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Feels good to be in victory lane again. Thought our kids came out and played well early, set a good tempo and a good precedent. Thought later they lost focus, just lost focus, jumped offsides on the first play of the second half, dropped a ball, got off rhythm, some second and third downs we didn't convert. It's a shame cause you want to keep up the momentum, like to stay hot. Thought the defense played well. Unfortunately they gave up the score before half, but then they did a nice job coming out, stopped the drive second half-jumped offsides again, but then we came back and had a nice drive. Very proud of the running game. Like a tale of two halves. 250 in the first half, ran for 200 in the second half. Got some mixture going on, very good, still kept balance in what we did. Had some young guys still making some plays, made some mistakes, but think we're getting better. Special teams was very solid on the day. Superman finally missed. Unfortunately. That was-caught me off guard. I was standing there-I was questioning the ref. thought they were wrong, but he kicked the ball very well the rest of the day, punted it well when we did punt it. We're getting better. We're a body of work, continuing to strive, got a lot of young players-Devonta ran for over a hundred yards again and made two really big runs. One, not even the touchdown run, but the third down conversion run that he made with about eight or nine minutes to go. He got loose and was able to run the football. Third down wasn't bad. We were 50% again. Had too many sacks. A couple were on EJ, held it, could have gotten rid of it. Couple of them we missed some blocks. Just gotta keep getting better. Just gotta get a great week of preparation.
Jermaine Thomas seemed to give you a real spark today.
Yep, he was a captain. I felt that the last week or two, with his attitude and body language and reads. Really starting to feel himself. And he's fast and really starting to feel like his oldself. Wouldn't be bad to have him fresh down the stretch.
How's it feel to have two wins in a row now?
Oh it's great. You gotta continue to have balance. We're getting better in the running game. We're getting better in the things we're doing. We got a long way to go, we're nowhere close to where we need to be. But it does feel very good to put two good running performances behind you and be solid in the passing game-still hitting some big ones in the passing game. Some opportunities-I thought we had a couple of drops on things that could have really gotten us-EJ laid that out just a hair more. We're getting there.
Did it feel like a blow out?
No it didn't, it felt like a very tight game. Makes me feel better as a coach because it wasn't a blow out and we were able to run that football when it mattered and when it was a two score game and they were battling back. When O'Brien was in the game and when that guy's got the ball in his hand, anything can happen. He's a very good quarterback. More proud of the way we did it that way than if it would have been a blowout.
Address how EJ helps you run the ball.
It changes the whole dynamic because you have to keep people backside from things he does and if he has quarterback runs, it's about a six foot difference. In football we fight for inches all the time. If a lineman-when you don't have the quarterback running so you're up a guy-he's gonna reach to a guy over here. If the quarterback's running it you got an extra blocker and he's blocking a guy back here so you're talking about a six foot difference on the leverage of what he has to do-so his angles, it makes him a better football player because of what you're asking him to do. You know what I'm saying? Because you got the back to be the extra guy, to take up the block for that-it just changes the whole dynamic. And then you gotta be careful of what coverages you play cause then you can get your one on one matchups and what you want. When you have a quarterback who is an athlete like that, it makes a huge difference. It helps the linemen get better and then as they gain confidence you don't have to run it. They start getting confident in what they're doing and they get better. We're gradually working that way.
If you had EJ the whole year would your record look different right now?
Well anytime-I don't know many people who can lose a quarterback of that caliber. That's not an excuse. That's ball. If you're a team and the program you want to be, you gotta overcome and adapt-I'd like to have Datko and and Spurlock, but that's ball and you can't whine about it as a coach. You gotta figure out a way to get it. But getting him back makes a difference. There is no doubt.
What's your take on the Greg Reid fair catch call?
I didn't see, they said he pointed at the ball. They're saying you can't do that. I gotta let it go, if it's a rule, it's a rule. I'm not gonna argue with it. I guess that's what it is. I always thought you can't so the safe, but he just pointed. He pointed at the ball to show the guys where it's at . I'm dumbfounded too. Maybe I'm wrong, I'm not saying I'm right. That one could have come out of the gate.
They said the rule is that you can't point at the ball?
That's what they said. What they told me.
Is it safe to say that this is a four-wide, shotgun, no huddle offense now?
No, because you go back and look at that run. We got three-wide, I-formation sometimes, split back at pro, we're still multiple. We can go no huddle. We can spread it out and do it, but we can still get back in conventional sets and I think you gotta do that sometimes. When you got young tackles and you put short corners out there, you're asking for trouble. You gotta protect those guys in some way.
Talk about the defensive line.
Defensive line I thought was very dominant on the day. Put pressure on the quarterback, I don't know how many sack they wound up with. They got six, that's very good. And still deflected some balls, harassed, got an intentional grounding once or twice. Some guys'll put their hand in the dirt and when you got good ones up front, it changes the ball game.
Talk about Bjoern Werner and Brandon Jenkins' ability to contain the quarterback today.
And stay upfield and get underneath and free rush, and run him down and then Timmy Jernigan coming with constant pressure on the side, that's a force and a strength. Sometimes it ain't just necessarily getting free, but when you can take the walls and squeeze them in, when you can get the push up the middle. To me-when I played quarterback, that's worse than turning the guy loose sometimes. Sometimes you can turn a guy loose and miss, but when the walls come caving in on you, it makes it tough and we're getting good push on the edges but we're also getting good push on the inside.
What changed with Jermaine Thomas from the first few weeks to these last few weeks?
Well the first three weeks he didn't practice. He sat for three weeks at camp. He didn't practice a day. He was out for the first three weeks with migraines and all that and we found out it was a slight concussion issue he had gotten. He was out of shape and out of whack and out of rhythm and the other guys got reps. Ty was playing well and 8 was playing well. You had other guys playing well. And as things go on he kept working and getting back and that's what I commended him for. You still got half a season left, that's a lot of ball. For him to be fresh down the stretch and to be hitting things and that speed and that athleticism, it's a great addition and I'm glad he's getting back in the groove.
Talk about Timmy Jernigan. Has he stepped up?
Oh he has. He's pushing himself up better and better. Good to be a number 8, huh?
It looked like you guys used and the pass to set up the run.
We did, matchups. We had some runs called, but that's just what they gave us and EJ was taking it and we were able to execute and hit it. Got some big plays. Wideouts. Got the running game going.
Does Maryland's touchdown at the end leave a bad taste in your mouth?
No, it doesn't leave a bad taste in your mouth. I just wish it wouldn't have happened. Getting Avis some work and the last one it kinda looked like he gotta a little push, but he got it and the other one he just made a great run and catch. That's-even the big play that got when Greg was on the guy, he just jumps up. It was great coverage, but sometimes they make it. They're on scholarship, too. They play. I commend them. It wasn't from lack of-from poor technique or lack of effort. They made a good play. That's ball. You live with it and we'll correct the technique and move on.
What'd you think of the young offensive line on that last drive?
Very good. The last couple drives we got going in that second half when we got the juice going for us and we were wanting to pound the ball and create some situations. I was very proud of the way they stepped up and did that.