(Head Coach Jeff Brohm Opening Statement)
We’re excited to get back home to start the conference slate against a really good Boston College team who played their best game last week. Found their quarterback, put up yards, and had a chance to win. So we’re going to have to have a good week of practice and once again just try to correct the mistakes we made this past game. Continue to find ways to be more efficient in all three segments and see if we can come out and play as clean a game as possible and find a way to win.
((Boston College) might not be one of those teams that jump out on a piece of paper, but they took Florida State to the limit last week. What did you see in that game and how are you going into this one not underestimating a team like that?)
Based on the last game, they can play football. They’re well-coached. They’ve made corrections over the first couple of weeks and played their best game. So that’s a sign of a good football team. Like I said, I think they found their quarterback, who can run around and make plays. He threw for over three hundred yards and ran for almost 100 yards in the last game against one of the top teams in the country. We’ll have our hands full, and we’ll have to figure out ways to be efficient like I said. Clean things up as much as we can and find ways to score and get stops, but this will be a really good test for us.
(After three games, what are the primary things that you’ve learned about your team?)
The main thing is I think our guys really work hard. They’re willing to fight and scrap and find a way to win. They’re not afraid to look in the mirror after every game and point the finger at ourselves first and figure out what we can fix and get better. They play to the end. So without question, nothing has been perfect and normally it never is, but these guys understand what it takes to win. When you’re playing really good football teams, you can try to have a perfect game and make all the plays and be clean, but that’s really probably not going to happen. The other team is good too, and they’re well-coached. So you know, they’re going to make plays as well.
We have to find ways to make a few more plays in them and score a few more points than them. So I just think, eliminating big mistakes, the turnovers, not giving up big plays, being smart in how we play the game, all those things matter. Being efficient on special teams, all those things matter. And if you do that, then hopefully in the end you have more points than they do. That’s what this game is about in my opinion, that the small details matter. While you want to try to win every rep, you’re not, you just have to win more than they do.
(When you look back at Saturday, it seemed like Jack (Plummer) had maybe a step forward, another really good step forward in one of his better games. Did you see that? Did you see that he made improvement?)
I think so. I think Jack really works hard. He wants to win. He’s a good leader. In today’s age of football, there are going to be some plays that maybe aren’t going to be open, or a receiver is going to slip and fall, or maybe somebody’s going to miss a block, and you have to be able to make some plays with your feet. You can’t call the perfect play and get perfect execution every time, in order to do that you have to be smart with the football and learn when to tuck it and run and buy some time to allow some guys to get open. I thought he did a much better job of that. He’s got to get us some yards in the running game.
Before every game, I go up and tell him, “Two to five times a game you’re going to have to tuck the ball and run on a pass play. We’ll give you a few other runs, but on a pass play you going to have to tuck it and run.” If it’s cleaner than that, great, we’ve played a tremendous game, but it’s normally not going to be, so I think he was able to use his feet. It gets him in a better rhythm as well in my opinion. He made some good throws, we had probably a few more drops than we’d like to. He can continue to work on throwing with conviction. Standing in there, throwing it on time, and then when things aren’t there, he’s got to be decisive enough and willing to run the football and get yards.
(Obviously still early in the season, but Jawhar (Jordan) is top 10 or 20 statistically in the country in a couple of different areas, averaging over 100 yards a game. Has there been a player that you can maybe compare him to that you’ve coached and how does that just kind of help you to continue with him and his improvement?)
Jawhar works really hard. He’s very humble, and a really good teammate. He was a little nicked up last week in practice and didn’t practice as much, so he came out and gutted it out and played a really good football game. He’s very talented and elusive with the ball, yet he’ll lower his pads and run. I think we have a good running back room. He knows that as well, where there are other running backs that we feel confident spreading the wealth to a little bit and giving them the ball and taking a little pressure off him. Those are guys that need to touch the ball, whether it’s by air or putting it right in their gut for the run play, we have to allow them to run and go make plays.
Jawhar stood out last week as one of those guys, Maurice (Turner) had a couple of good runs, Isaac (Guerendo) runs hard. That room has done a good job of taking care of the ball, they haven’t fumbled. Our offensive line has come off the ball and knocked some people back. In order to be a good football team, a high-caliber team, you have to be good at both passing and running. That doesn’t mean it’s got to be perfectly balanced. But, if the defense is going to test you and make you throw the ball, you have to be good at throwing it. If a team’s going to play the pass and play coverage, you have to be good at running it. So I think we’ve made some progress at getting efficient at both. We’re going to need both of those components to be really good moving forward. That means making plays in the passing game, getting more guys to make plays in the passing game, spreading the ball around in that, and then continuing to be sound and solid in the running game.
