COACH PETRINO: “That’s a hard video to watch. Probably as bad of a loss as I’ve had around here. Didn’t feel like we played the way we’re capable of playing. Actually, I know we didn’t play the way we’re capable of playing—primarily on offense. I thought our defense gave us some good effort, kept us in the game in the first half. We didn’t do everything that we need to do defensively, particularly on third downs and getting off the field…not allowing the time of possession. But, with the guys we had and the injuries that we’ve had, I thought the defense did a good enough job to allow the offense an opportunity to win the game.
Offensively, it’s hard to watch. We’re not doing what we’re supposed to be doing up front. We didn’t make good decisions and see things that we need to see at the quarterback spot. Running the football, we went into the game plan hoping to give the ball to (redshirt sophomore running back) Dae Williams—first play of the game, he gets injured, comes up with a bone bruise in his knee. They tried to get him back—he tried to get back in there himself, actually. I thought (redshirt junior running back) Trey Smith came in and made some runs for us, gave us an opportunity. At halftime, we felt like we had a lot of things there that were open in the first half, and you’re going through the same growing pains with (redshirt freshman quarterback) Malik (Cunningham) that we did with (redshirt junior quarterback Jawon) Puma (Pass) earlier, as far as not being able to see, not being able to focus downfield, getting distracted, getting his eyes down. So, we made the decision to switch to Puma in the second half. He completed some balls, he did a good job throwing it. He certainly didn’t drive us down and get us in the end zone. We can’t turn the ball over on a sack. You have to get both hands against your chest with the football. Obviously, the interception, he had a bad—we went max coverage trying to throw the ball deep and they dropped eight. And when they do that against you, you have to just get on to the next play. You have to just be able to throw the ball away, get onto the next play and keep your poise. We weren’t able to do that.
We’ve got to get things straightened out. First and foremost, with the offensive line, coming off, playing physical, finishing, hitting the holes, running the ball. We’ve got to get the ball to the receivers in a position where they can run with it after the catch, or we’re able to get it down the field a little bit, which hasn’t happened for us yet this year, which is really disappointing because I felt like we were going to be able to do that. We went back and watched the Alabama game. We played faster and harder and more physical in the Alabama game than we did up at Virginia. We’ve got a great challenge coming up this weekend. We’ll be excited for it. I know our guys will get ready to play. A lot of guys on our team know the players on their team, and we’ve always got a lot of energy going into this week. We have a lot of things to fix. They’re always going to be physical on the defensive front and fast in the secondary. And then, offensively, they’ve got a quarterback we know well, can really throw it, and they always have speed at receiver. So, it’s a good challenge for us. But, I do know that we’ll come back and work extremely hard and get this thing going in the right direction.”
Bobby, you said the team played harder against Alabama. “I said faster and harder.” Do you see a decline in the effort?
“I didn’t think offensively that we came off the ball and played fast and as hard as you need to play as we did in the Alabama game. Like I said, that’s disappointing. I felt like the two previous games, our offensive line was the one providing the energy and giving us the effort that we needed. But, we certainly took a step back. Bo (Schembechler) used to say, ‘You either get better or you get worse.” Well, we certainly got worse in that game.”
With the offensive line fix, is that a personnel move or is it just playing better with the guys that are already there?
“We need to go out on the practice field and play better with the guys that are there and have competition, do a better job on the practice field and carry it over to the game. We’re very capable of blocking the things that we saw from them. We’ve shown to be able to do it before. We just didn’t do a good job, missed a couple calls. We didn’t keep our pads down. We weren’t able to move the line of scrimmage the way you need to move the line of scrimmage.”
Do you have an order in the quarterback depth chart area? Is there a decision on which direction you’re going?
“We have a different schedule this week, so we had Sunday off. We come back tonight. We’re doing that because next week we play on a Friday night so that we’re used to taking the Sunday. We’ll have to come back next Monday and practice after the Florida State game. So, I haven’t even met with the quarterbacks yet. We haven’t sat down and went through the video yet. I can’t say anything until I meet with them.”
Are you inclined to let it [the quarterback decision] play out in practice?
“No, I don’t think that’s how I’ll do it. I’ve got to meet with the players and go through the video with them and see all that.”
With Florida State and the new coach, what differences stand out to you?
“Schematically, they’re completely different than what the old staff did. That’s normally what you get when you go against a new staff. We just have to prepare for what they’ve done here in their first four games.”
