One week down, but the enthusiasm for Virginia football is just picking up.
Two years ago, former coach Al Groh sealed his fate with an embarrassing loss to William & Mary on the Cavalier home field.
Seven turnovers left fans ashamed and led to our current rebuilding project with new coach Mike London.
New freshmen, new hope and a new season led to a 40-3 beatdown of the Tribe, and the Cavaliers are off and running. A truly cathartic experience for everyone, now Virginia can focus on trying to get back to their first bowl game since 2007.
On one hand, Virginia did what it was supposed to do. William & Mary is an FCS opponent, albeit a highly ranked one, and a team from a power conference should whip them.
However, given the past history, any win is a good one. When you consider how this win occurred, Virginia fans cannot help but get excited.
So, since the school year has begun, it's time for the Week 1 report card of the Virginia Cavaliers.
Let the grading begin!
Coming in to the game, we were not really sure what to expect from starting quarterback Michael Rocco.
The sophomore certainly eased his way into the game, making an occasional throw early on for short distances.
The safe game plan allowed William & Mary to pack the line and made the first half scarier than it needed to be for Virginia fans.
Eventually however, the restraints were pulled from Rocco and he showed us what he could do. A couple of strong completions down the middle to Kris Burd and Matt Snyder got the crowd going but it was the circus catch by receiver Tim Smith near the goal line that really highlighted the evening.
Rocco may have made some poor decisions here and there, but he was solid and most importantly he did not turn the ball over.
His replacement, true freshman David Watford, looked a bit shakier at first, but he used his athleticism to make two impressive plays that few will remember.
In his opening drive, Watford faced tremendous pressure but was able to put on a few moves and avoid a tackle before being ultimately sacked. A negative play, but a positive performance considering the situation.
Second, in Tribe territory, Watford and the running back bobbled their exchange of the ball. Watford was able to catch it mid-air and ran to recover some yardage that would have easily been lost otherwise. Even more important, he helped avoid a turnover there that could have changed the momentum entirely.
Both quarterbacks showed their potential, and both will have a strong impact on Virginia's success this season.
What can you say? Virginia ran the William & Mary Tribe into submission.
Whether it was Kevin Parks, Perry Jones or Clifton Richardson, Virginia basically ran at will to the tune of 240 yards. At over five yards per carry, William & Mary broke down in the second half and allowed Virginia to post some of its best offensive numbers in years.
The Cavaliers know that their overall talent and size may be one thing against a high caliber FCS opponent, but that edge will be significantly less throughout the year as the competition increases.
Still, Parks and Jones showed not only speed and toughness. They were not afraid to attack the holes and really showed some wheels when they got out in space.
It was exciting to watch as Virginia tries to turn the corner as a collegiate program.
It may have been William & Mary, but the offensive line of Virginia looked stout.
Their superior size and strength led to big holes that the Virginia running backs blazed through all day.
The Cavaliers dominated time of possession, particularly in the first half when they controlled the ball for 21 of the 30 minutes.
The line simply wore out the Tribe's defensive line and even allowed for many more players to get playing time.
With an inexperienced quarterback, it was important for the line to give both Rocco and Watford time. Despite the emphasis on the run and short passes, the line did a good job keeping their quarterbacks upright and allowing them time to scan the field.
A few broken plays here and there, but overall a big improvement from years' past.
Tim Smith returned to action after injuring his foot in the second game of 2010.
He decided to make his return with a ridiculous goal-line catch that he snagged around the helmet of the cornerback defending him.
Smith finished the game with a team-high seven receptions and 72 yards.
He was not alone though. Senior Kris Burd and true freshman Darius Jennings both snagged four balls each.
Although there were no receiving touchdowns, 10 different receivers caught a ball, including a few bullets through traffic.
They made big catches while the game was on the line, and more importantly, they tried to do something with it.
Many receivers moved instantly east or west, trying to break a big play and get the crowd involved. It was a swagger we have not seen from the receiving corps in quite some time and can really be attributed to the talented freshmen on the squad.
More games like this, and Virginia could really surprise people with their aerial assault.
Virginia was one of the worst rushing defenses in the country last year.
Teams pounded the ball at will through the defensive line, and defensive coordinator Jim Reid received a fair amount of flack for it.
Well, the Virginia defensive line made sure to quiet all of that talk, for one game at least. The Tribe rushing attack hit a wall all game long, accumulating only 48 yards at an average of 2.4 yards per carry.
