BOBBY PETRINO: We’re coming off a good win against Syracuse at home in inclement weather. I thought we played well. I was really impressed with our defense. Offensively, Lamar had another great game, and our running backs had a big day. We’re looking forward to going on the road and playing a good Kentucky team.
Q. Good morning, Coach. Kind of going off of what you were saying in the intro on the victory over Syracuse, just what you saw from the defense, because from the beginning you were able to pick it apart and find those openings and those opportunities. Just what you can say about picking apart the defense of Syracuse and what you took away ultimately from the game.
BOBBY PETRINO: Yeah, we did a really nice job of running the football. It was good to be able to just hand the ball to running backs, and they made big yards and broke tackles and big plays. Lamar executed our option game real well. And then we were able to throw the ball down the field. We hit some big plays. Jaylen Smith had a great game for us, and Lamar’s touchdown throws were right on the money. It’s one of those things, when you’re working together, run game, pass game, and we’re able to be real consistent.
Another thing that was real impressive with our offense was with the rain and the wind, we didn’t put the ball on the ground at all.
Q. Then as far as where the team was this season, there was some adversity in the beginning, but you had an opportunity last season, you ended 9-4, you have an opportunity to do that again and get to nine wins. Just about how the team responded and regrouped in the middle of the season and got to where you are right now.
BOBBY PETRINO: Yeah, I was real impressed with our players’ attitudes and their ability to come to practice and work hard and stay positive and just focus on getting better. We also got some players back, some guys that got healthy. We’re probably as healthy as we’ve been all year, and our guys are playing with speed and confidence. I’m excited to see how we do on Saturday.
Q. Good morning. Obviously, Kentucky has a good running back in Snell. What stands out to you about him as you look at him on film this week?
BOBBY PETRINO: He’s a real physical runner. He’s very powerful. He sees things real well. He accelerates through the hole. We’ve got to do a good job of trying to make sure we keep the line of scrimmage there and not give him a lot of room.
Q. What have you liked about your run defense these past few weeks here?
BOBBY PETRINO: I’ve been really excited about how our defensive linemen are playing with technique and shedding blocks. Linebackers are coming downhill and doing a good job in our gap control, and we’re getting a lot of statistics or a lot of tackles out of our safeties. That what you need in college football. You need to have your safeties get involved in the run game.
Q. Bobby, there certainly wasn’t very much that Lamar could look back on last year and say didn’t go well for him. How much did the way the Kentucky game ended last year kind of linger with him. Do you get a sense that with this one it’s kind of special and important to him to kind of make up for how that one ended?
BOBBY PETRINO: You know, I hope not. I hope he understands that he competed and plays as hard as he possibly could and did everything that he could to get a win for us. He’s done a great job this year of just focusing on improvement and competing. He loves to compete. He’s the ultimate competitor. He loves playing every single game, and he gives his best effort every single week.
Q. It felt like last year there were times where maybe some people kind of criticized him a little bit for his competitiveness, that he was so competitive, that he’d get upset when things weren’t going well. How do you feel his maturity has come along this year, just in terms of understanding the ups and downs of a season?
BOBBY PETRINO: Well, if people did that, they don’t have a very good clue because Lamar is very poised. He plays one play at a time. He puts things behind him very well, and he’s done a great job of focusing on the sideline and taking coaching and going out on the field and getting better as the game goes on.
So I think he’s had a great year. He’s been a pleasure to coach, and he’s going to keep playing well.
Q. Bobby, as a followup to that, do you think Lamar deserves to be in New York again for the Heisman ceremony?
BOBBY PETRINO: I think he does for sure. I can’t imagine that there’s a better player in the country than Lamar Jackson, his ability to throw the ball, run the football. Obviously, we had struggles there early in the season, but it really wasn’t his play. He was playing great and doing everything he could for us to win. His statistics and what he’s done as a quarterback and what he’s done throughout the history of college football and what he’s now done speaks for itself.
Q. You mentioned about getting some players back and that helps you guys out. Specifically, how important has it been to get Jaire back on defense, and how much has that elevated their play?
BOBBY PETRINO: Jaire helps the entire team because he’s such a personality and has great confidence, besides being a tremendous player on the field. He helps us practice. He helps us focus. He gives us a lot of confidence. Stacy Thomas coming back full speed and playing the way he is, and James Hearns really playing the way that he can play and rushing the quarterback. So the three of those guys have really, really helped us.
Q. Hi, Coach Bobby. Just talk about this Kentucky squad. Are they a vastly improved squad from last year?
BOBBY PETRINO: They played good football all year. They’ve got a good defense. They’ve got a lot of the same guys back, and they’re doing a good job with the scheme they run. They’ve been doing a good job in the secondary. Offensively, they always have had the ability to run the football and throw it down the field. So they challenge you in being able to stop the run and defend the deep ball.
Q. Just talk about this game with Kentucky. What is it like having you guys play each other? I know Louisville and Kentucky play a lot in the basketball, but it’s good to get the football program rolling.
BOBBY PETRINO: Yeah, it’s been going on for a long time now. It’s good. It’s on rivalry weekend, and it certainly means a lot to all of us.
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