Coach Addazio wrapped up last weekend's win and discussed this weekend's Louisville game during Monday's press conference. The transcript for this week's press conference is provided by BCEagles.com and TheACC.com.
STEVE ADDAZIO: Lunch tastes a little bit better. Food was a little better on Sunday. The victory meal was nice to have. It was just great to see the smiles on the kids’ faces and the coaches’ faces. That was a good thing.
We had some good things happen in that game, as you guys well know. I thought that we played outstanding on defense. We held them to 31 yards rushing, minus twenty-something at the half. We did a lot of things: 16 runs for three yards or less, seven TFLs, two sacks, two interceptions. Held them to 31% conversion rate on third down and 0-for-3 on fourth.
On offense, ran the ball, which is one of our goals. We want to be at least four yards per carry. We were 19-of-34, we had five explosives in the throw game. We were 3-for-3 scoring in the red zone, and time of possession, we were 36 minutes and 21 seconds to their 23 minutes, which was really important to play team football the way we want to play.
Most importantly, I thought that we saw our team play together for each other hard and with great resolve. And I thought you saw the promise of what this football team will be able to, over time, develop into, which is what's excited me the most this past weekend because I've seen the signs of that all over the place in practice and along the way. It's been hard and frustrating as we develop this team, but love this team and believe in this team completely. While that's one game, and while we know what we have ahead of us here, we also know that what we see is real and it validates.
As we get ready for Louisville, this will be the third time in Alumni Stadium history that we're hosting two teams ranked in the top 5. Louisville's ranked 5th. They've had some games that are unbelievable. 70-14, 62-28, 63 versus Florida State, 59 versus Marshall, I mean, 54 points versus N.C. State. And those are all real numbers now, unbelievable.
They rank first nationally in total offense, 603 yards, and in scoring offense, 50 points a game. No mystery. And they have a Heisman Trophy -- real, legitimate, Heisman Trophy contender in their quarterback in Lamar Jackson.
On defense, they're ranked -- they're holding people to under 300 yards a game. They're 34th in scoring defense, allowing 23 points per game; 16th in rushing defense, allowing 112 rushing yards per game; and 21 in pass defense. I would say that their personnel on defense is as good or it's elite, okay? They have elite talent on defense. It's as good of defense as I've ever seen, period, end.
So the challenge is formidable. This is a fantastic football team. Obviously they're a top-5 ranked team, the only loss they have is to Clemson, which was a barn burner in Clemson. So I think we're talking about one of the best teams in the country, without a doubt.
They've got some fantastic players. I mentioned a few of them on offense as well as Lamar: Their running back, Brandon Radcliff; the receivers Quick, Staples and Bonnafon are legitimate guys. They have big-play threats all over the field.
On defense their front is huge. Devonte Fields, 92, one of their outside linebackers, 27 tackles, two TFLs, two sacks, interception. Josh Harvey-Clemons, the safety, No. 25 is a fantastic player. 53 tackles, four TFLs and two sacks. Keith Kelsey, their linebacker, is a team leader. He's got 3.5 TFLs, a sack and 56 tackles. James Hearns has 34 tackles and 8 TFLs. You could keep going here.
What we have to do is we have to come out here and we have to put a great game plan together and put our kids in position on both sides of the ball to be able to make the plays that we have to make, we have to slow this game down. Obviously would be an understatement, and take advantage of situations that will present themselves. I think we have to do a great, great job on special teams.
So I think on offense we have to be a very physical team. We've done a good job lately of trying to distribute through our sweep plays, our play-action plays, our inside run game. On defense, our multiplicity, our attack style, and special teams I think we have to have outstanding coverage units, although we did have a miscue Saturday, but our coverage has been outstanding, and our punt protection and our punt return is much improved. So we've got to make sure we elevate those areas.
Our job, our goal right now is to improve. To keep improving, to keep developing this football team, and that's what we want to get done as we head into this game.
On a side note, Coach Reid, Jim Reid is back with our team yesterday, and he's doing very, very well and is ready to get back coaching here again on the field as we head into tomorrow's practice. So that's always great news, and everybody's excited about that.
So, you know, from an injury standpoint right now, we're still waiting on a couple of guys to see what their status will be, and I won't know that until probably more towards mid to the end of the week.
Q. Do you feel less pressure on yourself and the team now that you've gotten over that first hump?
COACH ADDAZIO: Well, in terms of pressure, when you've been in the business for a long time and you've been through all the roller coaster rides of this business, I really just kind of focus on each game. For me to stand here and say it doesn't feel good to win that game, of course it does. Come on now. But whether it's that game or the week before, whatever, just winning, just winning. My interest is in the validation for the kids, because, you know, you guys hear me talk. Every week I get in here and say we had a great week of practice, and we did this, and we did that, because it's true, because if it wasn't, I wouldn't say it. Not to get the validation is frustrating. To see our kids come together and really, really draw the best out of each other and get validation for the hard work and what they've put into this was fantastic.
