“I thought last night’s game was very intense. It was a very physical, hard-hitting game, typical Big East, black-and-blue physical contest. There were a lot of good things in that game and some not so good. We’re very proud we got that win and got started off on the right foot in Big East play. Again, I was so pleased with how hard the Mountaineers played and how intense it was. It was a heck of an opener and it was exactly what we thought it would be. The game worked out in our favor, which we’re very pleased about today.
"What we have planned today is we’re going to have a team meeting at 2:30. We will go over our awards at that time. We will then do special teams, at that point we will break and the offensive guys will watch film with their coaches while the defense will lift and run and get the soreness out. Then we’ll switch that halfway through complete that with the other side of the ball meets and the other guys lift. We will be off after tonight. The guys have treatment tomorrow as they always do when Saturday is an off day. We’ll then get ready to resume for game number two, round two in the Big East."
Q: What did you like most and what did you like least last night?
“I certainly liked our defense. I thought our defense played outstanding. I thought our guys flew around. I thought our guys did a heck of a job of, first of all, a really good job of leveraging the football. You must leverage the football with players like B.J. Daniels and [Moise] Plancher and the type of football team they have with Bogan out there and [Lindsey] Lamar, running those routes and things. I thought it was a physical game.
"I thought our defense really did arise to the occasion and we kept them in check pretty good. I was really pleased, No. 2, with the way we disguised. I thought our secondary did a heck of a job disguising and trying to keep B.J. Daniels from getting into a rhythm like he had done last year.
"I was okay with the kicking game. There was one big kickoff return I wasn’t pleased with. Our punting game, though, Greg only averaged 38 yards a punt, but we kept them pinned back pretty good inside the 20 a couple times. They didn’t get great field position most of the night.
"Offensively, I was pleased with the way we started, the way we passed the ball and spread our wealth, got the ball to so many play-makers. I thought that was good. We got our guys the ball in space, but we didn’t have a big, big night simply because those guys are good. They’re fast and they ran us down.
"We’re now becoming a more two-dimensional team. We didn’t run the ball as well as we’ve done in some games, but that credit goes to the South Florida Bulls. They’re fast and their defense is good. If you like good defense, sound kicking games and a hard-hitting game, it was a good one to see."
Q: Where would you rate that among the win over Maryland and the narrow loss at LSU?
“It’s a win, and I’m proud to get it. I thought it was a good win to start off the Big East, and again, I don’t think you should ever ... we’ll analyze the game, but we’ll never apologize for winning. It was 20-6 in a game that we had trouble with an opponent the last few years, and now we’re on the winning side. Our staff, we’re 2-1 [against USF] and we evened the series at 3-3. We still have a lot to do. We’re getting better each and every week. We’ve just got to do a little bit better as a total team."
Q: Are you going to tinker with the running game at all? Does it worry you? Especially as the weather turns colder, you’re going to need to run the ball a little more, I suspect.
“No, I’m not going to worry, because I liked our drive in that third quarter. I don’t know how long we had that ball [6:50] but it seemed like we had a real nice, long drive, got the field goal which put us up 20-3, I believe, at the time [it actually made it 20-6]. That was a big, big drive. We took a lot of the clock. We ran the ball a bunch there and made hay, so to speak, at that point. But they’re good. We’re good. It was a defensive game. We’ve just got to do better running the football."
Q: Talk about the short-yardage passing game a little bit. A lot of screens and just short throws last night. Were you using that to offset the fact you weren’t running the ball so well?
“I’ll tell you why we were using that: we wanted to spread the field out because any time we tried to run the ball, they had that extra guy in the box. That’s what happened to the spread to a lot of teams. Our quarterback is a better passer than he is a runner right now, simply because that’s what we’ve had him do more.
"That being said, we felt like we could move the ball that way. Even in the fourth quarter, it was always fourth-and-1, fourth-and-2. So we were moving the ball. We just weren’t getting the chains to move. That’s where we’ve got to get better. When you get in a tight game like that, you’ve got to be able to move those chains and get your defense off the field and at least make the other team drive the full length of the field. That’s what we’ve got to get better [at]."
Q: You mentioned those fourth-and-1s, fourth-and-2s. There were several times a guy caught a pass and came up a yard or two short. Is that on the receiver to run that extra yard on the route?
“Sometimes it is, sometimes it isn’t. Remember now, guys, we were 7-of-17 [converting on third downs]. That’s not great. They were 1-of-11. That’s not really good at all. I just told the guys, ‘We don’t want to turn the ball over.’ If the South Florida Bulls were to score, I wanted them to go 70, 80, 90 yards.
