Story Links

Sept. 2, 2017

Recap | Box Score | Notes | Photo Gallery media_icon_photogallery.gif

Virginia vs. William & Mary
Sept. 2, 2017
UVA Head Coach Bronco Mendenhall

Opening statement:
“In regards to the game today, I thought it was a solid effort by all three phases. There are certainly things we can improve, but we looked more mature and more confident. I think we just played a higher level of football in our opener from beginning to end than we did a year ago. We broke a streak for no turnovers. The last time that happened was 2013. That’s a lot of Virginia football games. I thought our special teams for the beginning of the year were strong. The coverage and return unit mirrored the defense and the offense in terms of where we were. I think our program is about mirrored images when you look at the three sides of the ball. We probably left 14 more points our there that I think we could get if we are playing at a high level. For the one scoring drive from William & Mary, the quarterback scramble hurt us, so we need to put in some work there. It was really just their quarterback avoiding sacks and running for yardage that got them into the end zone. Overall, it was a solid start. I’m happy to see the kids smile and ready to improve on all the areas we need to for the next one.”

On turnovers and passing improvement
“We know game management is going to be critical at the current stage of our team. It wasn’t necessarily wide open, but it was conservative and efficient. There is room from improvement everywhere, but efficiency was what we were after. We were pretty strong on 3rd down today. I think we managed the 4th down scenarios and the field position well in terms of when to go for it and when not to. Overall, [Kurt Benkert] was delivering the ball to the right player at the right time. For a lot of the game we were efficient, we held onto the football and controlled the tempo. It wasn’t wild and elaborate, but it’s a nice place to start.

On Jordan Ellis’ performance
“When you’re building a developing program, your best players are also your hardest workers and have the best results. Your culture starts to permeate and build. [Jordan Ellis] was the number one jersey selection for two years in a row because of his work ethic. The whole team is happy for him whenever he has positive yards or catches a touchdown because of who he is. That’s helpful to our program and as we learn what each player can do, we know how to use them and when to use them. You saw the multiple substitutions and it’s becoming clearer as to what our current program looks like.”

On defensive effort
“I’m very self critical of everything we do as a team, especially on the defense. The number one thing I took away from today was the scramble work. We didn’t do a great job with rush lanes. While I was promoting wild and aggressive play to go after the quarterback, it didn’t take long before the second half where it was just one look downfield and then see what he could do with his feet. We didn’t get tested very much because of our pressure, but we now need to coordinate our rush lanes.”

On the importance of a win for the opener
“Winning college football games is hard. We’ve got a lot of work to do in our program and we have done a lot of work in our program. I’m just proud of the guys. They were anxious to play and optimistic before they went out. They were confident and looking forward to playing football. Part of the development of the program is actually looking forward to the contest. I think our team will have a different presence. To have a reward for that after all the work and amount of time we spent in fall camp, it’s gratifying to see them happy.”

On 4th down touchdown plays
“[Kurt Benkert] is just becoming more consistent. We had another 4th down where we had a player open and we missed that throw. But now as we are becoming clearer where we can kick field goals from, that’s allowing us to manage the yardage and the field of play a little bit differently. That was just the beginning of what we intent to do. The mark on the field will kind of move back in forth based on how our field goal kickers are looking. Today it was more go for it.”

Virginia Player Quotes

Senior Quarterback Kurt Benkert

On scoring at the end of the first half:
“It was good for us. We had really moved the ball up and down all day, but we hadn’t been able to capitalize. The coaches trust me. They know I’m going to take care of the football”

On starting the season off with a win:
“1-0 is better than 0-1. That’s where we wanted to start, and it didn’t matter what the game looked like for us. We just wanted to come out with a win. We did a good job of taking care of the football.”

On the play of Jordan Ellis:
“I was not shocked at all. I knew he was going to break tackles and have big plays, and I was really happy to see him get into the end zone twice. It’s a good way to send a message across the team that you will be rewarded for hard work.”

On the #Hoostogether patch:
“It shows that it’s bigger than football. It goes in line with how you see college football respond to [Hurricane] Harvey. It’s enlightening to see all these different communities come together.”

Senior Defensive End Andrew Brown

On being double-teamed
“I’ve had a lot of work in that in practice and throughout camp because now they know who I am. I have to beat blocks and make plays. That’s what it comes down to.”

On winning the first game of the season:
“Starting off the season with a win is a great momentum booster. We feel good, confident. I feel like we are starting to get that swag back going into the season.”

On the mood in the locker room this year compared to last year:
“Complete opposites. Last year was disappointing that the hard work we did during summer camp didn’t pay off, but now it’s starting to show.”

