September 16, 2019 - by
Willie Taggart Press Conference: September 16

WILLIE TAGGART: This week we get to come back to Doak Campbell Stadium. Get to play in front of our fans, Osceola, Renegade and Marching Chiefs, a Louisville team that’s coming on a two-game win streak and conference game for our football team and opportunity for us to come home and try to get our first conference win of the season.

Q. You had said Saturday night, Coach [Kendal] Briles made the call at the end of the game. Going back and looking at the tape, do you still agree with the call and do you agree with clock management?
WILLIE TAGGART: Yes, other than we didn’t execute and score a touchdown there — we called a play, it was four seconds left, we didn’t execute. Lost the ballgame. I thought it was a good play call.

Q. Injury question about a few players. Did you have any update on Joshua [Kaindoh], Stanford [Samuels III] and [Jauan] Williams?
WILLIE TAGGART: Yeah, Jauan, again, we’re playing that week-by-week. There’s no really big update, and where we were last week — Stanford, should be fine. A little bump and bruises. Josh will be out for the season. Just lower body ankle injury.

Q. Going back and watching the film, there seemed to be improvement on defense, especially against the run. Was that your assessment from going back and watching?
WILLIE TAGGART: Yeah, I thought we improved. I thought improved as a team. I thought our defense did a better job against the run. Their quarterback was very, very talented. The kid was special.

I thought he was more impressive in person than on film, and being able to get away from some of the things that he did, we had guys there and he slipped out of some tackles and some of those tackles against some of our — some of our best players, and goes to show you what kind of athlete he is, but I thought our guys did a good job against the run and played well for three quarters until the fourth quarter.

Q. Obviously with this offense, time of possession is not going to be something you really factor a lot into that you want to go score and score fast. Defensively, is the fourth quarter, your defense, is it too tired? Is there anything you can do, or is it just, you know — I don’t even know, is it too tired in the fourth quarter, your defense?
WILLIE TAGGART: Well, I thought in this game, the fourth quarter, they were tired. I don’t think that was the case in the first two ballgames. I think each one of these ballgames in the fourth quarter, they have been different situations, so I can’t sit here and say our guys have been tired in the fourth quarter for the first three ballgames, and that’s why we’re playing the way we are.

I thought this game, they did. They got tired. Again, we could have stayed on the field a little more offensively. It would have helped them. But I do think we need more than 20 minutes of time of possession as an offense. I don’t think whether we’re scoring a lot — we still need more than 20 minutes time of possession, so we can be better from that standpoint but I don’t necessarily think that’s a big factor overall. I didn’t think that was the case on Saturday.

Q. Louisville looks to be a team that’s improved over last year. What are your thoughts on what you’ve seen from them so far and what kind of challenges did it present?
WILLIE TAGGART: Good football team. Playing hard. Coach [Scott] Satterfield has done a great job with his team.

Offensively they are doing a good job running the football. I think whenever you can run the football, always gives you a chance to win ballgames. They are doing a good job with it and know who they are and what they want to be and that’s what they are doing.

Quarterback is, again, it’s going to be two weeks in a row — three weeks, but really two weeks of really dynamic quarterbacks that can beat with you their feet. They have some guys that can do the same thing, so it’s going to be another challenge for our defense this week.

Q. You mentioned before some of the signs you would see at previous stops and when things would be turning for the better. Was Saturday night — did you see stuff that has you feeling good about the direction you’re heading in now after that game?
WILLIE TAGGART: Yeah, I did. I saw the guys fight hard for four quarters. Our guys didn’t play smart for four quarters but our guys fought hard and put themselves in position to win the ballgame, one play away from tying it up against a really good football team on the road.

Had a chance to win the ballgame, and didn’t come out the way that we wanted it to but our guys made some improvements and showed they can play with some tough teams. We’ve just got to find a way to win these ballgames, and I really think as a football team and where we’re at, we’re going to be — we’ve got to find a way to win them and I think that’s where we’re at with our football team now and you go back to last year, a lot of these games, we weren’t in, but I think this year, we’re going to be in a lot of ballgames, and as we continue to grow, our guys are going to find a way to win.

