Head Coach Ellis Johnson Press Conference Transcript

Oct. 8, 2012

Press Conference 

Opening Statement...
"Just following up with comments I made post-game, the biggest problem is just turnovers. It's creating field position problems. It's creating time of possession problems. It's obviously equating into points. The average field position difference was about 22 yards, and when you multiply that by how many possession exchanges there are, you get up into the 300, 345, 350 yards of difference before the ball is even snapped and we're just not good enough right now to overcome that. Two solutions, obviously, you have to take care of the football, both offensively and in the kicking game, and we have to create more turnovers. We are through the fifth game of the season and we've taken one fumble away. There are things, I think you can say are coincidental about it, but bottom line is you have to be more physical and create more turnovers. The kids are working hard on the practice field. I think some of it is just a matter of confidence. When you outgain someone 115 yards, and put up more passing (yards) and put up more rushing (yards) and more total (offense), just not more points, it's got to be something we can finish off. We're still very optimistic that this football team can win some football games down the stretch. We're going to play some good teams. We've already played three or four teams that are as good as we're going to play. Now, I may be surprised and find out that there are some on the schedule that are better, but until we take care of some of the things that are self-inflicted, it really doesn't matter about the schedule. We've got to take care of the football. Some of the assignment things can be cleaned up, but that really has not been that bad the last couple of games. It's just the execution and taking care of the football."

On the running game aiding the pass game...
"We've had pretty good run game all but maybe Nebraska. I think it was very inconsistent against Western Kentucky, but our running game has been pretty steady the whole time. You would think your throwing game could feed off of that, but we've got to take care of the football. I don't want these young quarterbacks to be scared to throw it down the field, but we've got to be more consistent and more accurate and make better decisions with it. If you take out the turnovers, perhaps you get a few more plays, but it's just one of those things that you would think the passing game would be benefitting more from the success we're having on the ground. Right now, we're just not getting that kind of production."

On the quarterback position...
"Where we are is where we've been the whole time. We're working with quarterbacks that had never taken a college snap before this year. There are some growing pains. Has there been some improvement? I think there has. At the end of the day, you can't throw it to the other team that many times. There were two others that were dropped that could have been (intercepted). I feel like both (quarterbacks) were both above average, just in percentage, and both had some explosive strikes. We had the two interceptions and the other turnover. We'll just have to see who has the best practice. I think right now, again that old word I keep using, there's no separation in these guys. Nobody has really taken charge. The last time we made a major change was because (Anthony Alford) took better care of the ball. He had the rough game against East Carolina where he didn't take care of the ball. We're back now to where I feel like he did take the best care of the ball (against Boise State). We're just going to have to make sure we have a good week of practice."

"(If practice performance) is fairly equally, we'll probably give Anthony the shot, but if someone has an extremely good week of practice, we'll lean toward them. I think both of them will have to be in the picture. Both of those guys will definitely have the possibility of playing no matter who starts."

On the running back rotation...
"What happens on some of that is spelling them when they are fatigued. We're also running some two-back formations now and the checks at the line could make either one the ball carrier. Some of it is by design. We certainly want to make sure we don't run one guy too much and the others never touches, but at the same time, there are some things offensively you get in the check system that determines which one carries it on certain plays. That's something though we have talked about. It's very difficult to get five players repped up for a game. It's very difficult for all of them to be completely prepared and get the number of repetitions they've got to in the pass protection and all the other things they do other than just carry the ball. They've all performed pretty well this year and we certainly have to keep them all in the picture."

On special teams...
"They did (take a step back this week). If you go back to the previous game, and I don't want to backtrack too far, they bit us in the back too. We had a missed field goal and a punt that put the ball down and probably gave Louisville their winning drive. This week, the execution in that area was off and on and also our coverage was not as good as it's got to be. Central Florida has one of the best return guys in the conference and he broke one almost 100-yards against East Carolina. He's very dangerous. Some of the things, (special teams) Coach (Garret Chachere) said were schematic. He said he could have changed or did change during the course of the game. There was a plan going in, but some of it is physical and we've got to address that. Kick coverage was not extremely bright early, but we didn't have to cover a lot of kickoffs because of the new rules. We've had some creases in our kickoff coverage and it's got to improve. Punt coverage, we haven't had to coverage many punts because (Peter Boehme) was doing a great job of placing the ball in locations and even kicked some of them out of bounds for us, and I mean that in a positive way, with good distance. Those are areas of concerns. Boise had a little bit to do with (taking a step back). I thought they were one of the more intense, high energy teams and played more physically than some of the other coverage teams we've faced and we have to respond appropriately."

On Central Florida...
"As much as I've known about them, [they are a physical team.] We played them in a bowl game five years ago and that's what I remember about them. Watching tape on them all day yesterday and this morning, I think they look very similar in scheme. There is a lot of one back. It's not all two back - in fact I'd say there's a much greater percentage of one back. Very seldom do they not have a tight end on the field and quite often they have two on the field. There's a lot of power football in it. (UCF Head Coach George O'Leary) is a great football coach, a lot of defensive background. They, defensively, are ranked right at the top of the conference in most categories and at the top in several and have been for the last two or three years. It's been a Golden Eagle series, and I think our players have so much respect for them that they prepare better and play harder because I think they have tremendous respect for Central Florida and what they've done in their program the past few years. So, hopefully, we'll have that some kind of preparation. They're a really good football team. Maybe the deepest overall football team with the best looking roster in the conference and they were voted to win the conference by the head coaches prior to the season. No surprise that this is a good opponent, and it's going to be tough. They've lost to two football teams that could be nationally ranked and are playing really well."

On the team's focus now that the final games are all C-USA games...
"They seemed upbeat yesterday. 0-5 is 0-5. I'm not under any illusion that they don't realize how frustrating this is and how difficult this, and I'm not trying to compare opponents, but this has been a tough stretch for an inexperienced football team. We've had some bright spots and there have been some things on film that tell me we can play with these guys. The consistency has to get better and of course, the turnovers are feeding them. But, I think mentally, they seem like they are ready to go to work. We've haven't really had a bad practice. Have some of them been better than others? Has there been a little lack of focus and concentration on certain days? Really, the worst ones we've have were back with the hurricane when we were off and on. I haven't seen it lately, and I think they are trying to fight through it and work through it."

"[There is still plenty to play for.] And, of course, we need to worry about getting better, certainly as a coaching staff. But, when you're a player, with all the frustration they've had, it's a caret hanging out there to know you can still have a winning season. You can still get to a bowl game. You can still possibly win the division, but we're going to have to play a lot better than we've been playing. We don't have to play out of our potential. We don't have to start pressing, but we've got to play extremely well. There are still a lot of good football teams to play and the math is against us right now."

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