Students? We're Back And Excited!
Sep 30, 2010
Ras-I Dowling high-fives fans after the Richmond win.
There's something different about Charlottesville this fall. For the first time in a long time, the student body is excited about football. The last time we had an organized game day event was back in 2008, when the administration banned signs at sporting events and we all held up blank pieces of paper in protest. The sign ban was overturned, and then everyone pretty much gave up on organized football activities. UVa students got all up in arms about having their First Amendment rights infringed upon, but we couldn't care less about football.
Until now, that is. We're having a "White Out" this weekend. An actual White Out with actual T-shirts being distributed by the actual athletic department. Students are joining Facebook groups for football games, and getting excited weeks ahead of time for specific games. Football games are no longer just an optional Saturday morning social event. What is this?
I've been a college football fan since the age of 8, even before I figured out exactly what was going on down on the field. I just knew the noise, the passion, and the feeling of being part of a larger goal entranced me. Nothing else approximates the feeling you get while raising your voice and your arms as one small being in a group of fans all cheering for the same reason. There's nothing like a college football game day.
Scott Stadium is small compared to Doak, or Death Valley, or any number of other college football venues. Over my past three years here as a student, only once have I ever felt anything close to the magic of a big-time college game day. That was in 2007, when my Cavaliers took on our in-state rival Virginia Tech in a Thanksgiving weekend match up to decide the ACC's Coastal Division. Every other game, the atmosphere has fallen woefully short.
Until now, that is. Almost every student wore blue last weekend to match the team, and our home opener against Richmond was the most electric I've seen the UVa crowd since 2007, the year of Chris Long and the Cardiac Cavaliers (we won five games by two points or less, and I nearly gave myself several heart attacks). This Saturday's game against Florida State marks the opening of Virginia's ACC schedule, and the first home game against an FBS opponent. This will also be the first time that Virginia has faced FSU since 2006.
I'll admit it right now: I've always been kind of a closet Florida State fan. Even before I ever dreamed of being a Wahoo, I hated Virginia Tech. With a passion. It's hard to believe that my 9-year-old self could hold so much contempt for a single college football team. Bobby Bowden, with his sunglasses at night and his super sweet hat, wiped the smirk off of the Hokies' faces in the 2000 Sugar Bowl, securing a second national title and keeping Tech's trophy case hilariously empty. I knew then and there that FSU would be joining my list of loyalties.
I had the pleasure of meeting Coach Bowden, QB Christian Ponder, and LB Dekoda Watson at the 2009 ACC Media Kickoff. Meeting Bowden was an honor I will never forget, especially when he interrupted my question at the interview table to ask, "What school are you from?"
Fans celebrate a win over FSU in 2005.
"Um, Virginia," I answered, a little stunned.
"Y'all broke our dadgum winning streak!" Bowden said. I was finally allowed to finish my query, albeit a little star struck.
Ponder and Watson were two of the best interviews amongst the players at the event, and we had some epic rounds of foosball (Ponder cheated by holding my little foosball guys so they couldn't kick the ball; yes, I'm still a little bitter) after dinner. It was easy to root for the Seminoles on Saturdays last season, when we didn't have to play them. However in 2010, I would like nothing more than to beat Florida State this weekend at home.
There's a bit of history with FSU here at Virginia. Often when Florida State is good, the Noles come to Scott Stadium and the Cavaliers upset them. In 1995, Anthony Poindexter stopped Warrick Dunn at the goal line on the last play of the game to preserve a 33-28 upset of the No. 2 Seminoles, throwing the entire National Championship picture into confusion. Poindexter is now the special teams coordinator here at UVa, and a hero in the eyes of many - O.K. all - of the Wahoo Faithful. Ten years later, in 2005, Marques Hagans led Virginia to a 26-21 upset of No. 4 Florida State.
Kai Parham and his teammates had plenty to celebrate in 2005.
Although the Seminoles have fallen out of the Top 25 since the beginning of the season, they are still in the ACC title picture, and attempting to return the program to national prominence under new head coach Jimbo Fisher. Any other week I would be cheering them on, longing for a return to the glory days when the Noles put that upstart Virginia Tech team in its place.
Not this week. This week, it's all about my Cavaliers. While we aren't trying to reclaim a place at the top of the heap, we are trying to win more than three games and get a sense of excitement back to the program. Reaching a bowl game is a lofty goal, but a possible one at this point. We need five wins over FBS opponents; only one of our two wins over FCS teams can count towards bowl eligibility. Every game is crucial. We've got a lot to prove this season, both to ourselves and to the ACC.
Florida State, I wish you the best of luck this season. I hope that you win the Atlantic Division, that Christian Ponder wins the Heisman, and that you win the ACC Championship Game (if you aren't playing us, that is) and go on to win the Orange Bowl. I hope you go on to win all of your remaining games this season, except for this one. Welcome to the Mike London era of Virginia Football, FSU. Get ready for a packed house, vocal Wahoo fans, and a hard fought game between the lines.
And lots of white. After all, the students are back and we're excited.
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