Bobby Petrino and Reggie Bonnafon met with the media on Monday to talk about the loss to Florida State and also preview this Saturday’s game against Boston College. The transcript for Petrino is below the videos. The Cards face Boston College at 12:30 this Saturday at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium.
Well like I said after the game, it was a tough loss against a very good football team. But when you look at our defense first of all, we really had two different halves. In the first half, we were doing things right, we were playing fast, we were playing with great effort, we tackled well. We would have gotten every single one of our goals on defense in the first half, and then in the second half it was complete opposite. We made errors in the calls, we didn’t play as fast and as hard as we need to or we’re used to playing. We’re used to playing with much better effort than that, we didn’t tackle well and we didn’t get as much pressure on the quarterback. And when you play against a good team like that with an elite running back, he magnifies errors because of his speed and his ability to cut and go the distance. So we weren’t at all happy with our defense in the second half. Watched the video yesterday, it’s a hard meeting when you watch video like that, but that’s what you need to do to work and improve.
Offensively, overall we took some strides forward. We did some things a lot better offensively. No. 1, our offensive front played better; it was probably their best game of the year. They were communicating, they picked up blitzes, they worked hard against some really good defensive linemen, gave us time to get the ball down the field. We made more big plays throwing the ball. I think that Lamar took a step in the right direction in our passing game in understanding coverages and where to go with the football and we got some huge plays with James Quick. Also, Staples made some really good catches away from his body and we were able to move the ball and get it in the end zone. Got a lot of production out of Reggie, which was good to see, carrying the ball, catching the ball and really helping us and we’ve got to continue to grow that and understand that he’s a very good football player.
We are looking forward to the Boston College game. They’re a very, very good defense. Right now, they’re the No. 1 defense in the country. They play physical, they’re playing a lot more man coverage where they’re coming up and challenging receivers, so that’s kind of different than what they did a year ago. It’s a lot of the same guys we went against a year ago, but they’re playing really well. No one has been able to run the ball very well against them and then offensively they’ve had their struggles, kind of like we have, with a young team. It’s a game we need to win, there’s no question about it. We need to come home, play well and get a win and get some momentum going.
Why would there be such a swing defensively first half to second half?
That’s a great question. The same question I have, the same one we’re trying to answer. In the first drive we missed a couple things on what we were supposed to do assignment-wise, we missed tackles. I don’t understand how a couple guys don’t play as fast and with as much effort as they normally do that early in the third quarter. There were a couple of guys who were just trying to strip the ball instead of tackle the running back. I do think when we lost Keith Kelsey it takes a little bit away from our defense, because he’s certainly one of the guys out there that does a lot of the leading, makes the calls. We lost our poise a little bit and just didn’t play as well as we need to.
How do you keep that from happening again?
Yeah, well we addressed it yesterday. You watch the video and you ask, ‘Are you doing what you’re coached to do and are you playing with great effort?’ We played (the video) over and over again and we have guys who are very competitive, so it’s hard for them watching that video. But we can’t accept it, they can’t accept it, their teammates can’t accept it, and we’ve just got to grow together and make sure it doesn’t happen.
Will you move some players around?
You work the depth chart and you try to find someone to step up and take their spot. There’s no question that, No. 1, you’ve got to be able to look your teammates in the eyes, look in the mirror, and try to address it. Why did I not play the way I normally play? Why didn’t I sprint to the ball full speed there? We’ve got to demand that it happens. That’s the No. 1 thing I think coaching is, is your ability to confront and demand. We certainly confronted it, and now we’ll demand it. We’ll do a better job in practice making sure we’re running full speed to the ball every single play and I thought we got tired, too. Some of it was that we couldn’t get off the field on third down and when you can’t get off the field on third down, you’re out there a long time on a hot day and we got tired at times. We did rotate a lot of guys in there on the defensive front trying to keep them fresh. It really paid off on our pass rush in the first half, but not so much in the second half.
Do you know any moves you’re going to make?
No, we’re just gonna go out and practice and work hard and challenge them to do things right and play with great effort in practice.
On one specific play, (DeVonte) Fields looked like he wasn’t running very hard (Dalvin Cook’s TD run).
