Louisville head coach Bobby Petrino met with the media on Monday evening after practice to talk about Thursday’s game against Clemson. He recaps the Houston game a little bit, talks about the quarterback situation, the disappointment of the defense, and more.
Transcript from GoCards.com
Opening statement: We came out and practiced last night. Obviously, the loss to Houston was a tough loss for us. You can’t take anything away from Houston because they did a good job, they executed, they did what they wanted to do. But we had our opportunities. We turned the ball over on offense, which really hurt us. Defensively, we couldn’t get them stopped in the fourth quarter when we came back and took the lead a couple of times. That generally doesn’t happen to our defense. We couldn’t get off the field on third down and we missed too many tackles. But the one thing I can tell you, the players came out last night, the quickest turnaround ever, had a good attitude, practiced hard, practiced hard again tonight. Tomorrow will be a normal Thursday for us, we’ll cut down a little bit. But the guys came back and worked extremely hard to get ready for this game, so we’ve put it all behind us and we’re looking forward and moving in the right direction, I think.
Q: What is your quarterback situation?
PETRINO: I think I know who the quarterback is, but we told them they would get their reps in practice, we would grade the reps. I haven’t had a chance to talk to the quarterbacks yet, so obviously I’m not going to tell anyone else before I talk to the quarterbacks and tell them. But the other day we came out of the Auburn game where we really felt like Lamar gave us the best opportunity. They (Houston) did a nice job on defense securing the edges and forcing us to throw the ball, and as we got into the fourth quarter I felt Kyle gave us the best chance to operate the offense that could get us back in the game. And he came in and did a nice job with it, just like he did against Kentucky. He hit hands and he executed what we were asking him to do in that part of the game and I think he’s had a good week of practice, as have the other ones. So we’ve just got to grade the video tonight and then meet with the quarterbacks tomorrow.
Q: Is it between Lamar and Kyle or is Reggie Bonnafon also in the mix?
PETRINO: I told all the quarterbacks that they would get their reps in practice and then I’ll grade them, along with the offensive staff. I haven’t watched practice from today, I haven’t met with our offensive staff and I haven’t met with the quarterbacks. So I don’t feel comfortable saying anything right now who that would be until I speak with the coaches and players first. We’ve got to watch the video and see where we’re at.
Q: When you looked back at the video, what jumped out at you, good and bad?
PETRINO: We had a bunch of young guys that made good plays. I was really happy with Mickey Crum and the production we got out of him, his ability to catch and run. Jaylen (Smith) and Traveon Samuel did a good job for not being able to run the ball the way we need to. We had a couple of series in there where we were able to get the run game going a little bit, and Kyle helped us with that because he could operate it and work from under the center and do good things so we could take advantage of what they were doing. Defensively, the biggest thing I was upset with was the way we tackled and our inability to keep a running quarterback in the pocket, being disciplined in our pass rush lane and keeping him in the pocket when we knew that’s what he was going to do. We’ve got a lot of work to do. We’re playing a real good team in Clemson; their defense doesn’t look like they missed a beat. They’re physical, their front seven is very, very good, their linebackers come downhill and tackle well, their corners like to play press man, so that’s a challenge there. But I think we’re looking forward to that. And then they’ve got a quarterback who has completed 70 percent of his passes and can run, so it’s a good challenge for us. But I think our kids are looking forward to it, and I know our coaches are.
Q: What kind of challenges does Watson present?
PETRINO: First, he’s real experienced, so he operates their offense very well. He throws the deep ball extremely well. When they made the switch and brought him in a year ago he completed deep ball after deep ball, and then he has the ability to run. They haven’t asked him to run very much yet this season, but we know that he has that ability.
Q: It’s a nationally televised game on a weeknight. How different is the feel in practice, how do you expect it to be in the stadium?
PETRINO: This is a big game for us. Obviously, we’re playing a very good football team. I think the atmosphere will be great. You get excited for that. We need to stay focused. Hopefully, the two games we’ve played and the competition we’ve played will help us and we’ll see improvement from last Saturday to this Thursday.
Q: How do you fix the tackling issue in a short week?
