FOOTBALL: Media Availability – 11/19/18

FOOTBALL: Media Availability – 11/19/18

Really, really like the way
my team played this past week. I thought they competed hard. I thought they played physical. I thought they just are
becoming what I expect and how I expect a good football
team and a physical football team and a competitive football
team to play every week. As the standards keep
raising, the expectations from me to them
also keep raising. We do expect to win. We’re always disappointed and
frustrated if we don’t, and that’s becoming clear
that it’s not OK, because we expect to win. And especially when we have
a huge influence on outcome. We made too many
mistakes in that game. Even though it wasn’t
a significant amount, the mistakes were
significant enough, especially in the special teams. So we have to get those
corrected in order to not have those put us
at risk again for games that come right down
to the end, which as the ACC opponents and those
games usually do, to win, they’re very competitive,
especially on the road. But I did like
the way we played, and I was encouraged really,
especially defensively first, offensively
second, and then special teams with room to
improve, certainly. Looking forward to our
next game and our match-up versus Virginia Tech. I’m anxious for all the
preparation that comes with it and and the urgency that
comes with it, especially playing on Friday and not a
Friday night game, but a Friday afternoon game. So that accelerates the
timing and the urgency, even though a rivalry game
normally does that anyway, so this just adds a
little bit more to it. It’s always exciting
to have an occasion to rise to, something
that’s meaningful to play for at the
end of the year. And in this case,
for our program, so I’ll be glad
to take questions. I believe you had
three down linemen in on defense for almost
every play, if not every play. Will you have more
flexibility this week as far as using nickel
and sub packages? Yeah, there’ll be
more flexibility just because Virginia
Tech is more multiple. And like we’ve been doing
really for the entire season once Richard Bernie went
down and certainly when Mandy Alonzo went down, but
really core philosophically, we look to match
and put our best 11 players on the field
versus what our opponent does every single down. And so because of what
Virginia Tech does, they’re more diverse
than Georgia Tech was, which usually will lead
to a more diverse approach defensively than a team that
just keeps the same personnel on the field. I don’t want to get
bogged down in this, but the decision to let the
players not speak this week. You’re at a point where
interest in the program is kind of at an all-time
high and building. What was behind kind
of shutting that off? Yeah, in my team
meeting this morning, there’s urgency to
advancing our program. There’s urgency to
this preparation. And I certainly knew that
it wouldn’t be everyone’s the most popular decision,
but I did frame to them what we need to get done. And what frame and what urgency,
and that normal isn’t enough, and we need it every second. And so I told them
I’d be glad to speak, because that’s part of my
job to represent the program, and I basically said
everything that they’re doing that’s not involved
in going to class or winning this game is
actually not going to help us. And so I did give
them a choice, and I think it gives our team the best
chance to be focused, prepared, and ready to play
the way they’ll need to play in a very
difficult environment against a good team. It sort of follows suit with– you’ve approached
this game differently, obviously, than
past coaches, not saying it’s just another game. Why do you think that mentality
will yield a different result? Well, whether it yields a
different result or not, we will certainly
find out over time. But I think I’m just
stating the obvious. It’s not just another game. Virginia hasn’t won the game in
a significant amount of time. It’s an in-state rival game. It’s hard to take
over a conference until you take over your own
state, and certainly then your side of the division. And so to say it’s
just another game– I think we all realize
the implications of it aren’t just normal implications. They’re at a higher level. So I think again, my
approach has always been just to state the brutal facts. This game is more
important to Virginia in terms of our
regrowth and development and recapturing an
exceptional college football team than a normal game. Could you talk a little bit
about Dylan Thompson’s journey and specifically, I
guess, the last month? Yeah. How much time do you have? So Dylan went– anytime we
consider a graduate transfer, there’s a couple of core
principles that are in place. We will only consider them
if they’ll get their master’s degree and if they are
at a position of need where they could be
an immediate starter and have an immediate impact. We thought Dylan would do that. Upon arrival, his
eventual arrival, after taking extra time to
