Virginia coach Tony Elliott knew he had a workforce able to make a breakthrough. He had no concept it could occur the best way it did: On the street, in historic style.
However what he’ll keep in mind most from the Cavaliers’ beautiful 31-27 upset victory over No. 10 North Carolina on Saturday evening is the pure pleasure within the locker room. As a result of solely they understand how a lot they’ve endured since final Nov. 13, when Devin Chandler, Lavel Davis Jr. and D’Sean Perry have been tragically shot and killed after returning to campus from a subject journey.
To place it merely, Elliott informed ESPN on Sunday afternoon, his workforce has not stopped believing since that tragic day.
“That is what my message was in my postgame, proper there on the sector, simply acknowledging the truth that it has been a tough street,” Elliott mentioned. “It wasn’t even a way of reduction. It was simply pleasure to see these younger males smile. For me personally, it was a second of affirmation that every part that we have tried to do for the reason that passing of our three younger males has been the correct factor.
“This is not the one approach that it is going to be measured, but it surely was superior to see the younger males smiling and dancing and having pleasure within the locker room.”
It was the primary street win in Virginia historical past towards a top-10 ranked opponent, and it was the most important upset by an ACC workforce since NC State beat No. 2 Florida State in 1998. It was additionally Virginia’s first ACC win in a calendar yr — since a 16-9 victory over Georgia Tech on Oct. 20, 2022. The ultimate two video games of the 2022 common season have been canceled following the capturing.
Virginia opened this season 0-5 — three of these 5 losses got here by three factors or much less, all of them within the closing minutes of the sport. Elliott stored reminding gamers that, in some unspecified time in the future, these shut losses would flip into shut wins, however they needed to be keen to step up and make performs when it mattered probably the most.
A house win towards William & Mary helped, however an open date the week earlier than enjoying the rival Tar Heels supplied a possibility to hit the reset button and ship a message as a 24-point underdog.
“There’s three issues in life you do not get again. That is time, phrases and alternative,” Elliott mentioned. “We do not get again these alternatives that we missed within the first half of the season, so let’s concentrate on what we are able to management and the way we play. What are the issues we have to do higher? I feel the fellows took that to coronary heart.”
Headed into the UNC sport, the Cavaliers emphasised controlling the road of scrimmage with their offensive line — one thing Virginia struggled to do within the early a part of the season as a result of accidents and an absence of depth. However with Mike Hollins taking cost within the backfield, Virginia set the tone up entrance — speeding for 228 yards.
Hollins, who survived the capturing that killed his teammates, had three speeding touchdowns.
When James Jackson intercepted Drake Maye with 26 seconds left to seal the victory, jubilation ensued.
“How do you retain believing once you come up brief in a soccer sport? As a result of it is only a soccer sport,” Elliott mentioned. “They needed to consider in one another to get by December, January and people months proper after every part came about. So that is what provides them the fortitude to simply preserve believing. As a result of on the finish of the day, they have been taken all the way down to their knees and damaged down with what occurred. The one approach that they have been in a position to construct themselves again up, to have the ability to take one step after one other was to consider: to consider in one another, to consider in a larger trigger than what they’re seeing, to think about one thing that they hope for.
“That is what I consider is the motivating issue. These younger males, these particularly that have been right here final yr, they have been by one thing that pressured them to come back collectively and consider in one another. So they really perceive what it means to consider. Why yesterday? I do not actually know. That is for the Lord to disclose in due time. We stored believing if we persevered and stick collectively, and we preserve the correct perspective, then our reward will come on the acceptable time. It is superior they are going to have the ability to say that every one of us collectively have been part of making historical past.”
Elliott mentioned he made positive to take a couple of minutes within the locker room to look at his gamers have fun, to do not forget that second without end.
“As a result of that is what motivates me,” Elliott mentioned. “That is actually why you coach, to be sincere with you, is for these moments.”