Virginia head coach Mike London and his team can not qualify for a bowl game. What is their left to play for? London addressed the team's mindet and his job security as the 'Hoos focus on Duke.
TRANSCRIPT OF PRESS CONFERENCE
Obviously we are at home the next couple games here, and the primary focus for the team and for the players, as we talked on Sunday, was to focus on winning the last two games here at home and focusing on Duke. That's a team that has lost their last three games, as well, to common opponents that we've played. Focus on trying to get a winning record here at home. We are currently 3-2 and have an opportunity to win games here at home and finish up from that standpoint.
We’re focusing on the opportunity to go 4-4 in the conference, which is important, and then probably one of the biggest things is to focus on the fact that our seniors, the guys that are finishing their eligibility, go out on a positive note. We've talked about unity all season long, dealing with adversity, being resilient. This is a group of guys that feels very strong about finishing strong for these individuals.
And then focusing on things that we can control, the things that are in our capability of controlling, you know, not worrying about any distractions or anything outside of the realm of what we can control, and that's the focus for this week.
Our guys are excited, practiced well. There's still a lot of energy, a lot of positive things going on, and that's what we're moving towards.
I'll take any questions.
Q. I'm not sure you can say a whole lot about this, but I assume you submit the onside kick into the ACC?
MIKE LONDON: You're right, I can't say a whole lot about it. We've communicated, and then you guys have the opportunities to call and ask yourself on certain things, but I'll just leave it at that. I'm not going to talk about calls that occurred and things like that.
Q. You mentioned Duke has lost their last three games. Just from what you've seen on film, does it seem like maybe that end of that Miami game maybe took something out of them? I know (Thomas) Sirk has been injured, too, but what have you seen that may have led to their dip?
MIKE LONDON: You know, it's hard to tell sometimes. I mean, obviously the loss to Miami and the way it happened, you know, that might have an effect. When you have your quarterback that's out, as well, the last couple games, and then obviously the players, the who and the what, that obviously has an effect as well.
You never know until you're on the inside of what's going on. It could be injuries. It could be a whole host of other issues. But one thing – there are the three common opponents that we've lost to, Miami, Pittsburgh and UNC, and we talk about point differentials, the score, how many points they scored, how many points we scored against common opponents, and you look at some of those things.
They're a well-coached team. I know Coach Cutcliffe will have them ready to play. I get the depth chart and it looks like their quarterback is back, and he was out, and so I would imagine them to be at full strength as much as possible, ready to play a football game here at Scott Stadium.
Q. Mike, impossible to have a winning season now, fourth straight non-winning season. Have you given any thought to what your future might hold?
MIKE LONDON: The biggest thing right now for me is dealing with focusing on all opportunities for these seniors. I never think about myself. It's just, always think about the players and what's good for them and opportunities –how I can be a better coach, how I can better coach them, how they can be better at what they do, particularly when football is all is said and done.
Getting ready for Duke, finishing up the last two games at home here, all of those things are paramount on my mind, and having giving them an opportunity to be successful on the way out. A lot of these guys will play football probably for the last time. I know there's NFL aspirations and things like that, but there will be a lot of things longer than they'll be a football player, so my focus is to be an influence on that.
Q. What can you tell us about Zach Bradshaw who played the other day when he went out, and how do you think he's been playing lately, big play Saturday?
MIKE LONDON: We'll know more as we move forward here. Guys get their X-rays, MRIs and all those things like that (today). Our linebacker corps presently, as we have them now, with Micah Kiser, Mark Hall, who looks like he might be back. He missed this game (Louisville). C.J. Stalker, Mike Moore has played that linebacker position, as well. We're down to the point of the season where the next man up mentality is not only at our place but other places around the country, as well. The linebacker and offensive line position has been the one that's been most depleted for us. As I mentioned a couple of the names of those guys that have a chance to step in, but we'll know more about Zach (after today).
Q. What did you think of his performance?
MIKE LONDON: Zach did a nice job. He's an older guy. Earlier this year we talked about him being the only linebacker in the group that returned with a starting game under his belt. He performed well, was in a lot of tackles, and obviously him being there is important to us as a defensive unit.
