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Sept. 16, 2017

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Virginia vs. UConn
Sept. 16, 2017

Virginia Head Coach Bronco Mendenhall

Opening statement:
“I was encouraged by the win today. I was encouraged by the way our team played for the majority of the game. I think our quarterback had a very strong day, not only in accuracy and completion percentage, but on the downfield throws which we had talked about from a week ago. Offensive front played their most complete game in terms of protection and targeting that allowed a more successful ground game and probably the most complete game offensively, at least in our short time here at UVA. I think the team played better today than it played last week and I think last week the team played better than the week before. So we are still improving, there are areas to address, however, the momentum that it generates and the start to the season is always helpful. So as we go forward, significant step forward offensively. I think defensively they played really well in critical moments for about three quarters and then really had to learn what it’s like to play when you’re that far ahead in terms of mindset and when there are some substitutions, things like that. So special teams wise, man hard to remember, other than the long kick return that worked its way in there somewhere. I don’t remember much else in terms of making comment there, which probably means it was fairly steady. So, I’ll take questions.”

On Olamide Zaccheaus’ performance
“Yeah, probably the closest we’ve come yet to putting him in the right places and doing the things he is capable of so far in our tenure here at UVA. He’s versatile and he is becoming reliable and there’s a lot of different things he can do. Seems like we’re just starting to add some consistency and production to that, which is going to be helpful to us.”

On offensive performance
“Anytime the defense, if there is a matchup in our favor and they became more aggressive in playing man and man free coverage and when that happens you just simply look at the matchups and some of those were in our favor. It’s one thing to recognize the matchups and it’s another thing to execute and put the ball where it needs to be, which Kurt Benkert did. And so, again, our offense was multiple, it was hard to defend and pretty complete and so eventually we just became better at identifying where the matchups where and Kurt and the receivers took advantage of that.”

On Kurt Benkert’s performance
“I saw a similar week of practice as to what I’ve seen for really throughout his time this season and through spring practice and through fall camp. I think all that’s happening is there’s just certain thresholds that are hit through cumulative repetition at the right standard and then sometimes that breaks through versus an opponent. And then there could be another area that needs to be diagnosed and improved on, but his best game I believe today, but he’s consistent in practice. There wasn’t anything going into the week or through the week that was like ‘oh wait till we see him play Saturday,’ it was just a normal week for him.”

On key defensive fourth down stops
“One of the things we targeted from a week ago was, if there happens to be a short field defensively, then play well. And we did that right from the beginning, as well as the fourth down stops, as well as the 2-point conversion stops. There might have been three of those, or two, I don’t know how many. So critical moment play was pretty strong defensively, lacked consistency in the 4th quarter especially.”

On offensive line play
“They just seemed to be a little bit more consistent, a little bit more cohesive and a little bit more productive. And so we started to see that at the end of last week and I think it just continued on this week. So, I think it’s been a good step forward so far.”

On the team’s confidence
“Confidence is earned. We work really hard in practice; we work really hard in our meetings, the program works really hard year round. And just to emphasize, we are still at the beginning of this process and we are still at the beginning of this program. But, it is so much fun for me to see the people in the program see the results on the field and be able to enjoy that.”

Virginia Player Quotes

Senior Tailback Daniel Hamm

On realizing he had scored a touchdown in all five seasons at UVA:
“I had absolutely no idea. It’s always a goal to score touchdowns, but until it was brought to my attention I had no knowledge of the record.”

On getting into the rhythm offensively:
“It felt great. It almost seems like nothing can go wrong, and we’re all out there just having fun. That’s what it is all about. We have been playing this game ever since we were five and six years old, so having fun is the name of the game. Being able to do that and produce offensively is huge.”

On playing with a lead:
“We just continue to try and put points on the board. My mom and a lot of moms on this team always tell us to play to win, you don’t play not to lose. We continue to put up points whether we’re up or down, and that’s what we aim to do. “

Senior Quarterback Kurt Benkert

On how frustrating last week’s performance was:
“It was frustrating. I felt like we had so much more out there that we didn’t take advantage of, and that starts with me giving those guys chances on the deep balls. If I’m not sharp on the deep balls, then I have to be perfect underneath. Today was about starting on the first play, starting fast and carrying it through the game.”

On the rushing yards helping open things up:
“It helps a lot. When I know we are running the ball well on first and second down, third is really easy to get converted.”

On making more aggressive plays:
“I was playing more aggressively and I think my team needs that. They need me to be the guy that they can look to, that when it’s time to get the third down I’m going to get the third down or the first down. I know that is something that I have to play with.”

