- Associated Press - Thursday, October 2, 2014

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (AP) - Some Virginia players say “tunnel vision” keeps them from noticing the ever-increasing number of empty seats at Scott Stadium this season.

Defensive end Eli Harold isn’t among them.

“You can’t help but see it looking up in the stands,” he said.

The Cavaliers (3-2, 1-0 Atlantic Coast Conference) have already surpassed their victory total of last season, and have played UCLA, then ranked No. 7, and Louisville, then ranked No. 21, at home, but fans haven’t been impressed.

They are drawing an average of 36,906 to a stadium with a capacity of 61,500.

Harold and the rest of the Cavaliers go out of their way to express their appreciation for those that do show up, and he said this week would be a good one for them to jump on board in much great numbers.

The Cavaliers play Pittsburgh (3-2, 1-0) in a Coastal Division matchup Saturday night.

“I really hope they do their thing next Saturday,” Harold said after 33,526 watched them beat Kent State 45-13 last Saturday. “It’s a night game and I remember the last night game we had, we really didn’t have people here my freshman year, so I really hope we have a great turnout.”

The game he referenced, against North Carolina on a Thursday night in November 2012, drew 45,760, a larger crowd than any the Cavaliers have drawn in playing four of their first five games at home. The Tar Heels rolled, 37-13.

Harold went as far as to call for a “white out” this week in which fans all wear white shirts, but Jon Oliver, executive associate athletics director, announced on twitter that no organized “white out” was planned.

For the players, attendance is not just about feeling appreciated.

Against the Golden Flashes, when the Cavaliers started slowly, the crowd sat quietly, allowing the Kent State quarterbacks to change their signals at the line, and easily communicate those changes to their teammates.

Linebacker Henry Coley took that personally.

“I told (teammates) on the sideline, ‘Let’s get the crowd into it’ because I didn’t like the way these guys were able to hard count us and their players could hear,” he said. “Usually you have to go to the silent count when you are playing on the road.”

Once the Cavaliers tied the game on cornerback Maurice Canady’s 69-yard interception return for a touchdown, “It was just as loud if not louder than some of our previous games,” Coley said.

Fellow linebacker Daquan Romero considers the noise a key part of a home field advantage.

“It disrupts the offense, even with their cadence. It’s a great feeling, just a great vibe,” he said.

The game against the Panthers, while having potentially big implications in the Coastal Division race, will also be the fifth home game in six weeks for the Cavaliers, and Romero said he understands that not all fans have the money and time to commit to as many Saturdays in a short span.

Virginia’s 2-10 record last season, which ended with nine straight losses, also didn’t help, offensive lineman Conner Davis said. With continued success, he surmised, the crowds will gradually get bigger.

That may be evident this week,

Tood Goodale, Virginia’s associate athletics director for external affairs, said in an email that a crowd in the “low to mid 40,000s” is expected on Saturday night and that the school has sold approximately 1,400 tickets this week.

A crowd that size would be the largest since the opener drew 44,749.


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