Q. Obviously with Josh [Kaindoh] getting hurt, Janarius [Robinson] played a lot of snaps the other night. What other depth options do you have at that position?
WILLIE TAGGART: We’ll be fine. We have some more players at that position. They didn’t get as many reps because of Josh and Janarius, but we have more players on scholarship that we are going to put in practice and see what they can do to help us on Saturday.

Q. On that note, how is Josh [Kaindoh] holding up emotionally and mentally? I’m sure it was pretty disappointing for him given the road he’s traveled to get to this point?
WILLIE TAGGART: He’s good. Talked to him yesterday in meetings. Had good spirit and just he has faith in knowing that things are going to get better.

Q. You talked about playing hard for four quarters, maybe not playing smart for four quarters. You had a stretch of almost 30 minutes without a penalty, but so many down that final stretch — what do you do when it’s repeated instances and sometimes people?
WILLIE TAGGART: Again, repeated people, you — to do those things for you and we have things that we do internally to try to persuade our guys not to do that.

In the fourth quarter, fatigue did play a factor, and you can’t do that, and that’s part of winning football. You can’t make those mistakes, and I know one of those mistakes was probably questionable, but other than that, just can’t make them. We don’t make those mistakes, then the game could be totally different.

Q. D.J. Matthews is somebody that didn’t travel to the game. Is there an update on his status?
WILLIE TAGGART: Yeah, D.J., he was back at practice yesterday, and yeah, he’s back.

Q. Is there any way you can quantify what Jim Leavitt was able to do on short notice to help you guys out Saturday night?
WILLIE TAGGART: He was able to watch. I mean, he got here late last week and not much he could do other than watch what was going on. I think Jim will be a little more involved this week now that he’s here and have a little better understanding what’s going on and what we’re doing and how we are doing things and I’m sure he can put some input in from his experience and what he sees on the film.

Q. With the final play, I don’t — Tamorrion [Terry] had a chance to make a block and even with some things not going great on the final play, looks like if he makes that block, Cam [Akers] probably can get around the corner and score the touchdown. When you talk about little things that help win games, as well as Tamorrion played on Saturday night, is an example of do your job on that particular play?
WILLIE TAGGART: I think everybody’s got to do their job. There’s a lot of guys that made a little mistake there towards the end of the game. There’s a lot of plays that could be made on that last drive and we didn’t make them, you know, and on that play, yeah, Terry can do his job better and Cam had a chance to get in there.

The play that we call — I’m not going to tell you that play. We could use it again so never mind. It’s not what you all think it was, I’ll put it that way. We just didn’t execute it. It was a good play call. We can’t execute it and Terry shouldn’t have been there some and other things happened.

Q. Seemed like there was defensive improvement overall as you mentioned earlier. The short underneath passing stuff, is that a concern for preventing — plays, or the guys not executing what you’re trying to do?
WILLIE TAGGART: They did a good job with it. Again we didn’t execute defensively to stop it at times and like I said, Bryce [Perkins], I think he was a better passer, and again, they executed on offense, it was a good — stopping them with the short pass game.

Q. How did you think James [Blackman] played overall?
WILLIE TAGGART: James, he played overall, I wouldn’t say it was his best ballgame, you know. I think James had a couple throws he wish he would have got back — he can have back but he also made some plays for us in the game. Again, James was disappointed at the end because he knows he could have made some of those throws that he missed, but I thought overall, he did a good job and probably wasn’t his best game but he did a good job.

Q. How well is Marvin Wilson playing?
WILLIE TAGGART: Marvin is a good player. He’s going to attract a lot of attention because he’s a good football player, but again, he probably didn’t, from a production standpoint, probably didn’t have as much as he would like or any of us would like but Marvin played with fanatical effort and it helps other teammates make plays when he can’t make them. We need Marvin to continue to play with the great effort that he does, and those plays going to continue to come to him.

