Mike London Press Conference Transcript - Oct. 17, 2011
QUESTION: You’ve already faced teams that have two of your former bosses this season, Coach Laycock and Coach Groh. You have Coach O’Brien coming in this week and former colleague Al Golden later in the year. Have you ever gone through a season like this in terms of similar story lines? Does that change anything in your preparation because you know the other sideline?
COACH LONDON: All I would say is it doesn’t change anything in terms of the preparation of the game, but it does add to the human element having worked with and become really good friends, our families knowing each other, and those things. Wishing each other well until you play each other, that type of thing.
But as far as the game prep and all other things go, trying to get your team better and prepared for the game has been as usual.
QUESTION: There is a quick turnaround following the N.C. State game with the team facing Miami the following Thursday. Is there anything the team can do to get ready for that quick turnaround?
COACH LONDON: Right now we’re just focusing on the N.C. State game. But you always have to look at the quick turnaround. After Saturday’s game, Sunday would be like a Tuesday practice and Monday would be like a Wednesday practice and so on and so forth. We’ll probably practice in the morning on Wednesday before we leave, and a lot of the guys will go to certain classes during the day and then we’ll leave later on.
That’s a week from now. But we’ve talked about it and make arrangements for it. But as I said, game week with N.C. State here, that is the main focus.
QUESTION: The team obviously had a good game rushing Saturday, but what do you think of your passing game right now? Does that have to become more efficient?
COACH LONDON: I guess you go with what’s been working. I think it’s the most yards we’ve had rushing in quite some time, so that was something that really kind of predicated the play calling. With Perry [Jones] having the game he did and with a healthy Kevin Parks and a healthy Clifton Richardson, there are not enough footballs to go around to give it to those guys.
You throw when you have to throw. It appeared in the latter part of the game and with running the clock that the running game was something that really started going and started clicking really well. Guys started doing a really good job of blocking the next level defenders. Kris Burd was one of our players of the game. Though the catches don’t reflect it, it was because of his blocking, his downfield blocking, his crack-block on the safeties, cracking on that outside linebacker. He, Perry, and Anthony Mihota were the players of the game on offense.
The running game is something that is very much a positive for us, and that was why we tried to ride the backs of those three running backs and play good defense behind them.
QUESTION: What is your impression of N.C. State?
COACH LONDON: They are very fast and very athletic. You see that with the teams that they’ve played. I just finished watching the Georgia Tech game. For a while there, I think it was 21‑14 going into the fourth quarter. Before you know it, Georgia Tech got a couple big scores on them.
I know that with the four‑three defense, they zone pressure a lot. There is a lot of three‑deep, but they also will bring people that will come after you.
Offensively it’s kind of a mixture of a pro-style attack. You have the quarterback there, Mike Glennon-a big, tall, strong arm guy. His completion percentage is pretty good. Dana Bible, the offensive coordinator, is another guy I knew from Boston College who is there.
Special teams‑wise, T.J. Graham is a dynamic punt returner and kick returner. I think he may lead the ACC in those categories. So they have a guy that can shorten the field in a heartbeat.
They play hard. They win a lot of the games that they’ve played, and it’s a very good team coming into Scott Stadium this Saturday.
QUESTION: What can you do as a coach to get the team to build off last week’s momentum rather than have a letdown?
COACH LONDON: One of the things that you always talk about is the feeling after the game-the euphoria, the celebration. That comes in the preparation and the planning and the practicing and the weightlifting and film studying and all of those things.
Just because you won a game like we won last week doesn’t guarantee that because of that feeling that you had that you’re going to win again the following week. It’s The preparation, the film study, the commitment in the weight room to the teammates and to your assignment.
There are just so many other things outside of just wanting to celebrate a victory. You’ve got to put the work in beforehand. You can even speak to all of the practices in the summer and all the lifting and all the things that they do. You celebrate the moment, but in the football season, it’s not over until you’re playing the last game-the last regular season game or the last fall game. Then you start celebrating and start reflecting on the accomplishments.
We won a football game against a very good team, and there is another very good team coming into Charlottesville that’s 3‑3 and that’s hungry for a victory. They’ve been off for a week, so they’ve had an opportunity for all the defensive guys that have missed to get healthy. I’m quite sure how it benefited us having an off-week; it’s going to benefit them as well.