Sophomore Defensive Tackle Eli Hanback

On adjustments after Andrew Brown went down:
“We had to make a few adjustments. I don’t think we made any real scheme adjustments. We made the same plays. We just had to play more guys. For me personally, I had to play a lot more nickel.”

When the team goes for the fourth down:
You just have to suck it up and stop them. I think today we did a really good job stopping them on the fourth down.”

On things to work on in the second half:
“We had some assignment mess-ups and they had a trick play coming out of the half. You have to be more aware of stuff like that. I think we played really well and really hard throughout the whole game.”

Junior Tailback Jordan Ellis

On recognizing that the running game needed to improve:
“It works together, the run game helps out the pass game and the pass game helps the run game. If one is lacking, that brings the whole offense down. Getting the run game going really helped our offense out today. We try to stay efficient and get four or five yards on a first down because that keeps us ahead of the chains, and we did that today.”

Senior Wide Receiver Doni Dowling

On the play of the wide receivers:
“Our coaches told us just play, sell out and be physical. We trust Kurt [Benkert] to put the ball where it’s supposed to be and he trusts us to be where we’re supposed to be.”

On his reception off a deflection:
“Everything isn’t going to be perfect when it’s dialed up, but when the ball is in the air it’s my job to go get it. He [the defensive back] was actually in good coverage. He knew it was going to be a slant, but I played it [the ball] longer than he did.”

On if this is Kurt Benkert’s best performance:
“No, he’s capable of more. There’s a touchdown we left out there. We had some plays we didn’t connect on. It’s not perfect. We definitely can play better. We can have 100-200 yards. I believe it.”

Junior Wide Receiver Olamide Zaccheaus

On the play of the offense
“It’s good for us. It boosts our confidence even more. I was telling Kurt this is what we should have been doing the whole time. If we came out last week like we did this week, we would be 3-0.”

On his long touchdown reception:
“It just shows how much work we put in during the offseason. Even though he [Kurt] gave me a signal, I already knew what I needed to do. The defender was inside. I just ran past him.”

On having three receivers over 100 yards receiving:
“We all put in a lot of work this offseason. That’s what I keep saying, but we put in a lot of work, and it’s just starting to pay off. We just got to keep going.”

Redshirt Freshman Defensive Back Brenton Nelson

On his interception:
“In practice we have been doing a lot of smash routes and we have been told to play outside leverage. I played outside leverage and then the pick came.”

On the red zone stops:
“We’ve learned a lot about ‘complementary football.’ That’s where your defense gets a stop, the special teams does their thing and the offense they score. It has been preached to us a lot recently. It helps [the team] a lot.”

Senior Linebacker Micah Kiser

On getting early defensive stops:
“They were moving the ball. They just couldn’t capitalize in the red zone and we did. That proved to be big because they couldn’t stop our offense. It gave us momentum and got the offense going.”

On the offense’s long drives:
“It was awesome. It seemed like every drive we had was a 12-play drive, a 10-play drive, so we were well rested. I was saying to coach [Shane] Hunter, the linebackers’ coach, it feels like we haven’t played in three hours. Great job by them.”

On the team’s development:
“We’re still getting there, getting there. Like I always tell people, for coach [Bronco] Mendenhall this isn’t a one-year turnaround. This is building the program, building a culture, getting the right guys in, and slowly but surely we’re starting to bite away at that. The season is long from over, but hopefully we can keep riding momentum.”

UConn Head Coach Randy Edsall

Opening Statement
“It is one of those situations where early in the game some issues that haunted us in the first game – not being able to get off the field on third down, something kept drives going in the first half there and couldn’t make a play. Then offensively we moved the ball and we get down inside the red zone, turn the ball over, and you can’t do that. We’re not a good enough football team to do those things and not take advantage of all the opportunities that we have. And then when we had some other opportunities to make it on fourth down, we put ourselves in situations on third down where we take a loss and then it makes it tougher on fourth down. It’s just of those things that we’re going to have to work through and continue to get better and keep stressing all of the little things that you have to do in order to be able to win and most especially to be able to go on the road and win here against an ACC opponent.”

On first turnover:
“There was some miscommunication. The other thing we’ve got to do is put a little air under the ball because we had a guy there. And again it gets back to those technical things and fundamentals. We put a little air under the ball and that’s probably a touchdown. Then that play doesn’t even mean anything. It’s one of those situations where when you feel it, throw it away, live another down. So these are the things that we just have to keep working with as a coach and hopefully as they get it they understand it, they understand situations. In certain situations, throwing the ball away could be a good thing. So those are some of the growing pains that we’re experiencing right now.”

