How Silas Dzansi’s injury impacted the game:
Well, it didn’t help. It wasn’t just that Silas was down, it was that Parker Clements didn’t make the trip. He got rolled up in practice and didn’t get to practice so we were down two right tackles. And then we had to shuffle some things around and do all that kind of stuff, but that’s part of it. Those things happen and you’ve got to find ways to piece things together and find a way to get the job done. Nobody really cares, you’ve got to find a way to get the job done. We were really close to finding a way to get it done and just came up a little bit short.
How the defense finally settled in after the first two WVU drives, plus halftime adjustments:
We misfit the long run. It’s bad, but it’s not like we didn’t have people there, right. Then we gave up the touchdown pass, but what I didn’t like… They’re playing at home in a rivalry, you should expect them to be ready to play, right? And we were, too, but we stumbled there to start with. Where we hurt ourselves is that we, and I’m not talking about just defense, I’m talking about as a team, is that we all put our superman capes on and said, ‘I’m going to go win this right now myself,’ instead of staying within the collective framework of what we’re trying to get accomplished. And that hurt us and made it a little bit worse as the first half went along, on both sides of the ball. I’m not saying defense or offense, I’m saying both. This sense of ownership took over all of these individual players trying to do the right thing, and what disappointed me was, that’s my job. I thought we were past that. I thought we had this feeling of real self-confidence that we could settle in and handle that. We eventually did, but it took us a little while, and that’s what I keep playing over in my mind and where I thought we were and how we could handle those things. It took us a little bit too long to get settled back into doing our job to make the comeback.
Fuente’s thoughts on the inability to run the ball:
Credit to them. They came out different than what they’ve always played. I don’t know if it’s because of the league or whatever, but essentially, in short terms, they played really thin in the box historically, which means it was a little bit harder to throw the ball, because they line up their Will linebacker outside the box. Then they just wreck shop inside with those guys and try to get everything to bounce to the perimeter. It’s kind of a cool thing, they didn’t do that versus us. They went ahead and kept that guy in the box and still continued to wreck shop. Made it pretty difficult to run the football, which now is when the passing game’s got to come forward, because they have gone ahead and brought that person into the box in more of a conventional look. We struggled there to loosen that part back up. Certainly, blocking those guys was going to be a chore if the box was thin. The box wasn’t thin, so it was even a bigger chore. That’s when being able to make some plays throwing the ball needed to come through for us. We have not been efficient yet this year throwing the football.
On calling plays Fuente didn’t think would work, going back to playcalling in the red zone:
Well, you talk about all the different scenarios. Down there before the half, we got it down there tied and we’re gonna throw a fade to Tre [Turner], and we jump offsides. Well, that won’t work from the seven. So now you’re in a drop-back scenario and we got a guy open, but we can’t hit him because he’s drifting a little bit in the zone. Well, then you get back down there again and you’re back down there at the end of the game and it’s a situation where you can run it a little bit but you better be careful, because if the clock runs out without you getting your fourth down in, then it’s going to be really bad. You’ve got to make sure of that and you’re getting all press man coverage and you’re trying to create rubs and picks for those guys to get free and you don’t, you try to throw a delay back across and you’re a little quick with it. You don’t execute the way exactly that you want to. I guess what I’m saying is that doesn’t mean that we don’t go into the lab and say, ‘OK, let’s evaluate this’ from a knowledge perspective, not from a guessing perspective. ‘OK, so what could or couldn’t we have done differently?’ or ‘What other situations could we have done? How could we have gotten so-and-so involved in this?’ or ‘We did, but they were doing this, but they’re better at doing it this way,’ so on and so forth.
On putting people in different places where they can succeed:
When you think about gameplan, when you’ve got seasoned veterans, that’s what you think about. James Mitchell is one of those guys. Tayvion [Robinson] is one of those guys and Tre [Turner] is one of those guys. Kaleb [Smith] is working his way into being one of those guys that you take into account when you’re working on all those things. We always go into the game with those guys circled as opportunities. Now, I’m going to tell you the flip side is that they’re playing way too many snaps. I talked to the staff about this the other day, we’ve got put the young guys in there and let them go and we can’t worry about it. Those older guys cannot play that many snaps or we’re just going to run the tread right off the tires and we’ve got to be able to shuffle those other guys in and out and continue to find ways to get them the ball. We, quite honestly, had several of those and they didn’t either pan out for a variety of reasons that we don’t need to get all into right now, but that’s certainly at the forefront of our mind when you’ve got guys like that.