The practice plan and the preparation of it-those are the things we just keep harping on before anything else. Then you enjoy whatever happens after the season. That’s the challenge going into this week. That game is over and now it’s N.C. State.
QUESTION: Why is it difficult for players to play a hundred percent week after week? What makes it’s so challenging?
COACH LONDON: I don’t know. If I find the answer to that, I’ll have guru status as some of the TV announcers and stuff like that. But you never know the particular game week part of it. Like sometimes during the course of the season, you’re heavy into an exam period. Sometimes there are just different things that you don’t see on the surface when you look at teams. But underneath there are some other elements that require them to be the student‑athlete part of it.
The excitement of the game and the build‑up for the game, I’m quite sure it’s as big for them. This game was big for us. It was homecoming and all of that. But the focus and challenge is always to be the same guy every week.
I know that’s coach talk again, but when you’re talking to a bunch of 19 to 20‑year‑olds about what they have to do to sustain the level of achievement and success, sometimes it doesn’t always reach their ears but sometimes it does.
If I had the answer to that…that would be kind of interesting to find out just how these young guys do think about how to get up.
When you’re trying to build a culture of winning, regardless of who you play and when you play, that becomes the constant. In some teams, no matter where they go-home or away-they’re consistent. That is the level we’re aspiring to be and hopefully reach.
QUESTION: Saturday you were almost exactly 50‑50 with run and pass. Are you planning to be more run heavy?
COACH LONDON: I would probably go into it saying that you make the game plan, and if you try to attack whatever weaknesses are perceived or whatever the scheme may dictate and whatever you’re having success at, you just keep at it. Just keep at it.
A lot of times the run will set up the play‑action pass off of that. The teams that are playing with eight or nine in the box, obviously you want to be able to throw the ball.
This is one of those games where they’ve played a lot of cover two, which means you rely on your secondary to handle all of the passing games which means now you have to send the guys in to defend the run. That’s part of the two‑gap defense. You have seven guys that basically picked up all the blocks.
We felt in this situation that we could run against them. That’s what we did, and we were able to do that and we were able to do it successfully. Those teams sometimes that play the eight‑man box, they bring the safety down and have an extra guy in the box. A lot of times you come up for it, and you run blocks and you throw the ball.
It just depends on the defensive game plan also, how they plan on attacking you. The pressures that go with the N.C. State game, what they do and how they do it, will be predicated on the amount of runs we think we can run against them and how the passing game may set up.
QUESTION: You have been thin at the linebacker position for a lot of the season. What impressed you about those starting guys and what they’ve been able to do?
COACH LONDON: I think you saw a glimpse of Steve Greer the year before. There is nothing flashy about him. He calls the plays. He’s a quarterback on the defense.
The last couple of games he’s really played well-very assignment, detail-oriented. He has been like the glue in the defense because he’s the guy who communicates with the guys up front, with secondary to make sure the coverages are in line and the fronts that are called are in line. He’s relished the role of being one of the team leaders. I’m really happy about his play.
LaRoy Reynolds has stepped his game up also. He’s gotten bigger, faster, stronger. He’s had a lot of plays in the game, as well as Ausar Walcott. His ability to play and add to the depth with Aaron Taliaferro has made the linebacker group a very improved group from last year. We talked about him last year with run fits, safeties being linebackers. This year they’re playing linebacker and playing like linebackers.
QUESTION: Chase Minnifield has made his reputation with interceptions. Has he taken his game to another level this year?
COACH LONDON: I think so and I believe so. In this particular game, the challenge was on him to guard their best receiver. That was number 5. He must have been 6-5. He was very athletic. You see all the plays on film prior to this game with him making one‑handed catches, athletic catches, with guys chasing him wherever he goes on the field.
But Chases’s run support-on blitzes or zone coverages or cover two with the corners being the primary support guy-he has kind of relished the role of being the guy that can come up and make plays and tackle. Kind of being a complete person.
Not just you take the best guy and you guard him, but also the guy that can be depended upon versus the run and the run fits. He’s relished the role of being the guy that whoever the best receiver is, ‘Put me over there. I’ll guard him.’ Also, he takes great pride in being the guy that can come off the edge and make sacks, make tackles, and get involved in the running game.
QUESTION: Was he always that way?
