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October 16, 2012UCF coach George O'Leary, safety Kemal Ishmael and wide receiver Quincy McDuffie appeared at Tuesday's weekly press conference to look back at the last game and to preview Saturday's road game at Memphis.
UCF (4-2, 2-0) is coming off a 38-31 double-overtime victory against Southern Miss which maintains their first-place standing in Conference USA. Memphis lost a 41-7 road game at East Carolina to drop to 1-5 overall and 1-1 in the league.
UCF has won every meeting against Memphis (7-0) since joining C-USA in 2005. The Tigers did beat UCF in 1990 which was the Knights' first season at the Division I-AA level. This will be UCF's 7th all-time appearance in the Liberty Bowl (five games vs. Memphis, plus two Liberty Bowls).
Memphis has a new coach this season - Justin Fuente - who is a former offensive coordinator at TCU.
UCF coach George O'Leary
Video | Audio
WR Quincy McDuffie & DB Kemal Ishmael
Video | Audio
Transcript of Coach O'Leary Press Conference
On QB Blake Bortles performance:
"I think he's had a lot more good plays than bad plays. The big thing is you're still looking for that 60-minute consistency as far as the whole game. I don't think there's too many quarterbacks in the country that can do that but that is the ultimate goal - to get 60 minutes of right decisions and quick decisions out of your quarterback.
"I think he's making a lot of plays and taking a bad play and making a good play out of it. He's still young and there's still a learning process going on there. But overall, I've been pleased with his progress as far as at quarterback and his ability to make plays in some tough situations. He learns from his mistakes. There's no question he keeps his poise out there. He's been starting to handle the pressure a lot better in each game and I think that's a growing stage he's been getting better and better at. I'm pleased with his progress."
On the way Bortles played in UCF's losses and if they've been confidence boosters:
"Ohio State I thought - except you can't take the picks out of there - I thought was a little bit of a confidence builder that, 'Hey, if you do the right things, good things happen.' With Missouri, I thought in the second half he was a little bit out of sorts as far as trying to make plays that he didn't have to. He doesn't have to worry about carrying the football team. There are other people that can do that to help him. There are other teams that you go strictly as the quarterback goes and that's not the case because they count on 100 percent pass to get things happening and we don't. We basically can hand the ball off and get our game accomplished too. I think it takes a lot of pressure off that kind of quarterback when you can run the ball and throw it and not just rely on the throw all the time to win games."
On having a big-play defender in safety Kemal Ishmael:
"I think he's a great competitor. When you look at guys when you talk about winners, well, everyone wants to win but there are not very many who work to win. Kemal's out there. He works to win every day in practice. You can take practice and make it gameday for him. Others it is not the case. Every day, he plays in practice just the same way. I think that's what separates him from a lot of players. They're going to play alright on Saturday but they'll play a lot better if they practice like him during the week. He's contagious out there.
"He's well-respected not because he talks a lot; I think he's a very quiet individual. I think he's respected because of what he does. He's always where he belongs, and he understands his responsibilities. You'll never see him shirking off any duties whether it's special teams, defense, whatever it may be. I think that's something you hope the young players carry over from him in sort of a contagious type of way.
"He's what you want your football team to look like on the defensive side of the ball. He'll strike you and he can do a lot of things for you. He's a quick study. You don't have to sit down and draw things on the chalkboard for him. He can talk to me, understands concepts which you expect a senior to do but I have some seniors that don't though. But he's one that does."
On Ishmael's early tendencies as a starting freshman:
"Well, I saw it but there was no one else when he got here so he started out of default. He sure played well. He's gotten better with his vision and his awareness which is expected from an experience standpoint. But I have nothing but great praise for the way he handles himself off the field, on the field and pretty much within the whole program. He's been a pleasure to be around and I know he's probably one of the most respected kids on the team."
On Memphis and the changes with new coach Justin Fuente:
"I know they are 1-5. The big thing is when you look at the games, they've gotten better and better. They've closed the gap in the score against their opponents so they're getting better at all the phases: offense, defense and the kicking games.
"Memphis is going to have good, skilled athletes. The big thing I've seen is that you can see what they're trying to get accomplished on film. That's how I look at coaches. If I can see what they're trying to get accomplished when they call a play or run a certain scheme. I think their coaches are on the right track as far as setting the program.
"I think (head coach Justin Fuente) has done a good job. Now your wins and losses are what everybody looks at but I don't. I look at if the kids are playing with coaching behind them, and they are when you watch the film on them. Some situations they've hurt themselves and others they've turned the ball over which is what most teams that end up losing games do.
"Again, it's a game that we've got to go up and play. They're our next opponent. As I tell our players, you respect everybody you play and they will. I think last week I told them to throw the record out the door with Southern Miss. I think Southern Miss found their quarterback, last week, and I'll be surprised if Southern Miss doesn't win every game, most of the games down the road right now. The confidence is there. When I look at the tape, we just didn't play well in some tackling situations and some third-down situations. You just can't do that. That's been addressed on the defense with players and staff. You have got to be productive on third down, offensively and defensively. That's what we'll get accomplished."
On the emotions of the overtime victory against Southern Miss:
"I've been involved in overtime games before. We went on defense because you want to know what you have to do to win the game. I thought that when they scored then we came out and scored in (three) plays that was outstanding. I think that was the explosion that was needed on the sideline and it became, 'Hey, let's go get this game.'
