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Al Groh press conference quotes, Sept. 9, 2008

Talk about how you saw QB Peter Lalich improve from game one to game two?
Groh: (His) reads came a little bit faster, recognition of the hot read, reads up the field all came a little bit faster; not lightning quick but a little bit faster.

What concerns you about Connecticut just looking at them on film?
Groh: Last year it took everything that we had to win by one point at home. Less than 50 percent of our starting lineup from that game returns (including) our starting quarterback. Almost all of UConn’s starting lineup returns (including) their starting quarterback. It was a pretty tight margin of victory last year under ideal circumstances for us, so obviously the transition of those circumstances is the number one issue with our team.

Were you able to get anything positive out of that first game (against Southern California) preparing for teams like Connecticut the rest of the way?

Groh: The schemes were quite a bit different so in terms of the last game that we played and the one coming up particularly defensively, it’s not too much carry over from the schemes. And then obviously from a talent standpoint, perhaps there’s not too much carry over from playing them to almost anybody that you can play. Certainly there may be some hidden positive carryover in there, but it’s pretty much an isolated game.

Although he missed an extra point late, it looked like Yannick Reyering got all of his kickoffs in the endzone. Were you concerned when a guy misses the extra point since you play so many close games?
Groh: Oh sure. Both of these kickers are new; they have a lot of promise. There’s a lot of things that they are going to experience, a lot of things that we are going to have to deal with as a team before we can say that this situation is really solidified.

What happened on the missed extra point?
Groh: Just that the ball was not struck well. (Yannick was) a little bit out of rhythm in his approach. Every kicker has a different style … whether it’s a guy swinging a bat or swinging a golf club, there are a lot of individual differences in the swing, but rhythm and balance are the key. He was out rhythm on the kick and those are the kind of things that he’s still becoming comfortable with or routine with. He is so smooth and rhythmic in his approach when he’s on, that when he’s out of rhythm, it’s very clear that this didn’t go smoothly.

This is a veteran UConn team. Do they bring pretty solid things on both sides of the ball?

Groh: Very much so. You used an excellent word with them, they are a very solid operation. The type of operation that would be expected of a veteran team; that is there are a lot of players that clearly not only know what their job is, but are pretty polished in how to do that job.

That’s characteristic of veteran teams. (With) younger teams, the first thing the players really learn is, hey, what’s my job, who do I have to block on this (play). I just want to make sure that I am blocking the right guy, that I am not blocking the wrong guy.’ That’s their paramount interest, who am I suppose to cover on this particular play?’

And then once they get that down then it’s second nature and they can progress more to really concentrating on, okay, let’s really develop the skills in terms of how to execute this assignment that I’m very comfortable with now.’

We can clearly see that with their team. At most of the positions, I really didn’t even have to go the depth chart to look up the players and frankly at this point there are quite a few of the positions where I don’t know the player’s name, but I know his number because I remember the number from last year. I know the tailbacks are No. 2 and No. 34, I know the fullback’s No. 49, I knew the quarterback was No. 4 before I ever put the tape on. I know the left tackle is No. 64 … I just remember them all. It just makes them a little bit more like a conference game. When you play a non-conference team two years in a row, you begin to build up your familiarity with them as opposed to this a one-time shot, say like when we played Middle Tennessee last year. You know, what systems do these guys run, what’s the names of their players?’ Before we ever put the tape on, I had an idea basically what systems we were going to look at.

Is there something Temple did especially well to hold the UConn offense in check last week?

Groh: What was the score 12-6? In a game in which only 18 points were scored … Hurricane Hanna played a role in that. That game was played in conditions as we had Saturday morning and as were forecast to be the conditions here. We were fortunate to have it move out but it moved up there … On the tape you can clearly see they were getting the sideways rain, so that had something to do with it, I’m sure. Not to minimize it, but Temple played some good defense. When you see both teams down there low scoring like that, it’s pretty reliable that the elements had a factor in it.

Do you have to worry more this week about the quarterback taking off and running than you’ve had to in the first two weeks?
Groh: Oh yes. Again, before we ever put the tape on, we had a pretty vivid remembrance of the impact that he had on the game running the ball last year. We had seen that coming into our game and it was reinforced by seeing it in person. That’s good because I think the players remember it’s not just something that the coach up front is talking aboutthe players remember it.

I think he 75 yards rushing last week, so it’s confirmed again by his production in that area. But he’s unusual in these running quarterbacks because he’s got a good element of elusiveness but he’s a big presence in the pocket also. Some of his runs come about when there is pressure in the pocket and people have their hands on him and he just shakes them off and is able to take off. So it’s definitely a factor.

Do you need to go back to last year to remember their passing game hasn’t really flourished yet but it can in that system?
Groh: This is an unusual third game, I think, in the fact that in the first game they were pretty well in command from the outset. And the second game with … (Hurricane) Hanna … being a factor in that game, it’s hard to really … you know a lot of times going into the third game you start to see the picture of how a team is wanting to play. We don’t really feel that we have seen that here. Their defense (was) not really challenged in the first game from the matchup standpoint (and we) had the elements involved in the second game. So a lot of our thoughts going into the game are based on what we experienced ourselves last year.

Did you watch Denzel Burrell before his first start to see if he was going to be unusually nervous or if there was going to be anything different about him?
Groh: I did as a matter of fact. What I really did is I tried to pay attention all week long at how he went about things. All week long he really acted like a player who took on the mentality of, hey, I’m a starter,’ rather than, oh, I guess I’m taking somebody’s place.’ He really played that way; he did a real nice job.

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