I don’t know about that. I know there were a number of plays, like some of the other guys on defense, where he didn’t play as hard as he needs to. He didn’t run full speed to the ball, he had the opportunity to make a couple of plays and he didn’t do it. Had a talk with him last night and he promised me it will never happen again. He came to me, I didn’t have to seek him out, so I guess that’s a good thing. But now we’ve got to see it. he’s got to show it and that’s what I told him, ‘It’s a show-me world, so show me.’
How is Keith Kelsey doing?
I think he’s gonna be OK. He’s gonna have to go through the protocol that’s required (for a possible concussion), but he did get some exercise in without any effects. So we’re very optimistic that he’s gonna be OK. He wasn’t diagnosed with a concussion, but he is going through that protocol.
Keith Brown will be out the first half.Who will start in his place?
It kind of depends on what personnel group is out there, but I would imagine what we’ll do is get Trevon (Young) out there with Fields, one on one side and one on the other. Stacy Thomas rotated from inside to outside the other day on some of the calls. But I thought Trevon did a real nice job rushing the passer, made some really good plays. He’s kind of been our edge rusher right now, the guy with the most quickness off the ball and ability to get to the quarterback, so we need to get him out there more.
(Alphonso) Carter was dressed for the game, is he back?
Yeah, he’s back in practice. This was his first week back to practice, he did a pretty good job. He actually was able to go. The first part of the week we just did all short routes with him and tried to make sure he didn’t overextend and try to run balls down, tried to take care of him. By the end of the week, he was running every route. We threw him some deep balls, he did a good job. We’ll see how he progresses this week. He certainly wasn’t in position to get into the game. He didn’t have enough reps and we hadn’t seen him enough to be able to put him into the game, but it was good to get him on the trip and travel and warm up and go through everything. Hopefully, he stays healthy and makes it through the week. He still has to show us that he can produce in practice to get him in the game.
You mentioned this is a game you need …
I think what we need to do is just practice and worry about one game at a time and that’s Boston College right now. All we’ve got to do is throw the video on and you see how well they play defensively, how people have a hard time moving the ball, how people have a hard time running the ball against them. And we know it’s a great challenge for us. Going into the game last year we knew they were a real physical and I thought our guys reacted to the challenge and did a good job, but we’ve got to do that this year.
Why is BC so effective against the run?
They’re just real sturdy inside, they use good technique, they use their hands, they’ve got a linebacker that’s — they’re listing him a little lighter than they did last year — so I think they’re listing him at 242, but he’s a 250 guy that can run and plays very physical. They’re well-coached and they play hard.
Is BC at all familiar to Florida State (on defense)?
Some of their fronts are similar, but they do a few things different coverage-wise. The way they play, and some of their front looks and some of their techniques are similar.
How much does the second-half effort keep you up at night?
I don’t think I’ve ever had one like that. I think maybe that one West Virginia game when we hurt their starting quarterback and then they brought in Pat White, that was a lesson. I remember being at the Gator Bowl and our then-mayor came up to me and said, ‘If the starting quarterback’s not hurting you, don’t hurt him.’ I was like, ‘No doubt.’ That was a game where we were in complete control and he came in and ran all over us. I’ve never had one like this. I felt really good about where we were at halftime. I felt good about the way the offense responded after they scored and we took the lead back again. Then it was long. Then it got long.
What about Lamar’s performance as a passer?
Like I said, he showed some improvement. He showed some improvement on understanding coverages, seeing some different looks, going through progression. He stood in the pocket better at times and made throws. The long touchdown throw to Quick — he got high and low right after he delivered the ball and made a really nice throw on that. He did a much better job of executing, and guys made plays for him. That’s kind of a thing we’ve been working hard to get, where everyone starts making plays. It was good to see that happen.
JaQuay Savage didn’t play. Is he hurt?
No, that was just a result of the other guys practicing harder and faster.
You mentioned Lamar’s awareness. Is that something you’re disappointed with right now?
