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Transcript of Golden's press conference before the Virginia game

UM coach Al Golden's weekly press conference before the Virginia game.

Opening Statement...

“(We) had a chance to rest up the team and get healthy and get stated on UVA. Clearly the University of Virginia is a different team coming out of a bye week. (They had) 446 yards on offense and 48 carries for almost 250 yards. They did a great job with time of possession. Six sacks and four takeaways against NC State, and they held them to something like 19 yards rushing. They clearly have made some changes.

“I’m really impressed with UVA’s offensive line, especially the tackles and the center. I think the center is as good as anyone we’ve seen so far this year. Two quarterbacks in [Phillip] Sims and [Michael] Rocco. I really think their running back depth is excellent…We’ll see all three of them. We’ll see a number of receivers in the game, and obviously their tight ends are a strength as well. Big, strong, rugged team. They beat us the last two years and four of the last six. Clearly that, coupled with the NC State game, has got our team’s attention. Hopefully we’ll be able to maintain our focus and get ready for a great UVA team in Charlottesville.

“On defense, again, they’re rugged up front…Big and strong and long up front on defense, same as last year….I think we’re expecting the University of Virginia team that played last week. Clearly they had some turnover ratio issues, which had led to some mistakes earlier in the year. But they clearly got that cleaned up in the bye week and looked different last week in terms of how they’re operating.”

On the influence of being in first place in the Coastal Division...

“(Our players) have to learn how to do it. It’s difficult because it’s the first time that we’re navigating that – we were pretty much out (of the race) by this time last year. This is where you’re either disciplined, and your habits and your process either holds up or cracks. We’re trying to teach them how to make it so habitual, so disciplined and ingrained, that it can withstand anything. For us to want to go where we want to go in the coming years, this is the first step for us. It’s really important to stay focused on UVA and block everything else out.”

On added energy from being in the ACC Championship game mix...

“I hope. That’s part of it. Part of being in the mix towards the end (of the season) should supply you with some energy and should reinforce your focus. We have goals as a team, but our goal right now is to prepare as well as we can, block out everything external and stay focused on the University of Virginia. At the end of the season, this was a team last year that was physical and strong. It’s going to be a great challenge for us, and it’s going to be a barometer for us to see where we are from this time last year.”

On the Cavaliers’ use of two different quarterbacks...

“I think they’re both good. Obviously they’ve won with both of them. They’re hitting their outlets; they’ll throw it to the two tailbacks out of the backfield…Excellent screen throwers. Not afraid to move the pocket with them, or play action and get a chunk. I’m sure from [Bill] Lazor’s standpoint or Mike’s [London] standpoint they see them differently in terms of how they operate. Right now we’re just preparing for the totality of the Virginia offense, not really just one quarterback or the other.”

On the difference between Virginia’s play before the bye week and after...

“I can tell you this – the biggest thing was they got to the quarterback. I think they only had seven sacks coming into NC State and they got to him six times. I think they were minus-16 (turnover ratio) going into NC State and now they’re minus-12…They’ve done that with system and with personnel…I’m sure they put a great emphasis on protecting the ball and taking it away. Obviously they brought that to fruition. In terms of stopping the run right now, this team is as good as anyone in the country…They’re strong, they’re efficient, they’re physical…We better be ready to go.”

On the play of Miami quarterback Stephen Morris...

“I think Stephen is developing every week. He’s getting better every week. We’ve faced some really good defenses and we’re going to face another good one coming up. I think he just has to get back to trusting those around him. Stop looking for the big play, and just hit some singles. The great lesson is the Mike James play on our second touchdown - it’s a one-yard completion that ends up being a 16-yard touchdown. He needs to get back to doing more than that – trusting the guys around him and distributing the football. It doesn’t always have to be down the field. We have enough talent out there that we can get explosive plays without throwing it 50 yards down the field. He just has to settle in. We’re protecting him well. This team will pressure you - last year they got to us, make no mistake about it. We have to protect well for us.”

On Miami’s ability to create more turnovers this season (18) compared to last season (15)...

