CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (CBS19 SPORTS) -- Veterans on the Virginia football team admitted that anxiousness had started to set in by the time they got back on the practice field this week.
"We know the more work we can get in now, the better off we're going to be then," said senior offensive lineman Jake Fieler. "That's what coach talks about all the time. The game is won by whoever prepares better. This year we kind of have a better feel for it and we know, stomp on the gas early. Get going."
UVA's preparation for next weekend's Belk Bowl matchup against South Carolina began in earnest on Wednesday, when the Wahoos' veterans returned to the practice field. Since losing 34-31 in overtime at Virginia Tech the day after Thanksgiving, those players had spent the past month completing the semester in the classroom, working out in the weight room and rehabbing injuries.
"I think everybody was really excited to be back out there, because we finally, we're playing football and not just out there running and lifting," said senior safety Juan Thornhill. "We're ready. We're back. The Tech loss, it was hurting us, pretty much. But we're over that and we're ready to get this bowl win."
Winning a bowl game was one of the two primary goals -- along with beating Virginia Tech -- that the Cavaliers began the season with. Between the program's 15-game losing streak against the Hokies, and losses in its last three postseason bowl appearances, UVA hasn't ended a season with a win since 2005.
Several players mentioned how physical Wednesday's return to practice was. Head coach Bronco Mendenhall said he was trying to set a tone for this postseason.
"The clock is ticking. Not only for the program, but I want these -- I want our team to have success," Mendenhall said. "And yes, we did not ease into it. We charged into it. And we made a statement as to this is what it's going to require."
"We know what we have to do. We know how challenging it's going be to prepare for it," said UVA junior quarterback Bryce Perkins. "But we just really want to go down, touch down in Charlotte already. If we could play tomorrow, we would. That's how motivated we are."