UVA football coach Bronco Mendenhall talks Miami: ACC Teleconference
BRONCO MENDENHALL: Yeah, coming off a bye, we’re anxious to play football again. Looking forward to continuing ACC play and especially glad to be playing at home. We believe our opponent is skilled and playing very good football in Miami, and so we’re looking forward to the challenge.
I’ll be taking questions or glad to take questions if there are any at this point.
Q. Small sample size noted, but what is your impression of what Perry has brought to Miami’s offense in his two starts?
BRONCO MENDENHALL: Yeah, just one other element. So there’s typically run and pass for opponent offenses, and when you have a quarterback now that is capable of separate from those two things creating, that adds another element, and so he can do that with his legs and certainly with his arm. Besides traditional plays, now you have the unique challenge of having to defend some of the creating plays that makes it more difficult on a defense.
Q. I’m guessing you took particular note of the fourth quarter on Saturday against Florida State, and he just kicked it up another notch, bringing them from 20 points down.
BRONCO MENDENHALL: Yeah, I saw that, and it was reminiscent to me. It was similar to watching our game a year ago, even though it was a different quarterback, but come from behind, generated from defensive turnovers, and then opportunistic offense with strong quarterback play tying it all together.
Q. Bryce mentioned that Mikey McDonald had been kind of doing some of the No. 9 Willis role on the scout team. How good a scout look has he and that group been giving you for Miami’s defensive front?
BRONCO MENDENHALL: You know, I really like the way our guys practice and the effort that they give, and I think they’ve done a really nice job in relation to what they’re capable of. When you compare it now against the team that’s statistically No. 2 in the country defensively and that has size and speed up front, it’s hard to replicate that part, but I think our preparation has been solid.
Q. What was it about Mikey because obviously he’s not the same size or maybe skill level as Willis. Why was he a guy that could fill that role?
BRONCO MENDENHALL: Just work ethic, determination, resiliency, effort, all the things that just make amazing people. He just tries really hard, and he tries every day, and he’s physical and he’s tough.
Q. We talked a lot on Monday about Miami’s big receivers, but the slot guy Jeff Thomas, what have you seen out of him so far this season?
BRONCO MENDENHALL: Yeah, he’s dynamic. So there are multiple instances where the outside receiver routes will just be stop routes or something shallow, and then downfield routes by the slot that gives the equivalent of just a giant fade route with the entire field to have at his disposal to fade and catch the ball, to hold the line, to really move away from the free safety if there is one, and so he has speed and he’s dynamic. So Miami has talent at all spots, outside receiver, inside receiver, certainly at quarterback and running back. And so any time there’s a quality slot that can complement outside receivers, that makes it more difficult, and that’s his productivity and the way they’re using him I think reflects they understand what he’s capable of.
Q. Given the way that last season’s game ended, what have you guys as a coaching staff done to remind the team about that?
BRONCO MENDENHALL: We really haven’t had to remind them. They all know. They remember it really well. Yeah, just a few key takeaways in terms of maybe what to do about it, but our players are smart and they’re motivated, so they didn’t need much information from me.
Q. Bronco, would you like to get Joe Reed more involved from an all-purpose standpoint? I think he’s got nine receptions for the year to this point.
BRONCO MENDENHALL: Yeah, we’re — there’s been kind of an enigma there that we haven’t quite been able to identify in terms of development, usage, and just integration, and so the same conversation, the same question that you just asked me, man, we’ve attempted and are attempting multiple times, and just haven’t quite found the best way to either present the information, have it integrated or have the application come up with the desired result. Certainly worth the investment, and we plan to keep working on it, but yes is the simple answer, we’d like him more integrated and more all-purpose than what he has been. How to do that is something we still haven’t figured out, how to do it at a really high level yet.
Q. Talk about Perry, the quarterback from Miami. What do you see from him on film because that was his second game start against a rival. What do you see getting ready for him on Saturday night?
BRONCO MENDENHALL: Yeah, he’s a dynamic player and leader with a strong upside and has the ability to create and do things with his legs and with his arm. So I think he has a really bright future.
Q. And talk about Miami’s defense. I know they’re a tough defense. They get a lot of turnovers. What do you have to do to not have that issue on Saturday night?
BRONCO MENDENHALL: Yeah, ball security is really first and foremost on our mind. Their front seven is really dynamic and physical, and a lot of their turnovers come by hitting the quarterback or forcing early throws and interceptions.
Yeah, if you can keep them off balance, it gives you a better chance.
Q. Just curious if you have a status update on Brenton Nelson at this point.
BRONCO MENDENHALL: Yeah, Brenton has practiced the last two days and is probable for the game Saturday, which is good news for us.
Q. You mentioned Miami forcing turnovers by hitting the quarterback and such. The turnover rate is similar to last season, but their points per game allowed and yards per play allowed are significantly down. How do you think they’re that much better on the defensive side?
BRONCO MENDENHALL: Hmm, you know, I’m not sure I can give you the exact reason, but what I see on film is a coordination and physicality of the front seven. I think they’re more consistent. I think they’re more physical, and I think they’re more cohesive, and so I think their front seven is playing at a really high level. And then they’re playing with really good leverage in the secondary. So that prevents balls going over and around you. But I think it starts with their front seven.
Q. Just wanted to ask you about playing at night at Scott Stadium. It seems like your more lively crowds are for the night games rather than the afternoon games. Do you have a preference?
BRONCO MENDENHALL: You know, it’s an interesting thought. I’ve just been at Virginia long enough and have, I guess, the sample size is getting big enough, and I made a similar comment to our administration the other day that it appears to me that there’s more electricity, energy and vibrancy in the crowd in the evening, and so that’s been one of my takeaways kind of to substantiate your point. So I like — even though I don’t like night games just because of how hard it is to manage the day before the play and all the downtime, and the back end of game preparation, and it shortens your window, but it seems to me here at Virginia that our fans like that environment. They like that time of day, and if that’s the case, I’m all for it.