Pat Narduzzi took time out of his busy Halloween -- however much of it spent on actual Halloween activities is unknown -- to meet with members of the assembled media to discuss last week's loss to Virginia Tech, his sideline behavior that drew so much criticism (and a fine for the school) and this week's matchup against Miami.
Below is a transcript of the press conference, including a discussion of James Conner running possessed that gave way to an impromptu 'Happy Halloween'.
Opening statement: Obviously disappointing loss last Thursday night, over 72 hours ago. Seems like a long time ago. We didn't play good enough to get it done, to get the win. Some disappointing things.
I don't think we played our best game. Few extra days, we come out off of an open week, I guess, not be as smooth. You never know what as a coach what it is. We just didn't click like we needed to on either side of the ball. When you look at it, we were kind of out of sync, didn't play like we should for whatever reason.
Little disappointing. But it's a good football team. I give Virginia Tech credit. They're athletic. They got players. When you look at it, all said and done, it's another 6-2 team that beat us, and probably top 25. I don't look at that stuff. Are they in the top 25?
Q. They are.
They are. When you look at it we have three losses to three top 25 teams. Are we there yet? Doesn't look like it. Can we get there by the end of the year? Maybe.
When you look at a top 25 team, it's another three-point loss, you're in the game till the end. That's what I stress with our kids, you're right there, you're right there, there's so many opportunities in that game for us to get that three points back.
Fumble kickoff return equals three. You throw an interception, equals three. Our defense did a heck of a job like I told you in the press conference afterwards.
Other situation. We get an interception, and we're lined up off-sides. There's another three. We drop an interception at the goal line, that leads to seven. So if you add that nine and seven up, that's 16 points that, golly, you'd like to see us not do those things and you win the game. Even if you don't do two out of the three, you have a chance to win the game. That's how close you are. It's a game of inches. Good football team.
We face just as good a football team this week in my opinion. Again, another new staff. You look at Mark Richt, hell of a coach. Tremendous football coach. Won a ton of games at Georgia. Know him from those days. Not only a great coach but a great person. From everything I know about him, I just have a ton of respect for him as a person. Again, that's more important than anything you do as a football coach. I just think he's a great guy.
He's got a great football team. He's still learning their team, like I think Virginia Tech was. I think they get better every week really when you look at it. I think I told you that a week ago.
They're starting to learn what they are. They have a great defensive coordinator in Manny Diaz, a well-known guy who is playing with a lot of talent over on that side of the ball. Obviously Mark is calling the offense, which he hasn't done for a while, I guess. But I think he had a lot of control in what they were doing on offense when he was at Georgia because we played them in the Outback Bowl a few years ago. Seems like it's a lot of similar stuff.
But Miami has gotten beat by Florida State, they got beat by North Carolina, they got [beat] by Virginia Tech, and they got beat by Notre Dame. People can talk about a four-game skid. There's a lot of people in the country that will be in a four-game skid when they play those folks.
They've fallen to four great teams, too. This will be a good matchup of maybe those other guys. We look forward to going down to Miami on Friday.
With that I'll open it up for questions.
Q. Facing another talented quarterback this week.
And next week, too. Seems like every week in the ACC.
Q. What do you tell your team to keep the confidence going?
Keep it going or get it going, either one?
Q. Your assessment.
You know, you just got to keep going, like I said. We have an explosive game. We're exposing people too. Scott Orndoff is running down the field pretty clean.
People around the country get exposed. You let those things happen. Like I said, I'm more upset where we couldn't get the ball back at the end of the game, that's where I'm upset. We didn't stop the run like we needed to. I kicked off thinking they ain't going to throw fades to stop the clock. They are going to run the ball. We'll stop that. We didn't. That bugs me.
We had a chance to come back. That's three more points in there. That's all we needed was three more points to get into OT at home.
I got a lot of faith in our corners, I still do. Bucky is a big guy. Ford is a big guy. We knew those guys would be good football players. You have a 6'7", 250-pound wideout, pushing off, making plays.
They ran a lot of back-shoulder fades, which are probably the hardest thing to cover. Now, we didn't see any coming into the game, so you didn't have a chance to prepare for what they gave you. It was a type of fade. But it was different. They were throwing it out here.
Give Evans credit, he threw it well. I think we could play with better technique, you always could. You tell your corners to wipe that off, whatever happened in the past. We got to play this week. We got two very good skilled receivers out there this week as well in Coley and, what's his last name, Richards. Two very athletic guys that can make a lot of plays in space.
