“How’s everything goin’?”
Good. How about yourself?
You look kinda tired.
“Eh, a lot of early mornings.”
Talk about some of the issues that you guys had the last week with the plays in the passing game.
“We gave up two big pass plays. I mean, those are issues. Obviously we’ve got to do a better job. We’ve got to clean it up. Worked really hard in the run game, obviously, coming off the UCF performance. Maybe too hard. I also attribute, you know, we’re still learning how to play this style of defense.
“The good thing is I think our guys have understood enough concept that we’re able to adjust as the game goes on and play much better in the second, third, and fourth quarter. Really disappointed with a fundamental coverage mistake that we made, and I thought there was a 10-play period during the course of the game where we needed to do a better job of tackling.
“Like I told the kids yesterday, all the mistakes belong to me, so if anybody wants to point the responsibility I don’t want them to have any. It’s right here. That’s the way we handle it, and I just tell them I want you to play as hard and as tough as you can and all your mistakes belong to me.”
The stretch of bad tackling: is that because they’re still learning and just--
“I don’t think so, no. Just think we didn’t do a great job. It was a ten-play segment during the course of the game and there were three missed tackles. You know, we were fortunate because the one that resulted in a 48-yard gain we were able to find a way to get off the field and they missed a field goal on one of those opportunities. Thought we settled down and played really well throughout the second quarter.
“We come out and have the bad play in the third quarter. The disappointing thing there is it’s happened to us coming out of the locker room two games in a row, so we’ve got to pay more attention. And one of our goals is a third-quarter shutout, so that’s a disappointing deal.
“I thought we really settled in. What did we give up, 200 yards in the first quarter and basically 100 yards in the second, third, and fourth. What were they, 0-for-12 on third down against our ones and 1-for-whatever counting fourth down. So there’s some things I’m feeling really good about. The best part of it is we were able to make adjustments moving forward as the game kind of progressed. And we’ve been tested with no-huddle, up tempo.
“I think they were faster than UCF. With all credit to Scott Frost; he’s probably one of the fastest guys in the country. And if you watch our tape, and, you know, you can come up and look at it all you want, we’re lined up ready to go every snap. I think we’ve made significant improvements in terms of our sense of urgency to get line up and get ready to play, we just need to play better during stretches. It’s 41 snaps or 46 in the run game against UCF [and] they have 63 yards.
“Now you come back and you’re looking at your deal here, we give up, what, three pass catches. We give up 100-whatever yards of offense. You must be doing a pretty good job during the course of the rest of the game. We just need to make sure we’re totally clean and as I told ya, understand the concepts. But our mistakes belong to me, not the players.”
[After THE JUMP: Don Brown’s defensive disquisition]
You mentioned that your players are still learning your defense. Talk about the challenge of still teaching your defense while preparing for a game.
“It’s hard. It’s flat-out hard, because you’re trying to correct mistakes from the previous game, then you’re trying to set a gameplan, and at the same time you’re trying to go through the fundamentals piece. Let’s not forget, they’ve had three different defensive coordinators in three years. That’s not an easy deal. That’s the situation we’re in, and to be quite honest with you, I look at it as a challenge. I mean, I’m not sitting up in the room ‘Oh my god, this is a terrible thing!’ I mean, this is a challenge. That’s why I’m here, and I’ve got great players with great, high character, and they’re working as hard on this stuff as they can.”
You’ve obviously given opposing quarterbacks a pretty tough time—
“Twenty-three quarterback knockdowns Saturday. Twenty-three. I don’t know if I’ve ever had 23 in a game. And I counted every one. That’s a lot.”
What goes into that? In particular, your defensive linemen and the job they’re doing.
“Well, you know, I thought that we played our best game as a group up front this past Saturday. I attribute—one, I thought we were solid in the run game. Two, I thought we provided some good four-man pressure, and then you couple it all in with explosive plays out of Peppers, McCray. I think the front seven or the linebackers and the front are tying together and starting to get some things going here that I feel very, very good about. You know, you want to eliminate—you want to be as close to perfect as you can. Unfortunately, there’s only—there’s nobody in our building that’s perfect, but that’s what you’re striving for on a week-to-week basis.”
Talk about what you’re getting from Ryan Glasgow.
