As always, the transcript of Steve Addazio’s weekly press conference is provided courtesy of BCEagles.com. What did Coach Addazio have to say this week as his team begins preparing for the Buffalo Bulls?
“Another week. It’s amazing how fast the football season goes. Great to get a win. I think it was good for our team to feel that positivity. I think defensively – some of these things are redundant from the press conference postgame – we held them to a total of 107 years. That’s pretty good defense. Forty-five yards rushing and 62 yards passing. They had one broken play that they hit us on early – it was a broken play – and then a field goal that came after a penalty. So there really wasn’t much going on.
Defensively we played them really strong and held them to a total of 107 yards. Offensively, we had 500 yards of offense – 490 – rushed for 300 and threw for almost 200. Had 16 explosives: eight in the run, eight in the pass. I would say we had a lot of things going on that were positive. Time of possession: 37 minutes to 22 minutes. All the things that you look for.
I think the penalties we’ve got to alleviate. There’s a lot of yardage lost there with those penalties. If you take away those penalties, just on one play alone, there’s over 60 yards of field position. So we’ve talked about that. Obviously we’ve got to lose the penalties. They’re drive-killers. They get you off schedule. They hurt your field position and there’s a lot of hidden yardage which leads to hidden scoring opportunities in there. I would say that would be the one thing that we felt like, without a doubt, we need to do better.
Offensively, with a young offensive line, one of the encouraging things I’m seeing is in protection we’ve done a pretty darn good job of protecting and not allowing sacks. I think that’s a good thing.
We’re starting to gel in the running game. We’re not there yet, but I thought we saw improvement on Saturday but that’s still a process. We’ve got to keep growing, got to keep developing.
Our receivers are getting a little more confidence, making some real plays. That’s a work in progress.
Those two areas – O line and receiver – probably have a fair amount of upside, but we’re also pretty young there and need a lot of work.
Even on offensive line with a guy like Jimmy Lowery; he’s a right tackle. You say well, he’s a fifth-year player, but he’s never played in any kind of run-style offense before. Never been involved in that, never really been in a three-point stance. Some of those things require some real work. But overall, I liked our improvement. We went to fundamentals. I thought fundamentally, we improved and we want to have another fundamental week this week and continue to grow. The nature of the game this week, last (week) was play fast and physical. This week, maintain playing fast and physical, but a higher level of execution. That’s what we like to have.
We’re moving on to Buffalo. Obviously Buffalo is in the MAC Conference. Last week they beat Army, which was an upset and gave Army their first loss. Brought them to overtime and won it in overtime. Played a heck of a game, beat them 23-20.
On defense, they’re a 4-3 scheme. They have some pressures in there. They’ve got some good-looking, big stout player in there. Some guys that you watch on film and I think they’re good players. Khalil Hodge is a linebacker, Brandon Crawford, Boise Ross – those are guys, to name a few, that I think are talented guys. They’ve got good size on defense. They’re big, strikingly so.
On offense, Tyree Jackson, the quarterback, number three, redshirt freshman, six-foot-seven, 245 pound guy. He’s 41-of-78 for 433 yards, three TD, two interceptions. He’s rushed the ball 30 carries for 181 yards, at 6.6 yards an average. Ok.
At running back, Jordan Johnson, Jonathan Hawkins, both good players. Jordan Johnson is a 6-foot-1, 220-pound kid. He’s a pretty sizable running back. He’s got 50 carries for 218 yards, and 4.4 yards per carry and one touchdown.
Wide receiver is Marcus McGill, Kamathi Holsey and tight end Mason Schreck, who’s a decent-sized guy at 6-foot-5, 258-260 pounds. A lot like Tom Sweeney size. They’ve got some good-looking players. They returned a fair amount of lettermen. They were 5-7 last year and I think they returned 14 starters from 2015. It’s a fair amount of starters. They’ve got a little confidence and a little momentum going with that win last week, so they’ll come in here and it’ll be another good challenge for us to continue to play better and to grow and to get more experience, and play hard and to challenge ourselves with as high a level of execution that we can play at. So that’s what I have for you.”
On the team’s injury status …
“There’s nothing really to report. It all looks good.”
How has the schedule affected the team’s development?
