Louisville Football Head Coach Bobby Petrino Previews this week’s match-up vs. the #2 Florida State Seminoles.
“I’m excited about the way we played at Syracuse – seems like a longtime ago, but it was just Friday night. I thought the guys came out and executed very well early. I liked what our coaches had as far as the game plan went. It was a tough game as far as the number of plays their offense was able to run. The heat and the humidity inside there made it a very challenging a game. I did like the way our defense played, you know we did give up some plays and gave up some points, but we made a lot of plays that helped us win the game. Basically shut their run down, we did let the quarterback get out and scramble a couple of times where they came up with a couple big plays, but really I thought did a great job in the second half of handling the front and tackling and making plays. Offensively we were very explosive. We do have to limit our turnovers, we have to take care of the football, and we have to not hurt ourselves – I think that’s the biggest thing is to not hurt ourselves. Overall it was a good game. We really did a great job in our kickoff coverage. We have to work and get better on our coverage game. I thought their kickoff guy did a really nice job where he put the ball where it was hard to get some yardage on kickoff returns. We do need to do a better job on punt returns because Jaire Alexander can really return punts, so it’s up to us to do a better job of getting him five, ten yards so he can get going and we weren’t able to do that but one time, and it looked there there were some other yards there, but one guy here, one guy there missing a block. Look forward to the game Saturday. You know, it’s exciting. They’re a very good football team, they’ve got great players, they’re very, very well coached. It’s a great challenge for us. I know our players are excited about it and really looking forward to it. We’re looking forward to the week of preparation. Obviously with Game Day here, it’s a great thing for the city and for the University of Louisville, but for our players it’s really just about focusing and practicing and going about their business exactly the same way we have been, and that way it doesn’t become a distraction or anything like that. It’s a great matchup. Certainly something we’ve looked forward to. We’ve worked hard to try and get to this point, so now we have put everything we can in to preparing like we always do. You know, one of the things I believe is, we don’t have to do something extraordinary to win the game, we just have to play good, solid Louisville Cardinal football.”
(On the type of atmosphere surrounding the game against Florida State is like a bowl game atmosphere)
“I mean, it’s a big game, I wouldn’t say like bowl game, but it’s a big game. Bowl games are like a trip and you travel and do all that. Certainly, you know, something we were trying to get to a place where this game meant a lot. Florida State is a great program. They’ve been to the championship game; they’ve got a ring on their finger. We knew that if we were going to make a run in this conference or run to get to the goal that we want, that we had to find a way to beat them, so we are looking forward to the matchup.”
(Bobby, this will be three straight games against them with three different quarterbacks, how are they able to just install and play a new guy into that offense every year?)
“I mean they have a very good system. They do a good job with running the ball, which always makes the quarterback’s job easier. This young guy they’re playing now is very talented. He’s got a quick release and a strong arm. So we’ve got to stop the run. I think that is huge for us is to find a way to stop the run. Cook’s a great running back, as good as there is that we’ll face all year long, so we’ve got to do a good job of setting the point and tackling. I think he’s been a guy that’s hurt us by breaking tackles, and then his speed. You know, it’s hard to catch him.”
(Florida State is known for their speed. Where is their speed most effective in challenging their opponents?)
“They’ve got it at all positions. They’ve got receivers that can really run, a tremendous running back, their defensive front has athletic guys that are fast, and their linebacker spot, they always play with little, smaller guys that can really run. They’re a fast football team.”
(You’ve been saying that you want to be on that level of speed, do you think you guys are there yet?)
“Yeah, we’re getting closer. And speeds not just your forty time, speeds how you play the game and how much you understand about the game of football and how confident you are. You know, you play faster when you know what you’re doing and you’re confident, so I think we’re playing a lot faster than what we were a year ago at this time.
(How much of a test will this be for Lamar [Jackson]? This will be the best defense he’s seen, obviously, and he’s improved quite a bit and his numbers are pretty staggering.)
“They’re very sound. They make you earn everything. They don’t make a lot of mistakes, and they don’t give you anything, they make you earn it. So we’re going to have to do a good job in our pass protection. We’re going to have to do a good job of being exactly where we’re supposed to be on our routes. And then we’re going to have to be accurate throwing the ball because they’re going to be tight, close coverage, and we’ve got to be able to do both, run and pass.”
(With that said, what do you get out of the first couple of opponents the first couple of weeks?)
“He’s doing a great job. I’m excited about, you know, how well he’s throwing the football. And we’ve been able to get the deep ball back in our offense, which has really helped us. I think our receivers have done a great job of getting open and going up and catching balls that are contested. So we’re working hard at it. We know that we’re not going to be as open as we were that last couple of weeks, but I still believe we’ll be able to get some matchups and find a way to get open.”
