Mike London's Weekly Press Conference Transcript - Oregon Game
Sep 2, 2013
Q. Did you expect that type of tempo from BYU?
COACH LONDON: Yeah, we expected that tempo. We kind of prepared for it. I mean, it started with Evan Marcus, the way he was training the guys, even in practice there were some segments in that we went up-tempo ourselves. And anticipating that type of approach from BYU there were a lot of times that’s we designated this is going to be a no-huddle, up-tempo period, so we did that quite often. You really can’t get into it until you’re into the flow of the game. We expect that Oregon’s tempo will be much faster, and the plays being run much quicker. So we had practiced it, but until you get into the flow of the game like that, then you experience it.
Q. Coach, late in the game, Daquan Romero played middle linebacker. Is that only for nickel or is he backing up Henry? Is that a special circumstance?
COACH LONDON: No, I think you try to get speed on the field. Not saying that Henry’s not fast. But I think what you’ll see, you’ll see the defense or you’ll see Jon trying to get guys on the field that can run, particularly for this game that’s coming up, because you’ve got to be able to run. There is a faster element on the field, so we’ll continue to keep coming up with defenses and personnel that will best suit what we’re trying to accomplish. I think at that point in the game, we wanted to get a little faster on the field.
Q. Just looking at Oregon on tape, do you see any clear weaknesses with them? What spots are you looking to try to get away with?
COACH LONDON: No, they’re an excellent football team. Obviously, number one in the turnover margin last year. They didn’t punt this past game, had over 700 yards of total offense, so there are a lot of things that they do that’s predicated to the talent that they have and the system that’s they use. They’re clearly one of the best teams in college football right now. We are putting a plan together as we speak. The coordinators are putting it together, and we’ll see how the week progresses, but obviously this is one of the best college football teams in the country, and we happen to have the chance to play them here in Charlottesville.
Q. Is there any sort of offensive benchmark that you need to get to in order to have a chance against Oregon? What did you like in particular about the offense, and what didn’t you like?
COACH LONDON: I think we need to score more points than they do eventually. But you know there are some good things. You’d like to have had our ground game be present and prevalent most of the game. It showed up in spots. Obviously we have to do a better job on our third down situations. We were 6-for-20, and a couple of those were drops. Couple of those were — they weren’t efficient throws. We have to improve ourselves there. Because if you’re off the field, you know, going 30 percent, third down, that means you’re turning the ball back over to them. We had to do a better job of converting some third downs and keeping our offense on the field and trying to stretch the field more. But I think we’ve always talked about the second game being the game that you want improvement. And there are a lot of thing that’s we can improve on from sideline management to substitution issues. But obviously, now you’re playing a great football team, you’re going to have to even raise that level of improvement to another level and that remains to be seen.
We’re formulating a plan as we speak now and we’ll move forward on to Saturday.
Q. How much of the offensive struggle was a new system? How much was it first-team jitters for David Watford? How much was it maybe conditioning?
COACH LONDON: Maybe a little bit of everything. It was David’s first game back, taking all the snaps and being the guy in there. Maybe little jitters here and there: We have to make sure that we can execute the things that can help us. We did have one offensive penalty, and that was the only penalty, though we had six, much less than we’ve had in the previous season, but the conditions had a little bit to do with it. But they had to throw the same ball. They had to handle the ball as we did. We’re looking to improve in that area and all areas. The running game, and the efficiency in our short to intermediate throws, I think that’s critical in making sure that we get those catches and turn those catches into first downs rather than getting off the field and going 6-for-20.
Q. Obviously Mark was there, but did you notice anything different in the one game he played this year versus everything they did with Chip Kelly at Oregon before?
