pm in Miami Gardens, Florida.