Virginia QB on gap between Clemson and ACC: "Oh, I mean, it's big"


by - Senior Writer -
The gap between Clemson and the rest of the ACC is huge
The gap between Clemson and the rest of the ACC is huge

CHARLOTTE, NC – Coastal Division champ Virginia played well in Saturday night’s ACC Championship Game against Clemson and still lost by 45 points. In other words, the gap between Clemson and the rest of the league is huge.

Virginia gained 387 yards of total offense, but it wasn’t nearly enough in a 62-17 shellacking at the hands of the Tigers, and Cavalier head coach Bronco Mendenhall said his team just didn’t have the answers it needed for Clemson’s talented roster.

“First of all, congratulations to Clemson and Coach Swinney on an ACC Championship, and deservedly so. It's a very good football team. Really talented,” Mendenhall said. “They were well prepared, executed well, and so I was very impressed. 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.

“Ultimately, 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. 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.”

Virginia quarterback Bryce Perkins said he thinks the Cavaliers can close the gap with the Tigers.

“Oh, I mean, it's big. Coming out here tonight and just seeing it firsthand, they're a great team, and I think the gap between them and the ACC is big, but I feel like we're closer than people think,” Perkins said. “We played extremely well at times, and we executed, and there was glimpses of this Virginia team that can be one of the teams that battles with them from year to year, from here on out. It is big, but we have the opportunity in the years coming up to close that gap.”

Mendenhall said there was no way for Virginia’s scout team to replicate what Clemson can do.

“I think maybe for almost anyone in the nation to match their personnel and their execution would be difficult. They're very, very skilled at quarterback at an elite level, very skilled at running back at an elite level, very skilled at at least three of the receiver positions with a very strong offensive front,” Mendenhall said. “So the personnel is national caliber, National Championship caliber, and ACC Championship caliber, not only across the board but then including some depth.

“Yeah, the chance to match that, very difficult. The challenge that I think teams face when they play Clemson, at least what I learned and saw glimpses of throughout the week on film is just where is it to steal an extra number, and as soon as you do that, the quarterback can run it, the running back can run it, the quarterback can throw it, the wide receivers can catch it short and long and they can break tackles, so lots and lots of weapons and a very good scheme.”

The Cavaliers have battled injuries late in the season and the inexperience showed against the Clemson offense.

“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.”

Cornerback Nick Grant didn’t hold back when asked about Clemson’s receivers.

“They’re the best receivers we’ve ever seen. That’s just a fact. But that doesn't change that we didn’t come out and play our best game,” Grant said. “Any time we don’t play well other people are going to look better. We just work our technique and trust our technique, then things work out in our favor. People just see big plays being made, but a lot of times those players are covered.”

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