COACH LONDON: I think so. I think Scott Frost is the coordinator. He’s up in the box. There is still a lot of influence that they’ve been having the last couple of years. They’re still averaging I think last year 44.7 points a game. You still see that high-octane type of approach that Coach Frost has, but also with Mark. I think it’s a culture they’ve been around that there is an expectation of how they play, how their offense plays. You really don’t see a huge difference in maybe in the play calling part of it. But you see a lot of philosophy about quick plays. Get the ball in space. Actually they run the ball more than people think with a great tailback that they have. So I think it’s about three of those explosive plays, which seems to be something that they do well. I think in this past game in seven minutes Oregon scored four touchdowns and a field goal. So they’re putting points on the board. Those are the things that we have to be mindful of with the who and the what that’s on the field. Also making sure that their tempo doesn’t put us in a position where we’re a detriment to trying to play well.
Q. How hard is it to get the scout team to run the plays correctly to give a good look to your defense?
COACH LONDON: You try to allow an efficient scout team to run the plays. But you also have to kind of reproduce the hurry-up element to it. So we may go in with some cards, have a few plays that the offense and scout team look at knowing they’re going to run this play and that play. Hopefully trying to initiate some aggressiveness with that so they don’t have to think as much. They’ll probably go good on good as well. As I said, our offense uses elements of the no-huddle, quick-tempo as well. So we’ll probably do some more good on good work than we’ve done in the past because of that alone.
Q. When you saw the ball tipped before Anthony Harris intercepted the ball, is there a part of you that’s saying, thank God, we finally got a play to go our way?
COACH LONDON: Well, you know you always hope that the game’s never over until the whistle blows. I think those guys played hard defensively the entire game. They did a really nice job running after the quarterback, the sacks, the pressures, the hits on the quarterback, couple of PBUs, not only from the secondary but from the front guys, so you know, with the conditions with that throw and the tip, and on the punt. They punted the ball and there was a penalty, I wanted to make him punt it again, because I just saw the punter just wiping his hands. He couldn’t get the moisture off his hands. Instead giving him an opportunity to make him handle the ball again, it’s just one of those things that he bobbled it, and Anthony was right there and made a great play on it. So, the whole day it downpoured then the sun is out. You just had to be in the right spot at the right time, and he was in the right spot at the right time. It definitely was in our favor.
Q. Alec Vozenilek had a huge game punting-wise. How important is it for him to repeat that he is particularly this week? Do you angle things differently when you think the guy might be the best returner in the country?
COACH LONDON: Yeah, you’re hoping that Alec has another big game where he places the ball, whether we’re kicking it out of bounds or whether we’re trying to hang it up in the air, whatever it may be. It’s going to be important for our cover team to do a fantastic job, because you’re right, he [Oregon’s Thomas] is one of the best if not the best in the country. So that again will be game planning and how we approach, how we will cover, and how we will kick, and the way we’ll kick, all of those things. The special teams coverage part is going to be critical for us.
Q. Dominique Terrell has struggled returning punts in the past, but he seemed like a different guy on Saturday, how have you worked with him and helped him develop his confidence?
COACH LONDON: I think one big thing is to tell a guy that might be struggling a little bit listen, I believe in you and we’re going to stick with you. I think that sends a message of confidence to the individual that, hey, these guys are going to stick by me. Although he didn’t have many passes thrown to him during the course of scrimmage plays, I thought he did an excellent job of fielding the punts in conditions that, as I said, were rainy and guys coming barreling down on them and making that one run that started some things for us.
So Nikki has done a great job of being a team player, and another one of the players that is a selfless player that just wants to find a way to help us win. And in the BYU game, it was the return game. There will be games where he will catch passes as a receiver, but in this game he came up big for us in the return game.
Q. In general, how satisfying was it to see the improved special teams play and the defenses playing given the changes? Is there a certain satisfaction in seeing sort of immediate rewards from that?
COACH LONDON: Well, I think all we want to see is improvement and against a caliber of team like that, there was noticeable improvement in game one of a lot of games left to play. We can talk about it at the end of the season. But for Game 1, there is more improvement that needs to be made. It was good to see that there were a lot of players that did a lot of good things, and we want to continue to build on that.
Q. Were you able to look at what Stanford did at all to stop the Oregon offense? Was there anything you were able to take from it?
