BOZICH | Bobby Petrino Q & A on NC State loss, Boston College challenge | VIDEO
Bobby Petrino said that Louisville will be without linebacker Stacy Thomas and halfback Malik Williams as the Cardinals try to regroup against Boston College Saturday.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Louisville slipped out of the Top 25 in both human polls Sunday in the aftermath of the Cardinals’ 39-25 loss at North Carolina State last Thursday.
Louisville returns to Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium Saturday, playing host to Boston College, which has lost four of six games.
Bobby Petrino appeared at his weekly media sessions Monday afternoon. Here is a transcript of Petrino’s comments
Opening statement: “Obviously, Thursday was a tough loss for us. We're not playing well enough defensively. Certainly, I think that's evident. Everybody sees that, and it's a lot of different things.
“It's the ability to control the front on first down and stop the run. It's about tackling better; we missed a lot of tackles, and certainly out in open space was one of the issues. And then (not) being able to defend the pass. One of the things about football is when you give up big plays and you don't get turnovers, it makes it really difficult to win games.
“Offensively, we're doing a lot of good things, but we're not consistent enough, we didn't get enough opportunities. It's almost like on offense you feel like you've got to go score every single time right now and that's hard to do.
“I did like the fact that we played extremely hard, kept competing. There was never anybody on the sideline that wasn't into the game and finding a way to win the game. And you know, we came out in the fourth quarter and had to get three and out to have a chance to win the game and we were able to do that and then we didn't take it and go score to tie it up, which is what I thought we would do.
“We have a lot of work to do. We're going to just keep working one day at a time and get better. NC State is a very good football team. Their quarterback played very well. That's a really good defense, guys we've been playing against four years. That's really what it feels like, we've been playing against those same players four years, they're very experienced and they did a good job on their defensive front.
“I thought Lamar (Jackson, their quarterback) competed extremely hard. He did make some errors. Some of that is I think maybe he's pressing a little bit and trying to do everything he possibly can to help us win the game.
“But he has to just kind of relax a little bit and move the ball around and use your players you have available to make plays for you. He's a great competitor. He'll be back.
“We've got to get ready for a Boston College team that's very physical. They're always a great defensive team. You look at their statistics and they're very good on defense again, so we've got to be able to control the front, run the ball and complete some balls down the field.
“They challenge you in tight coverage, so it's very important you complete some balls down the field. And then they'll come in and try to run the ball and keep it away from us, so it's gonna be a big week of stopping the run. They'll utilize different sets and formations than you see all year long, where they have two-three tight ends in the game at one time.
“They have a very good offensive run game scheme, blocking schemes. It's always been a challenge for us, so certainly going to be a very physical, hard-fought game.”
QUESTION: Where has the defense let you down compared to what you thought going into the season? What's happened?
PETRINO: “We're missing some parts. Obviously, when you don't have Drew Bailey play hardly at all this year, Jaire's (Alexander) been out, you've got some young guys in there.
“Stacy's (Thomas, a starting linebacker is) out now, so we've got some issues there. That's always a challenge for you and we're not playing as fast and as physical as you need to be.
“We haven't been able to get people behind the sticks enough to be able to really tee off and pass rush. The other night, I know a lot of people are saying, ‘You didn't get a pass rush.' Well, (Ryan Finley, N.C. State’s quarterback) basically took three steps and threw the ball and was very accurate, and they went up and made catches. We've got to be able to play those balls. I felt like we had three interception balls that we just didn't play well.”
QUESTION: What are the issues in the secondary?
PETRINO: “We're working on it. We're trying to get tighter coverage and play the ball in the air.”
QUESTION: What's the update on (injured receiver) Jaylen Smith?
PETRINO: “Jaylen will have a chance to practice this week and we'll see how that goes and see if he'll be available for Saturday. I don't know yet, but I found out today that he'll go out and run around. He won't catch passes, and then progress and be able to catch passes and see where he's at.”
QUESTION: What's the status of Malik (Williams, running back) and Stacy (Thomas)?
