Here's what I transcribed from Al Golden's teleconference this evening:
How is Jacory doing?
I think he’s doing OK. What happened on that play was he took a shot to the upper biceps. I don’t know if he hit a nerve or something but his arm went completely numb on him for the last two plays. But I think he’s OK.
So he can practice pretty much fully once that starts?
You said you wanted more efficiency in the running game on first and second downs to avoid third-and-long. What are you seeing right now that’s causing the problem?
Some of the issues are we had a couple false starts in the game and you get behind the 8-ball there. There are a lot of things we have to improve. No. 1 is our blocking and No. 2 is Lamar has just got to hit singles. He’s got to hit it up in there. We’re dancing a little bit too much. Maybe we’re trying to do too much at running back but we’ve got to just press it a little bit more, trust the scheme and trust the blocking. Right now we’re trying to do too much with the running game
Is Lamar’s shoulder OK?
I think he’s OK. I don’t know what he did on the third-and- and fourth-and- plays. He came out of the game and he got banged up in some capacity and came out of the game. But everything I’m seeing on the injury report is that he’ll be OK.
How did the defense do generally?
Ultimately when you give up those kind of ex plays that we gave up it’s hard to overcome. When you get something for nothing it makes it really, really hard. Clearly we didn’t get enough pressure on Rocco, the Va. Quarterback; We didn’t do a good enough job getting off the field on third down, they had the ball the entire third quarter; we have to do a better job getting off the field there. The explosive plays were just too much to overcome, really was. That part of it was disappointed. I was disappointed in our tackling and I was disappointed in the ex plays we gave up. Another thing is we had a fake field goal that led to points and we have a roughing the punter that leads to point and then we have a late hit on the quarterback that leads to points. Those are hard to overcome, too.
In the four games you lost you only forced two turnovers and five sacks. How big of a factor is that?
I’ve been saying it all along. I don’t pull any punches on who we are right now, especially on defense. If we don’t take the ball away, play really good red-zone defense and get off the field on third down, it’s going to be hard for us to win. We’re trying to build, we’re trying to grow, were trying to move forward, but if we don’t take the ball away it makes it really hard right now.
Again, just disappointed in the overall play of the team, not just the defense, the overall play, and that falls on me.
Lamar has a heavier workload than last year, with a third of the season to go. Is it getting to him?
I think that’s fair but if you recall I said he really didn’t start understanding or appreciating or recognizing how important it is to be in incredible condition as an elite tailback until after spring ball. You’re not talking about somebody who has been working out on an elite level in the offseason for two or three years. You’re talking about really May, June, July and August. It served him really well. I’m glad he made that approach, but I’m certain now he understands what we’re talking about in terms of your body being your biggest investment especially at running back and the things he needs to do to prepare himself for that.
I’m concerned about everybody’s health. It’s seven straight games and then a short week. I was concerned about it. I was concerned about transitioning from Georgia Tech to Virginia and concerned about our health and our fatigue.
The final long touchdown play for Va, it seemed like Jimmy Gaines was one-on-one, was he supposed to get help on top?
If we don’t get pressure on quarterback it’s hard for anybody to hold up there, let alone Jimmy. They really had a great call on there but we didn’t get any pressure, we didn’t get anybody in the quarterback’s face and the longer that play goes the harder it is for Jimmy or any safety to defend. That was a tough one.We had a blown assignment on the screen that went for one and a clearly we had a safety out of position on the pitch pass so three explosive plays and hard to overcome them. (8:40)
When you looked at the play, did it appear to you that Olivier got blocked into the quarterback?
I don’t see the TV copy so obviously you start to hear somebody saying this or what perception and reality is. We watched the tape and on the sideline view (Olivier) he clearly got blocked and pushed from behind, No. 1. And No. 2 you can clearly see him trying to turn his upfield shoulder at the last second and there’s actually probably a half yard between his helmet and the young man’s knee. So I was convinced that it was not intentional and I wanted to make sure we did our due diligence here. I brought him in and reviewed it with him and I’m confident that there was no intent there but Olivier does play hard. He made a hard turn to the quarterback and he did tell me he was trying to avoid him up high because he could see the kid start his windup. But I do know there was a push in the back. I know there was an attempt by Olivier not to go for the kid’s knee with his head gear. That was clear. If that is portrayed differently or if there’s an angle that shows differently I’ll have to examine that.
