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Nov. 12, 2016

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UVA Head Coach Bronco Mendenhall

Opening statement:
“First of all, congratulations to Mark Richt and his team. They have a talented football team – skilled and physical and pretty deep in terms of personnel, so I was impressed with the talent level, but we expected that going into the game. Similar to what we saw maybe from Louisville in terms of talent base. I was pleased with our team for the first half and the way they battled. Our miscues in the second half, we turned it over four times, and numerous penalties, and clearly I’m not getting through yet to our team in those closer moments where the game is kind of going back and forth. We held them to a field goal in the first one, so it’s 20-14. But again I have not yet and it’s a direct reflection of me, and the team plays as they are prepared and I haven’t yet been able to get through deep enough to have the play be clean enough and disciplined enough and execution sound enough and turnover free enough for us to have a chance to go all the way to the end, which I was anticipating and really hopeful this game would do. Nothing in the first half said anything different to me. I love feeling like we take a step forward, I love seeing areas of improvement, I love seeing the kids try hard and we didn’t play nearly cleanly enough nor mistake free enough nor just simple execution, so my task is to charge my coaches to get through deeper and more effectively with our team to give them their best chance to play good football all the way to the end of the game. I’m looking forward to that. I’m invigorated by that chance and really wish our seniors could have had a better experience in their last (home) game today. I’m very appreciative of the fans and the turnout today for a lot of the game. It was a really nice college atmosphere and I appreciate that and on behalf of our players, that’s special to see a bunch of people on the hill and a fan base that I think was really pulling for us today for a long time.”

On consistently struggling in the second half this year:
“I’m looking hard for a thread and I’ll keep looking. I think it might not necessarily be first half and second half. I think it might just be volume of plays, being able to hold and our habits just aren’t holding long enough. They aren’t deep enough, and they aren’t thorough enough. So the more volume that’s asked and the more different situations they’re put in, they’re just not deep enough. I think we practice very hard and very effectively and I think we’re seeing signs of what we’re capable of against anyone we play, through parts of the game, usually the first half and somewhere through about three quarters, and then there’s some things that manifest that I would love to help this team move past to have consistent success. But again today was a clear representation that we’re not there yet, especially when you have some youthful players, you have to be even more of a masterful teacher and be really cognizant of where you put them, what positions you put them in, and how you use them. I’m responsible for all of that and I don’t take that lightly and I would love these kids to have success.”

On Miami scoring 10 points off of turnovers:
“Miami was more physical than what I expected on both sides. Their fronts controlled the game, so they were able to get some pressure on our quarterback and it doesn’t necessarily need to be blitz, but they were able to run the ball with big sets. They had the fullback that’s 280 plus their big guys in there. Certainly you have to be aware of their receiving threats, and we saw two big plays in that regard so we could be fairly aggressive but it kind of turned into a guessing game and when I guessed right we could hold them for three yards a run and if we were playing coverage they were able to sustain drives on the ground and get about four or five yards per carry and sustain drives and control the game.

I think we battled well, but we still have lots and lots and lots and lots of work to do in terms of defensive execution, run front dominance, tackling and then there were two big plays mixed in there too.”

On putting Matt Johns in at the end of the game:
“It was my decision and at some point intuitively, okay that turnover, that’s enough. I didn’t feel like we were gaining momentum, it felt like we were losing momentum and I thought at that point having a change would give us a better chance to finish. It wasn’t necessarily Senior Day oriented. I love Matt and wanted to give him a chance and so I asked Coach Anae to put him in and I think he did well. He gave us a spark and put a few balls on the money and his teammates were cheering hard for him as were his coaches.”

On playing Georgia Tech next week and the option offense they run:
“Our staff is very familiar. At BYU we played and beat Georgia Tech twice under the current coaching staff. It’s an amazingly fast and exciting week. I love playing option football, I love the challenges that it creates, and I love the all-encompassing nature of how difficult it is to get ready in that short of time. But our current team does not know anything about our scheme in playing Georgia Tech.”

