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November 25, 2014

Mike London

MIKE LONDON:  Thank you.  Before I start, happy Thanksgiving to everybody.  I know things are going on, a lot of things to be thankful for, but appreciate the opportunity to speak to everyone this afternoon.
A big game for us.  Again, it's an opportunity for this program to experience a postseason play, playing against a good football team, a rival team, and a lot of things that people always talk about rivalry games that are important.  But it's a short week, short turnaround.  Our guys have been preparing well, and we look forward to traveling up to Blacksburg.

Q.  As far as this rivalry game, there's a lot on the line here, not just with the state of Virginia, but also being Bowl eligible and having another game to play.  What you can say on that and how that might elevate the importance more of playing a game inside the state of Virginia against Virginia Tech.
MIKE LONDON:  It's always important, particularly your last game, the emphasis on when you play your in‑state rival, the implications that it has to playing an additional game afterwards, the kids that are on both sides, the community that support the programs‑‑ all those things‑‑ the alumni.  All those things you have to take into consideration.
But ultimately, the game is played on the field and in between the white lines, and the preparation and the players' ability to execute, perform, is the thing that matters most from year to year.  This is another year of where now you look at the records, you look at other issues, the players knowing each other on both teams.  It comes to the last game of the regular season.

Q.  When you look at the other side of this game at Frank Beamer, what can you say about him and respect, or what you've built for him over the years knowing that you have this rivalry in the state of Virginia, off the field you're going up against each other in recruiting, on the field obviously you're playing in a game.  What can you say about Frank Beamer?
MIKE LONDON:  I've had a chance to sit in meetings and be across from Coach Beamer now for several years here.  I have tremendous respect for him.  I know in his first few years at Virginia Tech, they were challenging years, but he stayed the course and was able to weather the storm and turn his program into a program that people talk about.  I'd like to do the same thing and have the same opportunities.
He's one of the winningest coaches in college football.  He's been in this business a long time.  So there's a healthy amount of respect for a man that has accomplished so many things for his community, for his university, and for the players he's coached.  So he's a guy that's an example out there in a lot of coaching circles, and when you're in this profession, you'd like to have the longevity that he's had.  You'd like to have the opportunity to stay at places that are near and dear to you, and you'd like to win game like they have in the past.
So now we're concerned about what's going on here with Virginia and respect to our players and the program here and the pride we'd like to instill.  This Friday night on national TV will be an opportunity to do some of that.

Q.  When you look at this team and what you've been trying to build in Virginia, is the team getting in the direction that you want them to go?  Are you getting to a place where you feel like what you're trying to institute, instill in these guys is sinking in and working through?  Do you feel like you're on pace to be where you're hoping to be and expecting to be trying to build Virginia to be something special?
MIKE LONDON:  Yeah, I believe that.  I talked about progress being made.  I believe in the progress that's happening on the football field.  With a challenging schedule but still playing good teams and being in every game this year except for one, and having an opportunity to just allow these players to perform.
I believe in what they're doing in the classroom.  I believe in what they're doing in the community.  Things have improved the last few years, and recruiting has gone well for us.  It's a process that takes time, and you stay true to the values that you believe in, and I'll continue to do that, and you hope that the players that are playing this game, that they'll remember the games that are about to be played on Friday, but they'll also remember the experiences and journeys along the way.
Again, our group of seniors are excited about this opportunity to play on national TV this Friday.

Q.  I wanted to ask you just a couple of quick Xs and Os, matchup things.  When you look at Virginia Tech's offensive line, the sacks they've given up and the way you guys are so good at aggressively pressuring quarterbacks, what do you see in that matchup there?
MIKE LONDON:  You look at any offensive line and you look at the change they've had to make, and you look at our offensive line, we've played several players.  They've had to do similar things in terms of trying to find the right guys in the right spots, whether it's a guard position or tackle position.  So there's things that you have to do.
If the back has to get involved to help with protection, if the tight end has to get involved, I'm sure they'll do whatever they have to do to protect their quarterback, like we're going to have to do because they do have guys that can rush the passer.
You can look at other teams, but you always have to look at yourself and how you can protect your own quarterback.  In college football, that's one of the things, if you can get to the quarterback, you can change the complexion of the game.  They have their issues, we have ours, and I'm sure, as they are, we're trying to work on ours to minimize any negative issues.

Q.  On the flip side, they're very athletic at the defensive end, particularly at positions getting after the quarterback.  How important is it that you guys have some protection for your quarterback on Friday?
MIKE LONDON:  Well, it's always important.  The quarterback touches the ball 100 percent of the time.  Whether it's a sack or a hit on the quarterback, it takes an accumulated amount of hits on the quarterback, it takes its toll.  So they always have to be aware of where they are or where they're coming from.  They do a good job of attacking protections.  I believe we do a good job of attacking protections as well.  So they'll be trying to get to our quarterback, and we'll be trying to get to theirs.

Q.  Mike, your two safeties, Blanding and Harris, are ranked second and fifth in the league in tackles, which is kind of unusual.  Sometimes you'll see one safety in there, but both of them, is that just a function of your defense?  And how have they responded to that?
MIKE LONDON:  You know, it is.  When you're a pressure defense and you play man coverage, zero coverage or you do fire zones, your safety's going to be down in the box taking a guy that perhaps stays in for protection, or he's down in the box because the blocker he has is part of the blocking scheme.  So they're very athletic.  They're very aggressive.  They've adapted well to the scheme, to the style of play that Coach Tenuta has.  They embrace it.
I believe Quin has done a phenomenal job of being a true freshman and having the amount of statistics that he's had right now.  He's done a really good job for us.  And Anthony Harris, who was an All‑American last year, has been kind of a selfless leader in that he's made Quin Blanding a better player.  So the two of them back there really complement each other.  They've done a great job for us.

Q.  That was my other question.  How much has Anthony Harris sort of been a mentor to Blanding and sort of his‑‑ the way that he's rubbed off on him?
MIKE LONDON:  I've raved about Anthony Harris and about his selflessness to bring another young player along.  Anthony Harris got better because Coach Tenuta's scheme, and he got better because Mike Archer coaches him.  So things have happened for us at that position there that coaches, players, scheme, ability has really benefited us.  Quin will be a good player for a long time to come.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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