Louisville Head Football Coach Bobby Petrino previews this week’s match-up vs. #5 Clemson.
“Well it was good to go to Marshall and take care of business. It wasn’t the best game we played this year. Got off to a shaky start offensively as far as not scoring on our first series, but I thought the defense really played well particularly in the first half. They did a great job at stopping the run, getting after the quarterback, getting off the field at third down. Offensively we got it going and rolling in the second quarter. I did think we threw the ball and caught the ball well and made a lot of big plays down the field which is something we are going to continue to work on and something that helps our offense a lot. I was happy with going and taking care of business there is no question about that. Looking forward to this next game you know this is an exciting game, this is what we tell our players they come here to the University of Louisville for to play in games like this. They are a very very good football team. They have a lot of continuity as far as what they do offensively, defensively, and special teams. And they really play the game well. I think that when you watch Clemson on video they do things right and they play hard and they play fast and it should be a great challenge for us and we are certainly looking forward to it.”
(Coach you said after Florida State your assistant staff spent a lot of time watching them in the summer. How much time did you devote to Clemson?)
“We spent quite a bit you know. Obviously when you looked at our schedule and you say what gives you a chance to compete to win the division it goes through Florida State and Clemson. And Clemson was in the national championship game last year so we have obviously done a lot of work on them.”
(What does William bring to their offense)
“Well you know we played against them in his first year. He’s really fast and big, go up and catch the ball. He’s always kind of been their deep threat, allow he can do a lot more than that. He’s really good at end cuts across the middle because of his physicalness and his size. He’s just a really good football player”
(Deshaun Watson obviously presents troubles for a lot of people, similarly to what Lamar does. Has Lamar practice help with preparing for Sean?)
“I think it probably helps some. Just because they can do both, throw the ball and run the ball. One thing we know about Deshaun’s he throws the deep ball as well as anybody. That is something he did even as a young freshman, he was one of the great deep ball throwers in the country. And then he is able to tuck the ball and make plays in third down conversions with his legs so that’s always a concern. A quarterback that can run out and make plays when other things break down so that makes us be more discipline in our rush lanes and be able to make sure there is nowhere to go when the coverage is where you need it to be and we don’t want him to run out and get first downs when we cover well.”
(What does it do to defense when a quarterback has the ability to throw so well?)
“I mean we have to be defended. We work a lot on defending the deep ball, that’s something that ant=y time we played Clemson or in the offseason we spend a lot of time on defending the deep ball. One of the great ways to defend it is get a great pass rush and be able to put pressure on them and disrupt the routes so they don’t get down on the field as quick as you would like, but you know it’s a good challenge for us.”
(How has Lamar handled the increase in attention that has been put in play the last couple of weeks?)
“I think he has done a nice job with it. Obviously I think it’s a little more than he thought. We have tried to help him with that, you know only make him available at certain times and really get it to a place where he can handle what the press wants and what we are asking him to do. Also his ability to just focus and concentrate on being a player and a student. I think that’s one of the things we’ve been really careful about is making sure he still has all the opportunities that he needs at study hall, tutor sessions and doing his academic work and being a football player. He’s been very mature with it and I think he is more comfortable speaking and talking. We ae just going to keep working with him on it.
(Bobby Clemson has a lot of players back each year. Teams change just a touch. Do they look really similar to what you guys played last year?)
“Like you said there are always different parts and different things but the thing that they do so well on both sides of the ball is they are so sound fundamentally. They get off blocks, they run full speed to the ball, they tackle well on defense, they defend plays on defense. Offensively they do a good job blocking the front and running the football. They have good running backs that run with a lot of power and break tackles and then they are able to throw the ball too. When you watch them on video you respect their ability to play with great technique and fundamentals.
What stands out about that environment was it different than other places, playing there at Clemson?
(If Clemson is a loud place)
Is that a trap question? Huh? Like a trap game last week. It’s a loud place. It’s a good environment. You know, I thought it was a great environment. It’s exciting. It’s fun. You know Game Day will be there, so it will be exciting for everybody. One of the things that after we played them at the end of the season that year anytime, I talked to a fan that traveled to the game they were very complimentary how well the people treated them and how the nice the people were to our fans that went to the game so that’s one of the things that stuck out to me a lot.”
(Bobby, will it be nice to be a part of Game Day but it’s not everywhere this week for you guys?)
“I mean we’re just going to try and go about our business the same way. You know, do everything that we do in the meeting rooms all our preparation. We won’t see a whole lot of it. I think we stay like an hour away so hopefully we have a good escort to get us there in time.”
(As a general rule do you have a number of points you need where you start to think of keeping guys in and taking guys out?)
“Not any general rule, no. You know, anytime we’re in the game all of a sudden you get a fairly good lead. You know you always talk about it, ‘well should we give them one more series. Should we take them out? What should we do?’ After we threw the touchdown pass the other night, everybody on the phone said yeah let’s get the one’s out of there and put the two’s in. Then we gave up a touchdown, then we turned it over they picked it up and ran it back in for a touchdown and it was like ok, we can’t afford another score, so we put them back in. Was it the right move to do? I don’t know. It’s what I felt like we needed to do at the time. I did like the way we took the ball and drove it. I think it was a 14-play drive for a touchdown. We got to run the ball. We got to do some runs that we haven’t worked a lot on. So part of it was, you know, let’s go score a touchdown but let’s also work on getting better for the next games.”
(How much do you worry about injuries in that situation)?
“Yeah, you really don’t. You know, it’s a game of football. You go out there and you always tell our players, the guy that’s playing the hardest and fastest, and the most aggressive are the guys that stay healthy.”
