With the wins coming, will fans show up at UVA?
CHARLOTTESVILLE — Twenty-four hours before his Virginia football team will kick off against Boston College, senior wide receiver Andre Levrone took to Twitter to ask Cavaliers fans a question.
“Can we ‘Rock Scott’ tomorrow?” Levrone Tweeted. “That would be a beautiful sight.”
The Cavaliers have been one of the ACC’s biggest surprises through the first half of the season, jumping out to five wins in their first six games and, improbably, have themselves one win away from becoming bowl eligible for the first time since 2011.
Still, it’s unclear what kind of crowd U.Va. (5-1, 2-0 ACC) will draw at Scott Stadium for Saturday’s homecoming game against Boston College (3-4, 1-3).
A school spokesman didn’t have a crowd estimate Friday afternoon.
“I think right now, there’s intrigue on the fans’ part, and there’s hope and the excitement of, ‘Is this real?’ and ‘What does this look like’ and ‘Can this be?’ ” said Virginia’s second-year coach Bronco Mendenhall. “And we would welcome that support, but again, one of our guiding principles is earning the support.”
Virginia has drawn an average of 37,379 fans to Scott Stadium through its first four home games, ranking 10th in the 14-team ACC in average attendance. Levrone and his teammates hope their winning will bring more people out Saturday as they look for their fifth straight win.
“When you’re around grounds or when you’re around different people or going to Harris Teeter or anything like that, you can kind of feel that there’s excitement about football again at U.Va., and that’s fun to be a part of,” said senior quarterback Kurt Benkert. “It’s just a completely different feel from last year.”
That’s because Virginia is playing at much higher level than it did a year ago, when the Cavaliers went 2-10 in Mendenhall’s first season. The Cavaliers are sustaining offensive drives, possessing the football and getting off the field on third down defensively.
U.Va. ranks third in the ACC in third-down conversions (45.6 percent) and fourth in third-down defense (26.8). That’s helped it get off to its best start since opening the 2007 season 7-1.
“It’s fun to win,” said Benkert. “I think it’s just confidence. More of a ‘We know we can do this’ instead of a ‘We hope we can do this.’ I think that’s the biggest deal.”
Will the fans take notice and respond by showing up at Scott Stadium on Saturday and for the team’s final two home games? Virginia hosts Georgia Tech on Nov. 4 and rival Virginia Tech on Nov. 24, a Friday night.
In the past nine years, Virginia has only sold out Scott Stadium once (against Notre Dame in 2015). It’s not expected to do that Saturday. Even with a good weather forecast and the team having homecoming, Boston College isn’t the most enticing opponent on the Cavaliers’ home schedule, the Eagles upset of Louisville notwithstanding.
Still, Mendenhall hopes that’s something he sees in the future.
When Scott Stadium hosted a “Concert for Charlottesville,” an event headlined by the Dave Matthews Band and Justin Timberlake on Sept. 24, over 50,000 people showed up. The listed capacity of the stadium is 61,500 for football, but the hill (where the stage was set up) and some sections of the stands were inaccessible during the concert. Otherwise, the seats were packed.
“There will be a time where the stadium will look like that for football,” said Mendenhall.