COACH LONDON: I don’t know if he wasn’t or that he didn’t have it in him. It’s just that maybe we didn’t require as much from the corner position to do that. This year some of the calls, some of the aggressiveness of the calls, has been calling for some corner fires, for corners to come off the edge. In the nickel package, he’s kind of like a “will” linebacker. A lot of times you bring the “will” linebacker over to the nickel package, and as he’s a nickel guy, he’ll also be called in to run the run stunts and game stunts. I think he’s relishing that role probably more than last year.
QUESTION: Can you talk about your relationship with N.C. State coach Tom O’Brien and some of your most memorable moments with him?
COACH LONDON: Tom was actually very instrumental in me getting an interview here years ago. It was a position for the running backs coach. I think at that time he hired Kenny Mack or Andre. I can’t remember it was so long ago.
Tom would always say, ‘Listen, if I ever get a chance to go anywhere…’ As coaches in waiting or coaches that want to be head coaches, you always have that short list of guys that you’d want on your staff. I’d like to think that if you asked him, I was one of those guys on that short list for the West Virginia job had he gotten it and other jobs had he gotten those.
Then he got the Boston College job, and I don’t know what phone call I was in the order of calling coaches, but I got the call and went had a couple of great seasons there. One of the most memorable was a time we went to Notre Dame there and beat them at their place. The bowl games, the opportunities that we had when we were there.
At that time, Coach O’Brien, Al Golden, Frank Spaziani we were all together at that time. It was great. I have a lot of fond memories of being up there at Boston College with Coach O’Brien. Now he’s moved on, I’ve moved on, and we’ve stayed in contact ever since.
Ever since I left, we’ve always been in contact. We see each other at least twice a year with the ACC coaches at coaches meetings and things. But Coach O’Brien gave me the opportunity in terms of BCS football.
QUESTION: Do you think the team is 4-2 because of its “no man left behind” mentality?
COACH LONDON: Part of it is that we have to play with the mentality that the sum of all of us together can help us win. We don’t just have one guy or two guys that are really outstanding and rely on them to make all the plays.
A great analogy is where Tim [Smith] catches the ball, and the first guy that’s down there is the offensive lineman who has to pass protect. The ball is thrown. He has to turn downfield. It’s that kind of effort.
That’s the kind of energy that we need on a sustained level-every opportunity that hopefully becomes contagious like some of these wins can, and it becomes the expected culture around here.
With the offensive lineman doing that and talking about it and the guys like Morgan Moses and everyone else… It’s not even just offensive linemen. To be on the sideline and watch a big guy run down the field like that and be the first guy-that’s energetic, picking a guy up. That’s a lot of energy to feed off of not only on the field, but off the field.
QUESTION: Liberty’s Danny Rocco has a connection with NC State since he faced him in week one. Will you exchange phone calls with him?
COACH LONDON: We’ll exchange phone calls. Scott Wachenheim was on Danny’s staff as offensive coordinator during his time there. Of course, Scott coaches the offensive line. Sometimes you ask about other things. The skill level may have been different, but signals, tempo of the game, just different things…
I’m quite sure we will, if we haven’t already. I will call Danny and hopefully he’ll be able to share some insight into their game.
QUESTION: The offense has been able to score in the first half of games but has been stagnant in the second half. Have you been able to pinpoint what the difference in terms of execution in the second half?
COACH LONDON: Not really. The game plan is what it is, and if a power play in the first quarter worked, a power play in the third and fourth quarter should work as well.
I just think it’s a matter of playing four quarters of good football, of executing good football.
The first couple of possessions-you want that to reflect the way you’re going to play the whole game. As it turns out, it’s very important that we got up on them early like we did because I think they settled in to doing some things to try to negate what we were doing.
But that’s something that is pointed out. The coaches pointed it out. You’ve got to be more consistent with it. You’ve got to put more points on the board, particularly in the third and fourth quarters because you never know. You might get into a game that you’re going to have to have a shootout-where you’re going to have to score more points than the other team. We’ll address that. Right now there is no concrete reason, but as I said, point noted.
QUESTION: Talk about Matt Conrath’s play recently.
COACH LONDON: I think Matt has transitioned from the three‑four. Lot of the scouts come in and continue to talk about his size and his ability, his being a three‑four defensive end. He’s physically suited for that.
But like Matt and the challenge of any defensive player, moving to the inside to play a three technique to get on the edge..his technique and his knowledge of playing the position has really improved.
