FOOTBALL – Bronco Mendenhall Liberty Postgame

FOOTBALL – Bronco Mendenhall Liberty Postgame
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Yeah, I’m really
excited for our seniors, so pleased that they
were able to win at home on their last appearance
at Scott Stadium. I think it’s
significant that they finished with a winning season. Certainly there’s more emphasis
and more games to play, but seven wins is
a significant mark for our program for the
University of Virginia, and for what we’re
accomplishing. And they can claim
ownership of that. They’ve been instrumental in
ensuring that that happened. Throughout the
course of the game, I’m certainly excited about
the number of points scored. I was pleased with that. I was happy with
the adjustments we made at halftime defensively. I thought those were
critical, and the turnovers that we created. And after three
pretty fierce weeks of work on our
kick return, it was great to see Joe Reed
be able to perform not just with the kickoff
return for a touchdown after halftime, which I thought
was a really critical play, but the consistency
of the returns today. It looked much better. Lester Coleman pinning our
opponent a number of times. Our kick coverage, our field
goals, so our special teams, I thought, was very solid. Our defense in the second
half was very solid, and our offensive
production improved. And so collectively, I
thought it was a good outing, and again, significant
because of the seventh win, and then gives us a chance
to now reframe, regroup, and go on the road for
the last two ACC games. So I’m encouraged by what I saw. You fielded a lot
of questions earlier in the season about Joe Reed
and his role in the offense and integrating him more. It seems like in
recent weeks he’s had at least one
big play each game, and today he had
the two touchdowns. What are you doing
differently with him, or what is he doing differently? I think it’s just been
time and consistency. You know, we try
and then we re-tweak and recalibrate and
remove and then try again, and he tries again. And it’s just becoming
clearer not only how we have to coach and teach
and communicate with Joe, but then what helps him
best in practice in terms of volume and circumstance. And much like any student in a
teacher student relationship, eventually you end up finding
the right relationship, the right communication style,
the right things that work. And so we’re just
getting closer. And it’s just really
gratifying to see someone who tries so hard and is such
a great person and a great kid to be able to see it
happen on the field. So when I walked in
from the locker room, the team there was already
yelling Joe Reed in unison. There were no other
candidates that were voted for breaking
the rock today. So it was a landslide. Bronco, you guys
were leading by seven when they had a fourth
and one at their own 15 and they went 14. Were you surprised they did? And what were you talking
about on the sidelines when you saw they were
going to go for it? I actually admired the decision. They came to win
the game, and they were having success running
the ball, especially early. And there was a kind of
a point in the game where I think they decided that they
could run for a first down, or they could get a first
down, and that that might, in and of itself, kind
of shift the momentum and have a psychological
effect on our team that was like, wait a second. So I have no issues
with the decision. Under all the
circumstances with Liberty coming to UVA to
play in our stadium with the game being
close, I admired it. Coach, three big time
plays by your second there in the third quarter. Britton’s pass breakup
on fourth down, then Devante’s interception,
Juan’s interception. Especially given that you
guys had traded touchdowns in the first two drives
in the second half, how huge were those plays? They were critical. And interestingly enough, really
a lot of Liberty’s success came on the ground. And we had prepared vice
versa for pass, pass, pass, pass, pass,
and who would have thought that they’d be able
to run the ball effectively? And we still had difficulty
with one new D lineman and some of our
safety fit still. So we still had work
to do in the run game and had a hard time getting
that calibrated correctly. And that’s what allowed
them to stay in. When the lead started
to expand slightly and it shifted the
pass, we looked much more prepared and confident
in that part of the game than the other. And so the turnovers
were critical and really limited the yards, points. The second half was
a much different half for Liberty’s offense and our
defense than the first half was. Bronco, last week your offense
didn’t look like anything like what you say it
needs to look like. Today I think the first
pass went to Olamide, and you got him really
involved really quickly. How important was that
to everything else you were able to do? Yeah. Not only for
Olamide, but just to have a game that allowed
us to get another reference point for what we want to be. And so the ball was
spread at a higher level. Jordan Ellis had
100 yards, which is much more of what I expect. Bryce then complements him
rather than vice versa. And Joe Reed and
others then contribute. It’s been a while. And so to have a game where
we could refocus on that, we already know it’s
going to be necessary. Everyone knows it’s going to
be necessary in our next two. And so it was good to be able
to have that manifest today. Coach, in the back,
you guys obviously were dealing with some injury
stuff going into this game. How beautiful was it to
see your defense respond? Thornhill gets a pick. You didn’t even know if
he was going to play. You get Devante
Cross back there, who started the season
a wide receiver. How beautiful was that? It’s gratifying. We started Tommy Christ at
the defensive line, who’s just emerged and battled and
had just a transformation, I would say. And to see him earn a start
for the University of Virginia was gratifying. To see Devante Cross, a
midseason or late season flip back to DB,
play the way he did? Yeah, it’s gratifying. But it’s also just really clear
if we intend to win the coastal or be a significant contender,
yeah, depth is important. And so there’ll be some
really powerful stories we’ll be able to
leverage because culture is told by stories. And we had some
today that I think we’ll be able to
use going forward that’ll really be helpful to
the building of our program. Coach, you mentioned at
the beginning the seniors. But just how big have
they been in building what you’re building
here, and how rewarding is it to see them put
together a season like this? Yeah. If you step back
just for a second, we were in this room
three seasons ago and we were two and 10. And then qualifying
for postseason, our field is charged
by the fans that were there when we
beat Georgia Tech, and that was a huge thing. Now we’re bowl eligible
again, and now we’re a winning program. And there’s been a lot
that’s happened in a pretty short amount of time. And so for our
seniors, I don’t really know how to describe
it any better, but they have caused it. And I’m so proud of
them, and so happy for them to see the success
come because we ask a lot. And I don’t give them
anything that they don’t earn. And they just keep
coming back and working. And so really happy for them in
a fairly short amount of time to have a turn in a program
that’s happening like it is, and they’re the ones that
are responsible and should deserve all the credit. This is, I guess, kind
of along the same lines. Last year you were
bowl eligible. This year you were
bowl eligible. When you’re bowl eligible
and then go six and seven, do you feel
something is missing? And now that you’re
bowl eligible and you will have
winning season. Yeah, no question. When we were bowl
eligible a year ago, I was super excited
for our team, for our fans, the institution. But it also was really
clear right after that, we didn’t know as a program– and this program,
this institution didn’t really know, OK,
now how do you behave? And it was almost like the
accomplishment mark was hit and there were
still games to play. This year, yeah, the
accomplish mark for postseason was hit, which is
one of our goals. That didn’t come close to taking
any edge off for what’s next. And so that’s part
of a mindset shift and a cultural shift of
what expectations are. And I would love
to say that I could have figured out a way to
not have to go through it to learn it. I tried, but we had to go
through it to learn it. Georgia Tech has an offense
unlike any other in the ACC. Have you been able to take any
extra periods in the spring or in training camp or at any
point to work on the option, or does that just start Monday? No, it starts Monday
in terms of practice. In the off season we
certainly study any opponents that we think require
extra attention. We’ve done that for
the option every year since I was all the
way back at New Mexico playing against Air Force. So we have a plan every year. We love option football
just because it’s so hard. We like hard things. And it’s challenging,
and you never feel like you have enough
time, and it kind of gives you an occasion to rise to. And so yeah, our coaches did
put extra time in in the summer, as they always do. But man, we have way too
much going on each week to try to help our current
team win versus that opponent to then split our time. Thanks.

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