UVA football coach Bronco Mendenhall talks with reporters after the Cavs’ 34-20 win at Duke on Saturday.
Opening statement… “I had a really nice conversation [with David Cutcliffe], not only before but after the game. He’s a class act in every way. College football needs more people and coaches like him. It’s a privilege to compete against someone like him who runs an amazing program that’s so well aligned with what the school represents. I’m really impressed by who he is as a man and as a coach. I’m really proud of our team today in taking another step forward. I think that you could argue that each game has been a step forward in some regard. We had to do some hard things today. Duke was mounting a comeback. The execution appears to be improving. The culture as we all know was the emphasis to begin and the execution, at some point, would catch up, and it’s starting. We’re not done, but it’s fun to see the players happy. It’s fun to see them see that it’s coming. It’s fun to see them see the plan that’s in place, and it’s fun to see them believe in each other. I like seeing people develop, and it’s happening in front of us all. That’s pretty cool. Jordan Mack, a first year, makes a critical play, sacking the quarterback. Bryce Hall, another first year playing corner, and going almost the entire game does a really nice job. Micah Kiser is everywhere. On the offensive side, [Albert Reid] had a really nice run at the end, a courage run, where he wasn’t going down and he was reaching for extra yards to get us to where we could run out the clock. Kurt Benkert extended plays, allowing us to move the ball in big chunks. Nick Conte continues to be a weapon. Those are my initial takeaways.
On breaking the team’s road-game losing streak… “Here’s the thing. I didn’t hear about it much. I didn’t know how many games, but really chose, right from the beginning, to not acknowledge it. That just makes it bigger. We believe that preparation is preparation, home or away. That was the message. If you do that, it doesn’t matter where you play, because the preparation will hold. That was the message to the team from the very beginning. I certainly feel that they felt it was a bigger thing than I did, because they have been a part of it, and I haven’t. I think that’s an advantage that they’ve been a part of it and I haven’t. To us, it wasn’t some insurmountable thing, and I think that helped bridge the gap.”
On the defensive progression… “The biggest mistake that I’ve made with this defense…we’ve run it for 13 years, basically, with a lot of success. Every year, in the summer, we look to make it better. The worst mistake I made was making improvements based on a team that has a defense that’s been playing it for years and years, so putting the improvements on top of that. That was too much too early. We only did it one game, which we all remember. Richmond doesn’t even feel like this year. It was too much, too soon, and it was completely my fault. That went away, the plan changed completely for Oregon. After that, we took even more out, and then it’s sequentially being built. I’m still getting
to know them. They’re still getting to know me, and I want to get it so everyone can see the progress. This is just the beginning, but it will look consistently like that, as a UVA defense.