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Oct. 7, 2017

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Virginia vs. Duke
Oct. 7, 2017

UVA Head Coach Bronco Mendenhall

Opening statement:
“Our team played hard today and they played with resiliency and determination and toughness and grit. And it was a challenging game, but we knew it would be. And we knew there’d be ups and downs and we knew there’d be lead changes and we knew that their defense would be disruptive and cause some problems. Fortunately we matched the disruption, if not exceeded that defensively and that really described the first half. And then the second half became who could consistently get a first down, who can capture momentum, who can hold and maintain field position. And just when I think we’ve done that, then we get the kick return. So nothing’s easy, but that’s where our program is and that’s what we’re battling through. And I was proud of our players for the resiliency they showed and have shown and it’s fun to see them smile, it’s fun to see them happy, it’s fun to see them exhausted but also have the tangible outcome that they can look to justify and to continue the momentum they are generating. And it’s really fun to see.”

On defensive transitions and fatigue:
“We had quite a few players that I just don’t think they can play longer or harder. They were just reaching that threshold. And when you talk pass play after pass play, especially when they are starting to complete them when there isn’t much chance to recover, and get another great pass rush. And we have two young pass rushers right now as first years, [Elliot Brown] and [Charles Snowden] are doing a nice job. And a capable and committed and assignment sound first year that’s fresh and can go in in a situation like that, you don’t just put anyone out there. There was a lot at stake there, and he not only did what he was supposed to do, but then actually made a play as well in that situation, it’s really cool.”

On team growth under Mendenhall:
“(Through the first five games), Where it is speaks, that we are building resiliency, we are building maturity, we’re building people, but we’re also building a consistent or capable football program and it’s starting to show. Again, I’m framing this, we’re just at the beginning, we’re just starting. But it is showing and I think that’s noticeable to most but from my metrics it’s showing and the mindset on the sideline as I’m watching our players’ body language, there’s just a resolve of ‘Oh that just happened, next play.” And there aren’t these wild and emotional way ups and way downs. There’s just work to be performed. Then at the end of all the work when the game’s over, then we can kind of look and they get to explode in the locker room, they still are. And that’s fun.”

On Doni Dowling’s touchdown penalty:
“I didn’t see it. I was just asked a second ago before I came in here. I did not see it. And Doni already, right when the team came in, he already addressed the team. And lesson learned and we’ll move forward. One of the things that I love most about teaching through football and coaching is the lessons of accountability, where this action equals and affects other people. And there wasn’t that much that had to be said; it played out in front over everyone. And that’s one of the cool things, if a coach and a program’s intention about promoting accountability and team before self, then you get those moments that hopefully are life changing for not only one young man but maybe a group of young men as a team.”

Virginia Player Quotes

Sophomore Inside Linebacker Jordan Mack

On how 4-1 feels:
“Great. It feels great, it’s fantastic and that’s pretty much it.”

On what it says about the group to win a game this close:
“It says we are resilient. We are close knit and no matter what the game is, or the situation, we are just going to have each others backs and work together.”

On holding Duke to two touchdowns:
“We just took pride in it. We knew what they were capable of coming into the game and we took pride in stopping it and we did a good job of that.”

Junior Halfback Olamide Zaccheaus

On getting the offense going again in the second half:
“The bye week helped to get rested. We just got in our rhythm and we were pretty efficient on the second and third down, which was important.”

On his touchdown catch:
“It wasn’t supposed to go to me, but it worked out that way. It was a lane and I took advantage of it.”

On what they did better in the second half:
“Just managing the game and converting. We kept the ball moving in the right direction and there were a lot of penalties in the first half, but we cut that out and we went back to playing the football that we know we can play.”

Senior Quarterback Kurt Benkert

On changes from last year:
“I think it is great that we are taking steps from last year. Today we were able to overcome early adversity and I think that shows what this team is capable of.”

On what is says about the team to win another game by one touchdown:
“This is more enjoyable than the big ones sometimes. To be able to pull one out against a tough defense is huge.”

On the switch in style minimizing Duke’s rush:
“I think it helps a lot when we get the ball that quick. It wears them down and they can’t keep it up for four quarters. Getting the ball out quick kind of eliminates the pass rush.”

On how quickly you have to shake off throwing a pick six:
“It’s definitely easier this year than it was last year. Just being more mature and growing has helped a lot. We had a lot of game left to play, and the game was still pretty close at that point so I had to keep going.”

Virginia Player Quotes

Senior Wide Receiver Doni Dowling

On his somersault:
“I thought I’d seen it somewhere. Maybe that was the NFL. That was selfish, but I hope that’s a message to the ACC that we’re here. I wish I could take it back just so the score couldn’t be that close, but I can’t.”

On his emotions after being flagged for his flip in the end zone:
“It went from a little anxiety to a lot of anxiety. I felt guilty with the score being so close. Then, once we got in that [victory] formation and were able to take a knee, I was overcome by emotions. I’m just proud to be on this team, on and off the field. Everyone has each other’s back; they definitely had my back.”

Senior Linebacker Micah Kiser

On the play of defense:
“We made timely stops, and that’s how we won it. We always say we’re going to be a defensive football team. Coach Mendenhall is a defensive coach. Holding an ACC opponent to 250 yards, that’s awesome on defense.”

On UVA’s record:
“It’s good, but I’ve been on a team that was 4-2 but didn’t go to a bowl game, so it doesn’t mean anything. But we want to keep going at it, taking each game as it comes, and hey, whatever happens, happens.”