“I mean, he’s a trained, highly motivated, physical defensive lineman and can play at the highest level. The thing about Ryan that I like the most is he can come to the sideline—sometimes they’ll come to the sideline and some guys, you kind of learn who they are. They’ll be givin’ you, ‘Yeah, I got a down block and a pull…’ and they have no idea what just occurred. He can give you hard fact, and then you refer to the tape on Sunday and what he’s telling you is what he’s getting.
“There’s one of our stunts that we do where we bring one of the defensive linemen down into the A-gap, he steps to the A-gap to draw the center. Well, the center went away from him and he just went shoomp. Most guys would just go ahead and run right over here, run right into the stone wall, but he’s smart enough that he realized, ‘Oh, center didn’t come with me? See ya later.’ Shoomp. He’s a very smart football player and can give you detail of what’s going on up front.”
The middle of the field Saturday, was that the linebackers crashing a little too hard on play action?
“Well…on the one long play, on the post, we have what we call a post window player, and he kind of squeezes and it gets in behind him. So, you know, shame on him. We still have a chance to make the play. I thought the strong safety on the other side diagnosed it pretty well but kind of got his feet tangled up a little bit. Because, really, there’s only one deep threat, which was that play in particular.
“And the UCF long run, let me tell you, it’s a conventional fit: the crease between the tackle and the no. 2 receiver, fit the alley between the no. 2 and no. 1 receiver, and the corner’s outside. It’s a basic deal to me, but maybe not to everybody on our club yet. It’s one of those where you go, ‘Ahh.’
“We’re doing so many complicated things that are difficult and we’re kind of rolling right through them and then there’s a simple deal. But that’s what I’m talking about when I’m talking about the learning curve. Here I am worrying about trying to attack these protections and get guys in the right position in that scenario and a simple, fundamental deal, we just don’t execute. That’s the piece that’s the challenge. We’ve got to keep getting better fundamentally, keep getting better learning the concepts, and gameplan at a high, high level.”
You and James Franklin have a lot of history. You guys worked together, right? Is there something there that helps you this week knowing him?
“I’ve worked with him and Joe Moorhead, the offensive coordinator. Joe was at UConn with me. This is Joe Moorhead’s deal now, so it’s a spread deal. And he’s a high-freeze guy.
“Las week, the interesting thing with Colorado is they’re a fast, up-tempo outfit—probably as fast as anybody—and by the middle of the second quarter it became [mimes hurrying to the line then looking to the sideline] ‘What are we in,’ not ‘Let’s go fast.’”
Is that because of you guys?
“Well, when you’re coming enough they don’t want to get—it’s like hitting your head against the wall; you don’t want to run a bad play into a tough look. It’s not like we’re going to sit there.
“Guys, you’ve got to understand, these spread teams, what they want you to do is they want you to line up in one of two looks. That’s what they want, and that’s exactly what I’m not going to do, okay? So let’s get that straight. We’re going to be extremely multiple, we’re going to stay on the aggressive side, and that’s how we’re going to go. And we’re going to learn it. And trust me, we’ve made significant improvement in that area, so let’s get that straight, okay?
“These guys want you to line up in quarters and a static front and kick your you-know-what! We’re not doing it! And if it is, it’ll be over my dead body! Okay? So, we’re going to stay aggressive, we’re going to stay focused, and we’re going to stay multiple. What it will turn into is this: [again, mimes rushing to the line and then having to look to sideline]. That’s the—that’s where, who’s controlling the tempo now?”
What is a high-freeze guy, just to clarify?
“What is a high freeze? Quarterback will come up, try to get up, give the impression it’s fast tempo, make a cadence call, and then look over to the offensive coordinator and see if he wants to change the play or run the play. Well, if he gets the look he wants they’re running the play.
“Against certain teams, they don’t even bother to do that because they know what the look they’re getting [is] and the quarterback’s ready. Oop, there it is. Quarters, four across, all that stuff, and let me get it straight, okay? I don’t play quarters. It’s not even in my repertoire. Reason? Because everybody else does, so let everybody else do the same stuff. I’m not doing that. Just not.”
MGoQuestion: Are the pop-slants that have come open the last couple weeks the result of mental mistakes or is that just the offense coincidentally calling something--
“We’ve got to do a great job fundamentally. Here’s the thing: when you play as much hands-on man coverage as we play, it’s a technique/fundamental matchup deal, okay? So during the course of that game, there’s a couple things that happened that you probably don’t even know happened. One is we had to tighten up our fundamentals on playing the no. 2 slot receiver, okay? Some of our guys got a little lazy or a little soft in their alignment, and we didn’t like the matchup on one so very easily we just said, ‘Don’t match him up there, we’re gonna put this guy over there’ and that’s what we did. So, you know, it becomes a semi-basketball game, so you’ve got to try to keep the matchups in your favor as much as you can. And, you know, that’s kind of the process.
