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Friday Night Rewind: Plenty of scoring again in WPIAL playoffs

Written by Mike White on .

Notes, thoughts and highlights from the first night of the WPIAL playoffs.

It has been documented how scoring in WPIAL football has been on the rise, not only in the regular season but also the playoffs in recent year. The first night of the 2016 playoffs saw two of the highest-scoring playoff games in WPIAL history.

In two wild contests, New Castle upset South Fayette, 51-43, in a 4A quarterfinal while Springdale defeated Carmichaels, 50-44.

The 94 points scored in both games ties for the fifth-most in a playoff game. The most was 118 when Jeannette defeated Aliquippa, 70-48, in 2007. The second-highest total is 104 when New Castle defeated Indiana, 55-49, in 2008.

Fort Cherry brings respect

The Tri-County South in Class 1A has been much maligned for its playoff performances over the years, but Fort Cherry maybe brought the conference a little respect when it defeated Sto-Rox Friday. It was the only win for the Tri-County South, although conference member California plays Bishop Canevin tonight. 

Frazier brought the conference some respect last year when it made the semifinals. But over the past six seasons, Tri-County South teams are now 2-22 in first-round games.

Zane's final game

A tough way for Zane Dudek to end his career. The kid with the best season of any running back in WPIAL history played only a few plays Friday against Gateway before being injured in the abdominal area. His Armstrong team went on to lose to Gateway, 38-20. How bad is the injury? Not sure. But Zane was on his way this morning to watch Washington & Jefferson host Geneva.

Opsatnik for two more

The more West Allegheny wins, the better chance D.J. Opsatnik has at the WPIAL and state record for field goals. Opsatnik made two more Friday to bring his career total to 32. The WPIAL and state record is 35. Bob Milspaw of Peters Township kicked 35 from 1992-95 for the WPIAL record. He is also tied for the state record with David Soldner of Manheim Township, who made 35 from 2004-07.

This n' that

**** All six semifinals in Class 6A, 5A and 4A are rematches of games earlier this year. That's simply a by-product of having six classes. With six classes, fewer teams are in each class, especially in 6A, 5A and 4A. Those three classes have only two conferences. Heck, all four teams in the 6A semifinals are from the Northern Seven Conference. That says something about the Northern Seven, but it also says something about the Southeastern, which everyone knew when the WPIAL made the conferences. What everyone knew is the Northern Seven is much stronger than the Southeastern.

**** Interesting game in Class 2A quarterfinals is Riverside against Freedom. Freedom's coach is Tom Liberty, who stepped down as Riverside's coach after last season.

Before the season started, I was going to predict that either Freedom or Riverside was going to be in the 2A semifinals, but I forgot.

**** I might wear a bag over my head for This Week In High School Sports show with colleague Brian Batko. That's how bad my predictions were - 2-9. That's hideous.

**** Gio Vonne Sanders, Jeannette's fine quarterback, did not play in Friday night's game because of an injury.

**** Gateway had QB Brady Walker with 464 yards passing against Armstrong. That is the fourth-highest total in WPIAL history.

**** The 3A semifinals have the best matchups. Derry vs. Aliquippa has great storylines. But Keystone Oaks-Beaver Falls has is a tremendous matchup also. Can BF defense control Alex Smith?

**** For the record, Derry's last playoff win before last night was in 1995 when it defeated Thomas Jefferson in the quarterfinals before losing to Belle Vernon in the semifinals. Remember Greg Dorn the coach and his son the quarterback?

Highlights

Great defensive showing by Woodland Hills against Franklin Regional last night. Check out highlights and coaches comments:

Pine-Richland beats Bethel Park on field goal with one second left. Check out highlights:

 

 

 

 

 

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Dukes Dispatches: Mansfield preview (with a side of decommit)

Written by Brian Batko on .

Dear readers, this is not a drill: We have real, live, actual college basketball tomorrow. Not official college basketball, mind you -- it's only an exhibition game that won't count toward the regular season or Duquesne's record -- but Division II Mansfield of the PSAC East is coming to Palumbo Center for a 2 p.m. tip.

