TRANSCRIPT | Bobby Petrino's Labor Day news conference - WDRB 41 Louisville News

TRANSCRIPT | Bobby Petrino's Labor Day news conference

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WDRB photo by Eric Crawford. WDRB photo by Eric Crawford.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- After returning home and watching the video of Saturday's 31-27 loss to Auburn, University of Louisville football coach Bobby Petrino saw a lot of things he liked, and some he's hoping to clean up before Saturday's home opener against Houston.

Petrino said that freshman Lamar Jackson will be his starting quarterback moving forward, and talked about what Jackson does well, and a lot more in his news conference Monday in the recruiting lounge of the Howard Schnellenberger Football complex.

A transcript, with questions from the media paraphrased:

Opening statement: After watching the video it’s kind of like I said after the game, that we had a lot of opportunities, particularly in the first half, and just didn’t take advantage of them. And then I did like the way we responded and came out and played hard and competed hard and got back in the game in the second half. You wish that in the first half, where we take the ball and drive it down to the 6 yard line, and then we hurt ourselves with two unforced penalties, and come away with zero points, that really adds up and hurts you. And then the next time we drive the ball down to the 29 yard line, we still don’t get any points and give them six points. So that’s something that really hurts. And defensively I felt like we played well, we played hard, we did a great job getting turnovers, we did a great job defending the pass, but that first drive coming out of halftime was the one that hurt us. Them being able to take the ball, go get points on the board, and use up a lot of the clock really hurts you and shortens the game, and didn’t give us enough time to really get back in it and have a chance to win. But I’m encouraged by our leadership. I really like our team, I like the attitude of our guys, and they certainly showed their competitive spirit. We’ve got to try to build on that and get ready for this game Saturday. Houston is a good football team. They’ve got some speed on offense, they have speed on defense, their linebackers can really run, and they’ve got a lot of experience. So it’s going to be a great challenge for us. We have to do a good job of getting ready for Saturday.

Q: What do you really want to see improve after Week 1?

PETRINO: We always try to come out and get better technically, so we go through and grade everyone on their technique and fundamentals and see how we get better there. I thought we played hard, so it wasn’t an effort deal, it wasn’t where we weren’t playing hard. Our guys were giving good effort and working hard at it. We need to take care of the ball offensively. We did a lot of good things. We did a lot of good things on third down. We did a lot of good things defensively, putting pressure on the quarterback. We didn’t get sacks, and we like sacking the quarterback. But he is a guy going into the game that we said is not going to take a sack. He’s going to try to get the ball out of his hand, and I think that did help us with the interceptions, the fact that he didn’t want to take any sacks. But there’s a lot of things we need to improve on to get ready for Saturday.

Q: Now that you’ve had a couple of days, how do you evaluate Lamar Jackson’s performance?

PETRINO: He really gave us a lift. We had four series in the second half, we got three touchdowns and a field goal. He made a lot of big plays, some of them with his legs, some of them with his arm. He showed a great competitiveness. I liked what I saw on the sideline, not just from him but the entire offense, guys were excited, saying we need to get back in there, we need to go score quick. There was a lot of positive energy and a lot of positive talk on the sideline to be behind. And sometimes you don’t have that. That was encouraging, because that’s a lot of young guys, a lot of young guys out there making plays at receiver, offensive line, Micky Crum is a redshirt freshman tight end, it’s just a lot of young guys out there. I was encouraged by their energy on the sideline and their competitiveness. We’ve got to do things right all the time. That’s the thing we need to really improve on.

Q: What’s Lamar’s next step?

PETRINO: Just getting better in practice. You know, understanding how to prepare for a game, getting better in practice, focusing in the meetings, understanding that this is college football now, get in the training room, when I’m supposed to be in the training room, do everything like I’m supposed to.

Q: Is he the guy going forward?

PETRINO: Based on the way he performed the other night, yeah.

Q: How’s James (Quick)?

