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Nov. 4, 2017

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Virginia vs. Georgia Tech
Nov. 4, 2017

UVA Head Coach Bronco Mendenhall

Opening statement:
“Really, really, really happy for my team and really proud of them. They fought hard and they played hard today from the very beginning to the end. They supported each other, they played complementary football, and they decided that they wanted to be different and play different than they had the last two weeks. There was plenty of chances for it to go any direction, this game, and they just kept coming back. I’m so happy for them. Really appreciative of the work they put in and the trust they’ve placed in me to believe that we could be a post-season team and beyond. It’s gratifying to see them happy, it’s really gratifying. Just right off the bat [Joe Reed] was a huge influence on the game, [Lester Coleman] was a huge influence on the game from the special teams standpoint. We overcame a blocked punt. Kurt Benkert down the stretch was exceptional and the throws he was making and the connections we were making on the big plays, which we’ve been struggling with, I might be happiest for him. Really liked the resiliency of our team and what they earned today in terms of a chance too keep playing.

On the importance of a comeback win:
“It’s exhausting is what it is, and I think maybe that makes it more satisfying just because I don’t know what else you can give, you know, there’s no more. At least not today. And that’s when you give everything that you have as a coach or a player and it works in your favor. Yeah, it’s a good feeling.”

On the ups and downs of Kurt Benkert‘s passing:
“It’s crazy. Literally for it to look like that and then look like that. I think the rain and the weather had something to do with it, but I won’t remember anything other than the end to be honest. And I’m not sure anyone should. Those kind of comebacks, they don’t happen very often. And I don’t get to be part of things like that and so there’s a lot we can improve, but we also made enough plays to win the game.”

On talking about being bowl eligible:
“It started on Monday, and it reached the point where it was so pervasive in terms of the pressure, that our team was placing on themselves, and it became so evident after the Pitt game that I had to do something different. And so we hit it almost everyday this week in the team meeting, including last night I addressed the team in the locker room. I can’t say that that’s the reason that anything was different, but something had to be done. I wasn’t saying that this win equals that, it’s just we already know that, but that’s the case so now what do we really have to do and where does our mind have to be and how do we need to perform and with what mindset. And they played exactly as I would have hoped today in terms of just, I think fearless. They just surrendered the outcome and went out and played, and that was pretty cool.”

On how he feels coaching Virginia to bowl eligibility:
“That’s hard to say. I’m not sure there’s anything that feels better than this right now. I love every team that I coach and these guys have tried really hard for a year and a half just to be noticed. A lot of times they don’t feel so much noticed that it’s just them and they have a special place in my heart and they have earned that and I’m lucky I can work with them.”

On connecting this win to past coaching experiences:
“I think the score is one thing and if what I was hoping to show meant people that won’t quit, that will support and believe in each other and try as hard as they can, then yeah I think this was pretty close. Again, there are all kinds of things that can be improved, but you have to kind of have it look like this first before it looks something else. Again, I think the bottom line is until you just surrender the outcome of what this might look like and just throw your whole heart and soul into every play, you don’t have a chance for it to look any different at the end in terms of the outcome. And I think that’s about as close as the night we have been a part of today, a group of guys just throwing their bodies around and really supporting and really wanting for each other to have success.”

Virginia Player Quotes

Senior Tailback Daniel Hamm

On fair catch:
“I don’t know who they caught it off of, maybe Bernie, but we put our hands up in the air just to signal that it was a short kick and just to get on our blocks, and they called it a fair catch.”

On getting a sixth win:
“I’ve been here as long as anybody on this team. The struggles that we’ve been throughââ’¬¦ it’s so rewarding just to get to that sixth win, just to be able to reach a milestone that I’ve yet to reach in my career here. To have it come on a time that I’m going out of the program, it’s very rewarding.”

On if anything felt different before this game:
“I was telling people all week that I felt great about today. I didn’t know what it was, but just all week I had a great feeling. I feel like people are more relaxed. I talked to Kurt before the game, he’s like “I don’t feel the same pressure as I have the past two games. I’m just ready to go out there and leave it all on the field.” These past two weeks have not been Virginia Football.”

On whether it was time for Joe [Reed] to break through:
“Definitely. We talk all the time like, “Joe, today’s the day.” It seems like every time we get a little closer, a little closer, and then when I saw him take off running, I just knew. I just started chasing, I was just like this is about to be a touchdown.”

Sophomore Inside Linebacker Jordan Mack

On making it happen for his older teammates:
“It means a lot. There are a lot of emotions going through that locker room, even for the guys who have been here. Coming from last year and all the work we put in this off season, you can’t describe it.”

On the safety:
“When I saw he fumbled it I tried to race and get a touchdown, but when he covered it I just tried to get him down in the end zone.”

On how they did in general:
“I think we did good. When we follow our assignments, our keys, you know one or two players got away from us, but I feel like we did a great job.”

