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Oct. 29, 2016

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Virginia vs. Louisville

Oct. 29, 2016

UVA Head Coach Bronco Mendenhall

Opening statement:
“Tough football game today, great football game today. I loved how my team responded from beginning to end. I loved the improvement that they made and are making. I like the unity they are showing. I like the improvement and execution that they demonstrated. I like their mindset and focusing on each other and what we could control and not on our opponent and what anyone thought of them. They gave us a great chance to win. My staff did a nice job of preparing them and the players did a nice job of executing. They made one more play than we did today. It was great coverage. There’s really nothing I could tell our corner to do any better than what he did. Just right at the end there, their guy made the play and we didn’t. But there were all kinds of plays being made from beginning to end to put us in that situation. We played to win, we do every week, regardless of who we are playing and that was demonstrated. I was lucky to be part of that today. However, our team wants to win and I want to win and we’re working toward that. We’ll take whatever we can and everything we can from this game and improve on it and learn and grow and continue to move the program forward. But again I was lucky to be the coach of the University of Virginia today and be part of this football program and this team. The players tried as hard as I’ve seen the team try for as long as I’ve seen them try.”

On what Kurt Benkert showed on the last drive:
“Resiliency. We’re not a staff nor am I a leader that labels a player and then gives up on him. We have a very simple mantra – you fall forward. That’s where the learning and growth happens. That’s where the development comes. He’s learning to be resilient, he’s learning to be poised, he’s learning to finish games. There are quarterbacks all over the country, ups and downs are kind of a part of the position and really the ones that can handle that and can keep going on poised, confident, and controlled are the ones that are the magical leaders and the ones that really help football teams. I think he’s one of those and will be one of those.”

On the two-point conversion decision in the fourth quarter to go ahead:
“I suggested it to the staff members, Coach Anae and others upstairs. Basically the feedback back from Nick Howell is you’ve got to go with what you feel. And I wanted to win and I didn’t want to go to overtime. I wanted to win now. I wanted the team to know that I believed in them and that we weren’t going to rely on anyone else, that we had an opportunity to show how we’re going to play and how the program is going to be run. And they executed it really well. Coach Anae made a great call. It was executed really well under pressure, under duress against a great team, and it was a really nice drive.”

On defending quarterback Lamar Jackson:
“We rushed anywhere from three, four or five. We had about as much defense as we could hold in preparation for a game and it took everything that we had. We had a decent idea of what their protection was. That doesn’t mean if you are unblocked that you’re going to tackle their quarterback, but we were able to affect him and affect him for a long time.”

On what can be taken from this game and how it can help the team move forward for the rest of the season:
“Again, we don’t focus much on the opponent, most people do. So if that is the No. 5 team in the country and that is the possible Heisman trophy winner, then I’d say we are making progress in almost every area of our team.”

Virginia Player Quotes

Junior Quarterback Kurt Benkert

On the final drive:
“We’re never out of the fight. Just because you have a few bad drives doesn’t mean we can’t turn the ship around. We are an explosive team who can score when we don’t shoot ourselves in the foot.

On not being the same in the last 6 quarters:
“I think it was a little bit of a challenge but I am confident in myself. It’s not just because I was playing below average for a few quarters doesn’t mean that I’ve lost it or anything, so I know what I am capable of.”

On running the ball today:
“Some of it was designed and some of it was just holes opening up and they covered some of our guys pretty well. It’s something that I am still getting used to coming off of surgery and everything, but I’m just trying to utilize it going forward.”

On having the huddle today:
“We were comfortable and we enjoyed it. It was nice to see the linemen talking a little bit more and killing time. I like seeing those guys because I usually only see them on the sidelines.”

On playing a highly ranked team and a potential Heisman Trophy winner:
“I wouldn’t say it is pressure, we just knew that we would have to execute. We knew that we would have to score points to win and our defense played so well. They held them really well. I gave up a bad pick with bad foot position that they were able to capitalize off of, but it’s a team game and we know that when the defense plays well we have to capitalize on that.”

Junior Wide Receiver Doni Dowling (compiled by UVA Media Relations staff)

On the hurdle play:
“I just caught the ball and once I shook them off, I had a little time to decide what I wanted to do. I know I was thinking about hurdling a couple times because I did it in high school a couple of times so I just went for it. The open field was a little iffy, so I knew I could jump over someone.”

