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Everything UVA football’s coaching staff said after the 31-28 loss to North Carolina

Read what the staff had to say after today’s loss.

NCAA Football: North Carolina at Virginia Scott Taetsch-USA TODAY Sports

After the Virginia Cavaliers fell to 3-6 today against the North Carolina Tar Heels, the Wahoo coaching staff addressed the media regarding today’s result and what they saw from the team’s performance.

Head Coach Tony Elliott

On the growth he saw from the team today:

“I did [see growth]. Just the mentality of next man up. We found out on Thursday that we were going to be down the ‘Big Three’, and that they’re not going to be able to play. Six [Demick Starling] and 86 [Sean Wilson] were going to have to step up, and 26 [Ethan Davies] was gonna have to step up, and Billy [Kemp IV] was gonna have to carry the load, and Perris [Jones] was going to be down. So we knew we weren’t going to be at full strength, but they didn’t flinch.”

“They came out with the mindset that they were going to play to win and in the first half, that’s what you saw. That’s a positive that you could show them what they’re capable of when you know, you just show up and quit worrying and just play free, play for each other. So that’s definitely a glimpse there and the resilience there at the end of the fourth quarter. But then also we see a growth opportunity from the third quarter. We talked about competitive stamina a lot and in football it comes down to five, six, seven plays over the course of the game. And we didn’t make those plays in the third quarter. That put us in the position that we were going into the fourth quarter trying to come from behind in a two-score game.”

On the offensive performance today:

“I think what you saw is as I said, you saw all three major groups; the quarterback, the skill guys and the guys up front, and if you watch them, in particular in the first half, and they were creating running lanes, the backs are running hard and when those guys can have success in the run game, you should see it when they come to the sideline man because they’re so excited, they’re so engaged in the game. What you saw is that chemistry, working together, and that’s really what the difference is. If you watch especially the first drive it wasn’t anything spectacular, other than making the play required. You hit a hitch here, you run the ball, you stay ahead of the chains. Now you can be more aggressive on offense, but you’re dictating the pace because you’re not playing behind the chains.”

“So when you can hand the ball off and get four, it’s a much easier call on second and six than it is on second and nine. Then if you can run the ball, now you’re not having to throw every single down and you’re not in your first and long, second and long, third and long situations. So I think it was just the guys excited to play and believing.”

“That’s a challenge because the last two weeks I’ve noticed there’s a different level of energy and that’s my job as the head coach to get these guys to understand it’s not a logo, you can’t play to a logo. Everybody’s gonna be excited to play in the rivalry game. It’s Miami, it’s the U.”

“But we have to have that kind of focus, that kind of preparation, that kind of intensity every single week, or what’s going to happen is you’re going to practice bad habits. I challenged the team, because on Wednesday late in practice, I saw a little bit of a fixed mindset come in and I got after the team. This is why we have got to stomp out any complacency. We have got to continue to focus on our competitive stamina because when we have a fixed mindset, we’re giving away five, six, seven plays and right now we’re not good enough to overcome by giving away those plays.”

On the team’s “competitive stamina”:

“[We have to] compete no matter what the situation is. When you talk about competitive stamina, it’s always about the next play being my best play. So if I have a bad play, alright, good, it’s a learning opportunity. It’s the next play. If I have a good play, good, stay humble. It’s the next play. Doesn’t matter what’s on the scoreboard, it doesn’t matter what the conditions are around you, you just compete and you compete to the best of your ability.”

“You’re slowly starting to see that really take root within the program and that’s why it hurts because I want those guys to taste some success because success breeds more buy in, more belief. But also I understand, as I told the guys in the locker room that adversity is necessary for building character. We’re focusing on trying to establish the core values, not just words, but creating these values in each and every individual in the organization and we’ve got plenty of good to look at, to stay humble with, and then plenty of opportunity for growth going forward.”

Offensive Coordinator Des Kitchings

On playing without [Dontayvion] Wicks, [Keytaon] Thompson and [Lavel] Davis:

“Those guys have just been chirping for an opportunity, right? Demick [Starling], JR [Sean Wilson], Ethan Davies, Sackett Wood, and they responded today. So, Thursday and Friday were really good. Walkthroughs, practices...this morning was our best walkthrough of the season. Those guys were locked in, they were focused, and they came out and played good football.”

