FOOTBALL: Pitt – Bronco Mendenhall Postgame

FOOTBALL: Pitt – Bronco Mendenhall Postgame

Really, really proud of my
team to overcome a deficit at halftime and really
earn a victory in a very difficult place to play
against an opponent we hadn’t beaten yet. In-conference play. There was a lot of things
that made this game important, and it was an earned victory. There wasn’t anything easy about
it, and we made enough plays and at critical
times, and I think comprehensively enough
throughout our team to win the game. I was really pleased that there
was no turnovers on our part. We were relatively penalty-free
for our first game, and I think that game
management was clean as well for our first one. Our offensive line
clearly played better in the second half. That had a lot to do with I
think just our ability to have control of the game at the end. I was impressed with Wayne
Taulapapa and his running and his production, and
then Joey Blount with not only sacks, but the interception
he played very strongly in the second half as
we made some adjustments in the second half that
were necessary as Pitt had us on our heels
in the second quarter and were doing some things that
were difficult for us to stop. So I’m really proud
of my coaches, I’m so happy for my
players, and just pleased with our performance overall. So, yeah, I’ll take questions. Bronco, do you learn
more about your team when it has to kind of scrap– Oh, man. — in the second half
when you would’ve– Yeah, this is– to trail on
the road is not an easy thing to overcome, and I saw
resolve, but I also saw a little uncertainty
as we came into halftime. And to start the
second half the way we did– if I remember right
we scored or got a field goal, but we move the
ball effectively, and that was monumental
just to reestablish what we’re capable of and that
we were executing more cleanly. So, yeah, just the resolve
and the maturity I think were maybe the two of the
things that I saw today that are lasting with me most. How about the Matt
Gahm interception– Wow, Gahm. Yeah, so Matt Gahm– we’ve been here three years
with that same defense and I don’t think we’ve
ever had an outside backer drop appropriately yet,
so finally in year four we get it done at
the appropriate time with the really
diligent guy and it’ll be a monumental thing
for teaching now when they do it right. It actually works, but that
play, that interception, and Joey’s interception make a
huge difference, and then just our ability to get to the
quarterback in the second half. But Matt Gahm, yeah, starting
in place of Chris Peace. So that’s Matt’s first
start and there’s plenty to learn, but to
execute a play like that at a critical moment
and, again, on the road in his first start I
was really proud of him. Coach, you like to say in the
pre-season you never really know– Yeah. — about your team once they
can actually play the game. Yeah. In the second half
what do you think you learned about your team? Just more seasoned. The program just
looks more seasoned. There weren’t the wild
ups and the wild downs and the crazy miscues
and things you’d say, man, why did he do that? Or, holy cow! Did he just do that? There wasn’t much of
that, and so it just looks like we’re maturing and
we’re a more seasoned program, and that’s what I learned. And I still wasn’t sure
going into the game how we would play, but overall the
relative clean nature of how we played the game and then
coming back from a deficit and then finishing with running
the football in the end zone when we had to
run out the clock. It was refreshing, and the
best teams can do that, so that was a good sign. Well, Coach, you know you– Go ahead. What can you share
about Jordan Mack? Early reports are concussion
is what I’ve learned. Losing him for a long– perhaps
tonight, does that show you something about your depth? It just is kind of
reflecting program maturity, but we have a young
player in Nick Jackson, so Rob Snyder
obviously stepped up. We had Zane Zandier,
so between Rob and then Nick Jackson in
the first year getting some work it’s
certainly had an impact but not to the level that it
has in years one through three. Because there were other players
that came out here and there also, and that just reflects a
program maturing by personnel and, I think to
your point, depth. Coach, you talked a
lot in this off-season about the benefits of
rotating defensive lines, but what benefits are there
to rotating the offensive line the way you guys did tonight? Well, it’s competition, and
so we’re still working hard to find the best five, the
most complimentary five, and the right players to do the
right thing at the right time. And the way that we
perform the second half I was much more pleased with
that than the first half where it seemed just not nearly as
