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Nov. 7, 2011

Coach Todd Graham

Louisville Preview Press Conference

November 7, 2011


Looking back at Cincinnati:

“After going back and looking at the film, I had much of the same thoughts I had after the game. I am very proud of our guys and how they played, but it was heartbreaking to have that kind of effort and to come up short. We played a very good football team. We had two really good teams going at it, and it was probably the best offensive team we’ve played since Notre Dame. The quarterback was tough and took some really good shots, which was really impressive. It was a close game. It was a game that basically came down to a couple plays. The difference in the game was when we came in at halftime we had one-hundred percent ball security with not turning the ball over and not having a penalty. We then basically turned the ball over twice inside our own thirty in the second half and that was the difference in the football game. Those mistakes resulted in ten points and that hurt us. It was a very close game. We have come out on the short end of most of those this year and that has been disheartening because obviously that is not what we are after. I was very proud of our guys and how hard they played. It was a tough game to swallow because we felt the whole time we could win the football game. The guys were really focused on having a ranked opponent and the opportunity to have a big win.

“Defensively, again it was a very physical game. Cincinnati’s tailback Isaiah Pead was a very physical runner. Our guys got after it well and managed to get two takeaways. Our guys have been stellar on third down. Coach Patterson along with the defense should be commended on their performance against a very good offense. The mental errors we made later and turning the football over was the difference. I was proud of Brandon Lindsey and thought he played one of his best football games. Myles Caragein was unbelievable and played really well with making nine tackles. K’Waun Williams and Antwuan Reed, the two corners, did a great job on the receiving corps. K’Waun had a big pick for us and Jarred Holley continues to play exceptional. On special teams, Shane Gordon was absolutely outstanding. I was really proud of his development and the efforts we’re getting out of him. Our punt team played well. Matt Yoklic continues to do a good job punting the football for us. Our guys had a great focus and attitude on special teams. On the return game we mishandled three of five kickoff returns that really hurt us and started us back at our twenty. I was proud of Kevin Harper who made three field goals. On the last attempt we had kind of a bad snap and we didn’t get a good attempt at it. It wasn’t a terrible snap but just enough to throw Harper off. Overall, our special teams played better than the week before. Our return game is the big focus and is something we need to get better on. Offensively, Ryan Turnley pretty much didn’t practice all week and then played on Saturday. The courage that he is showing is unbelievable and for him to play each week is very impressive. Zach Brown played outstanding and ran the ball extremely hard. Issac Bennett was a bright spot and was able to come in and attack it for us, which was very impressive to watch. Also, Devin Street played well. We had way too many mental errors offensively. We had mental errors in routes and running the wrong routes. We had way too many mental errors in a game where you have to be disciplined in order to have an opportunity to win.”

On the next game at Louisville:

“We need to look forward. We have a very well-coached football team in Louisville that we have to go up against this week. They have won three straight and they only have one loss in the conference. They are playing very well and riding high right now. They are a team you can tell is playing together well as a unit. They have a freshman quarterback who is an outstanding player and is going to be unbelievable. He has continued to get better every single week and they are the best defense in the league. I think they are number one in the conference in total defense. Coach Strong does a tremendous job. Louisville is a well-coached team and they are on fire right now. Our guys understand we have a lot to play for and you never know what is going to happen in this league. The bottom line is you have to go out and play Pitt football. We have to figure out how to get a win on the road. It is going to be a tall order because of where they’re playing at right now. The bottom line is if we correct the things we’re doing wrong then we’re going to have an opportunity to win a football game. Our guys are excited and have a great attitude about it. Last week was disappointing and not where we want to be. We feel like we have strong foundation with our guys. Our guys are focused and not making any excuses. We are moving forward and looking to get a win at Louisville.”

On whether a high priority is placed on making a bowl game:

“Yes, and especially for the seniors. This is a special bunch of seniors and when I came here I really reached out to them. I told them about what our commitment was and we have showed that to them. We burned Issac Bennett’s redshirt because we want an opportunity to win now. We are committed to that and they have been committed to me. They are a great bunch of young men and they don’t get the chance to have another senior year. As long as I’m alive and kicking, I will probably get another shot next year. My heart goes out to them because 4-5 is not where I wanted to be. I don’t believe we are a 4-5-football team. When I came in the beginning of the year I said we had to win a lot of close football games and we have lost every close game. If I had to put a finger on it then I would say it is a lack of execution, which is a result of not being disciplined in our system in what we’re doing. I believe it comes down to leadership and that is our job as coaches, and I believe leadership is what wins those close games. It’s tough for me because what I think about is this team, this season and what we’re doing to get better every day. We have strong relationships and we have laid down a great foundation so far. I think the future is bright because of that and I’m not talking about next year but the next three games. The guys know we are very close. It is gut-wrenching because we know we’re close but in the end we beat ourselves in turnovers.  That is tough when you have players who are laying it all down on the line especially defensively and our seniors. The seniors mean a lot to me and they don’t get another year, which has been my thought process.”

