Houston at USF: Press Conference

Raymond Jones Stadium • Tampa, Fla. • Saturday, Oct. 28, 2017


HEAD COACH Major Applewhite

On the team’s mindset for the USF game
From an offensive perspective, looking at what they do defensively; they’re number one in the country in terms of turnover margin, they’re number four in the country in takeaways, ninth in the country in run defense, and that’s going to grab your attention off the top. Coach (Charlie) Strong has a great history. With BJ (Brian Jena-Mary) running the defense, they do a great job on that side of the football. They recruit great players and they do a great job of coaching their players. As a whole, the team grabs your attention from the get-go, whether it’s the defensive or offensive side of the ball. In this league, you need to have that attention every week; everybody can beat you and everybody can play each other.”

On USF’s impressive offense
That speaks a lot to the players. There’s been different coaching staffs there and not to take anything away from Coach Strong and his staff or Willie Tagert and his staff, but Quinton Flowers has a lot to do with that. That’s the reality of it. When you have a guy that can play that position, can make throws, extend plays, is physical, competitive, has overcome adversity in his personal life and does it on the field all the time, you’re going to move the ball and score a lot of points.”



On how D’Eriq King will be used
“He’s done everything that we’ve asked him to do, and he’s been productive with it. There’s some things that we’d like to slide him back at the quarterback position and allow him to do. There are some things within the course of a drive, whether (Kyle) Postma or (Kyle) Allen stay in the game or whether they get out and allow him some opportunities back there. It’s about the players. We just talked about a streak of scoring 30 points or more. It’s about getting the ball in the playmaker’s hand who can make plays over and over again. Rather than what you do or what the defense is doing, sometimes it’s best to get the ball in the playmaker’s hands. We have to find ways to get him the ball more.”

On if he’ll play D’Eriq King at quarterback for development
“Not so much for developmental reasons in the future, but for the here and now. Once you’re into the season, you’re into how can we get this first down, get in the red zone and score these points. Putting D’Eriq at quarterback is how can we can be more explosive as an offense, that’s the general thought and it’s not any more complicated than that. That’s the whole wavelength we’re working on, getting him the football. We aren’t necessarily developing him for down the line, it’s that they’re doing this with their coverage and we can’t throw the ball out there to him, or they’re doing this with their front and we can’t have the sweep off to him, but we can snap it to him. It’s what ways can we get him the football. If they start to do things structure wise, front and coverage to take him out of some of the touches he’s getting, then we’ve got to get him back there, snap the ball and let him have an effect that way.”

On his message to the team for the USF game
“The message to the team going into the Memphis game was that this was an opportunity to lead the conference and this is going to be a heavy weight belt. This is going to be a very accomplished fighter that’s going to throw punches and it’s going to be 15 rounds. It’s not something that will finish early and we get to go home, but we’re going to fight for 15 rounds. We’re going to have to be disciplined fighters. I even talked to them about the Mayweather and McGregor fight. It’s great to have energy, enthusiasm, and talk a lot of trash, but in the end, the disciplined fighter that knew what he was doing all the way down the end and ended up whooping him. That’s what we have to do. If you look at the some of the decisions and some of the things that we did as players and coaches alike, what happened down the stretch with 3 minutes left in the game or 4 minutes left in the game put us in that position to lose the game. That’s where we went back and said ‘When it came down to it, why were some of these things done? Was it a lack of coaching or lack of discipline in your assignment?’ Be very pointed and direct on the issue and confirm that this is why it happened.”

On where the quarterback position will go now that D’Eriq King is healthy
“The reality for us as a staff is that he didn’t go through spring. He didn’t get any quarterback reps and he didn’t practice at quarterback. The last time he practiced quarterback was going into the Memphis game, because he got hurt in the weight room before the Las Vegas bowl. So, the last time he practiced was the week of Thanksgiving in 2016. He never practiced quarterback until Aug. 1st, 2017. He went nine or ten months without practicing quarterback and then practiced quarterback for 15 days and hurt his knee. He went on the shelf for 4 weeks after getting a knee surgery, then he comes back and now we’re three or four games into the season and he’s had about 15 days to practice quarterback. I love him, I want him to compete, I want him to have an opportunity, but we’ve got to go on and get ready for games. Now that he’s back, healthy and in the full swing of things, the conversation is, ‘Yes, there’s some things that he can do at quarterback., where we can put him back there to do some things and give us some more explosiveness with our offense.”

On having a few extra days to prepare for the game vs. South Florida
“I think it gave our bodies a little bit of a built-in rest for our players. Also, from a stand point as a coach, sometimes it’s hard to finish a game on a Saturday night, have it completely digested and reviewed and ready to move on to Sunday. It gave us a day or two to really look at it and see some issues, things that have popped up, and how we do a better job as a staff to eliminate those issues and never have them happen again. In that way, it’s helped our players heal, but it’s also given us an extra 24-48 hours to look at the game.”

On the running back position now that Dillon Birden is injured
“Dillon dislocated his elbow, and will be out for some time. I don’t know how long, but it won’t be a week or two. Mulbah Car is going to be the backup tail back. Duke has to carry the majority of the workload, and then we need true freshman Davion Mitchell, and Patrick Carr, to be able to provide a third and fourth back for us.”

