Head Coach Jeff Brohm Opening Statement
“It’s time to get back to work, and we understand that. Another big game on the road, a conference game at Pittsburgh that we need to get ready for. An opponent that has played good football, I know they haven’t won as many this year as they want, but I’m sure they’re hungry and they’re trying to make changes to improve, and I’m sure they’re going to do it. Good solid defense, Coach (Pat) Narduzzi is known for being really good on defense. We’ve got to get back to reality and get back to work and understand that if we don’t put the work in, we’re not going to win. That’s just how it works. If we don’t understand that, it’ll bite us in the rear, and I’ve been there before. We had three top-five wins at Purdue in six years, and every time we won, the next week we lost, so I understand how this game works, hopefully our players do. We just have to concentrate on one game at a time and Pittsburgh is a great challenge ahead of us.”
(You just mentioned it, when you have everybody telling you how great you are and what a big win it is, what kinds of things can you do to get your players grounded again?)
“Luckily for us, we talk about it all the time, so it’s not like we’re just going to first bring it up this week. You know, we always believe in a one game season. Like I said before, I know from a public relations standpoint, that’s boring, but it’s the reality. If you don’t, behind closed doors, work your butt off to try to win one game at a time, you’re not going to win. Other teams are too good. We understand we’ve had three games this year that have gone right down to the wire, two of them we had to come back to win, one we had to kind of withstand a goal line stand to win the game, so that’s three of six. Every game is going to be tough, and if our guys don’t understand that we’re going to have some issues, but I think we’ve handled it well to this point. We got some good leadership. We played in some games that have gone down to the wire and I think “we’ve hung in there, so we have to expect that, you know, this week is going to be the same deal and we have to be ready to play for 60 minutes.
(Those wins at Purdue that you were talking about, they’re all different teams with different situations, but did you learn anything about how you will practice this week? Will you do anything different as far as on the field when you get guys out there?)
“I don’t think we’ll change up a whole lot. I think we’ve got a pretty good routine down now that has been adjusted over the years that tries to not only prepare for the next opponent, but take the things that we’ve made miscues on and try to fix them. That’s not only on the field, that’s coaching wise. We have to make sure we make some small changes to things that have not worked as well and fix those. And then of course, you know, we do little things in practice, like we’re going to work on guarding the deep ball and make sure that we don’t panic, and we stay in good position and trust it. We’re going to practice catching the deep ball and do some things over and over again that I believe in that helps us prepare, but I just think every week the package has to be slightly tweaked, built around your strengths. If we’re not slightly tweaking it, others are going to catch on, so we’ve got to do a good job coaching. Like I said, we’ve raised the bar here a little bit with this past win that if you want to be good, you’ve got to back it up every week. If you can’t back it up every week, then you’re really not that good.”
(What’s the difference between the two quarterbacks (for Pittsburgh)? Have you seen enough of (Christian Veilleux) and how will it be different depending on which one plays?)
“It’ll be different. When I was at Purdue, we actually recruited the quarterback (Veilleux) that they’re starting now. He has talent, went to Penn State I think to start off, and trust me, I’m sure he’s dying to get his shot to prove himself. This was a four-star quarterback who was talented and I’m sure they’re going to rally around him. That means what they’ve always believed in: playing solid tough defense, running the football, a little bit of play action off of it, and then having their quarterback manage the game. I’m sure you see new quarterbacks emerge every week around the country, but I know this one has talent, we recruited him. We’re going to have to make sure we’re ready to go. I’m sure they’re going to be fired up and understand that sometimes when your back is against the wall, you come out fighting and scratching and clawing, and if we’re not ready to match that, it’ll be a long plane ride home.”
(How has this team taken on the personality of moving forward and how they handle success?)
“I think to this point, they’ve done a good job, and I do think we have some veterans that have experienced that and want to win. When you want to win, you’re willing to listen, adjust, and display your own personality and then ride it out until gameday and then cut it loose. We talk about being the team that plays the hardest, the toughest, the smartest every week. With those three things, if we don’t win that battle, we’re not going to win. Those are visible by the common fans. I think they understand that and because of that, they have played hard, and they have played until the end. They have displayed the ability to hang in there when things aren’t going well and continue to believe in each other and cut loose. Just teach as much as you can. You hope that people want to win as much as all of us do in the room. If you have that same hunger and desire, and you do those three things that we said while we’re trying to run our plan, good things will normally happen. Without question, we have to be able to continue to do that every week, or else our wins won’t show up in the win column.”
