Head Coach Paul Johnson's Weekly Press Conference Transcript

Sept. 9, 2008

Introduction

“I guess we will start out by talking a little bit about last week’s game. I will open it up for some questions and maybe we will talk about Virginia Tech for a little bit. So I told the team after the game last week that I was extremely proud of the way that they played. It was a hard fought, physical game. I think both teams struggled to get anything going consistently offensively. In the first half, I thought defensively we did some good things, but we didn’t play as well as we could until the ball got in the red zone. Once we got down inside the 20, or down on our end of the field, we did a great job of keeping them out of the endzone and keeping us in the game. In the second half, we came out and did some really good things defensively to get some big plays to give us a lot of opportunities to get back in the game.

I thought our front four played extremely well and I was really proud of our linebackers and secondary. For young guys to go on the road for the first time and playing without two starters at linebacker, I thought Sed [Sedric Griffin] and Tony Clark made some nice plays filling in. Kyle Jackson moved to the middle which was a change for him and they all performed fairly well.

Offensively, it was kind of hit and miss. We got our tail handed to us up front pretty good most of the game. We did find a way to make big plays. When we had to have some big plays to win the game, I was proud of them for pulling it off. We had the ball in the endzone there in the fourth quarter when we got behind and we were able to run the clock out with the final 4:34.

With special teams we still struggled- we had a fumble on a punt return; that’s two weeks in a row we have had a turnover on special teams. We have got to get our operation better on field goals. Scott [Blair] has to kick the ball better, but it’s not all him. We need better snaps, better holds and some of those things to give him a chance. Even with all of that, we came out of here with a win. I’m proud of the mental toughness they showed and how physical they played and now we get ready to look forward to Virginia Tech which will be a bigger challenge.

When you think of them, the first thing that comes to mind is defense and special teams. I don’t think this year’s team is any different. They probably have as good of speed as anyone we will play defensively- they can all really run. If you go back and look at their last two games, they haven’t really given up a lot defensively. East Carolina scored, they ran an interception back to the one, they blocked a punt for a touchdown and really didn’t have much going until the end of the game when it kind of fell apart for Virginia Tech. At half time last week, Furman had only 36 total yards of offense and just two yards rushing. They came out with an attitude on defense last week in the first half and it showed what they are capable of.

Offensively they are searching for an identity- they are playing two quarterbacks. They have some talented players on offense. We hope they don’t put it together like they are capable of, at least for one more week. This will be a huge challenge for a young football team- on the road back to back. But, I think our team is looking forward to it. We will have an idea of how we stack up when we come back next week.

Against Boston College, you didn’t play a lot of guys, but I’m assuming that is because of injuries. Do you think that is typical?

“I’m not a big substitution guy. We have to rotate guys, be smart and keep them fresh, but I think we found out that you can play 70 snaps and there’s no rule that you have to come out. I didn’t see a lack of effort in the fourth quarter any more than the first quarter. We are still not playing with the effort we want all the time, but I think that’s learned- it wasn’t from fatigue or anything else. Everybody is different. I think sometimes as coaches we put ideas in their head `well I’m only good for 30 snaps’ , `I can only do this’… sometimes with the depth, a guy is better playing his 60th snap, even if he is a little winded, may still be better than the guy coming in to back him up. You just have to judge it by that. We don’t have a lot of depth- I’ve said that all along. We don’t have a lot of guys to put in.”

You mentioned Virginia Tech’s speed, particularly on defense. It’s probably a different challenge than what BC brought with their big spacing up front. Can you talk about the different challenges?

“Our biggest problem on offense Saturday was that we couldn’t get out of our own way. It doesn’t matter what you are doing on offense if you can’t at least get back to the line of scrimmage. You are going to struggle and we had a hard time blocking those guys. Just the inside guys we had a hard time blocking-we had a hard time blocking the linebackers, guys coming off the edge. I think we can play better than that. I would be surprised if we can’t make some improvements. Virginia Tech might be better defensively than Boston College. Other than maybe ourselves, I hope we can put us in there. We still have a lot of games left to play. We are probably playing the two best defensive teams in the league coming right out the chute. It’s a challenge.”

Looking at the defense most people focus up front, but the secondary has four interceptions. Can you talk about their play?

“I think the pass defense is the combination of a lot of things. We have gotten good pressure up front. Saturday’s interceptions were each caused by tremendous pressure. On Rashaad’s [Reid] interception, he [BC quarterback Chris Crane] threw it a little bit behind the receiver, but there was tremendous pressure in his face. If you are going to play good pass defense, you are going to have to get some pressure on the quarterback. Our guys have done a good job back there for the most part and not being scared. You can’t play scared back there with 25 yard cushions hoping they can’t catch it, or they drop it or whatever. For young guys, they have been up there challenging.”

Can you talk about the kicking game and how Scott Blair has looked in practice?

“During practice, we kicked live every day last week. They did ok. With Scott, I honestly think every ball he’s kicked has been over 45 yards. It’s not like he’s missing chip shots. That operation just has to get better. If it doesn’t, we will try some other folks.”

Is it tough to have to prepare for two quarterbacks with Virginia Tech?

You just prepare for Virginia Tech. The game plan, you can’t change a great deal because they are going to run their package. Certainly they are going to highlight different areas, when different guys are in there. From a defensive call situation, that’s what will change depending on who the quarterback is. But you go in with a game-plan getting ready for Virginia Tech.

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