Two days after a loss that Mike London described as ''devastating,'' the coach said Virginia's players have two possible ways to respond: Dwell over what might have been or pick themselves up and move on.
The Cavaliers led No. 8 Notre Dame 27-26 in the final minute Saturday. Virginia fans were poised to rush the field in celebration of a signature victory for the struggling program. Then Fighting Irish backup quarterback DeShone Kizer hit a wide open Will Fuller with a 39-yard touchdown pass with 12 seconds left.
Notre Dame 34, Virginia 27.
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''You can wallow in self-pity of what might have happened, what could have happened, or you can say, `That's happened, now how do you embrace the next challenge?' For us the next challenge is the next game,'' London said.
The Cavaliers (0-2) host William & Mary of the Championship Subdivision on Saturday looking for their first win of the season. It's the second of three consecutive home games, with Boise State coming in the following week.
Virginia crushed the Tribe 40-3 in its last visit, in 2011, but lost to them 26-14 in 2009.
But London believes there are plenty of positives to take from the 34-16 Week 1 loss to UCLA and the Notre Dame game.
Quarterback Matt Johns (26-38, 289 yards, 2 TDs) and wide receiver Canaan Severin (11 catches, 153 yards) both had career days against the Irish. The defense also stopped Notre Dame on all 10 of its third down plays, although the Fighting Irish were 2 for 3 on fourth down, with one conversion coming on the winning drive.
Still, accepting the Notre Dame loss is difficult for the Cavaliers.
''It's hard, but you have to stay positive,'' Johns said after the game.
Some players said during the preseason that in previous years, when Virginia's season started going south, some players became more concerned with their future prospects for the NFL than in turning the Cavaliers around. Their mantra for this season has centered around finishing games.
They were tied with Duke in the fourth quarter last year and led North Carolina and Virginia Tech in the fourth quarter, but lost all three games, squashing what could have been an 8-4 season.
They don't want to avoid the what-ifs this season after the two early losses.
''If you don't finish and play four quarters all the way to the last minute, you see things that can happen against you,'' London said. ''If you can turn that into a positive, ... you have an outcome where everybody's happy about it.''
London also remains cognizant that he's the face they look to for signals.
''There's got to be a model, hopefully, to the players of resiliency,'' London said, aware that he may be, in his sixth season, in a win-or-else situation after his teams have gone 11-25 over the last three seasons. ''I believe I'm a resilient guy. I understand the importance of this season and what's going on.
''If I don't model that to these guys, I don't know who will. We embrace the next challenge. The next challenge is William & Mary.''
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