That resolve was severely tested at Groves Stadium on Saturday night. It was tested by a punishing Wake Forest offense that rolled up 495 yards, 349 on the ground. It was tested by a 17-point deficit in the second half. And it was tested by injuries, penalties and mistakes that might have caused many teams to concede defeat.
Yet despite it all, the Cavaliers met every test, responding with one of the most remarkable comeback victories in the program's history. The 38-34 triumph left plenty of doubts about UVa's defense, maybe, but not its resolve.
"They have a lot to be proud of. They really stuck together," Groh said of his players. "This is a game where the offense had to trust that the defense would give them a chance to get back in. The defense had to trust the offense to get them back in it.
"The players had to trust the coaches and the coaches had to trust the players. This certainly was about that trust and fight. I think we've got something going here."
The Cavaliers (3-2, 1-1 ACC) had almost nothing go their way much of the night. The Demon Deacons (2-3, 0-2) scored on six of their first seven drives and seized a 34-17 lead. And the way they did it, shoving Virginia's defense around, made a comeback seem unlikely.
But UVa made defensive adjustments and stopped Wake Forest on its final five drives. That gave the Cavalier offense a chance to rally, which it did with four second-half touchdowns.
Matt Schaub turned in another superb performance, completing 22 of 27 passes for 312 yards and three touchdowns. But it was his backup, Marques Hagans, who dashed 13 yards for the winning score with 6:13 left.
That capped Virginia's biggest comeback since overcoming a 29-7 halftime deficit in a 36-32 victory over Virginia Tech in 1998. It was the second-biggest comeback in ACC play for the Cavaliers, who rallied from 19 points down to defeat Duke in 1995.
"I think this game showed the faith we have in each other and the faith we have in our coaches," said receiver Ryan Sawyer, who caught two touchdown passes. "We never gave up and we made some great plays."
A little luck didn't hurt, either. Sawyer's second scoring grab, a 38-yarder late in the third quarter, came off a tipped halfback option pass from Wali Lundy. The throw was intended for tight end Heath Miller, who also had two TD catches, but several Wake defenders converged on the ball. Somehow, it wound up getting deflected to Sawyer, who caught it in stride and scored to slice Virginia's deficit to 34-24.
"I called it all the way," Lundy joked. "I thought Heath was open but their guys were all over it. Luckily Sawyer was there. That changed our mindsets a little bit. When that happened, we thought we could really win."
Schaub made it possible by throwing to Miller for a 4-yard score early in the fourth quarter, making it 34-31. He then directed a 78-yard drive, completing four straight passes before giving way to Hagans, who scored on a quarterback draw by weaving through Wake's defense.
After taking the lead, the Cavaliers needed one more defensive stop - and one more bit of good fortune. They got both.
With the Demon Deacons needing a touchdown in the final minute, a fourth-down completion to receiver Fabian Davis at the UVa 5-yard line was negated by an illegal procedure penalty. Wake didn't have the required seven players at the line of scrimmage. On the next play, Darryl Blackstock sacked quarterback James MacPherson, ending the drama.
"We just weren't lined up right," Wake coach Jim Grobe said. "Sometimes you make mistakes. ... That one really hurt us."
The Deacons, who snapped their 17-game losing streak to Virginia last year, were inflicting most of the punishment in the first half. Four of their first five drives were long ones. They used at least 11 plays each time, scoring one field goal and three touchdowns.
Whenever Wake needed yards, it gave the ball to one of its four tailbacks. Or MacPherson handed it to Davis, who rushed for 74 yards on five reverses in the first half. Chris Barclay, Cornelius Birgs and Ovie Mughelli ran for first-half touchdowns and Matt Wisnosky kicked a pair of field goals, including a 30-yarder on the final play of the half that gave the Deacons a 27-10 lead.
The only bright spots for Virginia in the first half were Kurt Smith's 32-yard field goal - the first successful attempt by the Cavaliers this season - and Schaub's gorgeous 33-yard strike to Sawyer.
Otherwise, the Deacons were in control. In the first half alone, they owned the time of possession, 20:47 to 9:13. They ran 56 plays, about three times as many as Virginia, and rushed for 251 yards on 45 carries.
The Cavaliers played without a handful of injured players: tailbacks Michael Johnson and Alvin Pearman, linebacker Raymond Mann and safety Willie Davis. Left guard Ben Carber hobbled off with an injury in the first half. They also committed nine penalties, seven in the first half, and fumbled a kickoff.
Yet they walked off the field as winners for the third straight time. They have won the past two weeks despite allowing 495 yards in each game.
"This was all about attitude," safety Jerton Evans said. "Attitude-wise, we never gave up. We just woke up and played some football."