Junior Running Back Jordan Ellis

On the outcome:
“It was good to get our first win and to get some confidence going into next week where we have a test in Indiana.”

On his touchdown late in the fourth quarter:
“It’s a play we’ve been working on all offseason. Everybody thinks we’re going to run up the middle, and it’s a little screen outside. I had to outflank the linebacker, and what I’ve been working on all offseason is my speed, so it paid off right there. Once I caught the ball, I knew I could beat him to the pylon as our coaches tell us to do.”

On his hard work in the offseason and his performance today:
“It’s really not about me. I’m just trying to help the team win anyway I can. I scored two touchdowns, but the most important thing is that we won. If I had scored two touchdowns and we would have lost, it really wouldn’t have mattered. That’s the biggest thing, helping my team win. Blocking, running, catching, anything I can do, I’m going to do it.”

Senior Wide Receiver Doni Dowling

On winning the season opener:
“It is a great start. All the hard work that we put in and being together for another year makes you feel great. It’s good to just trust the process, as we move on to next week we will try and take it 2-0, we will just take it game by game. We just want to sell out every time we step onto the field.”

On the offensive play:
“We definitely left some plays out there. It’s the first game though. We are going to get stuff to start clicking, and I think we played well. We hit our marker that we wanted to hit for offensive points, so it’s progress and it’s a step in the right direction.”

On the hurdle:
“That was one of my first catches on the slant. I ran out and I looked at how the guy was trying to size me. I could tell he was going to tackle me low, so I tried the stiff arm and thought I should have gone for the hurdle. I am not the best at spins or juking but I am a hurdler, so when I had the opportunity the next time I gave it a chance and it didn’t let me down.”

Junior Outside Linebacker Malcolm Cook

On playing again:
“It felt great to play again. It was exciting. Definitely before going out through the tunnel you’re trying to channel your emotions and get everything in tune with what’s really happening, I had to sit in the back in the tunnel and I was thinking about my mom and holding my tears back. It was emotional, and my head was spinning. To think that I’ve been here all this time and was starting to really play and I could’ve died last year on the field is emotional. It felt good to actually hit somebody that wasn’t wearing a V-sabre or my colors.”

On getting rid of the pregame jitters:
“It took the first drive to bring me back. After the first whistle for contact I felt great. I was rolling again. Coach Poppinga kept telling us to keep it going and not to slow it down, so it felt good to hear them after the game ask where I came from because they’d never heard of me. When you’re out there making heads turn it’s a great feeling.”

On hugging Coach Mendenhall after the game:
“I walked up to him and I wanted to tell him thank you for standing beside me through everything I went through. It is a blessing to actually be under a guy like that and actually understand how things work in the outside world of being a football player. That was the emotional part, being able to hug him after the game and thank him for still believing in me.”

Senior Inside Linebacker Micah Kiser

On the ease of the defense when the offense plays clean:
“They played clean, they had the ball a lot in the first half so we weren’t out there that long, so them controlling the ball and us playing pretty sound when we were out led to a pretty clean game.”

On William & Mary’s Quarterback:
“He didn’t really throw the ball much at all, they took advantage of some stuff we were doing on defense, especially that one drive that they scored the touchdown on. They knew what we were doing a little bit, so we will make corrections on that and be alright.”

Senior Wide Receiver Andre Levrone

On the touchdown catch and the passing game:
“There were a lot of plays that we actually left out there. There were a few that Kurt and I missed and a few that he and Doni missed, even some others, but the touchdown play made me very happy. Kurt and I were very happy to complete that against a different opponent. That’s a play that we have made countless times in the offseason with routes on air or on extra time. We have done that countless times, so to come out here in a game setting in front of fans and put it to the public was something I was very proud of.”

On entering halftime with more of a cushion:
“It’s a huge lift. Football is a game of momentum, so any time you can go into the locker room with that momentum up it can continue to keep the foot on the gas and go. Then we came out of the half with a touchdown drive and that’s something that I was very proud of as well. The touchdown drive right out of the half and at the end of the game just shows finishing. We come out with momentum and we are able to finish drives.”

On this win as a building block for the season:
“Any time you come out week one 1-0 that’s the ultimate goal. Going forward, I am excited for week two. We have Indiana, who should be a tougher opponent. That game is going to come down to who finishes and who’s hungrier in the fourth quarter. They are a very formidable opponent and I think that game is going to come down to who is hungry and who finishes.”

