FOOTBALL – Bronco Mendenhall Miami Postgame

FOOTBALL – Bronco Mendenhall Miami Postgame
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[MUSIC PLAYING] Man, one of my
favorite things is just to see our players happy,
and our coaches happy. They work really hard. We ask a lot of them and have
now for two and a half years. And they’re becoming resilient,
and they’re becoming confident. And they acknowledge it,
and they see it happening. And for me and my
staff, it’s just fun to watch them transforming– not transformed
but transforming– and to see them feel
that and sense that, and to see them gain confidence. It was really gratifying to
see the energy in our crowd. I think it was the best crowd
since I’ve been the coach here. I’m not talking
about the numbers. I’m just talking about
how engaged they were, and that atmosphere
made a difference and makes a difference. And I sensed maybe a beginning
of what this really can be, and more and more folks catching
on and maybe believing this is for real. And it’s going to happen. And so I just was
proud of my team. And, again, when
you’re in ACC football, you have to make
enough plays to win. And the games will be close,
and they’ll be competitive. And that’s what we did. Really proud of our
defensive staff, again– the young guns on
that side of the ball. I’m as happy for them
as I am our players. Just three of them
were my former players, and to see them now kind
of passing that culture on is super gratifying. And to see Bryce just
battle back and forth and find a way to help us win,
with Brian Delaney emerging and kicking field goals to help
us beat Miami at home, which is a pretty phenomenal thing and
a turn of events I don’t think any of us could have predicted. So just overall, a great
night for Virginia football– the players, the
fans, and our coaches. [INAUDIBLE] How much can a win like
this over a ranked opponent accelerate what
you’re building here? Wow. The sheer number and quality of
recruits that came to this game exceeded that of any game that
we’ve had in my time here. And when you play
well, and you show– and they can see
what it is, yeah, I think you gain
significant momentum. We don’t have to
send them an edit, and I don’t have to
write them a note. They can see, and experience,
and feel what Virginia football is in an authentic view. And so it absolutely helps, and
especially when it’s earned, and it’s not an accident. And it’s not a fluke, and
it’s not explain-awayable. We won the game, and that
has to be acknowledged. They have been excellent
against the run, and bluntly, you guys have
been kind of inconsistent. What did you see in the
success, especially Jordan had running between the tackles? Just that, a different
level of targeting by our offensive
front, a reemerging of a violent, physical
mindset collectively. Coach Anae on the field
has a lot to do with that. He loves the conflict, and
confrontation, and wherever stuff is happening, and I think
that influenced, as well as the work we’ve been putting
in the last couple of weeks. It certainly wasn’t a dominant
or a breakthrough performance, but it was progress. And I saw it, and I
think we all saw it. And there was a few runs. The one touchdown run was– man, that was a huge play, in my
opinion, of what had to happen. You got three turnovers
and yet they only turned into three
points How big was it the defense kind
of responded there? It’s huge. Yeah. And it looked like
they wanted to play, and they were anxious to play,
regardless of the circumstance. And they felt confident. And I sensed that during the
week and that they delivered was phenomenal. And the fourth-down
stops, as well, they just kept answering the bell. And Miami is a
turnover-producing, momentum-gaining– yeah–
change-of-possession-exploiting team. And our defense
answered and didn’t allow that all to happen. And they squelched the
momentum before it ever got away from us. And so, yeah, my
hat’s off to coach Howell and our defensive
guys, coaches and players, secondary, especially,
making just tons of plays down the field. Coach, it wasn’t exactly an
elegant game, wasn’t beautiful, but you, obviously, get
a signature win for you. What was your
message to the team, and what are your personal
feelings right now? I stood in the tunnel there
just watching the field and watching the
players come in, and my gratification comes
through seeing them happy. That’s what I like. I like to see them
grow, and mature– yeah, satisfied for
the moment, at least through tonight, that
these kids have a yield and have the reward
for their efforts, and taking on something
that’s really difficult, and doing something pretty
special, in my mind. It wasn’t too long ago
that you were telling us about a kicking
competition that we thought involved Mejia and Pearson. And then Delaney comes in and
kicks the field goals tonight, and he’s been here for a year. And what do you
think about that? What changed? Well, as the kicking competition
restarted after last week, it wasn’t by lack of
performance by Hunter. But in practice, I’ve kept
the competition and the stress high, and I just wasn’t happy
with the way it was going. And Brian kept kicking
the ball in the end zone on the kickoffs. And all of a sudden, his
percentages started to say, wait a second. He deserves consideration. And so it came down to
Brian Delaney and Hunter matching off, and Brian
won the job in practice. And that’s huge risk, right,
because it’s not in a game. But after talking with Coach
Brumfield and Drew Meyer– who is our graduate assistant
who works with our kicking– I asked them simply,
what do you think? And they said, Brian,
and so I went with that. And Brian was chosen by our
team to break the rock today. So pretty cool that he
comes out of nowhere, and wins the kicking job, kicks
field goals against Miami, and all of a sudden is
swinging a sledgehammer with his teammates
cheering for him. Bronco, right here. I’m sorry. Three interceptions
