FORT LAUDERDALE, FL. (WVIR) - Virginia will play Florida for the first time since 1959 when the teams meet in Monday’s Orange Bowl.
Virginia (9-4) will be aiming for its first 10-win season in 30-years.
Both UVA head coach Bronco Mendenhall and Florida head coach Dan Mullen posed for pictures after a joint press conference Sunday.
Both coaches said these bowl games often come down to who wants to win it more.
Mendenhall says his seniors deserve the credit for advancing the program into a big-time bowl game.
“I had them stand in a team meeting a couple days ago before we left Charlottesville and each one that stood, they are the pioneers of this era of UVA football,” says Mendenhall. “They were a part of 2-10. They were a part of the first bowl game, or going to the first bowl game that anyone on this roster had ever been to when we played against Navy. They were a part of the win against South Carolina last year in that bowl game and now they are a part of the Orange Bowl. I think they are proud of their accomplishments but I’ve also heard comments to our first-years, it’s not right that you are starting with the Orange Bowl and we started 2-10. There’s a message being sent to them like they’re soft, because they are not having to go through what they went through. They are saying it in a teasing way and a self-confirming way that we’ve helped this so you don’t have to go through that phase.”
Florida is in the Orange Bowl for the first time in 18 years. Virginia is here for the first time ever.
Mendenhall says, “Two schools that are powerful academically and interested in other things besides football but also excel at football. I think that makes this particular game unique. I think that sets it apart and that emphasis in addition to quality football makes it good for the game.”
The Gators have a record of 10-2, with a potent passing attack, with depth and talent at wide receiver.
“It’s one of the first things that jumps off the film when you study Florida’s offense, is just how many good athletes are in space,” says Mendenhall. “It’ll be a challenge for us, and it will require a lot of innovation and coaching on our part to try and neutralize that, but that’s one of our biggest tests.”
Virginia will likely counter with a lot of blitzes.
Mullen says, “One of the things they do is they do a good job of disguising pressures. Bringing them from different directions and giving you a variety of pressures and complimentary ones as well. The defensive scheme that Bronco runs at the University of Virginia is such an attacking scheme that puts the quarterback in tough decision making positions.”
The Gators defense will have to contend with Virginia's biggest weapon, Bryce Perkins.
“The scariest one is the plays that he makes after the play has broken down,” says Mullen. “You say we’ve stopped the run or we stopped the run and all of a sudden he made someone miss, he scrambled around, he got out of the pocket, he got out of contained. You got to be sound, you got to be disciplined and understand that he’s going to make plays. You just have to limit the amount that he can make.”
Both coaches say their teams have enjoyed the bowl week experience in South Florida but say their teams' priority is in the right place, to win the game. Sometimes these bowl games come down to which team wants to win it more.
Mendenhall says, “Dan talked about it a little bit, how much his team likes football by the end of the year, and do they like it enough to get into whatever setting they go to and have that be their primary focus. That doesn’t mean not have a good time with everything that is possible, but is the primary focus to go and win the game. Is that really important to the team and the team’s leadership and they control it more than the coaches. The teams that really want to go prepare and win, they play well every time.”
Virginia and Florida kickoff on Monday at 8pm in Miami.