ACC Football: London has Virginia bowling again
ATLANTA ó Mike London hopes his Virginia players learn itís more fun to play in a bowl game than to watch one on TV.
Londonís Virginia team held its first Georgia Dome practice Tuesday for the Chick-fil-A Bowl game tonight against Auburn. Virginia is making its first bowl trip since the 2007 season.
ěItís a feeling that once youíve gotten here after spending last year at home, then you never want to spend another Christmas or another holiday season or postseason at home,î London said.
No player on Virginiaís team has appeared in a bowl game. A few fifth-year seniors were on the 2007 team that went to the Gator Bowl, but they didnít play.
Virginia (8-4) finished 4-8 last year in Londonís first season.
ěWe talked about it every year and fell short the last two or three years,î senior defensive end Cam Johnson said. ěWe knew going in this was our last shot at it. Everybody did their part.î
Johnson said it was frustrating sitting at home watching other teams play in bowl games the last three years.
ěIt definitely hurt to be home around Christmas time,î he said.
Offensive guard Luke Bowanko said he and his father watched other bowl games last year ějust because of our love of the game.î
ěItís a bitter feeling watching when you could have been playing,î Bowanko said. ěItís good this year to be able to sit and watch another bowl game from here instead of at home on the couch.î
Last year, Auburn (7-5) was preparing to beat Oregon in the national championship game.
While Auburn was enjoying college footballís top reward, Virginia players craved the chance to play in any bowl. London has been quick to remind his players of Auburnís success.
ěUntil somebody else is crowned national champions, they are it,î London said about the Tigers.
That recent success makes Auburn a target for the success-starved Virginia team.
ěTheyíre going to be gunning for us,î Auburn tight end Philip Lutzenkirchen said Tuesday. ěI know they want to knock off the defending national champions and continue building their program.î
Johnson agreed Virginia is hungry.
ěOur goal has been to turn the program around,î Johnson said.
London and the Cavaliers say the trip to Atlanta is an important step for the program and an important lesson for the players.
ěThis is a great bowl game, and the opportunity to experience it will only be forged through offseason workouts and summer workouts,î London said. ěYou donít get there during the season. You get there for all the hard work you put in beforehand. I think a lot of these guys understand the journey is long. Itís hard, but if you want to have anything positive come out of it, you have to pay your dues early. Thatís what we want to have happen, and thatís what we want to continue doing going forward.î