is one thing, but 117 yards in
returns on those three is something totally different. Is there an art to
returning interceptions, and all of a sudden
changing and getting blocks? Or is it just all
sheer good fortune? Yeah, yeah. I just think that most defensive
backs wish they were receivers, and wish they were
running backs, and wish they
could run the ball. And so I think there’s a
lot of pent-up frustration where they feel like
they’re underutilized. So when they got
the ball, I think they were trying to
just vent, basically. Thank goodness, because
we were having a hard time moving the ball against Miami. And field position
was important, and those returns really helped. And while I’m thinking about
that, Bryce Hall chasing down– wow. He was close enough where
I could see like his eyes, and I could hear him
kind of grunting. And it was just like, man,
he’s going to catch that guy. And sure enough, not just as– that might have been
my favorite play. Building on that,
Coach, Juan took a lot of personal responsibility
for last year’s loss, was really amped
up for this game. Did you guys see that in
practice or in pregame this year? And what did you see
out of him out there? Yeah. Juan’s maturing. We had a pretty blunt
conversation early this year. And he was performing
and playing exactly as he was practicing. And I said, that
would be OK if you want to be an average
player, and he took that. And since then– and that
was early in the season– he has been responding
really well to become what he needs to be for our
team and what he wants to be. And so it’s fun to
see him have success. And that allows,
right, trust to keep being built between he
and I and his teammates. And then it allows him to be
propelled to another place. And Brad mentioned
your signature win. But could you have
imagined you’d get your signature
win on a night where Bryce Perkins has his
worst performance of the year and Olimade touched
the ball three times? You never know, right. I mean, I’ve never been able
to predict an outcome of a game yet. But what I can predict is how
my team will show up to work and how they’ll respond, now,
after two and a half years. And they believe in our culture. They believe in our future. And they trust each
other, and they trust us. And that’s the most gratifying
thing to be part of as a coach. It doesn’t guarantee one
other thing this year. But it guaranteed
victory tonight, and that’s enough for
right now as of 11:05. [INAUDIBLE] three
questions over here. If anybody needs a
[INAUDIBLE],, it’s already in the back of the room. Coach, it wasn’t necessarily
the most statistically dominant offensive performance,
but it seemed like the offensive line
got stronger and stronger as that game wore on. How much of that was a product
of what your defense did limiting Miami, and
how much of that is this offensive line
continuing to come together? I think it was both. I think our offense started
feeding off of our defense, and I think they wanted
to do their part. And, again, I think they
targeted more correctly. And I think they blocked
harder and more tenaciously. There was a different edge
that is re-emerging after we’ve lost it for a little bit. Coach, Bryce throws three
interceptions, and you win. Evan Butts returns an
onside kick 30 yards. Oh, I forgot about that. Yeah. How about that? So it looks like almost
anything is possible. Would you say that
you guys could be considered legitimate
contenders for the Coastal Championship? You know, I don’t know. I’m not willing to
limit anyone on my team, individually or collectively. I do know that, as you start
mentioning those names, I just smile. Because Evan Butts, who better
to be in a critical moment making a play? And, yeah, hard to script
anything that happened today, other than the right kids are
at Virginia playing and trying as hard as they can. And they were capable
enough to help us win. Take questions from Mike
and Jeff, and that’s all. Your last possession of
the first half, did Brian– Yeah. –bail you out a little
with that long field goal? Was that mismanaged
from clockwise? No. So I’ll explain that. We really weren’t planning
to attempt to score. I was intent on being
conservative at that point and just allowing to go
into halftime how we were. And then we had a running
play, if I remember right, that gave us a first down. That then was a game changer. So then we went into two-minute
mode, which then put us into field goal range. But our intent was
not to be aggressive in that circumstance. It was just to take the
game right from there and take it into halftime. And then the run broke. And was there a mark you were
trying to get to [INAUDIBLE]—- 30. Yeah. The minimum mark was 30. You got Malcolm
Cook back tonight. I know he was in on at least
one of the fourth-down stops. How did he and Rob kind
of do in tandem tonight? Yeah, yeah. So I wish I could
explain that more. I think Rob got beat
up a little bit, and Malcolm was
anything but 100%. So together, they kind of
made one person and helped us. So I don’t have enough detail
to go any further than that. Coach, Jeff Thomas, their
receiver, number four, was averaging 25 yards a catch
tonight– one catch, 5 yards. How much of a focus was he of
the plan you and your staff put together? Huge, huge part of the
focus by Coach Howell. And we knew momentum came
in big chunks for them. They had one tonight,
the giant run, and, man, they had
another fourth-down catch that was pretty big. But we were aware of him at
all times and had some answers. A lot of the answers
were just, could we affect the quarterback
enough to not get it to him? And that helped. After the first
quarterback was replaced, eventually, their
second quarterback had some success
kind of scrambling. But not enough success
to get the ball to one of their best players,
which was part of our plan. [SOUND EFFECT]

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