How does their offense look without Matt Ryan?
Koenning: It's different. Some of their passing games are similar. Some of their protections are similar to last year. But it's a different offense. Their primary run-blocking scheme is zone. They were smart last year and didn't put Matt Ryan in the zone-read. So, they are doing that a lot. And this quarterback will keep it and will take it and will pitch it in the triple-option. He's guy that can get three or four yards because he's 6-5. He's pretty slippery. We haven't seen anybody really get a good shot on him so he must be a little bit evasive.
Crane has thrown some interceptions ... how can you get him to do that against you guys?
Koenning: Well some of that against North Carolina wasn't due to pressure. You know he just threw the ball and one was tipped. So you can't sit there and say they got great pressure with their four-man rush. I don't think they got any pressure with a four-man rush. Maybe one time. I don't know. Some guys he seems on. Some games he doesn't seem as on. I'm sure they have had a special emphasis on not throwing the ball to the other team. That's a prime example last week of why you don't want to turn the ball over. That's why we harp on our guys about turning the ball over. We turned it over six times against Georgia Tech and we were able to get some key stops. Turning it over is a recipe for not winning - for anybody.
Do you expect to see their back up in there?
Koenning: He started earlier in the year and they did the same things. We've been for a long time now just trying to be more concerned with us and tried to get better day to day. We've given up five touchdowns in the last five games on defense. We are just trying to get better every day. The recipe we tried to do is to work on fundamentals and work on getting better. We game plan the other team but we are trying to worry about ourselves. We still aren't anywhere where we want to be. I talked to the DBs yesterday- just this group right here. Getting beaten on a wheel route or a stop and go. Free safety not getting to the middle against Maryland and helping out the other safety. Third and 20-something against Wake Forest- one guy has a complete breakdown and not doing what he was supposed to do and missed the tackle. Just the guys in that group have changed our season. I've been coaching them pretty hard but I'm not going to accept anything but as close to perfect as I can.
What about third down defense?
Koenning: You bring that up - third-and-22 against Wake- we had a perfect call. One guy froze up and didn't make the play. They ran a dive on third, Georgia Tech, they ran a dive. You know what they had run? All of Navy, and all of Georgia Tech on third and 10-plus they ran quarterback draw, screen or they dropped back and threw it deep. No dives. So we let our ends rush and figured if they broke a run we would rally and make a tackle. You know what? We didn't. We have to play percentages. So I don't know how you put a special emphasis on that. The guy made a catch on the sidelines. Third-and-14 and that was a fantastic catch. The guy was covered. Yeah we do work on third downs all the time. Third-and-threes. Third-and-mediums and third-and-longs. But somewhere along the line we had to have stopped them on third down. They went eight of 12 series with three and out. Somewhere along the line we had to stop them or else they would have scored on every drive. So, yeah, there have been some third-and-longs we are really upset about, but we aren't going to cut our nose off to spite our face. Let's go back and look at the big picture here. That's a key thing we work on all the time.
Will Rashaad Jackson come back this week?
Koenning: He's practicing a little bit. He's doing some drills. His availability won't be known for a couple of days. That's a better question for Coach Swinney.
You've played well in three-plus quarters but there is that one fourth quarter drive. Is that physcological?
Koenning: I think it is. I think it is. No question. I think that's part of what happened to Chancellor the other day. He was trying so hard to make a play to win the game he was going to jump that stutter- that hitch. And didn't do what we practiced. We were going to keep our DBs over the top. For those people that say we never play man, if we played 65 snaps against Georgia Tech, there were two snaps where we didn't put them on an island in zero coverage. Though of the five touchdowns we've given up in the last five games, three of them have been in zero coverage. We have to continue to pick our spots because it isn't an panacea- just blitzing. That's not the answer to everything. We have to continue to do it right and know when to do it. I think if you make something of it, it's like if you make a big deal about sacks like last year- then all of a sudden you start to give up a lot of yards and gave up more points when you aren't squeezing. You can create problems. Have we always had special emphasis on the fourth quarter? Yes. Have we run six million pursuit drills in the fourth quarter drills in the spring and fall? Yes. We just haven't made a play. And we haven't gotten a call. It just hasn't gone our way. We have to make the breaks and can't rely on outside things. And we also can't do things we aren't supposed to do and press. And it goes to coaching too- how would you like to call plays, call a defense when you know if you give up a touchdown, one play, it's probably the game. That's not fun. Whereas if you are up three, you know the offense can go up and down the field and this and that. It puts pressure on you. Pressure on the coaches. Pressure on the players.
Is there any sense of normalcy returning now that we are two and a half weeks away from the coaching change?
Koenning: Well, (long pause) that's a question I can't answer in the right way. I can't be right. In one respect, if I say, 'well things are doing this and we are headed in this direction it would show a lack of loyalty to coaching which I've never done. And will never do. The people that claim he lost the team and stuff are not accurate. Yet if I go the other way with it, then it will be perceived I'm not "all in." I can't answer that in the right way. Your motivation for doing things ... they've taken away one motivating factor is trying to do things for Tommy. He deserved it. He did so many good things for this program and his players. Contrary to what Cullen said he didn't deserve it. So they take away that and you have other loyalties now. Professionalism. Doing things for the players. Coach Swinney becomes a factor in there- you are trying to help him and boost his opportunities up. The old j.o.b. thing comes in. You want to sit there and say you've had three of the top five defenses in the school's history in the last three years. You've got a bunch who's doing better every week now. You'd like to think you are doing a good job and you shouldn't have to worry about stuff but yet you have to. That's the nature of this profession and we all understand that and that's the easy way to answer that. Then it's the motivating factor for the wife and kids. Wife and kids. It's a great environment for the wife and kids here and they have prospered greatly and that's the key motivating factor. So we are doing all of these things for the right reason and we have the kids' best interest at heart through all of it.
Tuesdays with Vic
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