PETRINO: “Malik's probably going to be out for awhile. Stacy Thomas probably the best news we could have gotten -- it's a sprained knee. He won't make this week's game, but he'll have a chance to come back and help us later in the season. Jaire should be ready to go.”
QUESTION: What will you do with the running back situation?
PETRINO: “We've got Reggie (Bonnafon). We've got Trey Smith, who came in and played pretty well a couple weeks ago. Trey's been with us for a long time, he understands all the coverages, got good hands to catch the ball out of the backfield.
“Dae Williams has been cleared, so we'll get him into contact practice this week. He's actually been out there practicing for three weeks, but just got cleared late last week. So we'll see how that goes.
“Tobias Little's a guy who's been working at both fullback and tailback and we'll give him some work. He's a big guy who can really run, catch the ball. So we'll just keep going. Colin Wilson is out for the rest of the year.”
QUESTION: After the game, NC State coach Dave Doeren said he knew that given the time, (Finley) could pick your secondary apart. Did you hear that quote and what's your reaction?
PETRINO: “That's my first time hearing it right now. I don't put a lot of credence in what coaches say to other people. We know what our issues are and we'll just go to work and try to take care of ourselves.”
QUESTION: What are the most visible things you see (with the defense)?
PETRINO: “I think I talked about them. We've got to do a better job of stopping the run on first down, being physical so we get behind the sticks so we can have a chance to rush the quarterback. We've got to be able to play the ball in the air with tight coverage and get more guys to the football to tackle better. So got a lot of things to work on.”
QUESTION: Are they things that are fixable this season?
PETRINO: “Yeah, definitely. We've got to get better. We've got to get better now so we can go win this game Saturday. We've got to break 'em down, teach 'em and work 'em in individual drills, take 'em over to group drills and then take 'em to the team periods. One of the things you have to do is keep going and keep working at it.”
QUESTION: What do you want to see from your tight ends?
“Well, tight ends are players you put a lot of pressure on because they have a lot of responsibilities. Number one is help you in the run game blocking the front. They have responsibilities in protection and then they've got to be able to run routes and either get themselves open to catch the ball or get other people open to catch the ball. So there's a lot of things they need to do.
“Haven't quite been as productive as I would like to see. Charles (Standberry) had a couple good games catching and running after the catch. Mickey (Crum) dropped a couple the other day, which is something he doesn't usually do. He's got good hands and can run after the catch. And then they help you on third down.
“But we did a good job on third down the other night. If you had told me we did that on third down and lost the game I probably would not have believed it, but sometimes other things come into play.
“Another thing that's hurting us a lot is field position. Teams are punting the ball real well against us and we've made some errors in catching it or not catching it inside the 10-yard line. To be honest with you, we've been backed up more than anytime my entire career coming out from inside the 5-yard line.
“We've got to do a better job of putting SOME pressure on the punter, make him hurry and then fielding it and getting some returns with it.”
QUESTION: How much will it help to have Jaire Alexander back for more duty this week?
PETRINO: “He definitely was a leader of the team and then all of a sudden he’s gone – and early. We’ve really missed his punt returns, there’s no question about that. I’m not sure when he’ll be able to get back there and do that again.
“It also allows you to do different things with your coverage. You know that he’s going to be able to lock down and take somebody on one-on-one. Then you can help with the safeties or bracket and do other things. So we kind of miss that a little bit, too. But he’s a great player and obviously his leadership is something we’re looking forward to having back on a full-time basis.”
QUESTION: Boston College is so good up front on defense. Is that where it starts with them?
PETRINO: “Yeah, they’ve got two really good defensive ends. We played against the same guys last year. One of them is a real speed rusher and a great athlete. He did get hurt at the end of the game last week, so I’m not sure exactly where he is health wise.”
“The other guy is a big physical guy who plays the run inside and comes outside and rushes the quarterback. So it’s something that if you can run the ball on them and run the ball at them, then it makes it easier to protect him in the passing game.”
QUESTION: You mentioned that Lamar was pressing down the stretch in the passing game Thursday. Was it more than he has been?