qualify academically to arrive, by the time he arrived, a
large amount of preparation was already done– entire training camp was
missed if I remember right. And our program’s not easy. We work really hard, and we
have very high expectations and physical conditioning
and mental toughness and the demand daily
is at a premium. And Dylan arrived
missing all of that. Even though he had been at
Ohio State, he’d been injured, and he spent the
better part of his– he has spent the
better part of his time here just gasping for air and
trying to get enough oxygen and with trainers
and just trying to make it through practice. And the last couple of
weeks, he has started to make it through practice– that just means from
beginning to end. And with that, he’s
qualified for repetition, and with the
repetition he’s been able to demonstrate his ability. And with demonstrated ability
and now increased need, that all kind of came together
last week, which was week 11? Just in time. And he played well,
and he tried hard, and I was really proud of him– not only for sticking to it
but through it, because yeah, he’s a fifth-year player coming
from a program of prestige, coming in under circumstances
that we expected more, and he expected more. And it was just the
opposite until Saturday. And that was, I
think, how we all would have hoped it had started,
but better late than never. And it actually is
more impactful now that he’s finally
reached that, knowing how difficult the
transition has been for him. And I was really happy
for him, and he’s just handled himself really well. He’s worked hard. He’s been humble. He’s learned, and he’s embraced
and likes what he’s doing and where he is. Not that I know of. I don’t think there’s
an additional year that is available. I think we did look into
that but received a response that that was not possible. So I think this
is his only year. So he’ll have the upcoming
game against Virginia Tech and then our bowl game. But again, I’m so
glad that he’s here, and without his ability and his
work ethic and his transition, it would’ve been very hard
to function last week. And not only did he play,
he played really well and I think led a strong
defensive performance. And in terms of his
grades and production, he was one of our best
front seven players. I have two questions. One– can you give us an injury
update on Bryce and Joey, anybody else? From what I know today, which
it changes during the week, I’ve been told that Joey will
be able to practice tonight. And I don’t know what
that will look like. I don’t think anyone does,
but it will give that a shot. And Bryce basically
reported he felt better than he expected to today. I don’t know what
that means, either. So you now know what I know. And the other thing was– can you talk a little bit
about Olamide’s progress through the year and just
the year that he’s had? Olamide is only second, I would
say, to Bryce, and as he goes, we go as a football team. And in terms of scoring and
production and the more touches Olamide gets, the better
chance we have to win the game. Same with Bryce. And now that Joe Reed is
emerging, that’s even better. So we’ve made a specific effort
for Olamide to get the ball. Certainly, we haven’t
hit the mark every game, and that’s as much our
fault as a staff as him not being on that game. Or sometimes defenses
just do a little bit more to eliminate touches to him,
and there’s been some of that. But his consistency,
his leadership, but more importantly
production– that’s really been impactful. So the players get tired
of me hearing about it, but I talk about consistency
and durability and production, and Olamide has become more
of all of those things. He’s more consistent,
and he’s more durable, and he’s more productive
than he’s ever been. And that has a lot to do
with the kind of football we’re playing and the
progress our team is making. Coach, this is the first
time since, I believe, 1992 that Virginia will go
into this Tech game with a better record
than the Hokies. What have you seen
from them on film? And what’s different
about this Virginia Tech team than maybe the ones you
prepared for the past two years? Not much, to be honest. And from my lenses now,
I get to see all phases and spend a lot of time. And again, everyone
has battled injuries, and they are no different. They’ve had some critical
injuries at critical spots. But man, they’re well-coached,
and they play hard. And I think their
schedule has been tough. Sometimes it works out that
way, where your crossover game or some of your
non-conference games are a little bit
more challenging. And I said that to Pat
Narduzzi before we played. Their record, I don’t think,
was great at that time. But I acknowledged
who they had played. I knew that. And so sometimes, in
game six or seven, it’s still not clear by record. And that’s why you play
an entire 12 games. So I think they’ve had
a challenging schedule. And I think that they’ve