“I thought—as I said, once we settled in and kind of figured out, okay, this how they’re going to roll, I thought we did a good job of mixing between four- and five-man rushes, we played some more of our coverage stuff that matches up and kind of puts the numbers back in our order. We did a great job of not letting the quarterback run around, which obviously was an issue the week before.
“So, you know, it’s—that’s what it is. It’s the game within the game, and to be quite honest with you, probably the reason I’m still doing this is because that’s the fun part. I mean, that’s the stuff you get into is alright, the game’s started, ah, this is how it’s gonna be. Time to roll your sleeves up and earn your keep. So, that’s kind of the fun part.”
Speaking of matchups, does getting a guy like Lewis back allow you to be even more aggressive?
“Well, we’ll see. He’s on the practice field, so…but when he’s healthy, he’s a very, very good player. There’s no—let’s just say I wouldn’t be unhappy if he’s out there, that’s for sure, because he certainly gives us another guy [Guy?].
“And I’m very happy with Jeremy Clark and Strib and Delano and Dymonte. I think we’re getting—Brandon Watson’s giving us, I think, surprising minutes, so we’re developing depth. As we’re kind of going through this process of getting everybody back or getting the bulk of our guys back, we’re developing depth along the way and obviously you’re kind of fighting the learning curve with a couple of the new guys that are in there. But, you know, I think it makes you better for it down the road.”
Jim said you don’t win that game last week without Jabrill, and partly because of his efforts in the return game, but defensively, is he better than you thought after seeing him through three games?
“It’s almost criminal what was ask him to do. I mean, he’s out playing press coverage on the no. 2 slot receiver, then he’s in the blitz game, then he’s playing static linebacker, then we got him all over the place learning what we’re trying to do from a defensive perspective, then he has other responsibilities other than defense. I think he leads the country in TFLs. He leads our team in tackling. And you know one thing: when he shows up, it’s usually in an ornery mood, and he’s explosive when he gets there. Those are kind of good things.”
You brought up the 41 out of 46 plays against UCF. When you play as aggressively as you are, are one or two big plays almost inevitable in a game?
“See…you don’t want any. I mean, that’s the goal. I don’t know, go ask Alabama how they felt last Saturday. I don’t know. I think they’re probably happy they won the game. But you don’t want any. That’s the goal. You want to keep everything in front of you and not give up any big plays and, you know, I blame myself.
“After the UCF game we’re gonna punch this run in the mouth and get this thing straight and make sure our fits are right and all that, and lo and behold there’s a couple leaps in the throw game, a couple tackling mistakes. Obviously we give up a post for 38 yards and a 70-yard completion, and then all of a sudden you kind of do a good job of getting it all under control and figuring it out. It’s just going to be a learning curve and you keep your fingers crossed. I just know wherever we are right now, three weeks from now it’ll be a heck of a lot better, and wherever we are in three weeks, I think three weeks away we’ll be a heck of a lot better.
“That’s—the arrow is pointing up. Even on the couple run fits we talked about, right? It’s not like somebody was punching us in the mouth, now, and knocking us off the ball. It’s hit your gap, but when you’re moving, we’re subtly moving and grooving up front and learning how to deal with this block and that block and this guy is going from D gap to B gap to C gap. We’re doing a lot of that, and it takes a little bit of time to be right. But, like I told you, that’s the challenge. That’s what makes life exciting in college football is trying to get your guys from point A to point B. I just look at it as a challenge every day, going to work and getting the guys motivated and all that good stuff. We’re continuing to improve, there’s no question about it.
“And I think Colorado has some really good team speed. Really good. Better than I anticipated. No. 1 and no. 2—I’m not good with names, I’m good with numbers—[but] no. 1 and no. 2 could run, now. Those guys can run. So, I thought no. 23, the tailback, was a good player, and I think the quarterback’s one of the better guys we’ll play this year. I’ll tell you one thing, now, he’s one tough guy. He took some shots in that game and got up. I think it shows well for their team and that young man and his leadership. He’s a tough character.”