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Opening Statement: I appreciate everybody coming and being here. Obviously, we are disappointed that we lost the game. Really felt like we dug ourselves a hole in the first half. Offensively, it was really hard to get things going when you start at the one-yard line. We were in position to make a lot of good plays, we just needed to make the tackles that we needed to make. A lot of credit to their returners. I thought they made a lot of plays. We got bailed out on a lot of holding calls, which moved them back. Overall, our special teams in the first half really set us back and then allowed them to be in plus field position. I thought defensively, our issue is third down. We weren’t able to stop them third down in the first half, or we would stop them on third down, but not on the fourth down. All of those things go hand in hand. Offensively, I thought we got into some sorts of rhythms at times. At the end of the half, there was a great drive. You saw some really good things at different times. I thought the quarter back played well. Receivers, I thought grew up and made some big time plays, but, at the end of the day, they made one more big play than we did. I thought we did a good job against [Saquon] Barkley up until that last run and, obviously, you can’t win a ball game when you allow him to have a 55-yard run. We feel like we have a good team and you saw spurts of moments of a really, really good team. We’ll keep trying to grow them and come back next week, try getting back to 2-2, and then make a run in the conference.
Q: Talk about Jahad Thomas’ two catch sweep.
A: I thought Jahad’s two runs, those were great calls. It was Romond Deloatch and Phillip “P.J.” Walker in the huddle that called that play. We were at a timeout and they were like, “Just call that play. He’ll get in.” We trusted him. A similar play by P.J. on that fourth down call from the one-yard line, when he dove in and found a way to get in the end zone. I thought overall we made some big plays and had some big moments. We tried to find a way to get Jahad the ball in different ways. A couple screens, a couple jet sweeps, and I don’t know what his numbers were, but I thought he played really hard.
Q: I think it was one of Phillip Walker’s best games. Do you think he is becoming more comfortable in his role? A: Well I think guys were open. I was really pleased with our receivers. A lot of guys made catches. We had guys make catches across the middle that have never done that before. Marshall Ellick had a great catch. Obviously, Romond stepped up big for us early on and then they really played him man-to-man later on. They would not let us throw the ball to Ro. I thought he made a really positive contribution. Guys were open. Phillip was getting them the ball. HE was getting hit a good bit, but I was pleased with our wide-outs in a lot of different areas. Guys were stepping up.
Q: What was your plan for your running game? A: I think the biggest thing is energy. We were allowed to play a lot of two tailback stuff today, which is something you haven’t seen from us in the past. We played with Ryquell [Armstead] and Jahad and I think that’s something you’ll see from us moving forward. We’re moving Jahad around and taking whatever he can give us. We are doing a bunch of different things to keep those guys in the field and I thought they played a heck of a game.
Q: How did having Penn State’s three starting linebackers out effect your play? A: Nyeem [Wartman-White] got hurt in the first half on a special teams play. [Manny] Bowen started for them last week so we were ready for him to play. Obviously, Jake Cooper has played for a long time. So, we were never really able to get the running game going like we wanted. They were blitzing us and giving us the throws, and obviously P.J. was making some big time throws.
Q: Talk about your thirteen penalties. A: I think we had a lot of things that were just procedure and the noise penalties. We had practiced all week to go on silence. The one that hurt the most was probably that one third-and-one. When they had a nice drive, and we were hoping to get that third-and-one. Obviously, penalties didn’t help. The one penalty on the long touchdown left a seven-point game. None of those things really helped us. Some things on their end helped us. It’s hard to win on the road when you beat yourself in penalties. We overcame a lot of them, but not all of them, and that’s when you end up being a play short in a game.
Q: When they passed to [Chris] Godwin early, was there a mix up in coverage there? A: No. We just played cover two and they ran a cover two beater. They threw it again to (Jared) Folks later, he covered it, and they threw pass interference on it. It’s just the linebacker has to get back and the safeties have to get depth, and you have to rally and get it down. It was just a good play by them and poor execution by us. After the first half, we said to our guys, “We are really beating ourselves in a lot of ways”. A lot of things like that. The challenge at halftime was to regroup and come back and just do what we do. I thought we did. We got it down to a one score game with a chance to win at the end. That was just a couple guys getting beat and them making a nice play.
Q: This isn’t the first time this season that you mentioned that you weren’t happy with the special team’s play (after the Army game). How will you get better going forward? A: I don’t remember saying that before. It’s hard for me to remember, but I’ve been pretty pleased with our special teams. Today, I thought they got really rallied in the second half. We are playing a lot of young kids on those teams. You’ll never hear me use young as an excuse. It’s just a reality. You put them out there, they have to play at a certain level. Sometimes you have to make a mistake to realize what coach says really matters. I thought really we missed tackles the whole day. That catch by that kid down the sideline [Mike Gesicki]. We came free. We jumped and he made us miss. A lot of guys, if they made the tackle it would have been a different game. Not to call anybody out, but just hey guys we are one step/play away from making a lot of big plays. If we do that, we are going to have one heck of a game. We’ll just keep training them and playing them. We made some big kicks and had some big moments, that I thought really stepped up. Getting the turnover on the punt in the second half really changed the game. In the second half, I was pleased. It was the first half that I was like, “what are we doing”.