had a few key injuries, but their coaches and their
schemes and their culture, I think, is strong. And so any differences would
be, again, because of probably injury more than anything else. Bronco, back here. You’re now in your third
year into this rivalry. Now that have a pretty
good feel for it, how does this rivalry compare
to BYU/Utah when you were there? And how does your, I guess,
your preparation, the plan, the approach you’re taking
to it compare to the way you approach that game? They’re distinct and different. I don’t have words to describe
the BYU/Utah one because faith is mixed into that, and
that, much like politics, brings out a whole
different thing. But I’m very clear
of how important this game is to our university,
our fans, and our players. And yeah, I’ve learned,
as all rivalry games and as just taking
over any job, it becomes clearer what’s
really important and how you might need to
go about something to give your team the best
chance for results. And we have a
significant deficit to overcome when
you look at history, however, this is ’18’s
team versus ’18’s team and that’s our focus. And so yeah, I’ve acknowledged
the past with our team, certainly with
our fans, and I am very clear of how important this
game is to them, all entities, including administration and
leadership of the institution. And again, I think
it’s disproportionately more valuable than any other
game at this point in UVA’s football program. And so yeah, it’s not
just another game. It has more value. It has a bigger chance
to impact our program, to generate momentum, and to
continue building and doing things that haven’t
been done for a while, and those things have to
be done to make progress. And so this is just one of
the next things we have to do. And targeted it a while ago,
knowing just objectively, and it’s not personal
but it is objective. This game for the
University of Virginia is more meaningful
than any other game, and that’s the way
we’re approaching it. Coach, as a follow-up
to what Brad was asking, it’s been quite some
time in this rivalry that Virginia would be favored
to win the football game and you said ’18’s team versus [AUDIO OUT] You’ve identified it as
a goal to defeat them, but now, your team, you could
argue, is playing better, has the better record. People prognosticating
would look at you all as favored to win the game. Does what you’re chasing
mitigate that whole trap of overconfidence, so to speak? Yeah. There is no chance
we’ll be overconfident. There is so much work to do
in our program and the things that we have to correct. And since when– well, as
you probably already know, I don’t listen or look as
to who’s favored or not, and I encourage my team
not to do the same. And that doesn’t
mean we’re perfect. It doesn’t mean that some don’t. But the more that we look,
the more we’re influenced. The more we’re influenced, the
more it changes our mindset. And the more it
changes our mindset, the farther it gets from
where it needs to be. So I just frame that to the guys
and usually, through maturity, it brings us back
to just the work. And if I feel it drifting,
practice just gets really hard. So it will bring them
back purposefully. Who’s favored or not
means nothing to me. We have a really good
opponent to play in the ACC on the road in a rivalry
setting and that alone is challenging enough. As you mentioned, the
first Friday night game or first Friday game
was a night game, 7:30. This one’s 3:30. The preceding game
that Saturday was a noon game against Carolina,
and you were at home. You were on the road
for a 3:30 game. Didn’t get back
till 10:30 or so. How has that– and moreover,
you have Thanksgiving in the middle of this week. How has that changed the
coaches’ preparation schedule? It’s challenging, and again,
I don’t expect anyone, certainly from the media
perspective to agree. That did have a
lot to do with what I chose to do with the
players because of that. And it’s not just
another early game. Thanksgiving is right in the
middle, plus it’s away versus– I mean, the circumstances
are different, and we need every
second we can get. And again, I don’t expect it
to be agreed with or applauded. My job is to help
our team get ready, and that’s what I chose
to do, matter of factly. And so yeah, the coaches, as you
know, we don’t work on Sunday. And so the impetus to then try
to hold that principle but then also make sure the team
is ready so yeah, there was church times at this
time and we are working around church for probably the
first time in one of the times that I’ve been the
head coach just simply because of all those
things you just mentioned. So it wasn’t in the place of. We just tried to make
everything coexist for one day in a setting that jammed
everything together and changed our schedule a little tighter. Yeah, Wednesday evening,
the players are going to– if any family members
come into town, the players have a chance
to eat Thanksgiving with their families
Wednesday night or go to the coaches’ houses to
