PITTSBURGH, Pa. (CBS19 SPORTS) -- If "you never know until you play," as Bronco Mendenhall asserted a few times this preseason, then Saturday's season-opening win at Pitt gave Virginia's coach a stronger idea of where his football team stands.
The Wahoos entered Saturday night's opener at Heinz Field with higher expectations than any season in recent memory. The preseason pick to win the ACC Coastal Division for the first time, UVA took the first step to fulfilling that prediction by beating the division's reigning champion 30-14.
It was Mendenhall's first time beating the Panthers in four tries, and UVA's first-ever win at Heinz Field. Afterward, the coach reflected on what he took away from the victory.
"The program just looks more seasoned," Mendenhall said. "There weren't the wild ups and the wild downs and the crazy miscues, and things you'd say, 'Man, why did he do that?' Or, 'Holy cow, did he just do that?'"
"The relative clean nature of how we played the game, and then coming back from a deficit, and then finishing with running the football in the end zone when we had to to run out the clock, that was refreshing," Mendenhall added. "And the best teams can do that, so that was a good sign."
UVA's defense limited Pitt to just 263 total yards, forced a pair of second-half interceptions and kept the Panthers off the board in the second half. On special teams, the Cavaliers blocked a punt that set up the team's first touchdown, dropped three punts inside the 20 and made three of four field goal attempts.
Offensively, running back Wayne Taulapapa ran for 66 yards and a touchdown on 10 carries. Quarterback Bryce Perkins completed passes to seven different receivers, finishing the night 20 of 34 for 181 yards and two touchdowns.
"I mean, we knew that the first game was going to be the one that sets the season. Especially with it being Pitt, having beaten them here," Perkins said. "Nothing changes. We're still the same resilient, and all the tests and battles in camp that we did, it really paid off. And this team is a special team."