(Before you ask, I don't know what happened in Duquesne's supposed "secret scrimmage" last weekend at Toledo. I'm pretty positive that it DID happen, but not all schools want to release scrimmage info, even though the NCAA allows it now, so that could be why you've seen nothing about it publicly).

So, Mansfield, what will this tell us about the Dukes for this coming year? Honestly, probably not a lot. The big question surrounding this team, to me, is whether it can compete in the Atlantic 10, and Mansfield is not an A-10-level squad. But that doesn't mean there's nothing to watch for or monitor tomorrow. Here's a few things I'll try to keep an eye on at the game:

* Combinations. As Jim Ferry told me last month at practice, then reiterated a few weeks ago at A-10 media day, he and his staff are still trying to figure out who on this team fits together best. It's nice to have the depth Ferry has touted and I've written about, but how does a coach make best use of it? 

"I see us having a team that can go 10 deep," Ferry said at media day. "Now, where do those minutes play out and what is the combination is probably more of a concern than how many. It’s what pieces fit together, what group? You gotta have enough guys on the floor that can defend and score. So which combination? Can you play these two guys together? Or, you can’t, because neither one can shoot, or neither one can defend the perimeter, so you gotta really figure out those combinations. I think we’re really working on that stuff right now."

* Startling lineup. This, I suppose, goes hand-in-hand with the above, as well. We'll find out tomorrow whether Tarin Smith is suited up and ready to play following knee surgery in September. If Smith is out, who starts at point guard? Rene Castro? Or will it be Mike Lewis II, a true freshman Ferry keeps going out of his way to praise? And what about potential freshman sensation Isiaha Mike, will he start, and if so, at the 3 or the 4? Both grad transfers, Emile Blackman and Kale Abrahamson? I think in general, basketball fans and even media too probably make too big a deal of starting lineups, but still, it's relevant.

* Freshmen. I mentioned Lewis and Mike above as potential starters, but whether they do or they don't, I'll still be curious to see how they perform. Throw in shooting guard Spencer Littleson, too, who doesn't have the type of expectations as his classmates, but still could get some playing time tomorrow. I don't think I'll put as much stock into Blackman and Abrahamson, if only because we know they can succeed in college basketball to some degree. A game against Mansfield won't tell us if their talents are a good match for A-10 basketball.

No other A-10 teams have played exhibitions yet, although a few do tonight (Dayton, Davidson, VCU and Saint Louis), so you can check out those results before tomorrow's game if you're really interested. Mansfield is expected to be a middle-of-the-pack PSAC East team, so I'm not expecting a close one for the Dukes, but you never know.

Now, in some recruiting news...

Darius Banks, who sure seemed like Duquesne's best get in the 2017 recruiting class, tweeted his decommitment Thursday night. I can't say I saw that one coming, not with the early signing period beginning next week. It certainly puts a ding in what was a very impressive job by Duquesne on the recruiting trail the last two months, and I guess now the Dukes aren't done with the 2017 class after all. They still have Jamari Wheeler, John Walker and Lewis Djonkam in the fold, but in my view, a wing is needed in this class. Banks was a good one, but now he's out. The other three? I have no reason to believe they won't sign. Djonkam just tweeted the other day about how excited he is to put pen to paper, so to speak. Whether they try to get Banks' replacement now, or wait til the spring, that remains to be seen.

Don't you just love following recruiting?

Feel free to drop me a line at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.  or Twitter at @BrianBatko or in the comments below. Let's get ready to watch some hoops.

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Friday Night Countdown: Predictions .... what teams have most undefeated seasons

Written by Mike White on .

Taking a look at the first weekend of the WPIAL playoffs - and the City League championship. But first, a little on the perfect ones.

Eight WPIAL teams finished the regular season with undefeated records. For South Fayette, it was the fifth consecutive regular season. For Washington, it was the third consecutive. For Thomas Jefferson coach Bill Cherpak, it was the 10th undefeated regular season on his clock. Wow. Do you realize how impressive that is?