have Thanksgiving dinner, which most are doing. That’s after a full day of work. So we’ll work all day
Wednesday, playing, practicing, meeting, but then
the evening, there’s about a three-hour window
there, where everyone will be able to enjoy for a
few, seems like moments, but a few hours
Thanksgiving, and then a it will flip right back to the
day before the game, which is Thursday, and we’re traveling. And so it’s just one
other unique challenge to manage and maybe adds to the
intrigue and the test of what it takes to get ready for
this game, in terms of it it’s not a normal
game because it’s not. The timing is more restricted. Throw Thanksgiving right
in the center of it and then make it a day
earlier, and not only a night game but a day game. And so yeah, there’s
a lot going on. Yes. So Wednesday, the players do
not have class, at least here. When you look at
the progress you’re running game has made from a
year ago to where it is now, how much does that do
for you confidence-wise, entering a game,
which as you said, is not like most games,
which has so much to do with the future of the program? Yeah, it adds stability. It’s really difficult
to manage a game if you can’t run the
football when you want to. And I’m still not
satisfied how we’re running it and its efficiency
and its physicality and its effectiveness. What we are doing well
is Bryce’s ability at the quarterback position
to run the ball and scramble, that’s been a huge
boost in our yardage. The traditional run game is
still a work in progress, and I’m not satisfied
where that currently is, but when you put those
two things together, that has given us
another element that makes it more
difficult for us to defend. And that’s been
fairly consistent throughout the entire season. The games that it has not
been we haven’t won the games. The games that it
has been, we have. Flip it the other way, the games
we’ve defended the run well, we’ve mostly won, and the
ones we haven’t, we’ve mostly lost with the exception
of last week on both cases. I’ve got two questions, Coach. First, I’d like to go back
to last week for a second. Fourth quarter, you
guys are down 24-21. You guys drive to
the Georgia Tech 13. You’re facing a 3rd and 1. Bryce goes for a throw, tries
to throw a touchdown instead of going for that first down. Was that a called play, or was
that a check by Bryce there? A called play. Sometimes we, as a staff,
try to be unpredictable, and we wanted to be aggressive. So we had already made the
decision in the fourth quarter, at any time, as the
game wound down, if we scored a touchdown
or the touchdown was tied, we were going to go for two. That was already
part of our plan. And so keeping
consistent with that– again, winning on the road is
harder than winning at home, but yeah, we chose
to take a shot and thought we might
be able to catch them playing short yardage defense. Luckily for them, they
weren’t and unlucky for us. And you’ve talked a
lot about how different this team is, how
different the culture is. Given how competitive last
year’s game against Tech was, given how Tech seems to
be down a little bit, is there any
different feel going into this game in the locker
room than in past years? No, there’s no difference. We want to win and that
isn’t just this game, it’s every game. That’s part of our standard. And I was hurt and devastated– that’s too strong a
word– disappointed that we lost the last
game, so are our players. It’s noticeable now when I
walk into the team meetings. First of all, when I walk into
the locker room after the game if we haven’t won, it’s
noticeably different because the expectation
is different. They go in expecting
to win the game. And then it hurts longer,
more, and I see it Monday when I come into
the team meeting. And so this is– yeah, the best way to recover
from being disappointed is to get right back to
work and then have success. And so that just
adds one more thing that makes this game important. Grant Mitch will be one of the
beneficiaries of the new rule. You’re able to
play him this year, and he’ll retain the
year of eligibility. He makes his debut in game 11
and not only plays but starts. Had he been kind of
moving toward that? Had you been thinking
about playing him earlier or was it just
because of the option? No. It was, again, our need
for additional D linemen. And we called him up to
practice with our travel team. And next thing we know, man,
he’s playing really well, and he’s doing a nice job. And he’s a first
year and he’s skinny. And he doesn’t look like
he belongs in there yet, but he just kept
practicing relentlessly and hard and physical and
doing the right things and became trustworthy. And yeah, by the time
it got to Thursday, it was OK, who’s done
the best job this week? And it wasn’t the
season, this week. And he had outperformed some
of our other defensive linemen to earn the chance to start. He did not play as much as
some of the other D linemen once the game got going,
