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October 1, 2012

O'Leary, players preview ECU

UCF coach George O'Leary, punter Jamie Boyle and quarterback Rob Calabrese appeared at Monday's weekly press conference to preview Thursday's home game vs. East Carolina.

UCF (2-2) is coming off a tough 21-16 setback to Missouri. East Carolina (3-2) dealt with weather delays in their 28-18 home victory against UTEP.

The Pirates own a 9-2 advantage in the all-time series. The two schools have played yearly since UCF joined Conference USA in 2005, but this will be the last meeting for the forseeable future with the Knights joining the Big East next season.

ECU already owns a 2-0 record within the league with wins against Southern Miss and UTEP. This is UCF's C-USA opener.

UCF coach George O'Leary

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P Jamie Boyle & QB Rob Calabrese

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Transcript of Coach O'Leary Press Conference

On his team's performance vs. Missouri:

"Just to review the Missouri game, what I said after the game was pretty much accurate. I thought offensively we weren't as physical as we were in the first half, especially on the backside blocking. I thought the quarterback had some throws that he needs to make, but I think it's just him being young. Defensively, I thought we played well enough to win except that last series where we missed tackles and gave up a long touchdown run.

"Every phase of the game had a piece of it. I always say that there are six plays that make a difference in a game, and I think there was three this game. Obviously, the 80-yard touchdown catch where we had a tackle and didn't wrap up and it goes for 80 yards. That sort of gave them life. Next, was the punt return, which we had the whole right side not where they belonged from a contain element. And the fumble, because I really believe driving down 21-16, we have a chance with time on the clock because I thought we have them on their heels a little bit and then we fumbled the ball. They made a play and we didn't it, as far as C.P.R. and fumble recovery.

"That was the game, and we covered it on Sunday with them, I didn't spend a lot of time on it, except correcting mistakes so it wasn't one person or one group, every phase as far as special teams, offense and defense had a piece of it. I tell them everything right now is for the conference championship and we're playing a team that's 2-0 in conference play that's in our division, so every game is critical as far as our goal is concerned for Conference USA. Again, it was a disappointing game on Saturday. It's a game within reach and we have to make some plays to come out with a win."

On the tough loss for the players and putting it behind them:

"They understand. It's coaches too. I kick myself right before the half because I've had that happen in my history where I sent the field goal team out and guys upstairs were like, 'Coach, we can get one more play in.' And I should've stuck to my guns and kicked the field goal and score your points because the inevitable what you don't want to happen, happened.

"That had nothing to do with the locker room, I just think we went out in the second half and Missouri played like their defense could play. And we weren't as physical or executing offensively like we did in the first half. I think the players understand, I think they took the loss very difficult just like we do any losses. But they (players) understand that we have to get back and get ready for our Conference USA first game, first opponent vs. East Carolina."

On the letdown in the second half:

"Nothing was different, they didn't make any adjustments. Someone said, 'They came out in solid.' They were in solid the second play of the game, so that wasn't the answer. I think basically, it's when you have a chance to make plays, you have to make them. I look at the senior class on offense and they're the ones that have to get going. I talked to them about it, 'Hey fellas, not everything is pretty. It's the end result and you have to keep working and working and good things will happen to you.' After halftime, there's nothing that I can say we're doing different, coaches make the adjustments that have to be made based on any changes to their offense and defense and we continue to the field. We got a turnover on the first series there, a pick by Kemal Ishmael and I thought we were on our way again. That was just disappointing."

On whether he does anything to fire the team up, perhaps with some passionate game-week speeches:

"All those fiery speeches, they last for one hit. They last for one hit. It comes down to what you've got under your third rib eventually. That fiery speech can maybe go for a play or two, but reality sets in after the first couple plays with the kind of the day you're going to have. Really, it's an individual battle and you've got to win those to win the war. Most kids size up opponents and what's going to happen during the game. But no, I lean on the kids. I lean on myself to get them ready. But they understand conference play. And especially when you're two games behind a team already, as we are with East Carolina who has two wins in the division already. It's a very important, critical game for us."

On RB roation in the Missouri game and why Storm Johnson didn't play more in the second half:

"I was disappointed that he didn't play more. As I said, it's not little league and everybody gets a chance to play. I think Storm Johnson is a very good running back. I thought in the second half, Brynn I think is a good back, but in the first half, Storm was making those guys miss. And in the second half, a couple of times that we felt we had creases there that would have went for yards, I thought Brynn got tripped up.

