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Oct. 22, 2016

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Virginia vs. North Carolina
Oct. 22, 2016

Virginia Head Coach Bronco Mendenhall Quotes

Opening Statement:
“UNC executed longer and more effectively than us. The game was really tight at halftime and then they were able to sustain drives, execute when needed, and recover from turnovers at a higher level than we were. So their program is currently more mature and farther along than ours is and that was reflected as the game continued to go on. We need to continue to mature, continue to grow, and continue to stay together and support one another. Some things that improved today. Our kickoff coverage markedly improved and our kick return was markedly improved. I like both of those a lot. We were a little bit inconsistent in the punt game which was uncharacteristic. Third down was one of the telling stories of the game today. Our inability to convert on third down with the number of attempts we had just didn’t allow our point production and our time of possession. The longer we had the football, even though we had the edge, the better it was against a team that goes that fast that frequently. Defensively, there is the short field score at the beginning from the 30 and then the gadget play at the end. I was pretty comfortable with how we were playing up until halftime. I was really just disappointed with the one score toward the end when it was 28-14 and we gave up a deep ball over the top. That was a critical play. I’m not saying that that determined the outcome, but we make a stop there and there’s a chance with enough time left that maybe we could battle back in there.

“I felt it was necessary with the pressure that was going on Benkert, starting from the second half of the Pitt game through this game, it was wise just to have him step back and have him see it from a different perspective and take a breath and regroup. Connor (Brewer) came in and did a nice job orchestrating a drive. Our run game, Smoke had over a hundred yards, which he had some nice runs. Albert Reid ran for some physical runs as well. But in general, they moved the ball and executed on all three sides of the ball longer and more consistently than we did, which is reflective of their program. I’m not sure where they’ll finish in the polls, but I think it’s a good football team. Still too early to say how good, but probably worthy of their ranking.”

On not capitalizing after the fumble recovery by Micah Kiser:
“That one hurt as well. We’re learning to be resilient, we’re learning to be mature, we’re learning to be more consistent, but yet there are some things right now that are simply above our threshold and that was one of them when we weren’t able to capture that. We’re not a strong enough team yet that we can’t capitalize on those opportunities and expect to have the kind of success we want. We need to capitalize on every one of those opportunities.”

On the effect of last game’s pick-six on Benkert:
“I can’t speak in terms of a lingering effect. But simply there has been an effect by playing better football teams. Between now and moving toward Pitt and moving toward North Carolina and getting to ACC play, we are getting a clearer idea of where we are, and each player is and Kurt is really visible. I think the combination maybe of the second half a week ago and then some of the pressure he was getting early, I can’t speak for him, but it looks like he isn’t quite as confident and poised, but that by no means rejected or dejected, it just simply means it’s time to regroup.”

On the recent allegations of the team:
“I love running a fantastic football program in every regard. And every means every. I love the young men that I coach and they know that. The investigation is ongoing and the University policy is that I’m not to speak regarding any of that while the investigation is ongoing. I am very lucky to be the coach at the University of Virginia. There are great things ahead for us; a lot of work ahead also. This team, we have a principle that goes really deep and that is ‘family first, last and always’ and they are acting like that and I think as coaches we are acting like that.”

UVA Player Quotes

Senior center Jackson Matteo

On what worked and what didn’t on opportunities for run game:
“I think we did some good things on the run, and I think as a unit we can always get tighter. There were some errors, but we had a really good week of practice and a really good week of preparation. We were focused and locked in, and studying their defense. They have pretty athletic guys and if we wanted to really pound it up there we could have. I think we got away from that and there were some other mental errors and unfinished blocks, so there is always room for improvement. Going into this week we just have to stay the same. Every team in college football is beatable, so we just have to wait until the next one.”

On getting better at third downs:
“Something we really stress is first down and third down efficiency, and we aim for about 45 percent of the third downs. Obviously, we didn’t get that today. I think it is the same thing- cohesiveness. We always have room to improve. Kurt is such a talented player and as an offensive line we have to make him feel comfortable back there, and if we don’t then he is going to want to get on the pocket and want to throw it early because he doesn’t want to take hits, and I completely understand him. We have to get better in pass protections and better on first down.”

Senior tailback Taquan Mizzell

On the likes and dislikes of the run game:
“Just our offensive line did a great job at blocking guys. It is our job as backs once we get to that second level to make a man miss and get positive yards. We felt confident in the run game. Just the way the game started going we had to go away from it for a little while and then we got back to it.”

On the botched handoff:
“It is a run pass where you can run it or throw it and I think he decided he wanted to throw it from a jump but in the last minute he wanted to hurry up and get it in there, so it was just a mistake.”

On positives of the game and his playing:
“The only thing I can think of is to keep the confidence of my offensive line up. They did a great job of run blocking and we have to keep pushing from there. We have a great opportunity next week and we are looking to shock the world.”

Junior Quarterback Kurt Benkert

On the offensive struggles:
“I think we hit a little bit of a lull. We haven’t been as good on third down and it starts with me. I have to distribute the ball better.”

On the first possession of the third quarter:
“It was a big letdown. We were moving the ball just off a turnover, and when we get a turnover, we need to score. It starts with me. I have to move us down the field and we just weren’t able to do that.”

On how he felt after coming out for the fourth:
“I was frustrated just because I’m a competitor and I wanted to finish the game and try to win the game, but I understand why the coaches did it.”

Junior Linebacker Micah Kiser

On where the defense struggled:
“We had trouble stopping the stretch play. That was a really big play for them. I think Hood probably had 100 yards just on the stretch play alone. We had struggles stopping that and then passes in the boundary and big plays. That was the story of the game in my opinion.”

