Bobby Petrino talks 0-3, team leaders, Samford, and more.


Bobby Petrino met with the media on Monday for about 20 minutes and discussed how he is handling being 0-3, the ongoing QB situation, Samford, and more.

Opening statement

Like I told the team, losing’s hard. It’s hard on you as an individual, it’s hard on you as a group. It challenges your attitude, it challenges your character, it challenges how you stay together and believe in each other. So you have to deal with all those things when you lose your first three games, and what we need to do is count on the leadership we have within the team, because we do have some guys who really care and really played hard the other night, put everything they could into the game. And I do like our attitude, but all those things are going to be challenged right now. So the number one job I have right now is to keep the team together, continue to focus, continue to work hard, and really the biggest thing for this week is to improve and focus on ourselves getting better. The issue is us, how we go about our business, how we play the game.

Offensively, we’ve struggled. We haven’t done the things we normally do. We’ve had uncertainty at the quarterback position. We’ve tried to manage it with the first three games knowing they were going to be tight games, who gave us the best opportunity to win that (particular) game, and that’s kind of how we went about it. Nobody separated themselves and said, ‘I’m the guy.’ So we have to continue to work through that and see where we’re at with the quarterback spot.

But besides the quarterback spot, we haven’t played real well on the offensive front and we haven’t run the football the way we need to run it. And that takes a lot of pressure off the quarterback when you can run the football, so that will certainly be a point of emphasis in practice and how we go about our business this week. I have liked the fact that on offense we’ve gotten a lot of production from some of our young guys, but it’s been inconsistency, which is what you get from young guys — the ability to play hard and play fast every play and really understand that one or two plays a game might really make the difference and you don’t know which one it is. So that’s why you have to go hard every single play. That’s where we’re at on offense. Certainly, we’re going to improve. We’re going to get better, there’s no doubt about that, and I think I guys work hard.

The schedule we played has not allowed us to play a lot of guys. When you get different guys in there and develop. . .but I do like what I’ve seen from (offensive guard) Lukayus McNeil; we were able to get him in the game. (Offensive lineman) Kiola Mahoni has gotten better in practice, understanding his assignments. For him, it’s not really the issue of ability and how to play the game, it’s really just knowing the offense, not really picking the offense up quick enough. But he is starting to understand it better, so we need to make sure we get him in there and get some work and try to develop a few more guys on that offensive front.

Defensively, we played well at times, we’ve been inconsistent, we’re not stopping the run the way we need to stop it. Some of that issue is caused by the offense. When you’re really good on defense and you get a lot of sacks and you make a lot of plays, you’re playing with a need. The offense goes out and goes up and down the field and scores points, you’re playing with the lead and now you force their hand, and we have not been able to do that. I put a lot of that on the offense; we haven’t forced them to throw the football, we haven’t forced them to have to play the way they don’t want to play. So they’ve been able to run the ball and be patient with running the ball. They’ve been close gamesm, though. We’ve been right in there, we just haven’t been able to get over the top and we’ve played some real good competition, so we’ve just got to continue to work hard at it. I like the players on our team. I’m certainly uncomfortable being 0-3, it’s not something we’re used to, it’s a new experience. But what I know is, you keep working hard, keep a positive attitude and good things will happen.

On sticking with one quarterback

I mean, that’s what we would like to see happen. That’s what we would have liked to have seen take care of itself, but we really haven’t seen any separation the way we wanted. I did feel like going into the last game that it was going to be a close game and that Kyle gave us the best chance to make a play or two throwing the ball that would help us win the game.

On if they might change QBs again

Yeah, we need to work at it this week in practice to give (guys) some opportunities to see who it’s gonna be.

On playing Reggie Bonnafon and Lamar Jackson together in a running formation

Yeah, I thought they executed it well. It gave us an opportunity on short yardage and then we tried to carry it on for a little while. It’s a good package for us, hard to stop and I thought they both did their role very well.