William & Mary Head Coach Jimmye Laycock Quotes

Opening Statement:
“For the most part, I thought we played very hard, and I would not have expected anything less. I know our guys practiced well and prepared well. They really went out there and gave good effort. The score that they got right before halftime and the score they got right at the end of the game really skewed the game [score wise]. Especially in the second half we came back offensively and were a little more aggressive, took advantage of some things, and did a little no-huddle, and I think that helped us out a little bit. I think the first half we were kind of feeling our way, but in the second half we let loose and played. Had they not gotten those two scores at the end of the halves; we would have had a whole different ballgame. We knew going in that for us to be successful, we were going to need to get some short fields. To do that you usually need to get some turnovers, but we did not and that hurt us.”

On not going for it on fourth down early in the second half:
“I thought about it, but I decided to just get the points. I do not like getting shut out. I do not like having goose eggs on the scoreboard. Also, [Kris] Hooper has been kicking it well, so I decided to just get that one. I did give it a thought though. Once we got on the board and once we started moving a little bit in the second half, we were going to go for it unless something weird happens.”

On the decision to run more in the second half:
“It worked two ways. One, we were calling more reads to get him more involved in the game, and two, we were calling more passes that allowed him to pull it down [and run]. A lot of those runs he had were not designed runs. One of the ones was and we got a nice run out of it, but sometimes they were just a factor of the pressure. Our starting left tackle [Chris Durant] went down right at the beginning of the game and we are already thin on that offensive line and so our best tackle was no longer there too, so we had to struggle [through that adversity]. I think our guys did a good job. They struggled, but they gave good effort.”

On Quarterback Tommy McKee’s play today:
“I do not know if it was really pretty, but I thought it was very gutty. He really competed. In fact, when we took him out and put Brandon [Battle] in there, he was cramping. I think he started cramping up on that really bad punt right beforehand. I wanted to be sure that he was right before we put him back in. He was alright, so I decided to get him going again.”

On the problems that the Virginia defense posed for the W&M offense today:
“They have some good players on defense. They posed some problems for us today. They got off of blocks. We had some stalemates. I would have liked to have my full contingent of offensive linemen in there to be honest with you, though.”

On Chris Durant’s injury:
“I do not think it is a long term thing, and they [our medical team] do not think so either. It is not a season-ending kind of thing, or at least it is not right now. It is a knee injury, and he has a brace on it. It should be okay. Maybe not right away, but he should be alright.”

William & Mary Player Quotes

Junior Quarterback Tommy McKee:

On how his first start played out:
“Obviously, with the first start, you have those nerves going into the game. I felt like those nerves didn’t really overwhelm me, they were good nerves. I felt like we were going to be successful. When I went out there, the first couple drives, we started moving the ball. All game, we were proving ourselves that we can contend with this team. They are a good team, but overall, I felt like the offense executed the play call pretty well today.”

On increased number of quarterback runs in the second half:
“Before halftime, we were calling a lot of runs. We didn’t really find an identity on offense. In the second half was when we really started moving the ball and getting it downfield. That is basically what they were giving us. They have some great cover corners and they have some great schemes. They didn’t do exactly what we expected they would do on film, they switched up a little bit, which is understandable coming out with the first game. I just saw running lanes when they were there and they did a very good job in coverage. I just took my chances when I had them.”

On playing quarterback and punter in the same game:
“It was obviously tiring, using my legs as much as I did. A couple of those punts came off a little shaky. It is tough but I just do what the team asks of me. If I have to be punter and quarterback and returner, whatever they need, I’m going to do it without any complaints. I feel like there is definitely some room for improvement with punting, I will definitely focus on that in the upcoming week, maybe with the fatigue factor. But overall, you just have to do it.”

Senior Defensive Tackle Isaiah Stephens:

On the defense’s first performance of the season:
“I feel like we held out really well. There is obviously some stuff we have to work on. I was just talking to some of the guys, to just have this feeling that we have right now and take that with us. There is always stuff we can learn from the film. There was some really good stuff, but obviously it was not good enough. I feel like we played as a defense really well. I feel like we ran to the ball, we attacked, we wanted to stop the run, and we did that for the most part. But there is definitely some stuff we have to work on.”

On finishing as a defense:
“There is some stuff we have to fix on rushing angles and length. I feel like we were able to get back in the pocket but Benkert is an athletic quarterback and he was able to make some plays with his feet. Overall, we just have to get back into the backfield better.

On being satisfied with the run defense:
“Me personally, I’m never satisfied. It is an improvement from what it was last year. They got a couple of big runs on us and if we can cut that out, and get after the quarterback and get some sacks, that would make the rush defense go even better. But we just have to get back there and finish.”

Print Friendly Version