Virginia’s result was barely 30 minutes old, so it was understandable that Luke Bowanko had yet to pop in tape of the Cavaliers’ next opponent.
So a reporter gave him a quick scouting report — Pittsburgh beat Duke, 58-55.
“Really?,” asked the UVa left guard. “Wow. Good for them. They got to get their legs back so...”
The Wahoos easily did away with VMI, 49-0, on Saturday before a rain-soaked crowd of 40,165 at Scott Stadium.
It didn’t get the official label, but the game was Virginia’s warm-up before a trip to Heinz Field for the start of ACC play. The Keydets, 1-2 with a loss to a Division II program on their résumé coming in, weren’t going to offer anything that resembled a stiff challenge. The Cavaliers, 1-1 before kickoff, could certainly use some fine-tuning.
Did everything get accomplished?
“We still got more work to do, but this is very good for us,” said running back Kevin Parks. “We need this. It boosted our confidence. We still got more work to do in the weeks ahead of us, but I feel like we’re going to get it done. We just need to get back to having fun. Good things will happen when you have fun.”
Parks, perhaps, enjoyed Saturday more than most.
After struggling against two of the tougher defensive fronts in the country to start the season, the junior took the lesser opposition to his advantage, carrying 17 times for a career-high 135 yards. He scored twice, including a 61-yarder in the second quarter that broke a scoreless tie.
“I slow-played it a little bit because a lot of defenses are very aggressive,” Parks said of the breakaway touchdown that came off a pitch left. “They know we’re going to run the ball. I just slow-played it, I saw the hole open up and I hit it. Guys made blocks in the secondary and I sprung free.”
In a way, so did the entire UVa rushing attack.
Having a physical, tough style has been the offense’s goal since coordinator Steve Fairchild was hired in January. The Cavaliers wanted to run and run with a purpose.
Against BYU and Oregon, however, Virginia combined for all of 233 yards on 81 carries, good for 99th in the nation.
Through one quarter against VMI, the Wahoos had just 38 yards on 11 carries.
“Obviously, we were a little frustrated,” said Virginia head coach Mike London. “We had a couple three-and-outs, couldn’t convert a first down. We blocked a punt and couldn’t do anything with that. But you just have to keep playing. You have to believe in your guys and encourage them because they are out there playing hard.
“Once we got back on task, the points started to come and they started to come quickly.”
The long Parks scoring run opened the floodgates for that category of the UVa attack. In quarters two through four, the Cavs rushed 54 times for 319 yards. For the afternoon, they piled up 357 rushing yards, including 30 and a touchdown from quarterback David Watford, an announced point of emphasis entering the game.
“Hopefully, we’re able to do that consistently,” Bowanko said. “Maybe not 350 yards, but we’d like to be up there around five yards a carry average and putting numbers like 200 yards rushing on the board against formidable opponents. Hopefully, this is a confidence builder and guys take it into next week and keep it going.”
Into Pittsburgh, where the Panthers (2-1) will host the Wahoos at 12:30 p.m., Saturday.
What did Pitt do in its UVa tune-up? Just roll up 598 yards of offense to survive a shootout against Duke.
Of course, the Virginia D posted a shutout and limited VMI to less than 80 yards of offense.
“[Defensive coordinator Jon] Tenuta’s not going to get too fancy,” said Wahoo defensive end Eli Harold, who collected his third sack of the season against the Keydets. “I look at every opponent the same — teams trying to get in the way of us being successful. He’s not going to change up too many things, but I just want to do everything I can to benefit my team and just cause havoc in the backfield.”
Tight end Zach Swanson went down in the third quarter of Saturday’s game with a knee injury. London said the junior got an MRI done Sunday evening.