PETRINO: I’m not real encouraged. I guess the encouraging thing is it’s not an Achilles. And that was one of the thoughts, that it might be, because of where he said the pain was, it’s not an chillies, but it a severely sprained ankle. And I don’t know the amount of time that he’ll miss. There has been some improvement in the last hours, but he’s still in a lot of pain.

Q: So you don’t expect him to play against Houston?

PETRINO: I would doubt he’d be ready this weekend.

Q: Going into the game how did you want to use Jackson?

PETRINO: The thoughts and conversations between Garrick and me and the rest of the offensive staff were, we need to get him in the game, we need to see how he does as far as handling the atmosphere. I think there was some thought, hey do we just start him and throw him in there and go? But that’s a pretty big atmosphere. It’s a very loud place, very noisy, and the thought was, well, let’s get him in there and see how he responds and handles that. But the thing that was so encouraging was his competitiveness, his competitive spirit, and doing what we were coaching him to do and taking it from the sideline onto the field.

Q: Did he just show you in August that he could do more things? What convinced you he was ready?

PETRINO: Just his ability to not only run the football and do the things he can with his legs, but he has instincts. He understands where the rush is coming from. He can feel it and step up in the pocket, there were times in practice where the back went to the left, he’d be in his progressions, and turn and just give it to the back, see things flash and quickly get the ball out. He has a really quick release, he can snap his wrist and be accurate when his body might not be in the exact same position. Some guys can’t do that. So his instincts of playing the position, you can tell he started playing quarterback when he was real young and has been doing it his whole life.

Q: Did the thought of potentially starting Jackson weigh into your decision to hold off naming a starter?

PETRINO: A little bit. You know, we were considering it. We were considering it. Sometimes what I was thinking to myself was that I didn’t want to throw him in as the starter in this type of atmosphere, and say he doesn’t have success, where does he go from there? How do you get him back? So you get a situation where the other guys competed hard. They played extremely well. I still like what Kyle Bolin did all fall. Will actually tweaked his ribs a little bit, cartilage in his ribs, and didn’t throw a lot the last week, so he was never really an option for the game, and then Reggie had good preparation for the game, so we kind of judged it on, you’re going to need to be mobile because they have a big, physical defensive front, and we went with experience on the call to start Reggie.

Q: Will you work more passing in with Lamar?

PETRINO: Lamar can throw, there’s no question. We called a lot of pass plays. But some we called he just took off and ran. But we called a lot. We went with five wide receivers in the game sometimes, and four wide others, and three at other times. He threw the ball down the field. We felt like, hey we don’t have much time left here we need a chunk play, so we called a go route and he hit Peete down the sideline on the go route and changed the field around a little bit, and were able to do that and score quick enough to go onside kick and try to recover it.

Q: Will you have to simplify the playbook for him?

PETRINO: Like all of them, there’s certain parts of the playbook they execute and do better. But we’ll continue to work it and carry it with us and improve on the aspects that each one of them doesn’t do as well as others.

Q: After that last touchdown, I noticed that Reggie and Kyle were the first two guys out to meet Lamar? What’s the dynamic of a freshman coming in and their attitude?

PETRINO: I just think that’s a real credit to Kyle and Reggie and Will, because they were all there the entire game, encouraging, pointing out coverages, getting right with him the minute he came off the sideline. They’re all very high-character guys that really care about the University of Louisville football program. Their heart is in it, and their mind is in it. They’re just waiting for their opportunity.

Q: What’s your analysis of the offensive line’s play?

PETRINO: We got better as the game went on. I think it’s going to be something that’s really good for us, because that is a good defensive front, very physical, one of their guys is probably an NFL player, high draft pick next year, and he’s a load. He did a good job of getting off on the count. But the encouraging thing is they competed hard and got better as the game went on. We’re not where we need to be.

Q: Do running quarterbacks make you uneasy from the injury standpoint?

