Post-Pitt: Mark Richt

Read on to see everything head coach Mark Richt was saying following his team's 51-28 win over Pittsburgh.

Opening Statement…
“Just very thankful and very proud of our players, today and really all season long. They’ve shown a lot of fight and a lot of resiliency. It’s tough to lose four in a row and still keep your heart and soul and effort going. It happened in practice. If you asked me every day, ‘Are these guys still fighting? Are they still working hard?’ I would say, ‘100-percent yes.’ We did a couple of things different in practice this week, just to change the tempo of the beginning of the day. After flex, we basically went right after each other with our ‘team run’ drill - offense versus defense – just to get a faster start in practice, because we weren’t getting very fast starts in our games the last couple of times around. “Then we finished with offense versus defense to try to emphasize that. Actually Coach Diaz had the idea to start faster, and we brainstormed how to do that. I’m not claiming that’s the reason we started faster, but we did emphasize it this week and actually did it in practice to try to create energy on the front end. So that was good, that we responded in a good way to that. So many really good things happened. I don’t really know where to start other than the bottom line is we got a great victory in front of our home crowd, and I’m very thankful.”

On the Pittsburgh fumble to start the second half that gave Miami momentum…
“We knew, first of all, that it was going to rain off and on. It’s always hard to hold onto a wet ball. I actually told them right there at half, I said, ‘Somewhere along the line, the ball is going to go on the ground. Let’s think about our fundamentals - if there’s space, scoop the thing up and get your teammates to help you score. If there’s a crowd, get on it and do it exactly the way we’ve been teaching it.’ We do ball security and ball disruption every day – we’ve done it in the spring, we’ve done it in camp, we’ve done it all fall. You just had a feeling, somewhere along the way, that the ball was going to get on the ground. I don’t know what caused it, to be honest with you, but obviously the harder you hit the better chance you have of getting the ball out.”

On the improved play of the offense Saturday…
“First of all, I know the line has been taking a lot of grief, but they played their tails off today. Brad [Kaaya] didn’t get hit much. He didn’t get hit much at all. Brad did a really god job of placing the ball where our guys can make the plays versus man coverage. We knew there were going to be some shots downfield because of how they play defense, and we felt like our skill was good enough to execute to give Brad a little bit of time to side it up and put it in the right spot. We dropped a couple. We dropped a touchdown in the end zone, we dropped a third down that would have been a certain first down. We didn’t catch them all, but we caught most of them. And Brad wasn’t perfect, but for long-ball accuracy, he was really, really good because it’s kind of a low percentage-type throw to begin with.”

On whether Brad Kaaya’s pocket awareness was better Saturday…
“When you have a pocket, it helps. He did a good job of scrambling. I think he had positive yards rushing probably for the first time in his life, or at least at The U. I was really proud of that. He made good decisions and really didn’t force anything. A couple of times they got us on a couple of blitzes that we just couldn’t get a hat on everybody, and he threw the ball away in a safe spot. He didn’t just hold it and take the shot - that’s part of not getting hit too, is knowing when it’s time to abort the play and throw it out. I think he did a really good job.”

On the status of center Nick Linder…
“Linder was hurt all week in practice, or at least he was hurting. He was sucking it up. When you’re blocking a 350-pounder there down after down, I’d imagine it kind of started to wear on him a little bit - an upper-body injury. By halftime, he was shot. I don’t know what that means for next week, but [Alex] Gall did come in. When you don’t notice any fumbled snaps or you don’t notice any sacks and you run the ball well, you have to imagine that he played well.”

On how much his play-calling helped the offense today…
“When people play man coverage, you throw to your first progression. You don’t have to hold the ball very long. They play a lot of man coverage. That’s what they do. A lot of the decisions were first-progression decisions and because of that, the ball was coming out. We actually watched tape of Oklahoma State and Virginia Tech, and saw you don’t have to hold it long. ‘One, two, three, hitch, fire.’ Sometimes it’s ‘left, right, throw it’ and just place the ball where our skill guys can make a play. Just about everything that we had schemed up and dialed up had a chance for success. “There were a few things that were new down in the red area, one that was a touchdown that ended up being called back. Then we ran it again and scored on it – the one they reviewed - and we had another one when [Stacy] Coley caught it. That play was actually Thursday after practice, watching one more reel of tape, and it just kind of hit me that this has got a really good chance of scoring down there inside the 5, so we put that one in that Coley caught.”

On what he learned about the team over its four-game losing streak…
“You never know about your team until you really hit some true adversity. I’m talking football adversity, I’m not talking about life. It feels like life and death sometimes when you pour so much of your time and energy into it. Certainly, you got some seniors that probably wished for a better record at this point - all of them, I’m sure. They could have said, ‘Forget it’…maybe not say it out loud, but maybe in their spirit or maybe in their actions, just let up a little bit. But they didn’t do that. I just saw a bunch of coaches that kept fighting together, and players that kept fighting together and we had a wonderful performance. I’m very thankful. It was good medicine.”

On how the victory changes the feel of the season…
“There’s always optimism after the victory. There’s always thoughts of what can be. I told the guys to enjoy this thing and enjoy it in the right way, and let’s get back to work and try to do it again. It’s hard, when you have that kind of momentum against you, it’s hard to stop the train and get it turned around and going the other direction. It’s very difficult. Same thing is true with positive momentum – you get that thing rolling really good and it’s hard to slow it down sometimes. We were fighting against the negativity that comes along with not winning at a major university and one that has a proud tradition like we do. It was good. “I’ll say this too, I’m going to throw a little props to Russell Maryland. He was our honorary captain and he spoke to the team last night. He couldn’t have done a better job of just talking about a little bit of his career, and how he started slow on the scout team and how he was getting whooped up pretty good by some good linemen. He decided he wasn’t going to quit. He thought about it in his career as a young player, all the way from Chicago. Then he just kept fighting, kept being positive and good things happened for him. It was very fitting for what we were going through at that time, and I thought the guys really listened and benefitted from it.”

On the play of true freshman wide receiver Ahmmon Richards…
“All those guys did, but Ahmmon is a guy that we know can run, we know can track a ball deep, we know he can adjust to a deep ball well. He has a wonderful skillset, just a sharp kid, and a guy that can come in as a true freshmen and perform like he has performed overall, has been great. But we have a bunch of other guys making plays, too certainly. Not to take anything away from Ahmmon, he played very well.


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