(What kind of a challenge is there with their defensive line for your offensive line?)
“Well they’re big and physical. You know they really do a nice job technically. They’re very, very well coached. They have a lot of movement so we’re going to have to block movement with guys that are very big and physical. Probably be the biggest defensive line that we’ve played this year. They play with bigger defensive ends than what we’ve been seeing. A lot of guys went to more speed and quickness, and they went to more size and set the edge by the size that they have.”
(Bobby, yesterday obviously Les Miles got fired. Immediately, your name was among the many that were on twitter or the message boards. Just your response to that)
“Yeah, I’m not interested in going anywhere. I’m very fortunate to be the head coach here at the University of Louisville, very happy about that. Very glad that I’ve got the support of our athletic director, Tom Jurich, and be able to sit down last year and do a new contract. We’re going to expand the stadium. Coming off one of the greatest crowds and Card Marches that I’ve been around. You know we feel like we got everything going in the right direction and this is the job I want, and this is where I’m going to be.”
(How much does your perspective on all of that different in the ACC than it was when you were in the C-USA or the Big East?)
“Yeah, I mean it’s great to be in the ACC because like I’ve said there’s a way to get to the national championship. You know, there’s a way to win your division and play for the championship, so that’s always a pretty cool deal. I think our recruiting is going real well, and I’m excited about that. I also think that this is getting to be a tough profession. When you’re firing guys in the middle of the year, early in the year. You know a friend of mine that’s a defensive coordinator just lost his job. That’s always scary.”
(Why do you think that is? We’ve seen a head coach and two high profile coordinators get fired already and it’s not even October. Is that bad for the game? and Why do you think that’s happening?)
“Yeah… What I think is that it is bad for the student athlete. It interrupts everything that’s going on there. You know, I think it’s hard for guys to come to school and go to practice and be focused and committed after that happens. You know, so that’s something. And I obviously everybody is going to say well it happens now in college football because of the money we’re all making and it goes with winning and it’s all changed. But sometimes we all lose focus of the student-athlete. The reason I have a job, and the reason that everybody in this building has a job, is because of our student-athletes.
(How difficult is it for opposing teams to have Hearns on one side and Fields on the other? How difficult is it to block both of them?)
“I don’t… I mean it helps us. That’s what I’m concerned about is it helping us. It allows us to try and work on matchups and attack protections and have speed on both sides of the edge. I’m really happy with the way James Hearns is playing. You know, I thought he did a good job last year at the end of the year continuing get better. But he’s playing with a lot of confidence, a lot of speed. He’s playing with a lot of effort and really going hard every play. Devonte [Fields] is doing a really nice job. He’s a hard guy to matchup with. Again, I always think he’s a great run defender too. He does a great job helping us in the run game. Being able to set the edge and come off blocks and make tackles. There’s not a lot of guys who can do both, hold the point and shed the block and make the tackle. So that is as valuable to us as his ability to rush the passer.”
(DeAngelo Brown must be doing something right in there…)
“He does a lot right. He’s the dirty… He’s the guy that does all the dirty work for us. He hold the point. He keeps those linebackers free. He’s been able to really work on transitioning on what he has to do in the run game to pass rushing, and really has done a great job of that. I think, when I watch him over the years and his growth in being a pass rusher has really, really helped us as a defense.”
(Do you think Lamar [Jackson] is too rough on himself, giving himself a F after a performance like that?)
“Yeah I just heard about that just before I came in here, you know. Here’s what I think, I think he’s a great competitor and sometimes when you’re a great competitor the things that eat at you, the things that absorb your thoughts, are the mistakes that you made, are the ones you just missed. And sometimes you forget about all the really good plays that you make and all the great things that you do. But he threw for seven… he was responsible for seven touchdowns, threw for five and ran for two. I thought he did a good job. We didn’t get off to a good start. We missed a few things early that I’m sure ate at him a little bit. I know there is another play that he thinks he could have probably ran it in for a touchdown, but he tried to make a throw in the back of the end zone to Charles Stanberry. He probably should have just ran it in, got another touchdown. But he really is a great team player. And he really understands that his teammates are working extremely hard, and working hard. So I think he’s hard on himself because he wants to do everything right.”
(As much attention as he’s gotten, did you see in fall practice that he was ready to make the leap?)
“You know, probably the start of third week of spring practice I knew that he was really growing up and really getting better. Really going through his progression reads, understanding how to stand in the pocket and make the throws, being able to do things under the center that I didn’t know he was going to be able to do. Just like the post he threw the other night. It was the perfect drop, one hitch, touchdown post pattern perfect throw. A year ago I don’t know if he could have done that, but the last two weeks of spring ball, he played as well in spring ball as any quarterback that I can remember.”
Lamar’s gotten so much attention, how much has Brandon brought to the offence in how he’s played? He’s had so many clutch plays…
“Yeah, Brandon’s helped him a lot. And one of the things I talked to our staff about every week is let’s be good at knowing what runs we can hand the ball to the Running Back and let him run and make yards and make plays and Brandon’s really doing a great job of hitting the holes, I think his vision and his confidence is better than it’s ever been, um, certainly his speed is better than its ever been, and I’m really happy with the way he’s playing and how much he adds to the difficulty of defending our offence.”
(What do you think the guys took away the last couple years, so close to beating these teams, to be able to beat them this year?)
Yeah hopefully it gives them confidence that we’re right there to compete with them and that we need to learn how to finish games in the fourth quarter, and you know, the opportunities are there, you just need to take advantage of them.