“Football is a game of momentum. We’ve talked about this. And you watch some of these teams. When you play some of those more challenging games early, it can get you out of the developmental flow. When you’re a more veteran team, you’re going to handle that better. But no matter who you are, when you play those games early, when you win them, they can be really great catapulters for you. When you lose them, it can have real backwards momentum for you. Just look around college football and see what’s happened. It’s proven to be very, very true. People don’t understand how important momentum is in football. It really is a lot to it. You know, no matter who you play, if you’re off at 3-1, 4-0, there’s a lot of confidence.
Now someone might say that might be false confidence. It could be. But there’s positivity and there’s confidence, especially in the scrutinized world we’re in today. When you start with a more challenging schedule and you have a higher percentage of that not coming out to be a win, then you can get sometimes into less of a momentum turn. On the flip side of it, you can also uncover problems and developmentally pick them up. And it could help you. But I just think football is such a momentum game. It’s always better to grow. It’s always better to grow. No matter who you are, you come out early – and it was all across this year and it is every year – you’re misfiring. You’ve got some issues.
I thought we came out against Georgia Tech and actually played, for a young team, a fairly high level of execution for game one against a quality opponent in the place we played. So I was pleased with that. But I think those things didn’t allow us to try some things, either. So it can stunt you just a little bit. So the way the schedule falls, is it important? Yeah, I’d say it’s critically important. It really is a big piece of things. To say that it isn’t, it’s not accurate. If you’re a veteran team on both sides of the ball, you’re better equipped to handle those things and certainly winning them can absolutely boost you. But slow and steady early. Getting the kinks out, getting confidence, finding out where you have some deficiencies, where you over-evaluated something, where you under-evaluated something – as happens with every team, every year – you’re always better off.”
On balancing out the team’s attack options …
“The simple answer is you can’t afford to do too much of anything. Going back and saying to me, being fundamental, more simplistic, is an opportunity to be … we wanted to establish the run game. We felt like we had to do that. That was something that had to happen. And it still has to happen, so that mindset is not going to change. But this week, we know we need to be more balanced. We know that. And for us, we were pretty balanced playing Georgia Tech. We’d like to go back and get more balanced. Obviously the talent level of this team is higher, but every game is fragile. Every game is fragile. The ultimate goal in this game, no matter what, is to win and get to 3-2. Get the win and get to 3-2 and put ourselves back into that position again. And confidence. And to play clean. Play efficiently and consistently. And when you do that, your team starts to pick up steam. I think that’s the word. You want to pick up some steam. Week three for us, we picked up – and certain things had to be done and things we tried and we weren’t ready for that. And so that stunts you a little bit in week three. When you’re still trying to [laddering his hands upward] go like this a little bit. And obviously that’s proven that’s a real talented football team, especially at home. That’s come out pretty clear. So, I’d like to say we’d be a week ahead right now. I wish we were, in terms of just our development. But we’re getting there. We’re getting there. And it comes incrementally.
I really enjoyed seeing Mike Walker make those two catches. You see them on tape, they were exceptional catches. Jeff (Smith’s) touchdown ball was a beautiful route and a great catch. Made one, missed another one that was there for the taking. A couple of runs that I saw in that game by Jon (Hilliman) and by Davon (Jones), they were elite runs. It was finally nice to see that start to come together. Those things started to happen. That has to happen … seeing Tyler (Rouse) on the punt returns. I know of these things, too, are relative to who you’re playing, but you’ve got to start. You’ve got to learn what to feels like to have those things happen, to validate the plan to win, to validate different things that you’re working on. And then from that, you build momentum and confidence. So I think some of those things happened well.”
Is he and his staff using Wagner and Buffalo games to piece back together the offense and defense?
