Photos: Thrilled Fans Welcome UVA Football Back in Opening Win

September 5, 2021 By Caroline Newman, Caroline Newman,

Head coach Bronco Mendenhall and the University of Virginia football team brought plenty of energy to their season opener, but UVA fans might have brought even more.

After the COVID-19 pandemic kept fans out of the stands in 2020, they relished their return Saturday night, pouring into Scott Stadium to watch the Hoos cruise to a 43-0 victory over the College of William & Mary. Among them were more than 10,000 UVA students, packing the student section and making their presence felt all night, from loud cheers on third down to joyful renditions of the “Good Old Song” when the Hoos scored.

Signs of the pandemic were still visible, in the masks fans donned whenever they were indoors or in hand sanitizing dispensers and contactless ticketing stations around the stadium. Great performances by the football team, the Cavalier Marching Band and the UVA cheerleaders and dance team provided a celebratory feel to the day.

After the game, Mendenhall said the flood of students did not go unnoticed. He has called UVA’s fans the team’s “4th Side,” because their extra energy can change a game. He loved seeing students – many of them eager for their first-ever UVA home game – rush to their seats the moment the gates opened on Saturday.

“That was a moment that I’m not going to forget,” Mendenhall said. “That was just gratifying.”

UVA photographer Ziniu Chen was on hand, both for Saturday’s game and for Friday night’s “Paint the Town Orange” pep rally in downtown Charlottesville. His photos capture the energy and excitement of a long-anticipated home opener. Take a look.

Blurry photo with the Cav Man in the middle somewhat in focus
CavMan led the way at the “Paint the Town Orange” parade and pep rally Friday night.
Blurry image of the UVA marching band walking the streets
The Cavalier Marching Band made plenty of joyful noise Friday and Saturday.
UVA Football team in the endzone stretching their legs
UVA players stretch it out before their matchup with William & Mary, which kicked off at 7:30 p.m. Saturday.
Students standing with the 4th side sculpture
Fans pose with a “4th Side” display, Mendenhall’s term for the role fans can play in changing a game and a team.
UVA marching band preparing to enter the field
Members of the Cavalier Marching Band prepare to take the field.
Back of a UVA football helmet that reads For All Virginia
One decal on the Cavaliers’ helmets reads “For All Virginia.”
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UVA football team form a circle by interlocking arms
Linemen gather at midfield before kickoff.
Man dressed in UVA hat, cape and UVA shirt with horse before the Football game
Even Cavaliers need a break before the action.
Looking through a curtain break to see half of a mans face looking at the camera
Head coach Bronco Mendenhall, ready to take the field.
UVA quarter back looking down field as defenders approach
Quarterback Brennan Armstrong drops back to pass.
Crowd on the Scott Stadium field for a photo with the sign UVA  TODAY visit in front of them
The Hill and the student section were packed, and they made their voices heard.
Demick Starling running with the football during a game
Wide receiver Demick Starling races to the end zone.
Group of students cheering from the hill at Scott stadium
Students had plenty of scores to cheer, as the Hoos put up 43 points.
Football fans cheering at Scott Stadium
With his hard hat and “#1 Fan” sign, long-time UVA fan Som Patasomcit is a fixture at Scott Stadium and was thrilled to be there Saturday.
Armstrong raising his hand with a peace sign as he goes into the locker room
Armstrong and his teammates leave the field, cheered by fans after a strong performance.