“We started this season with high hopes of picking off a Stanford, a Houston or a Pitt. We didn’t get it done. There’s a lot of season left. We’re still high energy. We’re still excited about what we can do this season. We’re looking forward to getting over here today.
“On the game, defensively, we stopped the run. If you look at (Pitt’s) running backs average per carry, we did well on the run. They max-protected us and threw to their big, tall receiver. (Justin) Bickham competed for the ball (but) we just didn’t make the play. On the first score, the wheel route on Emmanuel Ellerbee, Emmanuel’s running with him and had an opportunity to make it; he just didn’t make the play. The second score was a double move on a safety. We didn’t have our eye discipline. We were looking in the backfield and he was running wide open. Other than that play, we were running with them down the field. We just have to learn to finish.
“Zach Abercrumbia played really well. He’s played well all season. He had a sack. Brian Womac had a sack. It was his fifth sack on the year. We have to continue to work on third down in practice and tighten the zones. We can’t get ourselves off the field on third down and we have to do that.
“Offensively, we scored 10 points. In the third quarter, we were absolutely amazing after an anemic first half. We averaged eight yards a play in the third quarter and six yards per play in the fourth (quarter). But, we have got to get consistent on that side of the ball where we’re stringing plays together. We only had two three-and-outs on the day. But, a lot of our issues over there have been self-inflicted wounds. It’s a receiver with a procedure penalty. That’s focus. It’s a running back on the wrong side of the quarterback. That’s focus issues. We have to continue to work on focusing during the tough times. You can’t have those times of breakdowns that are self-inflicted. At quarterback, we’ve got to get (Jackson Tyner) more consistent in his reads. He really had some things that he didn’t read very well. Our running backs have to stay on track better. They are coming off track.
“Austin Walter had a big game rushing and receiving the ball. He had a 70-yard explosive (play). We need more of those. That’s one of the things that, if you watch us, if we catch the ball for 10 yards, we’re tackled at 10 yards. It’s the same with the running backs. We’re not getting a lot of yards after contact. We’ve got to start getting those.
“On special teams, Jack Fox; we asked him to kick it away from their All-American returner. Either kick it through the end zone or kick it away from him on the punts. I thought he did his job exceptionally well. Some of the punts weren’t pretty but he couldn’t return them.
“We’ve got Army coming to town. It will be a great, great matchup. They run the option. They’re disciplined. They’re relentless offensively. They’re averaging 363 yards a game running the football. They don’t pass often but when they do, it’s usually a big play for them that a safety is triggered and up at the line of scrimmage to stop the run and they throw it over his head. It’s very important when you play these guys that you have tremendous discipline by all 11 guys. If you’re assigned the dive, you tackle the dive. If you’re assigned the quarterback, that’s you have. The pitch, that’s who you have. You’re going to get limited drives offensively. They’re averaging 33 minutes a game. So our offense, when we have the ball, has got to score points because you don’t have the ball a lot.
“They’re quarterback is an amazing operator. He’s averaging over 100 yards a game rushing and they have some big fullbacks. They’re all over six yards per carry. So (they’re) great offensively. Defensively, they blitz, have a heavy zone blitz. We’re going to see a lot of blitzes. Most of all, we have to match their effort because they are going to give you great effort every play. Coach (Jeff) Monken has them very sound in special teams also. So, we need to get this season going. There’s not one (game) on our schedule that we can’t win if we prepare. We need to prepare and win some football games here.”
On preparing for the option:
“Well, you throw everything defensively that you worked on all year; we can’t do it anymore. Usually, by formation, they are going to be in double slot or unbalanced. If you blitz it, normally their band is playing their fight song. So, you play very solid and sound football and make sure that if you’re assigned the dive, you have to tackle the dive. If you don’t tackle them, they’re down field working you free safety. You’ve really got to ride their offensive linemen hard to keep them from going to the second level picking off your linebackers. Whoever is assigned quarterback can’t fall for the fake pitch and go out and try to tackle the pitch. You have to do your job.
The hard part is simulating with your scout team. You can show them a lot of film but you have a hard time simulating those cuts and simulating the loads and the traps that they do because they’ve done it so many times. They have 10 starters back offensively and they’re really good at what they do. So we’ve assigned different people roles on the scout team this week. Chris Boudreaux, who is a wide receiver and was a high school quarterback, is going to be out quarterback. So you try to get some guys who have run the option to help you out over there.”
On the interior defense:
“Our defensive line has played extremely well. This is a game where (Army) comes at you at angles. They’re coaching staff has seen any defense that you can present to them. If you’re three down; you’re four down, they know exactly what kind of angles they are going to try to use to take some of the size out of it. But, I’m very proud in how our defensive line has played this year. Coach (Frank) Okam has done a fantastic job getting those guys ready.”
On the second half offensive production a Pitt:
“We were thrilled. When we cut it to 28-10 I thought, ‘We’re back in this thing.’ We were able to show a lot of video that when we do things right, how explosive we can be. Versus when one guy does something wrong, how that’s been killing us. We have to eliminate those kind of mistakes. It’s focus.”
On if playing Army the last couple of years helps going into Saturday’s game:
“Not a lick. You know you’re playing them, so you take a couple of days back in the spring, because what you can’t do is do so much that your guys can’t play fast. We spent a couple days in the spring working on them. We spent a couple of days in camp working on them to prepare for this week.”
On what the offense will need to do better against Army’s defense:
“We’ve got to make people miss after a run or after a catch. We’ve got to start getting yards after contact. We have to. We’ve got to pick up those yards that everybody in the country is getting.”
On playing the cadets:
“Those young men have made a decision. Right now, they know that when they graduate, they are going to protect this country. That’s a heck of a commitment that those guys make. It says a lot about the character of the young men that decide to do that. That’s a tough academic school and then you add all the military training that they are doing. What I really think is great though is that everybody at West Point is part of an athletic team. If you’re not part of a varsity sport you’re playing sports. I think that’s super and it’s about leadership.”
On cornerback J.T. Ibe:
“He was incredible. He had 13 tackles on the day. He had the forced fumble down on the goal line and the fumble recovery. He is playing really, really special football right now. I’m really thrilled with how he is progressing.”