“Not to be over intense on words, it’s not so much piecing it back together, it’s just [laddering his hands upward] piecing the growth of it together. And the Tech deal distorted that and it distorted it going in. It wasn’t just because of the outcome, okay? That was a tough game for us to go to in week three on the road. It was an exceptionally, exceptionally tough game, especially coming off of what we’d come off of. You know what I’m saying? We didn’t exactly come off cupcake land. We went out to Ireland and played Georgia Tech. Georgia Tech’s a pretty solid team, right? UMass has shown you – time bears out what teams are, it just does. UMass, they played Florida really tough; that wasn’t a mirage. Then they played Mississippi State really, really tough. It’s not a mirage. Like I thought, going into the game and coming out of the game, they’re pretty athletic. They have some athletes. They can run. They have a pretty solid team. We didn’t run the ball as good as I wanted to. We threw the ball well in that game, but we had a decisive win in that game. It really could’ve been bigger. But that was against a quality team. You know what I mean? It’s less piecing it back together. It’s like trying to get back on [laddering his hands upward] this kind of trend, which got stunted in week three for us, just where we are right now. Last week was good for that. And this week gives us another opportunity to have to ramp it up more. And that’s a good thing. It can’t be the world of extremes here.
That’s where I feel like [zig-zagging hand up and down] your schedule – the way your schedule’s laid out. It’s a bit of a world of extremes. But as it’s said, that’s the way it is and you’ve got to deal with it. So that’s what we’re doing. But if we can get to 3-2, we’re in good position at 3-2.That’s our goal: get to 3-2. Deal with that right here. Get there, deal with it. Okay?”
On the team’s defensive goals going into the Wagner game …
“We thought, both sides of the ball, we tried to do too much with our team on the road in game three. And so we kept it really simple on defense. And our goal to our team – I think I told you guys this. I think I did, I can’t remember – we want to play fast physical with fundamentals. Right? Really fast, really physical with fundamentals. I thought we did that on defense. We played pretty vanilla for us. We blitzed. We did all our things, but we played fast. I don’t care who you’re playing … we had a lot of backups in at the end, too, and we held them to – the whole fourth quarter and half of the third – and we held them to whatever I said, 107 yards or whatever it was. I mean, yeah. Yeah, I think we did. It’s just unfortunate that we had that one play that was a broken play. A totally broken play, unscripted. They were trying to throw a bubble to the field and they went to throw the bubble and we’re so fast reacting – Thoomp! – we’re torqueing to the ball. And he pulls the bubble down and three-quarters of our defense is on the move and he comes back and finds a little room out the back door and it happens. But you know, it happens early in the game and then it’s 7-0 and that’s how that thing rolls. That’s life. At the end of the day, there’s a 107 yards and I thought we played really strong once again. That’s three out of four games that we’ve had dominating performances on defense. Three out of four. And the one that we didn’t, there was a lot to that one. And a lot of it came from an inability to get anything going in that game. And against a veteran offensive football team that’s proven to be that. But still, not to that magnitude.
But I like what we did. We need to continue down that path, both sides of the ball, but I’d like to do a little bit more finding that balance right now. Making sure we don’t sacrifice how fast we play, but if you play too vanilla, it’s going to catch up with you. So trying to [laddering his hands upward] ramp it up a little bit, honestly, and see how much we can hold on to from an execution standpoint. To be consistently consistent, not consistently inconsistent. Because when we play fast, we have good players. The defense is older. That’s a little different deal than the offense. The offense – there’s a lot of guys. It’s amazing to me, each week. Like yesterday we went out … I walked away from Sunday’s practice last night and said we really took a step yesterday. But it’s amazing to me that I’m saying that. Really, on a Sunday? Because there is so much meat on a bone. Things you’re doing. We went back to some real combination block drill work yesterday that was enlightening to me. With young lineman, inexperienced linemen. They walked away from that like, ‘Ah, I got a better understanding, better grasp of that now.’ It’s like each week. You kind of go like this [hands up], like this [hands down], like this [hands up], hands down [hands down]. You just keep moving and over time you’re getting better. And the way we play, the line play’s extremely important. Extremely important.”