Just to be sure, you have a decision on the quarterback and you want to tell them first, or you haven’t decided yet?
“I’m going to meet with the quarterbacks. We’re going to watch the video, go through all of that. I’m going to spend some time with them, and then I’ll be able to decide. Now, that doesn’t mean I’m going to tell anybody. We’ve met with the staff and went through everything with the staff and all that, but I need to talk to the players.”
When you meet with them, what would you like to see from them?
“No, I’m going to go through the video with them and go play by play and show them what they did well, where we need to improve, where we’re at right here. So, we’ll meet as a unit and go through the video. It’s nothing I’m looking for from them.”
As far as the running back, I know Dae had pushed himself out there in front of that. Now is it just back to who has the hot hand or will it matter this week?
“Obviously some of it is determined on health and how he can come back from that. If we were practicing today, he wouldn’t be able to practice. That’s just how we get the report in the morning is if we’re going today, these guys would be out of practice. We go through it again tomorrow morning. I did think Trey did a good job running the football. He did a nice job on a couple of catches and getting a first down. He hit the holes hard, made some decisive cuts. One of the issues that we have is being able to get big plays and chunk plays. We might need to get some more speed on the field at times and give those young guys a little more opportunity in practice to see if they can come along.”
Is it an option to use (freshman) Jordan Travis at quarterback? Are you considering that?
“Jordan’s ready to play. He’s been doing a good job in practice. We only had him in for a couple plays so far, but he’s certainly an option.”
How do you analyze the receiving problem with the drops, not getting open as much as they have in the past? What’s your analysis of that?
“We’ve dropped balls, and some of them have been in key situations. It takes away your momentum. Even the first third down the other night, you feel like you have a catch and big play, we ended up not making the catch. We also have plays where they’re wide open, and we didn’t see them. It’s not one group or one area, it’s the fact that we’re not able to put it all together and not working as a unit – the protection, the timing with the quarterback, the vision and understanding what the defense is doing, being able to catch the ball. It all works together.”
As a coaching staff, how do you prevent frustration or confidence slipping moving forward and try to keep the team moving forward?
“There’s definite frustration, there’s no question about that. We have players that are competitors and certain things aren’t happening the way we expected, they expected, so there’s definitely frustration. The way you make confidence is you make plays, you have success. My brother used to always get on me all the time about, ‘How are we going to get confidence?’ Well, you get confidence when you make plays. You catch balls. You hit hands. You understand what the defense is doing and go through your progression and drop the ball off or throw it down the field. The number one thing that we have to do is understand that, work hard at it in practice, do a good job with our offensive line in practice. Sometimes, during the season, it’s frustrating to get better in practice with the offensive line if you only spend so much time against the No. 1 defensive line. So, we’ll spend more time with the No. 1 defensive line, be more physical in practice. You lose some on schematics and what you want to do game plan-wise, but you gain on technique and fundamentals and intensity, so that’s the balance we’re at and we probably need to go back to going more one-on-ones in practice.”
You’re clearly used to coaching teams that score early and a lot. How difficult is it for you as the head coach?
“It’s difficult, there’s no question. It’s frustrating to me. But I’m going to keep working and we’re going to move forward, and we’ll get it. We just have to put it all together. We have to do it one step at a time. I really felt going into the game that we had a good plan and things were going to be there. I felt during the game, ‘Ah man, what’s wrong?’ Then, I watched the video and I don’t understand how we’re not making those plays. It’s one of those things where we all got to stay positive. We all got to work harder. We all got to believe in each other. That’s the one thing we’ll really concentrate and focus with our players is not getting negative, not getting your head down, but coming back. But, I also believe that’s apart of athletics. That’s one of the things it’s supposed to teach. You have to overcome obstacles, you have to overcome setbacks, you have to be able to deal with criticism without resentment. That’s one of the big keys as a coach and as a player is, ‘I can deal with criticism without resentment.’ There’s always some truth in the criticism, there’s no question about that. So, you have to deal with it. You have to improve with it or you have to not listen to it. There is going to be criticism out there when you’re not playing the way that you should play. That’s where we’re at right now. We’re not making plays we’re accustom to or used to doing and we need to get back to it right away because we got a big game this week. One, I’m excited to play. It’s exciting to bring Florida State in here, it always is. Hopefully, we have the same enthusiasm and same excitement in the stadium. Our players have to step up to the challenge and go get better.”