But have you ever wondered what teams might have the most undefeated regular seasons in WPIAL history? Well, even if you haven't wondered, here ya go (please keep in mind this is for regular season only):

ALIQUIPPA 17

JEANNETTE 16

CLAIRTON 14

WASHINGTON 13

UPPER ST. CLAIR 11

THOMAS JEFFERSON 11

ROCHESTER 10

GREENSBURG 9 (this includes years as Greensburg Salem and Greensburg)

MONESSEN 8

MT. LEBANON 8

NEW CASTLE 8

GATEWAY 8

STEEL VALLEY 8

SOUTH FAYETTE 8

CHARTIERS-HOUSTON 7

JEFFERSON-MORGAN 7

Predictions

OK, who will win all of the playoff games? Let's get to it. Should you pay attention? Well, I was 9-3 last week in top games, which brought season record to 83-35 (.703 pct.).

CITY LEAGUE - Brashear over University Prep.

WPIAL CLASS 6A QUARTERFINALS - Central Catholic over Norwin; Bethel Park over Pine-Richland; North Allegheny over Hempfield; Mt. Lebanon over Seneca Valley.

WPIAL 5A QUARTERFINALS - West Allegheny over North Hills; Franklin Regional over Woodland Hills; Armstrong over Gateway; Upper St. Clair over McKeesport.

WPIAL 4A QUARTERFINALS - Thomas Jefferson over Montour; West Mifflin over Belle Vernon; South Fayette over New Castle; Mars over Ringgold.

WPIAL 3A QUARTERFINALS - Aliquippa over South Park; Central Valley over Derry; Beaver Falls over Mount Pleasant; Keystone Oaks over Apollo-Ridge.

WPIAL 2A FIRST ROUND - Steel Valley over Beth-Center; Chartiers-Houston over Laurel; Riverside over Avonworth; East Allegheny over Freedom; Washington over South Side Beaver; Brentwood over Frazier; Neshannock over Serra; Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic over Burgettstown.

WPIAL 1A FIRST ROUND - Clairton over Avella; Sto-Rox over Fort Cherry; Northgate over Mapletown; Rochester over Riverview; Our Lady of the Sacred Heart over Imani Christian; Jeannette over Shenango; Springdale over Carmichaels; Bishop Canevin over California.

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ACC Coaches call: Pat Narduzzi

Written by Jenn Menendez on .

Pitt (5-3, 2-2 ACC) heads to Miami (4-4, 1-3) this weekend for an important game at Hard Rock Stadium.

Kickoff: 12:30 p.m.

Coach Pat Narduzzi spoke on today's ACC Coaches call. Here is is opening statement, followed by a Q&A:

"Obviously we have a great opponent this weekend in Miami, and if you look at the record at 4-4, you really don't get to see the tale of really what they are. Mark Richt does a heck of a job. He's a super football coach. He's got a great staff, and they are well-coached when you watch them.

"If you look at the numbers and look who they've lost to, a great Florida State, a great North Carolina team, a very, very good football team in Virginia Tech, and then Notre Dame who we know has pounded year in and year out. We'll have our work cut out for us when we head down to Miami for Saturday's game, and they've got plenty of speed and athleticism. I think they keep it simple so their players can go play. They're aggressive on defense, and aggressive -- we expect to get a lot of shots deep on our defense, and we've been working on that all week.

"I'll open it up for questions.”

Q.
How would you describe Brian O'Neill's emergence as a receiving threat for your team?

PAT NARDUZZI: You know, Brian is a great kid. He's very athletic, as you can see. He can run. He could probably still be at tight end if we didn't have a need a year ago, and he's been -- forget what he does carrying the ball or catching the ball out of the backfield, but he's done a great job blocking people, too.

If you look at maybe we've given up four or five sacks on the year, he's done a tremendous job of not only making plays in our run game and pass game, I guess, but he's protected our quarterback, and that's what he does. He's an offensive lineman, and Coach Canada has done a great job of featuring a couple plays that he can do athletically.

