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Transcript: Jeff Brohm pre-Duke press conference

Cards are back

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 16 Louisville vs Indiana Photo by James Black/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Video is available here.

Head Coach Jeff Brohm Opening Statement

“We’re looking forward to getting back on the field this Saturday and play in front of our home crowd. Bye weeks are never a whole lot of fun when it happens after a loss, but that’s life, and we have to live and learn and try to find ways to improve and get better. There are plenty of things that we need to do to get better. So, I think this past week was used to get guys as healthy as we can because that’s very important as well, and then to try to identify the weaknesses we’ve had and make sure we’re getting better in those areas and improving. I do think offensively being more efficient in what we’re doing needs to happen. Winning the turnover battle is vital to success. You saw it in the Notre Dame game, it definitely helped us. Of course, in the Pittsburgh game it hurt us that we turned the ball over so much. Especially when you play in a game where you have twice as many first downs as the other team, the turnovers were crucial. It really hurt us, so that was unfortunate. Defensively, I think we’ve been playing some good football. Of course, this team last week was able to hit some big plays on us. We do play an aggressive approach, so you may give up one or two every now and then. but we gave up too many. The other team was way too efficient on first and second down to get to very manageable third downs, that hurt us. Then on special teams, we missed a kick, which is going to happen, but we’ve had too many penalties on special teams, so we have to make sure that that gets cleaned up. Beyond that, we know we’re facing a great Duke team that’s lost to two quality opponents. They’re really strong on defense. They pride themselves on running the football, and letting their quarterback be efficient and drive it down and keep the game close, and they’re well coached. This is a tough, physical football team. They’ve played very, very well this year, and in order for us to win we’re going to have to play our best football, so want to work hard to improve as the season goes on, and if not, then it’s not going to be a fun last stretch. So, we’ve got to put in the work and prepare and take the field on game day and continue to still be aggressive.”

(Jeff, you mentioned using the bye week to get healthy, what’s the status of Jawhar (Jordan), Renato (Brown), and Jarvis (Brownlee)?)

“Well, unfortunately, Renato Brown hurt his knee in pregame warmups. The field was slippery and wet, I’m not for sure if that was some of the reason, but he’s had surgery. He’s out for the year, and we’ll try to get him back by the start of next season. Jawhar (Jordan), we want to get him healthy, he had a hamstring issue last week. We’ll see where that goes. Jarvis (Brownlee) had a foot issue that has flared up on him a little bit. We have to try to get him back to the game field. I’m hopeful that we can this week, but we’ll we’ll see as this week progresses.”

(You the week off obviously to get healthy, but you also have time to kind of analyze where you’re at. Where do you think, after seven games, your team is compared to where you thought it would be at this point in the season?)

“I think that our guys have worked hard. They’ve competed. We found a way to win close games to get to where we’re at. Would we love to have the last one back? Sure we would, but at the same time, we probably won three games by the skin of our teeth that I’m sure the other team would like to have back as well, so we have to be realistic in that approach. We played some really good football against Notre Dame that gave us a big win, and we didn’t follow it up with a great performance. You know what? I know it’s boring to say but it’s a one game season, and if you don’t play your best every week in conference play, you’re not going to win. You see that every week. It happened this week with other teams. I just think identifying our mistakes and what we can get better at. The turnover battle is crucial. I’m not for sure, we might have gotten inside the 30-yard line four times in the second half and didn’t get any points. You’re definitely not going to win in that compartment. I saw a stat yesterday, the Falcons and Desmond Ridder and those guys didn’t score inside the redzone three times, and it’s the first time you won a game since 2000 doing that. We definitely had a bad day in that category. Then, being aggressive on defense to try not to give up too many big plays is important, and I just think there’s a lot of areas to improve on. We have to get better as coaches, make sure we’re putting our players in the best position to succeed doing what they do well, helping them have success that adjusts and adapts every week and we just got to make sure that we continue to know the right combination of being aggressive but yet safe. You know, you look at the Notre Dame game. We were aggressive on defense, but we were efficient, and I wouldn’t say overly aggressive on offense, but we took care of the ball. We kept us in the game, we made plays when we had to. So I just think having that perfect balance is important and winning those small details. In football, you have to win the small details, and the turnover battle, third down conversions, and giving up big plays is some of the things we need to get better at.”

