Cavaliers surprising run moves them into Top 25
Virginia has been knocking down barriers one after another in Mike London's second season as coach, from winning on the road in the ACC to winning in November and even beating Duke.
The Cavaliers' surprising rise has them in the top 25 for the first time since 2007, and looking ahead to clearing two more obstacles - beating Virginia Tech and representing the Coastal Division in the Atlantic Coast Conference championship game in Charlotte, N.C.
With what they have accomplished in the past month - winning at Miami for their first ACC road victory since 2009, winning at Maryland for their first victory in November since 2007 and then ending a three-game skid against the Blue Devils - they have to be thinking, `Why stop?'
Virginia (8-3, 5-2) also moved into the Top 25 for the first time since 2007 at No. 24, and earned a spot in a winner-take-all battle against the No. 6 Hokies (10-1, 6-1) this weekend with a 14-13 victory at Florida State on Saturday night. It was their first win in Tallahassee.
That the accomplishments keep piling gets less surprising, tackle Oday Aboushi said.
''That's what we do when we play the best,'' he said after Michael Rocco led a touchdown drive in the final 2 minutes, and the Cavaliers survived a chaotic ending when the Seminoles missed a late field goal. ''We knew what we were capable of doing and we knew what we could do.''
The coaching staff is feeding that confidence with its decision-making, choosing to take the ball rather than the more conventional decision to get the ball first after halftime.
''We don't mind playing defense first, because our defense we think has been doing a pretty good job,'' London said Sunday night. ''I think what's happened is when success comes off of it, then if success breeds success, success breeds confidence, confidence breeds opportunities for guys to believe that they can make a play and I think that's all part of what's going on.''
The Cavaliers had never before won at Miami and Florida State in the same season.
''It's great to be on that end of it when you have some guys and you're trying to turn this program in a direction where when you go compete, you can play against anybody,'' London said.
That mentality will be especially vital on Saturday because the Hokies have owned the rivalry in recent years, winning the last seven meetings and 11 of the past 12.
London said Billy Schautz, the defensive end who was taken off the field on a cart after suffering what appeared to be an ankle injury Saturday night, had surgery when the team arrived back from Florida early Sunday and will miss the remainder of the season. London gave no other specifics.