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Sept. 3, 2016

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Virginia vs. Richmond
Sept. 3, 2016
Head Coach Bronco Mendenhall

Opening Statement
“First of all, congratulations to Richmond. Coach Rocco, they clearly played the better game today. I was impressed with their execution, I was impressed with their coaching, and I was impressed with their preparation. I think they did a nice job in their opener and their team reflected that they know how to win and have some experience coming back from a year ago. In regards to our team, I have a clear reference point now of where we are starting from. I think teams play as they are prepared to play and so my responsibility is to have a team that performs more cleanly and at a higher level than we did today and that’s what I need to do. This is a really clear indicator of the amount of work that lies ahead, the amount of work I need to put in to help these particular players who will do what I ask them to do. To help these particular players be in the best positions possible to play the game execution sound, physical, and fast and confidently. And there is a long way to go in those areas.

“I thought that Kurt Benkert looked sharp for the many stretches of the game in terms of his delivery and decision-making. Ball security was an issue for our team today and that surprised me, but again my job is to make sure there are as few surprises as possible so that caught me a little off guard that we would have ball security issues. Our run game wasn’t as effective as I’d hoped. Defensively we didn’t execute well the entire day and did not play physical and didn’t play well not only on first down, but on third down. I think I’ve clearly given this particular group too much and need to look hard at what they are capable of and give them their best chance to help our team win. And again that’s my responsibility.”

On the body language of the players:
“I think they want to be resilient and I think they want to believe and have new habits. But there is some history and so there was some reversion to that today, maybe by what they know, but again my job is to help them build great habits. And when things don’t go as well as you hoped and don’t go according to plan, that’s usually when some of that reversion comes back and I pointed that out to them a number of times. But that’s where we currently are and that’s where we are launching from and I have clearer feedback now.”

On his reaction to the first game compared to the preseason work:
“I think the clarity is the excitement and optimism and hope is what I’ve been mentioning and eventually I said the execution would catch up and that part is farther behind then I thought. More on the defensive side than on the offensive side even though there was some ball security issues. And so I learned a lot today and I’ll continue learning as I help this team hopefully reach its potential and help this program become a consistent winner. But today was just a really clear reference point as a lot of work ahead.”

On the impact of the early fumble and then giving up the 95 yard drive:
“I think it all had a lot of impact and what it showed early was a lack of consistency and execution and so when you have long drives, it’s usually execution oriented and there is a sign of mistakes and/or communication mistakes. And so both of those things contributed but there was a lot of football left to be played after that that we certainly could have dug ourselves out.”

On his reaction to Richmond’s performance today:
“Really there were a lot of things that surprised me. On the last touchdown we took a chance and had an assignment mistake again on the on that went the whole way. But again their execution held longer and better than ours did today. It’s just two football teams and in reality they were a better team today and more prepared and executed at a higher level than we did. I learned a lot more today about where we are starting from.”

Virginia Player Quotes

Senior Linebacker Zach Bradshaw

On what was the biggest problem defensively:
“I think really it was just blown assignments was the biggest thing for us. People not being where they’re supposed to be. It killed us.”

On how difficult it was to get off the field on third downs:
“Yeah, it was super frustrating. But that’s just not the guys in the back. That’s on us in the front, too. Not getting to the quarterback, not getting pressure.”

On giving up a 95-yard scoring drive:
“A fumble is unfortunate, there’s nothing that we can do about that, and as a defense we just need to go out there and play like we would any other drive. Make the stop and get the ball back to the offense, which we didn’t do. It’s a buzz kill for sure.”

Freshman Wide Receiver Warren Craft:

On how to bounce back:
“We just got to come into practice next week ready to work and learn from our mistakes. Watch the film and just get ready for next week’s big game.”

On his first collegiate game:
“It was just a blessing. It’s just and honor and blessing to come out here and put on for my city.”

On Richmond:
“We knew that they were a great team. We knew that they would come ready to play. It just wasn’t our night.”

Junior Quarterback Kurt Benkert

On the impact of turnovers setting back the game:
“There’s a lot of little things that we have got to correct, you can’t win a game having four turnovers and I was a part of that problem and we’re going to look to correct it this week as we head into Oregon.”

On how surprising the game was:
“We knew Richmond was a good football team. They’re really good. Obviously it didn’t go the way we thought it would go, but we prepared and we saw their film. They’re a good team.”

On his performance other than the turnovers:
“I feel like I did pretty well. There were just a few throws in critical situations that I needed to make to get the first downs and we needed to be better on third down and that starts with me, decision making. We’ve got a lot to correct.”

