What Mendenhall, UVA players had to say after 62-17 loss to Clemson

uva footballUVA coach Bronco Mendenhall thought there were some positive things to take from his team’s 62-17 loss to Clemson Saturday night in the ACC Championship Game.

“Regarding our performance, I thought there were strong glimpses, especially offensively throughout the game from what I saw from Bryce, but also there were times where we were controlling clock, moving the football and holding on to momentum,” Mendenhall said.

In the end, though, “the number of big plays by Clemson down the field, we didn’t have consistent answers for their passing game, for their receivers, and certainly just couldn’t make enough stops and didn’t make enough stops to have a chance to be effective in the game.”

“I’m proud of my football team,” Mendenhall said. “I love them, and I thought their preparation was strong. Our execution didn’t hold at this level consistently enough to have a chance to win the football game, and so at this point we look forward to learning everything we possibly can from this game, playing one more, and hopefully achieving a tenth win, which would mean a lot for this program, and another bowl victory.”

UVA quarterback Bryce Perkins, who threw for 266 yards and two touchdowns and added 58 yards on the ground, said the game “showed us exactly where this program has to go to be able to compete with one, two, three, four.”

“Every year we’ve gotten better, UVA has gotten better, so I think this game is going to allow everybody else coming back and for the years to come to know exactly how much to give and how much more they have to give and execute and how much more we have to execute at a higher level to be able to finally take over the ACC and achieve all our goals which we set out for,” Perkins said.

The ‘Hoos were in it for a little bit in the first quarter. driving into the red zone on their first possession before a Perkins third-down pass was intercepted. then tying the score on their next drive, before Clemson asserted control.

“I mean, we started going fast, kind of picking up tempo, and we were trying to balance that between controlling the clock and finding a right rhythm, which we found ourselves having more success when we were kind of going fast but also trying to decide when and where to control the clock,” Perkins said.,

“Bouncing back and forth allowed us to have some success, and guys played great, catching difficult balls, and the locations that they were in, and the line played incredibly. I’m super proud of those guys. All night, no matter what, those guys really played well,” Perkins said.

***

Missing Joe Reed: UVA senior wideout Joe Reed, who had been battling injuries the past few weeks, was a no-go for the game Saturday night.

Perkins called the situation with Reed a “day-by-day kind of thing.”

“He was rehabbing like crazy to get back to this game on Saturday. But he didn’t make it, and Billy Kemp, he got more action tonight as he has in the past couple weeks, and other guys like Dejon (Brissett) and Dontayvion (Wicks) has gotten more action. All the trust in those guys, we practice with them all week, so they knew what they had to do and execute at a high level. Missing Joe, he’s a great asset to the offense, so we missed him a lot. But the guys stepped in and stepped up a lot tonight.”

***

Hasise Dubois stepped up well to try to pick up the slack for Reed being out. Dubois had 10 catches on 11 targets and compiled 130 yards receiving.

“He’s a competitor no matter where we are,” Perkins said. “When we’re in practice, he competes. No matter what he does. All the faith in him, and I know that he’s going to compete for the ball, and he’s going to make the play. He probably has the best hands in America, and when the ball touches his hand, he’s not going to drop it. I think he definitely put a lot of people on notice.”

“I’m a senior and try to lead by example,” Dubois said. “I tried my best on that today. It just didn’t work in my favor. We played our hearts out, so I feel as though we have some things to work on.”

Dubois isn’t letting Saturday’s final result dampen his thoughts on the team’s overall success this season.

“It means a lot, just growth,” Dubois said. “We went from a 2-10 season to being in the ACC Championship. It’s just constant growth, so it was a success for me this year.”

***

All told, the UVA offense had a nice night: the 387 total yards represents the first time this season a Clemson opponent went over the 300-yard mark.

“I mean, it shows the possibility and the capability of this offense, and we had 387, but we feel like we could have had more,” Perkins said. “We feel like we left a few yards out there. But it shows the growth from just I think October to now and how far we’ve come as an offense and how far we have to keep going to improve to be elite and to be considered as one of the best offenses in the nation.”

***

The Virginia defense, not so good: Clemson gained 619 yards.

The D had to make a go at it without senior linebacker Jordan Mack, who Mendenhall said had been limited the past three weeks.

“He gets a couple reps each Thursday to try to get ready to play, but really his ankle doesn’t allow him to prepare any more than that, and he’s well under 100 percent,” Mendenhall said.

Missing Jordan Mack, on top of the losses earlier in the season of All-America corner Bryce Hall, safety Brenton Nelson, from an already-thin two-deep, yeah, it’s a lot.

“The call sheet went deep, and so yeah, the running game for Clemson was effective tonight, but really what was more effective was the quick strikes that were long and fast and deep on us,” Mendenhall said. “So, we were inconsistent defending the run. You saw a few of them scored out for 20 or 15 yards, and that was just misfitting gaps, and that comes through a few extra players in there that didn’t have quite as much experience, and just with consistency and then having to beat blocks and get off those blocks that are a little bit more quality than what we’ve been doing, and then the combination of that then with the run and play action with the RPO where it looks like run, safeties then are playing run and the corners are isolated with downfield throws to very good wide receivers. We didn’t have enough answers to defend those plays, and the ones we did have, we didn’t execute well enough, so give Clemson credit.”

Story by Chris Graham

         
 

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