Q. You talk about the corners, dominating play. Can that be coached, the play?
It can be coached. People train a Rottweiler. Sometimes the Rottweiler goes out to kill somebody, which is not good, especially talking about, you know, something fatal. You talk about that nice little puppy that won't bite anybody.
We just got to get a little bit more dog in us, okay, I think out there, and challenge people a little bit more instead of being so nice out there I think.
But that's an attitude. When you look up there, that's your attitude. What kind of attitude do you have out there? I think we got some talented football players out there that just got to go bite a little bit more, okay, not be afraid to make a mistake and play confident.
But, you know, that's the world we live in. I sat home and I watched a lot of ballgames on Saturday afternoon. You're seeing it everywhere, as we've talked week in and week out.
Q. Your emotions on the sideline became a little bit of a topic. Is that just who you are, it's not an issue, or something you'd like to temper a little bit?
I'd like to temper, if I could. But that's who I am. I think when you look in a fourth quarter, I think for a year and a half now we've fought all the way through the fourth quarter to the end. I think everybody's really happy about who we are as a football team and finishing games. Great job finishing. You guys never quit. Okay.
If a coach ends up quitting in the second half or the end of the second quarter, kind of quits and sits there like a deadbeat on the sideline, probably doesn't go to our players.
I like to be emotional on the sideline. I know I don't need to get out of control, but sometimes you do. It's part of the game. It's part of the emotions of a football game.
That's not who I would like to be. I'd like to be cool and up by 50. Sometimes in the heat of a game, you're going to be uptight and upset with different situations, whatever it is.
But I'm an emotional guy. That's to me why we've always clicked, too. I think it's part of the game.
Q. Is there a balance?
Yeah, there's a balance. The Rottweiler and the soft puppy, yes, there's a balance. I don't want to be the Rottweiler all the time. I want to be the in between puppy that will go catch a frisbee every once in a while. But when somebody says sit, I'll sit. I'm a dog today.
Q. Even now it sounds like this game is a little harder to let go of than usual. You seem pretty fired up still.
I'm always fired up, though. I'm not really fired up, though.
Q. What is the goal moving forward now?
The goal is to win every game as you go forward. You still don't know what's going to happen.
Again, this game is let go. It was let go last night with our guys. It's let go, to finish that question. But it's really let go. But you guys bring it up because we got to talk about it.
Q. You spend a lot of time going over personnel. Does it bother you when you get questioned by people like me that don't know too much about football?
I don't expect you to know football. Doesn't bother me at all. I'd like to have a clinic someday, I think it would be good, a media clinic, just to talk ball. I'm serious about that.
But, no, that's kind of teaching. You guys ask football questions, I'll give it to you. I enjoy answering those questions. That doesn't bother me at all. That's why I go to clinics to do it, teach what we do, how we do it.
Q. Do you second guess anything you did Thursday night?
You always do. Like I said, any time we win, it's a team effort. Every time we lose, it's a team effort. We lose as a team.
I question a lot of things, especially when you don't get the ball back at the end. I question coverage at times, could we have done this, should we have put this in if we'd known they would do that, should you put this in there. Of course, you always do that.
Is it too much for your guys? That might be the other thing you question. So no doubt about it.
Q. Is it too much for some guys?
I don't think so. It depends on what you put in. You look at Miami's defense, getting back to them, they're doing less here as the season goes on than they did early in the year, trying to condense things, maybe they can play faster.
That's the same thing we've tried to do as well. But the more stuff you have in, the more mental busts you might have, too. But we try to condense things and do what the guys can do.
Q. When you went back and watched the film, what were your thoughts on Damar?
For his first game, I was pretty happy. I was not happy with some of the communication he got during the game, I can tell you that. There were some times where, you know, I was upset with the communication given to him, which didn't help him out a whole bunch.
You put a rookie out there and don't talk to him a whole lot, that ain't good. That didn't make me real happy. If I put you out at corner, and you didn't really know what was going on, I would hope the safety and linebacker are talking to that poor guy.
We talk about leadership all the time. That's something [communication] that I wasn't happy with. You know what, Damar went out there, he wanted to go out there. Overall for his first game, first two plays, I saw some good things. Saw a lot of things we got to clean up, too. But he'll only get better, like he has through this season.