"Again, I asked why don't we have Storm out there, and he said he had cramped up. He asked me today, 'What can I do better?' I said, 'Don't cramp up,' and you'll end up playing more. I really believe he's the type of the back, the more he carries the ball, the better he'll be. He's a lot like Latavius. I think most good backs, the more they carry it the better they get."

On the status of Latavius Murray and whether he'll play vs. ECU:

"He's playing this week. I made that very clear to all ears listening."

On the blocking difficulties:

"The plays were there... The head placement wasn't there. I think it wasn't just the backside. I just think we weren't as physical. They didn't do anything different. Same defense. Same people. I think we just didn't attack it. Plus, I think too many bad things. Your quarterback has to make some plays. Not everything is always pretty out there. He has to make plays. I thought he was too square-footed trying to throw the ball. Stuff young kids have to learn to deal with when you're getting pressure. I think he took seven quarterback hits and three sacks. Again, as I tell him, 'You turn the corner and I expect you to get yards and not throw the ball out of bounds.' I said, 'I've got other quarterbacks.' If we're going to get running backs running, I want everyone on the team to understand every yard is important. I think we throw it away too soon. Again, he's young behind the center in my opinion. Some of the situations he got into there were typical. They're a pretty good rush team. 34, you'll see him in the NFL someday. He's a very, very good player."

On the defensive line's performance with the pass rush, and inserting Thomas Niles in at DT:

"Not as much Niles as much as I put 58 inside. Troy Davis. When you go back to (Troy Davis') sophomore year, (inside is) where he executed the best because he's a very quick individual. I thought the defensive line was the most active they've been all season. They came up with five sacks and could've had two more if the quarterback didn't make them miss on the two. I thought they were more active and if they can continue that pressure, then we'll be fine on defense. I thought we tackled better except for a couple of plays where we tried to throw knockout punches instead of wrapping up and trying to secure the tackle."

On the stats he looks at during preparation:

"The only stats I'm interested in are defense vs. the score. Then, time of possession. If I asked you right now, are we throwing the ball more or running the ball? We do a self scout and we're 53 to 47 percent pass to run this year. We're normally a 60-40 team. We're one of the few teams that way. Every other team I see is is 72-28. 72 percent pass. Again, we've got to get back to doing some things that we do well more often. I do think we need to spread it out. Get the ball more down field. Too many lateral throwing action. Then we've got to continue to utilize the talent that we have on the offensive side of the ball, in all areas. You can put three quarterbacks out there and make use of them. Fine. That's what you want to do and open up the field. The more you can open the field up, the more those inside lanes open up for the things we like to do too."

UCF was 2-2 at the same time in 2010, and whether the players notice that:

"The team is disappointed. Close doesn't count except in horseshoes. You've got to win these games. The last game I think from a standpoint of number of plays, yardage, all that stuff. You can't give up the big plays and that's what we did. That was the different in the game Saturday I thought. They understand that we expect to play 14 games this year. I told them that Sunday night. That's what our goal is, to play 14 games. And basically our goal is to win every game we play. Ultimately, we want to win the conference championship. East Carolina is in the way. They're basically playing well. They're 2-0 in conference. Every one of the conference games are very big games as far as who's going to be playing on December 2 conference championship."

On exchanging tape in light of the Ohio State/Michigan State flap:

"You're supposed to send whatever you film out. I guess there was some problem in the Big Ten? Nebraska called for our tape. I don't know what's going on there. You're supposed to show everything. What happened was you're supposed to show from the huddle out so you see everything taking place. I guess some people are cutting out some motions and things like that. They're showing the end result, not the beginning of how he got to that."

On whether complete video sharing is a rule or gentleman's agreement:

"You're supposed to show the whole play. The play starts when they're at the line of scrimmage. I don't know what the Big Ten rujle is. We have people that cut stuff out too. He's not in the league anymore, but he'd cut stuff out. You can take a guess who that is. But you can figure out what's going on."

O what stands out for East Carolina:

"They went to a new defense, more of a 3-4 package now. They ran some of that last year, but now they are a 3-4 team. They have seven new starters out there; they look like they're faster than they were a year ago. Offensively, they seem to have found a running back they're real happy with, a junior college transfer (Cooper No. 21). A lot of their receivers are back from last year. The quarterback is thorough, he manages the game well.

"It's going to be typical of what we've seen this year, no huddle and a lot of different variations as far as formations. With the short week, today is like a Monday-Tuesday and tomorrow is like a Wednesday-Thursday type practice.