(Thoughts on Duke and their defense)

“They’re stout on defense. When you look at it right here, they’re fifth in scoring defense, second in red zone defense. I mean, they’re ranked high. They play a solid brand of physical football that keeps the ball in front of them. They do some really good things up front in running games and stunts and creating some havoc for your offensive line, and they they’ve just been very good. I think until the Florida State game, you could hardly score any points on them, and they kept that game extremely close to the very end. Then offense, they’ve been efficient, and that’s kind of what they’re about. They have an experienced quarterback who can run as well. They run the football with some physical backs, they get in manageable third downs. You know, they try to win in the style they believe in, which is playing great defense with a solid running game and taking care of the football. I just think you have to understand what they’re good at, you have to figure out a way to defeat that, but they’ve been very good to this point. They’re well coached, Coach Elko has done a very good job.”

(Having a bye week after the first loss of the season, how does that make things easier for you guys to home in on some other things and put that extra time in?)

“It’s good to get guys fresh. It’s good to get guys refocused. It’s good to understand that any given week you can lose if you don’t come ready to play. As far as enjoying the [bye week], the bye week has not been good, because we had a loss that was not fun. But you identify things when you lose, you realize you’d better get back to paying attention to details and being extremely efficient in not only in our preparation, but also the execution of it on game day. I thought in the first half, every time they scored, we responded, and went in with a 21-14 lead. Unfortunately, we didn’t perform well in the second half. We have to look at that and make sure we’re doing everything we can as coaches to help out. When we get to that point, execution has to be better, and really the turnovers hurt us in the second half.”

(There was a big high off of beating Notre Dame and starting off conference play really well. What do you feel like the guys have learned from the loss? What differences have you seen in them while trying to get this thing back on the winning side?)

“I think they were as disappointed as all of us in the loss, and I’m pretty sure it hurt them just as much, which it should. I think they care, so the issue is getting refocused and dialed back in. We have to realize that we’re playing some good football teams and that these games mean a lot each and every week. While we got off to a good start, it means nothing. You’re judged on how you do at the end of the year. We’ve had some tough battles and we’ve found ways to win close games, and I’m not guaranteeing we’re going to have more. We have to make sure we dig deep as coaches and players and find a way to win all the close games we play.”

(You guys have been good on the third down defense, is there something specific that has sparked the success so far this season?)

“I think we have been aggressive in our approach and that part has been good. I think once you do that a lot, you have to understand that people are going to study you and what you do. So, you have to make sure you have enough safe calls that you’re able to mix in. We’ve done some really good things. In the pass game, we got beat over our head a lot more than we had in the past. So we have to fix those, dial some things back, or be a little more creative in our approach, but we do want to lean on being aggressive. We have some things to shore up to make sure that we’re not being obvious in our tendencies because in the end, we want to give up as few points as we can.”

(Without Renato (Brown), Austin (Collins) moved in there in the Pittsburgh game, and he had played quite a bit of snaps against Notre Dame. How do you look at that position now, and do you try to get someone else in the mix behind them?)

“I think Renato (Brown) did a really good job. He’s got a really bright future. It’s unfortunate what happened in pregame warmups, but it did. He’s been in better spirits now after surgery and he knows he’s got to rehab and get better. I think Austin (Collins) has worked hard. He knows his numbers called now, he’s got to get in there and not only be a guard but a backup snapper for us. Bryan (Hudson) has been battling through injuries as well, we’re hopeful to get him healthier for this next game. We have guys that are close to going in, and we’ve got to figure out ways to make sure that whether we’re getting them in the game and playing six, seven, eight guys, or whether they’re extremely close and we need to put them in, and that’s kind of been what we’re trying to balance, making sure we have our best guys out there for every series. Every series is vital to success and scoring points, but we also want to continue to build the depth in a proper way while still trying to win the game.”