Following yesterday’s loss to Georgia Tech, head coach Steve Addazio addressed the media. As always, here are quotes from the presser, courtesy of BCEagles.com. There’s a lot to digest here, and we’ll be sure to dig in over the next few days.
I’ll let AJ and the other guys offer their thoughts but the quote here that most makes me want to light my hair on fire is the one about the timeout called with 4 minutes left. Needless to say, I don’t think many people watching at home thought that was a situation that required bleeding the clock.
Opening statement …
"The tale was that they threw for 119, or just about, in their two series in the first half and two big throws in the second half and they were critical – third and 12.
(Jon) Hilliman rushed for over 100 yards. A lot of good things happened. A lot of good things happened in that game and we had some decent downs in what we wanted to do offensively.
Tough game. We showed a lot of improvement. But at the end of the day we didn't make the plays we had to make in the end to close that game out and they did.
I liked the way the team played. We played physical. We played hard on both sides. There was a lot of improvement and there were a lot of good things were going on out on the field. We just need to learn how to close that game out. We had good opportunities in the red zone. We missed two field goals. You can't do that. That's two opportunities when you have limited possessions in the game.
I thought time of possession was about even, we had 29 and change they were 30. We had almost equal time of possession which is tough to do against a wishbone team. We had a lot of time of possession on offense, and we tried to keep our defense off the field. I thought both sides were working hard together. Obviously we wish we could've pulled it out at the end."
On the team's timeout with four minutes left …
"Timeout there was to get as much clock as we could. Our goal as that point was to take as much time off the clock as we could, punt the ball and let our defense win the game. And we thought that was the right strategy at that point. The defense went out there and got them in a fourth and 20. And that was the play there."
On costly mistakes …
"We played great all day. Like I said to the team earlier, we are not interested in stats. The only thing is to win the game. It's not okay to say we were great on 36-out-of-40 plays, except for those four; those four could cost you the game. Whatever the side of the ball you're talking about, or special teams: it doesn't make any difference.
The tale of this game was two missed opportunities in the red zone, two field goals missed and about four plays on defense. Those four are costly plays that got them out of three third and longs and one fourth and 20. That was the story with those four plays.
So you take those two things and put them together, it cost us the football game. Because, really, in between all that, we played pretty well. But we didn't win. There was great energy on that field, great intensity on that field and great confidence on that field. We wanted our defense to have the game in their hand, period, end."
On preparing the team for UMass next weekend …
"We've got a great group of guys. It's not going to affect them. It will affect them today. We are all hurting. We are all ripped apart. But big picture wise, we get back to work at home, get ready to play UMass. Yeah, these things hurt you. They hurt you. They're body blows, but we are tougher than that. We're tougher than that. We pride ourselves on that. This game is so unpredictable it will slap you right in the face. You've got to be tough and move forward. And more now than ever, you know, people want to tell you everything you do wrong and point out everything that's negative, and that's fine.
But those players know what happened in that game. They know. They know. They know the tale on that game. We have to go back. We have to get better and fix it. The system is important. That was two teams battling each other in an ACC tilt on opening day. That was a pretty clean-played game aside from a couple of penalties at the very end when the right tackle was trying to get a jump start on the gates there. This was a clean-played game.
Really, for on opening day in the pouring rain, in Europe, it was really a well-played game on both sides of the ball. Those are the facts. So anybody can pick any negative crumb they want and run with it. That's fine, but there was a lot of good stuff there."
On Patrick Towles' difference in play in the two halves …
"I don't want to even know that I would categorize it as a rocky first half. We had a volleyball tip ball early that turned into a pick and at the end we got beat at the tackle position and they hit his arm when he was throwing. That's what happened. I thought he played hard. I thought he completed some great balls. I thought he ran with confidence when he had to, and with physicality. I thought he had great leadership on the field.
I'm telling you: I see a lot of great stuff that happened and that's not just trying to come up with smiley-face sticker on it. That's what I see. We are literally disappointed. We had it right in our grasp, but we have a lot of football to play. We have a good group of guys and we have to keep this going.
When you play this kind of game on opening day, this is what can happen: someone is winning and someone is losing. Now on the flip side of playing this kind of game on opening day, I think both teams will come out of this better. Not band-aided against someone who you think you're a little better than you are, but you're not and you get exposed really quickly. We're coming out of this game knowing who we are and what we have to continue to get better at. That's how I feel. I'm very positive of about where we are headed, but I'm very disappointed of just what took place, the outcome."