The Cavaliers had six tackles for loss, and overall they held William & Mary to the fewest yards in a game since Duke in 2006.
Virginia's front seven clearly knew the pressure was on them to step up in year two of the 4-3 scheme.
For one game, they passed with flying colors.
After last year's demise in year one of the 4-3 defensive scheme, coach Mike London knew talent would not be enough.
Linebacker LaRoy Reynolds was good, but now he needed to take it to the next level.
Well, the pure athlete who led the team in tackles last year with 66 looks to be bigger and badder in 2011.
He also has a new promising companion in true freshman Daquan Romero who tied for a game-high four tackles on the Cavalier side.
While the linebackers had a hard time getting pressure on Tribe quarterback Michael Paulus, they did do a good job cleaning up any potential problems on the field.
As the competition increases, it will be interesting to see what role the linebacking corps will play in the contest.
Can they continue to progress, or will opponents continue to blast right up the middle?
Early on, Virginia's secondary was more lucky than good.
Tribe quarterback Michael Paulus had missed virtually all of last season with an injury. In Week 1, he looked the part as the rust was evident.
Paulus missed two wide open receivers that could have led to big plays if not touchdowns and changed the momentum of the game early on.
Instead, Virginia was able to dominate time of possession and eventually the scoreboard. That allowed the secondary an opportunity to be more aggressive, and they shut down the aerial game of William & Mary.
While the Tribe had some passing game on their final possession, Virginia's secondary looked stout.
The highlight was true freshman Demetrious Nicholson picking off a pass and making it into the opponent's red zone, essentially sealing the game.
Nicholson and fellow cornerback Chase Minnifield is one of the better duos in the ACC and could terrorize opposing quarterbacks this season.
Field goal kicker Robert Randolph has never been known as a clutch performer so far in Virginia.
Granted, his team has never really needed him to make or break a game.
However, with a wasted opportunity to put the final nail in the coffin before halftime. Virginia needed Randolph to deliver with a long field goal, and he responded with a 48-yarder to give the Cavaliers a 13-0 lead and big time momentum.
That simple kick rejuvenated the crowd and Randolph, he finished with a career-high four field goals and looked more confident and composed than ever before.
That kick could have jump-started a breakout campaign for Randolph as he looks to make Virginia special teams significant.
Randolph is not alone. True freshmen Darius Jennings and Dominique Terrell whetted fans appetites with their kickoff and punt returns. While neither scored, both looked fast and confident out there.
Both clearly wanted to score six and did not settle for simple gains. They possessed almost an arrogance, something all great kick returners have.
Make no mistake about it, both of these players will return kicks for touchdowns. It is only a matter of when for these well-trained athletes.
One thing is clear, Virginia won this game on talent much more than they did on X's and O's.
Early on, the Cavaliers looked terrified to throw the ball. Instead they relegated quarterback Michael Rocco to short screens or out routes short of the first down sticks.
In fact, Virginia was 3-of-10 on third downs in the first half and although players have to execute, the play-calling left much to be desired.
Also, after Rocco had led Virginia down the field 97 yards for a 10-0 lead, coach London thought it the right time to bring in true freshman David Watford.
The result was a bad drive and lost momentum. Juggling quarterbacks looked pretty haphazard in Week 1.
Finally, Virginia looked awful in the two-minute offense. Instead of getting a big touchdown, they were lucky to eke out a long field goal.
While there is something to not showing your opponents all your tricks, the Virginia coaching staff left the play-calling rather vanilla and made some weird personnel moves.
This may have had little impact against William & Mary, but this could bite the Cavaliers later on.
Moving to the head of the class is red-shirt freshman Kevin Parks.
Following the graduation of running back Keith Payne, many wondered where the complementary back to Perry Jones would be found.
After all, Jones and Parks play the same speed game. There are only 10 pounds that separate the two, so to call Parks the big back would be a stretch.
Yet Parks, who is the all-time leading rusher in North Carolina high school history, got every Virginia fan ecstatic with his 114-yard debut.
His three-touchdown masterpiece was the most in a collegiate debut for a Cavalier since 1964.
Parks not only showed the speed we knew he had, but also he showed tremendous patience and a desire to initiate contact and break tackles.
In other words, unlike former Cavalier running back Michael Johnson, Parks looks like he can physically handle the role as well as utilize his terrific speed.
As long as he avoids fumbles, something he did on his first carry and tended to do from time to time in high school, Parks could become beloved pretty quickly in Charlottesville.
He has already made believers out of many in just one week.