Virginia offensive lineman Luke Bowanko celebrated the Baltimore Orioles making the playoffs last year because they’re his favorite Major League Baseball team and because, well, it had been 15 long years since they last appeared in the postseason.
During the winter and spring months, Bowanko will tweet out his support for the Washington Wizards and Washington Capitals.
Neither has brought home a championship in his lifetime.
UVa is coming off a 4-8 season, its second in three years. 5Dimes.com, a gambling site, has set the Cavaliers’ 2013 over-under win total at 4.5.
The opener against BYU is 3:30 p.m., Saturday. The need for victory is now.
“I’ve been a fan of a lot of bad teams in my life,” Bowanko said. “You got to win. It’s the end game. You just got to win football games. If you want to have success, you got to be successful.”
In 2011, the Wahoos found that formula. They managed eight wins, got a New Year’s Eve bowl berth and had the ACC Coach of the Year.
A year later, the script was flipped. In 2011, Virginia won games like 34-31 at Indiana and 21-20 in overtime against Idaho and 14-13 at Florida State. In 2012, UVa lost games like 44-38 against Louisiana Tech and 16-10 against Wake Forest and 17-14 at Virginia Tech.
Throw out a 40-3 rout of William & Mary and UVa’s 2011 average margin of victory was 6.1. Four of UVa’s 2012 losses came by seven points or less.
So what’s to be expected for 2013?
“You look back to two years ago, we beat — what? — two one-win teams in the last seconds of the game,” said Bowanko, a senior and three-year starter. “College football is such a toss-up. Initially, who’s to say we can’t run the table and make it to the ACC championship? My expectations are nothing less than an ACC championship.
“If we tell ourselves anything different than what are we here for?”
The Cavaliers last landed a conference title in 1995. They were selected to finish sixth in the seven-team ACC Coastal Division by media members earlier this month. They’re up against what CBSSports.com has ranked as the 10th-toughest non-conference schedule in the country (not to mention league games against the likes of Clemson, North Carolina, Miami and Virginia Tech).
But the negatives are mixed with positives.
The Wahoos have redone their coaching staff, bringing together over 95 years of experience in new offensive, defensive and special teams coordinators. Head coach Mike London also has proven coaching veteran Tom O’Brien on his side as an associate.
Next to the McCue Center, Virginia spent this month in and out of a recently finished, sparkling $13 million indoor practice facility.
UVa’s 2014 recruiting class has two committed five-star talents and ranks 20th in the nation according to ESPN.
All there’s left to do is ... “win,” said Mike Farrell, national recruiting analyst for Rivals.com. “If they’re winning the recruiting in the offseason, they got to win on the football field. Schools aren’t going to stop recruiting these kids. If they do have a bad season, the negative recruiting is going to be pretty intense.”
That’s not lost on Virginia’s players.
“Everybody wants to win,” said linebacker Daquan Romero. “So I feel like winning, all that just helps with the stuff that we get, with the new indoor facility, with the recruits. A recruit wants to come play not for a loser; they want to play for a winner.”
Added tight end Jake McGee: “The wins need to come. That’s at every program at any level. For success to be there, you have to win regardless of really what they say. It’s wins and losses that determine success for a program or not. We’re excited to get going and hopefully the wins will come.”
Like they did in 2011.
“Every year is a new season,” London said. “What happened last season happened last season. The season before, guys experienced bowl opportunities. Now, they’ve experienced what happened last year. We want what happened the year before.”