On the kicking game …
"We had a great spring and a great preseason. That's all I can tell you. Now that's not a game, but all I can do is judge off what I saw. Our percentage of kicking field goals this training camp was really high. Yeah, I'm concerned: we didn't make two field goals out here. But it's not what I saw (in camp).
In fact I had a tough decision to make on that field and I decided to kick that field goal from the 18 because it was the right thing to do. It didn't end up being the right decision. It was 4th-and-2. I said I have to find out what's going on here. We have to do the right thing. If I had another 4th-and-2, I would've went for it. But at that time and that place, it was the right decision. It didn't end up being the right call, but it was the right decision."
On Harold Landry …
"Harold's been hurt all training camp. He just got cleared this week. We're trying to get him back to full speed … he's cleared full speed but he really hasn't had any reps all preseason camp. Hopefully we're going to see him really starting to come back around this week now that he's been cleared."
On Connor Strachan's role …
"From what I could see from the sideline, he was covering that field. That's the thing about him: he's got phenomenal speed. People asked about Mike linebacker (after) Steven Daniels, but I knew Connor Strachan is one hell of a player. He's physical and he's tough and he can run. There were times where he ate that grass up pretty quick. I felt he did a great job. We held them to 121 yards rushing and we rushed for 176. So that's pretty good against a wishbone football team. You hold them to that. And we had 122 thrown. We were 10-for-122, and they were 8-for-119. There's where our issue was right there.
The thing they do least – although their quarterback is a three-year starter and is actually very capable – that stat is the one and those were on four plays."
On the play of the offensive line …
"I thought at times we looked like we did a pretty good job blocking. There were times I didn't like it as much. We had pretty good balance, a pretty good run-pass thing going even in the rain. But we've certainly made a lot of improvement. We've made a lot of improvement all over, but we've made a lot of improvement up front.
As I said when I started the season, we're by no means a finished product up here. But every game we're going to get better up front, because that's what happens when you're pretty young up there. You mature up front as the season grows. They protected, for the most part, pretty well up front. We didn't have a bunch of miscues – we had a couple of issues. In a perfect world, I'd like to rush for 200 yards and throw for 200. We rushed for 176 and threw for 122. But we didn't have as many possessions as you normally would have. And that's the problem when you play this game against that team: your possessions are going to be less. That's an issue.
And that last possession we had, we bobbled that snap on third down. On the first two downs, we made a decision that we were going to try to run this rock a little bit, kill the clock down and let the defense win the game unless we could pop a couple of runs – of course, which we'd love to have done at that point in time – but we did not."
About Jon Hilliman's touchdown run and the play of the young receivers …
"It's an inside zone play. We caught them in some outside pressure. We split it inside, which we thought we had an opportunity to do. Not only is (Jon Hilliman) a big back but he has real speed for a big guy, and he showed some real speed for a big guy on that play. He outran some pretty fast DB's. That's going to happen when you grinding in the run game. Eventually you pop one of those, and we were able to pop one of them which is really game changing.
Unfortunately later on, we throw that jail-break screen to Mike Walker and he was just like this, coming out with a touchdown. And we came up short when we kicked that field goal. But I really thought, he's such a great athlete, I thought he was going to kick up out of that thing. Which might have been enough to get it done right there. But we were just a little short. You can see him developing as a player right now. He and Jeff Smith are developing, making some plays. Charlie Callinan. And again, it wasn't easy throwing the ball out there today. It was raining pretty good. It was really wet. I thought we managed that pretty well. Obviously not well enough."
On Georgia Tech QB Justin Thomas …
"He's a great player. They have their best player, three-year starter, veteran, best player playing at the quarterback position. You saw how he managed even at the end of the game. He can make those plays. A dominant, senior, veteran player can make those plays at the end like that and he made them. That's why he's a hell of a player, and we knew that going in. Been in that offense for his whole career. He's very, very comfortable. He has a knack for making plays that he can make in that offense and that's a credit to him. That's what great players do. He basically took that game into his hands at the end.
There was a sack that we had early on in that last drive and he was basically on the ground and he somehow rolled out of it, kept his feet and threw the ball away or it might have been 4th and 50 eventually. But the kid made that play, which was an unbelievable play. So he made unbelievable plays at the very end of the game that were critical and that's what great players do."