"I don't think it's fatigue. It shouldn't be, as many guys as we're playing. The first half, our defense probably played as good as they can play. They stopped ‘em with first and one on the one, and they didn't score – we intercepted a pass. The next time, we stopped ‘em, they kicked a field goal. We didn't allow a touchdown in the first half, but they did have a couple field goals. The second half, it was inconsistent. Good play, bad play. Most of their running yardage came from their quarterback, back to throw and then running the ball. The second half, we looked at it as inconsistent, good, bad, good, bad. And that's not good."
Was it simply a matter of their QB outplaying yours?
"I would say by about one throw. That's what I saw. It was amazing, when you look at that film – we got one, and our guy didn't have any until the last play. That ball just fell off of his hand. To me, trying to analyze both quarterbacks, I thought theirs was brilliant. I thought there was about one throw's difference."
b>Ragone seemed to give them more momentum in the second half than Rix gave you.
"We had one touchdown pass the second half. No field goals, just the touchdown. We did struggle. We moved the ball up and down the field decently. We had terrible field position. Trying to look at things that were kind of tough, we started from our one-yard line one time and then got it out to about the 35 or 40 before we had to give it up. The weather was unpredictable. It's hard to say what it means."
You said last year that the only thing that would discourage you, possibly force you out, was losing games. Was last night the kind of loss that would really discourage you?
"It does, because it's one you're supposed to win. It's one where you were favored, and one that you've got to win because you've got other people down the road you know are going to be stronger. It's gut-wrenching."
What do you make of this game? Where do you go from here?
"It's early in the year, and our schedule is tough enough that, if we could win, we could come back. But I think the only thing to do under the circumstances is don't even look down the road. Just take the next ballgame, concentrate on it, try to win, and go from there. That's all I know to do."
Is this team still trying to find itself? If so, does that worry you, since they did a lot of growing up last year?
"The thing that makes it so hard to evaluate where you are or what you did is the weather was so bad up there. It didn't sprinkle or anything like that. It poured the whole football game. It affected our throwing, it affected our route-running – it affected ours too. They happened to have an outstanding defense. They came into this year with 10 out of 11 starters back. And they're big and physical. If you're playing in the rain, it's better to be big and physical than quick. Some of the things we wanted to do we couldn't do, because of the doggoned weather. I'm amazed that Chris Rix completed the passes he did. I'm amazed their guy did too."
Do you think your team is mature enough to run the table?
"When you lose a game at Louisville, like we did, against a team you're heavily favored against, I don't think you think about running the table. I think you blot everything out except trying to correct your mistakes and get onto the next ballgame. You put your full attention there. If you win it, go from there. That's as far as I dare think, right now?"
Do you worry that the finger-pointing may start at some point, with players blaming each other and distracting the team?
"That usually happens when you lose. I don't expect that right now. It'd be way out of line, I think, if it started right now, from what I'm seeing in the film."
Are you starting to be really concerned by your performances in the second half of every one of your games?
"It's something that's hard to look and see why it's happening. It is happening. I know this, we blitzed a couple of times last night and got burned. Our defensive backs were unable to stay with their receivers in that blitzing situation. People ask why we don't blitz more, and that's the reason. Look at Louisville – they blitzed very little. When they did, we hurt ‘em. Again, it bothers me, but I don't have the answer for it."
Do you ever look at the adjustments you make? Are you thinking about changing your philosophy in the second halves of games?
"You make your adjustments, but the kids have to play it. Here's the situation you have. Number one, you don't want to play Louisville at Louisville. Ohio State's got no business playing Cincinnati at Cincinnati. Alabama and Auburn don't play Southern Miss in Hattiesburg. Those are places to get yourself whipped. They're good football teams that don't have the reputation. They've got nothing to lose and everything to gain. We scheduled this game back when Auburn dropped us and we had to grab somebody. It ain't easy to find somebody at that time, unless you want to go down to 1-AA. The trouble you're asking for, you've got. Ohio State nearly got beat by Cincinnati. I think Cincinnati led them the whole dadgum game, just about. That situation makes me have a hard time answering some of these questions."
With the meat of your schedule coming up, how concerned are you after this performance?
"It throws some consternation in there, no doubt about that. We've just got to keep working at it, see if we can't get better at it."
Dave Ragone seemed to rally Lousville whenever something went wrong. Is that the kind of leadership from that position what you're missing?
"I think you can't expect it from a sophomore. Ragone played down here when he was a sophomore, and we shut them out. We beat them 31-0. Now he is two years later, and he looked like a champion – which we thought he looked like in the film, also. That's a sign of maturity. That's a sign of a guy that's been there. I think we've still got some learning to do in that area."
