Head Coach Steve Addazio
STEVE ADDAZIO: Hard-fought football game. Played a good football team. The two teams battled. They made more plays down the home stretch than we did. We rushed for about a buck 70-something, threw for two something, had 373 yards of offense, but we did a few things that were uncharacteristic of our football team. We turned it once over at the very beginning of the game on a tipped ball. We turned it twice over in the second half, once on an interception, once on a fumble, and I felt like our plan to win special teams are critically important, but between a penalty and some poor kickoff coverage, we put ourselves in bad field position.
That's the tale of the game.
In the second half, we were on the long field, they were on the short field. Started off with our poor coverage to open up the second half. We all know that we can't turn the ball over. We had three turnovers, like I said, one in the first half, two in the second half, so all the stats and all the yardage, that doesn't mean anything. When you turn the ball over, you put yourself in harm's way, and when you don't control the field position through your special teams, you put yourself in harm's way, and those were things that were uncharacteristic of our football team, and those are things that we did today.
We've got a talented football team with a bright future. You know, we've got some really good team speed and some playmakers. Obviously out there today in this kind of conditions, it comes down to -- it becomes a real back-and-forth kind of game. You're looking for your plays as you can get them, and I thought we had a fair amount of offense based on the weather conditions that we had out here.
But I think as we move forward with the young playmakers that we have, the speed that we have on our team, and the explosiveness, I really like where we're headed and where we're going to be. I feel bad for our seniors. They wanted to close this thing out, as every team does in a bowl game, on a high note, but we were in a tough football game, and we'll learn from that game, and it'll make us stronger, and it'll continue to improve us and make us a better team as we roll into the next season.
We're looking forward to a great off-season, a great spring and a great summer. Love our football team. Love our players. Heart breaks for them in the locker room right now, but this is a high-character outfit with a lot of pride, and they'll learn. We will learn from this game, and this is going to continue on our path to making us the team that I think we can be.
As hard as it is to walk off that field right now, give credit to Iowa. I thought they did a great job. Good football team, really good football program. I think both teams battled and played their hearts out on that field. Really good bowl game.
With that, I'll take any questions.
Q. (No microphone.)
STEVE ADDAZIO: Well, I mean, that opening play, Tommy got held, and I think Charlie fell down. We were getting acclimated to the conditions, and we tipped the ball up, they made a play. I mean, as I said to the guys, I knew that would happen in this game. I mean, this was going to be a game where there was going to be some ups and downs, and everybody was going to have to hunker down in the weather and the field conditions, and it's the same for both sides.
So that play was a play that can happen in those kinds of conditions.
I thought there was other plays that were made that were good throws, good plays. Towards the end there -- I mean, it's just that kind of game. I don't know what all -- I know we were 370 something yards, I believe. Is that an accurate statement? I don't know what Iowa had, 200 -- I thought we moved the ball, and given what the conditions were.
I thought for a guy like AJ, who is a hard, put-your-foot-in-the-ground drive guy, it was hard on him out there tonight. He wasn't able to really do that. He was kind of like on ice. You know, made some good runs, but you know, those traditional, like I said, when you get a good power back like that sometimes that wants to plant and drive as hard as he wants to plant and drive, I thought that became a little bit more difficult.
I say that because to answer your question, we had to throw the ball a little bit, and I thought Darius did a good job of managing all that.
Q. Coach, what happened at the end of the first half with the field goal attempt with time on the clock? It seemed a little rushed.
STEVE ADDAZIO: I don't know why. There was no -- the clock was stopped. I'm not sure what happened with the communication out there, but it appeared as though the ball maybe was snapped before the operation was ready to roll. I mean, I thought we did a great job of managing that whole situation, getting the ball down in perfect position down there to kick a field goal. Have to go back and take a look at exactly what was the dynamic there. There was no rush. There was no time constraint. There was nothing. You know, and I wanted to save -- I had a time-out there and felt like, well, if we had a bad operation problem, I could call time-out and reload it again. But I don't know. Shouldn't have been any issue. Like I said, the clock was stopped. I thought we handled it and operated it, until that point with the snap, as good as you could operate that situation. We were aggressive with it and wouldn't have changed anything we did other than the fact that we looked out of sync on the field goal.
Q. The linebacker corps going in had some injuries. How did that affect things tonight?
STEVE ADDAZIO: Well, we lost Kevin Bletzer, and as you said, we've already gone through four linebackers. So I mean, it's duly documented. We're paper, paper thin. We could ill afford to lose another linebacker, and we played a true freshman in Isaiah McDuffie, who we think is going to be just a fabulous player. He's played very sparingly, really mostly on special teams, but I think he's going to be just an excellent, dynamic, explosive guy. He went in there and had to take over the reins.
You know, we had nowhere else. There was nowhere else to go. That's it. That was our -- so that was our one, two, three, four, fifth injury there. Mm-hmm. End of the year, that's where you're at.
Q. Talk about the Wade-Sweeney combination. You've been seeing that almost back to spring ball two years ago. What's the chemistry between those two?