PETRINO: Well, we work on it. We work on the technique, we work on the drills, we work on where our eyes need to be. We have a tackle circuit that we go back to. You need to keep your eyes where they belong and utilize the technique we work on in practice. We got a little bit away from our technique, and it was something we had been doing very well.
Q: Did you see improvement from week one to week two?
PETRINO: We made some improvements. They played hard and they did a nice job in their communication. We knew we were going against a defense that’s a little bit wild and does some things different. They did them very well. They blitzed in different places, and our pickup and communication in the passing game was very good. We didn’t get as much push and penetration in the running game as we would like, so we’ve got to continue to work very hard on that.
Q: To improve tackling, do you work on the physical part or technique?
PETRINO: In a short week it’s more of the teaching and more of the technique work. We couldn’t go out there — it wasn’t very long from when we finished the game to last night — we couldn’t put on full pads and tackle. That doesn’t do you any good, so we just worked on the drills and technique and the different things we do.
Q: What does Lamar need to learn?
PETRINO: I think the number one thing he needs to learn is this is college football and they have really good players too, and you can’t try to do too much. You’ve got to operate the offense, do what the progression tells you to do. When I’m presented with the opportunity to run and use the gift that God gave me, I need to do that instead of trying to pass the ball down the middle late. So he needs to learn that. I think it’s just a case where in high school he was able to use his ability and now he’s playing against guys who were the best players on their team also.
Q: What has been the problem on the fumbled handoffs? Is that the quarterbacks or running backs?
PETRINO: We always put everything on the quarterback. It’s his job to put the ball in the stomach and utilize his technique. Not always true because sometimes the running back doesn’t get his elbow up and doesn’t hit the right path. But what the quarterback should do if he’s not there is he should run the play for him. That’s the rule is if the running back’s not on the path, is not where he’s supposed to be, and you can’t make the handoff, then you run the play for him. It’s something that shows up every year and I think that’s when some inexperience comes in.
Q: What has to happen to get the running game going?
PETRINO: We just need to be more physical and utilize our technique and finish. That’s the biggest thing, being able to finish, get our hands in the proper position, drive our feet. And we’ve got a big challenge this week. This will be the best front four against the run that we’ve played. They’re very good technicians and they really do a good job with their scheme, their linebackers play tight and run through gaps. So we’re going to be very challenged, and we’re going to have to run the ball to win the game.
Q: You’ve got guys who aren’t used to losing? What has the mood around the team been like?
PETRINO: Sunday was real quiet. They came in and ate dinner, there wasn’t a whole lot being said. Walk in the team meeting room, there’s not a whole lot being said. You feel bad, I always envy basketball and baseball when they get to go out and play the next night and get it all behind you. But I thought they did a real nice job of understanding that we need to put it behind us, come out Sunday night, have a good attitude, work hard and earn the right to win on the practice field. We’ve had two good practices, so I’m excited about that.
Q: Does it help, after that kind of game, to have a short week and another game so soon, to get over it?
PETRINO: I hope so. That’s a good question. It’s hard to say yeah, a short week really helps. But we’ve had the ability to play well in short weeks. I look back, I think we played Memphis on a Friday night and TCU on a Wednesday night, so we have experience dealing with the schedule. My philosophy is get them to the game with fresh legs and a fresh mind and we’ll have a chance to win the game. When I was here before we played every night of the week but Tuesday, I think it was. So we’re used to dealing with it, putting a good schedule in front of it. I think our kids got rested up and we practiced at night the last two days, and got a little extra meeting time and not try to do a whole bunch of new stuff. So that’s kind of how it works.
Q: In a situation like this, how important is leadership?
PETRINO: I think it’s one of the key things is the leadership ability within the team. That’s one of the things I try to make sure the players understand, that they’ve got to take over the leadership, they’ve got to do their responsibility and their obligation to their teammates. This is the only time this team is going to be together and the seniors and juniors that have been around, they’ve got to see if they want to make it a special season or not.
Q: With the injured receivers, Staples and James Quick, what’s their status for Thursday?
PETRINO: They will not be available.