(Can you talk about the two safeties you have settled on and how they have played at a high level the past few weeks? Also, Mason (Reiger) was impressive on the line, how does that help?)
“Well, a lot of things have gelled together very well. I do think it starts with our two starting corners. They’re solid veterans, they guard guys which gives us the ability to ask that quarterback to hold on to the ball longer. We asked them to challenge routes – no matter what the coverage is, we’re going to challenge routes, and they do a good job of understanding that. Yet, we don’t want to get beat over the top, but we do want to be aggressive. So when that happens and you’re able to take away the outside receivers and really box things in from there, you can do more things. It’s allowed us to get more pressure on the quarterback, and while we have been more aggressive in our packages, when you’re guarding guys on the outside and you’re fumbling things inside, we start to land. We start to make those tackles and affect the quarterback. Our safety play has played off of it. Devin Neal does exactly what we’ve asked. He’s in the right position at the right time. He’ll tackle and if you throw it to him, he’s going to catch it. He’s done everything we’ve asked him to do and more. He’s been an overachiever. He’s played football. He cares, he wants to win, he works really hard. Cam’Ron (Kelly) has come in and provided us some good elements as well. We have some backups at that position now that are healthy, that maybe haven’t played as much lately. Josh (Minkins) and D’Angelo (Hutchinson) have been injured for a couple of weeks. They’re working themselves back into it and they’ll be back out there, and we expect them to play very well. I do think our linebackers have played downhill and have made tackles. We’ve been able to apply some pressure with our front four and our second front four and rotate those guys in and put them in some different positions. Especially with Ashton (Gillotte), we’re moving him around. You do those things, you play aggressive. But it starts with our two corners, saying I’m going to guard my area and guard my man. We’ve fed off of that and we’ve improved greatly throughout six games and especially in our last two games, we’ve really played at a high level on defense.”
When you have Ahmari ( Huggins-Bruce) who now has more rushing yards than he’s had his first two years, and you also have Jawhar (Jordan) who catches passes coming out of the backfield, how much does that versatility allow you guys to do?
“I think we have playmakers, and they work hard, and our goal is to try to get them as many touches as we can. I think it’s important that the best players get so many touches, and for others, you try to get them touches and you allow them a chance to make plays. Every week is different, we must be able to adjust. I think, to play championship level football, you must be able to throw the ball and run the ball and you can’t be one dimensional. At some point, you’re going to be down, you got to throw the ball. They’re going to stack the box, you got to throw the ball. At some point, they’re going to play coverage and you must be able to run it, so you must be able to do both. You must be able to adjust it throughout the game based on how the defense is playing and have answers, which we’ve been pretty good at times. Other times, I think I haven’t been as good where we’ve got to be able to adjust to what we’re seeing and utilize all those playmakers. They must be ready to go every week because, you know, at any point they could be the difference maker in the game.”
You guys obviously finished games better than you have started, has that challenge been more about focus or is it just a matter of adjustments? You know the typical adjustments you make in the game?
“Well, you know, football is a great game because what can seem simple can be very complicated behind the scenes, because you’ve got to be good at what you do. You’ve got to improve every week on what’s happened, every week is different, you think you know, you think you have answers, but different things pop up and you got to be able to adjust quickly. So, I just think you take every week, you take the games you’ve had you try to improve upon those and utilize that. For example, I think Jack (Plummer) did what we needed him to, this past week we talked about him throwing the ball away a little bit sooner. You can’t allow every part of your body to hit the ground ither than your nose before you throw it away. You’re going to get hurt and bad things are going to happen, so we worked on doing that. If the plays are not open, I call something that didn’t work, or the receiver falls you’ve got to throw it away or you got to step up and run and get yards. You know what, he was sharp and efficient, he did what he needed to do, he managed the game, he got completions, he scrambled when he had to. If it was there, he threw it. If it wasn’t, he threw it away. He kept us in the drive, he was accurate when he needed to be and that’s the type of leadership we need from that position. Then of course, you take every position, and you do the same things. The receivers have to be precise on the routes, they have to know the slight adjustments we have, they got to be able to get off press and get open off the offensive line. The game before there were a couple of times where we needed to protect the inside more and we’re fanning out when the inside pressures come in. We have to adjust, we’ve got to protect the inside and we’ve got to have answers when they’re bringing everybody protection wise as well. I just think you must take everything that’s happened and understand that people watch film, they’re going to try to incorporate some things that have worked, so you must have an answer for that. I just think it’s different every week and you’ve got to identify things with your players and coaches and work to get better and then get ready for the next game.”