STEVE ADDAZIO: I mean, I just think Tom is a hell of a player, and we're trying to feature our tight ends, and I thought he did a great job there, hit him with some good balls and he made some good catches and some good runs. I thought he was in the end zone on that last one, but he got walked there at the end. But he's an every-down player, that guy. I mean, he is a true every-down player. Sometimes he probably needs a blow, you know, to play the way -- as physical as he has to play as a POA, as a blocker, and then down the field as a pass receiver. He's a heck of a football player.
Q. Talk about defense; you get them 3rd and 10 and they would get a chunk play on you. Seemed like they had four or five chunk plays that influenced the whole game.
STEVE ADDAZIO: You know, we held them to 200 yards total offense. I mean, we let up a couple big plays. I think the field position, the defense was put in compromised field position, as I talked about earlier. But if you said you're going to go into the game and hold a team to 200 yards of offense, you'd like your chances, right? But, you know, we let up a couple of big plays, as you pointed out, and you're 100 percent accurate, and they came back and haunted us, plain and simple.
It doesn't matter if you play great for 60 plays. You can't give up a couple, three big hits. It's the same ol' story, you know. But we've got to do a better job of not giving people that short field. That was very -- our kickoff coverage has been excellent. That is very uncharacteristic. Those guys out there on ice pattering their feet. Our whole thing is speed. We've got really good team speed. We get down the field with great coverage units, and I felt like we were pattering on ice out there on their kickoff team. I'm not really sure why. I know the footing wasn't great, but all of a sudden we played in a manner on our coverage team that was uncharacteristic of who we are.
Q. Obviously you talked about the future of your team, and right now your mind is on the result of this game, but looking toward the future, you mentioned the speed, you mentioned the playmakers. With AJ, his name is going to be on the short list for a lot of awards next year and in the future. Is that something you have to manage ego-wise, or how do you approach that going into next year?
STEVE ADDAZIO: I mean, we're dealing with a high-character great kid who I think totally understands. He's not an ego guy. I know there's human nature. I think it's our job as coaches. But we have a pretty centered, balanced team and a program and a university. Our university is a balanced university. It's not just all about football at our place. It's about everything. It's about academics. It's about making a difference in people's lives, and it's about competing at the highest level on the athletic fields.
So I mean, I think as a whole our place is very balanced, and I think our kids have a tendency to be really balanced, and I think we're dealing with high-character guys, and AJ is certainly a very high-character guy. And our program is wired in such a way that, you know, a big ego is not going to survive. I mean, you're going to be challenged every day to maximize yourself. That's a good question and a very reasonable question, but I feel good about our future, and I feel good about how AJ will handle the accolades and the attention really more than anything else.
Our place is about the team, the team, the team, the team, the team, and that is not going to change. We've got a lot of guys that can make a bunch of plays. I couldn't be more proud, more excited to be around our players. Every day I come to work, I feel just very grateful and blessed that I get to be around the guys I'm around, and I've been around a long time and a lot of programs. When I make that statement, I'm not just saying it like flippantly. It's the best group of guys I've ever been around as a whole, and really, really are wired together really well and have their priorities straight.
Junior Tight End Tommy Sweeney and Senior Defensive Back Isaac Yiadom
Q: I know you guys knew interceptions would be a major factor tonight, how did you try to manage to not let it happen the way it did?
Sweeney: It’s uncharacteristic of us. It’s been our weapon this whole season, winning the turnover battle. One possession can kill you and that’s kind of what happened with three turnovers on offense.
Q: Were you down field on the strip sack?
Q: What did you see on that play?
Sweeney: I kind of ran an out route. Darius was trying to go over the top. So I kind of blocked back. I don’t know what really happened.
Q: How difficult was it playing on the field?
Sweeney: I was wearing basketball sneakers. One weapon we had coming into this game was our speed and it negated our speed. There were so many plays on the perimeter, the pass game, the run game. There were a couple times for AJ that with just one cut, he would have been gone. It was the same thing for them, but it negated our speed.
Yiadom: Yeah. Like he said, the whole field was hard. They were playing the same game we were playing so we can’t really blame it on that. A couple of plays though and we could have been gone.
Q: How does it change your game plan when AJ doesn’t play as much of a role?
Sweeney: It doesn’t change that much. We just try to stick to what we’ve done. The way the game unfolded with the play action, I don’t think the running game affected that too much today.
Q: Tommy, take us through those two plays. The first play, it tipped wide of the end zone, and that one play when you were very close to getting that TD.
Sweeney: The first one, I was blocking down. I kind of got tangled up with the defensive end and as I broke free, I didn’t see where Darius was looking. He was actually looking down the field. I was blocking before that, so I saw it come into my frame. I didn’t realize Charlie was open, so that cost us. And then the second one, I cut up field which took about 10 seconds because I was running on ice. And I was running and there was a blocker down field. I didn’t know if I should go inside or outside, so I kept it inside. I saw someone was coming behind me so I switched hands. I probably shouldn’t’ have done that, maybe it would have given me an extra step.