Again, it was interesting to see that Matt and Nick Jenkins and Will Hill as inside guys were able to amass the number of tackles that they had because there is a lot of chop block going on. There are a lot of low cuts and things like that where you’ve got to use your hands. I think between two-yard to one-yar, to zero-yard gains, outside of maybe the negative plays, almost 28 and 30 are those plays.
I think they ran like 60‑something or whatever, so that’s a fairly significant number of plays that an offense wants at least three to four yards. It starts up front with taking care of the dive and then taking care of the quarterback. A lot of times the tackles and the defensive ends are responsible for that element of the wishbone offense.
QUESTION: After Georgia Tech scored three touchdowns in such a short period of time, what did the coaching staff do to refocus the team?
COACH LONDON: We kind of have been in that situation before with Indiana. Part of it was the mindset that the guys just felt good about playing in this game. They were excited about playing in this game. Unfortunately, the interceptions for touchdown returns and a turnaround like that, it can provide such a momentum changer that all of a sudden it just takes you out of the game.
But I think from a mental standpoint, like Oday [Aboushi] running down field, there was a lot of that still-a lot of that kind of fight and a lot of that was still left in the guys.
If you watched our sideline, the players on the sideline were into it. No one was threatened by what was happening. Obviously we had to correct it, but to fight back and to come back and continue to play really good defense, and then make stops when you have to make stops after the field position issues we had was huge.
Khalek Shepherd on the one return got across the 50. Dominique Terrell on the one return got it across the 50. The offense may not have been up to snuff, but there were still other elements-defensively and special teams‑wise-that kept us in the game.
There were some plays on the kickoff. Like I said, I mentioned Thompson Brown last night about doing a fantastic job. Two touchbacks and two times the ball’s on the 15‑yard line. All of those aspects I think helped us in how this game turned out.
That’s what you have to do. When one side’s not working maybe a half or whatever, the other elements of the team have to pick it up and increase their production. Certain elements of the team stepped up at certain times, and it culminated in a team victory.
QUESTION: In the first five games, we were under the impression that the quarterback game was scripted. Obviously Michael Rocco was out there four series and the interception came in the fifth series. Was it scripted that David Watford come in after the fourth series or was that a result of the interception?
COACH LONDON: It would be the fourth or fifth series that David was going to come in. Obviously on the sideline, the quarterbacks are watching the flow of the game. The first two drives are scoring drives. So after the interception it was more so, ‘Okay, let’s get David in the game.’
It wasn’t as much scripted as it was just the thought that the situation dictated Michael needed to sit on the sidelines for a little bit and watch the game, watch the linebackers creeping up for the blitzes, watch the safety rotations and things like that.
QUESTION: Is there a downside to Clifton Richardson fighting for extra yards like he does when it could result in a fumble?
COACH LONDON: I don’t think it was Clifton that had the fumble. It was Kevin Parks who was on the sideline and the ball popped up in the air. And the other fumble was Darius [Jennings] fumbling it on the kickoff, so that accounted for the two fumbles.
I think what Clifton has is an unbelievable center of gravity and strength to him. Somebody asked the question on the fourth down call last night, Why did we throw the ball?’ One of those plays, a third and short, Clifton was the ball carrier, and they brought a safety down that came off the edge. The safety was unblocked and met Clifton in the back field and actually had an opportunity to create a fourth down situation. Clifton, because he’s so strong in the leg and hip area, was able to spin off the guy and then fall forward. We ended up getting the first down.
That is the kind of strength he has. Then you saw him on the touchdown run-just the presence of mind to get to the end zone. He’s making the most of every opportunity that he has out there. It’s always good to see Perry [Jones] do well. But a healthy Kevin Parks comes in, he does well. Then the touches that Clifton gets-I think he averaged over six yards a carry or whatever.
It’s a positive thing to see a big back like that-big backs that can run and run over people. He’s got a bright future ahead of him, so we’re excited about him.
QUESTION: A reporter here says that he doesn’t remember Jacob Hodges as a wildcat quarterback in high school. Was Hodges a drop-back quarterback?
COACH LONDON: Jacob came to me-and remember, we’re on the honor system here at UVA-and he said he ran the offense in high school so I believed him. Actually the whole scout team offense was the offensive scout team player of the week. Usually it’s one or two players. It’s highlighted by Hodges being the guy.
But he was adamant about knowing that offense. The way he practiced-his footwork, and the different kind of things you do with the ball-he looked like he had done it before.