CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - The Virginia football team will play its only non-conference game of the season on Saturday, as the Cavaliers take on Abilene Christian at Scott Stadium.
This will be the first-ever meeting between the two teams, but they do have a common opponent: COVID-19.
“They’re doing the same things we are,” says sophomore tight end Grant Misch. “They have to follow protocols, and all this, so we’re both coming into the game with the challenge upfront, of COVID. And then you have the challenge of scheme, and playing hard, and practicing hard throughout the week, leading up to the game.”
Abilene Christian is an FCS level school, and they’ve only been playing Division I football since 2013.
Head coach Bronco Mendenhall says, “I’m certainly aware, that the program has existed, but on the East Coast, there might be many that haven’t traveled the Plains of West Texas, and seen the horses, and the cows, and the farms, and all the things out there, but I have.”
Virginia (3-4, 3-4 ACC) will finish up the regular season with games against Florida State, Boston College, and Virginia Tech, but the Cavaliers say they aren’t looking past the Wildcats (1-4).
“We always take every game seriously,” says senior defensive lineman Mandy Alonso. “Coach always says in meetings, you don’t really care who you’re playing, you just have to prepare the same each week.”
Mendenhall adds, “I normally stand up and say, ‘This is the next nameless and faceless opponent.’ I’m even talking about ACC teams, right, meaning that the focus is on us. It’s the core philosophy that I have, extracted from John Wooden, that the focus is entirely on us.”
A win by the Wahoos would be their third in a row, and even their record at 4-4.
Abilene Christian was the last game added to the schedule, after VMI had to cancel in the original season opener, and says it was slim pickings.
“There weren’t many that could play, or would play, or had this date available to play,” says Mendenhall. “I have no connection with Abilene Christian, or their program, or their staff. We were also looking for teams that would guarantee that they would be compliant with tests, at the level that we needed to, besides having the date. A lot of filters were in place, and there weren’t many options available.”
Virginia and Abilene Christian kickoff on Saturday at four o’clock at Scott Stadium.