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Paul Johnson Press Conference Quotes

Oct. 22, 2013

Opening Statement

“I was proud of our team last week. The effort and concentration levels were much better. We tried to put an emphasis on penalties, turnovers and all of the things that get you beat and I thought our guys did a good job handling that in the game. Having said that, it’s like I say every week that one’s over with now so you move on and we are getting ready to go up to Charlottesville to play a Virginia team that has its back against the wall. I think they’ve played a really tough schedule and I know that they have some quality athletes. The last time we went Charlottesville we were 6-0 and ranked and we went up there and got beat 24-21. We’re looking forward to going up there and having a chance to play again.”

On controlling the line of scrimmage against Syracuse…

“Coming into that game they [Syracuse] had rushed for a lot of yards in the previous two games. One of the things that we wanted to do, something that we really try to focus on every week, was limit the other team’s ability to run the ball. I have a strong belief that if you look at the stats on Sunday of all of the games, a high percentage of the teams who run for more yards than their opponent are the ones who win. Now there will be some exceptions, but if you can run the ball and stop the run you’re going to be in pretty good shape. We did a good job with that defensively.

“Offensively, we were able to double some of their best players. [Jay] Bromley is a really good player and we doubled him a lot. The linebacker [Marquis Spruill] got frustrated because he wasn’t right very often when it came to who had the ball. The offensive line did a pretty good job coming off and doing what we asked them to do. The main thing is we weren’t behind the eight ball all the time. We weren’t third-and-15, third-and-14, or third-and-12, so we could get into a rhythm. We probably ran four or five plays, but they all fed off of each other. They all looked the same, but they were a little bit different blocking and a little bit different in who had the ball. We were able to do that because we had some continuity and we stayed on target. We didn’t have a lot of long yardage. In the first half, we only had three third downs, which made it easy to stay on target.”

On Vad’s patience in running the option…

“Both quarterbacks did a pretty good job managing what we were asking them to do. They [Syracuse] had made a decision by the way they were playing that the quarterback was going to run the ball most of the time. They had the backside safety bearing down on the guy coming from the alley, so a lot of it was one on one with those guys and Vad was able to run for eight, run for 10, run for eight etc. He didn’t have the long runs other than one down our sideline. He made positive plays. It wasn’t the negative stuff. Only one time in the game did we stop and reverse field. Every play is not going to be perfect, but you can manage second-and-seven or second-and-eight. It’s harder to manage second-and-15. We stayed away from the negative plays. Then when Justin got in he was able to hit some bigger plays, but they both did a good job managing what we asked them to do.”

What do you see from Virginia’s defense?

“They’re like any defense that John Tenuta coaches. They’re aggressive and they blitz a lot, maybe not as much in the last two or three games. They’re really good on third down. If I’m not mistaken they lead the nation and are giving up only 24 percent or 25 percent, but they have given up a lot of big plays. We usually don’t try to target individual guys on defense. We will try to run our scheme and try to get a numbers advantage or an angle advantage. That’s pretty much what we’ll do. Last time I tried to target guys on defense were the two freshmen corners at Virginia Tech and that didn’t work out too well.”

On streamlining the offense for Vad and Justin…

“It depends on what you’re facing, but we’ve got our package of plays. We are far enough along now that they have a good understanding of it so you just try to build on it. We will go into this game with some formation packages that we have four or five plays off of each one. We just rep the fool out of them in practice and you may not ever run that formation in a game if they’re not giving you what you want. We’ve got enough stuff that I feel pretty good about what we’re doing.”

What makes Virginia’s Kevin Parks a good running back?

“Like most really good backs, he’s got great balance and he breaks tackles. He’s got good speed. I don’t know that he’s a burner, but he’s fast enough. He’s got a big offensive line and he kind of gets lost behind them because he’s not a tall guy. He’s explosive and hard tackle. He’s just a good football player. He’s played against us for three or four years and we’ve got a lot of respect for him. I think he’s a good back.”

On Chris Milton’s blocked punts…

“Certain players have a certain knack for it. Some guys are better at it than others. Chris has good get off speed, but the guy who has really helped Chris a lot is Brandon Watts. Brandon is drawing two blocks for almost every one that Chris has gotten. Coach Walkosky has also had some good schemes to block kicks. So if they get off a little bit later, Chris has had a chance. He’s probably had one or two more that he could have blocked as well. What we’ve got to do is to start getting those things behind the line so we can scoop them and score. We’ve blocked more punts without a touchdown than I can ever remember. So it’s a great play because it changes field position and is a huge momentum changer. And once you block a kick like Chris has, it then becomes `I want to get another one. I want to get another one.'”

On Synjyn Days’ progress as an A-Back…

“In the last few weeks, he has embraced the position and his role. He’s a physical guy and he has turned into a really good blocker. I think he’s embraced that. For instance, on Vad’s touchdown, he was in tail motion and he wheeled around and got a guy. I think he enjoys it now. He likes getting guys down and he likes getting praise for that. He sees that as a positive. And that’s good because Synjyn’s got ability. He’s always been a pretty good athlete and he’s a big guy and strong guy. It was good for him to get the pitch and score a touchdown. And I think he’s gaining confidence. It’s like anything the more you do something the better you’re going to get at it. I don’t care what it is. He’s had more time to rep it and to get out of that quarterback mode so to speak.”

On challenging the defense to motivate them…

“Coach Roof and the defensive staff felt like the guys needed to know that the performance in the first half against BYU isn’t acceptable. If you’ve got responsibilities, then you’ve got to play your responsibility. You don’t want ground-beaters and helmet-hitters. Those guys don’t take the guy they’ve got and then they hit themselves in the head all the time. Just take your responsibility and play. It’s the same thing on offense. At positions where you have some depth then it’s only easier to give other guys a chance. Now it doesn’t mean that guys aren’t going to win their job back. Quayshawn Nealy’s a great example. Quayshawn got taken off of the first team, but he started on nickel. He had a great week of practice, but he wasn’t pleased with the way he had played. So it kind of re-focused him instead of being like `whatever, I’m just a starter and I go out there…’ There needs to be more urgency then that. You can do it at some positions because you have bodies. At others you have injuries so you have to try and get to them some other way because you’ve got nobody to replace them. Sometimes the guys behind them if they have a good attitude and keep working hard and fighting hard in practice, they deserve a chance. They need a chance to show you what they can do in the game. Now Anthony [Harrell’s] is a guy who had been on third team forever, but he didn’t pout. He played on all of the special teams and he kept coming to practice and working hard and fighting hard. It’s a shame he got hurt because he was really starting to come into his own.”

On week to week motivation for team…

“We talked after the BYU game about where we were and that how we had backed ourselves into a hole where there isn’t a lot of margin for error. So we said it’s time bow your back and fight back. But we don’t talk about that daily for motivation. We talk about the next game and playing Virginia. On Monday, I pointed out that there’s a huge difference between 5-3 and 4-4. It’s a conference game and nobody knows what’s going to happen. We didn’t know we would be in the conference championship game a year ago and low and behold there we were. You just keep plugging and keep playing and let that take care of itself. One game at a time. It’ll work itself out.”

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