COACH LONDON: I think in this profession you make those phone calls to people that might have been on the staffs that played against them or people that know about their style. You do a lot of film study. I’m quite sure that Jon [Tenuta] and the rest of the coaches have called several people, asked about techniques of how to defend certain things. As I said, yesterday we watched BYU and we introduced Oregon to the team. Today is strictly a day with the players being off, we are dedicated to all of Oregon and finding out as much information as we can, and starting to formulate the game plan for our Tuesday practice.
It’s trying to find the who, what, where, why, how and all those things.
Q. At what point do you try to tell the players they have to turn the page and go forward even after a big win?
COACH LONDON: Right in the locker room, right after — we always have a little celebration of dousing each other with water and all that good stuff – yelling and getting it out right now – because after that, it was on to Oregon. You can’t be complacent. You know, it was good to win another home opener. It was good to win a game, but we can’t be satisfied, and we’re not satisfied. We understand that there’s a tremendous challenge in front of us, not just with this team, but other teams to come into Scott Stadium and for us to go on the road. So we’ll have to rise to the challenge again.
Q. I don’t have the numbers, and I’m sure you don’t, but this is probably in your time here the biggest underdog game for UVa, do you challenge them with shocking the nation going into this game?
COACH LONDON: Why not? That’s what college football is all about. Having the opportunities to play on those days that a lot of people say that you can’t win. A lot of people said we wouldn’t be able to beat BYU. And I know, no disrespect to BYU, I know Oregon is number two or number three in the country right now. So our mindset has to be one of we’re playing at our place. We’ve got to bring energy and passion because we know they’re an excellent football team. But instead of asking why, we ask why not?
Q. Maurice Canady and Eli Harold are two of the youngest guys on your defense, how happy are you with the progression those two have made and talk about the advances they’ve made when they first arrived here?
COACH LONDON: Maurice has done a fantastic job in camp and actually earned him a starting spot, and there was a battle going on between he and Hoskey there. But the way we end up playing Maurice, he played a lot of that corner and some of that nickel. Actually is a guy playing the linebacker position, and you’re right, he led us in tackles. I think when it comes to defending against the pass, he’s fearless, and he’ll run deep with you. He’ll come up on the flat routes. He’ll come up and set the edge versus the run.
It was good to see him have that type of mentality that, listen, I’m going to play this game, I’m going to play physical, tough, aggressive – the same thing with Eli. They’re two guys that played as true freshmen. Didn’t have a whole lot of snaps, but now to their maturation process, we’re going to count on them to make plays for us. And I think they answered that question at least for this first game, and now for games to come, we’re hoping that they can be mainstays and guys that can continue to make plays for us.
Q. Bronco Mendenhall said the other day that he thought your defense was kind of gassed at the end of the first period, and, again, in the fourth period. Did you sense that? Was there not enough opportunities to substitute because, obviously, Oregon plays at probably a faster pace than that.
COACH LONDON: I guess you could look at it in that regards. There were a couple of series, particularly one they scored that they got after us a little bit. Then you go back and look, there were a lot of punts in this game. Someone was doing something right in regards to the conditioning out there. I looked out and they were getting tired as well.
With us doing a lot of movement and bringing the safety down and rotation of different things that it kind of played into our hands as far as moving guys and not getting off their big linemen. But I’m pleased with the way the game ended. I mean, the way that the game ended with their last eight plays going for incomplete passes before the Hail Mary at the end. Whether it was pressure, whether it was — whatever it may have been, there was someone breathing down the quarterbacks neck, and at the end of the game, that’s when it counts. And I think our guys rose to the challenge.
Q. Morgan Moses moved out to left tackle. Was it as seamless as it seemed and you hoped it would be?
COACH LONDON: You know, he’s done that before. He’s played over there before. I think it’s a natural position for him. He can play either side but he knows that you’re going to get the other team’s best rusher. If you had to build a team – I know people talk about when a quarterback, a left tackle, and you want a rush defensive end, because all of them affect the ability and efficiency of the other. And I think that Morgan understands that he’s always going to be viewed as — you’re only going to be as good as you respond and you perform. I know he had a winning grade. I don’t know — I know Van Noy had a good game as well. He’s always going to have a good game. He’s an outstanding player.