Senior Quarterback Kurt Benkert

On final touchdown drive:
“It was beautiful. It was a lot of fun to be a part of. Just a lot of guys looking you in the eyes and knowing that you’re ready to go, and vice versa. Just truly believing that we could pull it off, because we’ve been on the opposite end of that way too many times since I’ve been here. Just to have that opportunity to come over the hump of six wins, I don’t think you could have put together a better storybook ending for that game.”

On what was said before that drive:
“Just look me in my eyes, know that I’m going to ride with you guys and you guys are going to ride with me. We’re going to make it happen. I think we have a good belief that its not over until there’s 00:00 on that clock.”

On getting sixth win and not having it over your heads:
“I think that’s going to help bring back a little more swagger back to this team. I think we know that we control our own destiny, and that we can really beat anybody on any given Saturday.”

Senior Wide Receiver Andre Levrone:

On a lot of drops second quarter and then it changed:
“The weather changed a little bit, but again that’s terrible on our behalf. We expect a lot more than that. We practiced in this stadium all of spring ball and it was raining the entire spring. Every practice we were here, it was raining. Slipping and dropping passes is not anything that’s acceptable. But definitely with the change of the weather, it helped.”

On whether this is the career highlight:
“It was one of my favorite games that I’ve ever played in my life. It came down to the wire. I feel blessed to be able to go out there and make some big plays for my team in clutch moments. But at the end of the day it’s just another game, it’s just another win. Our focus was to be 1-0 this week and that’s what we did. Regardless of if it’s four or 40 – it’s a W.”

On being here five years and working towards this:
“It feels great man, we’re going to a bowl game. I don’t know how to put the feelings into words right now. Being here five years and not being able to do that, it’s almost like being deprived of an experience. I’m so thankful for the things that Coach Mendenhall and his staff have instilled in our team in these past two years. It’s a true blessing to have them here and to have them be able to reinvigorate Virginia Football, and help each individual on this football team be a better football player and a better man. He gave a tremendous speech last night on just playing with confidence and that we’ve done so much together as a team. So much, that people will never understand how much we’ve done together in the off season and the winter.”

Junior Punter Lester Coleman:

On how he feels after the win:
“It’s super exciting, I would say. All of our hard work is paying off. I can’t say how excited I am and how much I love this team and our coaches. I’m excited for what the future holds, and next week.

On the sixth win of the season being the biggest win:
“You could say no, but absolutely getting that sixth win is huge. I mean now we can play free, we can play loose, but I would argue that we did that today. I think that was the difference-maker today. The past two games we were focused on getting that sixth win, whereas today we were focused on each play.”

On the difference between first and second half punting:
“I think this was one of the coolest days just because it’s easy to come out and have a great first half and then come out and have a great second half. It’s a lot harder to have not as great of a first half and come out and have a huge second half. So I think that was awesome as a punt unit.

Senior Right Tackle Brandon Pertile

On being bowl eligible:
“We’re going bowling! I tell you what, it feels great. It feels phenomenal. A lot of hard work went into this every week. It was so awesome. We had a two game lull and really got back into it. Coach Mendenhall did a great job preparing us physically and emotionally to come back like this and it was so fun. Smiles all around.”

On getting from the fifth win to the sixth:
“Yeah we kind of got together and talked and said, “Hey let’s forget about the win column and just go out there and play and have fun and do what we do best.” And that is exactly what we did.”

On his excitement for the younger players going to a bowl game:
“I really wanted them to know what it was like and now we’re going to find out what it’s like. Playing in December, going to a bowl game, being at the bowl site having fun and playing ball is so fun and it’s why we play the game. I wanted everyone to experience that on the team and encouraging everyone to keep going and keep fighting, I’m happy to have done that.”

Senior Middle Linebacker Micah Kiser

On how it felt to get the win:
“It means a lot for us. The guys in the class of 2013, we came here expecting to win early, we didn’t get it done. It was five long, hard years to finally get to a bowl game. We can control our destiny now. If we win out, our goal is to win the Coastal, but at the end of the day we’re finally going bowling.”

On how they mentally prepared for the week:
“You got to live in the moment. That’s what Coach Mendenhall was preaching all week. You can’t be outcome-driven, don’t think about the outcome because then you start to play with fear and you’re scared of things. We were just playing in the moment. We were down fifteen, we could have easily quit but we came back.”

On his outlook on the rest of the season after the win:
“I’m very happy right now, we got a big win, but like I said earlier, we control our own destiny. We can still win the Coastal. We have a big challenge ahead of us next week with Lamar Jackson and Louisville, and then we end with two huge Coastal games, so we’re going to take it game by game and prepare hard for Louisville next week.”

Senior Free Safety Quin Blanding

On how he feels after being bowl eligible as a veteran:
“It was emotional, all the hard work we’ve been doing each and every day. That’s one of the reasons why I came here, was to change this program. To finally see it changing is just an amazing thing.”

On reaching the six-win milestone:
“Coach Mendenhall came in and said he was proud of us and there is nothing more that we could have done. I think that there’s more, just for the simple fact that that’s what he trained in us and that’s how we work, that’s how we drive, that’s how our mindset is. That’s the bottom line, each week is like our last game no matter what. This is just another milestone for us. The only thing we can do is keep moving forward.”

