Coach Petrino press conference after win over Samford

Photo: Tim Haag/
Photo: Tim Haag/

Coach Petrino’s press conference after Louisville’s 45-3 over Samford on Saturday.

Opening statement: We did what we were supposed to do. We were supposed to perform well and win the game. I was happy for our players. I know the last three weeks have been hard on them. I was very proud of the way they approached the week and how hard we worked. The good attitude that we had. I do think we improved in practice this week. I think they had fun out on the field tonight. It was good to get the turnovers early by our defense and then offensively be able to take advantage of it. So it was a good win and now we’ve got to get ready for next week’s game.

Q: What was different about the performance tonight? Is this kind of the rhythm you’d like for your offense to have?

PETRINO: I thought we started to get into it with the way we were running the ball. Lamar (Jackson) was making good reads. They were giving him some runs and he took advantage of them with his speed. I thought our receivers really worked hard down the field getting some big blocks to spring it. And then in the second half we worked hard on the passing game and tried to really work hard and improve in all aspects of the passing game. But I’m happy with our offense.

Q: What about the play of Lamar Jackson?

PETRINO: He just has explosiveness. You see it on the field and in practice. You saw it in the first game of the year.  He’s real explosive and he can go the distance when he gets the opportunity. I think he needs to learn when enough is enough … when he needs to get down and protect himself.  There were a couple times when he continued to cut back — but he’s young and he’ll learn.

Q: What did the return of James Quick do for you?

PETRINO: It was really nice to have James Quick back, not just tonight but all week in practice. He certainly is the mature one in the bunch and understands what you need to do to prepare. I think he helped us all week in practice. He showed his explosiveness tonight. We did mix up the ball a lot but we got Cole Hikutini back we got Charles Standberry a catch or two. I feel better about our depth and keeping our guys fresher and playing harder. That is really what we have been trying to do with the different personnel groups.

Q: Is Lamar the starter going forward or will you still make that call week to week?

PETRINO: Yeah, I think we’ve settled on Lamar. You know, he came out and played well tonight. I do like Reggie (Bonnafon) being on the field. I think Reggie can really help us. Between the two of them, when they are on the field together, we’re a faster football team. Reggie can certainly run with the ball and he made a nice catch, threw a touchdown pass. He’s been handling our short yardage this week and he’s been doing a nice job with that, with the exception to the one pick. I think he was just trying to get a little greedy. He needed to just run the ball and get the first down. I think it just makes us a faster football team.

Q: With Lamar, how much of it is playing under live fire and getting some reps in order to grow up?

PETRINO: Yeah, He’s got a lot to learn. A lot to learn understanding the pass rush, the blitzes. He does have great instincts. You know, he needs to learn to keep two hands on the ball in the pocket. There were a couple scary looks out there when he’s moving around with one hand on the ball, because guys will start swiping at it. But he has good vision. I wasn’t real happy in the second quarter with the precision of our passing game, so we tried to say, ‘Hey let’s work on it and get better at it.’

Q: You worked some different guys in with the offensive line. What did you see from that group?

PETRINO: I think we will probably need to watch the video and really get to know and see because it is hard to really tell if we were moving the line of scrimmage. They kept taking the running backs, which gave us the quarterback runs. I guess we will probably have to really wait and see.

Q: What did you see with T.C. (Klusman) and moving him in practice? What did he do to earn the start?

PETRINO: He started the spring game for us and showed that he could do that. He’s been a little bit banged up, fighting a hamstring. But he had a good week of practice. He’s tough. He’s a tough kid who really plays hard and gives the best effort that he can. We decided early in the week to give him his opportunity. Lukayus (McNeil) started at the weak guard. Lukayus is going to be a really good player at some point. He’s physical. He loves playing the game. He plays really hard. He’s continuing to learn.

Q: How important was it to build momentum heading into a two-game swing on the road at N.C. State and Florida State?

PETRINO: It’s a good schedule for us. We need to just really focus on this one game – going on the road, North Carolina State’s playing good football, finding a way to win games. They’re probably going to end up being 4-0 when we go in there. They’re a good football team. I watched some of their video this week. They’ve got a good secondary, they’re fast. Their quarterback has been playing well for them so it’s going to be a good challenge for us. We just have to have a great week of practice and continue to improve and get better and understand the game of football better.

Q: You were able to play a lot of new players on defense. Did anyone stand out?

PETRINO: It was great to be able to see them – guys that popped out on me were Isaac Steward running around hitting. Lamar Atkins really did a nice job out there and was working hard at it. Saw Dee Smith get a big hit which was fun to see. Dee’s a guy that we feel is going to be a really good player at some point – so to get him on the field, get that experience. We needed a game like this so we could play a lot of guys.

Q: Jaire Alexander really made some key plays, intercepted a pass. How has his improvement been?

PETRINO: I think Jaire’s going to be a really good player. Again, to be able to get reps and get in there a bunch, we’re lucky we had him with us in spring ball. He did a great job returning, he made some really good returns for us and showed his explosiveness. (Trumaine) Washington is a guy that’s really tough, really easy to coach because he tries to do everything you ask him to do. T-Buck (Terrell Buckley) has done a nice job bringing those young guys around.

Q: How big is it just to get this win after what the team has been through the last couple of weeks?

PETRINO: What’s good is to see the smiles on their faces in the locker room. They put a lot into it. They’ve invested a bunch. So to be able to see it pay off and be able to smile and hug each other and be happy after a game is really what you are looking for. So I’m happy for our players.

Q: You talked about building an offensive identity. How has that been going?

PETRINO: We have to try to build off of tonight. That’s why I kind of went back and re-watched the Auburn game, re-watched the first half of Houston and saw where we were at there. And so in practice this week, we were trying to build off of those things that we did well there. So we’ve just got to continue to do that. I think now that we’ve got some of our players back: (Keith) Towbridge and (Cole) Hikutini and (James) Quick, we can start working different personnel groups and mix it up a little bit.

Q: How did John Wallace handle this week after his tough game against Clemson?

PETRINO: It’s tough on a kicker – the life of a kicker. You have to understand, it goes with the territory. You hit a lot of them, but the one you don’t hit, that’s the one that everyone thinks about. Kind of like a quarterback. When you win, you get too much credit. When you lose, you get too much blame and it was tough on him. He’s a good competitor, but the one thing that I really liked was how hard he worked. He didn’t sit around and pout or mope around. He just had a great attitude and worked extremely hard all week in practice.

Q: What did you tell the offensive linemen about making the changes you did?

PETRINO: What we did was grade practice. Just based everything on effort. We wanted them to really practice hard and give great effort and let them know that it was competition and build off of that, so that’s how we decided who the starters were.

Q: Whether it’s week one or week four, is the feeling of winnign that first game of the season special for you?

PETRINO: I don’t know… I like it week one. That’s a lot better feeling.

Q: You’re just starting with Reggie in these multiple roles. How much can you build on it?

PETRINO: I think we can build on it. I think he’s really talented and he’s got a great attitude for it. He’s real explosive. I thought he was going to break one of those tonight. He can catch the ball. He’s smart. He’s a really good player and I think it’s something we need to try to do. When he and Lamar are on the field together we’re fast. That’s what we’re working on.

Q: How do you feel about Lamar’s progression as a passer?

PETRINO: That’s what we were working on. And, you know, it’s a combination of having better protection, being more precise with our routes and our timing with the quarterback. He missed a couple tonight simply by not taking the correct drop. So he needs to improve on his footwork and knowing exactly what the depth of the routes are.  We’re a work in progress, there is no doubt about that. I think the second half is going to help us a little bit because I felt like we did improve with our timing and decision making in the second half.”

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