Q.
I think I read somewhere that he's only given up one sack this season; is that accurate?

PAT NARDUZZI: No, I would say it's probably accurate because I think we've only given up -- I'm not sure, I want to say maybe five sacks on the year, and two of them we kind of gave up on purpose. We didn't want to run out of bounds, otherwise we'd probably stop the clock in kind of a two-minute situation where we were trying to eat the clock up.

I think we've only given up five on the year, and a couple Nathan Peterman has taken on his own just being a smart football player.

Q.
Are you worried that he might not be such a secret weapon for you anymore when you get down to the goal line?

PAT NARDUZZI: You know what, if they're looking at an offensive tackle to carry the ball, then they've got problems. But there's so many guys out there that can threaten you with all these great wideouts that we have in the ACC and the tailbacks. I know we're worried about Mark Walton and Yearby in the backfield, Stacy Coley and Ahmmon Richards, those are the guys we're locked into as well as their tight ends. If I've got to worry about Darling or St. Louis, Miami's two offensive tackles, then we will have our eyes probably in the wrong place.

Q.
Coming off the Virginia Tech loss, any certain aspects on defense that you're really honing in on for growth heading into this week's game?

PAT NARDUZZI: You know, we've got a few injuries in the secondary and some that we're trying to mend up and patch up, but like I said, obviously you're probably talking about the passing game in a roundabout way.

But we've obviously got to make some plays with the ball. I give Virginia Tech a lot of credit for some of the back shoulder fades they threw. We didn't see any on tape going into the game, and obviously that was their plan of not trying to really -- they're running fades, but they're really throwing it to the back shoulder, kind of pushing off and making a great play, which are probably the hardest ones to defend in press coverage, so we've worked on that this week, and I just wish we would have worked at it a week earlier.

Q.
Was last year's Pitt defense better than this year's Pitt defense in any certain area?
PAT NARDUZZI: You know, it's hard. I don't compare year to year because they're different teams. They're different -- you've got Lafayette Pitts, one of our corners, obviously is with the Dolphins now, so obviously you lose him in the secondary. But better -- the question is are some of the offenses better. You're defending different offenses. I know Virginia Tech's offense is better than it was last year, so is it the defense or is it the offense.

And I think the ACC is very explosive, been very impressed not only with the quarterback play that we get in this league but also the skill that you have to defend compared to what maybe you see in the Big Ten.

Q. 
I missed the first part of you talking a little bit about Danny's score last week. Can you walk me through installing that play in your arsenal?

PAT NARDUZZI: Yeah, we really didn't talk about -- you said selling that play?

Q. 
Installing it.

PAT NARDUZZI: Oh, installing it. You know, like I said, Coach Canada does a great job with it. He's a very creative mind. The one thing you're looking for is put the ball in the athlete's hands, and Brian O'Neill is a former tight end that is built like a tackle but runs like a tight end. You can see the way he runs that he's got a future after he plays here at the University of Pittsburgh.

It's about we do a lot of jet sweeps, we do a lot of reverses and people are worried about all our jet sweeps going out one way, and it's really just more eye candy that people have to worry about. If you watched our offense, a lot of times he's a guy that's arc releasing and blocking people, but nobody really -- people arc release fullbacks and tight ends but never offensive tackles, so he's athletic enough to arc, release out and block for our jet sweeps, and then obviously athletic enough to pull around and take, I guess, a reverse and go the other way.

Q. 
How would you describe the reaction from your team when you kind of see it work successfully, and how much does that sort of boost the factor into wanting to run it and at least the timing aspect?

PAT NARDUZZI: Yeah, we've done a great job at some of those little plays that you put in weekly, and every week we've got four or five of them, and when we run them we run them, but it really seems like we've been nailing some of these as far as just working it just like you saw in practice. Sometimes you draw stuff up, whether it be an offensive, defensive or special teams play, we'll block a punt, you draw it up one way and it doesn't look like that on game day, and those are just a few plays that have looked exactly like you drew them up, exactly like you saw on the practice field, and you say, God, I hope it looks like that.

