Now the work really starts for Virginia's football team.
The Cavaliers' 26-14 loss to William and Mary on Saturday showcased a team that is miles from offensively productive and just spotty enough on defense to permit receivers to run freely.
Not exactly the sort of unveiling they hoped for in front of 54,000-plus at Scott Stadium and an even larger fan base that expects more from coach Al Groh after two losing seasons in his last three years.
"We've got 11 more weeks to go," Groh said. "There'll be a lot of negativity out there, some of it well-deserved. We can either crack or we can stick together. One thing we haven't ever done around here is crack."
Virginia lost its fourth consecutive season opener, and all displayed their own kind of misery. Two years ago, the Cavaliers were noncompetitive at Wyoming. Last year, they were simply outclassed and out-talented by Southern Cal.
On Saturday, they were beaten by a Football Championship Subdivision (formerly Division I-AA) team for the first time in 23 years — coincidentally, the last time was against William and Mary, as well — and appeared shaky and uncertain.
"Words can't really describe how high we were before the game, and how we're now in the lowest of the lows," linebacker Denzell Burell said. "We have to have a quick turnaround, make this a 12- to 24-hour turnaround, and approach practice tomorrow and just prepare for the next game. We can't get the game back, we don't play them again this year, so we just have to prepare for TCU."
The Cavaliers' no-huddle, spread offense managed just 268 yards. Virginia committed seven turnovers, the most since a 1994 game against Clemson. Somehow, the Cavs won that one 9-6.
Quarterbacks Vic Hall, Jameel Sewell and Marc Verica all played, though none distinguished himself.
Hall, the converted cornerback, scrambled for an early touchdown, but demonstrated little passing threat. He tweaked his hip late in the first half and was unavailable much of the second half.
He also muffed a punt in the third quarter inside the Virginia 10, which led to a W&M field goal.
Sewell was intercepted three times, the last of which Tribe cornerback B.W. Webb, a redshirt freshman from Warwick High, brought back 50 yards for a touchdown and the game-clinching score.
Verica, last year's starter after a battlefield promotion, provided little running threat and botched a snap midway through the fourth quarter that led to a William and Mary field goal.
"Clearly we need some more work on what we're trying to do," Groh said.
"We were hoping that this game would be a lot smoother than it was."
The Cavaliers put together only one sustained offensive drive: an 84-yard touchdown march in the second quarter. None of their other 17 possessions netted more than 39 yards. Only one second-half possession ended in William and Mary territory, that one ending on downs late in the game trailing by 12.
On defense, Virginia gave up only 309 yards, but the Tribe took a mostly conservative offensive approach. W&M was content to play defense and take advantage of field position and opportunities that Virginia presented.
"This is a tough loss to take," Burrell said. "We were home in Charlottesville, had a big home crowd and didn't get the job done. This is definitely a tough pill to swallow."
The Cavaliers host No. 17 Texas Christian next Saturday, a significantly greater challenge, athletically, than a state rival FCS team with a solid game plan.
"We were looking forward to playing this game to get a sense of what we could do," Groh said, "and clearly we have a lot more to do if we want to like the team that we get to know."
Next game WHO: No. 17 TCU (0-0) at U.Va. (0-1).WHEN: 3:30 p.m. Saturday.WHERE: Scott Stadium, Charlottesville.TV: ESPNU.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun