Scott Satterfield held his weekly press conference on Monday and it was understandably much more enjoyable than it has been the last few weeks. The Cards snapped a 4-game losing streak by obliterating the Florida State Seminoles. While not a perfect game, it was as close to perfect as the Cards have played all season.
Coach Satt discussed the excellent performance of the team, and especially the offense, against FSU. Particularly, he seemed pleased with the efficiency of Malik Cunningham, the running of Javian Hawkins, and the fact various receivers, including Tutu and Dez, had nice games. He mentioned how it was nice to get some of the young guys like Trevor Reid, Jordan Watkins, Josh Minkins, Lovie Jenkins, and Greedy Vance. He looked ahead to Virginia Tech and what they will bring to the table against the Cards Saturday as well.
To hear what Coach Satt had to say in detail, check out the video and full transcript below:
Coach Satterfield Press Conference Video:
Coach Satterfield Press Conference Transcript:
Coach Satterfield Opening Statement
Good afternoon guys, obviously very excited about what happened this past weekend. Our guys came out, we had a really good plan after a really good two weeks of practice. I thought that we came out and played really well. We had a lot of big plays offensively start the game. I think, other than the first drive Florida State had where they went down and got some points, that our defense played really well. We were able to knock down a ton of passes, should have had a few more interceptions there, but I think overall exciting football game for us and our team. This is certainly something to build off of and we were excited to get back to work yesterday and to get a game plan together this morning. We are excited about hosting Virginia Tech, coming here this weekend and we are looking forward to that matchup.
(Coach Satterfield on the differences he has noticed in his team these last two weeks…)
I think a lot of the little things that sometimes we take for granted, like guys showing up on time when they are supposed to and going and getting treatment, basically all the accountability type things that good teams do on a consistent basis. We felt that early on in the year there were too many things that needed to be tightened up, being on time or having certain players here or there, I am not saying it was the whole team but you have a few guys here and there, and then it permeates throughout the team. I think that the amount of focus that we have had over the last two weeks has been really good. The guys eagerness to get here and want to be here. You can sense it. It is not just going to meetings, but it’s coming into the weight room and training room consistently, all of those little things that give you an opportunity on Saturdays. I told our guys that the little things do not guarantee a win, but the last two weeks we have gone out and played pretty well. We are doing the things that championship caliber teams are about. I think that’s what our guys have been doing different the last couple weeks. It did not translate to a win at Notre Dame, but we won against Florida State, so we have got to have that same approach, and bring that every single week to give ourselves a chance to win on Saturdays.
(Coach Satterfield on mandatory Election day off Tuesday…)
I think the fact of it is it is important to provide your players the opportunity to vote. I think that the day is a big day and is certainly something that needed to be done. We have a lot of guys who are out of state, but we have gotten all of our players registered to vote. The absentee ballots have been taken care of and the polls have been opened here in Kentucky for over a week now, so I would say that all our guys have gone ahead and voted. I think Tuesday is going to be a day off for our guys and so for us, normally Monday is the day off. It is just changing up routine, now we practice Monday and have Tuesday off. I think the whole idea about making sure that everybody has time to go handle their obligation and duty to vote is important. I think that’s the premise behind the idea is really good. We can also use that day to do community service. Monday is usually the day where we can go out and do some things in the community, but I understand the premise behind it, but most of our guys have already handled their business with it.
(Do you have an update on Marvin Dallas’ injury?)
“Marvin (Dallas) really had a couple nice plays on kickoff team, flying down the field making some good plays. He ended up hurting his thumb there. He had a surgery after the game that afternoon. He’ll probably be out this week, but then next week he has an opportunity to maybe come back. It’s the kind of injury where we can put a cast on it and he’ll be able to come back and play. A lot of that is going to depend on how much he heals over the next week or so. But I’lll say he’ll be out this week. But everything went good with (the surgery). He should be back.
(You got a lot of young guys some playing time. What did you see from them when you looked at the film?)
“Yeah, we played a lot of young guys. I think games like that are a great opportunity to get guys on the field, particularly there late in the game. A lot of the guys made some plays and did some good things. We got Trevor Reid in at left tackle. That was the first time he got to play. It was really good to see him play. He did some really good things.
(Jordan) Watkins as a freshman was in there. We threw a ball to him in the end zone and he ended up getting the pass interference called against that. It was good. We saw Lovie Jenkins, we saw (Josh) Minkins in there. There were several guys that got in the game and played. But these guys work hard, too. We want to be able to get them in the game. We talk about trying to play them regardless of what the score is. But in those types of games, it’s obviously great in the fourth quarter to get them in the game.
We also saw an old guy in the game: (Jawon) “Puma” Pass. It was great to get him in his first action this year. We talked a little bit about Puma, but our guys on this team respect and love him tremendously, and it was a big ovation when he was able to get in the game and play. He did a great job. He took us down the field and got a touchdown there. He really handled himself great. It was awesome to be able to get him in and see him go out there and perform well.
(Was Malik Cunningham’s pass distribution a point of emphasis going into the Florida State game?)
We certainly try to spread the ball around. We have a lot of playmakers. A lot of it has to do with what the defense is going to give us. But it all started up front. Our offense did a really nice job of opening up some holes, and (Javian) Hawkins got some good runs early. We were able to mix up the run and pass and be very efficient. Cunningham had maybe, what, one incompletion at halftime? That’s the efficiency we would have in the passing game, particularly when you’re running game is working as well.
When you’re doing that, you’re hard to stop. We were just in a nice rhythm there. We had a ton of big plays, and we’ve been very efficient down there in the red zone. I think that’s been a strong suit for us offensively to be able to put points on the board. So yeah, obviously we wanted to mix it up, and if you spread it to a lot of different guys, the defense cannot just key in on one person.
Certainly, our playmakers make plays. I mean, Hawkins had maybe his best game this year. Tutu (Atwell) only had three catches, but they were all big plays. Dez (Fitzpatrick) had a couple nice catches that were big plays and first downs for us. Ford had a couple nice plays as well. It was fun to see a bunch of different guys touch the ball, and they all made plays.
(What phase of Virginia Tech’s offense do you expect to give you guys the biggest challenge this week?)
They want to run the football. When they’re able to do that and they control the game, they’re a tough team to beat. We have to do a great job of containing the run game.
What makes them so special is they run the quarterback, and really, it’s any of their quarterbacks. They all can run. And they utilize a bunch of formations. Their running back (Khalil Herbert) is one of the best in country right now rushing the football. He’s also a great return man. But then you add that to the fact that their quarterback can pull the ball and hit off the opposite side, and now your defense has to defend the whole field. That’s what makes them so good.
The other thing that they maybe don’t get as much notoriety with is the play-action off the run. It’s a little bit like what we’re trying to do. A lot of the zone principles, you’re able to run your quarterback and then when you load up, now you got somebody running free. They just do a nice job offensively. They’re controlling games running the football, but they’re also making big plays with some of the pass game stuff. Their tight end (James Mitchell) does a nice job of catching the ball as well, but obviously I think the strength of their team is running the football, and that’s what they want to do.
(You mentioned the change in focus and some little things the last couple of weeks. What was the difference? In other words, did you see things flattening? Did you do anything to get their attention? Why wasn’t this happening the first four or five games?)
I think when anytime you’re going through some adversity and we have as a football team particularly not being able to finish out games and get the wins and so everybody starts looking at everything. Us as a staff, what can we tighten up on? What do we need to help ourselves? Because we’re really close to winning these games, and for whatever reason, we’re not finishing out. But it always comes back to the little things and so you start looking at things during the day to day basis. How can we be more consistent? And so we just point them out. We have team meetings, we talk about it in individual meetings, all the different position meetings, to figure out what we need to do better. And that’s one of the things we’ve focused on, and it’s helped. Our guys’ focus have been better, the consistency has been better. Again, all it does is give you a chance on gameday, because you can go back, I mean, there’s one or two plays in the Pitt game, the Georgia Tech game and the Notre Dame game where you’re right there. But that’s all it takes is one or two plays. That’s kind of what we’ve been focusing on and when you do that, you play more consistent, then you start seeing what happened Saturday, where you’re making a lot more plays on both sides of the ball.