Is your confidence in Chris shaken at all?
"No, mine's not. The thing that amazes me, when I looked at the film, is this. The ball slipped out of his (Rix's) hand as he was throwing it. You can see it. It was nearly an end-over-end pass. When I look back at the game, as many times as he threw, and their quarterback threw, I'm amazed there were not more of those. That's what you get in a game where it's pouring down rain the whole game. I have not lost confidence in Chris, and I have not lost patience with him."
Have you talked to Rix since the game?
"He came to me after the game, when most of the people had left the dressing room. He said he was sorry, he felt like he'd lost it. I said, no, you didn't. The team wins, the team loses. I think he felt like he lost it. I don't want him to feel that way."
It seems like, in your losses, that there always seems to be a great player that has frustrated you, from Brett Favre, to Torry Holt, on down the line. Is that the case?
"That usually occurs. Somewhere in there is a great player making great plays. Their quarterback was phenomenal, especially in the second half. It's funny – I think about our defense – we've played pretty good in the first half, but in the second half, people have gotten on us. I think that's what happened last night."
With the receivers you have, is it a concern that the passing game has struggled?
"If you're a weatherman, it's not. That was a driving rainstorm last night. You can't get much of a passing game in that. I'm amazed we completed the ones we did – he nearly had to lob ‘em."
The weather was a factor last night, but you've had inconsistency all season, right?
"You can't hit ‘em all. It seems like sometimes this one gets hot or that one gets hot. Or they decide to cover this one and not that one. Or they double this one and not that one. We've just got to find the open guy. I'm not alarmed. If you tried to judge the passing game from the other night, I think you're discounting how bad (the weather) was."
Wasn't there inconsistency all year?
"There probably has been, but if you watch other teams, you probably see the same thing. Also, we've been successful running the ball, and haven't thrown it as much. That's probably contributed to some of that inconsistency."
Both teams had a lot of penalties. Were you disappointed by some of those, especially the personal fouls? Did it feel as if you were playing their game for them?
"You're taking the thoughts right out of my mind. I was thinking the same thing. I'm going to meet with our club and tell ‘em that some of them let it get to them, and they didn't need to."
Are you concerned that an older player like Anquan Boldin gives in to trash-talking and picks up a personal foul?
"The ones that got involved, like Anquan, would be the ones I wouldn't expect to. I think sometimes they try to be a leader and they do it the wrong way. It crossed my mind that if they play a certain way, let's not play that way. Let's play our way."
Were you disappointed that you weren't able to get the running game going, especially Greg Jones?
"It's very obvious from the film. Their safeties made all the tackles. We got by the line of scrimmage. We got two and three yards downfield. Then their safeties are right there, punching us right in the mouth. Their two leading tacklers were their safeties. You can't block the safeties. We were blocking pretty good up front, but as soon as we're through the line of scrimmage, here come those safeties. I'm not sure if they're both seniors, but I think they're three-year starters, and they know what they're doing. The answer there is that you've got to throw on ‘em. Well, we couldn't throw very good. If a safety is going to come up, you've got to throw behind him. Well, we hit two touchdown passes behind them, but we needed to do more. We couldn't be accurate with the way we threw it, and we couldn't do the things we wanted to do. When you play a game like that, in that kind of weather, I would think that we probably cut our offense down at least a third. Maybe by a half, because the weather wouldn't let you do some of the things you were wanting to do without taking a big gamble."
When Chris threw the interception in overtime, were you tempted to second-guess that kind of aggressive play-call to open up overtime?
"Actually, it was supposed to go to the right. What it was was a corner route. We had hit the post for two touchdowns, so we were going to fake the post and go back out. If you're going to do it, to get a real good shot at it, first down is the down to do it, because they're not expecting it. They're not sure if you're going to run or pass on first down. Third and long is a little different. What happened, he threw the ball to go where he wanted it, the ball just slipped out of his hand and didn't go where he wanted it to go. Meanwhile, our receiver had already turned his back to the ball and was making his break. He couldn't react back to knock it down. The question of whether that's a good call – it's not bad. It's a safe play. If the guy's covered, throw it out of bounds. If you do it right, it's not a dangerous call. As you look back, we could have run it. On first and 10, they're playing those safeties up there to make all those tackles on first down."
Milford Brown was chosen today in the supplemental draft. Does that make you happy?
"I sure am glad. There might have been ten or twelve clubs that came in here last week and worked him out. Some of them had him out visiting their clubs. I didn't know who was going to draft him and when, but I sure am glad it worked out. I would have hated it for him to have been left out, due to the circumstances. I hope it works out good for him."