Q: You’re way beyond moral victories, but is there anything you can take away from this game? A: Yeah. I’m angry we lost and our team better be angry that we lost. We feel like we should have won that game. That’s no disrespect to them, they’re a great team, but when we play we want to win. There’s absolutely nothing that I’m going to say about our effort that I’m going to say, “Congratulations, we tried.” That being said, I think the real key is not moral victories, but learning what we did wrong. At the end of the day, in the first half, if you give up a touchdown pass or if you’re not where you are supposed to be, if guys don’t do their jobs then we are not going to win. We are trying to get our guys to understand that we are a talented football team. We just have to do our job. We didn’t play real, real hard against Army at times, in terms of the way I wanted physically. We were physical today. There was a lot of good things, but you have to do your job. I thought they got that at half time. That’s why you saw us show up in the second half and play a little bit better. I want them to be upset and I want me to be upset. I want the whole team to be upset because I want this team to grow and click when the conference comes. I thought we made a step or two today in some areas. It’s really what will happen on Sunday, Monday, Tuesday to me. Hopefully, they’ll come back and realize what it takes to win. Like Tyler [Matakevich] and them knew how to win, they figured it out because they went 2-10. If this team figures out what it takes to win, if they didn’t learn it today, they’ll never learn it. If they didn’t realize that if you want to win, you have to do your job on special teams, to make the play when it’s there. If they figure that out, we’ll have a really good team and a really good year.
Q: How much more difficult was it to play catch up in the fourth quarter? A: Yeah. I’m disappointed in the timeouts. We came in this year saying that if we had the wrong person on the field or if we had the wrong play on the field, that we would just eat the time, but one was fourth and one. We had to call the timeouts. The first one we had the wrong people on the field. That falls back on us as coaches. Had we had the timeouts we would have had more time obviously, but it is what it is.
Q: How big is it to have Jacob [Martin] and Colin [Thompson] back? A: I think Jacob tried to play through that injury and Colin did. I think we were only without Ventell [Bryant] today. [Sharif] Finch was a little banged up, so he didn’t play very much. I think when Wentell comes back it will really give us a boost. We had a lot of guys that tried to play through injuries and I’m proud of them. There are no moral victories, but I am proud of them because they’re trying to get better.
Q: Do you think having Jahad in the lineup today boosted Phillip’s confidence? A: As a quarterback, you want to have as many weapons as you can. I’m sure the emergence of Keith Kirkwood has made him feel a lot better. I think today we did a good job of getting him in rhythm. I think that no huddle at the half really got him in rhythm. He made some spectacular plays. He was hitting guys in tight windows.
Q: There’s been a lot of conversation whenever you play Penn State or Pitt. Do you think there will ever be a day when the three teams can play each other on a regular basis again? A: I think that’s more a conversation for college football. College football has made a decision not to play regional games. It’s really hard to throw the question back onto the schools like “hey figure it out”. There was a day where we would all get on the bus, played, and got home back to your dorm. That has since been gone. I don’t know what the future holds, but it’s interesting. It’s fun to play regional games. I look forward to playing Rutgers in a few years. We have a lot of kids from New Jersey. I think any time you can play locally, it’s a fun thing.
Q: What did you think about the [Joe] Paterno videos and tributes? A: To be quite honest, I didn’t see anything. I look forward to maybe seeing one of those things. For me, I am very grateful for everything that Joe Paterno did for me personally. I was just a little walk-on that he gave an opportunity to. His son Jay Paterno was the first person to ever put me on the field. On a personal level, I am very grateful for those people giving me an opportunity to play which then gave me an opportunity to coach. I think tributes are great. If there were lettermen here, I didn’t see any, players that play for you are your tribute. Guys that played for me in the past four years are my tribute.
Q: Why did you go for two instead of the field goal? A: All of the analytics would say go for two then. Usually you don’t like to do that until the fourth quarter, but then they go off sides and give you the ball at the one-and-a-half-yard line. So you have a chance now to run a two-point play, from the one-and-a-half-yard line. So we are going to spread Phillip out like we just did or throw the ball and have him run in. Then we jumped and, obviously not the turn of events we wanted, but I said “hey let’s go for two now because we are going to have to do it at some point”. When we went off sides, I said to just kick it. I think it worked out in the end, but that was the thought process. Q: How do you think the offensive line played today? A: I have to watch the film for the o-line. We had some penalties that hurt us. I thought we protected well until the end when they hit us with a few twists. We could have picked up some of those twists. It would have been nice to finish the game if it all went well. I think we are getting better on the offensive line. I’ll have to watch the film. Jovahn Fair got hurt early in the game and was limping around out there, trying to fight, but it still hurt us.
Q: What are your thoughts on Saquon Barkley’s runs? A: He’s a great back. You are trying not to let him get ahead of steam. He’s just really hard to tackle. He’s really a special back. We just weren’t able to get in our gaps, ball got to the second level, and we weren’t able to get it down.
Q: What did you say to the team at the half? A: They were so excited to play. They had tremendous energy. We hadn’t had a lot of chances to play offense because we had been backed up. We had to run the ball and quarterback sneaks to get out. I think we felt a rhythm on offense. On defense, we were just trying to get guys to settle down and do their job. We have to learn now that we have to do our job to win big ball games. I thought they settled down and played a lot better the second half.