UVA football coach Bronco Mendenhall talks with reporters after his team’s 49-35 win over Central Michigan.
Opening statement: “That was a gratifying win for our team. That’s a happy group of young men in that locker room and a lot of smiles. I appreciate the trust that they have placed in me, embracing the new approach, and I appreciate the resiliency and the men they are becoming. This is not easy and they faced a lot of challenges today, ups and downs and in betweens and I think there will be more of those until we gain maturity and execution and consistency. I’m proud of our team and I’m proud of how they hung in there together. I am really thankful for the 14 families that came all the way across the country to believe that this could be a great football program. I’m certainly not saying we have arrived but it’s a nice start. I’m really impressed with Kurt Benkurt and the resiliency of our team.”
On having to fight back after the Central Michigan comeback: “It’s amazing how it can look so easy and then so difficult in the same game and the same stretches. But to have it look easy and look difficult and then find a way to regain poise, momentum and confidence to then execute enough to win the game against a team that went on the road and beat a pretty good other team, I’m impressed. There’s a chance that there will be more of these types of games for all of us.”
On the lull the team was facing when Central Michigan came back: “There wasn’t anything that could be said at that time. It had to be action. It wasn’t the Richmond thing but it was a relative, the second cousin maybe – one that you visit occasionally but don’t want to be there often. We’re not immune from that being past history and I’m not sure the stadium was. It seemed like there was this cultural, ‘we know what this feels like’ and I felt that. We are fighting that as hard as we can but you have to be able to battle through that a few times before that becomes the new normal. Hopefully this will start that.”
On defining roles on the team: “We are becoming much clearer, not clear yet, and this for the entire team, as to which players get the ball in what formations in what plays. So we are literally personelling everything from blitzes to runs to passes and when your roster is not extremely deep, then you try to use as many different players in the roles they can be used in to the best of their ability to give them success and our team success.”
On the feeling in the locker room: “It was sheer joy. They were waiting for me to come in like it was a big deal to them to celebrate for me as well and I couldn’t wait to celebrate for them. That’s gratifying when it meant a lot for them to make me feel special and visa versa. It’s one of those things I won’t forget, ever.”
On Kurt Benkert breaking the school record for passing yards: “He’s a good player but more than that to break a school record is not something to take lightly, nor was it our intent for him to break the school record. I don’t pay attention to those things. But he’s an amazing student so he came to us as an A student, he came to us as someone who loves football and he came to us someone who wants to lead a team and that really is no maintenance. When you talk about quarterbacks in our day in age, that’s pretty uncommon. He’s doing a really nice job. He’s what I want at UVA: a good player, a good student, a good person and someone that can do it all. He’s learning and maturing and this is his fourth start and to break a school record in his fourth start as a college athlete is pretty remarkable.”