On defensive mistakes over past two games:
“The communication’s not good. There are some young guys back there in the secondary. I’ve got to find a way to get them to have a little bit more confidence. That’s one thing. If you’re a DB you got to think you’re pretty good. You got to play with a little bit of swagger. Having coached that position for many years, you can’t play timid back there. You can’t play scared, but you’ve got to be technically sound. Some of those things aren’t happening. We learned a little bit more about our guys today. There are some things that I think schematically we’ll do to help ourselves and to help them, but the lack of communication, the miscommunication that takes place will lead to those plays. That’s the stuff that’s got to stop. It’s my job as a head coach to get those things straightened out and to get those guys to understand. As I told them at halftime, I think there are some guys back there playing on their heels. You can’t play on your heels back there. “

On game plan to have Sherriffs run as much as he did in the first half:
“That’s part of our offense. We call certain things and depending on what a defense will do, that’s what he did. So basically he was doing his job and executing what we needed to have done. The one thing that I thought you guys would have brought up by now, I thought Ryan Van Demark did a pretty good job in there as a right tackle for a freshman. There are a lot of guys that are young guys that are playing but again that’s part of my responsibility as a head coach to figure out who the guys are that are the best guys and then we have to play them.”

On whether it was predetermined if Ryan Van Demark would play that much:
“We were going to have him play every third series, and I would say that he’s earned his way to play more. Kevin’s got some burst to him. And that’s something that we need. We got to try to find those guys that can make those plays. There were good things that happened out there but as I told the team afterwards, we’re way too inconsistent. You can’t be that way. It starts in the meeting rooms, and it starts on practice fields. And know they’re going to see all of these things that we continue to talk about. There are things we did better than the first game and there are things we didn’t do so well. So that’s the type of thing we’ve got to get corrected and now we’re going to be into it each and every week and get into a routine.”

On how the first half ended:
“You can’t give up big plays, and we gave up way too many big plays today. You cannot get the ball across the 50 and not take advantage of either scoring touchdowns or if the game is in hand then you got a chance to kick a field goal and keep things there. But we were never able to do that.”

UConn Player Quotes

Redshirt Senior Quarterback Bryant Shirreffs:

On how the offense played today:
“There is obviously a bad taste in all of our mouths after missing some of those opportunities. If we want to be a good team, we have to make those. I put that on myself. I had two turnovers that were at critical points in the game and that led to a momentum swing that we couldn’t really recover from. We have to get back and get better, I have to get better. But I am proud of how we responded in the second half and I think overall, offensively, we did a lot of good things and that we need to take the positives out of the game and then correct the negatives and keep moving on. After we correct this game, it is on to another one and we just need to get better.”

On positive takeaways for the offense:
“If I am not mistaken, I know we went for it on fourth down a couple of times but we only punted one time. I don’t know if I have ever been a part of a team that did that. But moving the ball doesn’t matter unless we put points on the board. We need to finish in the red zone, something we did a good job of in the first game, but those two turnovers, you look at them and those are big in the game and you can’t go back and change them. We have to recognize them and when plays are there to be made, you have to take advantage of them.”

On how the younger players played today:
“They played really well. To see those guys step up to the occasion and make a couple of big plays. I am really proud of the offensive linemen. They did a good job. I can only imagine, I have never played offensive line but a few years, especially in this part of our lives, that is a lot of maturity and a very big difference. There is a big difference between 22- and 23-year-old and 18-year-olds. So hats off to them, I remember just being star struck when I was 18 and looking at some of the 22-year-olds and 23-year-olds. I thought they handled themselves really well and I am very proud of them.”

Junior Running Back Hergy Mayala:

On what happened on first quarter interception:
“It was just a miscommunication. [Quarterback Bryant Shirreffs] thought I was going to be somewhere else than where I was so we take the bad plays, we learn from them, and we move on.”

On how the offense will grow from this loss:
“We just have to learn from it and get ready for next week. When we get those chances in the red zone, we just have to execute it next week.”

On the trick play that ended in a 60-yard touchdown reception:
“We just set it up the whole game and whenever we get a chance to throw it, we throw it, and thank God it worked.”

On what to learn from this week:
“Definitely to start fast. We cannot get in the red zone and not come out without points. That is just how you lose a game. So next week and in practice, we just have to emphasize that and be ready for next weekend. Whenever we get in the red zone, we just have to score.”

On how the offense played overall:
“I know that we can move the ball and we can score whenever we want. We just have to make sure that every play, we bring the same intensity. Sometimes we go up and we get a nice win and so we come back slow. If we can just keep that same energy the whole time, then we’ll be good.”

On how younger teammates played:
“The more people we get to participate in the offense we have, the better it is. These guys are stepping up and taking all of the chances that they get.”

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