Home Process, not outcome: Mendenhall focusing UVA Football on doing the little things right

Process, not outcome: Mendenhall focusing UVA Football on doing the little things right

Chris Graham
Bronco Mendenhall
Bronco Mendenhall. Photo courtesy Atlantic Coast Conference.

The recent stretch of UVA football is “one of the toughest things I’ve ever coached,” Bronco Mendenhall said Monday.

The Cavaliers have lost four straight, the latest loss at #11 Miami on Saturday night, a 19-14 game that played like a broken record.

As the week before, in the loss at Wake Forest, and three weeks ago, in the loss to #1 Clemson, one or two plays were the difference.

But as much as Mendenhall told reporters in a Monday Zoom video conference that he was “encouraged” by what he saw out of his team at Miami, and “viewed it as progress,” UVA is 1-4, with #15 North Carolina coming to town this weekend.

As to the mood of the team …

“We know we’re all capable of more,” sophomore linebacker Nick Jackson said. “We all know that there’s more in us. And we’re going to keep pushing to get out of this losing streak.”

“We don’t want to be 1-4,” junior tailback Wayne Taulapapa said. “But now we have to use that, you know, kind of as motivation, adversity, we’re coming up from. Obviously, there are better situations that we’d like to be in, but that’s just the situation that we’re in now. And, you know, we’ve got to work with it and move on and, you know, work for the outcome that we want.”

The ‘Hoos are four-point underdogs this weekend, getting ready to play a UNC team that pummeled NC State, 48-21, on Saturday.

Sophomore quarterback Sam Howell has been building on his otherworldly freshman season. Through Carolina’s 4-1 start, Howell has thrown for 1,403 yards, completing 64.2 percent of his passes, with 10 TDs and four interceptions.

The Heels’ backfield is the ultimate two-headed monster – senior Michael Carter and junior Javonte Williams are both averaging more than 100 yards per game in 2020, and Williams has scored 10 TDs on the ground.

This is the team standing in the way of Virginia snapping that four-game losing streak.

Mendenhall, for his part, isn’t of the opinion that his team is playing like a 1-4 team.

“The statistics on the season in relation to opponents, man, there’s not much difference,” Mendenhall said.

There is something to that. Virginia ranks sixth in the ACC in total offense (423.0 yards per game) and ninth in the conference in total defense (413.5 yards per game), so, that’s more the profile of a team that should probably be on the other side of .500 at the midway point.

The issue has been little things – the second quarter TD this past weekend that got called back because of an illegal man downfield penalty, for instance.

What Mendenhall said he’s trying to emphasize to his players to correct for the lots of little things that have gone wrong is to focus on “process, not outcome.”

“Focusing on what you can give every single play, knowing that the outcome will manifest, at some point, it always does, and always has in our program. When, I’m not sure, with this particular team, this particular year, but the output, like what we can contribute is really where they are,” Mendenhall said.

The coach feels his team is in the right place mentally.

“We had a meeting this morning early, and they’re resilient, they’re tough, and they’re anxious to play again, which is … I’m really, really encouraged and proud of them, because this is kind of uncharted territory for a group of guys that’s won a lot in the past three years and had expected to and now it’s, it’s been ‘well, this isn’t what we expected,’” Mendenhall said.

“What I’m looking for … body language is a really strong indicator of truth. Not what the words are. But if I’m talking to a player, eyes go down, if their eyes are cutting away, if their posture … the words aren’t as powerful as how they’re carrying themselves, and when I saw my team this morning, they’re leaning forward, they’re engaged, they’re taking notes, they’re watching closely and vibrant, I guess is the word I’d say. So yeah, I’m proud of them for that because it’s not easy, you know, when you’re having setbacks.”

Story by Chris Graham

Chris Graham

Chris Graham

Chris Graham, the king of "fringe media," is the founder and editor of Augusta Free Press. A 1994 alum of the University of Virginia, Chris is the author and co-author of seven books, including Poverty of Imagination, a memoir published in 2019, and Team of Destiny: Inside Virginia Basketball’s Run to the 2019 National Championship, and The Worst Wrestling Pay-Per-View Ever, published in 2018. For his commentaries on news, sports and politics, go to his YouTube page, or subscribe to his Street Knowledge podcast. Email Chris at [email protected].