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Sept. 23, 2013

Meet the Press: Paul Chryst Previews the Virginia Game

Virginia Game Preview

Opening statement:

"It feels good to be in the rhythm of the season. We're appreciative of what the guys did Saturday. The game had a lot of ebbs and flows. We talked about going down and playing 60 minutes, and we used all 60, but we were able to come away with the win. Every group contributed to that win. It was a game of big plays, and we've got to do a better job on defense and special teams of not giving up those big plays. There are certainly things that all three phases need to clean up. Everyone realizes where we need to get better. Much like any game, the film is never as good and never as bad as you may think, but there's always room for work and improvement."

On the need for defensive improvement:

"We've got to get better defensively. Some of the big plays came from a guy seeing a void in the defense and trying to compensate, so in return he gets beat and he's not doing his job. Clearly we didn't tackle very well. There are things we've got to clean up. It starts with coaching, and then the players have got to go do it. Obviously you don't feel good giving up that many points. But we don't win that game without some of those defensive plays; the first two drives started interception, interception, then we started the second half very strong."

On whether he was discouraged after the defense played well against New Mexico:

"It's such a different game. New Mexico and Duke are two different teams. I didn't feel like there was a carry over. That's the beauty of the game of football: each week is a new week."

On if the defense was tired because the offense was scoring so quickly:

"I think a lot of factors come into play, all of which you have to cope with. The momentum of a game is real. In the fourth quarter, we didn't do anything offensively to get the momentum back. We needed it to settle down a little bit. We didn't convert on third downs until the very end of the game. The special teams didn't alleviate for the defense. We didn't play off each other in the sense of picking up another side of the ball. We did for a second when Ray Vinopal made two great plays on special teams with a wet field to get the onside kicks. We've got a lot of stuff we've got to keep working on, but I love the way the guys competed and just kept playing. We get to play another game this week, and we're looking forward to it."

On playing in high-scoring games:

"I think it's our job to make sure that whatever the game is that we're prepared to win it. If it's a shootout, we've got to be prepared to win it. If it's in bad conditions, we've got to be prepared to win it. That's the way I choose to look at it. But these scores aren't as shocking as maybe they would've been 10 years ago."

On how his team coped with Duke's speed:

"[Jamison Crowder] was fast enough to run away from us on angles. When you do spread it out, you have less guys that can overlap with a second or third line of defense. They had good players. Every team we play is going to have good players. Some are fast, some are big and some are big and fast. We've just got to go play, know who we are and play to our strengths."

On the defense's strengths:

"I'd start up front with Aaron Donald. I think he's a heck of a player. We never take him for granted. If we're going to be good, he's got to make plays. I thought K'Waun [Williams] and Jason [Hendricks] had two nice interceptions. Jason has a nose for the football. We've got some guys we need to reign back in and play better. Our guys compete and play hard. We'll keep grinding. It's a good group."

On preparing for Virginia:

"We're just starting to look at them. Our first impressions are that they look to be very athletic. They've got some size offensively, defensively and on special teams. They're a good-looking team. They've played different types of games. It was a hard-fought game against BYU, and they found a way to win at the end. The game with Oregon, those games can get away from you fast. But defensively, they've been great on third down. They had a bye week and got the running game going. I think they're a good team. We respect our opponent, and we need to be better to win on Saturday."

On Virginia quarterback David Watford:

"I think you can see he's certainly talented. He throws the ball with ease. He's got an arm. And when you see him running, he looks dangerous. They've also got a couple good backs, a good offensive line and have gotten production out of their tight ends. They have a new offensive coordinator and quarterback. Like we are, I'm sure they're trying to find out who they are. But they can be really dangerous."

On Tom Savage's performance against Duke:

"I thought he played well. He made some good decisions and played with poise. I like the way he played."

On the Pitt passing game:

"Devin [Street] and Tyler [Boyd] have been playing well. [Kevin] Weatherspoon made some plays for us. The tight ends are starting to contribute. I thought our protection was pretty good. On our one touchdown to Scott [Orndoff], they brought pressure and I thought we handled it pretty well. But Tom [Savage] absolutely does have an arm that can get the ball to guys on all spots of the field, and that does help."

