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Sept. 9, 2017

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Virginia vs. Indiana
Sept. 9, 2017

Virginia Head Coach Bronco Mendenhall

Opening statement:
“I thought Indiana was more opportunistic in the short fields they had in relation to the short fields we had. In the beginning of the game they were struggling to get across the 50. We didn’t have as many points come out of that as necessary. Then there were moments of the game when it shifted and we were defending short fields and they capitalized at a higher level. I was very disappointed in the punt return. That was a critical moment in the game and they executed that really well. So, their punting game and their taking advantage of short field today was the difference. Our plan and our defense of their starting quarterback was exceptional. They scored 14 points until we adjusted to their next quarterback that came in. But ultimately, the opportunistic nature of field position and scoring was the difference.”

On defensive and offensive effort
“There were a lot of good things done defensively today, but you can’t predict the trajectory when it takes three phases of the game to play complementary football. If one side stops and there is field position added, then the next part of the team has to capitalize on that. That leads to the best way to play complementary football, which then turns into the outcome that we want.”

On the first few offensive drives
“It was a slow start, that was evident. It was also a little bit streaky. There were patches where it looked rhythmic, efficient and poised but it was certainly a slow and inconsistent start. There was some momentum at different stretches, but really just not consistent enough. The run game is still something we are working on. Our efficiency in running the football is shifting pressure to the throw game. Then there was a shift when we were behind, but still within reach. There was nothing to me that caused panic until the punt return. I was anxious, optimistic and ready to keep playing football in terms of being within striking distance.”

On early 3-0 lead
“It’s really just about the opportunistic nature. When Indiana had their chances, they executed cleaner than we did. We had some opportunities slip away and they capitalized on more of theirs. And they created some more, with the punt return in particular.”

On Kurt Benkert’s passing
“I think what’s happening now is that our passing game is taking the place of some more productive runs. We are still discovering where our protection is and working on developing the routes to where we are open enough to have catches downfield. The throw game is taking place of medium to long runs and run game is not productive enough. When we don’t hit passes over the top enough, the defense just keeps sitting on the intermediate routes. Eventually we will make them pay for that and have more opportunities. There were a number of shots today in terms of balls downfield, but we have to connect more on those to have the type of offence and scoring production that we’d like.”

On adjusting to new quarterback Peyton Ramsey
“It was just a change of tempo. They had zero success at running the football, and he [Peyton Ramsey] came in. Quarterback runs take a little bit more of involving your secondary. We played a zone one time and then he scrambled for a touchdown, and so we realized right then that pressure, in addition to coverage, was going to be the answer. Then the number of stats started to go up and he became more ineffective, so I think we adjusted well. We just hadn’t seen him much. With the productivity of their starter against Ohio State, the thought that we had to prepare for number two in the second quarter means that we were playing really good defense.”

Virginia Player Quotes

Senior Wide Receiver Doni Dowling

On the decision to wear the number five:
“Tim (Harris) is a lifetime friend. To see him not be able to play this season made me want to pay tribute to him. I owe him some success in my career from being competitive with him growing up in football and basketball and baseball. I felt like it was something that I should do. I talked to him the night he hurt himself and he wanted me to do so.”

On what was off offensively:
“We just didn’t make as many plays as them. We had short yardage down the field and we didn’t convert off the interception. As receivers we need to make bigger and better plays. We are capable of more.”

On the issue with the long passes:
“The corners were pretty gritty. There were a lot of holds in there and the refs can’t call all of them. We just have to find a way to be more physical and make the plays. We have to make the most of our opportunities when we get them and we have to get in there on Monday and keep grinding and attack the ball more. “

Junior Wide Receiver Olamide Zaccheaus

On being better in the second half:
“We didn’t seize our opportunities or take advantage of the field position. I’m not sure how many times we had the ball on the plus 40, but we scored three points and we had the field position advantage, and when we’re in the red zone we have to score touchdowns. There was one play where I could have scored but I had a defender on my ankle and that’s a four-point tackle and we just can’t have things like that.”

On the three and outs in the game:
“Execution was a huge thing. We have to do better on third downs and first downs, that puts us behind the chains. It’s all a chain reaction when we have field position. We have to take better advantage of that.”

Senior Linebacker Micah Kiser:

On making adjustments to the change in quarterback:
“They made adjustments and I think we made good adjustments when No. 3 came in. We hadn’t really prepared for him being in that much, so we had to switch our game plan a little to adjust for him. I think overall we played pretty well on defense.”

On being amped up on third downs:
“You just have to make a play. I think as a whole our defense has been doing a much better job making plays. Juan Thornhill has been doing amazing these last few games, with an interception today. We put our offense in good field position that first half and then it kind of switched. Special teams put defense in a few shady positions, but we held them to field goals and I think we played pretty tough. Overall it was a step in the right direction. We are definitely better than last year.”

Sophomore Inside Linebacker Jordan Mack

On when they felt adjusted to Indiana’s new quarterback:
“Their quarterback did a good job of creating plays, so the second half we came out, adjusted, saw who was in, took a deep breath and played him the right way.”

On Micah Kiser’s performance:
“It’s come to a point where we expect that of Micah, and he always comes through and he plays very hard and very well and I was very proud of him.”

On the outcome of the game:
“You’re never too proud of a loss, but we’ll just let it soak and then move on and get ready to play next week. As a defense there were some bright spots but also some spots that we have to fix so it’s all about looking at the film and fixing them and coming back next week and playing harder.”