(Obviously, the safety position has gotten nicked up, as we know. You have two guys that seemingly have stepped up and have that next man up mentality and performed well. Your thoughts on how Devin (Neal) and (Cam’Ron Kelly) have performed, and in addition, how are Josh (Minkins) and D’Angelo (Hutchinson)? Is the depth chart starting to fill back in?)
We have suffered some early losses there as far as injury wise, which is going to happen every year. Luckily, we built some depth up in the defensive backfield and it’s come to really help us, because those guys have had to step up. Devin Neal has played football, he gives everything he’s got, he’s tough. He understands the game. He’s from in-state here and he wants to win so he gives us great effort every game. (Cam’Ron Kelly) has transferred in and got here late, so learning and getting up to speed took a little longer than you would like. Now that he’s getting back in the groove, he’s done a good job.
I think Josh Minkins was probably close enough to play if we needed him. We were able to give him one more week of rest, so I expect him to be fully healthy or at least close to it. D’Angelo (Hutchinson) had been out for a while. We got him in practice toward the end of last week and he did some good things. The little bit he was in there, he did a good job. He needs to continue to get even healthier and be a big part of that because we do need some depth and a little bit of rotation there to keep those guys hungry and fresh. Yes, that position, health-wise, will hopefully be a little better this week.
(You guys are already in the top 10 for yards per play and available yards. With how early it is in the season and how efficient it has been, what has made some of these guys who are running this offense for the first time so comfortable?)
Our guys work hard. It’s important that we continue to find ways to get big plays. I think if you want to win football games, you have to find ways to get big plays. That’s in the passing game or the running game. It’s either by a great individual play or it is by great design that gives those guys a chance to get open and make those plays. Being good at running the ball while having play action off of it to take shots and hit them, and being efficient in the control passing game are all vital to success. I think we have all of those elements and work on it a lot. We have to continue to be as efficient as we can because it’s going to be important. Long drives and scoring are hard to do. You have to find a way to do it, but as many times as we can get quicker points in the realm of the offense, the better we’ll be. I think we built a good lead in the first half. Unfortunately, we had the onside kick that got the momentum back for them. They scored right after it and took off from there. We need to make sure we’re playing as efficiently as we can for four quarters.
(You said when you win you have to stay hungry and when you lose you can’t hang your head. Your team is 3-0 and people are saying good things about them. As a coach, what have you learned throughout the years in how you maintain that hungriness when your team is doing well?)
I think that’s one of our strengths. We try to coach the same every week, whether you win or lose. I think that you have to, in my opinion, at least we do. We treat everything as a one-game season. I know that sounds dull and boring, but you have to think that way, because you can really look down the road too much as a player. I know fans do, which is great and fine and fun. We love it. But for a player, you can’t look down the road. You’re going to get distracted, you’re going to either feel too good about where you could be going because you played a good game, or you’re going to feel really bad about my gosh, we have such a long hill to climb up here, and it can really affect your work ethic.
So because of that, you know what, you just have to erase the last game and the previous games. Obviously, make corrections, but you got to work hard to win, and you have to say, “Hey, we got to go figure out a way to win this game, period.” Give everything you got, coaches and players, you lay it on the line, you play to the end, you stay in the moment, you stay as aggressive as you can, and then you hope that at the end of the game, you have more points than they do. Now, when that’s over, whether you win or lose, you’re going to have a few people pat you on the back, or a few people tell you that you’re not very good, and you should have done this better. You have to just block it out and you have to understand every week as a new challenge, every team you play is competitive, every team you play is a chance to win, and if we don’t play our best or we’re not improving every week, we’re not going to get to where we want to go.
So, I just think us coming to work every day, working with our guys, having a smile on our faces at times, and knowing when to push and motivate them is always important and you just kind of have to stay locked in on that. I’ve been on numerous teams where we’ve started not the way you wanted, and we found a way to move back up the ladder. Last year we started 1-2 at Purdue and found a way to get to the Big Ten championship game, and that happens all the time. I was at the University of Illinois, my last year there as an assistant, we started 6-0, in the top 20, and we lost our next six. That’s how the season can go, and if you’re not treating it as a one-game season as a player internally, the games probably won’t go in your favor if you can’t keep that that mindset.