On the team’s effort:

“I don’t believe we played poorly or terrible the last game. We played a very good football team and we turned the football over twice and ultimately beat ourselves. There were a lot of bright spots in that game and we had some guys playing at an incredible level. Players like Greg Gaskins and Ryan Schlieper are laying it all down on the line. We didn’t play very good upfront on the offensive line and we have struggled there with injuries contributing to that, but our guys are playing hard. That is how life is. It does you no good to sit and look behind. Instead you must learn from your mistakes and we point those out each week and then we go get better and persevere. Anything worth having is not easy. It’s difficult. Things have not gone the way we planned but we are not far off and we know we’re close. You have to keep plugging and you can’t break. A lot of people quit before that but I can tell you there is zero quit in us. There is not anyone hanging their heads around here. We take full accountability for what we are doing and we’re continuing to move forward each day.”

On the timeout before the 4th-and-6 play against Cincinnati:

“We wanted to make sure we had the right play. We knew we were going to go for it and we called the play we wanted to call. We had Devin Street on the fade and it’s a play we had a lot of confidence in but we didn’t execute. There was no doubt in what we needed to do there and if I could go back I would do the same thing. It was a situation that was fourth-and-six; we felt it was manageable and we were confident we had the right match-up but we didn’t execute.”

On the offensive line against Louisville:

“We are hopeful again that Lucas Nix will be able to make it back because it will help us tremendously inside. We had a lot of mental errors on the inside this last week and did not play very well up front. There were critical plays with a lot of missed opportunities where we blew some protection and blew some plays. It was just one spot we struggled with. We need to keep plugging and we’re making zero excuses. If we get Nix back that will help us, but I still have a lot of confidence in our guys. A player I want to point out is Greg Gaskins. In last two ball games he has played way above his potential and he is a guy who cares because it means a lot to him. Jordan Gibbs is another guy who has played really hard for us and is doing a great job at battling. Ryan Turnley is unbelievable to be able to play at the level he is without getting many snaps in during the week.”

On winning out to get to a bowl:

“We need to go and beat Louisville and we can’t really look past that. We need to go on the road, beat Louisville and then go on to the next game. For this program, for where we’re going, for this group of seniors and for this team, that is what we have to do. I have confidence that our guys will go and do that. They have done everything I have asked them and then some. We have fallen short in some execution things and in those close games you can’t make those kinds of mistakes. We need to eliminate them. I have said it all year: our number one goal is to take care of the football. We came in at halftime against Cincinnati and I felt really good about that. I said to the guys if in the next thirty minutes we don’t turn the ball over and we don’t have any penalities then there is no way we are losing this game. We are not trying to turn the football over but you have to give the other team a lot of credit. Our team has a lot of character and heart but we need to figure out a way to beat Louisville.

On whether the team ‘has its back against the wall’:

“I think our backs have been against the wall since the Rutgers game. Our guys don’t look at it that way. These guys want to win a championship and every single game they have gone out and laid it on the line. I watch the film and there is not one player on that field not giving us everything they’ve got. We talk about how we play as Pitt men — we have to be relentless as far as toughness, and disciplined in the effort we give. The discipline part in taking care of the ball is what has hurt us. We try to come back and attempt to do things outside of the system, but we have some breakdowns. We have pressures but as along as you keep the ball and don’t give it to the other team then that’s a good play. We need to eliminate those mistakes. These guys want to win and I want them to have an opportunity to go to a bowl game. Who knows what is going to happen. Our single focus is to beat Louisville and then go on to the next one.

“Our guys are sick of losing. They are sick of being up one week then down the next. They are sick of being inconsistent and their thought process is more on that. A lot of work goes in to this thing and some of these guys have been putting in work for five years, which is longer than I have invested. Our guys go out every week and they want to win for their team and their university. We have made unbelievable progress with this team in how they feel about each other and this football program. We are going out there to win every week. We want to win championships and that is what our program is about. As long as I am leading we are going to focus on winning championships. Our goal is not to go to a bowl game but we want to do that for our seniors. Whatever we can do to make their experience the best one then that will be our focus.”

On Louisville QB Teddy Bridgewater: 

“Teddy Bridgewater is tremendously athletic and can really extend plays. They were using two guys earlier and now they locked down with just Teddy. You can see him really developing and getting better every week. He throws a lot of short controlled passes. He is starting to get a grasp of the system and what they are asking from him. He is doing a good job at what they are asking him to do. This past week they were able to move the football and score points. He has some good people around him and they have a good running game. He has good quality receivers and big tight ends. Teddy is a dual threat and an athletic type of quarterback that can throw the ball. He is a very poised player. Teddy commented how many people say he is too young, but he responds by saying they place trust in their coach and believe in one another. They don’t listen to anyone else, they go out and play the game and that is what you need to do. Our deal is he is a freshmen quarterback and our defense knows what they have to do. Our strength is our defense and Louisville’s strength is their defense. Our guys need to go out and play great defense, great special teams and take care of the ball on offense.”   

Meet the Press: Todd Graham Previews the Louisville Game

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