"I understand we had a tough game Saturday, not just contact but the heat. We're in fairly good shape; I thought our guys hung in there pretty well as far as what's taking place. You have to watch wearing them down in practice with a short week."

On how he feels ECU stacks up in the C-USA East, compared to the other teams:

"The weekend I had off I thought I saw about three or four. I have one of those TVs where you get about 700 stations, but you can't find any of them. I don't get a directory with it. By the time I find the channel, it's halftime. I've seen East Carolina, Southern Miss, Tulsa, I've watched Houston, I saw Marshall. I don't know. It's game by game. I think you've got to bring your A game every game. The kids know what's online now. They understand it. You shouldn't have to remind them about what's at stake."

On running the ball more as the season progresses:

"No I think people are crowding the box with eight guys so were taking what's available. If you look at the conference and the amount of points given up and the amount of points scored, we're right about where we normally are, which I think is the number one thing you look at, as far as what you do when you have the ball in your hands and what they do when they have the ball in their hands. I think the big thing we still have to continue to get better on is ball security on offense and takeaways on defense."

On CB Brandon Alexander's contributions this year:

"I think Brandon, last year was a true freshman and we sort of threw him out there as a walk-on. He was a little nervous. But I think he's really come on. I like those long-arm guys because they get their hands on balls. He's really developed to be a pretty good transition player. He closes quickly on throws and he secures the tackle, which is what I'm more concerned about than anything else. Our perimeter people need to tackle better. Stop trying to knock guys out. Make sure to control the tackle and line up for another down.

"I think Brandon has done a good job and is solidly the starting corner over there. He's another 6-1 guy. You can't find those guys with range. All these guys have these 6-4, 6-5 receivers. You need some range over there to combat that."

On how Jeff Godfrey has progressed in his different roles on offense:

"Jeff's done a great job, he really has. We still need to find ways to get him the ball more in different situations. I think we try to utilize him as much we can in certain situations, and I've been very pleased with him as far as all that stuff that happened last year and it has been behind him. He's very happy of what he's doing right now and I'm putting him more on special teams. You may see him punt return this week."

On Godfrey's fumble on the last series:

"He had it. We're always talk about keeping the football high and tight, so that it's in the crook of your elbow and you cover down the three points. He caught it and had it just at the hip. The kid came in and did a great job on the strip. You see that ball by the hip, those end up on the ground because by the hip your elbow is wide and you end up getting pulled on that. Up tight there, you keep it always to the pad up tight. Now some of the kids complain they can't ran as fast. Wrong. Wrong. That's how they need to run with it. We're constantly reminding them. Put the ball away. Even when Kemal intercepted that ball, I was yelling at him, 'Put it away!' He's running tryin to beat guys and it looks like a loaf of bread out there. We're constantly reminding all the players what they have to get done there.

"Again, it's a disappointing game Saturday. I was laughing with Manny because I was here until about 9:30 or 10 grading it and then I was in the next morning at around 5 or 5:30 getting ready for ECU. As my wife said, 'Why didn't you just stay there?'

"That's what it's about. You're in this for competition. You're in it to win. When you don't, as the old saying goes, 'You die a little.' It's true, because you put so much effort into trying to get things done right. The kids aren't like that. They're resilient. This team, the senior class, they had goals they set for themselves. Close doesn't count. You've got to win."

On Blake Bortles' confidence and focus level:

"He's fine. People don't understand. A lot of things that happened to him are the first time it's ever happened. He's hasn't been out there for three years; he's been out there for one year (as a starter), four games, 25 percent of the season. If you get hit a couple of times, all of a sudden you start looking around and start getting a little antsy. Everybody's like that, until they have enough experience to get over that. I have put more pressure on practice this week to get some things done there, but I have the up-most faith in him controlling the offense and getting things done right. I think there were times we probably were a little bit out of sync on Saturday. That's the time when you want to probably put somebody else in. Our answer was the Wild Knight to give him a break so he could see what was going on. He'll be fine. A lot of the situations he'll be better the next time he sees that situation occur."

On the advantage of having two former starting quarterbacks, Rob Calabrese and Jeff Godfrey, who can help Bortles along:

"They both have been hit too. They know. They can relate to it. I think they do. Rob is probably the one that gets in his ear the most on the sideline as far as, 'Hey, you're not setting your feet. You're looking around. Pick your target out and throw it.' I think those are the things that there's so much going on in a young quarterback's head as far as your reads, the cadence, a lot of different things happening. I think as he sees more of those situations, he's only going to get better and better. I have the utmost confidence in Blake doing what he's supposed to do."



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