PETRINO: “I think what it is, is you’re in a close game and he wants to make every play to give you an opportunity to win the game. He’s always put a lot of pressure on himself. I think that’s where sometimes you just have to distribute the ball. Go by what the defense tells you. Be patient. And let’s move the ball down.
“We also took a couple sacks that we can’t take. We’ve got to be able to throw the ball away. He understood that and got better at that as the game went on.”
QUESTION: You talked about Dae Williams, being cleared. Is that a surprise that you’re getting him back?
PETRINO: “Yeah, it is a surprise to me. I was surprised three weeks ago when he got to start practicing. And then watching him to start going through the drills, cut and move and do all the things that he can do.
“It’s pretty amazing. You know Dae is a big, physical, hard runner. He has great hands and great hips. So he can open his hips and make different catches. He did a great job of pass protecting when he was with us.
“It will be fun to see how he does. We’re going to go out and practice a little bit tonight and then start our normal week tomorrow. So it will be interesting to see how he does and where he’s at with everything.”
QUESTION: Is there anybody on the defense that you are pleased with, who’s done a really good job?
PETRINO: “You know, Trevon Young is doing a real good job. He’s playing the run really well. Playing extremely hard. Running things down from the backside. Turning and sprinting to the ball every single time.
“We’ve just got to give him some help in rushing the passer. Get him some single (blocking assignments). Teams have been scheming him up a little bit. We need to be able to single him up and get him some one-on-one matchups, where he can utilize his ability to get to the quarterback.
“Again, I’m not sure that last week was a good week (to judge) because they did a great job of getting the ball out quick. There were a couple of times where (the NC State quarterback) threw the ball in the third row, just so it wasn’t … you can see where he does a great job of not throwing many interceptions because if it’s not there, he just throws it away and moves on to the next play. He has a lot of poise.”
QUESTION: What have you seen from (receiver) Cory Reed the last few games?
PETRINO: “I really like what I see from Cory. Cory is going to be a great receiver before it’s all over with. It’s a really nice package that he has. He’s big and strong and physical. He can beat press (coverage) at the line of scrimmage. Eventually he’ll run with the ball real well. I guess I’m a little disappointed that he hasn’t gotten more yards after the catch because he’s shown the ability to do that.
“But it’s a powerful package so he’ll keep getting better and better. We’ve tried to find him a role where we can get him some touches and get him some catches and he’s adapted real well to that. He’s done a nice job for us.”
QUESTION: I think the number is seven for the most first-half rushing attempts by any of your running backs, not Lamar. How frustrating is that for you and for the offense (not to have the backs more involved and productive)?
PETRINO: “It’s been frustrating. There’s no question about it. We work hard at it.
“We came out of the locker room the other day (at halftime) and we said that we’re going to run the ball. We had four runs called in the first six plays. We did a good job. We executed and moved down and got in a position to score and got a penalty. Ended up with a field goal. But it was a good drive coming out of the half.
“But then we didn’t see the ball again in the third quarter. It got to a situation where you’ve just got to throw the ball. We’ve got to get to a rhythm where you’re in the game and you can run, pass, play action and get a good mix of all of them. That’s what I like to do on offense and that’s when I feel when we’re the best.”
QUESTION: You’ve talked about making the game easier for Lamar. Is that happening for him?
PETRINO: “Some games it has happened. It isn’t real easy playing against Clemson and North Carolina State this year. They’re both really good football teams. It hasn’t been easy that’s for sure.”
QUESTION: How difficult has it been to adjust to the injuries?
PETRINO: “You’ve just got to keep going. You’ve got to keep going. It’s certainly been some critical people for us. Hopefully, we’ve got Jaire back. Hopefully we get Jaylen (Smith) back here in a little bit.
“Then maybe we get Stacy back. It’s certainly one of the things that you have to deal with.”
QUESTION: Did Drew Bailey come out of the NC State game OK?
PETRINO: “I hope so. He’s been battling the dreaded high ankle sprain. It’s a tough position that he plays to have that injury because you have to generate so much power to be able to redirect and run down the line of scrimmage.
“Some positions handle it better than others. But being a defensive lineman with that injury is very difficult.”
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