On Duke Catalon’s Status
“He’s played banged up, and he is an NCAA running back in week eight. That’s what it is. Credit to him, he’s playing tough, he’s putting two mouthpieces in, and playing. We need him to continue to do that.”

On if Mulbah Car has been the most consistent third back
“Yeah, with the football, but it’s how you play without the ball at that position. That is
what separates the good from the great backs in college football. When you get signed, and bring all your clothes up and report into the dorms as a true freshman running back, we expect you to be able to carry the ball and run the ball. We always understand freshman running backs are going to come out of high school programs getting the ball 20-30 times a game. They’re not going to get asked to pass protect, they’re not going to get asked to run routes, they’re going to be told line up on the left side of the quarterback going right, and line up on the right side of the quarterback going left. You have to learn how to play without the football. It’s probably the same thing if you talk to coach Kelvin Sampson, some of the guys he recruits, they’re pouring in 35-40 points a game. Now I need you to set a screen and play defense, it’s learning how to play without the football.”


On how personnel decisions will be made now that there is a different outlook on the season
“The outlook hasn’t changed in terms of competition at every spot, regardless of conference rankings or projections. We’re going to play the players that make plays and are practicing the best. Nothing has changed from that standpoint. We’re never going to not do that. We’re always going to look at each week as its’ own week and whoever needs to be playing to win that game is playing. There’s going to be competition at spots where maybe that competition has been locked up, but it needs to be opened up. You’re going to do the same things that you have always done as a staff.”

On turnovers...
“In the three losses some of it has been decision making. I know there was two in the Texas Tech game and there were two in the Tulsa game. There are a lot of things when you look at turnovers, in terms of catching the ball, which can eliminate some turnovers. Making better decisions from the quarterback position can also eliminate turnovers. Better pass protection whether it’s the offensive line or running backs, where our quarterback isn’t getting hit as he’s trying to throw the ball. There’s a lot of things other than just the quarterback position that is related to the turnovers. There are turnover circuits, in terms of things we do in practice to work on ball security. There’s also things we can do in terms of play calling that pull things in a very simple digestible package for a guy to make good decisions. I think we’ve done that in the last two or three weeks. We’ve tried to make it very simple for our quarterback, so that he’s not having to make those decisions. The reality of it is that, it is a very pressure filled situation. When you have three timeouts, a minute left and there’s plenty of time to go score, sometimes you start putting your mind on the clock and the situation instead of each play and how we’re taking care of the football. Eventually we’ll find the end zone and sometimes the situation gets big, I’ve been there and I’ve played it and been successful. I’ve also played it and not been successful. The more you’re in that situation, the more you can control your emotions and focus on the things that win and lose ball games. That’s ball security.”

On the status of Ellis Jefferson and Matthew Adams
“Ellis is still holding. Matt came and did some things yesterday in practice, but he still has a ways to go before he’s ready to play. For now Ellis is still on a holding pattern and is questionable and I’d say Matt is probably in the same boat.”

On the punt play in during the fourth quarter against Memphis
“We have a fake that we can call or check out of based on that look. We needed to check out of it and we didn’t so the punter wisely did what he was supposed to do. He was given the football and the fake was not called off, which it should’ve been. His job was to punt the ball deep and go cover.”

On how that play affected him
“It didn’t because he did his job, but we should’ve never been in that call. That’s our job. We have fakes and we see if it’s not the right look, then we punt the ball. We didn’t get out of that. So those are things that I have to go back and look at personally to see the way I’m coaching, in terms of, ‘Is that too hot of a moment to put the players in?, Is it too pressure packed and should we just punt the football?’ We have executed it numerous times in practice. I thought it was an opportunity that, if it presented itself, to get one and if it didn’t then I felt confident that our team would check out if it and punt it.”

On the communications during the punt play
“The age old deal is don’t ever put anything on your players as a coach. I get that, but the impact of the situation is sometimes that gets really heavy for players and I’ve got to evaluate that this is not a time that I can do that.”

On adjustments made by the coaching staff
“It goes into how we spend time with them on the sideline and on the bench preparing them for those moments, being preemptive. You’re playing a guy like Riley Ferguson, that when you go out there 17-0, he makes it 17-7, and now it’s a ten point ball game. The defense comes off the field and now it’s a two possession game. We go right back down and score to make it 24-7, but then they come back and return a kick to make it 24-14. Getting to your players, getting into their minds and soul and saying, ‘Listen it’s a ten point game. This thing is going all the way to eleven o'clock tonight. You might as well get your mind right. We’re playing for the next hour and a half. This thing isn’t over, one team isn’t going to take a knee with three minutes left. This thing is going down to the wire. From a defensive standpoint, it was the run against Tulsa and it was the pass against Memphis where the yards were gained in the second half. We went back and looked at halftime, in terms of adjustments and asked if we put too much on them and are we not making enough adjustments? It’s been about execution and doing exactly what you’re told to do when you’re supposed to do it.”

On D’Eriq King’s status as quarterback
“Yes, he meets with both groups. Is he not playing quarterback because he doesn’t know what’s going on? No, that’s not the case. It’s missing all the reps, all the snaps, getting all the practice time and trying to catch up with that in the season that makes him limited. It’s not like we’re practicing six days a week, like we were at fall camp. We’re practicing three maybe four times, depending on whether it’s a short week or not. There’s not a lot of reps to try to get him caught up. There are some reps and he has been taking them.”

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