Panthers Post Game Press Conference Transcript

<b>COACH WALT HARRIS: </b> You saw the same game I did. We obviously ran into an excellent football team. I think the physical parts of the game, we did not match up. We had trouble on offense, protecting our passer. On defense, you know, I think they put the pressure on people all year long and that's why they score big.

I thought the quarterback was excellent. Obviously their line did a nice job of protecting the passer, the receivers did a good job. They are very good, very explosive team and it was a tough game for us. We did not match up physically the way we needed to in order to stay in it offensively. But I'm real proud of what our team accomplished this year. We still won eight games when nobody thought we could, except for our players and our coaches, and they learned some valuable lessons, and so did I. So I told our football team, they are going to have a good football coach coming in and things will be probably very positive which will make it better for them. I also told them that it's been an honor for me to work with them and I wish them all well, and give all their best effort to the new coaching staff and to Mike Verbol (ph) who is our academic support man.

Q. What does this mean, how are you feeling right now personally coming out of the last game as the head coach, the ending of your time here? Talk to us about your feelings tonight.

COACH WALT HARRIS: You know, I really don't have a lot of feelings right now. I'm kind of numb because, you know, I was hoping that we would play better, but we had trouble. If you have trouble blocking them and trouble stopping them, then you're going to have trouble. I thought defensively, 14 points in the first half was good, you know. We just didn't -- we dropped a pass that probably would have been a touchdown pass by one of our best players and motivated assured players. We put the ball in there tight. It could have changed everything but it didn't. I thought being behind 14-0 at half-time was critical, getting the first drive second half for a touchdown, long touchdown drive after we scored ours, kind of sealed it. But as for me, you know, I'm a coach. I've got a lot of support from the people that have helped me personally, and you know, I'll probably -- this is going to take a while to get over, you know but I'm real proud to have had eight years at University of Pittsburgh and the support that I've had during that time, you know, I know our chancellor has been tremendous. So just with him personally, I have a lot of respect for how much he's put into the program to help the football program to get the job done. I think we're leaving the program, but we've got a lot of guys coming back, we have a great quarterback coming back and we have a lot of other guys coming back. So I think the future holds good for the Panthers.

Q. How much did injury and illness affect your offensive line? We understand that Petitti was ill?

COACH WALT HARRIS: I don't like to make excuses, but you asked. We lost Petitti. He didn't go out for the pregame warm-up and gave him three IVs before the game. Marcus Furman was really sick, too. And then we lost -- so Petitti kind of ran out of gas and couldn't go any more and John Simonitis gets his back and he's out. Unfortunately sometimes that's the way it happens and that's always been a struggle, not having enough strong physical guys to play up front. They were good up front.

Q. You have a pretty mobile quarterback and yet Utah had nine sacks. Was that more of an issue of identifying where the people were come from the are just the physical thing.

COACH WALT HARRIS: I think late in the game they were way ahead, we were throwing it, really didn't give our quarterback a lot of chances and obviously they are good in what they do, and you know they did their thing.

Q. Was there something in their defense that you had not seen or something that surprised you that made their defense so successful? Was there something that perhaps was there that you were not prepared for?

COACH WALT HARRIS: No, I think most of the things that happened we had seen and prepared for. I think what happens is when you mix in being a little better physically than maybe we were along with all of the stunts and blitzes and fire zones and all of the things they are doing, it just makes it harder. For a while, we had a chance but we got our backs broken there in the second half.

Q. From your perspective, how would -- did you get any feeling on how your decision to leave affected the team in terms of do you think they were more emotional, less emotional or maybe just about the same way they would have been?

COACH WALT HARRIS: You know, I think this team prepared to win. You know, I think the emotions of a game, you lose that when you're not getting it done. I think our team played hard, you know, as well as they could for as long as they could. Just the score became tough and we got behind and then we -- you know, it is real tough. We were throwing it most every down and that's not the way to go. But that was our situation and we had to try to do the best we could. So you'll have to ask them, they have a better feeling on that. I thought our guys worked hard to prepare and I thought our guys gave the best effort. We just ran into an undefeated football team that's obviously pretty good.

Q. Tyler, let me start with you, that defense it seemed like they were just constantly in your face. Were you surprised by how aggressive they were coming after you and how successful they were, nine sacks?