During the broadcast Saturday, (radio color analyst) Alex Kupper alleged your team looked disinterested. Do you think that’s a valid criticism? And whether it is or not, what is your approach to motivation?
“I don’t think that’s warranted at all. You look at the excitement and energy our defense played with. Offensively, we continued to work and moved the ball then we would hurt ourselves. To criticize the players’ effort, that’s not true when you come in and watch the video.”
How do you approach motivation?
“We do it in all kinds of different ways. Some of it we do in individual, some of it we do in our groups. We obviously do team motivation. Motivation is something that you do every week and it completely changes all the time.”
Hate to make you relive a bad drive, but after (redshirt sophomore cornerback) Rodjay’s (Burns) interception, you get the ball in there short. What did you want to see there? What happened there?
“I really felt like we would run the ball in. We saw the looks we wanted. We did have a couple of good blocks that we had the ability to get the ball in the end zone. We were a little too tight on our track a couple times and didn’t hit it exactly where we were supposed to. Probably should have got the big guys off the field on third down. On the one play, they moved the ball back to the two-yard line. I don’t know how or why. But, we didn’t get the ball the end zone and that was disappointing because we’ve usually been a really good ‘inside the five, run the ball in the end zone’ team, against the same team as we it a year ago.”
Coach, do you have an update on (sophomore linebacker) Dorian (Etheridge), (freshman linebacker) Robert (Hicks), and (sophomore linebacker) CJ (Avery)?
“Dorian, Robert and C.J. … Dorian and Robert made the trip. C.J. did not make the trip. He’s a little bit further away than they are. There was some thought from our training staff that they might be able to get him ready to play on Saturday. They did come in this morning and lift and run. The update I got is that they ran well and that we’re very optimistic.”
You talked about staying positive with the criticisms and so forth. Do you see some parallels maybe to the year you started 0-3, hung in there and then finish strong? Can you bring that up, or do you? Do you see parallels?
“Yeah, I mean there are some parallels to it as far as the inexperience and the fact that you should get better and better as the year goes on. There’s no question about that. I think the thing that we have to be able to do is work hard on the practice field and believe in that, and then, you get going. It is better to be 2-2 than 0-3. We are better there. And we’ve had one-third of the season, so there’s a lot of games ahead of us. There’s a lot of work in front of us, and we’ll get better.”
What did (freshman kick returner) Hassan Hall tell you after taking a knee on that kickoff return?
“He said, ‘I thought I was in the end zone.’ He made a mistake. He’s supposed to lineup on the goal line and then he goes forward to catch the ball and return it. Stays still to catch it and return it and backs up to down it. The other returner is supposed to come over and get five yards in front of him and help him, mainly to tell him to stay in the end zone, and he just made an error. Obviously, he didn’t want to come to the sideline, he was the last guy coming over there. Obviously, he’s embarrassed with it. One of the things, though, with the change in the rules that we’ll do now is we’ll no longer down the ball in the end zone. That’s what we coach, that’s my fault. You teach them to catch the ball and take a knee, hand it to the official and jog off the field. Now if the ball is in the end zone, we’re just going to fair catch it and never go down to a knee. If he would’ve fair caught that there, we’d have been on top of it. If I had been on top of it and he would’ve fair caught it there, we would’ve had the ball on the 25. I felt bad for him. I know he didn’t do it on purpose. He loves to return kickoffs and he’s good at it. It’s just a rookie mistake.”
Is that a disqualifier for him for the future?
“No, absolutely not. I love Hassan Hall and he works really, really hard. He’s really fast and he’s tough. He’s just going to keep getting better and better. You’ll see him make a lot of plays around here in the future.”
Coach, you mentioned the wide receivers. With (senior wide receiver) Jaylen (Smith), it’s so unlike him to drop a couple like that. Do you have any feel for why or what happened?
“I think sometimes playing receiver is like playing golf. Sometimes the harder you try and the more you really try to grind at it, the harder it gets. Jaylyn needs to relax and get back to believing in himself. It’s really unlike him to drop passes and I think what he’s trying to do is say, ‘hey, I need to make a big play,’ ‘I need to make a big play’ and he’s running before he catches the ball. He’s got to get back to looking the ball into his hands, looking it all the way to the tuck and being able to make the plays that he can make. There’s no question he’ll make those.”
Any change in (tight ends coach) Chris Klenakis’ status or still same?
“No, there’s none. There won’t be. So, you don’t need to ask that. He won’t be back this season coaching for us.”
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