"Well, I really felt that after David Castillo went down and Bobby Meeks went down -- even before that, let me say this -- for those two guys to go out and not practice and have any type of contact, basically to go out there for no shoulder pads on for two weeks prior to the Miami game, which was the best they could give us, it really hurt them in that you don't go play a team like Miami without the contact. It was very evident.
"Their effort -- I mean David Castillo's effort and Bobby Meeks' effort -- and assignments were as good as they could be but they were not effective. They tried as hard as they could. David Castillo blocked (Vince) Wilfork as hard as he could but that 350-pounds, after not bracing and blocking heavy bodies like that, hurt him. Basically, we had 80 plays of offense. We lost him after the 23rd play. Two plays later, we lost Meeks (shoulder). We just lost any continuity we had inside. We had troubles at times protecting, we had guards trying to help -- (Matt) Meinrod trying to help (John) Frady on blocks before he handled his responsibility -- and it just threw things out of whack in a lot of ways. I think that's kind of one of the unseen things that you watch. Why did you get all the pressure? That hurt us as much as anything.
"The absolute thing that we said at the beginning of the year that could not happen to us….if you had to pick a night, not to make excuses, alright, guys how much bad could happen to you? Let's pick this, this and this and it all happened. We got it all thrust upon us that night."
What was your plan coming in and what changed because of weather and injuries?
"The weather affected the game plan more than the injuries because we still spread the field a lot, which most of the time I would have been hesitant to do having two young linemen in there, but I was not going to hold back. I was not going to let that be a reason to hold back on what we do. They had to play, they are in the game, let's let them play and see what they can do. Yes, it's going to put a little more pressure on the quarterback at times and at times they did well but it gave us a chance to make big plays. Putting more skill on the field.
"The weather hurt us. There were certain throws obviously we could not make. We could not make the wide throw to the wide side of the field. That ball was too wet. I mean, he tried. He couldn't get it out any farther than he threw it. That's a throw he's made 1,000 times. From that point on we quit trying to make it. Basically, it shut our passing game down to playing on one-third of the football field.
"The receivers felt good. They studied a lot of film on their cornerbacks. They felt really good against them and Craphonso (Thorpe) really felt good, felt really comfortable against them. And he was calling for the ball. That rain. Having him on there out wide, the furthest away from the quarterback, didn't help his game and it wasn't his fault. We tried one time and it was probably one time too many to get one out there to him."
Were you encouraged when you had that one play to Craphonso?
"Sure. I was. I wasn't discouraged at halftime. My point of frustration came first play of the second half. Lining up in the I-formation, we were getting some looks that we wanted to throw the football. We weren't quite hitting things like we wanted. Throw or catch, it doesn't matter. We weren't quite as sharp in the first half but we knew we were getting the looks we wanted. So, at halftime we said we just have to be patient, we can't give up on this running game, we made all the mistakes in the first half and they didn't make any.
"Well, as it turned out that would have been fine because they made mistakes in the second half. I wanted to get in another formation that was going to give us some good looks. It was a one back, two tights, two wides. It was a pretty consistent look out of them going into this game. But you needed to run the ball to show you were going to run the ball. We missed two blocks at the point of attack. Now you are sitting at second-and-12. When I look back…you talk about, what do you want to do? You want to have a rainy night, you want to miss a center and guard and you want to give your quarterback a lot of third-and-10 and 12s and 16s That's an ingredient for failure right there and we put him a lot of third and longs, which just wasn't good for overcoming.
"We have already said I wouldn't have done one thing different. We had a great game plan. We had great preparation. I obviously couldn't prepare for Castillo coming out of the ball game. We had a plan for Bobby splitting time. We didn't know we would lose him for the whole game. We thought we would go back and forth with him and Ronnie, and I felt good about that. Even before the game, when it looked like it was going to be real wet, we had 10 to 12 pretty good calls that we felt were good under these conditions. What I didn't foresee was them allowing us to have that throw out wide, that's the one we couldn't make and we couldn't allow him to throw after the pick."
It seemed like Leon (Washington) and Willie (Reid) were limited in their at-bats.
"He (Washington) had some at-bats in the running game. Willie, we had a rotation for him to get in at split end and he did not get in the game as much as I wanted to. They control their rotation and they know what it is. I know when Dominic had his second drop, I moved to P.K. over to his position. But that's a move (Reid more time) I am going to make happen."
Due to injuries along the offensive line, what's your thinking now?
"No question. We have to look at what we are asking these guys to do. Can we ask them to do what these other guys have been doing pretty effectively? We have to ask what do we want them to get the best at, pass protection or run blocking? Whatever they are gonna get good at, we are going to have to do a lot of. That's exactly right. It may force us to look a lot closer at what we are doing and how much we are doing."
Will it force you to re-examine the identity of this offense? Will we see more of the shotgun?
"It could. I don't know. That's what we are talking about today and we have about until midnight tonight, we have to start putting a game plan together and we are in the process of doing that. If it (pass pro) gives us more chance for big plays and that's easier for them to learn, that's probably where we ought to lean."