TYLER PALKO: I was not surprised how aggressive they were. That's how they showed a lot of their looks on tape. When you have an offense like that, you can be a little more aggressive, just because of the fact that they that they have a high-powered offense and if they give up a big play, their offense will most likely get it back for them. Didn't surprise me at all. That's what we expected. Just a matter of execution tonight. I'm not going to put the blame on anybody, but, you know, you just -- things didn't work out tonight.

Q. This question is for Vince. It's one thing to watch game film and see a team on film and a different thing to see them in person. Your impressions of Utah's offense now that you've played against it?

VINCE CROCHUNIS: Simply put, they are very good. Preparing against them all week in practice, our scout team was giving us some pretty good luck and we practiced as best we could and we were able to stop them almost every day. It was easy for us, but we still knew coming into this game that Utah's offense would have been much quicker and faster. They were very, very impressive. I would say in my five or six years here, they were one of the best offenses I've played against.

Q. Vince, could you talk about the one play they were doing, ladder up four to Warren a lot of times, you had a lot of trouble on that play. Could you talk about how much trouble you had and how you could not catch on to that?

VINCE CROCHUNIS: Early on we saw it a few times but we knew it's something that they use a lot in games. They try that play at least ten times a game and we knew that's one of their bread-and-butter plays. Unfortunately with that play, a lot of guys have to be disciplined and you have to cover your man and when linemen are able to get downfield and chip off a strong safety or linebacker then they have success in that play. When you saw that guy open, that was the reason why.

Q. Can you talk to us a little bit about the gentleman who just walked out of here and your thoughts about Walt Harris tonight?

TYLER PALKO: Very special person to me. Recruited me as a freshman in high school. We've become very good friends. I respect him tremendously. He's helped me become the quarterback that I am through, you know, a bunch of ups and downs and trials and tribulations. He's believed in me and kicked me in my butt when he needed it and patted me on my butt, too. It's sad to see him go. My feelings about that I'm going to keep to myself, but being around the coaching world with my dad being a coach, you know how it is, it's a business and you can't control decisions that are made from higher up. You just go with the flow and we're always going to be close friends. He'll always be a phone call away from me for football and for life. So, words really can't express how much he means to me, but, you know, just the way the future is set right now is just he's meant to go there and I'm meant to stay here. So we'll see what happens in the future.

Q. Can you talk about just Alex Smith, how he seemed to have really just full control over the offense and seems to see things so well, can you just tell us what a factor he is?

VINCE CROCHUNIS: He's a huge factor. Just seeing him at the line, he was able to make checks. I don't know what he was ever doing, but you hear those things during the course of a game and I think he was reading our defense well, able to pick us apart, especially in the throwing game. He was very accurate and he was able to find the open windows on the field. Utah took advantage of that the whole game and we had a very impressive game throwing. Without running the ball, there were few plays where we were dumbfounded and didn't know who had the ball. We followed the read-option play, one of their big plays and we are not the only team they have been able to do that to this year. All season long they have scored lots of points on that play alone.

Q. Wondering if you could just look back and summarize the season now that it's completely over, and also the other part of it is, you're one of a lot of guys that are coming back, what do you think is ahead for your team and what can you learn from tonight?

TYLER PALKO: To answer the first question you asked, to summarize the season, you know it's been a great learning experience for me for a bunch of guys on this team. I think that it really exemplifies how football is played. Things don't go well all the time and they are not going to go the way you want them to all the time. But if you continue to keep pushing through the hard times and learning from your mistakes, that's the big key and not making them again, but continue to keep pressing on and believing when no one else believes. I think that's a big thing that we learned this year, is believe being when no one else believes, because no disrespect to any of you guys out here, but you guys don't understand what we go through. You guys don't understand how much time we put in, how much it really hurts when we lose and it hurts when people say things about our football team that are negative. That was the hard part. But you know what, we are all grown men up here and that's just the position we were put in being football players and I'm proud of these guys for fighting through. The second part of your question, we're excited about next year. If I know this football team as well as I think I know, then it's going to be a long off-season and to have that sour taste in your mouth of losing. I hope that we grow up in the fact this we realize that, you know, things are not going to be handed to us and we're going to have high expectations on us next year just because of the people coming back, but we need to do a great job of preparing ourselves mentally and understanding, you know, what it means to put on this Pittsburgh football jersey. And I think that when we do that and when everybody on the football team does that, they think that it's a privilege and not a right to put on this jersey, then we'll be all right.


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