CHARLOTTESVILLE — While acknowledging that Virginia had a close call on the football field Saturday against Old Dominion, coach Bronco Mendenhall did not hesitate to move on to the Cavaliers’ next football opponent.
It’s not just any opponent. It’s a Notre Dame program that ranks among the most hallowed in college football.
And the Irish also rank No. 10 in the country — staying in the AP Poll’s upper tier despite their loss on Saturday night at No. 3 Georgia.
“I don’t remember much about being there or how many times I’ve been there, other than it was the coldest I’ve ever been,” said Mendenhall, whose Brigham Young teams traveled to South Bend, Indiana, in 2005, 2012 and 2013.
His Cougars were 0-3 in those games. Mendenhall gets another chance at a win when the Cavaliers visit Notre Dame Stadium for the first time at 3:30 p.m. Saturday.
UVa and Notre Dame have met twice previously, with the Irish winning 36-13 at East Rutherford, New Jersey, in 1989 and 34-27 in Charlottesville in 2015.
Mendenhall will be opposed by 10th-year Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly, who was also the Irish coach for the 2013 game against BYU.
The date for that game was Nov. 23, when the low temperature was 21.
“I looked over one time and their defense was on the field, and [Kelly] was seated on the bench on one of those heaters,” Mendenhall recalled. “I was like, ‘Wait, is that legal as the head coach?’
“I’m not that nostalgic but I do remember being cold.”
Neither Notre Dame nor Brigham Young were ranked at the time. This time, both teams are ranked. The Irish (2-1) dropping from seventh after a 23-17 loss at Georgia.
The Cavaliers (4-0) jumped from 21st to 18th in the rankings after their 28-17 victory over visiting Old Dominion. The last time UVa had opened the season with four consecutive victories was in 2004, when they were 5-0.
After falling behind 17-0 in the first half Saturday, Virginia scored the last 28 points.
“Playing from 17 down is a unique experience and I think our team did benefit in a lot of different ways,” Mendenhall said. “The pressure that’s on every play when you’re down in that manner is really good for building a football team.”
One week earlier, UVa had scored 21 points in the fourth quarter in a 31-24 win over Florida State.
“Doesn’t mean I’d like to do it again,” Mendenhall said of the comeback that was required to beat Old Dominion. “Defensively we ended up adjusting well and eliminating, basically, most offensive threats the rest of the game.
“Offensively, we made just enough plays at the right time to capitalize.”