(Was it mostly just emphasis, or did you have to do any discipline?)
We emphasize it for sure. We discipline every week when there are things that are not going on. But the last few weeks, there hasn’t been as many guys that have been messing up. Early in the year, you got more and more guys, and so you consistently talk about it and we always talk about we’ll be as good as our team wants to be, because it always comes back to the guys. And they’re the ones that are playing, and they’re the ones that are trying to gain the knowledge throughout the week of who you’re playing and then how they go out and prepare. So yeah, we focus on it every week, but our guys have decided the last few weeks to really, really put the work in.
(It seemed like the offensive line was, was a little bit better the other day than they have been. Not that they had been bad early in the year, but it seemed like they were really kind of controlling things for you up front on Saturday.)
Yeah, I thought they played well. I think it was their best game up front. Going into the game, you’re looking at Florida state’s D-line, 6’7″, 6’5″, 6’5″, 6’5″, big guys, very athletic. When they wanted to turn it on, they could. And I tell you, they did a great job throughout the game with our offensive line, because they did bring some pressures. Some of the same pressures that we’ve seen throughout the year that we didn’t pick up and we picked these up. And I’m talking, mainly in the run game, and also a few times in the pass game. We had some really big plays off of it. Our guys did a great job with that. You go back to the Pitt game where some pressures they were bringing, we did not pick up very well, and we gave up a bunch of sacks, tackles for loss, but in this game, the guys did a much better job with that up front. And our tight ends and blocking for the run game, and I think that’s why our run game was so much better. And that enables you and allows you to maybe take more shots throw the ball down the field, because the run game was good.
(Going back in your career, 2014, similar season. You were 1-5, ended on a big win streak and really rolled from there. What lessons or takeaways do you have from that season that you think helped, that you applied this year and you think are helping at the moment?)
Throughout that, we were going through some things. I think there’s some similarities, but the beginning of the season that year, we were real close back in ’14, we just didn’t find ways to win. Very similar to the one we’re going through now. And we just kept doing the things that we thought were working in practice and in our preparation, and it’s starting to show up a little bit on gameday. And then, you start getting some confidence, and when you get confidence in this game, it goes a long ways and guys think they can do things. And you even play a little bit better than what you probably are. The last couple of weeks, our guys have gained a lot of confidence. Notre Dame game, we didn’t win, but we got confidence in that one, and then this past weekend. Everyday you start thinking ‘what can I do to get better?’ And it just starts snowballing in a positive way. And hopefully that’s what we’re doing. We’re kind of right in the middle of it right now and, we got a lot of tough games ahead. Any of these teams can beat you. There’s no question about it, and you got to show up. But I like the way our guys are preparing. I like where their minds are at right now, and we continue that for the next six weeks, hopefully a lot of good things happen.
(Scott, a quick follow to that, when you go through something like that in your past, do you mention that to these guys like ‘Hey I’ve been through, this we can get out of it.’ Or you just don’t mention that to the group?)
Yeah, we’ve talked about it a little bit, and there was a bunch of us coaches that were a part of that. We fall back on that as coaches. You fall back on your experience. By going through some of that, sometimes some coaches probably in the past have started to change things he’s like, ‘Alright, well this isn’t working, we need to do this, just overhaul something big time’. But we didn’t. We’re sticking with what we’re doing. We know what works. The things we changed, just like we talked about is being more accountable on a daily basis. And those things help, and they translate into wins. What’s great about it is the guys have seen the results. They’ve seen how it is working. So yeah, you do fall back on your experiences and you do talk about it a little bit to the guys because you’re trying to help them get through the sticky time as well. Because you’re 1-4, it’s really easy to be like ‘man, the season’s not going like we like, let’s throw the towel in.’ That hasn’t happened. Our guys are working their tails off and continuing to be hungry. And I think that’s the encouraging thing and the fun thing to see on a daily basis.