He missed a lot of doubles [training camp], he missed a lot of this season being hurt. Since he's come back full go, he's gone like this every week. I think he'll continue to do that through the rest of the season.
Q. What was his reaction when you told him he was going to play?
Well, I'm not one of those guys that's going to say, “You’ve got to play.” I'd rather him help us out. So we kind of batted it around at halftime. I was like, “Do we want to do that to him?” I'd like to have him for a long time now, not use a year for half a season. Not something I wanted to do.
But when you see corners going down, I did not want to put Avonte in the game, which I don't know if we talked about that after the press conference. I didn't want to put him in the game when he wasn't 100% or even 90%.
It was something I said, “We're going to need him down the road.” What are we doing here? I think he can help us eventually make some plays on the edge there. Who knows what we have, but we'll find out what we have in the next few weeks, really in the next four weeks we'll know really where he is and what he's got to do to improve in the off-season, which is a bonus.
But he wanted to get in the game. We asked him. He was like, “Coach, I want to go.” That made it an easy decision. If he said, “Coach, I don't know.” If he would have hem, hawed around, I probably would have said, “Stay over there,” and put somebody else in the game time. But because he wanted to go, that made it an easy decision.
That's how you want it to be. You want it to be we're all in. If he had one foot like this in and one foot out, he's better off staying on the sideline. So that made it easy.
Q. You mentioned before you don't like to take that redshirt off. Do you think he's ready to play a lot of snaps for you these last four weeks?
If he's not, he's going to anyway. He's going to. We made that decision. I'm not going to do that. He's going to play, so... He's going, whether you like it or not.
Q. When you said in the past you don't like to rotate the corners, seems like you're doing that a lot.
We're going to rotate a little bit. Going to have to. Good question.
Q. What did you see from Dontez Ford? Rusty?
I was happy with Dontez. I was really happy with where he was. I was happy he was back and feeling good. I was happy he took a hit, which he took some hits last week in practice, too. I'm really happy with where he is and what he did. You know, he did a lot of great things out there.
Q. How did he go from being doubtful to catching three balls?
They threw it to him, I guess. I don't know. You said 'out'?
We didn't know what he was going to do. Surprise, surprise.
But, you know, you still didn't know what he was going to do. I mean, he didn't go full go all the time. He never took a big hit. He got tackled by accident seven-on-seven last week. Yelled at the guy that tackled him because we didn't want him to get dinged up. Still didn't know what you were going to get. It's a different deal.
Q. What has Nathan Peterman done best for you this year?
I think you guys ask me this question every week.
Nathan, what has he done best? I mean, he's made a lot of plays. He gets us in a good run check at the line of scrimmage. He throws the ball pretty accurate. He knows where to go with it. He's a leader out there.
Q. [Question on the hit Nathan Peterman took after his reception off a trick play against Virginia Tech.]
When he caught the ball? Wasn't a big hit. I think, you know, he's got to stand down a little bit. It's kind of like he went over the DB or whoever hit him there.
Q. (No microphone.).
He didn't? Looked like he did. Didn't ask him. Doesn't matter. He's got an attitude. Want to make sure he doesn't get hurt. That's my only thing.
Wasn't a big hit. I think he felt like he gave that guy a big hit, I think. But I didn't ask him. I don't think it was a big hit either way. He might have thought he hit him, but I think they grazed each other.
Q. What does Miami do well defensively?
They're really fast. They're playing a four down, a lot of four down with athletes. They got three young linebackers that can run really well. In two or three years, they're going to be like whoa. They're back to that traditional Miami 4-3, attacking people, causing havoc in the backfield.
Coverage-wise they're playing a lot of man free, a lot of corner coverage like we play, their base. They've stopped blitzing as much, but I assume we'll probably get blitzed this weekend. But they have not blitzed as much. When their backers blitz, they're active. They can cause a lot of havoc in the backfield because they're big, strong and fast. They're fast.
Q. Is it fair to say you blitzed a lot more last season or no?
I would say probably about the same. I would say we're like 60/40. Again, that's mostly zone pressures. I'd say we probably only man pressured 10 times on the year. So we don't play a lot of man, but a lot of zone pressure.
Q. [Question about how the pass rush from the front four has been.]
Not very good. If you went and tracked down how many sacks we've got on the year, I know we got quite a few, but I would say, if I had to guess, if we had 20 sacks, I'd say three of them are from four-man pressures. That's not enough. We're not getting four-man pressure.