On how he felt when his fumble recovery was taken back:
“I thought that was going to be the game changer, a momentum play – a big, forced fumble in the middle of the field and you get it at the 50-yard line. But it didn’t work out that way. We could have played a lot better on defense to help our offense, but there’s nothing we can do now.”

Senior Quarterback Matt Johns

On his sneak touchdown play:
“We’ve had it in for a couple weeks now. Coach Mendenhall walked by me on the sidelines and he had a paper over his mouth and he was talking, and I didn’t even know he was talking to me. The play was called ‘Butts’ and he said ‘We’re going Butts and it’s field goal,’ because Butts was the snapper. So I was like, ‘Oh, we’re going Butts!’ And then we walked out and spread out in the formation we were in and number 23 (Cayson Collins) was pointing at Butts, and I was thinking in my head, ‘Well now, the play isn’t going to work.’ And so Sam ran to the sideline and 23 ran with him and then Butts was wide open. It was a really well-executed and thought-out play and credit goes to Coach Poppinga.”

On where the team is right now:
“We’re a very close team. We’re at a point in the season where I’ve been through this almost every single year. The only year I didn’t was when we were 4-2 going into the bye week and then we hit that lull at the end of the season. It’s about keeping the guys together and keeping them close. This quarterback group is the closest group I’ve been around – me, Kurt [Benkert], Connor [Brewer], Joe Spaziani and Jacob Rainey, we’re all best friends. We hang out almost every day of the week and it’s going to stay like that the whole season.

North Carolina Head Coach Larry Fedora Quotes

Opening Statement:
“It was good to get another win on the road, especially in league play. I am proud of the way our guys played. I think we played with a lot of energy and excitement throughout the entire game. We had a lot of guys playing that we had to rely on and they got the job done. It wasn’t pretty at times. I thought we were inconsistent, especially in the first half offensively. Defensively, we played really well other than that one series where we gave up a 13-play drive and they converted two fourth downs. Other than that the defense held them to 3-of-19 on third downs, and when you do that you have got a great chance to win.”

On the performance of the North Carolina offensive line:
“We ran the ball pretty well, so I thought they did a nice job. There was some pressure a few times on Mitch [Trubisky] that probably should not have been there, but we will get those things cleared up. We had William Sweet, who was playing in his first game as a starter, and I thought he did a really nice job throughout the game.”

On Bug Howard’s play and wearing injured teammate Mack Hollins’ jersey:
“That was his [Howard’s] idea. He asked if he could do it, and I told him he could. I don’t know if anyone else has talked about doing it for a future game. He wanted to honor Mack with his play, and he did a great job of it. He played really well. Bug has been able to make those plays all year, but when you have everyone healthy, you are not zeroing in on one guy. Today, they gave Bug the opportunity to get open in some situations and Mitch found him.”

On the difference between halves offensively:
“It was more about becoming more consistent. We had some false start penalties and a lot of new guys in there in the first half. It was the little things that you wouldn’t necessarily notice that had us shooting ourselves in the foot. We blocked a play one way in practice, and then today in the game they gave us the exact same look and we were saying, ‘I thought this guy was going to get him.’ Those are young guys, and I tried to tell them that they are not young anymore. This is our 12th, going into our 13th, week. It’s time for them to step up and do their job.”

On the importance of the third quarter in getting some separation:
“Any time you can get some separation, it is a good thing. That’s when we felt like we got control of the game. We hated giving up that 13-play drive, because at that point we felt like, if we could get the ball in the end zone again, we could put the game away.”

North Carolina Player Quotes

Junior Quarterback Mitch Trubisky

On the difference in play between halves:
“We did not have it in the first half. I thought it was a little bit better in the second half, but I think it still can improve to get back to what we think the standard is of Carolina football, especially on offense. I thought the defense played lights out. They played a really great game. But in the second half we had a little bit better time playing and we were moving them. We need to convert more third downs, and we got some more rhythm in the second half, so that is something we want to see more.”

On whether the personnel affected the offensive play:
“I think that did play a little factor. A couple of new linemen swapped in there. They just had to get their feet underneath them in the first half, and they definitely settled down and did a great job in the second half. The O-line protected me very well all game, especially in the second half giving me time, and we made plays when we needed to make plays. We just need to be more consistent.”

On the trick play touchdown pass and the excitement of getting that play call:
“They probably watched our film last week at Miami and said, ‘It’s wildcat so we are going to bring that safety down and try to stop the run with T.J. [Logan].’ We hand it off, and then I catch the pitch and throw it deep to Bug [Howard]. I try not to get too excited, so we do not let the defense know something is up, but we definitely want to take advantage of those plays especially when they are creeping up trying to stop the run.”

Junior Running Back Elijah Hood

On the impact of his improved health and filling the absence of Mack Hollins:
“Losing Mack [Hollins] is definitely going to hurt. He is a leader in a lot of ways with the way he played on the field, but he was with us out there today. He was still out there giving us support and things like that. We lose Mack [Hollins], I get a little healthier, the way injuries happen in football it’s on and off, it’s all over the place, so we just have to keep that next-man-up mentality, and I think we did that today. We came out here on this field and beat Virginia. We just have to keep after it. We only have one road game left. We just have to keep focusing as the whole team one game at a time.”

On the offensive play during the second half:
“We started finally getting that rhythm back. It felt good starting to move the ball well and we were able to put up points. We have not really put up any points in the second half of games in a while, so we were specifically challenged to make sure we played a full 60 minutes of football today. I am really proud of us because we absolutely came out there and did that. We did what we needed to do. The defense did a great job. I feel like we are just growing every game as a team.”

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