but it’s a huge compliment that he earned that coming
literally from the preparation team and the team that’s looking
to help the opponent then starting against Georgia
Tech in the option. He had a great week of practice. Tommy Christ ended up,
once the game started, doing a really nice job. And so the volume of
plays kind of shifted. And then Aaron Faumui
was mixed in as it went. So Dylan Thompson,
we didn’t have any idea how well and consistent
he would play, but he did, so he kept playing. Grant earned the start. Then it was taken over
by Tommy, and then Aaron was supplemented as needed is
how it ended up playing out. Again, I’d love to
guess during practice and identify exactly
how the game will be, but it was just lucky that Coach
So’oto had those guys prepared to the level they were so
we could play that many, and they played well. They really did. Coach, from what you can gather,
have the veteran players, like a Juan Thornhill, shared
with Bryce Perkins, some of the younger guys, how big
of a deal this rivalry is? And do you hope that
they have done that? One of the things by making
it such a clear objective so long ago, meaning
coming out of last season and going through the summer is
that education and onboarding and orientation
has been happening. It’s already done. So it’s not now, all of a
sudden, oh, it’s Virginia Tech and now this is
what that’s like. This started, and by
design, a long time ago. So all that’s been done. So there’s nothing new,
in terms of messaging from player-to-player or
from coach-to-player that wasn’t started a long time ago. And I learned. Just now, after
becoming more familiar with the University of
Virginia, with this rivalry, and this circumstance. And hopefully,
we’ve addressed it and I’ve addressed it the most
appropriate way for our team to have their best chance to
play the kind of football they can. And part of that
is not now having to recalibrate and have
some new messaging that is just one other thing to
add to a short week anyway. To follow up, Bryce visited
for the UVA/Tech game. I’d forgotten that. Well, then, you might not have
a great answer to this question. I was going to ask– I was going to say, did he? I’ll use that. No. I was going to ask
if that’s something that had an impression on
him, in terms of the rivalry? If anything stood out? Yeah. I couldn’t say. I didn’t remember
that’s when he came. And then my other
one was, you said and Kelly also did
that Tim Harris had been playing his best football. How did he play at Georgia Tech? Are we still on the same park? Yeah. He’s done a really,
really nice job. And he’s physical, and he’s
consistent and he’s durable and he’s tough. And yeah. It might be my favorite story
of the year to this point. I’m really, really proud of
him, on who he’s becoming and how he’s just battled. And it’s gratifying
as a coach to see just growth and progress. What’s your best case
scenario for Brennan Armstrong at this point? Man, that we don’t have to count
this year as one of his years, that starts it. And then every time we put
him in, he scores touchdowns if we do have to put him in. I really like him. And he’s Bryce’s heir
apparent currently. And one of the biggest
takeaways from this season is we have a really good
quarterback behind Bryce. I’m a fan because
again, I watch him every day against
the defense and they have a hard time
stopping him, and he thinks he can make every play. And his pulse might have
got to like 42 in that game when he went in. I mean, he just threw
it like it was practice, and it’s pretty cool. Yeah, every chance. Anything that I can do,
in terms of managing, to not have this year
count is what we’ll do. He’s a three. So Coach, you mentioned
Tech’s tough schedule. But you guys have played a
couple similar opponents, Pitt and Georgia Tech
notably, and not given up the same kind of
gaudy numbers defensively. Without giving up too
much game plan or anything like that, what have you
seen on film from Tech that’s not working defensively? First of all, they have
an exceptional coach that’s leading their
defensive side, who’s had years and years
of success, and I think their players try hard. The only thing I could
say is that there’s been struggles with consistency
and that sometimes is giving up big plays or points
and then in between, it looks like Tech’s defense again. And so consistency
is probably the thing that’s been a difference if
I’ve seen one, not capability. I’m pretty sure that on this
day last year, neither Brennan nor Bryce had committed
to the program. I know you had been recruiting
both and were involved, but at that point, Lindell
was the only quarterback who was a lock to be
in the program in 2018. Do you ever think
about how fortunate you are and the program is
the way things worked out on that front? I think back to
Holly and I living in the RV on our property, and
I think about our first year, winning two games. I think about things
like that all the time. And it adds perspective, but