On how Bonnafon is handling sitting out

He’s doing well. Reggie is one of the greatest kids in the world. All Reggie wants to do is try and help us find a way to win games.

On how he is dealing with losing

(laughs) One time I got in the elevator at UCLA and I was coaching at Arizona State, we were playing UCLA, and I got into the elevator and Homer Smith got in with me. I was just standing there, I was young and I felt pretty good because we were ahead of them and we weren’t expected to beat them. And Homer got in there and turned his back to me and started pounding his head against the wall, and I said to the GA who was with me at the time, ‘Hey man, if I ever get like that just shoot me.’ Well, I think he just loaded his gun, so that’s about where I’m at.

On if there’s a QB problem in developmental football

That’s a great question. I really don’t know the answer to that. I think sometimes year to year the competition gets there and guys are close and defenses are good and you really have to put a guy in the fire to find out how he’s gonna handle it all. How are you gonna handle the noise, how are you gonna handle the pressure, how are you gonna handle the pass rush. So sometimes it takes a little while to figure that out.

On Samford

Yeah, there’s some similarities. We played Murray State last year and they run the same offense. He does a great job with it. They’re gonna run fast tempo, the’re gonna throw the ball, they’ve got a big quarterback with a strong arm, they’ve got two really good wide receivers who have made a lot of plays and can catch the ball, so they’re gonna try to go fast on us. A lot of it will be very similar to what Murray did last year. Defensively, they’re a little different package. He kept the same defensive coordinator that’s been at Samford, they play good defense, they’ve got a lot of seniors. I thought they defended Auburn and TCU well last year. They were playing really good defense this year and then they ran into a really good team last weekend that did a good job blocking them and running and throwing the ball. They do look like a good football team on video.

On his team leaders

One of the things you try to do when you lose a game is not let your emotions take over in the locker room after the game. So I’ve always found the best thing to do is to be short, to the point and then we come back in and have our team meeting. I wasn’t real quiet Friday afternoon; maybe I should have been.

On if all four QBs are in the mix

Yeah, you know I don’t know. I think right now you kind of look at who’s been in there playing already. We ‘ll just try to keep Will coming along and getting better.

On his team’s leaders

Defensively you’ve got Keith Kelsey and James Burgess and Sheldon Rankins. Those guys, it means a lot to them. They care tremendously. They work hard so I think that’s the big thing is they show their teammates how hard they work.

That’s the first part of leadership right there. Offensively, Epps does a good job with trying to help us and keep the team together. Then we’re kind of searching. We’re kind of searching to see you know who else is stepping up because the guys really making plays are young, are real young. It’s a situation where we the leadership offensively keeps evolving.

On leadership qualities in QBs

Yeah, I thought that’s what Kyle provided. He’s a real competitor and he’s a little fiery and that was when he came in obviously last year against Kentucky and the Houston game this year. I thought his emotional involvement and his fire helped everybody helped everybody else elevate their game a little bit more. That was one of the reasons that we gave him the nod last week.

On where Kyle needed to improve

Again, when you play the quarterback it’s about decision-making and execution. So we missed on some decisions. We missed on some execution. But it’s all 11 guys. It’s a lot easier to execute when you have space. There’s no bodies around you because we’re doing a great job of setting the pocket and widening the pocket. It’s a lot easier to play quarterback when you have that type of space. Guys can separate and get open. It’s just a work in progress.

On the offensive line

I thought in the Houston game we made some real strides in protection and some of the things we did in the run game. This Clemson team now they are very good upfront, OK. They are very sturdy. They attack gaps. They don’t give you a lot of space. They challenge you. One of the things that helps the offensive line is when you, when you’re a little worried about the receivers going deep and making big plays throwing the ball down the field.

