Larry Scott: Post-UVa

Read on to see what Miami coach Larry Scott was saying following his team's win over Virginia.

Opening Statement…
“Hard-fought, four-quarter game. Those are the games you expect when you’re in the division, when you have five straight division games. They’re all going to come down the line, they’re all going to come down to a kick or a last possession or something like that. That’s why your football team has to be prepared for those situations, and we worked hard this week on sudden situations. This time of year is the time you cover the hands team, onside kicks, you cover all the little detailed things, because in the month of November, it’s championship ball. You’re either contending, or in the football world, as we say, ‘pretending.’ We know what we have to do. We know the things we have to get ready for. The guys did a really good job this week, from Monday all the way through the week preparing. We switched up the practice schedule a little bit, just so we could get ready for a couple of these situations and they not catch us off-guard. They did a really good job responding to them. They played hard, they played physical, and we knew this was going to be that time of game. This team had a 4-1 edge over us the last five years, and we knew they would come in with a certain amount of confidence because they’ve had some success against us. To overcome that, we knew we were going to be in for a ballgame. The guys glued in, they tied into the details, and went out and competed hard for four quarters. We got the result that we got. I’m happy for this team. I’m very encouraged by where we’re at, because we still can grow and take some lessons from this deal and keep getting better – and I think they will. They’re in a place where they’re going to be ready for every challenge that’s going to be presented to them, and we’re going to face them all head on, starting on the road next week.”

On if he was worried after last week’s emotional win, or if he sensed any letdown after beating Duke…
“I kind of got a sense early in the week that they’d be ready. I think the challenge with [Virginia’s] record being that they beat us four of the last five, the challenge of the last time we played at home [against Clemson] and the feeling they had – we had enough there to grab their attention. We had enough there to present a challenge to them - to stay focused, to stay dialed in to what we needed to do coming out of that [Duke] game. “The great thing we did was move on right away. I know it was hard to, to celebrate a play like that and what happened there, it’s not that easy…guys aren’t going to just walk away from it. We had to zero in their attention on Virginia. We knew it was going be a great challenge as coaches. Our team captains, our position captains and our leaders did the same thing. All of the message Sunday night and Monday was focused in on UVA - making sure we’re getting into the things we need to know, the personnel we need to know and what we need to do to beat Virginia. That was our focus, and it was early in the week. We started out Tuesday with a hard [practice]. We got after it physically, because we knew it was going to be a physical ballgame. Wednesday they came back and they responded. Thursday they were great in the walk through, and on Friday we were fast. We were fast on the field. I knew right then that we had their attention, and that they were going to go out and play with the effort and physicality and passion that we were going to need them to.”

On when he knew QB Brad Kaaya was going to play and if he was surprised by his sharpness…
“He did a good job in practice, but it still was just following the doctors and doing the things the right way by him. We’re going to be safety-first in everything that we do. We found out he cleared the last part of the protocol on Friday night, through our doctors and with Vinny [Scavo] our trainer, we found out that he was alert and ready to go. He was happy to lead his team again today. It’s been that kind of deal for us all week. We had all of our quarterbacks ready to play. They were all ready. Doctors cleared him and away we went with Brad.”

On what kind of emotional boost the return of Kaaya had for the team…
“He’s their leader. He’s the quarterback. When you play football, and you’re on the offensive side of the ball or the defensive side of the ball, when he walks in the huddle and you look at him, you say, ‘there’s our guy.’ Just like in any organization, when the leader walks into the room it gets everybody’s attention. It relaxed everybody, just from a standpoint of ‘we got our leader back.’ They know he’s competitive, he’s smart, they knew he was going to be prepared, and they knew they were going to get his best today.”

On if becoming bowl-eligible after the win over Virginia has been discussed…
“No. We’re still talking about our goal. Our goal was to win the Coastal [Division]. We’re not going to muddy the waters of what our main objective is. Our main objective is to win the Coastal. I want them to enjoy this hard-fought victory, but we started talking about some of the things we need to start getting taken care of early, to make sure we’re prepared to go out for this road test we’ve got next week.”

On the progression in play of TE David Njoku, who had his first career TD Saturday…
“Each week he gets better, which is what you hope a young football player learns to do. He’s a redshirt freshman. You present a plan to him each and every week, of two or three things that he [can] really attack during the week to get better at. At some point, when you get to this point in the season, it all starts to build and show up. That’s what he has done - whether it was a focus thing, a detail thing, learning how to pre-snap read defenses so he can play a little faster in the middle of the field. He has done a really good job. It was evident by the big one he caught over the middle. That was something we worked really hard on this week, knowing that if we got that type of coverage, that he was going to have to win against the MIC linebacker. He took everything he worked hard on all week, and he applied it, and it paid off for him.”

On if there was a conscious effort to run the ball more in the second half…
“There always is to win the game. At this time of year, you have to run to win. Sometimes you have to put saddle on your guys up front and your running backs and say, ‘guys, we need to chop wood here and get four yards per carry. We have to go and be tough.’ It’s not always going to be perfect, but we have to stay patient with it, we have to stay physical with it and we have to execute. Those guys accepted that challenge in the second half, and knew we were going to have to put the ball on the ground to win it.”

On the marked improvement in third-down conversion rate by the team’s offense…
“That’s what you hope to do. You find your weaknesses and you attack the weaknesses. It’s all on how you present it to the players as well. You have to present it in a way that they will attack it with a positive mindset and attitude. You can’t always build it up as, “it’s a negative, it’s a negative, it’s a negative.’ Here’s what we have to fix to make it a positive. Here’s what we have to do to be a better football team. The guys will take it receive that information differently, and they’ll attack it differently, attack with a renewed focus. That’s what those guys have done. They’ve really worked hard at it. They had a positive mindset towards fixing the things we need to fix, and we’re starting to get the results. We’ll keep building on that.”

On the offensive pass interference penalty called on Virginia that nullified a touchdown…
“The ref gave me a call that it was going to be fourth down and it was a touchdown, and he said, ‘Do you want to decline this?’ They didn’t wait to hear from the booth about whether they were going to review it or not, and that’s when he came over and he apologized and said it was his fault, that we should take the yardage. A lot of miscommunication from their part to me, and then us, and then back to them…there was some miscommunication, but they did the right thing. They got it cleaned up.”

On when he found out that CB Artie Burns was not going to play…
“In this situation, we had to let Artie make a decision that he needed to make for his family. That’s just the bottom line. There wasn’t much more than that. We didn’t want to put any pressure on Artie, that he had to show up and play the game, or do any of those things. At the beginning of the week, when we were going through this after he played last week, for Artie, I think it was kind of surreal. But when you go through the process of the funeral, and you say your last goodbye, that’s a real emotion. We told Artie to take the time that he needs. His family needed him, and he needed to be there for his family…yet the kid still found a way to muster enough to be here with his team as well. I’m so taken by how strong that kid is, and the strength he exemplifies in his approach towards everything. He communicated, he was open, he was honest. He handled it like a professional. I really appreciate Artie.

On whether the fact that his record as interim head coach is 2-0 enters his mindset…
“It’s about the kids. It’s about giving them the opportunity to have success. They work hard, and they’ve been through a lot. It’s all about everything we can do in our power to make sure they have the feeling they have right now, each and every week. We’re going to do all that we can to make sure it stays about them and that they continue to have that feeling.”


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