UVA football coach Bronco Mendenhall talks with the media after the Cavs’ season-opening 37-20 loss to Richmond.
Opening Statement: “First of all, congratulations to Richmond. Coach Rocco, they clearly played the better game today. I was impressed with their execution, I was impressed with their coaching, and I was impressed with their preparation. I think they did a nice job in their opener and their team reflected that they know how to win and have some experience coming back from a year ago. In regards to our team, I have a clear reference point now of where we are starting from. I think teams play as they are prepared to play and so my responsibility is to have a team that performs more cleanly and at a higher level than we did today and that’s what I need to do. This is a really clear indicator of the amount of work that lies ahead, the amount of work I need to put in to help these particular players who will do what I ask them to do. To help these particular players be in the best positions possible to play the game execution sound, physical, and fast and confidently. And there is a long way to go in those areas.
“I thought that Kurt Benkert looked sharp for the many stretches of the game in terms of his delivery and decision-making. Ball security was an issue for our team today and that surprised me, but again my job is to make sure there are as few surprises as possible so that caught me a little off guard that we would have ball security issues. Our run game wasn’t as effective as I’d hoped. Defensively we didn’t execute well the entire day and did not play physical and didn’t play well not only on first down, but on third down. I think I’ve clearly given this particular group too much and need to look hard at what they are capable of and give them their best chance to help our team win. And again that’s my responsibility.”
On the body language of the players: “I think they want to be resilient and I think they want to believe and have new habits. But there is some history and so there was some reversion to that today, maybe by what they know, but again my job is to help them build great habits. And when things don’t go as well as you hoped and don’t go according to plan, that’s usually when some of that reversion comes back and I pointed that out to them a number of times. But that’s where we currently are and that’s where we are launching from and I have clearer feedback now.”
On his reaction to the first game compared to the preseason work: “I think the clarity is the excitement and optimism and hope is what I’ve been mentioning and eventually I said the execution would catch up and that part is farther behind then I thought. More on the defensive side than on the offensive side even though there was some ball security issues. And so I learned a lot today and I’ll continue learning as I help this team hopefully reach its potential and help this program become a consistent winner. But today was just a really clear reference point as a lot of work ahead.”
On the impact of the early fumble and then giving up the 95 yard drive: “I think it all had a lot of impact and what it showed early was a lack of consistency and execution and so when you have long drives, it’s usually execution oriented and there is a sign of mistakes and/or communication mistakes. And so both of those things contributed but there was a lot of football left to be played after that that we certainly could have dug ourselves out.”
On his reaction to Richmond’s performance today: “Really there were a lot of things that surprised me. On the last touchdown we took a chance and had an assignment mistake again on the on that went the whole way. But again their execution held longer and better than ours did today. It’s just two football teams and in reality they were a better team today and more prepared and executed at a higher level than we did. I learned a lot more today about where we are starting from.”