But Morgan knows that he’s got to turn it up because he’s got to protect the quarterback’s blindside. We didn’t give up any sacks, that is the first time in a long time. We can keep doing those type of things. Now we just pick up the completions for the third down situations, and I think we’re more efficient, and we keep the ball longer and we move the ball. So Morgan playing well is critical for us to be successful.
Q. Henry looks more comfortable in the middle than on the outside. Did you always intend on moving him back to the middle?
COACH LONDON: I think he was kind of in that back-up mode there to tell you the truth. The middle linebacker is kind of like the quarterback on defense. He makes all the calls. You know, don’t forget, Henry was an All-ACC academic performer. Very smart, very capable of doing those type of things. I think the position, what it asks for, you want him to play between the tackles, but a middle linebacker has to run to the sidelines as well, and I think he can do those things. I think more than anything else, his ability to the call, the fronts, the stunts, making communication with the secondary that that plays right up Henry’s alley and is one of his strengths.
Q. You mentioned Van Noy, it seemed like a couple times they were moving him over to go against Whitmire. How do you think Jay, overall, held up in the game? Do tend to give him more help with the tight ends or running backs?
COACH LONDON: It depends. Obviously, with Van Noy and you look at other college games, Clowney, all those guys, you see sometimes running backs chip. You know, they’ll rush it before they go out. You see the tight end, the off the line position that if he is rushing on the outside, he chips and then releases. So we try to do a couple things to help Jay if that occurred. Sometimes you full line slide and make sure if he goes on the inside move and the guard can help him as well. We always said you try to find who and what can wreck the game for you, and obviously, Van Noy is one of those type of guys. But you’re right.
Jay did an admirable job, and he can continue to get better as well. We need him to do better.
Q. Does Oregon have a Van Noy type of guy?
COACH LONDON: When you see them play, they’re a tall, lanky, athletic team. They look like the Green Bay Packers, you know? But that’s part of who they are. Their team forces a lot of turnovers. They score a lot of touchdowns. And their two corners are probably the two best corner tandems in college football. Those are some of the thing that’s we’re going to have to make sure we pay particular attention to is the ability of their linemen. Kind of the 3-4 defense we’ll see it again. But they can run. Their whole team can run.
I’ve said it before, and I mean this, the guy that goes to get the tee after the kickoff is really fast, and their whole team is fast. We’ll have to be ready for that.
Q. As Jake McGee’s role began to expand as the game went on, when you look back to the preseason, was he slowed by his injury?
COACH LONDON: Yeah, like I said, last week when the depth chart came out there were ohs and awes about him listed low on the depth chart. I said not to put too much credence in that. I think in this game, Zach Swanson played 52, 53 reps and Jake had 41. A lot of that was predicated on some of the running formations and things that went on.
Jake is one of our best players. He’s not been mentioned as a Mackey Award candidate because he lacks skills. He has a tremendous amount of skills. But to answer your question, being hampered a little bit in camp with his shoulder kept him out of practice. It kept him out because of his the ability to block versus running plays.
He’s getting better. He’s getting healthy. His role will increase as we find opportunities to get him the ball.
Q. Because you opened up with BYU and Oregon, has that made the off-season any different in terms of conditioning with an extra emphasis on certain things that was different than in years past?
COACH LONDON: That’s a great point. When you saw the schedule coming out, Evan Marcus, those wheels started turning in his head about how to condition the players, how to lift. Doing more things predicated on endurance. I think that as much as you try to simulate that, you do the best you can, and then you’ve got to play the game. As the question was asked earlier, I thought that there were parts in the game that they may have got us and gassed us a little bit. But at the end of the game, when it was time to put pressure on the quarterback and those eight incompletions and getting the quarterback, I think the guys rose to the occasion. The other thing is at halftime when we took our pads off, they were hydrating. They ate nutritional things, just kept that energy level. Our training room, our strength and conditioning coach, just a culmination of so many things over the summer, that everyone played a part into the recovery, the ability for the endurance, just all of those things. And the crowd that came back, I was so psyched up to see the crowd come back. I mean, I just think this is one of those games that everything just fit and just works itself into its proper place, and we came out on top.