Q. Not trying to get you in trouble, not looking for a critical comment, but the punt return and fumble, they showed it over and over. It was a bang-bang play, really difficult for me to tell whether he had a chance to catch it. Just in your coaching opinion, when you looked at the play again and studied it on film, did he have a chance to catch it?
MIKE LONDON: would say this: That it's always about, and I understand the rules are made for player safety, and the definition of what a defenseless player is, the definition of allowing the completion of a catch or whatever it may be. When you have player safety issues involved with that, that should be the most paramount of everything that goes on out there. It's unfortunate that that opportunity wasn't realized. My man Olamide after the game was literally in tears because he thought he cost us the game. There's so many other things that happened in the course of the game that that one play wasn't the one play that cost us the game, but he had an opportunity. He was always allowed an opportunity to catch the ball. As I said, it's just disappointing that that situation occurred. But the game is over. I've addressed it with the ACC officials, and now the next thing now for us to do is move on because you can't change the results of a call or no call.
Q. Do you find it frustrating that over the years that so many of those plays seem to have gone against you or not worked out in your favor?
MIKE LONDON: You know, disappointment is inevitable. Misery is a choice. You're disappointed in things that happen to you; the ball doesn't bounce your way. It's how you choose to deal with it. You can be miserable about the things, about the results of it, or my thing this year for us has been a team of dealing with adversity and being resilient and moving forward and moving on.
You know, four games, four losses this season by a touchdown or less, that's disappointment. How do you handle it? Do you wallow around in misery and woe is me, or do you just keep getting back up, going out to practice, talking about the things that can help you win, minimizing mistakes? So that's what we keep talking about is things happen. Things happen on the football field. Things happen in life. And it's how you respond to those things.
And that's why, at the beginning of this, we talk about the focus. For us, not having an opportunity to play in a bowl game, is to win the last two games, the last two home games, to have a winning record at home, to go 4-4 in the Coastal Conference, to send out these seniors on a positive note.
I know it's a long answer to your short question, but when you talk about the things that have happened this season thus far and the fight and the resiliency these guys have had, it's disappointing, but we're not going to wallow around in the disappointment. We're going to keep forging forward.
Q. Mike, Matt threw four touchdown passes Saturday, which was a career high for him, and that was the first game since Notre Dame where he did not have an interception. How would you assess his play this season, and have you gotten from him what you realistically had hoped for going in?
MIKE LONDON: Matt has improved. He's steadily improved. We talked about the previous game being one of his better games. This was another good game for him, protecting the football, you know, making some throws, using his feet to scramble out of some opportunities where he was able to get the ball to Canaan Severin on a couple chances, and he's become a leader, a very vocal leader. He's very demanding, and obviously we all know that we all have issues that we can correct ourselves, and he understands that. His completion percentage has gone up. I think he's one of the tops in the ACC, in touchdown passes, so some of the things as a quarterback you want to realize and get better at, he continues to do.
For us to go back and focus on what we're trying to do these last couple games, he has to play another one of his best games, and that's one of the things that he's done this year. He's gotten better as a football player and a tremendous leader, and we need him these next two games.
Q. In the past two games, I think one game you gave up seven plays of 20 yards or more, the other one six plays of 20 yards or more. I don't really know what's normal in terms of plays given up of that distance. Again, I think I've asked you before, what do you think the issue has been?
MIKE LONDON: On pass plays, you know, obviously coverage issues. We talked about last week that a lot of times your pass rush is the best pass defense. When you have mental errors and you turn a guy loose, that leads to explosive plays. We had some explosive plays ourselves, but obviously you want more of those on the positive side for yourself. They had a couple of explosive runs, and it's always -- whether it's a mental error or an assignment error or whatever it may be, then those are the things you have to try to minimize, make them go the distance, and they did a good job of executing and then getting those explosive plays. Those are the things that we keep talking about, trying to improve upon, and although we've gotten some and we've increased in what we're getting, we need to minimize the other team's opportunities. Once again, you come down to a tight game that resulted in a turnover or resulted in a conversion of a third down, and so it's important that obviously we try to limit those explosive plays and gain them ourselves.