What does he look for in development of the offensive line …
“What happens when you’re young up front, you’ve got to snap off the ball. You’ve got to play with speed and intensity coming off the ball. But you slow down when things are different and moving and blitzing, and you become mushy. And it’s the ability to handle that movement by still playing fast – that comes with comfort. You get used to it. And the you get back and you can speed up. Sometimes you can look slow when you’re a young lineman and you’re not confident to fire out. In relative to scheme, we run multiple schemes. We run zones and gaps. Gaps are powers and counters, and zones are tight zones and wide zones. And we run a couple of isos. So we have some multiplicity in there, and it’s sheer repetitions over and over again so they get the repetitions in each scheme. Everything is not new for the first time when it’s coming at you. Anticipating pressures – little indicators that certain pressures are coming – and you’re licking your chops and you can rock off because you know where those checkers are going to be when you come off. When you’re a veteran player, the game slows down for you. When you’re young, it’s like this [face in surprise]. Then instead of firing off the ball, you take a step and you’re trying to grab and catch everything. We still have a fair amount of that going on. Like I told you in the Wagner game, it’s like the land of firsts. We get so much movement that the levels were so bizarre that it didn’t feel right to them, so they weren’t snapping off for the backer back here. You’ve got a gap to the back-side backer, here comes the backer and we’re late and he’s hitting us in the backfield a couple of times. Meanwhile [hands above his head] it could’ve been like that, but just [snap, snap, snap, snap] so we spent a lot of time to go back, correct that, anticipate that, drill those types of things happening. What you’re doing is building a bank. We don’t have a big bank, so every time we go about stuff, you’re in this kind of game. What does that mean? A certain pressure, a set of pressures or whatever. Like last week, they were going to play some what we call odd. Some 3-4 defense. Well, even though we saw some of it in training camp, you prep for some of it, that was like a revelation. So you’re spending two days trying to get ready for that particular front and then by the end of the week they felt more comfortable in that front. And it shows up in the game a little bit and you’re not really as comfortable as you think you are. What you realize always is in practice you get to a certain level, but just understand when you get to the game, it’s going to change. The coaches aren’t pushing and driving and controlling, you’re now out there on your own. And that’s part of the next evolution we have to do. I told our coaches, in practice we have to back off. We love to coach and we’re boisterous and we’re there and we’re into coaching. But I think we need to be in to coach off the tape and let our guys start to problem solve on their own. And let them learn feel what it’s like in a real game where you’ve got to make decisions – and sometimes quick decisions – without any help. You’re on an island. That’s another phase of maturity. So each week we’re going to gain.
In pass protection, uniquely enough, we’re doing all right in pass protection. We’re getting better. Now we’re not exactly where we want to be, obviously, but we’re certainly getting better in the run game, we’re going to start to piece it together. We’re going to have those ups and downs as this thing grows, but the talent level is intriguing because we can physically do it. We can physically do all that. It’s just maintaining playing physical and fast when things are moving really, really quickly like they do at our level. We play some really good football teams in our league and in our side, particularly this year maybe in the history of the ACC. And so the margin for error is small. It’s small and we’ve got to develop in fast fashion. But spirited practice out there last night. They loved it. They were having a ball out there. It’s Sunday. We just got done playing on Saturday and we’re out there and it’s sign of good things. And I’m excited about that.”
His opinion of Davon Jones’ performance on Saturday …
“I think he just continues to grow. I think we’ve seen that. Continue to let him touch the ball a little bit more. I think it was great for him to touch the ball. He’s got a tremendous unique vision. He’s strong to the hole and I think we saw that. I thought Jon (Hilliman) had a great opportunity. I thought Richard Wilson, at the end, got some quality time in there. But I think Davon each game has gained more. Each game has gained more. And that’s valuable to us. Very, very valuable. We all know at that position, it’s hard to run the gamut without injuries. Very, very difficult for anybody. It’s a physical league.”
On playing fast on Saturday …
“We’ve been working on that for quite some time. A sonic tempo, really fast. Like you would think, it’s a mixed bag. When you do that, there’re some advantages. But then there are some disadvantages. When you’ve got a young offensive line, you talk about things happening quick? Things are happening real quick then. So you have a tendency to see something like all of sudden you’ve got someone in the backfield that’s not blocked. So there are some advantages, and that’s something we just want to keep, we work on and have the ability to pull into our plan when we want to do that. But that’s another one of those things that’s a work in progress, for sure. And we wanted to get a series of that in on Saturday. Might want to get another series of that this Saturday. It can be a weapon, but where are right now, I don’t know if we could live in that world because we need to develop our line and that doesn’t usually develop your line. You know? But we’d like to develop our line. So that’s another twist in there that sometimes may be too much for them.”