Q. Beyond game planning and getting ready for another opponent, what do you say to these guys about 772 yards or 500 yards of rushing? It seems to be more athletic than scheme. It’s not like Georgia Tech – do you just avoid the number 772? What do you do with that?
COACH LONDON: No, everyone knows it, and they see it. They’ve got all-stars on their team. They’ve got guys that have been successful for a while, you know? The only thing you do is try to minimize the things that would make it worse, and that is creating penalties yourself. That’s not being in the right gap. If you’re going to get beat, they beat you physically, or they beat you because the guy is faster than you or you’re in the wrong spot or you fill the wrong gap or you didn’t do what you’re supposed to do as far as blocking assignments. So the thing we need to do is take care of ourselves first and find strategies by using as I said, one of the best coaching staffs over there at the McCue center. To find ways to maximize what we need to do in order to give us a chance.
Q. Mariota is one of his team’s most dangerous runners as the quarterback. How difficult is he to prepare for?
COACH LONDON: When you have the element of the spread or the pistol where you have a talented running back in itself, you have to assign a guy to the running back, but you also have to assign a guy to the quarterback. Like Georgia Tech’s offense, that you can have a guy assigned to that guy, but he’s athletic enough to make you miss. So if the guy assigned to him makes you miss, then you’ve got problems. That’s what they do. And that’s what they have a team full of guys that are playmakers like that. So very assignment oriented for us. We’ve got to be on point. You know, this may lead to stuff, like I said, to having more speed on the field and maybe perhaps playing more players. But he does provide a difficult challenge for a defense that has an offense that spreads the field and challenges you vertically and horizontally.
Q. With the game being suspended, apparently BYU had one in 2006. Carolina had one last week. Have you ever been in a game like that? If not, are you surprised you haven’t?
COACH LONDON: No, I think in 2009 at Richmond, there was a stoppage, but never this long, for sure. I think it was two hours and ten minutes. That’s, as I say, you just worry about sometimes about your focus of the team. But, again, we talked about it earlier about all the people that contributed to this win, not just from what happened when the play was suspended, but from how to hydrate, how to rehydrate, how to do different things. Get the energy back, the focus that we had. I think that was critical.
Q. You said you did something different in terms of nutrition at halftime. Can you talk about this?
COACH LONDON: I think it was more because it’s such a long layover that whether there are bars or shakes or whatever it may be, to get some kind of sustenance in the guys so they feel like they weren’t as drained as they were coming out of the tunnel.
You’re always hyped coming out of the tunnel, then we actually played a quarter, and before you know it, you’re sitting back there in the locker room, and it gets extended for a couple hours. I just think that the professionals that we have working with our team — not professionals, but the guys and the people that we have did a great job of stepping up and saying, listen, make sure we do this, make sure we do that. I just thought everybody did a great job of that.
Q. Whose idea was a ten-minute halftime given the opportunity to do that again, would you prefer the fifteen minute half playing a team of that pace?
COACH LONDON: You know, the game day management t Virginia along with the officials, along with whomever our — Jason’s [Bauman] talking to the weather people. With the long delay, as it was already – I think we met, Bronco and I, met with the officials at 6:05. They said, ‘looks like we’ll get ready to go about 6:20.’ That’s when everybody will be cleared to get back on the field. They just asked as long as both coaches agreed to it, you can do the 20 minute or 15 minute or you can do the ten minute. So Bronco and I both agreed, listen, the guys have been sitting in there for a while. Let’s go with the ten-minute half. It was okay with ESPN. They had to check and make sure there were no conflicts, I would assume, with advertisers. Our game day people, whether it was the band or whatever we had to do, we just made the quick assessment and everyone agreed to it and we came out in ten minutes and got ready to play.