Q. You mentioned the resilience this team has shown and wanting to send the seniors out in the right way here at home and get even in the ACC. It's easy for a coach to sit up there and talk about that, but there has to be some buy-in at the other end. Who in that locker room have you noticed has been at the forefront of that buy-in, because clearly they seem to have because every game seems to be a coin flip.
MIKE LONDON: This team this year -- every year teams have identities and players emerge, and at the beginning of the year we talked about the Canaan Severins of the world, or Matt Johns, but Jackson Matteo who's quietly probably had a really, really good year, might be, according to Coach Borbely, might be the most consistent offensive lineman that we've had this year. Playing Albert Reid, who's an addition to the team, David Dean, Kwontie Moore, Mike Moore, so there's so many more players that obviously you fight to get victories and win and have to deal with the fact that, you know, you're on the other side of those opportunities. But their mindset has been remarkable. It's stayed remarkably positive and supportive of one another and each other
When you go back to the focus, again, so you look at the focus. We've got Duke coming in, and who they played, what were the common opponents, what's been the point differential, who succeeded -- so they're into those type of things, and that's good. There's no quit in this team, as I said, as a result of some of these games that we've been in and lost by a touchdown.
But it's good to see that type of buy-in from senior leadership because it permeates with younger guys who are looking to see what it's like and perhaps model that when it's their time.
Q. That was probably the most production we've seen from Andrew Brown in a while, especially this year. He said afterward it was a matter of him maybe getting some more reps, getting more comfortable. What led to that, and after reviewing how he did on Saturday, what were your impressions?
MIKE LONDON: Andrew has continued to work at his game, with his run stopping abilities, obviously pass rushing. He got pressure on the quarterback, got two quarterback hurries, he knocked the ball down twice, and he's done a really nice job in getting to be a better football player.
So now we have another team that has a personnel grouping that they'll run the ball, but they also like to throw, as well, and you know, he's earned the right to get the reps necessary in a personnel grouping that's going to allow him to also be productive, and so it's good to see him make some of those plays.
As I said, everybody going down the stretch here that can help us win it's going to be critical that they get involved.
Q. Clearly the fumble of the punt was a judgment play. I think Coach Petrino said the same thing, could have gone either way. The onside kick was an infraction. What did you see on film?
MIKE LONDON: The rule is your foot has to be touching the line, and I believe Smoke's foot was an inch or two inches away from the line, and the rule was intended -- again, I'm not trying to get much into this, but to make sure the guys don't get a running start and start ahead. Smoke was stationary and the foot has to be touching the line, and as I said, a couple inches away it wasn't touching, and the flag was thrown.
Q. Tre (Nicholson) didn't play on Saturday. Is he okay? Is it just kind of a system thing or the game plan that day?
MIKE LONDON: That’s just kind of the way the game went. I don't know if he played any special teams plays. I don't have the play count. But that's how the game played out.
Q. And along the same lines, (Darious) Latimore with some more action. How do you think he fared?
MIKE LONDON: Darious, the times he plays, he's probably one of the faster players on our team, and he continues to get his in-season reps and his opportunities. He's one of the freshmen, the first years that have been playing that are going to be good players because he's got the requisite size and speed. I don't know if he was tested as much, but he was out there and he did relatively -- his job, what he was supposed to do.
Q. Keeping with the corners, Tim came back. They went after him a little bit, there were some pass interference calls, but how do you think he did on his way back and him going forward this year?
MIKE LONDON: Yeah, Tim was -- two pass interferences, I mean, one was arguable to me, but two breakups. He was involved in some other things that he graded out as far as being involved, his involvement in plays, and it was good to have him back. As you saw if you were there, they're kind of long receivers, vertical threat guys, and having that type of match in terms of the height was something that was important. It was important to us.
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But again, Tim is another guy that's got to have his best game, as well. Those pass defenders can turn into perhaps interceptions, PBUs, things like that, but as I said, we're going to need everybody going down the stretch here.