“We try to talk about competitive strength for four quarters. We had to go in there, and have a little lull at the end of the third that really impacted us, but for those kids that haven’t played a lot of ball, to come out there and make plays [like JR], that’s good for our future. He’s a freshman. I liked the O-Line. We challenged them to be able to block these guys in the run game. We felt like if we [could] run the ball and control it, that’ll give us a chance to win the game. And those guys did a great job with that.”

On Sackett Wood’s season performance:

“The opportunity presented itself because everybody knew those three receivers were always starting offense. They’re not there. So next man up. And Sackett took advantage of his opportunities today.”

On the offensive unit and their “fight in the game”:

“These kids, they fight. They’re doing everything we ask, eliminating all the outside noise, working every day. And they will see the fruits of their labor. It’s slow and it’s painful, and I get it. But today, they should believe [in] what we can do offensively. Yes, we had a turnover, but we were able to run the ball, we threw it when we wanted to, took our shots, and if we didn’t get a shot, we were able to convert third downs in the first half and second half to stay on schedule. So, just keep believing, just keep working at it and it’s going to come.”

On scoring four touchdowns in four red zone trips today:

“If we’re able to run the football, it’s no secret. We’re able to knock guys off the ball, run the ball, and stay ahead of the change. Yes, we all want to throw it, that’s sexy. But again, it’s a physical game, and we were able to run the ball, control our scrimmage, keep Brennan clean, and he progressed through the ball well. So we had drops? Good. Let’s move on to the next one and just play ball.”

On the momentum and culture of the team:

“We’re not gonna stop fighting and working. We’ll recruit kids in here that want to fight, [that] want to work, and do what we ask them to do. And the guys in this program, they’re going to do what we asked them to do, and they will see the fruits of their labor. If you do what we ask you to do and trust us, it’ll happen. Just don’t try and do it on your own.”

On Ronnie Walker Jr. back in the game:

“With Mike [Hollins], Xavier [Brown] and Ronnie, just rotate them, keep them fresh and just keep piling on people. We know BA can throw completions. He was giving us deep access throws early on, and then we still will take our shots. And that’s the formula. We can’t turn the ball over, and then in that third, fourth quarter it’s self inflicted wounds. That’s the competitor’s stamina that we talked about.”

“We got it going, we bring the kick out five yards deep and then we have a holding penalty, and then we get a false start...We can’t allow those things to continue to happen. It’s tough enough to drive 80 yards to score, but we can’t put ourselves back. So it’s painful and I get it. People are frustrated outside the building, but inside that room those guys are fighting and we believe in what we’re doing.”

Defensive Coordinator John Rudzinksi

On facing off against UNC wide receiver Josh Downs:

“Young man made some plays. They do a nice job featuring him. Compliments to them, as far as finding ways to get him the football.”

On overall defensive performance:

“We didn’t do enough there on third down, as far as preventing them from moving the ball, which again, ends up leading to scoring defense. There’ll be some opportunities to learn from it and we’ll find ways to improve in areas that we would like to have been better.”

On penalties at the end:

“We’re gonna play to the last snap. As long as that ball is live, shoot, I’ve seen a ball pop out there at the end and guys get an opportunity to get the ball back. And so our guys are doing what they’re coached to do. I know that you’re gonna get in that formation [victory formation]. But we’re going to make sure that you have to earn it for 60 minutes.”

On whether he was frustrated with those penalties:

“The young men did and executed what we asked them to do defensively.”

On second half defensive struggles:

“I don’t know if anything changed. It’s [UNC] a good football team. They do a nice job of moving the ball. I know our guys fought, but on those third downs we’ve got to make sure we get off the field.”

On facing the combination of UNC quarterback Drake Maye and Downs:

“They play complimentary football on offense, as far as what they can do running the ball, as far as what Downs can do. Quarterback’s a skilled player and they’re a good offensive unit.”

On sophomore linebacker James Jackson:

“James, sophomore, exemplifies what it is to be a Virginia Cavalier. He’s made tons of strides here in the last six months, not only physically, but his ability to find the ball. And he’ll be a really productive Virginia Cavalier football player and student-athlete here at Virginia.”

On competitive stamina:

“Every day, we’re building. Every opportunity we get as men, we get a chance to be better. To learn from the good, the bad, the indifferent. I know that locker room is very disappointed. And they’ll be hurt. And at the same time, we’re going to come back and go to work here on Monday.”

On late-game mentality:

“These young men are here to compete and I know that they came to University of Virginia to compete for Virginia, for this great university, and for the great young men in that locker room.”

Thanks to the UVA Media Relations team for putting together these transcripts!