We know you’re focused on process but do you worry how this team holds it together with long ACC odds and throughout the last third of the season?
don’t because it’s Year One. We’re trying to fix long term problems in the short term and that’s the challenge of our staff and for me as the head coach and for this team. There’s still so much to play for and we are playing a lot of young guys mixed in with the veterans. We need the seniors to continue to lead and stay focused and improve, and obviously they are. Sean Spence is playing well, [Jordan] Futch is probably playing the best football of his career, I think Jacory obviously played well yesterday, Travis Benjamin, Harland Gunn, Tyler Horn. So, a lot of the seniors are stepping up for us and playing well. We just need some of the young guys to step up and understand, we have a long way to go. We’re not where we want to be yet. We fight back, we don’t quit, we’re competitive but we’re not consistent, and that’s what gnawing at me today. I want to build a team that is consistent every day, that practices consistently, that has the same approach and plays the same way. There were too many lulls in that game for us to be consistent.
How much does two extra days of treatment when you’ve gone seven straight?
It’s huge. We’re not doing anything with them at all Friday, Saturday, Sunday. They’ll just take care of academics and get rested. I was nervous going into the game. I knew we were going to face a downhill running attack with two really good running backs, a big offensive line. I was concerned how we came out of the Georgia Tech game. I was hoping and praying we’d be able to hang in there and get some stops. But clearly we gave them explosive plays, we miss a field goal, we fumble on the 12 and we miss a fourth-and-1 on the 13 and that’s the difference in the game despite all the easy plays that we gave them.
Could you assess the plays of the safeties and the cornerbacks?
At safety we’re not where we need to be. Clearly JoJo [Nicolas] is playing the best for us there. He has been consistent both in his ability to operate the defense and the way he’s playing and leading. We’re not disciplined enough and we keep giving up explosive plays on the back end – the pitch pass for one. We had a blown assignment in the secondary on the screen. I believe it was the first quarter that scored a touchdown. We’re not consistent enough there and obviously we need to improve. Our tackling is inconsistent as well. At times Vaughn [Telemaque] and Ray [Armstrong] really tackled well, but there’s still too many times where we don’t execute the way we need to.
We’ve got to get [Brandon] McGee over the hump now. He’s doing so many things better. He’s becoming more reliable. He’s just got to become to the point where he’s dependable and frees it up and starts to make some big plays for us, some interceptions, or some big tackles, or some caused fumbles. Those types of things. He’s maturing, he’s improving but we really need him to finish strong here in this final stretch an clearly we need from Mike Williams, we need more from [Thomas] Finney and we need more from [Lee] Chambers at this point in time.
Duke is ranked 22nd nationally in passing offense. They have two big-play threats, in Vernon and Varner, from Miami. How concerned are you with that?
I’m concerned about everything. My focus here today and tomorrow will be making sure we’re taking care of the things that we need to take care of on our end. I’ve watched all three phases of Duke here today. But our attention will go squarely on Duke on Sunday. I’m concerned about it all. I’m concerned about every team we play. I’m mostly concerned about making sure we have a team that adheres to the preparation, the process and understands what it means to be consistent and play consistently game in and game out. We have not done it yet. We just have not. That was the challenge for the team this week and we didn’t bring all three phases for four quarters and that’s why we end up on the 8-yard line and falling short just by a little bit again.
Are their spirits down?
I hope they’re down right now. I do. I hope they feel badly. That’s the kind of culture we want. We want it to hurt. We don’t want it to be easy to lose. WE don’t want that .500 mentality where it’s OK to lose. We did too many things in that game.. we don’t miss a field goal or we don’t fumble on the 12-yard line clearly the game is different. We’re kicking a field goal to win. The same thing with the fake field goal and roughing the punter. We go from having a chance for an ex play blocked punt to roughing the punter and giving them a first down and points. We’re just trying to develop consistency and that starts with my approach to staff and we want that from the team as well.
The offensive line play?
I would say that [Harland] Gunn, [Tyler] Horn and [Brandon] Linder played really well. Seantrel [Henderson], that was probably the most he’s played – I think it was 43 reps. That was the first time he got back to kind of a normal game for him. Not full game, but probably three quarters. But we gave up three sacks and we just didn’t block as well as we need to block. It’s not just the O-line, it’s the tight ends and running backs hitting their aim points and getting positive yards.
When you look at last night’s loss, do you look at it as a setback for the program or is it part of the growth process and the big picture?
It’s part of the growth process. I’m not even going to deny that. I’m disappointed but I’m not discouraged. We’re just not consistent right now. We understand the impact that penalties and mental errors and special teams have on the game last week and we protect the ball and keep our penalties down and do a really good job on special teams. And then we turn around this week. I’m trying to develop a consistent team here. I don’t know if they don’t know how to handle success right now. In a short week we were just trying to keep them fresh and develop some momentum and just keep them focused on the process but I just didn’t do a good enough job. I just did not do a good enough job. We just had too many mental breakdowns in that game to win.
SUSAN MILLER DEGNAN