Central Michigan seeks 4-0 start at struggling Virginia

Posted at 4:29 PM, Sep 23, 2016
and last updated 2016-09-23 16:29:36-04
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (AP) -- Virginia's players are coming off a last-second loss that stretched their road losing streak to 17, but the Cavaliers feel they are on the cusp of ending the skid.
Their next chance comes Saturday when they host Central Michigan (3-0).
"We get more hungry each game because we know we're almost there," defensive end Andrew Brown, coming off his best college game with 3 1/2 tackles for loss and a sack, said this week. "We've just got to make it happen."
Virginia lost 13-10 at Connecticut last Saturday when backup placekicker Alex Furbank, playing in the first football game of his career, missed a 20-yard field goal that would have forced overtime as time expired.
New Virginia coach Bronco Mendenhall isn't letting players hang their heads. Brown said he does things at team meetings to keep the attitude upbeat, like showing video of funny plays that happened.
But center and co-captain Jackson Matteo said the coach is not all happy talk.
"Coach Mendenhall always says it's up to us," he said. "When everyone chooses to collectively put everything towards every single practice, deliberate practice, those practices will lead to the game and when we get to the game it will be second nature to us. We'll just go out there. We'll just play. It's going to be so special."
The Chippewas, of the Mid-American Conference, impressed their coach John Bonamego last week by following up their last-second victory at Oklahoma State with another focused effort in a 44-21 win against UNLV.
"It's very important to be able to handle success, especially as you start to string these together," Bonamego said. "It becomes very easy to maybe kind of be intoxicated you success or maybe let up a little bit."
Quarterback Cooper Rush threw for 352 yards and six touchdowns on just 20 completions in the rout.
Bonamego, though, has also been impressed by what he's seen from Virginia.
"A wounded animal is always the most dangerous," the coach, in his second season at his alma mater, said. "I'm sure they'll pull out all stops and we'll be prepared for anything and everything."
Some other things to watch when Central Michigan visits Virginia:
OPPOSITES ATTRACT: The Chippewas will arrive averaging 41 points and allowing just 17 per game, both in the top 30 nationally. Virginia allows 31.3 points and scores 18.7 per game.
DEFENSIVE TEST: Virginia struggled in its first two games adapting to Mendenhall's 3-4 defensive alignment before rallying against the Huskies. A high-powered offense with a veteran quarterback in Rush will provide a test, but Mendenhall said after scouting the Chippewas, "the focus went completely back, and it's on us." Rush has 78 career touchdown passes and 12 300-plus yard passing games in his career.
KICKING: Furbank, a former soccer player at Division III Randolph-Macon, was forced into duty with regular kicker Dylan Sims nursing a groin injury. Sims still handled kickoffs, and Furbank made a 23-yard field goal and an extra point, but missed the crucial kick at the end when Virginia had to rush to even get the kick off. Mendenhall said when Sims is healthy again, the two will continue competing against each other on a weekly basis.
PENALTIES: Mendenhall wasn't exactly thrilled when his team was not called for a single penalty it its opener, viewing the number as representing and absence of aggression. He hasn't been exactly happy in the two games since, either: The Cavaliers have been called for 10 penalties in each for a total of 193 yards.
THIRTY-ONE YEARS: Central Michigan, 0-13 against ACC programs, is seeking its first 4-0 start since the 1985 season when Bonamego was a walk-on wide receiver and backup quarterback. That team went on to finish 7-3.