“We’re starting to create some turnovers. A lot of it sometimes, as coaches, we’ll do the drills and everything, but the reality of it is sometimes it’s just [about the] players. Sometimes there are just guys that, with a little bit of training, if they have that knack for it or they look for it, they can make some plays. We’re starting to get some interceptions now – I think that’s the biggest difference. Last year we were trying to rip it out a lot…The biggest difference right now is we’re getting some interceptions. And we’re doing that without getting a lot of pressure on the quarterback. Hopefully we can continue to get some pressure on the quarterback, and that should disrupt us a little bit more. We’re protecting the ball well on offense - we better against this team - and we’re taking it away on defense. We need to continue to do that.”

On the keys to avoiding trouble on third down by setting up well on first and second down...

“Be efficient... I think [Virginia] had eight three-and-outs against NC State, and I think we had five against Virginia Tech. So clearly that’s part of their M.O. and part of their success on third downs. They get you into third-and-long situations, and then they do a nice job of getting the ball out and either tackling you or putting pressure on you. As many times as they sacked [Mike] Glennon in Raleigh, they hit him. They hit him an awful lot. We have to be efficient on first and second down. We can’t be sitting there in those “band downs”, as I call them – those third-and-longs when they strike up the band, everybody gets jacked up, and they’re getting in sprinters stances and coming at you. It’s really important we are efficient on first and second down.”

On lack of productivity in the third quarter...

“It’s just how you look at it. I look at it like our defense has only given up about three points in the last three games in the third quarter or something like that. Our defense has been very productive. Our offense has not been as productive for sure in the third quarter. I think this is the first game in the last three or four where we actually started on offense in the third quarter - and I think we went three and out, if I’m not mistaken. There’s no question overall we have not had the production we need to have in the third quarter. But it’s more than that - we can’t have the three-and-outs and we have to produce on third down. I think third down has a lot to do with it.”

On the importance of his offensive line against a talented Virginia front...

“They know what’s up. They know this team is strong, they got a lot of sacks last year, got a lot of pressure. That’s on the running backs, tight ends and the offensive line. I don’t think there’s any question - we know what Virginia is and what they were last year. They’re a big, strong, rugged team that’s tough. As they played last week, I know that’s how they want to conduct again. They don’t want to beat themselves. That onus is on everybody and Stephen [Morris] has to get rid of the ball as well.”

On his team’s pass protection up to this point...

“I think it’s been excellent. This will be as big a challenge as we’ve seen, both in personnel and from a system standpoint. This team will pressure you, and I mean rushing six or more, more than anybody.”

On how defensive coordinator Mark D’Onofrio dealt with his team’s defensive struggles...

“I think you just keep saying, ‘We’ve seen this drill before. We’ve seen this game before.’ And just be supportive. It has not been an easy task. We lost a ton of guys and a ton of experience on defense. The younger guys are starting to grow up, and we’ve gotten the linebackers healthy. Through that time we were down, what – four or five linebackers? How many are we playing now altogether? Seven, or maybe eight? And we had four or five of them that weren’t with us for a while – that was tough sledding there. We didn’t have [Curtis] Porter, we had some other injuries. I think there are some guys that are healthy that are growing up. We’re playing better, but you’re only as good as your next game, and that’s the challenge coming up. These guys are going to try to run the ball down our throat with a big physical offensive line and physical tight ends. We better be ready to tackle really well and hold up at the point.”

On the impact of having defensive tackle Curtis Porter back in the lineup...

“He’s strong. To have a man – what I mean by that is a guy who is strong, he’s mature, he’s physical, he’s stout, he can hold the point of attack, not get knocked off, all those things. At the same time he’s coming back, some of the younger guys are growing up, which is good. You’re seeing better play from Luther [Robinson] or Corey King or any of those guys right now. They’re starting to grow up in there. We’re not where we need to be, but certainly It helps to have that depth and strength in there, for sure.”

On the improved play of cornerback Ladarius Gunter...

“He’s growing up a lot. He benefitted really from the last couple weeks and certainly the bye week. He’s been working hard, he’s got length, he’s strong, and I think he’s settled in right now. He understands the system, and he’s playing with a lot more confidence. I would say [Antonio] Crawford is playing better, Tracy Howard is playing better. That group has to keep moving forward. You could say the same thing with [Rayshawn] Jenkins at safety - he played the most he’s played in the Virginia Tech game and had success. Hopefully those guys will continue to grow as a unit.”

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