Coach David Bailiff held his weekly press conference prior to the Charlotte game.
“It was a disappointing loss once again. It was a game that we thought if we played well, we could win. How the offense started, we took the ball and drove for a touchdown. It was a very solid drive. Then we turned around and have four straight three-and-outs. Then we went back with another solid drive to score our 14th point of the game. We had two great drives in the first half.
In the second half, we had five quality drives, but we just didn’t get the points. We had the touchdown, a two-point conversion and the field goal. But we were able to move the ball. I thought that Tyler Stehling, from start to finish for his completion ratio, it was one of his more solid games that he has played. His decision-making and taking care of the football, there were some times early when he was getting sacked. I thought he may lose it but he was able to hang on to the football. He made good decisions. Cory Klingler played one of his best games as far as his blocking (and) his assignment. He really had a very dominating performance for us.
Defensively, there were too many mistakes and too many big plays. Our biggest issue there is depth right now. We’re just beat up. We had some new guys playing new positions. They did the best they could do on a short week. Destri White, our weak (side) safety had a fine ballgame. He had eight tackles. We had a lot of production trying to get the secondary set up and the new guys aligned right. So we were really pleased with how Destri played. In the front, Blain Padgett was very solid and Alex Lyons also played solid. We had to move Tabari McGaskey from strong safety to linebacker, which he played a year ago. He had a very solid game for us. He missed the third quarter with an injury but came back in the fourth to finish the game. But there were too many big plays. We have to get the big plays eliminated.
In special teams, I thought Jack Fox really did a great job punting the ball and with his kickoffs. Also, Haden Tobola on field goals. We’ve had some issues in protection on field goals but I thought the (offensive) line really got solidified this week.
Nobody likes to be in this position. We have some incredible young men who just continue to work hard. We have to go on the road to Charlotte who just had a big win on the road at Southern Miss. They’ve beat Southern Miss and Marshall on the road this year. They’re improving every week. Brad Lambert’s done a nice job of getting them in position to compete. They have a great running game with their big running back, Kalif Phillips. They have great receivers and defensively they have Larry Ogunjobi, the defensive tackle, who’s very disruptive and has started four years in a row. He’s a great player for them. They’re solid defensively. They don’t make a lot of mistakes. They’re on a roll right now. They’re 3-2 in conference and we’ve got to keep getting better.
The young guys have to step up. We have to continue to coach them hard; continue to stay upbeat; continue to stay together and try to work through this. The only way to get through these hard times is to work and stay together. It’s a tribute to these young men and what they’ve tried to do. They continue to come over here and give us their best every time they come into this facility or step on the field.”
On if it was another example on sometimes things go right and sometimes they go wrong:
“We’ve had eight different starting lineups in the offensive line. It’s just a lead (where) we’ve had a hard time being consistent and we’ve had a hard time staying healthy. Those aren’t two things that help you. We’re all doing our best. We’ve won one game this year. We’re a better football team than that. The only way through it is to keep working. Last week, a lot of the young men had never played positionally what we were asking them to play because we’re just having big depth issues right now. It’s hard sometimes for a young man to get all the route combinations. So we continue to delete our menus on both sides of the ball. It’s not important what coaches know. We have to make sure that these young men know it. That’s what we’re trying to battle through.”
On what would this team be like with a full roster:
“We’d have 25 more players practicing. That would help a lot. We’re down 14 for the season and another 11 for this game right now. On the defensive line, three of our top four interior defensive linemen have had season-ending injuries. It’s just one of those tragic years where the injury bug has bit us two years in a row. In (2013), we didn’t have anybody hurt. We had the same starting lineup in the offensive and defensive lines. In 2015 and 2016, last year it was eight changes in the offensive line and right now this year it’s eight.”
Going into the offseason, is that something you work on:
“You work in the weight room to prevent injuries. Tragically, injuries are one of those things that if you could control them, there would be none in the NFL. It’s a contact sport and people are going to get hurt. We practice smart. We practice to try to be as injury free as you can. Most of the injuries occur in the games, not in practice. You really do so much less contact now to prevent the concussions and that ACL’s. You get the three scrimmages during two-a-days that you take advantage of. In the last two years we’ve been in that cycle and you have to cycle out of it. There are some days that you go out in practice and you think if you just stare at each other someone will twist an ankle. We’ve just got to keep working through it. In the offseason, we all did an injury report. You study injuries to try to prevent them. But, that’s something that you really can’t prevent.”
On Austin Walter:
“Austin averaged 5.4 yards a carry. I’m really proud of him. Where I was most pleased with him was in his pass-protection and when we would slide protect. He actually held up against (Azeez Al-Shaair) who’s a great player. He’s had tremendous runs and tremendous ball security. I really like how he’s playing. He’s got great hands. He catches the ball well when we throw it to him.”
“Brad Lambert’s done a fabulous job there. I’ve known Brad for a long time. He has 19 fifth-year seniors that have been a part of that program. As they’re building, they’ve had some nice transfers come in there. They’ve done a good job. They have that big running back, Kalif Phillips. They’re solid. Defensively, they’re not a high-risk defense but they make you earn every yard that you get. They’re solid on both sides of the ball.”
On if Jackson Tyner and J.T. Granato will play more:
“Their roles will increase. A lot of it will be by personnel. They’ll each have packages that they will work with. They need some reps for next season. They both have got in and played well.”