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Oct. 15, 2016

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Virginia vs. Pittsburgh
Oct. 15, 2016

Virginia Head Coach Bronco Mendenhall Quotes

Opening Statement:
“Congratulations to Pitt, it was a hard-fought game and I think a good college football game. Difference today was special teams in my opinion. Pitt’s returner is very, very good. We knew that going into the game and the returns that they ran were the same returns that we prepared for. So clearly their staff did a better job of executing and having their young men execute and coach them in those situations than we did. He was exceptional, the kick return for a touchdown, another kick return to the 20-yard line, a punt return to the minus-33. So that to me was the difference in the game in addition to the one mistake that Kurt makes right before the half with the pick-six. So that game is toe to toe and neck and neck and I think it’s going to be right to the very end. However I’ve got to coach my team more cleanly and at a higher level to make the critical plays in all phases. I thought we tried hard. I think we showed a lot of spirit. There were a lot of things that I liked. Offensively we look more and more explosive. We didn’t sustain it in the second half, but we certainly did it in the first. I think defensively we gave up three drives, and that in and of itself against that team is a solid performance. With those though, penalties kept them going. So a lot to learn, a lot to grow from and I was certainly anticipating and believed it could have been a different result, but they executed better today than we did and that’s reflective of how they were prepared.”

On the effect of Kurt Benkert’s interception at the end of the first half:
“I’m not sure to what extent it had an effect on him. But boy what a momentum shift because we were going and all of the sudden think we might get some more points on the board and then it flips. However we want our quarterback to be aggressive, and we want him to have confidence and we promote that. So I’m not going to put all of the outcome of the game on that one play. It certainly was a big play and it certainly was a momentum shifter but that’s part of college football.”

On defending against Pitt’s physicality:
“There was one drive in the second half that Pitt moved the ball and scored and it wasn’t through the middle, it was around the edges. We weren’t quite as clean on our fly sweep defense which we were solid the entire game and I think played it better than anyone has all year. I’m not someone that’s one to take moral victories, but I liked our plan and I liked the way we executed it. Even after another short field and a missed tackle on a play that they scored on. I think they made it hard for Pitt to score. There were three sustained drives and we contributed with a penalty on each one. My job is to help the defensive kids learn to play aggressive and hard and clean and we struggled with that on the three drives today but overall I thought we handled it well.”

On the lack of scoring in the second half:
“I think some of the big plays we were hitting in the first half, just the separation from the receiver to the DB, we just didn’t connect as much. The long plays are pretty volatile. It’s hard to be consistent. It went according to plan in the first half and not as much in the second half. But I also think playing from behind is a little different than playing from ahead, so I think Pitt started to rush more aggressively, play pass defense more than run defense and were expecting us to catch up through the air and not worry so much about balance.”

On Sims’ shorter kicks in the second half:
“We were really intentional on where we wanted the ball to land, based on where their returns went and possibly because of the specificity we were asking him to land, maybe that took a lot of him just kicking it. The second half, those were sky kicks intentionally, we were trying to keep it away from the returner.”

Virginia Player Quotes

Senior Tailback Taquan Mizzell

On the change of momentum in the second half:
“It was just us. There were plays that were open and we just missed opportunities.”

On the feeling of the first half:
“From the offensive side it was a great feeling. Sometimes the defense or the special teams might give up points and the offense has to pick them up, so there were a lot of guys out there who made some plays.”

On Kurt Benkert losing his rhythm:
“I’m not sure if it was rhythm. He usually does a good job of having a short memory and getting back and making plays. I just give credit to Pitt for this one.”

On the inconsistency of the team:
“I agree. We are inconsistent. The first half we had 28 points and the second half we had three. We need guys to make plays, it is as simple as that.”

On his long run in the first half:
“You just have to make plays. If it is my turn I am going to make sure to finish it.”

Junior Quarterback Kurt Benkert

On differences in the second half:
“They brought a lot more pressure in the second half and didn’t let me sit back there.”

On the last possession of the first half:
“We knew that if we got past the 35 or 40 then we would try and keep it going, but we just got through and turned it over. It was just a miscommunication.”

On what changed in the second half:
“They didn’t do anything different than what we expected in the second half. They just put on a lot more pressure so I didn’t have as much time to sit back there and take shots down the field. They did exactly what we thought they would do in the first half and made some adjustments in the second half.”

On the inconsistency of the team:
“We have a big-play ability but we are just not putting together the routine plays back to back, and I think that is something we really need to work on going into the next week. We have to be mentally prepared and worry about the next play and doing exactly what you’re supposed to do. We have to have sustained focus.”

Senior Offensive Tackle Eric Smith

On the philosophy of trying to score before the end of the first half:
“We’re taught to fight. Everything we’ve done from January to this point. We’ve just been taught to keep going, so I love when we do that. It just shows where our heart is.”

On giving up the sacks:
“They knew that during the first half we kind of beat them on all the blitzes they beat other teams with, so this just kind of duked us, show one guy and bring another. We didn’t have time to adjust right on the snap. That’s just something we have to prepare for again.”