The other stuff to me doesn't really play on me that much. It doesn't faze me because it's part of the business. Maybe because I've been in it long enough, I've been around it long enough that I understand the ebbs and the flows. Even though I'm an emotional guy, I wear my emotions on my sleeve kind of guy, that piece for me doesn't wear me down, okay? What wears me down is I care about our team. I care about our kids. I want them, just like my own family, you're only as happy as your saddest child. As a parent you say that commentary. As a coach, you feel that way about your team, when you love your team and you love your guys.
It was rewarding to get that win, and I think that the validation helped them re-bite back the work feeling like, hey, look what we can do when we come together and we play as a team. This is how it's supposed to taste, smell, feel and sound.
You know, when you have a lot of younger players on your team, you need that, and that's important validation. So that will help us. That will help us as we move forward into the future. It's like a little bit of an annuity that will come back to you.
So I'm excited about that. But yet in the same breath completely consumed with what's right in front of us right now, as you can well imagine. I'm not overstating what I stated here about who is coming in on Saturday.
Q. What made you decide to go to the Jones-Sweeney pass play?
COACH ADDAZIO: Well, we had worked on that all week long, and we had the look. We had it on the hash that we wanted it on. We had the ball position right. We had the look, and it was the right time to call that call and I was really proud of Davon. Davon had a miscue early in the game, and he wasn't in the game as much as he was accustomed to being in the game. You know, he didn't sit there and pout or anything. He was ready to roll. When his number got called, he made that play, and he did phenomenal. Even the little things we were coaching all week long. It was like, Davon, extend it one more step, and he did.
And I loved the next call for the two-point conversion, too. Which I thought was great, and I think the coaches did a phenomenal job with that.
We clearly need to be a team that has wrinkles because we are at the stage right now, we have a hard time sustaining consistency long enough for those long, methodical 12, and 13, 14, 15-play drives. We've had a fair amount of them this year and come away sometimes without even points. So I think these wrinkles, in the last few weeks you've seen these come out, and we have to have them because we're into now really trying to enhance where we can create explosives.
Q. (about Lamar Jackson and the Louisville offense)
COACH ADDAZIO: He is unbelievable. The guy is electric running the football and he has a tremendous arm with unbelievable weapons down the field. I mean, this guy is as good as anybody I've seen. And I think I've seen some pretty good ones. This guy's legit and he's got legit people surrounding him. It's not just a quarterback-receiver combination. It's a quarterback-receiver combination, he's a dual threat. They have an outstanding running back. I like their offensive line a lot. I think they're very talented. And on top of it, that's the point I want to make to you, their defense is unbelievable.
So people are having a hard time. Each week I watch an explosive run tape to see who has run the ball and what are the styles of runs, et cetera. There's like no tape. We're going into the ninth week of the season right now. I guess you could say ten because we've had a bye week. But, wow. It's striking to me. I mean they're that big, strong and talented on defense. So you take in that kind of defense and you put it with this explosive offense, which is really just explosive players. There's nothing dramatic going offensively in terms of schematics. It's play-making ability. And they've done a great job, their staff, of putting them in position to take advantage of their talent level, which is freakish.
Like I said, you don't just put 63 points up on Florida State now. Talking about some of the teams that they're putting points up on. They've put a lot of points up on Clemson. I mean, at Clemson. This is a bona fide -- not just because they're ranked, but because they are. They're one of the very finest teams in the country.
We've had two of them roll through here. But that's the state of where the ACC is. I'm really proud of that fact. Where's the ACC right now? Come on now, guys. The ACC right now, this is the elite conference in this country, and we have elite teams in this conference now and they happen to be on our side of the division, too. And you're going to see one come in here.
And I think it's a great challenge for our football team. I just do. I'm like, you know what? Let's go let it hang out. Let's go let it hang out. Let's just go put it together and play at the highest level that we've played at all year and let the cards fall where they're going to fall right here at home. Take the challenge on, embrace it, and let's roll.
Q. Coach, obviously your players know who Lamar Jackson is. What is the balance and challenge to make sure they don't just focus on defense, but focus so much on other weapons they have and keep the balance, making sure that Jackson isn't the only focus?
COACH ADDAZIO: I think that's the problem for everybody right now. You have to have your focus on him, but when you do that, you're in trouble all over the field. And that's why they're so hard. That's why they're so good. I mean, he can run a re-zone play and misread the end and it doesn't make any difference. He'll run right around them. The ends could literally be playing the quarterback, and he can pull the ball and he's still going for a touchdown. I mean, and that's against -- we have some of the elite defenses in the country in the ACC right now. This is a defensive league now, okay? It's amazing to me. That's how electric he is.
