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Al Groh press conference comments, Oct. 9, 2007

Opening Statement:
We are very impressed with the (Connecticut) team in all phases. In the priority of how we see things (they) have an excellent return game with two very explosive return men. They’ve already got one 97-yard return for a touchdown this year. As we saw in a number of games around the country this weekend, just one of those kind of plays throws everything else that you might have expected the game to be like out of kilter. That’s a particular thing that caught our attention. In the order of priorities that we assess things, we always look at special teams first and then, obviously, we always look at the other team’s defense. Special teams and defense are kind of the foundation of how games go. (We’re) very impressed with the special teams operation, particularly the return game. You have to be impressed with the results of their defense; I think they’re fourth in the country in total defense and about (the) same in scoring defense. They are one of the top teams in the country in terms of takeaways, especially interceptions, so that’s certainly got our attention.

Q: You stress being the same team week to week. After winning these last five games, how do you see that progressing? Is it coming along the way you’d like it to?
A: All of us on the team have a real good understanding of what this teams’ personality is. I think it’s still a humble team and it’s a hungry team and it’s a team that understands how to go about preparation and the value that preparation has to what we’ve been able to do. I’m very confident that that’s not going to change.

Q: If close games are going to be something that you guys are going to be in quite frequently, how big of a boost is it have won one the way that you won one (like last Saturday vs. Middle Tennessee)? Not only for Jameel Sewell to have engineered the drive, but for everyone else to have been part of it.
A: That one was certainly different than the others, but other than the Pittsburgh game, all the others were pretty tightly still at issue in the fourth quarter, some more so than others, but still at issue. That’s why I think this team is very comfortable with playing close games. Part of that comfort level comes from having been in them before and having performed in a positive way in those circumstances. A lot of it is just in those circumstances the players keeping their poise and keeping their confidence and not getting antsy about things and just continuing to execute with the idea that if we do that, things will turn out well. The other three were ones where we had the lead, we had to make some plays to maintain the lead, either keep the ball or take it away, but we did have the lead. This one the other day, we didn’t have the lead then, but actually we didn’t have the lead three times in the game. Anytime you can play from behind and catch up that’s a positive sign, but to have done it three times in the same game was a very positive sign that the players are not rattled by those circumstances. They just continue to play on.

Q: What does it say specifically about Sewell’s development to come back from the interception and put that (final drive) together because obviously the quarterback feels a huge part of the burden.
A: The way things were in the past when he would have circumstances like that, it would really affect him (and) he’d get down about it. He has citedand we’ve had conversations about it, Mike (Groh)’s had conversations with him about it, about the need to have a short memory. As much as saying, I need to work more on the out cut.’ or I need to work more on throwing a deep ball,’ he stated that is one of the things that he really wanted to work on with his game was the mental part of it and dealing with that type of circumstance. That would be a positive indicator from the other day.

Q: If Cedric Peerman is out do you expect to kind of rotate Andrew Pearman and Keith Payne the way you did the other night as to opposed to one guy getting all of Cedric’s carries?
A: Mostly likely they’ll both be involved, although the players are aware we’re going to scrutinize the performance in practice this week very closely. Not that we don’t always, but really grade it to a T and based on that performance we’ll make a decision. We want them to understand that part of this is competitive and the way to get more playing time is to show us in practice that you’re the one deserving of more playing time. That will make it very clear-cut for us, but part of the intent is that it will hopefully help each player raise the level of his game.

Q: What are your thoughts on Connecticut quarterback Tyler Lorenzen?
A: (He’s a) very good player. He’s really been the catalyst to a lot of their success. He’s a junior college transfer player. He was quite spectacular in the Duke game, both running and throwing the ball. I’m sure that gained a lot of confidence for him but also for their staff in utilizing him to be able to run and pass the way he did in the first game. They turned him loose in that game and they’ve never slowed him down. He’s got a real presence in the pocket, he’s a big kid 6-4, 6-5, (and) he does have good movement abilities and good running skills and he’s shown us he’s hard to knock down in the pocket. A lot of his positive yardage has come when he has escaped somebody who seemed to have him sacked.

Q: Looking at their drive charts it looks like they have a knack for long drives, the last three games they’ve had at least three drives over 70 yards?
A: They have a very high time of possession. There are a couple of reasons for that. They’ve put on some very long drives themselves, but being up there in the top 10 in the country in takeaways, they’ve been able to take time of possession away from the other teams, mostly by interceptions. That is one of the reasons why the points allowed are down because when they have the ball it’s pretty hard for the other team to score. That’s got to be factored in on our part; we can’t allow them to have all that extra time.

Q: Connecticut has two backs with two 100-yard games and quarterback with five touchdowns for the season. What’s the difference between those three guys?
A: (Andre) Dixon and (Donald) Brown are very similar players, when (Lou) Allen comes in the difference is about 35 or 40 pounds. He’s a real big back; he hasn’t played here of late. It’s a significant difference. (With) the other two, the styles are about the same.

Q: Is there anything to be said for team coming off a bye week?
A: When you get into this part of the season one of the advantages of having a bye after you have built up some games is that you have significant period of time to do a lot of self-study that’s not available during the week of a normal preparation week. There are some things that we would like to probably research and find out about our pattern of doing things that we just don’t have time to do. That’s why a lot of times when you play a team coming off a bye, you get a lot of things different than what you might have expected because they have had a chance to assess their effectiveness of doing certain things or their play calling in some certain areas. That is the advantage a team on a bye has as well as the fact that they were able to start preparation for this game last week, so they will have almost twice as many practice opportunities as we will have. (That) will be the case in the following game (against Maryland on Oct. 20), so that is certainly an advantage that those two teams will have in these games.

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