Senior Defensive Back Quin Blanding

On when he knew if he was going to score after his interception:
“As soon as I caught it. I knew I was going to score as soon as I caught the ball. That’s my mindset now. When I catch the ball, I score.”

On how the defense was able to confuse Duke quarterback, Daniel Jones:
“That’s just our defense. I can’t give away too many secrets. That’s just how we play. That’s just the wonderful defense that we built.”

On how the team is starting to turn things around:
“That’s the main reason I came back. I trust the process, and we’re just going to keep building from here. It’s amazing to see it work. We’ve been trusting it since last year.”

Duke Coach Quotes

Opening Statement:
“I think had we played as well as we can play, and that is my job, we could have had a different outcome, but we did not. The story was pretty simple. We have issues in the passing game. It has somewhat disappeared. When we are open, we are missing them. When we hit them, there are some dropped. It is just malfunctioning. I cannot give you an answer [right now], but it is obviously something we need to start finding – answers. The most disappointing thing is that we got whooped so badly in the second half as a team. I know, as I said, the score did not dictate that, but on third downs, they are 7-for-11, and we are oh-for. They certainly ran the ball better, and we did not – at all. There are a lot of issues that we need to address.”

On what is not clicking right now for quarterback Daniel Jones:
“I do not think he is throwing it extremely consistently, and you have got to have that – all the rhythm, all the timing. It has got to be there. The biggest thing in the first half was when you force a couple of balls, you get not only the bad result in the passing game, but you put yourselves in a position where they score. You throw a pick-six. You have got to look at every aspect of what we are doing to make sure that we are putting him in the best positions to be successful, and then we have got to make sure, as I study him, that we find the reasons for the inconsistency on the throws he is making. We will find those reasons. But obviously, we are out of sync, not just him, across the board, and when the confidence goes, the ability of a team to be in sync is going to be one of the first things to go.”

On what he sees in the passing game:
“I do not think we are doing anything very good in the passing game. That would include everybody, starting with me.”

On the pass protection today:
“I thought we had a good plan going in, and I thought it was better. We still had some hurried throws that should not have been there. We had a miss or two of an assignment. Communication is so critical in pass protection, and is something we have got to continue to grow in, whether it is quarterback, whether it is linemen, whether it is backs. There is just so much to it, so it is a lot of times not just the sacks.”

On the injury to Gabe Brandner:
“I just know that it is a leg injury, and that it is muscle, which is better than ligament damage. It was bad enough that they told me quickly that he was not coming back in this game, so we will see.”

On how to stop teams from scoring with the last possession of the first half:
“Have the ball, first of all, and have us be the last ones to score. You think about the opportunity we had to do that today. When we defer and we know we are getting the ball first in the second half, we have to do something. I’m not talking about the possession when we ran one play and then did not snap it; I am talking about the one before. We had an opportunity, and we did nothing with it. So what you do is put a tired defense back on the field late in the half, and you never want to do that. It is a team responsibility.”

On the defense giving the team a chance to win recently and the offense not performing:
“It is always going to look that way. We are a team. There is a defensive unit. There is an offensive unit. When one is not playing exceptionally well, people want to start looking and pointing. I do not think we have that on our team. We are human. That is something that I address all the time. When you lose a game 3-0, the mentality that you need of your team is that that is the defense’s opportunity to have won the game. When you lose 56-58 then, to me, flip it over; the offense had the opportunity to win the game. It was their day to be hot. Right now, we have issues. We are a team that needs to play well in all three [facets of the game – offense, defense, and special teams] and have a great plan, and execute the plan. We have got to get to that.”

Duke Player Quotes

Junior Safety Jeremy McDuffie

On how the locker room feels after second consecutive loss:
“We can’t be concerned. Right now, we need to get back to work and get back to Durham and get back at it. We need to fix the little mistakes that we are making, come back and just go from there.”

On how the defense played today:
“Today, we played well as a defense. We played aggressively. A couple times they played a little more aggressively than us, and a couple times we had some calls on us that extended their drives. Overall, we fought as hard as we could and kept it close to the end.”

On his first quarter pick-six:
“Just reading the offense, I dropped back into the flats and saw the running back drop out. I knew the quarterback would try to dip it off to him and I just jumped it.”

Redshirt-Sophomore Quarterback Daniel Jones

On play today:
“I think it comes down to us, and us being able to execute. It shouldn’t be about the defense, and that is not to say that I don’t give them credit, but we have got to do a better job of executing.”

On how the long ball fared today:
“We missed a lot of those. I didn’t do a great job of giving them a chance every time and that is my responsibility. You can give credit to Virginia and their defensive backs staying on top, but we definitely missed some opportunities.”

On his two first quarter interceptions:
“They are both forces. We have to get on the same page there. We are going to work on that a little this week.”

On running success late in the first half:
“Most of those weren’t designed quarterback runs, they were scrambles. That is more of a feel thing, so it is not as much us getting away from anything as it is just feeling that opportunity in the pocket.”

On Kurt Benkert’s passing:
“I think there are a couple things that happened. The way Duke was playing was very aggressive and we knew that. And even when preparing for it, I think it was faster and a little more aggressive and a little better than what we even anticipated. But then the end game coaching is something that my staff is becoming more skilled at in terms of putting the right people in the right spot at the right time and adjusting as things go. And so I think what you saw in the second half is just under these circumstances with that score against that team, we changed our approach and that seemed to at least capture some momentum, built a little bit more consistency, and look more rhythmic and more like football.”

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