Virginia football trailed NC State by 21 in the fourth quarter and wound up losing 35-21 in Raleigh last Saturday; however, Cavalier head coach Bronco Mendenhall felt the game was closer than the score indicated.
Discussing the Hoos’ loss during his “Coach’s Corner” radio show on Tuesday, October 2, Mendenhall said, “It was so close to 50/50″ before adding that NC State “had the advantage by a couple of plays on both sides” of the ball.
Ultimately, Virginia’s third-year head coach says “we’re making enough plays to mount comebacks and be resilient and make it interesting, but not quite enough to take over and win” on the road against a “quality” NC State squad that now boasts a 4-0 record.
“That was the clear feedback,” Mendenhall said.
Virginia play-by-play man Dave Koehn, the host of “Coach’s Corner,” mentioned two important plays that, if they had gone the Cavaliers’ way, could have potentially made a huge impact. The first came with less than five minutes to go in the first half, with NC State facing a 4th-and-1 at the Virginia 16. Wolfpack senior Ryan Finley ran a quarterback sneak, fumbled, recovered, and was awarded first-down yardage after a replay. NC State capitalized on the controversial call with a touchdown pass from Finley to tight end Cary Angeline two plays later with 52 seconds left in the half.
“Huge play in terms of momentum,” Mendenhall said. “Getting to fourth down was everything we were doing and hoping for, and then to see the ball come out of the quarterback’s hands – in my opinion, I thought he was down when he reached back, grabbed the ball, and the spot should have been farther back. That was my take and my communications with the officials. They then sent it to review. Then I’m told during the review that they agreed with what I was proposing, so I take our defense off the field and put our offense on. That process, then they somehow came back to me and said they changed their mind, so spotted it back the other way. It doesn’t mean they have to score a touchdown, but they did, and so there was a momentum swing there.”
The second play Koehn referenced occurred in the fourth quarter. Trailing 27-14, Virginia’s offense had a 1st-and-10 on the NC State 27. Perkins rushed for six yards on first down. An option play that had potential ended with Perkins throwing an incomplete pass to Olamide Zaccheaus. A Jordan Ellis run was stuffed for no gain on third down, and Perkins tossed an incomplete pass to Tavares Kelly on fourth down.
Following Virginia’s turnover on downs, NC State marched down the field for a touchdown and a 2-point conversion to grab a commanding 35-14 lead.
“I thought we had a great chance there to close to 21-27 and then maybe beat ‘em 28-27, something like that, but we didn’t pull it off,” Mendenhall said.
More from “Coach’s Corner”
– Coach Mendenhall on the lack of consistency exhibited by his team this season: “Mostly in terms of inexperience. Players who haven’t played as much, or their role increasing because of injury. While they might have scored and graded really well with 19 plays in a game, when that play total is now at 40 or 50 or something like that, volume of mistakes increases once their threshold has been exceeded from where they were trained for and where their existing role was. And so there’s growing pains at some positions and ultimately that’s reflected on a side of ball.”
– The lack of consistency has been evident against the run. Virginia’s run defense has looked very good at times. Not so good at others – specifically, against Indiana and NC State, when the Hoos allowed Hoosier true freshman Stevie Scott to rush for 204 yards and Wolfpack true freshman Rickie Person, Jr. to rush for 108 yards. Neither team boasted a big-time rushing attack prior to facing Virginia.
“When we played consistent and assignment sound, the ball wasn’t moved. Period,” Mendenhall said. “When we didn’t, it could’ve been just one player off, sometimes it was two or three, then the ball was moved on the ground at a higher level than what probably they expected or we expected.”
– Coach Mendenhall discussed the performances of starting inside linebackers Zane Zandier and Rob Snyder. Zandier, a sophomore, was making the third start of his collegiate career, while Snyder, a redshirt sophomore, was making the first start of his collegiate career. Zandier finished with six tackles (four solo). Snyder, who was starting for star junior Jordan Mack, had seven stops (all assisted) against the Wolfpack. He was in coverage on the Angeline touchdown – the coverage looked good, but the pass and catch were better.
“I think they’re trying really hard and there is growing pains with their execution,” Mendenhall said of Zandier and Snyder. “Their will and their intensity and their desire is right on point and they’re flying around smashing into people, and sometimes in wrong place, but their intent is right. As experience grows the consistency will grow.”
Mendenhall added: “They are affected by the players in front of them, and so, without Burney, who played really well early, now with Aaron and Jordan Redmond’s roles getting more and more plays, there’s less consistency in front of them. When Brenton Nelson went out as well … that increased the level of possible variations that occur on any play. None of that, by the way, excuses the loss.”
– Mendenhall on the resolve of his team (specifically following a loss) : “They’re just getting mad. They don’t like it. It’s not part of the new standard.”
– According to Koehn (who cited Jim Daves of UVA athletics media relations), this Virginia team has the fewest penalty yards through five games of any Cavalier team dating back to 2000.
“We want to play fierce and aggressive and tough, but also want to play clean and we want to play within the rules,” Mendenhall said.
So far, so good.
– Coach Mendenhall, as you might imagine, was very complimentary of the onside kick play his team recovered to keep hope alive against the Wolfpack. He said it was good to see A.J. Mejia be the one who delivered the kick. It was good for him to celebrate with Mejia, who lost his starting placekicker position because of his struggles on field goals this season.
– Mendenhall on the first two days of the bye week: “Pretty much a normal week, to this point in the week. Monday was a typical Monday for us – up early and a lot of work to do. On a typical Monday we are putting the previous game to bed, meaning that we do all of our analysis, give the players the feedback, make sure they can see their grades and what they have to do to improve. That goes all the way through a special teams meeting, which is in the evening. So, Monday was really a normal Monday. Today’s practice was just a basic Tuesday practice other than tailored specifically to some of the needs that we’ve seen and the health of our team. That will happen through this week as we address where we think we need to improve as well as recover.”
– Sophomore safety Joey Blount was the special guest. We learned he had the nickname of “Baby Quin” as a true freshman last year. It was in reference to Quin Blanding, as Blount was sort of the former UVA All-American’s understudy. The two roomed together on all road trips in 2017. Blount called himself Blanding’s “right-hand man” and says Blanding seeks him out whenever he returns to Grounds to go over film. Blount says he can rely on Blanding to be a “foundational rock” in his life.
Virginia-Miami Set For 7 P.M.
In case you missed it, kickoff for Virginia football’s October 13 home contest versus the Miami Hurricanes is 7 p.m. EST. The game, which takes place during UVA’s Homecomings weekend, will be televised by either ESPN2 or ESPNU.
This will be Virginia’s sixth evening kickoff of the Mendenhall era. The Hoos have won two – Richmond at home this season and at Boise State last year – and lost three, including Oregon (road) in 2016, Virginia Tech (home) in 2017 and Indiana (road) this year.
We’re just five weeks into the 2018 season, but that hasn’t stopped some from making postseason bowl projections. Virginia’s (3-2, 1-1) postseason fate will be determined with the results of the next seven games. As of now, ESPN, USA Today and Sports Illustrated are projected the Hoos to be bowl-bound for the second straight season.
-ESPN (Click here for the full projections)
Kyle Bonagura – Walk-On’s Independence Bowl, Army vs. Virginia
Mitch Sherman – Virginia vs. Florida International
-USA Today (Click here for the full projections)
Virginia vs. Akron in the Independence Bowl
-Sports Illustrated (Click here for the full projections)
Virginia vs. Ohio in the Quick Lane Bowl