PETRINO: There is some thought as to how many times he can carry the ball a game. The good thing about some guys on the field is when they’re one of the best athletes on the field, they don’t get hit hard a lot. They’re able to get their body out of the way. Some of that we do in recruiting. We have a sideline test in recruiting, when a running back, receiver or quarterback is running the ball and he’s on the sideline and cornered by two or three guys, does he get hit, knocked down, or does he just slip past them and stays up. A lot of times when you look at how hard do guys get hit, how big a hits do they take, Lamar ran the ball a number of times and didn’t really get hit hard every time he ran it.

Q: Do you have to fight his instinct to run?

PETRINO: The good thing about him is he really wants to throw it. He does a good of going through his progressions and if it’s there, flicking his wrist and going. There were probably three instances the other night where he’s dropping back to go through his progression, and the middle just opens up and they’re playing man-under coverage, and he just takes off and runs. And we tell both him and Reggie that nobody should be able to play two-man against you, because if they play two-man, you’re a runner, and you take off and go while they have their back to you. I thought he did a really nice job of deciding when to go and when to stay in the pocket.

Q: Is he the fastest quarterback you’ve coached?

PETRINO: I don’t know about the fastest. But he’s fast.

Q: Can Harvey-Clemons be the kind of big-play guy Holliman was?

PETRINO: He’s taller. He’s a lot taller. They’re different players. Holliman played, basically, a different position and had a lot of freedom to roam. Josh has a lot of responsibilities and different coverage techniques he needs to use. But his length really shows up. What he can really do like Holliman, that makes him similar, is catch the ball. He’s got great hands. And when the ball is around, then he’s got a chance to intercept it and make the catch.

Q: Any word on Cole (Hikutini) and his shoulder?

PETRINO: If we were practicing today, he wouldn’t be ready. But he might be able to go tomorrow. So hopefully we’ll have him for Saturday. There’s a good opportunity for him to get ready for Saturday.

Q: What does losing Quick mean for your receivers?

PETRINO: It’s hard when James goes down, because he was a leader of that group and one with experience and knew how to play a number of different positions. So, you know, that’s a shame. He was kind of away from the play and just a really weird deal. He kind of stopped and the guy fell on top of him and his ankle went under. It’s kind of a weird injury.

Q: What about the job of Geron (Christian) did as a freshman on that offensive line? You kind of threw him out there in his first game.

PETRINO: It’s not kind of throwing him in there, we put him at the toughest position on the offensive line and he held his own. That’s a guy that’s usually one-on-one on the edge rusher, and he held is own and did a good job, competed hard, took some punches, he stood in there and fought and did a decent job run blocking. I have a lot of respect for him. I think he’s going to be a really, really good player before it’s over with.

Q: Who will move into Quick’s spot in the lineup?

PETRINO: We need to really just get out on the practice field and let them determine who is going to start and who is going to play. That’s something we try to do every week is show our players, hey, Brandon Radcliff a year ago said coaches, I’m the starter, watch. That’s how we want our players to practice each week. So they’ll all have an opportunity.

Q: What specific challenges does Houston present?

PETRINO: They do a lot of similar things. They have some speed. They have a slot receiver who liens up on the backfield, carries the ball, they throw it to him. He’s a very dynamic player. Their quarterback can really run and move. So they present some real challenges to our defense. I think they had over 600 yards the other night and rushed for over 270. So we’ve got to get ready and do a good job of understanding what they want to do offensively. And defensively they run a 3-4 package, so that’s something that we’ve seen in practice all through spring and fall, but we’ve got to get back to it, because we were practicing for Auburn for a couple of weeks, which was a four-down package.

Q: I know it’s early, but what’s your impression of the ACC after one week? There were some missed opportunities.

PETRINO: I haven’t even, I didn’t even look at who played and how they did. I watched our game, came in here yesterday and graded the game, went right to Houston. I’m sorry, I don’t know anything about how the rest of our conference did. I apologize.

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