consistent and more sporadic. So I think we’ve made some
progress through rotation and identifying, but
I can’t tell you today what the five really looks
like and in what positions. It might have been because
of the offensive line, but Bryson looked more tentative
in the first half than he did. Yeah. He was looking like he was
a different quarterback in the second half. I think it’s just
all part of getting to know this team and kind of
getting back in the swing of it for him, so I agree he looked
more rhythmic, more confident, more poised. But also we were able to now
just dial in and call things that were maybe more suitable
for what the game was requiring versus this opponent and
what we’re capable of doing. And I would love to say we
had a perfect idea of what we could do coming into the game. What we thought we could
do and what we actually could pull off, those
are two different things, so we saw in the
first half we weren’t able to protect as
long as we wanted. Because we didn’t see you
were a little shorthanded a wide receiver. You didn’t have Dejon Brissett. You didn’t have Tavares Kelly. Where are their
status as of now? So Billy and TK will be
back with us next week. There was a violation
of team rules, and so they’re back
in good standing. They worked really hard
helping us to prepare for this. They were basically
Pitt’s receivers, which was great preparation,
and Brissett should also be back full speed. His was injury-related,
not conduct-related. Did you guys debut
that NASCAR package with four outside
linebackers on the field. You guys implemented
it in a lot tonight. What do you guys get
out of that package? What’s the benefit of
having that much athleticism on the field? Well, we were actually
limited because of injury. There’s one other
package that’s probably the one you’re
referring to most, and but because
of a few injuries we didn’t nearly play that
as much as we had hoped to, but speed. Their quarterback hurt
us with his legs today. Scrambling, kept a
few drives alive, and that would have
helped on occasion if we’re able to substitute
even a little bit deeper. What concerned you most
about what Pitt was doing? I saw the halftime adjustment. So the speed in which they
were going with the formations they were giving us made
it really difficult, and so it was very
difficult to identify what personnel they were in. And then the
formations were unique, and we were just a count off
of making the adjustments by alignment we needed to
before the ball was snapped. So we had the
adjustments that we think would have worked
well, but we couldn’t get them adjusted fast enough,
and so we were just behind for especially that long drive. Not the flare pass that
went, but the sustained drive we were just a count off in
trying to communicate and get aligned fast enough,
and so we basically eliminated any
adjustment that we had to make based on a unique
formation and just aligned and played the second
half, which helped us. Bronco, you mentioned
at the outset this is an important win
for a lot of reasons, but at the same time
a year or two ago you guys win this game
everybody would be going nuts. It just seems– I don’t know
if subdued is the right word, but is that kind of
just a reflection of where this program is now? Well, they expect to win,
they believe they can win, and we have 12 more. So, yeah, we came
to win the game, and so we feel great about that. And now it’s like,
OK, who’s next? And there’s a Friday night
game, so we’re already a day less in our
preparation and they know that, so here we go. I’m going to work hard to
enjoy it longer, at least on the plane ride home. A long plane. But it’s, yeah, 36 minutes, [LAUGHTER] And that’s about as
long as we can enjoy it, and it’s a shame because
it’s been a lot of work and it’s a significant win
for the program considering we haven’t won here,
from my understanding. And it’s the first time
myself and our team since I’ve been the coach
have beaten this team, and it’s not easy to do. OK, thanks– Thanks everybody.

Comments (5)

  1. Great game. Glad that I could see it in person

  2. Great Game against a strong team!! Great Start. Go Hoos!!

  3. The entire program has been systematically improving since Bronco's arrival. I suspect that there will still be some ups and downs but it seems to me that the trajectory is absolutely headed in the right direction.

  4. Good conditioning and more consistency in Bronco's program. The London years were brutal. Thanks to all…Note on Bronco presser: "My.." My team. My coaches. My Players…Could we say The Team, the players….are they his?

  5. Coach seems like a stable, even-keeled leader – just what program needs. Less drama, more work!

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