Virginia Player Quotes

Junior Linebacker Micah Kiser

On the lack of momentum in team performance:

“We were in it, playing them tough. The long touchdown broke us a little bit. If we had just wrapped them up, kept driving the ball, then there would have been a different outcome, but that was a big play. I tip my hat to that guy who made the big play.”

On an inconsistency in younger players’ performance:

“We have a lot of younger guys, in the physicality of it in terms of not expecting what the other team is trying to do. That can start weighing on you and then you start dwelling on the last play and then that can carry on over and over. But, I like our young guys. They play very hard and are very aggressive. I think the foundation has become established here. Not a lot of teams in the ACC are playing six or seven true freshmen, and that doesn’t take into account the redshirt guys like Steve [Wright] and Eli [Hanback]. So it’s a lot of young guys and we are definitely building right now.”

On the challenge in maintaining consistency for four quarters:

“It’s a physical game, especially when they ran the ball 40 [yards] sometimes. That’s a rarity in college football these days and when that starts wearing on you, you can start second guessing these things. Your mind starts wandering, but we need to stay focused. We need to start dominating our gaps.”

Junior Quarterback Kurt Benkert:

On his fumbles:

“The first one, I just didn’t see it coming. I just got sacked and it happens. On the second one, I didn’t tuck it like I normally do and just got hit. I have to do a better job of keeping two hands on the ball when I’m moving around in the pocket.”

On a conservative execution of offensive plays going into the fourth quarter:

“In the second half we didn’t pick it up in the first and second down. You’re not going to be really good on third and medium, third-and-long consistently. It’s just not going to happen. I have to start giving that one play to get us back on track and that’s something we’re going to be working on.”

Senior Running Back Taquan Mizzell

On setting an ACC record:

“It definitely would have felt much better with a win, but that’s something that I appreciate right there. That’s big for me; just how many great players that came through the ACC weren’t able to accomplish that. I really appreciate that, but it’s even more special with Matt Johns. That guy is second to none.”

On third quarter struggles:

“We’ve just got to execute, playmakers have got to make plays. It’s full responsibility on the players, so we’ve just got to do better, execute, especially on third downs.”

On the team under Bronco Mendenhall:

“I love everything that Coach Bronco is doing here. Our record doesn’t reflect what’s going on in this program. And as a senior, that’s something that I want to do, you know, even though our record is not good. We’re not going to a bowl game, but I want to set a standard for when we leave here.”

On memories from Scott Stadium:

“I just had fun. Of course you want to win, but it’s just about having fun and taking everything as a learning experience. I had a lot of fun here.”

Junior Safety Quin Blanding

On Miami running backs:

“They have a solid crew back there. They’ve got three strong running backs that can come in and run the ball and that played a factor today. We’ve just got to execute.”

On the reasons for second-half struggles:

“We’ve just got to play, that’s the bottom line. It’s just football. We practice the same thing in practice and if it’s not right in practice, we do it again and that’s his [Coach Mendenhall] philosophy. We’ve just got to keep doing and bringing it to the field.”

On his relationship with Micah Kiser:

“We just go at it with each other. I know he handles the D-Line, and I just handle the secondary, and he trusts me on the back end and I trust him on the front end. That’s how we’ve been playing and that’s how we’ve been playing since last year. We just go at it all the time because we just want to be better than each other, outwork each other. That’s a great thing, to have a great middle linebacker like him. We always go back and forth in practice about who’s going to get the most picks and who’s going to return one.”