"Of course, I changed the field position and went down to our student body for the second possession which we were trying to get the noise involved. The student body did a great job of creating some factor that way and that's what you have to continue to do. Great play by Kemal, great touchdowns by our offense too. They produced when they had to produce and that's all you can ask of them.
"I think it was a great fan game. You don't want to be too old sitting, watching games like that. I like the overtime. The only thing I don't like about it is that it sort of takes the the kicking game out of there. What I'd really like you to think about is not big plays down there but just getting first downs. The teams that get in trouble just want to wing it down the field and either you get a sack or a holding call and all of a sudden, you're out of field-goal range. That's good experience for us and I'm sure it won't be the only overtime we see."
On the added length of the game due to five timeouts per quarter when it had been four:
"It's new this year. My understanding talking to one of the producers is that it was four a quarter, which was plenty, and now NBC with the Notre Dame telecast went to five, so everybody follows suit. I just think it's really extending the game. The NFL doesn't make a lot of mistakes on things. If you're on the field more than three hours in an NFL game they're very upset. Very rarely do you see a NFL go longer than three hours. They have sponsorships and everything else they've got to get done. Five timeouts a quarter to me is way too many. It takes the crowd out of the game. It comes to a standstill. You've got to play the game. You lose the flow of the game a little bit."
On who made that decision:
"We have nothing to do with it. That's sponsorships and TV contracts. First question I ask the producers when I meet with them on Friday before TV games is, 'How many timeouts a quarter.' They know. They said five. I'm not sure they're real happy it either is it's hard for those guys upstairs that are announcing the game to have talking points for that many timeouts."
On whether the long timeouts become a "momentum equalizer:"
"If you're moving it, it sort of stalls you a little bit. If you're struggling, it gives you a chance to regroup. If I was a no-huddle team, a fastball team, I wouldn't like it. I think it gives teams a little more break on the sidelines. It is what it is. The people paying for the TV are the sponsors. Again, that's something that's out of the conference's games. It's on the TV level."
On college football changing to a no-huddle style vs. UCF's traditional, pro-style offense:
"The game changing. It's become not the trade of the game, but the tricks of the game. It still comes down to can you block and can you tackle? You can do all of the quick huddle and everything else but eventually you got to block people and eventually you got to tackle people. I think what's happened is that they're counting on the defenses to get short-winded and having trouble subbing in.
"But on defense, back when the wishbone came out, everybody struggled with it the first year then they caught up with it. Now they're catching up with the spread. It's just that once it is on film, a good coach is going to see what you're doing and their major tendencies. Will you come out in spread? Will you come out in a 2-2 set, 3-1 set or empty?
"I think on defense you have to practice at the fast pace, but we run a play every 40 seconds anyway. So, I think it helps from a conditioning standpoint but then really where you have to be smart is on the sideline. You can't be yelling for him and for him. You just use code names, like "rapid" or "rush." You can't waste a lot of time trying to sub in people. You have to be awake on the sidelines so you can get people in."
On the progression of the offensive linemen and wide receivers in coordination with Bortles:
"I think that first series against Southern Miss was a thing of beauty, throwing the ball and running the ball. In the second half we were a step short of our landmarks from a blocking standpoint, and the receiving game we still have to continue to stretch the ball downfield especially on third down. We have, I believe, a 64 percent completion rate on third down but efficiency-wise, it's not there, and that means we're throwing underneath the first-down yardage needed. So, we need to improve on that and we've worked all week, but we didn't practice yesterday. We had meetings all day but we were out today working on things we need to improve on. We're always self-scouting ourselves: What we need to improve on, what the other team knows about you."
On RB Storm Johnson's adjustments to RB Latavius Murray returning:
"Well, Brynn Harvey is back now too. Latavius tweaked something the other night, that's why he wasn't in a lot during the second half but he is fine now. I think it's a good one-two combination and Brynn has to start playing more too. You never have enough running backs. You always want fresh legs out there. I think we're fortunate to have those guys to get that done.
"I think Storm has improved as far as some of things he has done. He's running better between tackles. He needs to run a little better to his left as far as where he's planting. Latavius, I think, we need to start utilizing more especially in the passing game. That's something he's really, really good at. He has a knack of making people miss on the first one in and still keeping his pads north and south. Brynn, everybody can talk about him and when you watch practice, he's as impressive as any of them. All three will play this week and they need to."
What's the status of Jose Jose? I know he was pushed by the younger guys as you're looking for more speed and quickness at that position.
"I can only keep eight up. I don't keep more than eight defensive linemen on the travel team. The rest of them go on the show team, so he's over there. Again, he knows what he needs to do to get back. I still haven't seen that yet. I'm going to play with the guys who have a passion for doing the things they're supposed to do. There's no gray with me. It's black or white. They understand what they have to do to get back on the game field. I call it the game field and the practice field. If he wants to get back on the game field, he basically has to start doing the things he's supposed to do."
On forcing more turnovers:
"We missed a couple this year on picks, but we've got to force more fumbles. I think that's one thing that's been bothering me. I think we've got too many reachers and not enough contact guys. There's too many arms first. You put your arms out when somebody goes to hit, you protect yourself. We've got too many guys leading with their hands instead of their shoulder pads and chest plate as far as tackling. That's what causes turnovers. That's been an emphasis for a couple weeks now as far as getting things done."