(The last two time you’ve played them, you’ve been in great shape the first half, then in the second half they’ve pretty much controlled the game. Is that a matter of depth or their experience? How do you…)
“I think that it’s they’re a very good football team and we need to learn how to finish those games. I think defensively we need to learn how to stop the run in the second half and tackle better and not give them big plays. Offensively we need to be more consistent, so we continue to move the ball, not just rely on the big play, but drive the ball, get third downs, and be in it the whole game.”
(Bobby, when you first got Lamar and you started to see all of his skills, what were you thinking about how good he could be and what needed work?)
“The first thing that jumped out to me was it was the first or second practice back on, what we call, field number three, the one furthest away from here, and just the way he could snap his wrist and the ball would come flying out of his hand. But he just needed to work on footwork. A lot of times it’s the ability to get the timing right with what depths our receivers our going to be, and where my footwork is so I can be accurate in throwing the football. You know, I’m really proud of how hard he’s worked on that and how important it is to him. He’s very driven, and he’s a very committed young man. He’s fun to coach because he’s very coachable and he likes getting better. And he’s a great competitor.”
(What have you liked about his decision making in the last two games?)
“I think, that’s the thing that’s impressive to me is when you look and how many revivers we’ve been able to get involved, and tight ends, running backs, we’ve got everybody involved catching the ball in the offense. That shows that ‘I’m reading coverage and distributing the ball according to what the route is and what the coverages are. I’m not forcing any one-on-one issues.’ That’s really what you want them to be able to do, is take what the defense gives you, and find the weaknesses in the matchups.”
(Bobby, what’s it felt like to be able to open the playbook up with a guy that’s able to change the game as differently as he is?)
“It’s been fun. It’s fun to go out there and our guys take the field and expect to score, you know. We do know that this is going to be a much better defense. They’re very strong in the front. They’re very good in the secondary, so I think it’s exciting for us to step up to this challenge and go out there and maintain our expectations.”
(How do you simulate that in practice with the step up in athleticism?)
“I mean, we just practice the way we always practice. We go goods on goods some of it. Some of it we scout it up and work hard at it.”
(You said you don’t want the game day thing to become a distraction. What can it mean for the program for the exposure on ESPN?)
“Yeah, I think it’s great for the University of Louisville for our football program. It should help us in recruiting. Certainly for the conference you know. It’s great publicity for all that. Now we need to go out and play well. I think that’s the biggest thing.”
How are you using it in recruiting? Have you already been in contact with kids saying tune in Saturday?
“Yeah, I think they already know. They always know stuff before I do. That’s for darn sure. You know they all know and that’s exciting and you know I told the players they earned it. They’re the ones that brought Game Day here because of the way they played and the fact where we’re at you know. We need to have fun with it but understand this is a normal week for our players, but it is great for the city and the university and you know everything else.”
You see this as a validation?
“Yeah, we need to go out and play well. Need to go out and win games and find a way to win a championship.”
You think the defensive guys will have the third quarter from last year on their mind this week? The Dalvin Cook run?
“Yeah you know our guys understand when we played last year, and when we played that second half that’s not Louisville Cardinal football. That’s not how we play. They take a lot of pride. That’s why I think we finished so strong last year. Defensively, that hurt their pride. They had to watch the video and see where they’re not performing and playing the way they’re used to playing and performing. We got a group of guys that came back together. They mean a lot to each other. So I expect us to go out and play you know with a lot of hustle a lot of fire you know. Fly around and play fast.”
Lamar said after the Syracuse game that if he had to grade the offense it would have been a C, not even a C+. What is an A+ effort?
“Yeah, you’ll have to ask Lamar. You know I don’t know. We grade every play. That’s how we go through the grading as far as coaches go. I think offensively we feel like you know we dropped some passes. We fumbled the ball. We made some mistakes. We certainly can watch the video and see where we could get a lot better and play a lot better.”
Are some of those dropped passes the result of the velocity he puts on the ball?
“No, I don’t think so. I think a few of them were hard as far as not seeing the ball leave his hand. You know as receivers come out of their breaks, and the ball is already in the air. You know that’s a skill that takes a little bit to develop and get used to. We dropped a couple because of lack of concentration. You know I don’t think we’ll see Cole drop anymore like that. He wanted to run before he looked the ball into the tuck. We have to continue to drill that and work hard at it in practice.”
All the numbers you talk about Brandon Radcliff’s yards of him but how much of that is the offensive line?