Miami Head Coach Mark Richt Quotes

Opening quote:
“It was great to get the victory, no doubt. I am very proud of our team. Our guys played hard and, for the most part, played well. There was a little bit of sloppiness here and there, though. We ran the ball better, which was good. We thought we could run the ball this week. Some of it was some great effort on runs and some of it, obviously, was the blocking for our backs. It was a decent day for Brad [Kaaya], but he hit less than 50 percent of his passes, which is the first time that has happened since I have been here. We missed a couple of opportunities, in the first half especially, but they did a few things differently than we had prepared for this week. I think they saw enough man-to-man coverage success that we have had, especially last week, and they played a lot less man coverage. On the touchdown to Ahmmon [Richards], they did play man and went back to playing zone coverage again. Overall, it was a good effort by the team, and I’m proud of everybody – coaches and players.”

On the balanced offensive statistics:
“You like it, because the running game does set up play action pass and it does reduce your third-down yardage, sometimes. It gets third-and-long if you can’t run the ball very well. But it is also the sign of having the lead and being able to finish the game running the ball. We could not quite finish it though. We had to go for it on fourth down. But it is a good sign to run for over 200 yards, regardless of the circumstance.”

On talking to the team about bowl eligibility before the game:
“I never mentioned it. I just talk about playing hard. I talk about executing. I talk about securing the ball and ball disruption. I just talk about things that help you win a game, more so than what the game means. If it had been the last game of the year and we are 5-6, that would probably be a big discussion, but with the amount of games left, I didn’t get into it.”

On the offensive line:
“Those guys did a great job. [Offensive Line] Coach [Stacy] Searels did a great job. We actually had Trevor [Darling] here and watched him warm up, and if Trevor looked good enough, we probably would have played him, but he looked ginger and tender on it, so we chose not to play him. There were not a whole lot of options after that if we had anybody go down, especially at the tackle position. Considering what happened Tuesday, when Trevor got nicked up a little bit, I thought Coach Searels did a good job of getting the guys in the right spot. McDermott played well at tackle. I thought we protected Brad [Kaaya] pretty well, for the most part, and I thought it was a good day for the offensive line.”

On Mark Walton’s second straight 100-yard rushing performance:
“He had some great runs early on. On one of the screen passes, he was breaking tackles and got the first downs. We had some third-down runs where he really made the difference. I think the blocking was good, for the most part, but there were a few times where he was just ripping through tackles and just wasn’t going to be denied a first down and kept a couple drives going.”

Miami Player Quotes

Freshman Wide Receiver Ahmmon Richards

On his 77-yard touchdown:
“It was a hitch route, and Brad Kaaya [Miami quarterback] placed the ball in an area where I could turn up the field. It was man coverage, so I knew if he put it in that place, I could get YAC [yards after catch]. It was timing and ball placement.”

On bowl eligibility:
“It feels great honestly. You work so hard, and you want to have a payoff. It’s a great way for our seniors to go out, but right now we’re really focusing on N.C. State”

Senior Cornerback Corn Elder

On creating turnovers in the second half:
“It was definitely a big thing. It was a close game, so they can change the momentum of the game. That’s what we want to do every game. Creating turnovers is a big plus for the defense and helps the offense out.”

On trying to pressure UVA quarterback Kurt Benkert:
“He [Benkert] is good on his feet. He can scramble, so we just had to contain him. We talked about bringing pressure a lot. We had to keep attacking the up-field shoulder.”

On building off last week’s performance:
“We just wanted to keep the winning streak going. I think everybody came out here with the right mindset.”

Sophomore Running Back Mark Walton

On the play of the offensive line:
“The line came out here and took on a task that was very difficult for them. They did a great job with the blitzes and d-line.”

On his ability to break tackles:
“It’s about trusting myself. If it’s me against another guy, try to win that battle. On a screen play, I think I broke multiple tackles. I just kept my feet moving, stayed low, and was more powerful than the other guys.”

On winning at UVA for the first time since 2008:
“It means a lot to us. During the whole week Coach Richt kept telling us about it. The last time we came up here we lost 30-13. We weren’t trying to come here and lose a game. We just wanted to redeem ourselves from the past years.”

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