BOBBY PETRINO: First of all, our thoughts and prayers are with everyone that is in line with this week’s hurricane. We hope everyone takes precautions and stays safe. Obviously it impacts our conference a lot. We’re coming off a game actually where the weather did play a big part. We played in downpour and had three delays in the first quarter. But I did like the way our defense played. They continue to play with a good attitude and play hard, and we have shown our speed. But we are learning the game a lot with a bunch of young guys on defense.
Offensively I thought our offensive line took control of the game, and in the second half we were able to run the football and get out of the game with a win.
Our special teams gave us a big lift, a punt return for a touchdown with Rodjay Burns and a another huge return by him that set up another touchdown, so we’ve got to continue to play like that. I’m looking forward to being back home again this weekend to play Western Kentucky.
Q. I’m curious with the new kickoff fair catch rule, what’s your thoughts on how that’s being used or not being used up to this point?
BOBBY PETRINO: Yeah, I haven’t seen a lot of teams using it that much. We did in the Alabama game. The thought was we watched the guy warm up and his first couple kickoffs went flying through the end zone, so we felt like if he was going to kick it in the field of play, he was doing it to get the hang time and try to get us inside the 20. So we fair caught the ball a couple times in that game just to make sure that we got the ball out to the 25.
But I’m not sure exactly how much it’s impacted the game so far, but I can only go from what we’ve done.
Q. And in general when you’re getting ready to face a team that has a good kick returner, somebody really notable that’s got that pop, what goes into the decision about whether or not to kick to him, and is it hard to kind of check your ego at the door and not say, hey, I’m a good coach, we’ve got good players, we can stop this guy?
BOBBY PETRINO: Yeah, I think you try to keep it out of the good guy’s hands as much as you can and try to make him beat you left-handed.
Q. Just wondering if Jawon practiced yesterday and if you’re any closer to making a decision on a quarterback for Saturday.
BOBBY PETRINO: He did practice. He and Malik both had good practices. They looked good, threw the ball well, and we’re just going to continue to practice and let it play out and make a decision here later in the week.
Q. Is Jawon full go? Is he cleared to play on Saturday?
BOBBY PETRINO: Yeah, he is. He is, and he looked good. He did a good job.
Q. What are your thoughts and emotions going to be like on Saturday playing a team you were a part of for a year back in 2013?
BOBBY PETRINO: Yeah, you know, I had a great, great experience down there in Bowling Green at Western Kentucky. The people were awesome. Administration was awesome. I had a great time. Now we have to try to go out and beat them. We’re just looking forward to the week of preparation and the game, and hopefully we have good weather for it.
Q. You’ve got a lot of guys on your staff who were also a part of the Hilltoppers at one point or another. Do you think they’ll be a little bit more fired up for this one?
BOBBY PETRINO: You know, we all had a great time down there, and like I said, we met a lot of friends, a lot of friends still in Bowling Green, so hopefully we’ll have a great crowd, and obviously we’re going to prepare as hard as we can.
Q. What about the Xs and Os? What are you seeing out of the Hilltoppers on tape?
BOBBY PETRINO: I mean, they’re playing well. They’ve got good players, and they do a good job with their schemes. I think it’s real important for us that we’re able to run the football and throw it down the field, and then be able to cover all their different formations and motions and different things that they try to do formation-wise.
Q. You’ve mentioned the weather impacting you guys last week; is it more difficult to judge the type of progress that you see or you’d like to see when the weather is so bad, or how do you go about looking at the tape and evaluating the things that you hope maybe can be better?
BOBBY PETRINO: Yeah, definitely more difficult to judge. It’s as hard as I’ve ever been in on a downpour and tried to play, and then to have to come off the field three times, I think a couple times we might have lost our focus and concentration. The third time when we came off, we went to the meeting rooms, put the defense in the defensive meeting room, offense in the offensive meeting room and worked and coached, then came out and played much better. There’s a lot of distractions. We need to learn from it and be able to understand that we can focus and concentrate and keep our mental edge, which I felt like we lost a little bit.
But it would have been nice to have great weather and be able to go out and try to improve on your execution, and we weren’t able to do that for the first half anyway. The second half it got a little bit better.
Q. Obviously despite the weather, what did you like about what you saw from Cunningham at quarterback last week, and just kind of how he handled himself in general?
BOBBY PETRINO: Yeah, I thought he did a really nice job of handling himself, jumping in there, his first time out on the field. He was very poised. He made good decisions. That’s one of the things we always try to do as quarterbacks is understand we have a decision to make on every play, and he did a good job with that, and he took care of the ball, showed his speed and explosiveness. When we were able to throw the ball, he completed passes and moved it around. I was very impressed with his calm, and I thought the players did a nice job of really helping him, too.
Q. Talk about playing against Western Kentucky, about getting ready for the game. What do you see going into that game against them?
BOBBY PETRINO: Yeah, the main thing we’ve got to do is focus on ourselves and what we try to do each week is get better on the practice field. We do understand what they’re going to do on defense, and they’ve got some defensive ends that can really rush the passer and have a lot of speed, experienced safeties that do a really good job of coming to the run and playing the pass, so we’ve got to be able to deal with that. And then our defense has to be able to line up to all the different formations and motions and shifts that they run and be able to do that and then play fast. I think that’s the key for us defensively is not to get caught up in all the different things they do but play fast.
Q. What did you like about your two quarterbacks? I know it was pouring rain all week and all game the first half, but what did you like that you saw from both quarterbacks last week?
BOBBY PETRINO: Yeah, the game was hard to judge, and particularly for Jawon. When he was in there it was a complete downpour and it was even hard to grip the ball and do different things. He kind of got the worst of it. In the second half for Malik, it settled down a little bit, and he did a good job. He executed the offense.