“Yeah, we’ve improved on our run blocking and opened up some holes. You know I think working the package together. Some of it is the offensive line. Brandon seeing things and hitting things fast, finding the holes, hugging the walls, the way we work on in practice. You can really see improvement in that. You know we’re carrying out fakes and guys are going with our quarterback at times. That opens up some run lanes for some big plays, and I think it’s just a team effort. Working together and everything getting a little bit better.”
Some of the young guys too comprehend some of the mistakes they’ve made because they’ve won by 34 points and scored 60. I mean is that a difficulty for you all or not?
“Yeah, you know you might be in the meeting and not know we won.”
Coach you mentioned grading out just wondering if the offensive line sure looks to have improved all along is there a statistical way that you see that coming along. Do you know what they’re doing and how they’re performing?
“I mean we’re grading out much better on our assignments and our responsibilities. Our technique is better and our effort. So those are the three things that we really grade, our assignment, our technique, and then our effort. Certainly our grades are a lot better than they were a year ago. And they should be. These guys have experience. They understand the offense. They’re all working harder on their technique. They know more about the game. And they’re playing hard you know that always helps when you’re playing with great effort.”
Bobby you said before that nothing is as good or bad as it seems. With what has happened in two weeks. How much different is your outlook?
“Yeah, I think you’re right. Nothing is ever as good as it seems and nothing is ever as bad, except for last year. The start of the year was that bad. Maybe worse you know.”
What do you like about this year?
“I mean, I like the way our guys are preparing for the game. I think that is a lot different as far as their ability to concentrate, focus. We travel the way you’re supposed to travel. They did a great job in the meetings. Our walk throughs are very focused. We’ve got good leadership on the team. You know, I always talk to our team about you know before you can be a champion you have to act like a champion. We’re starting to act more that way, and we’re preparing that way and practicing that way, and hopefully it continues to show up on the field.”
(Challenges of Dalvin Cook?)
“And he’s a great receiver. He’s as good a receiver that we will face out of the backfield. He’s got great hands, runs his routes really well, can catch the ball away from his body, but he has very good vision. He makes quick decisions and he’s extremely fast. He will be the fastest back we will play this year so we’ve got to do a good job of being disciplined in his gap controls and setting edges, and trying to make sure we get a lot of guys to the football.”
“Start up front they are very physical. They’ve got two guys inside that do a great job using their hands, and they hold the point, job of keeping linebackers free. Obviously they’ve got a great pass rusher who we’ve played now for a couple of years. We are very familiar with him, he is a very skilled guy, but he’s a guy that plays with great effort. When you put the video on and watch him, he’s going to go hard every single play, so he gets some extra effort sacks besides just his skill and his ability to either work the tackles or guards, because he lines up just about everywhere. Their corners are good. Tall, long, and their safeties do a good job of tackling, so it’s a good challenge”
(Derwin James being out?)
“Yea if he’s out it’ll be a little different. He’s as good a player there is in the country so that would be an unfortunate thing for him, and you always want to play against their best, but he’s a really good player. We played against him last year and he got better as the year went on. He played a lot of different positions for them, he lined up just about everywhere, and was a big part of their dime and nickel packages so it’ll be a little different for him.”
(Targeting against Dee Smith change your planning?)
“It was a targeting call, how you describe targeting, that was it. It’s always the hardest one, because there was no intent and anytime the receiver goes up in the air to catch the ball and is on his way down, that’s the hardest one that there is, but certainly it was the right call. We are trying to keep guys safe and healthy so he’ll miss the first half and we’ll have to adjust our depth and what we do accordingly. He’s been doing a good job for us, he’s a good tackler, and he runs full speed to the ball. He’s a great special teams player, and we’ll miss him in the first half”
(Better one on one from DB’s?)
“The match ups where the quarterback scrambled and did a good job moving, and our DB’s need to keep their focus on the guys they had. That’s hard, that’s hard on them when the quarterback moves and adjusts, they just have to be disciplined and stay with their guy.”
(What do you expect from the crowd?)
“I think it’ll be great. Our crowd will be awesome and they will be fired up, and I think it’s a hard place to play. Certainly gives us an advantage defensively particularly on third down. It’ll be fun. This is what we want, this is the games we want to play in. It’s what the city and Louisville fans want to come to and it’s really a credit to Tom Jurich and our administration that we’ve got all of this here in the city.”
(What’s it like for Card March?)
“It’s awesome. It gives you butterflies and it’s really a lot of fun. I enjoy it and think it’s great for our fans and it’s really something our coaches and players look forward to, and it’s something that’s a lot of fun.”
(Isaac Stewart and Mickey Crum)
“Isaac’s good. Mickey has a chance to be here. Khalil is great. It’s just a fact of hydrating properly, and handling the humidity and heat. Those guys should get air conditioning there. It would make it a lot better for us.”