“Our football team took another important step towards becoming a good team by going on the road and beating the divisional leader at their place and doing that overcoming a lot of adversity that a lot of was created by ourselves, but nevertheless we still overcame it and won a football game. We’re excited about coming back and playing an in-state team and another big game. The thing about conference play is each week the better you play, the more important the games get every week so this is a very big game and a very important game to us.”
Is there any explanation for the penalties in the past couple of games and what are you telling your team to fix it?
“I guess it’s just poor coaching is all I can think of. In the past two weeks we’ve had an extensive amount of penalties and looking at them we had no pre or post-snap penalties. That’s something that we harp on and then you look at the game and you go, why is that important? You had 15 other penalties so it wasn’t for a lack of focus, because they were focused in and they were not pre-snap and they weren’t post-snap penalties so those are the ones that we harp on a lot. Getting our hands in the right places, a lot of those were extra effort, trying to finish a block, trying to put a guy on the ground and so we’ll continue to emphasize it. Each of our coaches know that. We’ve talked about it in the staff meetings, we’ve talked about it with the players in meetings and we will continue to do that out on the field and hopefully we’ll get better results this week.”
On the defense stepping up with the offense struggling to score:
“Again, I think as a football team we’re getting better each week. Probably three or four weeks ago something like that happens and people are discouraged and we don’t overcome it. Defensively, you noticed on the final drive the defense is out on the field and every time there was a timeout the offense were the ones going out on the field with the defense. They all wanted to be out there encouraging them. The entire team was out there in between the sidelines and the numbers with the defense so we’ve got some really good things going with the chemistry of this football team so I think our guys understand we’re doing this as a team whether it’s special teams, defense or offense. Somebody makes a mistake the other team knows they got to go out there and they got to make up for it. They got to make a play and our defense did that the other day.”
Does the intensity level increase against a rival like Duke?
“I don’t know, because I expect us to practice the same way. The culture that we are trying to create is that every game is the most important game. The next game is the most important game and it’s still about how you prepare. It’s about preparation, it’s about energy level and so I’m hoping that our guys do exactly what we’ve done the last three or four weeks in a row. I want the same intensity level in practice. That’s what I want. I don’t need to see anything differently. If we just match what we’ve been doing then I feel like we’re going to be okay.”
When did the team start to react positively to adversity rather than let it get them down?
“Everybody can say the turning point was probably the second half of the Louisville game when we did as much wrong as we could in the first half and we they came back out, turned loose and just started playing and not worrying about the bad things that were happening, just played and played hard, good things started happening. I think that was probably an eye-opening experience for a lot of our guys. They realized that we just do what we’re supposed to do, you go out there and play hard and good things are going to happen and when something doesn’t go our way it doesn’t matter. Just keep playing. There are 60 minutes and let’s play the last second.”
What concerns you about Duke wide receiver Conner Vernon?
“He’s a good football player. First of all, he’s played a lot of snaps and understands what David [Cutcliffe] is trying to do on offense and he’s very comfortable. He knows how to get open, he knows how to use his body, he’s got good hands, he’s a very intelligent player, he’s got great football savvy, so it’s a problem for you. It really is and so you start altering your game plan a little bit around him and making adjustments to make sure you’ve got him taken care of in the game plan.”
I think first of all, David Cutcliffe has done a tremendous job there. You look at who Duke is now compared to before David got there and Duke is a very fundamentally sound, good, solid football team and he’s got them truly believing they’re as good as they are and that’s a big deal. He’s got them believing and as long as they’re believing they got a chance in each and every game they play… He’s got a group of seniors that have been with him the whole time, that have grown up in his system and understand what they’re trying to do as a football team and so everybody there are his guys and they understand. They believe that they can be successful and you see that in the way they play.”
You have started three guys at strong safety this year. What are looking for there?
“We’ve had some guys get banged up, not be able to go and so we’ve rolled other guys in there and they’ve stepped up and played well. So, again, trying to develop some depth within our football team understanding that somebody else is going to have to go. We haven’t made it in a single week where all 11 starters have been the same each week on either side of the ball so that’s been a good thing. The depth we tried to develop during camp, during spring ball are paying off, because guys are stepping up and having to make plays and they’re doing it.”
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