So it'll definitely boost your confidence. I think your kids look at the coaches and say, man, you guys are doing a great job and giving us opportunities to make plays.

I told Coach Canada, you go and have five a week, maybe just get ten, and maybe we'll score even more points.

Q. 
There's been a lot of interest down here in James Conner's story, and for those of us who aren't quite so familiar with it, I was wondering if you could talk a little bit about how he's been able to come back this year physically, mentally, any special things you've had to do to help him compensate from his recovery.

PAT NARDUZZI: Yeah, we really -- that's a great question. I know like everybody up here in I guess the northern area is familiar with James, but first off, I'll start by saying he's an incredible kid. I lost my mother-in-law a couple weeks ago, and I don't know if it's every other day he comes up and says, how's your wife doing, asking me -- just an unbelievable kid, and there are just not that many out there. He's a special, special individual. He's obviously a great athlete.

He's overcome some major, major adversity, and I think really a lot of people can't fathom really how much adversity he really had, when you think of chemo and if you saw him in the hospital getting poison pumped into his body to try to kill this cancer, it's amazing what he's done, and he's continued to get better.

During camp we didn't -- we tried to monitor him, know what he's doing, but we didn't really cut his reps down. We thought maybe we had to. I mean, how many people have to deal with this? But he did a great job of training his body coming into camp, but we are seeing him slowly I think even get better.

We put GPS's on our athletes, not every one of them, I think we've got 30 or 40 of them, so you spread them around, but James is a guy we always have one on, and he's practicing at even a higher speed right now than he did four weeks ago in the opener against Penn State, whoever it may be. He's practicing -- I think he played the other game at 20 miles per hour, which in previous games he was at 18, and you really could see it. I told him we're going to crank it up to 21 miles an hour this weekend, and again, I think those are some of the things you're seeing through the season, but he's done a great job of monitoring his own body, and he's tough.

Q. 
I know everybody's goal on a kickoff is to drive it through the end zone, but on the occasions when it lands, when it's in the end zone, is there a distance that -- I guess what I'm trying to ask is with Quadree Henderson, if he fields it six, seven yards deep, are you okay with him bringing it out?

PAT NARDUZZI: No, every week we give him a little bit different distance as far as where he can take it out. I think last week the Virginia Tech kicker would kick it deep, deep, deep, and I think going into last week's game, Virginia Tech really only had to cover six kicks on the year so far, so they haven't been making many tackles on their kickoff team. But for example, every week is a little different depending on the hang time and how much time you have, but we gave him the 3-yard line last week, and I think we got out to the 21-yard line, and it was like, gosh, maybe we should have just downed it in and maybe just said if it goes in the end zone you get it at the 25. It depends on who those animals are that are running down the field, how good is the hang time from the kick and all those things.

So those are something we measure and say what are our chances, and obviously we didn't block them good enough up front and they caught us at the 21. If we get out past the 26, 27, we've gained a couple yards extra, but if we don't, it's a mistake to take it out. But every week is a little different based on the kicker, his hang time and et cetera.

Q. 
Is he always chomping at the bit to want to bring it out on his own, and has he ever broken the rule that you give him before each game?

PAT NARDUZZI: You know, no. He really hasn't broke that rule. I think he's very smart, and not a selfish player. I would probably consider a guy that would take it out when you told him not to a guy that was worried about him and me, me, me instead of we, we, we. He's a we guy, and Andre Powell does a great job as our special teams coordinator of making sure our guys are doing what they're supposed to. That's discipline, and he takes it out and gets tagged at the 15-yard line, our offensive coordinator is not going to be very happy with that drive to start.

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Pat Narduzzi's Halloween press conference transcript

Written by Craig Meyer on .

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'?

Q. Doubtful.

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?

Affect them?

Q. Yes?

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...

 

Craig Meyer: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and Twitter @CraigMeyerPG

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