Wahoos look to reach 'exceptional' expectations

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (CBS19 SPORTS) -- As Bronco Mendenhall stepped up to the podium for his fourth ACC Football Kickoff his mindset was on what the Virginia football is on the brink of.

"What we're accomplishing, not accomplished, but accomplishing, and building I think is something that will be looked at as exceptional at some point," Mendenhall said to media in Charlotte on Thursday, "I'm lucky to be part of that."

Mendenhall highlighted the word "accomplishing" because despite their first winning record in seven seasons and first bowl win since 2005, there is more to accomplish.

Over the past six seasons, six different programs have won the ACC Coastal Division, every program except for the Wahoos. Virginia was in the race for the Coastal last season until two overtime losses at Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech derailed those chances.

"They were performance gaps exposed," Mendenhall said, "Meaning that in high pressure games on the road, in conference, to win the conference title, we lost two overtime games, that's exactly where the program is."

But the program comes into the 2019 season returning 15 starters, including quarterback Bryce Perkins and All-American cornerback Bryce Hall. While expectations are high outside the program, the focus is on what the Cavaliers believe internally, which is competing to win the Coastal Division and more.

"Our expectation is if we're in the league, we're trying to win it," Hall said, "And the confidence doesn't come from outside praise or approval, it's what our expectation and what we believe we can do as a unit. Because we've had these same goals and expectations before the praise or the approval was on us."

Bronco said Thursday the team has been emphasizing late game and overtime scenarios in practice. Quarterback Bryce Perkins added that the Cavaliers have ended each practice working on those exact scenarios. Because with the proper mindset, Perkins believes the talent is there to win big.

"We definitely have the talent and we definitely have the mindset, too," Perkins said, "It's going to be a factor of how hard in late season, late games in the season, how competitive and ferocious we take the field in those games. That's going to determine the factor."

The Cavaliers open the season on August 31st at Pittsburgh with a 7:30 p.m. start time.

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