On Braxton Burmeister’s performance:
He’s been incredible, in terms of his toughness. He’s taken care of the football. He’s competitive in the moment and tough and has made a bunch of plays. I just believe with all my heart there’s another level that he can get to, in terms of being efficient as a player. I believe he’s an even better player than that. I told him, ‘you converted a third and twenty-four all by yourself, I’ve never seen that before.’ There were three players right there, and he just took a right hand turn, ran around them, ran down the sideline, dove and got the first down. Big time, huge play that you can’t teach. But there are a lot of other things that I’m trying to encourage him that I know that he can do because I’ve seen him do it in practice. I know he can go get to those things in the game and it’s going to make all of us a lot happier and better and more efficient and things are going to run much more smoothly. That’s what we’re trying to get to.
Is there any level of frustration because you want these guys to succeed so badly?
Yeah, I mean it’s about the players. It’s about their experience and their work and their opportunities. The landscape and the world of college football is getting all kind of messed up, in my opinion, but what we’ve got right now is a group that’s really sold into the cause. I want to keep giving those guys opportunities to have success because that’s what we get enjoyment out of. I mean, y’all know me well enough to know by now that I could do without the cameras and all that sort of stuff. I do enjoy the players and I enjoy watching them have success and watching them celebrate and watching them grow up into young adults. That’s the fun part of what we do and we want so badly for them to have that success because we see behind the curtain, we see the work, the sacrifices, sometimes the grownup responsibilities that they have to deal with on a daily basis that are not their fault. All of the things that really go into what makes them who they are, we see it every single day.
On the issues in the kicking game:
I try to be supportive of that position as I’ve always been. Try to give him confidence and let him go. We’ve got an older player in there that I’ve seen everyday in practice, him be efficient and knock it through. He’s got to get that translated to the field, whether that’s an alignment issue or a fundamental issue or whatever. We’ve all seen him do it and it’s just got to happen and if not, then we’ve got to continue to evaluate that spot.
On the leadership from his leaders during the comeback attempt:
What didn’t waver was our belief that we were going to go get the job done. I was really proud of Raheem [Blackshear], he played really well on special teams and obviously offensively and he was battling cramps. I thought our conditioning was a positive. It was really hot on the sidelines. When we went out in pregame it was overcast and it was cool and then we came out and it was warm. We had some guys that had issues with cramps, but I thought our conditioning was really good. I was really impressed. We were still playing strong at the end of the game. Raheem is a really good example of one of those guys. It’s a scary deal, I don’t know if you guys have ever done it, but it’s scary when you’re starting to cramp up because you feel like every time you take a breath, you’re liable to be locked up and it’s painful, it’s really painful. For [Raheem] to continue to try to work his way through that, I thought was good. The guys’ belief that we were going to find a way to get it done never wavered on either side of the ball, like we really believed it. And that’s what we talked about at halftime. ‘Guys we’ve pretty much screwed this up every single way possible. The only way we get back into it is one play at a time.’ And we ultimately did that.
On the approach towards four straight home games:
I’ve never even seen a schedule like this before. They asked me that on media day and I just said, ‘I don’t know.’ I’ve never seen a schedule where essentially to start the year, you play all your games at home and to end the year, you play all your games on the road. There’s not much to do about it. It is what it is. We have talked about it probably a lot more in terms of non-conference, conference. Opening with a conference game and then kind of putting that in the cupboard and attacking this non-conference schedule, which is four games with a bye week in the middle of it and then the bulk of the conference schedule at the end of it, but I don’t know. It’s a unique situation. I don’t know that I’ve seen many other people have this odd setup.
Thoughts on the ACC through three weeks:
Well, it hasn’t been very good, has it? You just have to be honest, right? Everybody talks about Clemson because they’ve been kind of the standard for some time and they’re struggling a little bit offensively, at least from what I can tell by the scores. I haven’t watched their games but we haven’t been as good in non-conference [games] as we usually are or feel like we should be, but those things ebb and flow a little bit too, so I don’t think I would panic by any means, but the early returns have not been great. I wonder how playing those conference games in the beginning plays into that too. I don’t know if it has an effect on it or not, I’m certainly not talking about us, I’m talking about other people. If opening with a big conference game, if it has an effect, it’d be interesting to see.
On the North Carolina-Virginia game:
It’s kind of odd, like I’ve just seen a little bit of Virginia. I think they played William & Mary and Illinois to start with and they’re throwing the ball all over the yard. North Carolina didn’t do much offensively in here and they seem to have found their way a little bit or created a little bit of an identity. It was kind of surprising, quite honestly, to see it go to that extreme and there was a little while in the game, and I didn’t see all of it, but I thought they were going to keep up with them. They just kind of outpaced them a little bit there and Virginia could never get a stop.
Is the locker room drifting apart at all?