Murph was electric. We had Murph here a couple years ago, and he was a really good runner. This guy's faster now. He's fast. He's legit fast. And he's got a rifle arm, and he's just a sophomore. He's just a young guy. So they've got one there now.
But like you said, a lot of talent around that guy. So you know, you've got to get carried away with him. It's got to start there, but then you're vulnerable. And this is why they're putting 50s up on good defenses. This is what's happening right now. So it's an unbelievable challenge.
Then, you know, you don't get the ball moving on offense and you put your defense back out on the field, it's going to be problematic. So you've got to be able to sustain the ball on offense. That's your only hope is to be able to keep your defense off the field a little bit and sustain that ball. Then when you sustain it, find a way to get some points up on the board.
So field position will be critical in this football game. This is the game in the game with these guys that you've got to be really, really careful with. If you start going three-and-out against this team and put that pressure on your defense, you're going to be in trouble.
Q. A lot of what makes him outstanding though is how he uses the people around him, makes them better. Does he elevate the people around him?
COACH ADDAZIO: I can't speak to that. I mean, I don't know what he's like personality-wise. You can only guess. But his talent level brings everybody up around him because he's so talented. I mean, he's so talented. When you have that kind of elite speed and you can throw it at the arm strength that he has, and he's obviously got a great feel for football, you know what I mean? Which is sometimes you either have that or you don't. He's only a sophomore. It's not like he's got years in here right now.
But they play to his strengths and allow him to be the athlete he is, which a lot of those plays they're running are the kind of plays we ran with Murph when we had him. This guy's got a live, dynamic arm though with these vertical threats that you've got to watch out for.
Q. Is it kind of a ball control passing game from your team against N.C. State? Getting the tight end involved as much as you did?
COACH ADDAZIO: We spread it all over against N.C. State. Everybody kind of contributed against N.C. State and that's where we envisioned ourselves going. We had a lot of drops, right? We did that study and I challenged the wide receivers last week. We just had too many drops. We've got youth out there at receiver. Young guys. One who has never played receiver. One who has only been a receiver for one year, he's a high school quarterback. But we challenged our receiving corps because there were a lot of questions about our completion percentages and invalid, and it had a lot to do with the amount of drops we had. If we had not had 21 drops, 10 on first and second and 11 on third, our percentages would have been fine, which would have given us so much more offense.
But we are committed to this. And I told you earlier, we really wanted to be committed to having more balance on our offense. We felt like the team we have right now is a young, offensive team that we have to spread it around to everybody. We don't have one or two go-to guys. Get it to him, like Murph, get it to him or Andre, get it to him. So we've got to spread it around. And that's what we're trying to do right now. But in the effort to do that, there's got to be some level of consistency. I thought Saturday we saw much more of that.
Now, the good news of all that is as we move towards the future where we have 18 freshmen through sophomores coming back on offense next year, never mind some juniors with two years of eligibility left, the number really goes to somewhere around the 23 number, 21 to 23 players. I mean, we're going to have guys that have really built a base and a foundation that will make us in our own way harder to deal with, because we'll be able to get that ball spread around in a lot of different ways, with the run game and the throw game.
So we're investing in that right now. But while we're investing in that we had not as much productivity as we wanted to because we had a lot of drops going on. So Saturday, I thought we had a couple drops, but we caught the ball better. We spread it better. We created explosives with some trick plays, with some different styles of things and had to rely on everyone's consistency factor. And while it wasn't perfect, it was certainly better, and that's what you saw, against a pretty darn good defense. It wasn't like it was against chopped liver now. That defensive front was really good and really stout. So it's valid what we saw.
We saw sprinklings of that game 1 against Georgia Tech now, in a little bit babier version of that. We saw those sprinklings. I think everybody walked away from there, coaches, players, fans walked away. They said, wow, you could see the makings. Then we came back to U Mass and saw some development. Our run game wasn't quite where it should have been. But our throw game, we hit some balls and walked out of there feeling pretty good.
Then we went down to Tech and went to their home field, a really good football team, and we kind of got a little bit of a buzz saw, and I think some of our inexperience kicked in, and that was jolting. Then you know the rest of it from there. Then we went to two games we were supposed to win, we won, and then boom! Clemson. Right there. Just like that. Okay. That didn't go so fantastic, you know? Then we roll ourselves back into in conference into Syracuse, and I think at that point you're still trying to shape your identity because of the yo-yo-ness, okay? So I thought you saw signs of, if you'd had a smoother transition from game 1, you'd have liked to seen that smooth into that a little bit better. But it clearly will be there.