Again, that's a great question. Another disappointing thing when you look because you're not getting four-man pressure, so you got to bring guys to get it. Everybody wants talk about the corners. But there's 11 guys out there. Our pass-rush could be better. What people are doing is gapping up and max protecting, so you can't get pressure on them, so you're forced to blitz them or play coverage. You're still hanging those guys out. You don't know when you're going to get that or if it's going to be a quarterback run.
But we're not getting good enough four-man pressure. You have Ejuan Price, a guy that is dynamic. But they're double-teaming him a lot. Everybody else is getting singled up. We don't have that other guy that's really making somebody miss. That hurts you if you don't have four guys up there that can do that.
Q. What's the demeanor of the team in the days after the loss?
They're good. Kids are resilient. They were good last night, all day yesterday, lifting. They're good. They had Friday off. Obviously they had class. They had Saturday off.
But they're good. I've talked to them on the phone. I'm text messaged them. Their demeanor's good. This is a game. They've been through losses in high school. This is the third one this year. They're all the same. They're all disappointing.
But these guys, I'm sure feel better than the coaches. Talked about it last night. Coaches take it harder than the players, I think. They come in here for two hours a day maybe, then they walk out, they walk down the street with the girlfriend, you know, on campus, then they go to class, they're playing video games.
We don't play any videos games. I don't see my wife. We sit here all day doing this. I think the coaches take it harder than the players sometimes.
Q. After a loss, do you see your coaches working a little harder, doing something extra?
That's a good question. I hate to lose, so it makes -- I don't think you can work any harder. Maybe you work faster, maybe you want to get more. I mean, we work long hours as it is. We're here late anyways. I don't think you can work any harder.
But there's more urgency. Like, I can't wait to go out and practice tomorrow. Every day I want to practice, but there's things I want to get fixed. I'm going to be in this drill over here, I'm going to be in this one. There's a little bit more urgency I think after a loss.
Q. Miami's defense is fast, always have been. How do you go about trying to replicate that on the scout field?
You can't replicate them. It's like replicating Georgia Tech's triple option. You don't replicate it. That's one of the things I kick myself in the butt. I don't think we played good up front. I thought we played high inside not stopping the run.
As I look back, you know, sometimes you're worried about in practice of your D-line getting where they need to be because you know on game day they're going to play with leverage. But we didn't play with good leverage. So tomorrow we're going to be playing with a lot better leverage.
But against the scout team, you can get by and get your job done, look okay, That's was good, nice play. You play this high against a scout team, you go out on the game field, don't do it, that's where it's my fault. Like I let that happen. Somehow I can't let that happen.
You talk about the urgency of making sure those details. Again, there's a fine line going out there and practicing, playing with leverage, then all of a sudden someone goes down, all of a sudden you guys are saying, What is the injury update? What's going on here? You don't want to get anybody hurt.
You know what, it's a tough game, as it says up on the wall there. That's where we have to practice tough. That's where I blame myself.
Q. [Question on defensive line rotation.]
Yeah, I wish we would have rotated more. Again, if you got guys like Amir Watts, I was disappointed he didn't get in the game Saturday. I told him that. He probably had his best week of practice in six weeks. I mean, he had a great week of practice. I was disappointed that he didn't get in the game, okay?
Jeremiah Taleni, he made some plays. He needs more reps. Two big guys in there, Shakir, Tyrique, it's a long season, they're beat up a little bit, banged up. Even with a week off, you might feel good going into the game, but after the first quarter, you're back to where I was, I'm busted up.
But we should get more guys in there. Ejuan is about the only guy you don't want to take out. When he's out, it's a little different. He's special.
Q. Your offense threw the ball more on first down a lot more this season. Did you see that affecting them?
Yeah, I think it affected them. I mean, we mixed it up quite a bit. I told you guys, five yards. You probably saw that. They're up there. You got to spread them out a little bit. You got to try to make something. Henderson had a nice play on a deep ball that got called back.
But that was our plan going in. They want to be all down in there. We like to run it. We're going to have to spread it out and open up some things for our run game. James, he ran like a beast. That guy ran possessed. That's good for Halloween, possessed, right? Happy Halloween, by the way.
Q. [Question about getting James Conner the ball more late in the Virginia Tech game.]
I can't go back to that point. You're probably talking about those two punts we had between the touchdowns. You're trying to mix it up. If James is carrying it, doing a great job, you think maybe they're going to click in.
Again, it's the guy with the marker last, I guess, but...