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Meet the Press: Previewing the Maine Game




Sept. 7, 2011

Coach Graham Press Conference
Maine Game Preview
September 6, 2011

 
Opening Statement:

"We had a great practice today. I was really impressed with how our players responded. One of the things that is really important is continuing to get better every single day. The guys were very motivated to go to work.

"Coming out of Saturday, I was very impressed. Coming out onto that field for the first time and to see that student section, the way they were rocking the place. Our fans, the atmosphere was absolutely incredible. Our players were talking about that yesterday and today. We want to tell them how much we appreciate that. We are going to work hard to earn their support and to continue to get better as a football team.

"I thought there were things, from a team standpoint, that were extremely positive. I have worked very, very hard at instilling some things that are little things. It's the little things that are very important to us, especially down the stretch. We're going to play in an awful lot of close football games.

"I thought our guys were disciplined. There weren't any bonehead plays. There wasn't anyone getting any stupid penalties. We had a couple penalties, but we want to eliminate all of those. But I thought our discipline as a team (was good). I thought we played very physical. We finished blocks, we did a good job. For the first game, naturally, tackling is always sloppy.


 

 

"At halftime, obviously there were some missed opportunities. They were first-game type of mistakes being made, which are unacceptable. We make no excuses for anything. We obviously have a whole bunch of things we can get better at. I'm just as excited as last week, we're 1 and 0. We went out and won our first ball game, but we know we've got to get better at a lot of things. But those intangible things are the things I came out with the most positive feelings about. Everything else we see, we can get corrected."

On Greg Williams starting at Spur:

"He just has the experience and knowledge. Todd Thomas is going to be a really good player too. We are blessed to have both those guys. It was a good decision. He played really well and did really good job for us. He gave us the best opportunity to win."

On Tino Sunseri and the importance of film study:

"Part of being a winner and winning at this level, you have to have guys that study. That is one of the biggest things. We made mistakes we haven't made in camp. But we hadn't played a game. I wasn't surprised by some of the things. Sometimes we think we have a mastery of what we're doing, but I told them today that they are infants in this scheme. We have to constantly be working towards knowledge. That takes time, it takes studying and it takes that voluntary extra time to do that. He has been a great student, as well as the other quarterbacks. We are working and challenging the rest of the team to do that. We need to spend more time studying what we're doing. We are fighting time in trying to install all the new stuff that we're doing. But I would tell you we're right on schedule."

On staying focused:

"I was extremely proud of them. Obviously, when you miss opportunities it causes frustration. I didn't see a bunch of guys hitting themselves in the head with bad body language. I saw guys staying focused and doing the things that we're trying to teach them. I told the guys to keep their heads down, keep working, keep plugging and, if we get the fundamentals corrected, we have the makings of a really good football team."

On playing the other quarterbacks against Buffalo:

"That thought didn't even enter my mind. We have a process in place - we have a quarterback coach, two offensive coordinators and myself. Our quarterback has the most on him. I have the confidence that Tino is the right guy for that job. He missed some guys that were wide open. That's something that we've got to get corrected. I have all the confidence in the world that he can get the job done. One of the things I have done in the past is, when we have two really good guys, we would put one in the first series of the second quarter. We just didn't feel like with Trey's development or with Mark, that we were ready to do that with them. But, Trey's going to play, he's not going to redshirt this year. He just showed up in August, we've only had a couple weeks with him. What has set Mark behind is that he's had some tendinitis in his elbow, he hasn't been able to throw all the time. Trey sits at the number 2, with Mark right there. I think they're pretty close together.

"I'm kind of the personnel director, but I'm also listening to Coach Dodge and I'm listening to Coach Magee. We would like for a guy to get some experience, but in that first game, unless we had a substantial lead, we didn't feel like we'd be willing to put another guy in there. Hopefully we will have a chance to do that."

On the offense:

"When you watch film on our offense from Tulsa you see (only) all of the highlight films. We run 80 plays a game, is what we ran there. We were on pace the first half, we had 43 plays and I thought we were going at a turtles pace. We weren't, but I was all over them. You watch and our quarterback is waiting for the defense to get lined up to start the cadence. They're just not used to not waiting for them and keeping the pace going. We scored extremely fast in the second half. But they (Buffalo) were hitting these quick passes and having these long 15 and 17 play drives with their offense. It was a very unusual game. We only had 66 plays on offense, and 43 of them in the first half. 43 plays and only having seven points has got to be a record, I don't know if that's ever happened to us. If we kick two field goals we score 41 points. We were not hitting on all cylinders, no question about that. But, we are not far off."

On the defense:

"There are a lot of things defensively we can get better on. We executed for 10 series exactly what we coached. Then there was a lull and we were supposed to be up on the receivers, but we were backed up. There were a lot of mental mistakes down the line. They had a couple walk-off touchdowns that they dropped. It was a first game. We've got the makings of a really good football team. We have to just get better every week. It's not going to be just walk out there and roll over somebody."