Georgia Tech Head Coach Paul Johnson

Opening Statement
“Well, it’s disappointing. There is not a whole lot you can say about it. Give Virginia credit, they made plays when they had to make plays. We made way too many mistakes to win. Special teams were a killer. I am at a loss. You can’t work on it harder than we worked on it.”

On onside kick:
“It wasn’t an onside kick, they were leveraged outside the ying-yang. They had the guy already inside the numbers, so we were going to try and pooch it over the guy’s head. We worked on it all week, and I guess it’s never there if you can’t do it. And if you err on that, you have to kick it out of bounds. You have to kick it so that they get the ball on the 35-yard line, but with any kind of kick, we were going to get the ball and hopefully go up 14-3. But it is something that they worked on all week, our kickoff team, and our coaches saw it. I watched the first one and it was there, it was more than there, the guy was leveraged, but we just couldn’t do it right.”

On the momentum swings early in the second half:
“We scored on one play and then they threw the pick and we score on their second play. Then it was a killer; we let them drive down the field and score. We had a guy wide-open running down the boundary on the interception and our spacing wasn’t right. We had a guy on the over route and one guy was on the post, and he didn’t get far enough over there. Then [quarterback TaQuon] Marshall stared down the guy and the kid [Quin Blanding] came off and made a play. They were playing man to man and nobody took the guy in motion, it was kind of like what we thought it would be. We just didn’t execute it very well.”

On TaQuon Marshall’s performance today:
“We struggled to throw the ball. We struggled and it was wet, but on the second interception we had the guy beat and we just couldn’t get a grip on the ball to throw it. We didn’t hit many.”

On how Virginia handled the run game:
“Well, the nose tackle and the two linebackers were basically playing the B-Back and we just had a hard time getting the backside linebacker blocked. The bottom line, when their three could play that, it made it tough. We started running a little bit of mid-line and we couldn’t do it right enough. It is hard when you are making four and five yards at a pop and you can’t ever make any of the bigger plays.”

On the consistency of quarterback runs:
“Well, it’s frustrating and I’m sure that the kids are frustrated. They are running the safety across with the motion and there is nobody over there. When you pull on that counter play, you’ve got two blockers and their two defenders and the ball carrier. So if you get them blocked, there’s no one there because the cut back player is gone. He just ran across the field with the motion. We must have run the play six or seven times and we picked up some yardage, but we didn’t get it blocked very well.”

On Virginia punter Lester Coleman and field position:
“He had some big punts. In the fourth quarter we started on the one-yard line, and actually did a pretty good job to flip the field. We got the ball back out to the 40 and flipped the field, but then they kept us back down there. That last yard, the one that we scored to go up with three minutes, we started on the six or seven, if I’m not mistaken. We had a chance on that last drive, we had [wide receiver Ricky] Jeune open on second or third down, and then they sent two corner blitzes and we didn’t see either one.”

On injuries on the defensive side:
“Well any time you have good players out you miss them, but that is part of football and that is no excuse. We had our chances. We had our chances on offense to go down and score, and we had our chance on defense to stop them and we didn’t do it. We didn’t get it done.”

Georgia Tech Player Quotes

Senior Defensive Back Corey Griffin:

On what UVA did in the second half to affect Georgia Tech’s defense:
“It was more us. We weren’t getting up on them, we were having missed assignments. That was first quarter, second quarter, third quarter, first half, second half, so, it’s been all game.”

On missing players causing miscommunications:
“No, it just comes down to talking, and that’s something we didn’t do very well. Sometimes when we had checks across the board, we weren’t getting to the D-linemen, so they were still running one call and the back half was running another. So it just comes down to talking.”

On the confidence of the defense after losing close games:
“When you lose close ones, it’s definitely tough. You have to get over it and play the next play and move on to the next game. We’ve been able to do that very well in my opinion, but at the same time we have toââ’¬¦it’s kind of hard not to look back but at the same time we have to look forward.”

On losing so many close games:
“Yeah, I think about that all the time. The outcomes that we’ve had, they made more plays than we did at the end of the day. We go to Tennessee, lose by one point. Go to Miami, lose by one point. Come here, lose by four points. It’s not like teams are just absolutely blowing us out, they’re just making one more play than we are.”

On the team chemistry:
“The chemistry is not going anywhere. The guys, we know what we have and we know what we’re capable of. It’s just a matter of coming down and absolutely executing the game plan.”

Freshman Linebacker Bruce Jordan-Swilling:

On his interception:
“I just kicked out, broke on the ball, caught it, and ran it in for the touchdown”

On feeling comfortable out on the field:
“I think my coach put me in the right spots to make me feel comfortable on the field. So I’m feeling very comfortable.”

On emotions over having big dynamic plays but still losing the game:
“To be honest, I’m not really worried about that because we lost. We lost, so I’m not really worried about it.”

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