I'm just giving you a little what we see from the beginning to where we are right now. Now how do we hang on to that consistency? Well, here we go now, we're going to go into what we're going to go into right now. So we've got to be really careful this week that we are not trying to get like against Virginia Tech, you may not have really realized it, but we were trying to do a couple of things to kind of attack them a little bit schematically, which didn't work for us. We need to go back and be more steady in the boat and just develop and develop. I want to be careful this week that we don't go too far that way, you know what I mean? Saying well, "What are we going to do to move the ball kind of thing?" Well, what we need to do is kind of do what we do, do it better. Not to say you're not going to have your wrinkles.
But don't get crazy with that right now, because I want us to continue to develop or we're going to get sidetracked again. Take care of the football, play fundamentally sound. Have your wrinkles in. Same on defense. Special teams create some explosives, create field position, and let's go play a football game right now kind of a mindset. Okay. And I think that's really important because I think that Tech game got us a little spun around.
Q. As tough as that Clemson game was, does playing two top 5 teams in such close proximity on the schedule, can that help these younger guys to know they're going to get punched in the mouth early and know what kind of quality of team is coming in here again?
COACH ADDAZIO: Well, we're talking about hindsight right now, okay. It is what it is. Whatever cards you were dealt, you go deal them. No, probably progression growth is the best thing to do when you're developing, okay? Honestly. Progressing through to that. Having more games where you can kind of incrementally build like this and build confidence and build rhythm. You know, it's hard to get rhythm when you're playing a team like Clemson.
Now, ultimately, can those things help you? Yeah, as long as you don't let it destroy your confidence, right? So when you get some of those situations and then negativity grows and negativity puts doubt, right, and those things don't help in growth. That's why the game Saturday was so important because what that did was build some confidence. Do you follow me? And that's all part of it. Football's a game of momentum. It's a momentum game. You can just look around and see a couple teams in our conference that had a very kind of not too challenging start, and all of a sudden they built momentum up and we're caught like this, and kind of here we go again, honestly.
But I think we're now, at least with that win and some confidence and some validation, it gives you a better chance to handle the emotional deal of this whole thing. Okay?
Q. Can you explain the approach you took with the receivers in practice? I think I heard there was a different approach with the receivers, sort of like affirmation about catching passes. I was trying to figure out what that was?
COACH ADDAZIO: What we talked about is unit pride and holding your units accountable for things. We all want to throw the ball and we all want balance, and we do, fans do, everybody does. But like Bill Belichick says, you've got to get open and catch the ball. If you're not catching the ball, that's problematic in terms of moving the ball.
And just really focusing on, practice on, freezing the point on the catch and not trying to tuck and run. Just base, fundamental things in the throw game. And more strain. More attention to detail.
What happens sometimes when you have young receivers is they're learning how to get to the right route depths and how to stem and move defenders. All the little things and intricacies that go into a throw game. Sometimes what happens, believe it or not, the catch point doesn't have the same emphasis. So just really emphasizing. We've got great guys, great kids, and I think talented young receivers. I really do. But they're freshmen and sophomores that are just getting into it.
I watch a guy like Jeff Smith, he gets better every day, but there is a learning curve there. Mike Walker. Mike came here as a high school quarterback and he started out with us as a DB and then we moved him to receiver during the year last year and played on kickoff return. It's all new for him.
Then you're seeing the development of Tom Sweeney. Tom's really developing. I think he's going to be a really fine player. I really do.
And then Charlie had that high-ankle sprain that I think he feels really good again now. He didn't feel great for a while there. That's a hard injury for a receiver, especially a tall, long guy like that.
Then we've got other young guys like Benny Glines, who was a red shirt last year, and Nolan Borgerson and Thaddeus. He has got the most experience, for sure. I think they're learning a new passing system this year, and I think they're taking really well to it. Our players really like it a lot. But there is a real development piece to it right now.
There is a lot that goes into throwing the football. There really is. The sophistication of the whole thing. Now of course we say we have a fifth-year quarterback, but Pat's never been in this structure ever. He was in a shotgun, bubble, go-as-fast-as-you-can kind of operation. Now he's really come a long way. It's almost like he's learning all over again. Do you know what I mean? So even you say we have a fifth-year quarterback, it's kind of like a first-year quarterback in a lot of ways. But look at the advantage we have with guys like Darius and Anthony Brown. Darius has got a couple more years of eligibility after this year, and Anthony's just a freshman. So talented and really soaking all this in the right way now so now you can go like this.
I mean, Anthony last week had an unbelievable week because he was taking real reps with Darius. So the growth, that's what you want. You want to see those young quarterbacks that come up this way as opposed to we've been doing this, you know, transplanting them in. It's hard like that, you know. It really is. So it's just interesting, giving you some information. Kind of that growth and where we are.