No, I don’t sense any of that. I sense a huge amount of disappointment, that’s what I sense. We need to get them pumped back up a little bit here for this game. I sense a group of guys that knows they played really, really hard and basically almost won the game on grit alone, and that’s just not enough. You’ve got to have that, and we can’t lose that, but you gotta have this part that’s called execution and composure that you gotta have in order to win those games. So I don’t sense anything other than, ‘Man, it was a group of young men that really laid it on the line for four hours in Morgantown and came up just short of darn near a miracle.’
On Brock Hoffman being disappointed with his performance at right tackle:
It’s what we had to do and Brock is the type of guy that says, ‘OK, let’s do it.’ I think, in my opinion, there’s too many people out there or young people out there that are afraid to try. They are more concerned about it not working than putting everything they can into something and I think that’s something that happens to all of us sometimes. When you try really hard to accomplish something and it doesn’t work out, it hurts and it makes you feel miserable, it makes you feel awful. It’s really easy to not try quite as hard the next time, because you don’t want to take the chance that you might feel that way again. The competitors use that to fuel them, to get them ready so that they do everything in their power to not feel like that again. I think sometimes we lose sight of what we’re learning in this competitive environment. It’s not life and death but it does teach young people and old people, like myself, alike how much it takes and what it means to be truly invested in a cause. When it works out, it’s a beautiful thing, it’s something you remember for the rest of your life. When it doesn’t, it hurts and it’s awful and it makes you sick to your stomach and it takes you a little while to get over it but you can’t dwell on it. You’ve got to use it to fuel you to move you forward.
On Richmond’s physicality:
Really well-coached, good football team. I’m telling you, they lost a heartbreaker last week. Villanova is really, really good, like ranked in the top ten or something in one-double-a and they played them at Villanova. They’re up by fourteen with five minutes to go in the game and Villanova came back and beat them. Just a heartbreaking game for them. The reason I bring that up is, [if] they win that game, they’re undefeated, they’re in the top ten in the country, talking about Richmond now, and they’re rolling. They’re good on both sides of the ball. As good a d-line as I’ve ever seen in one-double-a football. There’s four or five guys that would play for us right now. [It’s] going to be a huge, huge challenge for us to pick ourselves up and get ready to go play a team that is much better than anybody else thinks.
On Richmond quarterback Joe Mancuso:
He throws the ball really well. You see how big he is and you watch him throw the ball and you think, ‘Well, good, maybe he’s just a guy that just stands there,’ and then you watch him start to run, I think he led the team in rushing in the spring. He’s a big athletic kid that is really, really dangerous. We’ll have to do a great job at the line of scrimmage really on both sides of the ball. I’m not sure who’s going to play on the offensive line for us yet, but we’ll get five guys out there and get ready to go. It’s going to be a big challenge.
On getting younger guys reps this week:
Sometimes it is that opportunity depending on what team you’re playing. We better be ready. We’ve got to rotate guys in anyway to make it through the season. We need a great week of preparation to go give ourselves an opportunity to feel better about life and about everything going on heading into the bye week and that involves us doing a great job of practice, great job as coaches, and that leadership we’ve talked about; this is when we need it. This is when we need it the most.
On containing Richmond returner Aaron Dykes:
Really proud of our kickoff unit. They faced the nation’s leading kickoff returner and he was going to bring it out no matter what, we knew that coming into the game and he brought it out and we did a great job. We’ll have another big challenge this week and we enjoy that and relish that and I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again, James Shibest is the best special teams coordinator there is in America when it comes to fundamentals and scheme and getting our guys ready to play to go attack tremendous challenges.
Will Keshawn King be back returning kicks this week?
Yeah, I hope so. I would imagine that we would. We did not have Keshawn. He was sick. Did not practice on Tuesday or Wednesday of last week. It was not COVID, he just was sick. That’s a lot of practice for a young player to miss. If it’s a four-year starter that’s missed a couple days, he can get in there and get going then we can find a way to make that work but for Keshawn, that was just a little too much. He was at practice doing a great job yesterday. I don’t know, we’ll see. We’ll just see what the game plan calls for. James [Shibest] lets me work with the kickoff returners so I’m pretty excited about that. I got to do it last year, I was pretty fired up, obviously. So because I’m the head coach and I work with the returners, I get to pick who gets back there so I picked [Khalil] Herbert last year. Pretty good choice. So we’ll see how it goes this year.
On when the bye week falls – too early, or at a good time for this team?
I don’t know. It is a long stretch after the bye week. That’s eight straight games and that’s long. We played nine straight last [year]. We’ll have to be very cognizant of that throughout our practice plans, because one of the notes I learned from last year is that I felt like when we had those nine straight weeks, we just couldn’t get our team back. From week-to-week, they were just smoked, so it’s a lesson that I learned that we’ll have put into play this week with those eight straight games.
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