Senior quarterback Matt Johns to start against Georgia Tech
Coach Bronco Mendenhall announced in his weekly press conference Monday that senior quarterback Matt Johns is slated to start when Virginia travels to Atlanta, Ga. Saturday to take on Georgia Tech.
The move comes after junior quarterback Kurt Benkert was pulled late in last weekend’s 34-14 loss to Miami. Benkert, an East Carolina transfer, has started in all 10 games for the Cavaliers (2-8, 1-5 ACC) so far this season.
Johns was the starter in the 2015-16 season when Virginia finished 4-8 and 3-5 in the conference, throwing 20 touchdowns and 17 interceptions. After Benkert was named the starter this season, Johns found his role as the holder for field goals. He also threw a touchdown pass against North Carolina on a fake field goal.
The senior got to finish his last game in Scott Stadium as quarterback when he replaced Benkert in the fourth quarter. With just about five minutes to play, Johns was three for seven for 64 yards, although receivers dropped three of his passes. He has been praised for his leadership by coaches and teammates alike.
“I think he's earned the chance through not only his career here, but the season in leading our scout team offense and how unselfish he's been battling his way to back into contention at quarterback,” Mendenhall said. “And I think it's not only the right thing to do, I think it's the fair thing to do.”
Mendenhall also stressed the importance of allowing Benkert to step back from his role. Through 10 games, Benkert has thrown 20 touchdowns and 11 interceptions, but has been sacked 31 times.
“I also think it's imperative for Kurt to step back,” Mendenhall said. “And for his growth, I'm not sure he could take another step forward without stepping back and kind of reassessing. So all that together has gone into the decision.”