Excited about the opportunity to play a great Louisville team, their homecoming. They have a great defense, No.1 in the country in defense, and 13 interceptions, and No.1 rushing defense, No. 1 3rd-down defense. So just a huge challenge for our football team.
Excited about that opportunity, and Coach Petrino is a great coach, great play caller. Defensively trying to match up against his offense and two great tailbacks, just a great opportunity for our football team, and looking forward to going down there and giving it everything we have.
Obviously you talk about a big game going up against a team like Louisville. What can you say about Jacoby and what he's been able to do and how he's responded to different defenses that he's seen and obviously going up against one of the best of the best in Louisville this week?
Yeah, well, he's a great competitor. I know the last three games has been a lot of learning for him. When he stays in rhythm and does things exactly the way that he knows to do, he is really, really hard to stop, and he's creative. At times there's a fine line on being too creative and just getting rid of the football.
I think that's where you're going to see the biggest improvement with Jacoby as he continues to play, just understanding that internal clock on when I need to throw it away, when I can scramble, what's the best way to take care of the football when things aren't there and just managing his team. He's a great leader, great worker, and I love being around him and his accountability to what he does.
As far as who he has around him and the weapons that you have, when you talk about him learning, trying to figure out the time when to do what he needs to do, how do you feel his running backs and receivers have responded this season to his leadership?
Well, good. I mean, we're catching the ball better than we did a year ago. When we lost Bo in the game, Hines, that was one of his targets. Bo is feeling a lot better. David Grinnage has really been a consistent catcher for him, Johnathan Alston, finding guys in the slot I think has been something he's done a really good job of. Early in the season Cherry was doing some good things on the outside. We need to get him going again.
The backs have been great, and our pass game, as well. Matt Dayes has really done a nice job in some of our empty sets catching the football out of the backfield. He's got a lot of guys around him, just continuing to grow and get better as a football team.
Getting Joe Thuney back this week at left guard is a big lift for our offensive line, as well, so excited about that.
Last season Niklas Sade only missed four field goals the entire year, and so far this year he's four of eight and two of those misses have been inside the 40. Is that just something kickers go through, or is there something mechanical that he might need to work on?
Yeah, I'm sure both. All good golfers at times will hit a bad shot, too. He hasn't had as many opportunities, which I think is a good thing. It means or offense is scoring more touchdowns. But he missed two 50-yarders early in the season, and he's missed two shorter ones as you mentioned, and Nik is a great kicker.
We have total confidence in him, and just got to keep going, and he'll get back where he needs to be.
But technically anytime they missed, I'm sure those guys could tell you, they were a millimeter this way or that way. It was something.
Is his confidence still up?
Is it one of those situations where as a coach, as a kicker you leave him alone and let him figure it out on his own, or do you work with him during the week?
Well, we work with him every day. That does not change. We video everything he does and he watches it and critiques himself. He knows his own swing. That's the thing, kickers are a lot like golfers.
They know what they've got to do to collect it. Last thing you want to do is criticize a guy like that that's so particular of himself. Just support him and give him the things he needs to get back on track.
When you look at that Louisville defense on film, what stands out to explain why they're so effective?
Well, they have a good front. They get off a lot of blocks on the front, and that's what always starts on the defense. They're disruptive in their front and tackle at end, and then in the back end, their safeties are making a ton of plays on the ball. They've got a guy with seven interceptions halfway through the season. That's pretty special.
You have a disruptive front, and balls go up and your DBs make plays on the ball, there's a lot going on. Their defensive coordinator does a terrific job of mixing things up and not being predictable.
Offensively we've just got to do what we do and not try to do too much and take what they give us and make plays when they're there, because they do from time to time have some things open up, and we've got to take advantage of it.
You guys talked a lot after the Boston College game about not letting the season go the same way that last year's did. With three straight losses and obviously the suspensions on Monday, I'm curious as to what you've seen different of your team that maybe gives you confidence that you guys won't fall into the same trap?
Yeah, first thing is they came out and practiced really hard, and they had great energy. They're good kids, and they do a lot of good things.
We open up the meeting and let guys talk from time to time, and guys spoke from the heart, and I think when you're at a place like we were in after that game, it's great for guys to do that.
My biggest message was just believe in each other, keep playing hard, don't let the man next to you down, don't let yourself down, and if you're in a position where you have to do more because somebody is out, then do more. But it's always going to be us trying to prove ourselves, and we've just got to go earn a win and keep fighting and never give up, and I think that's the thing our guys buy into is staying the course and being patient and believing in each other.
With missing Jerod and Josh, is there anything that you've seen from Louisville's offense that maybe gives you guys pause or gives you guys concern going into that game? I know Petrino is a pretty good offensive mind. I'm curious if there's anything that maybe you're worried about with your pass defense this week.
No, I'm excited to see Airius play. I'm very excited, at Mike linebacker. Jerod is a good player, so is Airius. Airius has played a lot of football as a freshman this year, and I'm excited for him to have an opportunity.
And at strong safety, Jarvis Byrd is a veteran player. Hakim Jones can play both spots. Shawn Boone is a freshman that makes a lot of plays on special teams, so we'll see what those guys can do.
They have great receivers. Especially if Parker plays, it adds even more. Regardless of who is out there, we've got to cover their tight end, Christian, and defend their receivers, Parker and Quick, and the biggest thing we can do is get a pass rush and disrupt what's going on up front. I think that's going to be a key for our back end guys is our front doing their job.