On the development of the fourth quarter touchdown:
“I was trusting Kurt to give me a route. He called for a slant so it was just one on one. The safety was a little over the top I think, but I knew if I beat him that the safety really couldn’t do much with my back to him. I trusted my hands and Kurt trusted me and I trusted that he would put it in the right place, and it all worked out.”

Senior Wide Receiver Keeon Johnson

On the fourth down catch similar to the one at UConn:
“We’ve done it before. I just know I have to do my part. When they threw the ball, I just had to make the play.”

On the progress from playing against a team like Louisville:
“At the end of the day it was them versus us, man against man. We just have to go out there and play no matter what they’re ranked or who has the best player. We did well throughout the game down to the last play.”

On the 30 yard catch:
“I had a post and I saw the middle of the field open, so I took my shot. Kurt threw me the perfect ball right over the shoulder, so I jumped up and made the catch.”

On how tough the loss is:
“We know we are capable of being a great team. We don’t take it to heart anymore, we know as long as we leave it out on the field we can’t really complain about much. Tomorrow we get back at it and grind all week.”

Senior tailback Albert Reid

On the final UVA offensive play:
“Coach believed that we could get it to go and [see] if we could win the game or not. I knew that the play would work, so I knew we were going to win the game at that point.”

On whether this is a good moment for UVA football:
“I felt like we made strides today but honestly I’m tired of making strides and not winning. I feel like the next few games we’re going to play hard and we’re going to win some games.”

On the impact of huddling on the game:
“We put it in to slow the game down a little bit, to slow the game down on their side and start winning on offense and keep our defense on the field a little bit. Winning is part of the game plan.”

On Doni Dowling’s play:
“It was a great play. Doni makes great plays out there and that play was just exciting. It gave us the chance to go down and drive and score.”

Senior tailback Taquan Mizzell

On Mendenhall’s decision to go for the two-point play:
“I had a feeling he was going to do that. Coach is very aggressive. He trusts our preparation, so once he called it he knew we were going to get it.”

On sentiments from the sidelines during the two-point play:
“A lot of people were nervous. I was very nervous. It was hard for me to watch at first, but that play has worked 10 times out of 10 this year. I was very confident. Our defense played a great game that whole entire game. I thought they were going to pull it off.”

On getting over the “hump:”
“That’s it, just one play. They’re the No. 5 team in the country and we’re just trying to show the world that when you come to Scott Stadium, it isn’t going to be easy.”

Junior Linebacker Micah Kiser

On performance from the defensive line:
“I think I executed pretty well, given the player and the team, coming in as an underdog, and taking them to the last 13 seconds. We contained them pretty well. On defense I’m proud that we had five sacks. That’s the most he’s been sacked all year. We definitely executed the game plan. That’s one of the bigger spreads and definitely one of the bigger ones I’ve seen.”

On whether the game was indicative of progress:
“Defensively I think this was our best game. We were doing what Coach Mendenhall wanted us to do. Right now we’re just trusting the process. Right now there are still a lot of young guys playing, a lot of freshmen like Eli Hanback, who haven’t really played much, especially in the secondary, so we’re getting better. This is Coach Mendenhall’s first year here, really establishing the culture. You have to trust the process and you can’t quit on it.”

Louisville Head Coach Bobby Petrino

Opening Statement:
“Wow, that was hard. It took all day long, but I’m very proud of my team. Obviously it was not the best game we have played all year, but I thought the defense did a great job in the first half of keeping our offense in it. We did not execute very well offensively, and we left some plays out there right off the bat, but our guys stuck together. You have to give Virginia credit for how they played and how well they executed at times. It was a great two-minute drive and a good job in the second half of coming back and finding a way to win. We will take it, no question about it.”

On what the coaching staff said to the team after the two-point conversion:
“We did not have to say a whole lot. We said, ‘okay baby, here we go,’ and I was really impressed with our players and their confidence and energy to go win the game. We got off to a good start and had great execution on the last drive. The last throw was a perfect throw and a great job by Jaylen [Smith to catch the ball]. They were both on the same page. [Smith] knew he was going to get the ball and [Jackson] had a great release and put the ball in a place where only Jaylen could make the catch.”