it doesn’t change urgency. And so a lot has
been accomplished, I would argue, in a fairly
short amount of time in a framework that’s adding
a really solid foundation and format for consistency
and sustainability with two great opportunities
to add to what’s already been done this year. And so if you start to
think about what if, there’s two pretty big what
ifs for this team for them to chase and strive
for and reach for, and I would love to help them. Coach, specifically to
the game and in appealing to that old defensive
coordinator in you, even though you oversee
the whole operation, specifically to what you’ve
seen from Ryan Willis and Tech offensively
that concerns you and that you’ll need to address? So I think Justin,
or Coach Fuente does a really nice job,
going all the way back to the TCU days. Their scheme, their use of
the field, their personnel, and design is really, I
think, is really strong. And what they’ve done is,
with their quarterback now, they’re highlighting
what his skill set is with still
maintaining as much of the existing identity as
possible of what they’ve always done and what they’ve
done really well. And so to their credit, they’ve
tailored it to get the most out of the player they
have at quarterback within their design. And so yeah, I’m impressed. But I always have been
with just how they’ve operated offensively and
the production they’ve had. Coach, here in the back. You mentioned the differences
in the BYU/Utah rivalry and this rivalry with Tech,
but are there some similarities for you personally, in regards
to having the players embrace the rivalry and the importance
of it and not kind of– [SNEEZES] excuse
me– being shielded from just having it being
a normal game, so to speak? Yeah. I think I’ve been really
clear and fairly outspoken going into the third year of
how important the game is and so that simple stance, I don’t
think shields anybody. It’s made it clear to anyone
that’s been around our program that the game is more impactful. It is more important. It will do more for our program. It will generate more momentum. And it’s significant. And so my message
doesn’t really change in whom I’m sharing it with. So man, if any of our players
feel differently than that, they haven’t been listening
and they’re probably not in the right
team meeting room. We’ll take our last two
questions from Mike and Doug. Obviously you want Bryce to stay
healthy and not take big hits, but what was your reaction
when you saw him get dinged up in the last one? And how– there’s a
difference between hurting and being injured. How physically tough
has he been this season? Oh, man, he’s fiercely
resilient, and he’s very tough. And when he went down,
there was a combination of all kinds of things. It was, we’d just
given up a safety. There goes our quarterback. And then right after
that, we give up a free kick for a touchdown. So I don’t know
what circumstance in college football,
in a three-play stretch or a two-play stretch
is worse than that, but that’s pretty high
up there on the scale. But then to hear later that
he might return, I was like, how can that be? And there’s a fairly
common practice, sometimes once an X-ray is made,
if it’s not a fracture or not a break and pain and there’s
not a significant or more risk to injury being done, then
sometimes players have pain medicine that allow them
to fight through it, which sometimes works
and sometimes doesn’t. Sometimes they’re effective
and sometimes not. But to see Bryce play
the way he continued to play when he came back, I
certainly didn’t expect that. I mean, he did the same,
right, earlier this year when he came back? Yeah. He just has been– normally, when you
have a dynamic player at quarterback that
runs and is so athletic, the chance that he remains
healthy and not affected, week in and week out
for the number of plays, either contact or hits or just
simple volume of what it takes to manage practice
and games, they’re normally not as consistent. And he’s been just the
opposite, where you basically see the same Bryce Perkins
and our same quarterback every single game, which it’s
really been helpful to our team as they learn and grow. Along those lines– in a
succession of interviews last week, Paul Johnson
raved about Bryce like he never raves
about anybody. Did he say anything to you about
Bryce before or after the game? He didn’t. Normally, Paul and I, we visit
quite a bit before the game. But Robert and I
has worked with Paul and worked for him
for a long time. And so they were having kind
of a sit-down before the game. So I just walked by and I
teased Robert in front of Paul and asked him to get
him straight for me and let him laugh and
I just kept walking. So the time where that
would have been available didn’t happen for this game. And then afterwards, with
the way the game finished, I really wasn’t in one
of those chatty moods. So there really wasn’t
the chance after.

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