A lot of times they committed eight or nine guys to the run, to stop the run and force you to throw the ball. It was … the one thing that I thought we did in the second half, we had an opportunity on the first drive where we mixed it up on some of the quick passing game, some of the play-action game. We put a nice drive together and went in and scored. And then another drive in the fourth quarter, we took the ball, ran some play-action, hit some good throws to Traveon and got the ball down in scoring position again but it wasn’t enough to win the game.”

On the depth of the O-line when Petrino arrived back at U of L

I don’t even remember that. I know it was a very talented team when I got here. It was 23 seniors and three juniors came out. We’ve got talent. We’re just young and learning.

On John Wallace’s confidence

Yeah, certainly. Him and everybody else. That’s one of the things when you’re not having the success that you’re used to normally have, that you have to work hard to get your confidence back and believe in yourself. He’s, I think, someone told me, 23 of 24 from inside the 40-yard line. It just happened the one he missed was the other night. That’s still pretty darn good. So he needs to understand that he’s very consistent and a good player. He’ll have his opportunity again, and we’re going to need him to make it.

On social media and if he’s told his players to ignore it

You do that all the time. You have to do that all the time. With social media, with publicity, there’s the good, the bad and the ugly and they see it all. We all see it all. We all get criticized. You have to be thick-skinned. That’s what I mean when I say that it challenges your belief and how you go about your business. I truly believe that we know the process. We know how to work. We know how to prepare guys. We just have to stick to it and believe in ourselves. That’s everybody in the program right now.

On the health of James Quick, Jamari Staples and Alphonso Carter

From James Quick, he ran today and the notes that I got from Kyle, actually, right before I came in here, is that he did a nice job of running. We need to wait and see tomorrow if there is any swelling or ill effects from it. There’s a chance that he’ll be on the practice field tomorrow in a limited capacity.

Staples is still a ways away. He’s getting better and it’s really improving. But we’re not sure of a timetable yet.

On Staples’ injury and if it’s a sprained knee

That’s what you would call it. Yeah. Any time you have a sprained knee there’s a degree of tear to the cartilage or the ligament. So you know it’s just what degree and how much. He’s doing a good job. He’s really a hard worker. He’s coming back.

On Alphonso Carter practicing

He hasn’t. No. Just something we haven’t been able to get him on the practice field.

On starting 0-3 and altering the scheduling philosophy

No, I think that opening with a good game is something I’ve always enjoyed. I’ve enjoyed the preparation for it. I think it’s helped our team. We had a schedule set and it looked like a really good schedule. We just needed a couple more plays. A couple more plays. We are where we’re at right now. What we need to do is just focus on improving and getting better and going out and winning this game.

On keeping the players focused

Yeah, definitely. You try to do that when you’re winning, too. If we’re sitting here 3-0, we’re saying, ‘Hey, tear off the rear-view mirror. What’s important is what’s in front of you.’ That’s really what we try to do now.

On how they’ve responded

We practiced last night. That had a good attitude. They worked hard. We kept the young guys out there and practiced them more. The guys that played in the game went and run. They conditioned hard. They had good work ethic. We’ll come back on Tuesday and learn a lot more about where we’re at.

On why teams are running well against U of L

I don’t know about a common thread except for the fact that we haven’t forced them to play from behind. They’ve been able to be patient and keep banging the ball in there and eventually making some plays.

We’ve been playing pretty good defense at times. Not well enough when we get the lead. That’s when the concerns are. Like the other night when we went and scored and took the lead, I felt really good about it. Then they drove right back down and scored.

In the fourth quarter against Houston when we took the lead, I felt like, ‘OK, here we go, we’re going to win this game.’ They went and scored twice. It kind of one of those things where we need to play better when the game’s on the line.

On LJ Scott as a receiver

He’s a really good receiver. He’s got great hands. He can open his hips. I think that’s the thing. The ball doesn’t have to be perfectly thrown for him to catch it because he can open his hips and adjust his body. We’re going to continue to work him on catching the ball, playing more. I’ve liked what I saw from him.

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