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Paul Johnson Weekly Press Conference

Oct. 4, 2016

PREVIEW – Football at Pitt (Saturday at 12:30 p.m.)



Opening Statement:
“Like I said after the Miami game, you can’t turn the ball over and expect to win a game against a good team. I think they are a good team. We were disappointed with the outcome. I thought that there were some positives in the game. Our offense got back on track a little bit from the Clemson game; still not what we would like but it was better. In the second half (of the Miami game), we were much better on third-down defense. There were some positives you take and you move forward. We’re setting here at 3-2 and we’ve dug ourselves a little bit of a hole in the league but we have lost to two teams that are ranked in the top ten and both are undefeated. Lot of football left to play. We’ll see how it unfolds.”

On Pitt’s rushing defense:
“They’re always pretty good in rush defense. I think there are a couple of factors. Certainly, when you look at the stats, a lot of it will depend on who you’ve played. But the other part is that they’re very aggressive on defense. They blitz a lot, stunt a lot and they create a lot of negative plays. The way the stats are kept, that goes against your rushing offense and helps your rushing defense and they’re very good at creating negative plays.”

On snapping a two-game losing streak with a 56-28 victory at Pitt in 2014:
“I haven’t talked about the game with Pitt being a springboard but they know how important it is. I did talk to the team on Monday about in ’14, how we lost two games back-to-back and a lot of people were about to give up the ship and jump off and we ended up winning 11 games and the Orange Bowl. There’s still a lot of football to be played. You’ve just got to take it one game at a time and play. I’d like for us to be playing better than we are playing but who knows? Maybe this is the week.”

On if the team is close to reaching its potential:
“You’re close but that’s the nature of the beast. It’s always the little things. I tell our guys a lot, little things make big things happen. When you play the better teams, you don’t get as many opportunities so you can’t squander the ones you get when you have a chance to create. It would have been big if we could have scored on that opening drive (against Miami).”

On Pitt DL Ejuan Price:
“You better know where he is because he is a really good speed rusher. He’s got several moves. He’s a guy that when they get you in definite passing situations, you better account for because he’s a good pass rusher.”

On positives from the loss to Miami:
“Offensively, we were able to control the ball, the clock and the game, really, if we hadn’t turned the ball over. We possessed the ball pretty good. We were pretty good in the red zone, at least with the first group. We were down there three times and got three touchdowns and that’s always a positive. We haven’t had to kick many field goals. Defensively, we’ve played much better in the second half of games, especially on third down, so that’s a positive. We’ve got to find a way to take that momentum and get it from the start of the game.”

On Pitt WR Quadree Henderson and the rest of the Panthers’ offensive skill players:
“He’s good. He’s really good at speed sweeps and some of the stuff that they do. They’ve got big backs. They’re very similar offensively to an option-type football team except they do it with power and lateral. They try to keep guys out of the box by running the speed sweeps and that kind of thing and make you account for them, just like you would on the option with people having to account for the pitch, and then they pound (James) Conner inside. The thing that I think that’s gotten lost watching them on tape is their quarterback (Nathan Peterman) is playing at a very high level. He’s taking care of the ball; he’s really accurate throwing the ball. The receiver (No.) 85 (Jester Weah) is also a really good player. He’s made a ton of big plays for them. They’re playing with a pretty high efficiency offensively.”

On Pitt’s high-scoring offense:
“It concerns you a lot. It’s like I said — they’re executing at a pretty high rate offensively. They’ve been very efficient. I keep saying this, it’s like beating a dead horse, but when you get 20 possessions a game, it’s a lot different than when you get eight. So you’ve got to put it in perspective. They’ve done a really nice job, for instance in the North Carolina game, I think they held the ball 40-something minutes. They were executing; they were converting third downs. North Carolina, to start the game, I think they ran six plays in the first quarter. If that’s the case, then you’re going to get a lot of kicks at the turn, especially when the other team is going as fast as they can. It’s relative but they’ve been very good offensively. They’re operating at a high efficiency. They’ve probably played as well offensively as anybody we’ve played this year. Miami had been scoring at a very high rate. But (with) Miami, the competition had been different as opposed to Pitt. Pitt has lined up and played Penn State, Oklahoma State, North Carolina — they’ve played a bunch of (good teams).”

On the demands of being a student-athlete during midterms affecting their mindset:
“Sure it does. You’ve just got to manage it (but) sure it does. It’s different for each player. You can kind of tell when it’s going on. Sometimes they walk around like zombies where they have a couple of presentations in a week or an exam. It’s all part of it.”


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