|We're in a hole, and it's dirty and ugly...|
but dammit, something is finally being built.
With a bowl game that had long been a remote possibility now a mathematical impossibility, one might wonder what’s at stake for 2-7 Virginia over its final three games.
Center Jackson Matteo is glad you asked.
For Matteo, a fifth-year senior, the stakes are nothing less than continuing to lay the foundation of a program that can thrive long after he and the other seniors are gone. It’s a process that, this season, anyway, is about more than wins, he said Monday. Virginia hosts Miami on Saturday.
“This is a complete and total reboot of University of Virginia’s football program,” he said. “And that starts with the culture. That starts with building good habits and setting a good foundation for the future of the program. That’s what’s at stake.”
Despite U.Va.’s record, Matteo said he’s confident a foundation is being built. He points to the selflessness of this team compared to recent years, and said players have wholeheartedly bought in to new coach Bronco Mendenhall’s approach.
“I think in the past, the type of guy that we had in our locker room, generally speaking, (were) kinda ‘me’ guys, and it’s really tough to be successful when you’ve got those guys,” he said. “This year, and I’ve told you guys this, I haven’t been tighter with a group of guys in my life in a locker room, and we’re 2-7.
“Remember that. This locker room, the habits that these coaches are building here, it’s going to carry and it’s going to break through.”
Even if that breakthrough happens after Matteo’s gone, he’ll feel as though he played a part, he said. Although those outside the team might not understand it, there’s more to play for than a bowl, Matteo said.
“I’m not going to a bowl. I’ve never been to a bowl at the University of Virginia. And it’s not going to change the way I’m doing anything,” he said.