Talk about Chris Rix's performance.
"I don't think there's the concern in here as there is outside the program, outside the football team, outside the coaches. Like I said, how do you say it without sounding like you are making excuses because I hate excuses. We just couldn't have put him in a worst-case scenario than he was in Saturday. Let's not forget… that was a damn good defense and they came to play."
How do you caution him from trying to do too much?
"First thing is to try to change the perception that it was all his… you all (media) are putting it all on him when you ask the question. He did drop a touchdown pass, and it was only because he was able to scramble and get the ball down field. We did not make a first-and-goal and did not get it in. There were other things. First thing I would try to do is, look, you can't and shouldn't shoulder all of it. We shouldn't allow that to happen. You all shouldn't allow that to happen."
He's a fourth-year player who seems to continue to make fundamental mistakes, like his fumble.
"Exactly. We will run him and we will discipline him. But he's clearly the best quarterback we…by far, clearly the best quarterback we have and our best chance at winning. You are right. He has done that since he's been here and we have to continue to try to break him of that. That's the only thing you can do with any kid is continue to discipline and reinforce."
Talk about his progression. If players are open on underneath routes, like players say they are or we see they are, is he still having trouble?
"Well what you have to be careful of is this is a wide receiver's mentality. I am always open. I am always open. Sometimes that's true and sometimes that's not."
Were the short routes open against Miami?
"I think…Dad has asked me that question. There was a couple of occasions when they were open. There was one occasions -- and it might be the fumble you are talking about -- we felt like instead of just taking of, just pulled up. We had a deeper right behind it. P.K. was behind it."
Is Chris' physical ability or potential what makes it so hard not to just sit him down for a couple of series?
"It's not based on his ability to scramble and all that. It's based on what we see every day in practice. He just makes better decisions in practice and better plays in practice, day in and day out. That's even with Fabian improving at this point. That's what I've said every time (obvious separation between the two). He's clearly No. 1."
How do you get this team ready to play another emotional game at Virginia on the road?
"While everybody was patting me on the back and wishing us luck for the Miami game, I am sitting there thinking, ‘So what if we win this game, we have Virginia on deck." They've been somebody we've know all year that is going to be a big-time game for us. It's going to be a big-time game. This is one of those teams that was predicted to win the ACC and they've got a potential Heisman Trophy quarterback, or had at the beginning of the year, and we know he's excellent. We know it's going to be a big challenge for us. I will talk to Tommy (Bowden. Clemson beat Virginia.)."
Talk about the play-calling on first-and-goal from the UM 5?
"The only thing we wish we would have done -- or I wish we would had done -- was maybe stay a little more spread out at the first part of it. Maybe the first play or the second play. We got down to the 2-yard line and we went with our big personnel group. Actually, Dad wanted a sweep. We had preplanned based on what we had seen, our No. 1 call in that situation, we went with our call instead of Dad's gut. His gut would have been probably a walk-in (touchdown). They actually had one side, seven men on the side we ran to, four on the other. Completely overloaded the side we went to. We didn't have the ability that time to do this or check to go the other way with it. The fourth-down (play) we had rep in that situation. It was a two-point play, that's what it was. They ran the same exact blitz they ran against Ohio State, which we saw. We put the play in. To them, it was a do-or-die situation. It was for them against Ohio State. They ran the same two backers thru. We knew we were going to get one. We had to turn the end loose and the end was right in Chris' face. We just didn't make the play. It was a fade to P.K. (Sam)."
What adjustments did you make to the game plan that put the offense in better position due to the weather.?
"Well, we had a lot of motion. With that motion, we had a lot of routes coming down insider, where we went high-low. A little short route inside, one we hit Dominic on and went for 12. He hit him again and I think he dropped it. His second short option was the flare route, which was there. I think he ended up hitting that twice and we probably called it five or six times. It was that shorter, inside stuff that we had for him. The third play of the game, we had the tight end on a little spot route but he slipped and the pressure was there and he took a sack, first series of the game. A lot of that motion, we had a guy coming down inside every time. That's not new to our offense. That's stuff we've been practicing since last spring and had ready for this game. Instead of throwing way out here, we were motioning and bringing somebody in to sit down close, that little short ball-control passing area. It was also to help us with their man underneath coverage, which they ended up not playing a lot of. Very little of it. That's good stuff for the weather. It just happened to work out for the weather. The motion stuff was more for their man under, their heavy press coverage but it was suited for that weather. Like I said, you have a receiver you are motioning in, and he turns up and somebody comes up and sits within 10 yards of the quarterback."
"It did for awhile. We ran No. 3 and he had a couple decent runs. I just felt like the best chance we had in that game… I didn't feel like we were getting enough. We would run it on first and get one or two yards, then it would be second-and-eight. Then you throw a ball that might be incomplete and it's third-and-eight. Now you run a draw or your throwing. It's run on first, decide on second, down-and-distance dictates third. We tried to get Leon the ball. I just felt like the best way was to spread the field. We got him out in the flat once or twice in the scat route. ... Leon held up. We think Leon is one of the best football players we have on our offense."