Junior Safety Quin Blanding

On defensive success in the second half:
“Our mindset. Our game plan stayed the same coming into the game and going into the second half. We just had a better mindset.”

On the change in momentum between halves:
“You know it’s football. That’s the game. Things happen, but we just have to move forward. That’s the bottom line.”

Senior linebacker Zach Bradshaw

On the defensive mindset throughout the game:
“Defensively, I think we stayed positive the whole game. We were thrown with a lot of bad situations: the pick six right before halftime and the kickoff returns. You play the hand your dealt and I thought we did a good job of not giving up.”

On the lack of forced turnovers:
“We want to win the turnover battle every time and that was one of the things that contributed to us losing this game. You can be in the right places, but if the ball doesn’t bounce the right way, they won’t happen.”

On the lack of quarterback pressure:
“Their offensive line is really good and he was getting the ball out quick. We’ll go in watch the film and see what changes we need to make.”

Pitt Head Coach Pat Narduzzi Quotes

On the game overall:
“Obviously it is a great road win, and long overdue. I challenged our guys to be road warriors, and to come here and finish the game off on the road against a good football team that has a lot of skill and is well coached. I am very proud of them.”

On what they did differently defensively in the second half:
“The difference is we played with fundamentals. In the first half, one example is with Terrish Webb. He almost gets an interception on the same kind of ball that he gave up a big pass on. So you start to get a little focused on ‘Me, Me, Me’ instead of ‘We, We, We’ thinking that you are going to go get that next one, and you start to get a little greedy. The defender slowed down a little bit, so he thinks the ball was coming in and he just misjudged it. Just do your job. That was one thing we talked about at halftime. When you are trying to play good defense, you need to pay attention to details. Terrish is young so things like that are going to happen, but you take that away and we were pretty happy with the entire effort of our defense.”

On the magnitude of the interception before halftime:
“It was gigantic. We have been waiting for one of those picks in that coverage, and we finally got one. We kind of baited him [Benkert] in there. To get it before the half was huge. It was a tremendous football play by him, and then he finds a way to get into the end zone, not just get the interception. We scored on a kickoff return for a touchdown, scored on defense and scored on offense. When you score with all three phases, you have got to be happy with that.”

On what it means that his team persevered through injuries:
“It says a lot. You have to live and learn from your mistakes that you’ve made in the past. I think we really paid attention to details in the second half in all phases and finished off the game. It’s impressive.”

On the feeling in the locker room at halftime:
“We knew we just needed to keep peddling uphill. We had some good plays in there. I think we scored on two out of our four series in the first half. We just needed to stay patient with it. Every week someone tries to do something a little different that we haven’t seen before to stop our running game, but we took what they gave us, and made some great drives in the second half.”

Pitt Player Quotes

Senior Quarterback Nathan Peterman

On confidence heading into the second half:
“Definitely. That was a huge play by Jorday [Whitehead], our whole defense getting him into the end zone. I think that was a big momentum swing, but we knew we still had to come out and finish the game, and I thought, as a team, we did that great. Offensively, we can do some things better in the second half to hopefully run away with it a little bit more and score more points for our defense, but I thought that was a great team win and just awesome for everybody.”

On if scoring 30 points per game is a desired goal:
“30 points is our goal, but our goal is really to be the highest scoring offense in the ACC. We are trying to do that, trying to score as many points as we can and just be the best offense we can be.”

On what was most effective:
“I think we did a lot of things well. A lot of things to correct still, but there are guys making plays all over the field. I thought Jester [Weah] had a great game, James [Conner] running hard, our O-Line opening up holes and protecting great, [Rafael] Arujo-Lopes coming in at the end and having some big time plays for us, too. I am just really happy for our whole team and it was just an awesome game.”

On what Virginia’s defense was doing to cause trouble for Pitt’s offense:
“I think they wanted to stop our jets for sure, that was definitely evident. I thought we still gained positive yards on them, but maybe not the big plays that we had had in the past. That is where the run game comes in and going downhill. I thought our running backs played great, our offensive line opening huge holes for them, and just coming together as a team. It was a great altogether effort offensively in all aspects, passing-game and running-game, but there are still things that we can get better at.”

Sophomore Running Back Quadree Henderson

On Virginia’s defense keying in on Pitt’s jets:
“They were just bringing their defensive ends up-field and their safeties were blitzing outside, so I had no other option but to just cut it up the field. They definitely did their homework on our jets.”

On what he noticed on kickoff returns:
“Well, on the first one we called a certain return. I made my first cut and I saw a whole bunch of field and tried to cut back, but one of their players tackled me already. I came to the sideline and my exact words to Coach [Andre] Powell were, ‘Coach Powell, we are going to get one.’ It just so happened that the second one that they kicked to me, my one blocker hit the guy that tackled me the first time and I just saw one person on their side so I cut it back across the field. My blockers did a good job down the field blocking, so we got a TD on the return.”

On not playing a closely contested game down the stretch:
“I hate playing close games. That was a huge sigh of relief having a comfortable lead, our defense getting off of the field and our offense being able to execute those last two minutes and three seconds to come away with the victory.”

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