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Bronco Mendenhall says Virginia needs a “more consistent” run game

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The Hoos would be well-served to get better production on every carry, the coach said Tuesday.

NCAA Football: William & Mary at Virginia Amber Searls-USA TODAY Sports

For this head coach, 80 yards and a touchdown for Virginia Cavaliers running back Jordan Ellis in Saturday’s 28-10 win against William & Mary aren’t enough.

On Bronco Mendenhall’s radio show Tuesday night, he said his biggest nitpick with the offense on Saturday was the lack of regular success in running the ball. Given the slow track due to constant rainfall, that wasn’t entirely unexpected. But Mendenhall said that while he likes to see his teams average of four yards per carry, the Cavaliers only averaged 2.9 against the Tribe.

Additionally, he remarked that he wants improvement from the defense in containing quarterback scrambles. W&M quarterback Tommy McKee alone rushed for 99 yards on 15 attempts, including one score on the ground. This Saturday’s opponent, the Indiana Hoosiers, are known for having a potent offensive attack and high-tempo offense that will test the Hoos in week 2. And finally, on special teams, Mendenhall noted that the team’s placekicking woes continued on Saturday with A.J. Mejia missing his only attempt of the day, a 42-yarder in the second-quarter, continuing a theme from 2016 when UVA went just 5-for-10 on field goal attempts for the season.

Some other quick hits from the show:

  • Compared to last season’s opener against FCS Richmond, a 37-20 loss, Mendenhall said that he liked to see a level of play he described as “clean, confident, poised, and mature.” He added that in last year’s Richmond game, the Cavaliers committed zero penalties out of timidness, and was pleased to see a goose egg in the turnover column instead.
  • Craig Littlepage announced his retirement as UVA athletic director after 16 years on Tuesday, and Mendenhall said that he was struggling to find the right words to say to express how he felt toward the man who hired him. Littlepage “pays real attention” to not just the coaches, but also their families, he said, and that he has “managed the program well for a long time.”
  • When asked by a fan why the team called just a couple of run plays with a 14-0 lead at the end of the first half instead of trying to advance the ball into field goal range, Mendenhall said that he felt that the team had enough momentum and enough of a lead that when starting the drive on their own 24-yard line, it wasn’t work the risk.
  • Linebacker Malcolm Cook was the guest this week, having resumed his football career against the Tribe after sitting out 2016 with a serious heart ailment and most of 2015 with an upper-body injury. He picked up his first career sack this past weekend, and called at a “humbling experience” to get back onto the field. He also said that he nearly started tearing up in the tunnel before running onto the field.
  • Mendenhall finished by saying that he expects Indiana to unleash a lot of long balls downfield and play very physical, comparing them in that regard to Utah, who Mendenhall frequently coached against when he was at BYU.

Kickoff against Indiana is set for 3:30 p.m. Saturday in Charlottesville; keep checking STL throughout the week for more coverage!