Q. On the play where Leonard Warner ends up trying to recover the receiver out of the backfield, should anybody else have been helping him on that or is that just a situation where he has to be able to make that play?
WILLIE TAGGART: We could have made a call. It was frustrating because we knew when No. 2 was in the backfield, they were trying to get the ball to him. Again, we didn’t execute that as well as we needed to in that situation. Again, could have been in better position because we knew what was coming. They made a good play and good throw and catch.

Q. Is there flexibility in the defense for an audible or for somebody to make a check on the field, or are you trying to simplify things to have just one thing and just run with it?
WILLIE TAGGART: There’s always checks in games, and you always have things you can do to help you defensively and calls you can make; and so yes, you do have calls within your defense that you can make within the game, depending on what people are doing to you and depending on who you wanted to stop or what — what you’re trying to stop.

Q. I know you’ve had the message to fans throughout the season, just be patient and stick with you guys. Does the fact that your only two losses of the season come against Top-25 teams, should that be reassuring to the fan base and you guys?
WILLIE TAGGART: When you really look at it, you can see our football team has gotten a little better from Game 1 to Game 3. Again, at the end of the day, we’ve got to go out and find a way to win these ballgames. I think that’s what our fans want. That’s what we want and that’s what we’ve got to do.

I will say, our support is there. I thought we had an unbelievable crowd at Virginia. I do think that played a big factor in our guys playing as hard as they did and having a chance to win that ballgame at the end.

Our fans are making a difference. They are supporting us. Our players know that and we also know that we need to go and do our part so they can continue to support us and give them what we all want. They want to win, we want to win. We have to keep our head down and working. Again, we’re 1-2, not 1-8. We have everything in front of us. We have a great opportunity here at home with our fans with Doak Campbell and with Renegade and Osceola and with the marching band, love it.

Q. With Logan [Tyler] being out, your backup punter and kickoff guy —
WILLIE TAGGART: Been big time.

Q. Did you know that was in them to play like this?
WILLIE TAGGART: I know it’s in all of our guys to play like that when you prepare and have the confidence. I’m just proud of those guys of taking advantage of opportunities. I think that can’t be overlooked, and I’m always stressing to our players about being ready and being prepared for when that time comes.

They have been a good example to what we want out of our guys, the next guys step up and don’t flinch and do your job. Those guys have done that. Been very, very proud of them and I think they set an example for our entire football team.

Q. Defensively, you haven’t given up many long plays this year but teams have been able to take advantage underneath and take advantage of what you’re giving them. Is it pick your poison?
WILLIE TAGGART: I think we’ve been good not giving up the deep pass and we want to continue to do that. Again I thought we made a step in the right direction being able to eliminate some of those things in the pass game by limiting them in the running game.

I do think when you can make a team one-dimensional, then you can be a lot better in other areas and so we made improvements stopping the run. We don’t want to give up a deep ball. We want to make people have to work to score on us, but we can do little things on those drives to be better.

Yes, we must be better on the underneath pass. Got to be better in every aspect of the game. But we got to be clear in understanding what we’re doing wrong and making sure that we find a way to correct them.

Q. Things weren’t going Levonta’s [Taylor] way early in the season and you sat him out for a game. Seemed like he was being a very good teammate and he was engaged and then he came back this week and looked like he played pretty well. Did you like what you saw, how he responded to whatever he was going through?
WILLIE TAGGART: I did. I thought he bounced back and he was a great teammate this week, last week. Came focused and ready to practice and ready to help this football team. It’s good he was going back home. It was good for him to go and perform the way that he did.

I was happy with him because first game, he made two mistakes. We were playing Cover 2 in the first game and he wasn’t deep and over the top and it cost him. This game, he learned from his mistakes and got an interception there. It was good to see him correct the mistake he made in the first game and ended up with an interception for us, which was good for us. I think we got two turnover takeaways in that ballgame, which was big.

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