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October 2, 2013

Pelini Press Conference

Transcription of Coach Pelini's Monday Media Talks

Saturday's Disappointing loss to Rice

"Let's just say, we left a lot of opportunities on the field. When the score was 7-6 I thought there was a great many opportunities for us to make some plays that would have put up earlier than the touchdown that we scored. We didn't make the plays for whatever reason. Some were close. The wheel route on our boundary, a couple drops, a couple missed assignments otherwise I think we have a lead going into the fourth quarter- missed opportunities early. The longer you coach, you look at those games and you can just feel it. When it is a close, hard-fought game like that and you are missing opportunities, there is always that danger that it is going to come back and bite you late."

Lesson Learned? Seems like it should have been learned?

"I disagree with that. The close loss to Middle Tennessee was a game where we were making plays and they were making plays. It was one of those. This was a totally different game in my respect. It was a battle of endurance. It was almost like - who was going to break first. That type of game was a new experience for our guys. At lease since I have been here, we haven't been in that type of low-scoring kind of back-and-forth game to the end."

How did the team respond?

"There is a lot of determination in that room. I am proud of this team, the way that they fight and the way that they come back each week. We had a team meeting last night (normally scheduled) and there was certainly a lot of determination in that room."

Where does the Quarterback situation stand?

"Greg performed very well. He made some nice throws and for most of the ball game really stepped up and battled against a good defense. Yes, I would say he is in contention, but he has been all along. It is difficult for me to say about Quez (Jaquez Johnson) and where he is now. He had made improvement. It is just a bruise. Everything is negative on his shoulder. It is just simply a bruise. Just wasn't ready to go on Saturday, with Saturday, Sunday and Monday treatments hopefully he will be ready to go tomorrow (Tuesday)."

Did you know this time last week that he wasn't ready to go?

"I didn't know. I knew last Monday that everything came back negative - all the tests. The way the doctors explained it to me it was just the depth of the bruise - getting treatments and hoping and hoping and he improved as the week went on. He just didn't improve to the point that we felt it was fair to throw him out there. His arm strength certainly wasn't what it was prior to the Middle Tennessee game."

How did the game plan change with Greg? You had more deep routes early on.

"The way they pressed into the boundary, we felt like we had an advantage there with (William) Dukes, especially. That probably would have been the plan, rolling their coverage of the field singling that guy up and press coverage of the boundary."

With Johnson's Injury, do you see Hankerson starting?

"No. I didn't say that. I think. I don't think Johnson is injured any longer and that will be up to our offensive coaches and how they practice this week. Certainly, I'm not one to ever take away a position due to an injury. I don't believe you lose a position due to injury. Quez will come back and have every opportunity to be our quarterback this week."

Do you expect him to practice full, tomorrow?

"I have not spoken to the trainers today. Just knowing where he was Thursday and having the weekend to rest my guess would be yes."

Do you see a rotation between the two or would you pick one guy.

"That (one guy) is where I'm leaning."

What do you see from UAB

"That they (UAB) score a lot of points. They are a good offensive football team. They have a couple of wide outs, that boy look good. Even against LSU they were getting behind the secondary really stretching the field. They are a very good running team and then will stretch you vertically and go deep a lot in the course of the game. They have got some real speed out there to do so. They have had a lot of success doing that - maybe the best running back that we will face this year and I include Duke Johnson in that. He is really good. He is physical. He is fast and he has had success. I think he ran for 180 yards against LSU. So, I think our defense will be really challenged this week. Defensively, they are young, but getting better every week. They made a couple of mistakes against Vanderbilt or that game might have been different. It will be a challenge. They are as good of an offensive football as we have faced this year. They give you a lot of different looks and they give you a lot of different personnel and a lot to cope with. They are good upfront and well coached. Clearly, they will be a challenge."

Nice to see the defense bounce back after the blip Middle Tennessee performance. Did you need confidence heading into the game or was the confidence always high.

"I have seen steady progress. I feel like, as I said last week - I don't know if blip is the correct word. I was somewhat disappointed in our performance against Middle Tennessee, but I felt like it was correctable errors. I think our guys, really it hurt their ego, that performance, and you could see them lock in a little tighter last week and they were determined to put a better performance on the field and they did. Now, the challenge is to repeat that performance against a strong offensive team. They have their work cut out for them."

Have you seen any change in the defensive leader temperament?

"No. They can look at the tape and say that we had opportunities to seal the game the other way and we made some mistakes. We let them flip the field a few times with quarterback scrambles on third down which were very preventable. If you watch it from a defensive perspective, we played well but we could have played better and could have put our offense in better shape especially in terms of field position. In terms of the first half, we had a number of opportunities to get off the field and create a short field for our offense. We let them do just enough to flip the field and put our offense down on the 15 or 20 to start the series and that is a difficult score against that defense. We could have played better on both sides of the ball and probably could have found more opportunities to win on both sides of the ball."

How important was Sean Kelly in that last game?

"He is just a weapon. Someone told me this morning he is now the No. 1 punter in the conference in terms of his average. Certainly in a game like that it becomes very important. He just continues to impress me with how he performs every Saturday."

How was Hankerson after his first start and the emotion of the game?

"I think it was a real learning experience for Greg. Sometimes a young guy will just try to do too much. Make every correct decision in terms of what he is coached to do, but perhaps not take into account the time of the game or what is happening and so I think it was an important part of his development. He had to be in a situation like that. Sometimes coming up short is the best teacher. That is one reason we made some of the decisions we did because he is such a gamer and such a confident kid. He is just got a swagger about him that as a coach you tend to have a lot of confidence in him. I still feel that way and he still has that demeanor."

Greg and the emotion of winning a game and losing a game at the same time best in the long run.

"For the development of Greg and some ways for this team it is valuable night for us. It will be a little bit easier for him next time. Certainly, he made enough plays and with enough confidence that it will be a lot easier for him next time because he did it against a very good Rice defense. It was not an easy thing for a young quarterback to go in and play against that defense. And, he did and he did a lot of good things."




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