"Obviously we're disappointed. We lost the football game. I think you're always disappointed when you've lost. You know for myself to the coaches, to the players in the locker room, the effort level was good. We made a lot of penalties early on in the game, which is uncharacteristic of our team this year. So I have to do a better job making sure that we understand and not have those types of penalties that put you in a tough situation. That's what happened during the first half. We took a chance, tried to make some plays early on, trying to be aggressive against the pressure in the man defense. We weren't able to make those plays. Defensively, we had them in tough situations and we let them out early. Credit to Louisville, they did a nice job. Special teams, we had some penalties there so really all three phases was involved in that. And really, at the end of the day, it was a team loss. I have got to take a good look at myself in the mirror and make sure I can come back and figure out a way to put out players in position to win football games and play Syracuse football."
You talked about needing to manage success this week. What happened with the offense?
DM: "The offense took shots early. I have done this a lot, in the NFL. We play teams that play a lot of man coverage, which they played, a lot of pressure. You hold them up and make plays. You can go back, look at it; we had some plays open early. When I say open, I'm talking about touchdown-open. A couple over-throws, and other things. We had some guys open and protection broke down. There's a lot of combinations that go into it. For us, we have to keep learning how to make those plays when the opportunity comes. But you never know when it's going to come because you're taking shots the whole time. Whether it's protection, or the receivers. I thought we won more this year than we did last year on the outside, but we weren't able to make the play.
You were talking all week how you were afraid of the pressure they were going to bring. Did they do anything surprising?
DM: You got to remember that this is the 15th-ranked defense. So they're not going to do something different. They corner-pressured us, we picked up, did a good job on that. They came with their Sam-Mikes (blitzes). They didn't all-out (blitz) us as much as they did in the past. They're a good defensive football team. There's a reason why their ranked 15th. They're physical up-front. For us, you talk about manageable situations, we're taking our shots on first downs, which is where you need to take them. So all of a sudden it's second-and-10 and sometimes when we ran the ball we had third-and-seven. A lot of times if it's a 2-yard gain it's third-and-eight. Those situations are tough to manage."
"Where do you think you are? Last week, was perfect and this week you're here. Are you closer to here or there?
DM: "Last week we were closer to here (points upward), this week we're closer to here (points down). That's the point of this team. We need to continue to get better. We have 55 kids on this team that have only been here a year or less. That's what we're talking about, managing a football game. And trying to overcome some of these situations. I've addressed it with the team; I've gone through every single game of ‘who are we?' The type of situation. The effort was good the focus, doing the right thing all the time wasn't there today. Obviously, by the penalties, that's the one thing that we've done a good job of. It's something we need to continue to get better. We played good competition, and I think at the end of the year we'll have a better idea of where this team is and who we are."
"Your first words were ‘disappointed.' But are you surprised they played this way coming off of last week?
DM: "I think if I'm going into a game we can always make plays. I really do, so there's sometimes after wins that I'm disappointed. I wouldn't use that word in a public conference, but you get disappointed because you could have done more. It could have been better. So when I say I'm disappointed, I look at myself first. I'm truly in this profession to make sure we can put our kids in a position to win. I get disappointed in myself when I go back and say ‘did we do enough of this? Did we do enough of that?' And it starts with me, that's my disappointment. For our players, our university, our letterman. We're all trying to so hard to get this program to a point where ahh, someone can write ‘here we are, we've gotten over this top.' And we're not there yet. That's what we're striving for and that's what we're working for. I said it from the beginning; we have to build a foundation with this football team that we can be successful for a long period of time. I'm not going to use any excuses, and all that stuff. You know, here we are in year three and it's back and forth. I wish I can answer that question better. But to answer your question directly, we're an inconsistent football team that needs to get better. From an identity standpoint, we know what we like to be. But when we play teams like this and things change every week, you have to make plays against a team like this. And we weren't able to do that in all three phases."
"Coach, you mentioned the pressure and the chances early. How do you think Ryan (Nassib) handled it?"
DM: "I think it's really a team situation because you know he made some plays, and sometimes when guys get open it's very difficult. When you run go-routes and stutter-gos and things like that, those are very low-percentage throws which we worked on all week and felt comfortable with. So you sit back and say, ‘boy he had a bad game.' That's not the case. Did the receiver get held up? How was the protection? Did someone come in his face, and I think it's a combination of a lot of things. So we're just going to keep plugging away the way we manage this team and keep pushing the players to become better. To learn, to get ourselves over the hump and just develop as football players and be a better football team overall."
"You said you took your chances on first down, so it led to unmanageable downs…"
DM: "You like to get 5 yards on early downs. It's a credit. I'm not going to sit here and say, ‘hey if we do all things.' There's some credit that deserves to the other side of the field from what they've done. Louisville is an excellent football team. We knew that coming in. I said it before, what they do, we've been inconsistent with during the year and that's what hurt us since we been here. We're still at that stage. Like, being a batter and you can't hit a curveball. People are going to throw you curveballs. We had gotten into a rhythm, and kept things manageable and moved the ball, and we stalled. That's where you have to get over the hump. Football is a funny game, if you hit those plays early on, and they're in tough situations, and they don't hit theirs – it's a game of momentum. Things can change, so you know we just got to keep working. "
"I know you couldn't see into the future, but on their second possession where you called a timeout, and they ended up fumbling. It looked like Phillip Thomas might have scored…"
DM: "The defensive call went in, but the second part of the call didn't get communicated. So, I'm sitting there thinking they got the first part and they didn't get the second part, so I called a timeout. Why would I want a defense out there that only has half of the call?..that's exactly what happened. And then the fourth-down call (later in the game), it was fourth and maybe a yard and a half. I was trying to get them started. And I felt good about the call, we felt good about the call. We wound up getting the first down, but we weren't able to score. We were trying to do things to push this team to get the team started a little bit."
"Bridgewater came out 7-for-7 (passing), were you surprised at what they were doing offensively early on?"
DM: "There are things that I didn't see before this game. Him keeping the ball and running on the edge, we knew he could run the football on third down. I think he did a very good job picking up some yardage. Then obviously against all-out (blitz) they ran the option, which we haven't seen. He was the sixth-best quarterback coming out of high school (last year), he had great poise back there, he's comfortable with his receivers, they grew up playing together in 7-on-7 and things like that – so I was very impressed with him. I think he's someone that's going to be one of the top quarterbacks as he progresses in their system. "