On the linebackers:

"I was really impressed with Greg Williams at outside linebacker. I'm impressed with Todd Thomas. You've just got a senior and a freshman. Lindsey's first time out, there were a lot of different moving parts for him. We've adapted some things. We went and said now here's some things we've got to modify. We did modify quite a few things to help get our guys in better positions. At the inside linebacker spot, we just want to be faster, play faster. They've had the hardest time because they were trained to key a different way than how we key. That's really hard. These guys have been playing three years keying a certain way and you're trying to break them of that. I've got a lot of confidence in Max and Tristan, with their experience. I thought Gordon had a good first game, he's still feeling his way around a little bit. As Nicholas Grigsby comes back, he's a guy that can provide more speed to that group. We've even looked at Ejuan. Ejuan Price is a guy that really impressed me Saturday. He played 30 snaps, and we want him to play a lot more than 30 snaps. We might even look at him a little bit there. It's just about getting better. I was really pleased with the outside linebacker play and I thought we were decent inside. We just missed too many tackles."

On Ray Graham and the running game:

"If you could look at the film, fundamentally up front on the offensive line, it's just correcting some steps. If that guy (Ray Graham) has that much (of a crack) he is extremely special. The other guy, Zach Brown impressed me. He just looks like a veteran. It's called experience. We have a very dynamic group. Corey Davis, he takes that ball from almost the end line on the kickoff return. He wants the ball. I'm really impressed with our running backs."

On getting more speed on the field:

"I thought they came up and pressed us outside. We didn't do a very good job there. We've got to get more speed on the field. Guys like Ronald Jones, he only played six plays, we've got to get him out there more. Drew Carswell is a guy who can stretch the field and do some things. Gonzalez is another guy who can do that. I though Hubie Graham made some good catches and did some good things."

On the passing game:

"If we hit Cameron Saddler, that's a walk off touchdown. If we hit Devin Street, that's a walk off touchdown and you're at 250 or 300 yards passing. There's a whole bunch of other yards that people don't see. There's check downs that nobody is within 30 yards of. It's just not knowing our system and trusting it enough. In scrimmages its `1, 2, check down' and he's throwing it. In the game, it's just experience in the offense and what we're doing."

On the possibility of being too keyed up:

"I try not to give them a huge pregame speech, I'm pretty relaxed on game day. Our guys were excited. I have a guy in the box watching our sideline. I want everyone on the sideline focused on the game. If one guy isn't he writes their number down and they'll never dress out again. Not one guy was written down. I thought our guys were focused, but just a little bit too geared up. I called them up at halftime and said `Hey, just relax, forget about that half and lets go to the next one.' They went in relaxed, executed, went and scored and did what we needed to do."

On what he wants to see this week:

"Another win. I want to see us execute better and I want us to be better fundamentally. I emphasize no penalties and take care of the football. Defense, no penalties and get takeaways. We put the ball in jeopardy three times and lost it once. We only got one turnover, but we could have gotten two. That's uncharacteristic of how we want to play defense. We've got to take care of the football and not get stupid penalties. You can have the best effort in the whole world, you can have a great attitude and give great effort, but that's not good enough. You have to be fundamentally sound. If there's anything in that game that stuck out, I thought we were sloppy fundamentally. I want us to get a whole lot better fundamentally."

On Maine:

"Coach Cosgrove has been there 19 years. They are very well coached, I like his style. If it's fourth down, you might see swinging gate, you might see pole cat, they are very aggressive. They are well coached. They must spend 40 minutes on special teams. They do a lot in the special teams. Their quarterback reminds me a lot of Trey Anderson. He's a very good operator, he's quick and fast read-zone type guy. I look for them to sprint him out on bootlegs and stuff. They've got a good tailback and a good run game. They're a very dangerous team. I watched their Syracuse game from last year. They ran the kickoff back to the 30 and gave them a game. I'm impressed with how well coached they are. They are very disciplined. They total dominated their game against Bryant."

On the Big East not losing a game in week 1:

"I think they are off to a good start. There is a lot of parity, there are a lot of good teams in this league. I got to watch a little bit of the South Florida game, I got to watch a little bit of the West Virginia game. Both those teams are very talented. I watched Syracuse and I'm thoroughly impressed with Coach Marrone. They are very well coached. We're going to have to bring it every week."

On the chatter about conference realignment:

"I don't have anything really to do with it. I think the University of Pittsburgh is in a great situation. It's the reason I came here. I look at the Big East, I look at this conference, and I look around the country and I thought it was one of the top programs in the country. I think we're sitting on stable, strong ground. Whatever happens I know that we're going to be sitting good. A lot of that stuff, people get all in an uproar about it, it never really winds up transpiring. There was a little bit of movement. You never know what's going to happen. I don't worry about things I can't control."

On preference of conference championship game or the Big East method:

"I will just answer it honestly. I really like the conference championship deal. It was a great event. It was really special. I got to play in that game three times. I like the conference championship games. I don't mind it the way it is now, either."