On Coach Mendenhall saying that he’d given the team too much:
“They did a few things a little more extreme than we thought they would. The feel of the team right now, we just didn’t execute. We know that’s not our best football.”

On having Olamide Zaccheaus on the field for the second half:
“He’s a good player, he’s explosive, he’s good at catching balls and he breaks away from people. He’s fast.”

Junior Inside Linebacker Micah Kiser

On his reaction to the game:
“It’s one game, obviously we would have liked the outcome to be different. I just feel like we didn’t come out and we didn’t play physical. We turned the ball over. Things that we stress every day in practice, it happened to us today. On defense I’m telling guys we need to be able to live the next play, play the next play and get some stops and we didn’t today. Richmond came out, they were more physical than us. Quite frankly they were better than us and they deserved to win.”

On the question of first game jitters or deeper problems that lie ahead:
“Obviously we have a lot of young guys that we were counting on to step up. Coaches put us in positions to win and every situation that happened today we’ve gone over multiple times. It’s the first game. They always say the most improvement a team makes is between the first and second game. We have to correct it. We’re going to focus on ourselves. What did we do best? What kind of plays do we need to do to put ourselves in the best situation? We’ll move on and play the next game.”

On how the team approaches this game as a starting point:
“I think you just go in, like I said earlier, Rome wasn’t built in a day. We’re going to correct it. We already know it’s going to be very hard. Coach is going to push us and that’s what we want. If you don’t want that then you don’t want to be on this team. So he’s going to push us and we’re going to get better.”

Sophomore Wide Receiver Olamide Zaccheaus

On not playing the first half because of a violation of team rules:
“It got me riled up a lot, but it was just a humbling experience and I’ve just got to learn from it and take care of myself.”

On Kurt Benkert:
“I thought he managed the game well. He made plays for us when we needed it, even when we were down in the game. He had an interception, but we all made mistakes today and we just have to learn from it, but I thought he managed the game really well.”

Richmond Head Coach Danny Rocco Quotes

On Richmond’s win:
“It was a great win for our program, and for our team and our staff. These are hard wins to get. There were a lot of dynamics that went into this week in terms of having a mature and experienced team, a team that has been to battle together and won some key games. We were battle tested. We had a few things that really were in our favor. We responded extremely well to adversity and we answered really every time we had to over the course of the game. Our team expected to win when we left Richmond yesterday, and we expected to win when we took the field at the start of the game, and we consistently made plays throughout the game. I am extremely proud of my coaches and our student athletes for getting the job done. I think there is a reality that coming up here and playing well and playing a close game, you can leave saying ‘we’ve got a good team,’ but that wasn’t going to fly with this group. We were committed to winning this thing. Nothing else would have felt good. Nothing else would have felt right. So coming in here and doing what we did validates that we are in a good spot. I challenged our players in the locker room to move on from this and to accept the next challenge and to start consistently giving our best effort and best performance regardless of who we are playing.”

On the running game:
“We really didn’t scrimmage a whole lot during camp, so I did have some uncertainty as to how we would be able to run the ball coming in. It was extremely satisfying though to see us running the ball and controlling the line of scrimmage. All four backs were able to show what they can do, which was exciting to see.”

On the passing game:
“Kyle (Lauletta) has gotten confident with the receiving core and they got their timing down. Our line did a really nice job at protecting him. He took some shots and got hit a couple times, but when we are in sync like that we have a chance of being pretty good. There were moments today where we looked really good out there.”

On where this sits in terms of biggest wins of his career:
“I think the hard thing about offering it as the biggest win is that it is early in the season, it is non-conference, and it does not lock up any kind of a championship. We have won a number of conference championships over the years, and those are usually the games where you’re walking off the field and you are pounding your fist saying ‘we did it’. This is one game in an 11-game season. I tell my kids all the time that we need eight [wins] and we got one, but it’s a good one to get. Having said that, I don’t want to marginalize it either. This was a huge win. We throw these words around like FBS and BCS. There is a huge difference. When you are playing a BCS or Power 5 programs, that’s a whole new ball game. To step up and play like that and get a result like this speaks an awful lot about our program, staff, and student athletes.”

On the importance of turnovers on the game:
“When you watch games, all you hear about is how turnovers really dictate how the game is played. I came in saying, ‘why can’t we just be plus four today,’ and sure enough, we were there at one point in the game and we thought, ‘this is our day.’ To our credit, we have more continuity, experience, I think our players knew what to expect from each other and from their coaches during the game.”

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