Al Golden: VT Post-Game

Read on to see what coach Al Golden was saying after his team's 10-point win over Virginia Tech.

On the progress of QB Brad Kaaya over the last few games...
“His courage, his mental toughness, his ability to make plays when we need him. He is swiping the field. We called a pop-pass down there and they took it away, and he came all the way on his progression. He’s poised. He made some big throws when we needed it. We have to protect him a little bit better. But you know what you’re getting into when you play this outfit. Good win. Obviously Brad is stepping up his game right now.”

On the positives of not turning the ball over but negatives of penalty calls...
“We’re protecting the ball really well. We’re developing a culture of that. We have to stay on top of that. I think it was on the ground a couple of times today, and you can’t live and die like that. You have to stay on top of that. The penalties, I just told the captains they need to handle it. We’ve shown everything. We’ve drilled everything. We’ve been punitive. We’ve done everything you possibly can. They have to own it right now. They have to own it, because it’s sloppy. It’s the same things. To get an unsportsmanlike conduct after a touchdown, that’s a poor reflection on our team and obviously as me as head coach. I have to fix that. But those operational ones, players need to step up and fix those immediately or it’s going to hurt us.”

On the rotation of offensive linemen throughout the game...
“[Virginia Tech] is so active. You have to find ways to generate runs. I thought we were patient with the run game. We got 39 rushes. If you can get 30 against these guys, that’s good. I know it’s not the yards we want. You’re outnumbered on every play, but you have to make them defend the run, or they’re going to tee off on your quarterback. That part of the game plan we executed. We needed to make a couple of more yards there, connect a couple of more times and obviously finish drives. But as it relates to the offensive line, they were battling and doing the things we needed to do. We were trying to play a lot of guys and wear them out. We played a lot of guys, we just needed to finish a little bit better.”

On the aggressive play of the defense, which allowed 361 yards...
“I think they played better. They saw the ball better. Our gap integrity was better. They came to work all week. We had some concerns going into the game because of how they settled in last Friday night. Both of those tight ends are good players, getting the ball to [Travon] McMillian more, obviously [Isaiah] Ford is coming on and [Brenden] Motley beat s a couple of times with his feet. We have to get rid of those explosive runs. We hadn’t been that last year. We didn’t give up many explosive runs a year ago, and now we’re giving up too many. Gap integrity, have good force. I thought we played hard. We were aggressive, played a lot of people and Juwon Young really stepped up In Raphael [Kirby’s] absence.”

On how the defense has played since halftime of the Florida State game...
“We are an attack defense. We attacked Nebraska the whole game and let them out, and they had X plays. We are a 50 percent zone-pressure or man-pressure team. We finished some plays in this game, which was good – whether it was the pass-rush and not running past the quarterback and getting to the level of the quarterback and getting him on the round. I don’t know how many sacks we ended up with, but certainly we were hitting him. We were getting pressure with four and five [players] which was good, and obviously the 4th and 4 was a big stop for us.”

On the status of senior linebacker Raphael Kirby, who left in the third quarter with an injury...
“We’re concerned. That’s all I can say. We don’t know. He’s getting an MRI right now. We’re just praying for him at this point. Obviously we just want him to have good luck with this, we really do, because nobody deserves it more than he does.”

On the play of junior cornerback Artie Burns, who had two interceptions...
“Artie is doing really well. I know he’s disappointed about the go route. He really was in pretty good position to have a finish on the hands late, so that one I know is going to sting him. But his development, his growth, his ability to see the ball in the air...he’s really doing a good job of trusting his technique and playing with technique. I know he’s going to be disappointed. The kid made a nice play on the sideline, give them credit. But I know Artie is going to be disappointed he didn’t have the opportunity to finish that on the sideline, but he’s getting better.”

On the third-down play by both offense and defense Saturday...
“That differential, we’ve been minus in two years with that, and maybe today is the day we turn it positive in terms of offensive third-down conversion minus third down conversions. That ratio gets positive, plus the way we’re protecting the ball, that’s good for us. Obviously Brad [Kaaya] is throwing the ball really well right now. Our timing is better. We’re catching it better and we’re just throwing more. I’m pleased with that the last two weeks. We’ve really settled in there in terms of throwing and catching.”

On the decision to run the ball twice to start the final drive before halftime...
“I was thinking we had two timeouts and we’re going to get into two-minute [drill], then we go offsides on the first play. Now you’re 1st & 15 against a team that lives in that world. I ran it on first [down] and second [down], then we had good discipline and drew them offsides on a hard count. The guys converted the play. I think we had two time- outs, and from there we went down and converted. Again, Brad was awesome on that drive, just the discipline to stay in there and protect once they went offsides. Clearly it’s hard when you’re in that end of the field and you want to try a two-minute [drill] and you start 1st & 15. That’s just bad ball right there. We were able to get out of it because of the play of a couple of guys.”

On if QB Brad Kaaya called an audible on the 3rd-and-20 catch by WR Herb Waters...
“No. If we draw them offsides, we just continue the play. They did a great job. It was a great throw, and obviously Herb reacted and we protected. If the defensive linemen is unabated, they blow it dead, which happened in the first quarter. By virtue of us protecting, we got a free play. Brad is really sharp with that and we executed that play well.”

On the relationship between QB Brad Kaaya and WR Rashawn Scott...
“They’re throwing. They’re throwing every day. They’re connecting. There’s a chemistry there. Obviously Stacy [Coley] and Braxton [Berrios] being back has helped us out a ton, and the growth of the two young tight ends – [Christopher] Herndon and David [Njoku]. I think the thing about Brad right now is there are subtle little changes in his game that he didn’t do a year ago. For him to kind of flatten out and move laterally to his right and keep the play alive and hit David [Njoku], that’s big. He has got more confidence in that right now. That’s big. You can’t always just sit there in the pocket. That was huge for him to do that and make the play. And then what a hell of a play by David.

On the chemistry amongst the offensive line and finding the right combination...
“I feel like we have the right guys We’re rotating the right guys, so I’m going to let them sort it out - who wants to start, who played really well tonight who needs to improve and all that. I feel like we have more guys certainly than we did five or six weeks ago. Kc [McDermott] is really starting to look like himself right now, his conditioning, every- thing that he’s doing. And Joe [Brown] is making a lot of progress. I’m not disappointed with other guys, we just wanted to continue to push it forward.”


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