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Monday with the Media
Head Coach Carl Pelini

Sept. 16, 2013


On the USF Game
That was a physical football game. I thought we matched their physicality and that was key going into the game. They were a little bit bigger than we were up front. I think on both sides of the ball we matched it and played physical ourselves. Defensively, I thought we played well. Guys were flying around the field and I loved seeing that. We made some big plays on defense. It wasn't perfect, we made some mistakes and the guys know that. We can get better. We got lucky a couple of times. Gave up a long touchdown pass on a busted assignment, but I was proud of how hard they played. Offensively, two maybe three drives we were the offense that I think we can be. We were executing. We were running the ball and we were throwing the ball efficiently and Quez (Jaquez Johnson) was making good decisions. There were other glimpses of that offense throughout the game but we continue to hurt ourselves with stupid penalties, missed assignments, things like that which are just drive killers. Brian (Wright - Offensive Coordinator) gave me the breakdown. Out of the 59 offensive plays there were 19 that we had some sort of mistake that cost us. The pessimist in me is very frustrated by that. The optimist in me tells me that those are easy mistakes to fix. It is not like we are not capable of making the block or not fast enough or what not. Those are things that are easily fixable and can really help us on the offensive side of the ball.

How does that (59-19) compare to the first two games
A little bit better, actually. So, the improvement is there and it showed. When we weren't hurting ourselves we were moving the football, in that game. And, it was against a defense that going in I thought was very talented and very strong and showed it in the Michigan State game. Their physicality up front was a concern for me so I was very excited about our ability to run the ball at times.



What do you see as the ceiling for this defense?
They can be as good as they want to be and as fast as they can improve. I said it going in. We are deep up front which is huge. We are playing 10 to 11 guys on the defensive front throughout the course of the game. We are experienced and talented at the linebacker position and our defensive backs are really coming into their own as a unit. So, we need to keep getting better and they need to keep pushing themselves because we have the potential to be an awfully good defense.

Defense knowing the system.
I think they are playing faster because they know the scheme better. I think they are playing with more confidence. I think we are able to mix up some zones and man to keep offenses guessing a little more than we were able to a year ago and that has helped us. We are a better pressure team and movement team than we were a year ago. When we blitz against the run we are fairly effective. We were able to get pressure on the quarterback the few times we pressured on passing situations on Saturday. More bullets in the gun certainly helps.

I hope not too different. I am that coach who believes in steady progress and keeping the guys grounded. I have said about this group since I have been here. They come back to work every Sunday fairly grounded. Not too high and not too low and I think it is always an awakening that you come back from a big win. You sit down in front of the film and realize pretty quickly that you didn't play a perfect game and that there is a lot of improvement that can be made. Those are the teams that win in college football, the ones that make steady progress. I think they should feel good about what they achieved. I think it lends some creditability to what we are doing - in their minds, but at the same time they know we have a long way to go as a football team.

Thoughts on offensive execution 1st half versus 2nd
Towards the end of the first half I thought we started to put it together. Again, execution is a good word to use because there were a number of incidents in the first half that we hurt ourselves offensively. As those mistakes went away our yardage started to appear and we started to move the ball better. That scoring drive at the end of the first half gave our locker room a boost. I remember saying to them. `Hey look what you can do if you just execute the offense and do what you are coached to do.' I think they took that to the field the second half.

Importance of win (especially an AQ school)
Very satisfying. We have worked hard to instill a physical mentality on this football team. It doesn't always show when you are playing a spread teams. I'm very proud of that. We have come a long way in our offseason program, our strength program and our conditioning. We felt like we were prepared to go four quarters. I told them at halftime. `This is the kind of game we have pointed towards since we have been here. The discipline we try to instill all the work we put in during the off season. We are ready to go four quarters, let's go out and see if they are' It was very satisfying and I loved seeing it. Despite the way everyone thinks college football is moving towards a finesse game because of the spread ,but you can still be a physical football team, run the spread and defend the spread at the same time.

On Jaquez Johnson
I thought his decisions making was much better. His completions to Dan (Daniel McKinney) were his decisions whether to run the ball get it out to Dan or throw it to the edge. He made good decisions in all those situations. Did exactly what we were calling for on the sideline. I thought running the football that he did pull it effectively and it helps our running game because he is a threat on the edge. If he will make good decisions there and stretch a defense, it becomes a lot different defending an offense where the quarterback is willing to pull it and go than as a (defensive) coordinator knowing he is not going to pull it and he will hand it off. It puts stress on the defense when he shows that willingness and when he does pull it he is a tough physical runner and gets some tough yards. I cringe every time but he seems to weather it ok.

Added energy playing at home.
I hope so. They are ready to come home. We are tired of traveling right now. I hope there is an energy there. We have worked hard as an athletic department to promote this game and get fans out and the win on Saturday will help as well. I hope there is energy and we can feed on that.

Noon Game Time
I have never done a noon game down here. I know it will be a little warmer, but I think that is to our advantage. We practice in the mornings and our guys are used to practicing in the heat and humidity. I would hope that it (weather) would be to our advantage. I have always been a fan of the early games in college football but that Big 10 game that we played at 11 a.m. was a little too early for me. Between noon and two starts is what I like. You get up, get moving and you go play football. That's the schedule I like. When the t.v. asked us to do that I was all for it.

On the defense having a goal line stand in every game. What is being done different?
Nothing. They are playing physical. No special calls. We didn't pressure. We really played good base defense. That has been true for all those stands all year. It is hard for an offense to move the ball down in the red zone because they can't stretch your defense at all. It comes down to their blocking and us getting off blocks. Our guys take pride in that, turn it up a notch and have defended the run very well down there in the red zone. It is probably fairly unusual, if you look at college football week to week and the success the offenses have inside the five. I think we are growing up as a "D" line and it all starts there. The other thing to me is that rotation up front helps us so much. We can throw fresh bodies out there. After the offense has had a long drive down the field and expended energy, we can throw fresh bodies in and it gives us a better chance.

Middle Tennessee
Well, they spread you out and run the ball extremely effectively. They have a really good running back that we have to find a way to stop. It starts up front. That is a good of an offensive line that we will have faced this year. Certainly after last year's game, I felt like it was one of the better offensive lines that we faced last year as well. Their quarterback is very efficient with the ball. He throws the ball well, is very accurate, doesn't make many mistakes and has a lot of experience. I do believe it starts with the running game. When they are running effectively, they will spread you out. If they force you to bring guys down into the box they can throw the ball well enough and throw to hurt you. They are a balanced offense which makes it difficult to defend.

Middle Familiarity
This is the first time this year that we have been able to watch film from last year to see how they attacked us. We have spent a little time on that but we are different than we were and they are different as well.

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