CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (CBS19 SPORTS) -- Prior to December's Belk Bowl, Virginia football coach Bronco Mendenhall said one bonus of a bowl win is that the off-season becomes "more fun." Then the Cavaliers went out and shut out South Carolina to earn the program's first postseason win in 13 years.
Mendenhall's fourth spring as head caoch at UVA opens a week from Monday. On Monday morning, he said December's victory has indeed resonated -- and motivated.
"I think the reality has set in, that the work that's put in and the plan that's being provided does pay dividends," Mendenhall told reporters in the McCue Center lobby, not far from where the Belk Bowl trophy sits on display. "And so the confidence and the certainty of what our training and what our players look like as they train, they expect results and they want more than they currently have."
That Belk Bowl victory gave UVA eight wins for the 2018 season. While that win total was the most for the program since 2011, six of those victories came over the first two months of the season.
The Cavaliers entered November nationally ranked for the first time in seven seasons, and on top of the Coastal Division standings. Then they sputtered down the stretch, losing their final three ACC games -- including back-to-back overtime losses on the road at Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech to end the regular season.
For Mendenhall, it's those losses that provide some perspective this spring.
"That was 10 or 11 wins that they realize were possible," he said, also acknowledging UVA's four-point loss at Indiana in September. "We're to that point where we have a chance at this point versus any opponent we play, on any given Saturday, to have success. And that's a good spot to be in."
Those late-season losses will also provide context for how the Wahoos can improve heading into 2019. Mendenhall says there will be an emphasis on situational work this spring, with a focus on "critical scenarios" like overtime or late-game special teams.
Mendenhall also embraces the challenge of building off last seasons -- both its failures and its successes.
"It's why myself and our staff came," he said. "We love seeing players happy. We love to see the developmental process, and see people being built, and then taking on the next challenge like they can. And then being disappointed if they don't. Rather than hopeful, and rather than wondering, it's yeah, we certainly expect to."
"And we're much more of that mindset now than where we've been, and that's fun."