On that one blitz, you have to be aware that there’s a guy coming and understand it. See it pre-snap. He knew the progression. He knew the route we had. But he should’ve been aware that they took the nickel and put him to the boundary of a corner and a linebacker and things were coming. That’s how you grow up and learn. We saw a fifth-year senior quarterback who has been through his struggles throw the ball away, take care of the ball, not get sacked … And then we had the turnover. The second turnover, he saw him coming, the break into the area, he threw the ball early like you have to, and they tripped and fell. You live with that one. The first one you just want to be aware that that pressure’s coming and get it out.
How did the offensive line evolve the last two weeks?
First and foremost they did a much better job of communication — communicating calls, understanding what’s coming, knowing techniques — and we saw that the last two weeks of practices. I was much more impressed with them and how focused they were. I do think they’ve worked hard on their technique the last two weeks. We did a good job blocking the edge. We did a good job inside for the most part. We got our doubles where we could and got help where we could. There was a lot of improvement there. We’re still not strong enough running the ball, getting enough out of our backs running the ball, and it starts with the offensive line, punching the ball, but there certainly was a lot of improvement.
How much has the consistency helped there?
That definitely helped us. Kiola came in there and played extremely hard. He’s physical. He did a good job with his assignments, which is what I expect to see.
Was that what you expect from James Quick — the big plays?
Yeah, I think James is very capable of doing that. He did that in spring ball. He got off to a pretty good start this year, came back from injury and came back quicker than I thought he would. He’s a good who is real explosive and is really into the game. He was competing extremely hard out there and came up with some really good plays for us. He was into the matchups. He understand when he had a great matchup and what to do to win on it?
Do you talk about long-range goals for a team that’s 2-4?
What you have to do is say, whether we’re 2-4, 4-2, or whatever, you have to put everything behind you and move forward. We do want to get the seniors to a bowl game. I think that’s something that is real important — it helps our young guys practice more and get better. The No. 1 way to do that is just focus on this Boston College game. That’s what you really have to do, is just focus on this game right now, at home, on homecoming, and come out and perform well for four quarters. Do what you’re coached to do. Play hard. Play with great effort for four quarters.
Is it harder to demand and motivate players when you start 0-3?
I was kind of impressed with the way we stuck together and the way we practiced and the attitude. This one will challenge us a little bit more than when we were 0-3. We prepared for this game for two weeks. We thought we had a really good plan. We went out. We were right there. And then we let it go, and then we didn’t play as hard as we should play. This one challenges us more than when we were 0-3. This is a big week for us to come back and get some leadership from within the team and practice hard and practice with purpose and really do a good job preparing for this game.
In your mind, is there something that explains how you would have a lack of effort in the second half?
No. In my however many years I’ve been coaching, it’s really the first time I’ve seen it. I don’t get it. I really don’t. It wasn’t just effort. I want to reiterate that. We had some errors. The second touchdown pass was an error. We didn’t the call so we didn’t get a blitz off the edge, which allowed him to get some time to make the throw. It was a great throw and a great catch and run. It’s something that I don’t understand.
You’ve taken a very even tone here. Can we assume that you used a different tone with your team?
I don’t know, not really. I think sometimes, when you really want to make a point, you speak a little softer than normal.
You’ve talked about Boston College’s defense. Why is it that they are having so much trouble on offense?
They’re very young, too, and they’ve had three quarterbacks, had some injuries … They’re going to challenge you with their scheme. They’re going to run the ball more than we’ve seen the people run the ball all year long. They’re going to give us three tight ends, four tight ends, run the power play at you, try to work the clock, play some defense with their offense. It’s going to be a new kind of challenge in defending them.
You mentioned Reggie Bonnafon earlier. Just talk about that set when you have him and Lamar Jackson in there.
He’s a very good runner and did a nice job on the catch out of the backfield, a couple of them, actually. We just have to expand his role and get him the ball more. I need to get him in there more, get him the ball more. I felt good about it when he was in the game. He knows what’s going on in the game because of his experience at quarterback. He actually did some things than I even thought he would just because he knows the offense and what he’s supposed to do.
When you play a schedule like that, what do you think they learn from playing such a tough schedule?
I think the biggest thing we need to understand is we’ve been against really good players. With the exception of the last two quarters the other day, we’ve been in position to win. We need to grow up and learn how to win those close games. There’s no question taht we’ve played good football teams but we need to learn how to win those games. That’s what we need to learn how to do.