On if hitting some deep passes has had an impact on what kind of defense they face:

"I thought early in the game it was helpful, but we didn't really run the ball that well in the fourth quarter. I think the game situation contributed to that, but we have to be much better. I think if you can do both well [run and pass], it helps both ends. If you run the ball, it's going to help you in the pass game and if you can throw it, it's going to loosen the defense up a little bit and you can run it, and we saw a little bit of that on Saturday."

On if teams are starting to focus more attention to wide receiver Tyler Boyd:

"No I don't think so. You really probably don't get a feel for that until you play a team again or if you have a similar team that you saw previously on your studies. I can't say that I noticed Duke do something out of character that we hadn't seen."

On if there was a specific reason James Conner got more carries than Isaac Bennett:

"I thought he ran well and earned the right for more carries. I didn't think Isaac was bad, I thought both of them had some good runs and both of them missed some runs. I think the way the game goes, James had a really good drive where he had three back-to-back-to-back good runs. That's going to be the way the season goes."

On the speed and athleticism of James Conner despite his size:

"It's hard for me because I'm with him, but he's not a stiff. He's big, but he's an athletic player. It's no different than what I'm used to seeing, so it's hard for me to say. I'm glad he's making some guys miss and he's done some pretty athletic things."

On what caused the problems on the missed extra point and field goal:

"I think he [Chris Blewitt] just missed the extra point and the blocked field goal he just really didn't get it up. If you look, the point of contact wasn't different, so we just have to help him through that because he hasn't really done that much. It's one of those things where he's done a pretty good job, so I think he just missed it."

On if punter Matt Yoklic's drop was due to a wet ball:

"It contributed to it, but he's got to catch that."

On if the laces weren't turned in right on the missed extra point:

"You're right, but he still should have made it. They were opposite and it was a little bit of a high snap. We have to do a better job of getting it down because on the shorter kicks you just have to get it down and the laces shouldn't matter."

On if kicker Chris Blewitt's transition is similar to the other freshmen:

"I think certainly with his position, when he misses an extra point, everybody knows, but when Tyler [Boyd] misses a block or when James [Conner] misses a cut, nobody says `I can't believe he didn't take that run back or I can't believe Tyler didn't get to the safety.' Everybody knows when you miss an extra point though. I thought he did a great job on the kickoffs, but that's his world. He's got to deal with that as a kicker. I think if you were to say of Tyler and James' first 100 plays and Chris' first 100 plays, all three have probably had a similar number of plays they want to have over and a similar number of big-time plays."

On if there were any injuries to report from Saturday's game:

"We'll see where guys are at. Gabe [Roberts] didn't finish the game, so we'll have to see with him. The reports are good with the guys coming in, but I think we have a couple where we'll have to wait and see this week. [Bryan] Murphy didn't play and we thought he had a chance to play last week so we think we should get him this week, and Bam [Bradley] didn't travel so he needs to get healthy."

On the progress the offense has made from one week to the next:

"I don't think we've hit a point where I feel like we've arrived, but I don't know if I've ever felt that any place I've been. We have stuff we're building on, but a good offense finishes that game, period. We're showing signs of it at times and I like the guys and we're building on stuff, but I think there are a lot of things we can get better at. It's hard to me because each game is so different. We just have to keep grinding."

On the tight ends:

"I like the group. J.P. [Holtz] isn't playing as many snaps as he did last year, but I think in many ways J.P. is better. I think we have some strength in numbers because they're all a little bit different. If you put J.P., Scott [Orndoff], Manasseh [Garner] and Jaymar [Parrish] in that group, I think they can give us a lot of things. I think for us to be as good as we're going to be this year, we're going to need all four of those guys to be big, and they're growing. I think Jaymar had some impressive plays and then he had some where you can't come in high and do this or do that. It's a fun group and this team has been fun to be around, but we have enough reason to keep practicing."

On if he's considering coaching the special teams differently:

"If I felt for a second we were shortchanging it, if we weren't looking at it, especially in times like this, you have more power. I've been on staffs where you have one special teams guy and when they struggle it's all on him, whereas we have a bunch of guys. I'm not saying we have the best way, because we have to be better there, so as coaches you tell yourself that you have to be better. I don't question that part of it right now. The punt return, we have to do a better job on the operation, and when covering kicks, the ball has to get up in the air a little bit more. Then we have to make tackles when we have the chance to. We just have to keep working at it, but I'm not worried about the way they're getting coached."

Meet the Press: Paul Chryst Previews the Virginia Game

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