Senior Quarterback Kurt Benkert

On his struggle with the longer throws:
“I’ve got to do a better job of giving those guys a chance to go up and get it. They held a lot more and pressed a lot more and were a lot more physical on the outside than we expected or had really gotten a chance to see. It’s a good thing to see this early in the year and it’s something we’ll be able to go back on the film and see how we can adjust and make those competitive plays.”

On the weakness of Virginia’s running game against Indiana’s defense:
“I didn’t think it would be that difficult. We have to do a better job on early downs to get us into third and manageable. That’s really what the game came down to. We weren’t as efficient at moving the ball early on and it affected us later in the game and later in drives. That starts with me. I have to complete the ball. I have to distribute it to the right guys and we’ll make improvements.”

On the game plan to deliberately hold the ball longer to keep it out of Indiana’s hands:
“I think that’s the tough thing you face when you play a team like that that moves so fast is you don’t want your defense out there as much as Ohio State’s was. You don’t want to do that to your defense; it’s hard enough. They played really well in the first half and our defense was really doing well but at the same time we have to find a way within those restraints to spark it and be efficient and play fast. We just have to have a little bit more of a sense of urgency even when we’re not in two-minute drill. So it’s something we’ll be working on and every day is a new challenge. It’s something new that we saw today.”

Junior Defensive Back Juan Thornhill

On his switch to cornerback for today’s game:
“I was pretty comfortable out there. They just moved me to a new position and it’s not really a new position – I played there last year so I knew most of the stuff that was going on. We studied the film on the guys. We knew mostly what they were going to do, so I was pretty comfortable out there. I just gave up one play and I really can’t take that back, but I wish I could.”

Indiana Head Coach Tom Allen Quotes

Opening Statement:
“I am just really proud of our football team. I am proud of our coaching staff to go on the road after such an emotional game last week. It was really a challenge for our guys and they responded. I felt good about our preparation, but you really don’t know until you get in the moment. I am just so proud of our staff and the unselfish nature that this group has. We made mistakes and we’ll learn from those.

“Huge win for our program to go on the road and beat an ACC opponent at their place. It is pretty special. Wins are hard and road wins are even harder. My first official win as a college head coach. The game goes to my dad. He had open-heart surgery on Tuesday. He is my hero and I would not be here if it was not for him. He deserved this one and I love him dearly.”

On decision to go with Peyton Ramsey:
“He was supposed to play. Just like last week, we were going to play him for a certain number of downs. He was moving the team, so we just said roll with it. This program does not care who gets the credit; it is not about one guy. I saw Richard Lagow cheer on his teammates the entire time.”

J-Shun Harris injury and his role in the game:
“It does your heart good to see a kid like that be able to come back. There is not a coach on our team that would not say he is one of the finest young men that we’ve got. We want to see him succeed in life and on the field.”

On targeting call:
“Life’s not fair sometimes. I’m not going to sit here and debate the call. They made the call. We have to deal with it. We have to respond. Our kids did. Sometimes you hate to see those things happen, but it can be the best thing to ever happen because they teach you how to be a mentally tough football team.

On who will start next week:
“Richard’s the starter. We’ve got two quarterbacks – that is a great thing. One throws really well, one can run a little bit and throw too. Bottom line is you have to compete.”

On Morgan Ellison:
“He is a freshman that I said during fall camp was one of those surprises and I really saw something in him. He has a lateral quickness, jump cut, and a burst vertically that you cannot teach and he is strong. So I am really excited about him. I think he is going to be pretty special. Obviously his first real big time road game isn’t easy, so I am really proud of him.”

Indiana Player Quotes

Redshirt Senior Kicker Griffin Oakes:

On what was going through his mind on his record-breaking field goal:
“I will be honest, I will tell you the same things that I told the snap and hold guys, I felt very calm. We have trained for this. We have put in hours. It is something that we have done over and over again during camp and the offseason. I felt more nervous for the two PATs to start the game than I did for that kick. Taking my steps, I knew I had it. I promise you that.”

On the feeling of relief after hitting the field goal:
“It was just a huge sigh of relief. The worry about the whole record thing was off my shoulders. Everything just kind of went away. It was a chance for all of us to smile and be happy and take in all the effort we have done throughout the whole offseason.”

Freshman Quarterback Peyton Ramsey:

The thoughts going into today on playing time:
“I go out every week at practice like I am going to be the starter. Rich is obviously the starter, but we battle every day. We make each other better every day. We just have fun out there. Maybe I did not know I was going to get that many snaps, but I competed and practiced every day like I was going to.”

On starting 11-for-11:
“The game really just slowed down for me, and I just had fun. That is really what it came down to.”

On his rushing touchdown:
“We talked about that. Just go through your progressions and if it is not there, then take care of the ball and go make plays. That is what I am the best at doing, so I tried to do that out there.”

On what Richard Lagow was like on the bench:
“Rich and I have an awesome relationship. He was really helpful on the bench with me talking about what he was seeing and what I was seeing. He was just trying to help me through it.”

Junior Safety Jonathan Crawford:

On if there was a change in attitude or practice to get more takeaways:
“Takeaways are always the goal. When we do not get them, it is unfortunate, but that is always the motto – takeaways, takeaways, takeaways.”

On how frustrating it is playing against a Virginia offense that throws a lot of passes in the flat:
“The whole game they were nickel-and-diming us, so towards the end of the game coach told me to be more aggressive. It was frustrating knowing that you can not be fully aggressive out there.”

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