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What did Bronco Mendenhall say to get that late flag?

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Bronco MendenhallUVA Football coach Bronco Mendenhall was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct while discussing the egregiously awful pass-interference call that extended Florida State’s last-ditch drive in what turned into a 31-24 ‘Hoos win.

The flag was part of a sequence that turned a fourth-and-15 from the FSU 20 into a ‘Noles first down at midfield, and was just the start of the nonsense.

Another just bad, bad, bad call was still forthcoming – a roughing-the-passer penalty on fourth-and-five on Jordan Mack, whose crime against humanity was brushing into Florida State QB James Blackman after jumping up to try to knock down Blackman’s fourth-down pass.

Credit Blackman for a great acting job on that one.

An aside here, for a moment: a reporter tried to get Mendenhall to weigh in on the litany of bad calls on that final FSU drive.

The coach, to his credit, seems to prefer making donations to charity on his own, which is to say, without the ACC forcing his hand.

“Yeah, the best thing I can say is, I thought there were mistakes, and the game could have been won, and was won, at least two other times besides the last play, is what I think,” Mendenhall said.

Well said, there.

Anyway, back to the unsportsmanlike-conduct flag on Mendenhall: it was hard for those of us in the press box to possibly imagine what the famously non-blue Mendenhall could have said to merit a flag in that situation.

Speaking for myself, when I saw the flag, I assumed it was a sideline warning, since none had yet been assessed on either side during the game, and that seems to be the protocol – first, you give the sideline warning, then you walk off 15 if whatever precipitates the upset on the part of game officials in these kinds of situations happens again.

When it wasn’t a sideline warning, wow, Mendenhall must have said the magic words. Right?

“Yeah, so I didn’t use bad language then, either. I make it a point to not do that,” Mendenhall told reporters in his weekly Monday presser.

He wasn’t even aware there was a flag on the field at first. Defensive coordinator Nick Howell got Mendenhall’s attention to point it out.

“There are times where it just seems right to defend your players and the way they’re playing and maybe the outcome of a call. So, obviously I crossed the line, but there was no profanity used. Rarely, if ever, do I do that,” Mendenhall said.

I’m reminded here of that one time that Tony Bennett got a technical foul, way back in 2010, for taking off his jacket and throwing it to the floor, in protest of a block-charge call in the final minute of what turned into a close loss to Maryland.

I’ve walked football sidelines and sat courtside for hoops games for nearly a quarter-century. To borrow from Ralphie in “A Christmas Story,” in the heat of battle, I’ve been exposed to a tapestry of obscenity that as far as we know is still hanging in space over Lake Michigan.

That said, Holly Mendenhall, Mrs. Mendenhall to me and you, she wasn’t happy.

“Holly said, ‘Holy cow, you got a penalty for that? It’s like the first I’ve ever even seen that in your head coaching career, and one time you do that you get a penalty.’ She thought that might be some injustice. There wasn’t a scolding tone, but I don’t think she was really happy with me,” the coach said.

Story by Chris Graham

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