"They can call me conservative, they can call me whatever. When your defense is playing like we’re playing and we’re keeping everything pretty good in the kicking game, then you rely on your defense to win. That’s what the objective, I last thought or knew, what I’m trying to do here, is to win football games."
Q: What do you work on on defense? What are your concerns?
“We work on everything. My concerns are still the big play. I saw one time there in the fourth quarter there, Plancher went through that hole and they had a hat on everybody. We had a corner in man coverage run off. If Eain Smith, who stumbled coming up, if he doesn’t make that tackle, he barely cut the legs out, if he doesn’t make that tackle, it’s a touchdown. Now the game is 20-13 with a chance for them to onside kick or us to muff something or make us punt and get back in the game. But if we had just gotten another drive, to me, and gotten just three more points to make it 23-6, now they’ve got to score three times. That’s what I was trying to do.
"Defensively, you still work on all the stuff. You’ve got to make sure tackles, which pretty much most of the night we did. We pressured them in the passing game. We kept their great athlete B.J. Daniels in check. Guys, don’t forget that. That’s the thing that made me happy. We didn’t give up any big play. We didn’t, as an offense, turn the ball over. We got a bunch of turnovers from them. To me, that’s what it’s all about."
Q: You mentioned last night you came in at 6:30 in the morning yesterday and popped in film of Syracuse-South Florida. I assume that’s all you’ve seen of Syracuse. But you watched them for a reason. They’re doing something well that’s drawing your attention, right?
“Yeah. They ran the ball. I wanted to know how they ran that ball. Had we done that -- let’s say we did in the fourth quarter what we did in the third quarter, pound that ball, pound that ball. We started to do that, but you take 7 [Noel Devine] out of the game. I don’t want to take 7 out of the game and then all of our little quick guys in space. I don’t want to take away what’s been good to us. We wanted to see if we could make that work.
"It was frustrating because they are fast. We’ve never ran the ball, never, against them, except Pat White in ’05 down there when Pat put on that show. Every other time, they’ve had an answer for us, and they had one last night. So that’s what’s kind of always in my thinking, you see what I’m saying?"
Q: What about Syracuse?
“What Syracuse did to South Florida was they had patience, you see. They hung in there because South Florida didn’t score on the Syracuse defense. I could have taken the same approach like we did in the third, but I thought what we were doing ... I wanted to get the ball to 7. If he just breaks one -- one break, one breakaway -- now we’re up another score, 27-6, instead of getting in that power set, running down there and playing for a field goal. That’s what my thinking was.
"That’s why I came in and watched Syracuse. I wanted to see the patience Doug Marrone and his staff had in that South Florida game and they did. We did it in the third quarter and didn’t do it in the fourth, if that makes sense."
Q: You’re talking about a 20-6 lead being almost insurmountable against your defense. Is that the view right now, that they’re playing that well, that they’re good with two touchdowns?
“What I don’t want to do is this -- that stuff about playing not to lose, that’s a bunch garbage. We were playing to win. I did the best thing I knew to do, and in the fourth quarter, I just kept saying, ‘7’s got a chance to break one.’ All he’s got to do is break one and get us field position, and then we maybe pound that ball in there. But we chose to do what we did and we came up a yard here, two yards there, a yard again, three yards [short of first downs]. So it was so, so close.
"I thought we were going to break one and we didn’t. That’s all I’m saying. I thought our defense was playing well, and I didn’t feel at the time like we could get back in that power set and do again in the fourth quarter what we did in the third. I thought our defense would not give up any more scores. I really did."
Q: Is Devine 100 percent now? A member of the training crew told me he was.
“No. Here’s the deal: I can’t tell you what his foot feels like. I can only look out there and tell what I think ... he just isn’t as quick yet, and hopefully by next week, that will be better. He’s gotten better each and every day. I don’t know how you can say a guy is 100 percent, and I’m not trying to get into a thing with the training staff, but I’m just trying to tell you as honest as I can he’s not as quick as he was before he got hurt."
Q: How important is it for Devine to break one, to get that out of his head? He hasn’t done that all year.
“That is something ... I kept trying to get him the ball, that’s what I’m saying. We try to keep track of how many times 7 has touched it, because sooner or later, the statistics have shown in the past he’s going to break one. It just didn’t happen. They’re just good. They’ve got a good defense, you see? That’s the trouble. It just didn’t happen. But he did okay. We’ve just got to get a little bit better.”