On the decision to go deep on the last play:
“There was an option on that play if they were in a different coverage to dump the ball down and work it toward the sideline. We still had one time out left. It wasn’t strictly throw it deep or nothing. We had another option. They went blitz and came up and pressed. Lamar made the right decision, and when they came up and pressed, Jaylen knew he was going to get the ball.”

On his reaction to Virginia’s decision to go for the two-point conversion:
“I knew they would go for two. We are the fifth-ranked team in the country, and they had a chance to go for to win the game. We kind of knew that going into the game.”

On Jackson’s demeanor over the course of the game:
“He was really calm, confident, and focused. He is a great competitor. He was upset with himself on the early interception in the third quarter, but he came over and told the offense, ‘Hey, that’s on me, here we go, let’s get back in the game.”

On whether or not Petrino will talk up Jackson for the Heisman:
“He’s pretty darn good. I am not sure that we have to say a whole lot because his play and stats speak for themselves. I have not seen anyone better, but then again, I don’t see everybody. I don’t see anybody out west or up north, but I see Lamar and I cannot imagine anyone there being someone better than he is.”

On the team’s conditioning:
“It is something I was concerned about because there have been games where our starters have only played three quarters and a series in the fourth quarter. We were worried about how our focus and conditioning would be when it is a fourth quarter game and it comes down to the last drive. I think our strength and conditioning staff has done a great job. The running that we do on Sunday nights has really helped us in our conditioning. I really felt like we were in good condition there at the end. Our receivers were running routes full-speed and Lamar did a great job.”

Louisville Player Quotes

Sophomore Quarterback Lamar Jackson

On the game-winning drive:
“We go through the two-minute drill during practice. It’s fun being the quarterback and the leader of the team. You just have to stay focused. If you get out of the element and let the crowd get to you, and let the defense harass you, you’re not going to be able to play the game.”

On shaking off the slow start:
“We knew we were beating ourselves the entire game – dropping passes, missing reads, things like that. We just knew the fourth quarter is crunch time, win or go home, so that’s what we thought about.”

On the win:
“That was a great team win. Special teams did their job. Defense, with Jaire [Alexander] alone, he came up with two interceptions. He helped us out a lot, because we [the offense] weren’t doing our job. We kept getting stopped, but our team did a great job. It was a great team win.”

Sophomore Wide Receiver Jaylen Smith

On using the fans preparing to rush the field as motivation:
“Kind of. At first I didn’t even see them and one of my teammates pointed it out and was like, ‘They’re getting ready to rush the field, can you see them?’ I was like ‘What do you mean rush the field, where are they rushing the field?’ Then he pointed to the hill and they were all packed down. I was like, ‘oh okay, let’s see how this goes.’ Once we got the ball back, I feel like we had too much time not to go score a touchdown. “

On the final play:
“I want to say it was a form of two man. I don’t know if it was a blown coverage. I had the corner one-on-one. He tried to take away the inside and gave me a free release. It was one-on-one and the best quarterback in football of course gave me a chance to make a play and I did what I had to do.”

On if Jackson could have thrown the final pass any better:
“No, he threw it to a spot where only I could get it and the DB had no chance to get it. Those are the little things that make Lamar the best quarterback in the country.”

On how Coach Galloway is teaching the team differently:
“One thing that I’ve known but never really practiced it until coach Galloway got here was when the ball comes and it’s like that, you catch it and you snatch it away. You quick tuck it because if you try to catch it and tuck down he has a chance to play it through your hands, or if you try to catch it and leave it up there he can knock it out. So that’s why I try to catch it and pull it away from him.”

Sophomore Cornerback Jaire Alexander:

On his two interceptions:
Sometimes playing defense is like playing receiver a little bit. Back in high school, when the ball is in the air, you’re taught to go get it. I kind of just had that mindset of when the ball is in the air to just go attack it.”

On giving up the late touchdown and the offense having to score again:
“I gave up inside leverage. I had bad eyes. I was expecting one thing and got something totally different. I was out of position, so I’ll take full responsibility for that. I had full faith in Lamar [Jackson] and the offense to go down and score.”

On his individual performance:
“I just feel like there’s room for improvement. Although I did make some plays, I can do certain things a little better, so that’s what I plan on doing.”

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