Oct. 30, 2007
Orlando, Fla. (www.ucfathletics.com) - UCF Head Coach George O'Leary met the media on Tuesday in the interview room at Bright House Networks Stadium for his weekly press conference. O'Leary discussed the Knights' 34-17 road win at Southern Miss and the upcoming home contest with Marshall.
The Knights contest with the Thundering Herd will also serve as the first homecoming game on campus at Bright House Networks Stadium. Kickoff is set for 3:30 p.m. and the game will be televised regionally on Comcast/Charter Sports Southeast.
Below is a transcription of selected comments from the press conference. A complete audio file is available by clicking on the link above.
UCF has a little more history against Marshall than most teams. Do you think they are the biggest conference rival?
"I would think that if we had a rival in conference that it would be Marshall because of the history with them. I have not been around long enough to know that, but I think it would be Marshall if there was a rival team in conference. Both teams seem to treat it that way.
"They had a win last week against a Rice team. When I watch them on film, I think Marshall is very athletic. I think that they have a lot of speed. I think they have had misfortunes in turning the ball over and things like that. Anytime you do that you are going to have problems, but we better have our focus. I thought coming out today for the first time, the kids had a good practice and were very focused and intent on what they were getting done as far as coaching assignments and listening. They sort of had a coach me coach attitude."
Before the Southern Miss game, you said that your team needed to create turnovers and control the line of scrimmage. Do you think last week was the best show of consistency?
"I think the past two weeks have been fairly consistent. We got after it more on defense, giving the kids a chance to be more athletic. I think we are getting after some people more with some dogs and blitzes and stuff like that, letting them be more athletic out there. They are creating some errant throws. We are not in the tops in the league in sacks, but we pressure well. Anytime you get that quarterback to move his feet, you have a chance for an errant throw and that is what some of those throws were. I think guys were in good position and transition to the ball."
Was getting more pressure on the quarterback the cause of the eight turnovers over the past two games?
"I think that they go hand-in-hand. I do not think that you can have interceptions without pressure. I think that when you are pressuring quarterbacks, you are going to get turnovers because that is the nature of it. When you are not pressuring the quarterback, I think that everybody is too good throwing the ball right now that if you give them too much time, they are going to make completions."
How has Kyle Israel stepped up in the Tulsa and Southern Miss games?
"I think the last two weeks, he has done things that I expected a senior quarterback to do. He has made plays when there was not a play there. In other words, a good quarterback gets you out of a bad play and makes a good play out of it, not every time, but 75 percent of the time he does. He has not made mistakes as far as turnovers and basically there is no question that when a good quarterback is in control, it is very noticeable on the field with the team in the huddle. I think that is what I have been looking for as far as fieldmanship. I think that is starting to show a little bit."
Kevin Smith has been the main person the entire season. Over the past two games, it seems different people like Sergio Joachim, Mike Merritt and Corey Rabazinski have stepped up. How does the help the offense?
"I think that when you start spreading the wealth, it keeps the morale heavy and high. I think they are practicing everyday too. We put some plays in for Mike Merritt and that was one of them. They just happened to blitz on it. I thought Kyle did a good job in reading the blitz and throwing a hot (route) on it. I think that is great for him because he is out there blocking all the time and does not get many touches on the ball. But, every game I think you put a couple of plays in. We are at the stage now, the more versatile you can be on offense as far as personnel is concerned, the more chances you have of playing. If you can only play one position, then you better be pretty good because there are other guys that can replace you and play other positions, so you do not have to change personnel on the field."
What do you think of the Marshall offense?
"I think (the quarterback) can hurt you with his arm and with his feet. I think that basically they have a receiver (Darius Passmore) that can run and catch long balls. Their offensive line is second to ours in terms of kids coming back in the conference and they are good-sized guys that can get in people's faces. They have a couple of running backs that can get tough yardage. They have the whole package and I think last week, the light bulb went on. I think we better get ready for a donnybrook Saturday."
With all the experience in the secondary, are they finally showing what they can do on a weekly basis?
"I think they have been in better position to make plays. I think they have transitioned to the ball and screwed down better by attacking the ball. I think that they are seeing more vision-wise. I think when you see more, you can react better."
Bruce Miller was recognized as the conference co-defensive player of the week following the Tulsa game, but you could have made another case for him this week. What do you think of his performance?
"I think he is a kid that has good ability. He was a linebacker when we took him here and he sort of ate- out that position. He is about 250 and change and has good speed, athletic ability and strong hands. I think he is involved in a lot of plays. A smart guy that knows tendencies and he is very dependable about what he has to get done. I have been very pleased with him. Especially being a redshirt freshmen, first time on the field."
How proud were you of Kevin with 43 carries against Southern Miss?
"Obviously you have to protect him, but I never felt comfortable until we kicked that field goal and made it three scores. I think that was the difference in the game and Kevin gets better as he plays more and more. I think probably in retrospect, the last series there where we were just hammering the ball - I probably should have put someone else in. I am never going to apologize for leaving a great player on the field. He wants to play. It is different if he is looking to the sideline trying to get my attention, but he wants to carry the ball. Probably, if I had to do it again and if I knew he had carried it that many times and I did not. I probably would have yanked him in the last minute or so instead of just trying to hammer it home.
"Forty [carries] is a lot, but that is the nature of the game. We were running the ball at them and he is a good running back. That is a lot of carries, but he probably normally (gets) high 20s or 30s. I think (it was) the nature of that game - we had so many possessions. We had the one drive that was 17 or 18 (plays) in a nine-minute drive that is big for 90 yards. He was out there for most of that. A lot of the carries happened in that time. Then there was another 12-play drive where he was out there. It is a little different when you are out there for six plays and then come off. I think continuity wise, he had too many plays.
Kevin has been putting up these big numbers all year, what impresses you the most about him?
"What I have been impressed about Kevin is his blocking. He can run obviously, but his blocking. You watch him in pass protection - that is the reason I leave him out there because he is a much better blocker than the other running backs. You can say to get him out of there in certain downs, but he is a very good pass protector and that is important when we are trying to throw the ball. What Kevin has done a good job in is keeping his durability. I think he does better as the game goes on. I think if you watch him, he is not taking a lot of direct hits. He is taking side shots. I think that he is reading his blocks well. I think as the kid from Southern Miss said, he stays behind his blockers for the longest time, then all the sudden he accelerates. That is part of seeing the field and good vision. He is not ahead of people, he is staying behind and all of the sudden, he puts a burst on and it is tough on linebackers. The kid, No. 24 (Gerald McRath) from Southern Miss said it right, he is tough to find and then when he does go, he is a big back at 210 pounds who can run."