(You guys had 12 past breakups last game. That’s a single game record for the school. How have you seen the secondary improve over the season and in terms of either being more aggressive or just being in better spots, what have you seen?)
Yeah, they’ve gotten a lot better. We talked about earlier in the year, we’re giving up too many of the wide open guys. I feel like the last two weeks, the coverage has been a lot tighter. Guys were around the football, and that’s why you’re seeing a lot of these batted balls and balls that were knocked down. And even opportunities for interceptions. We had a couple at Notre Dame, and we didn’t come away with the picks and then we had about three or four Saturday, where we really should have had the interceptions. And those are big, those are big time game changing plays if you can get an interception. A pass defended is great, but let’s get the pick. But the guys have gotten better, and they’re understanding better what they need to do. Defensively, I feel like we’ve gotten better throughout this year as we’ve gone along. We’re still getting better, we’re still learning, we’re still not where we need to be, but but they’ve gotten a lot better. We started to get more pressure. Go back to the Notre Dame game with four sacks. We were in the backfield making this quarterback move off the spot, and that helps. When those guys are trying to run around a little bit back there now they’re throwing on the run. That certainly helped. Even when Purdy came in the game, he was 0-for-9 because our guys are flying around all over the place. And we had some subs in that fourth quarter as well. It was really good to see how our guys responded there, and how they have the last couple weeks and been tightening up the coverage.
(On playing only one more top 25 team for the rest of the season…)
Well I mean it just doesn’t matter who you are playing. You can look at Florida State last week they were up on North Carolina. They were up 31-7 at half time and then we beat Florida State48-16 so I mean it doesn’t matter, the rankings don’t matter. All these teams can beat anybody. Whoever shows up, whoever’s got the best week of preparation, and then goes out to that game and shows up will win the game. It’s simple as that it doesn’t matter what the records are, you can go back and look at any of these records. A team that’s undefeated or a team has got one win, it doesn’t matter. There is just one team that is head and shoulders above everybody else which is Clemson like everybody else in this league, anybody can beat anybody, and it depends on how about preparation and who’s showing up.
(About putting younger players in the game…)
Well, I think it depends on who it is. I mean there’s several guys that you mentioned (Vance) Greedy, he’s a guy that when we’d love to get in there we’re kind of getting them in for a few plays even getting them out and then talking through up through those plays and he’s done a really nice job he’s come up knock some balls down he’s made some tackles, but it’s kind of just, picking those spots of where you’re out on the field, maybe, down in distance in some scenarios. Certainly when you get a little bit of a lead you feel a little bit more comfortable because if there is a mistake, you are still able to overcome that, but for some of the guys and maybe we have a little bit of a package going in and saying, “Hey this is where we can get you in on this sort of situation.” It’s just different for each player depending on who it is, but we certainly want to be able to get these guys in the game and let them play. Let them get some experience because obviously will lead them down the road.
(On the performance of Ean Pfeifer…)
Yeah, I think when we first looked at him he was more of a blocking guy. He was a guy to play offensive line and lost some weight. We felt good about him and we needed a blocking tight end on the ball, and that’s really why we wanted to bring him in. We saw him catch the ball on some highlights that he was putting together just on individual workouts. He’s really improved and we talked about in August maybe one of the more improved players as we came into camp this year. I think it’s shown this year, we feel very comfortable throwing him thefootball. He had a nice catch on a naked through an open field,but he also had a nice one for a touchdown. We did get another one in the back of the endzone and almost had another touchdown so we feel really comfortable about throwing the ballto him. He’s worked himself into a really good tight end. He’s a solid blocker. He’s been a very bright and good spot for uscatching the football and we all know when we get down close to the red zone that he is one of our targets. That’s basically what our tight ends get, first downs or touchdowns and enter big plays for us, and we have a lot of confidence in them, but Pfeifer has done a great job for us and he’s a big time threat. Something I bet he never thought anybody would use to describe him as a big down threat, but he is in a red zone for first downs and touchdowns and it’s been great to see.