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October 1, 2014

Mike London

MIKE LONDON: Good afternoon.  Yes, pretty good week of practice thus far.  Having to do that, playing a really good Pitt team.
They are really establishing offense.  James Conner, their running back, is a really big back that I believe is on par right now to surpass some of Tony Dorsett's records.  Very, very stout defensive line.  You look at them defensively, they're in the top ten in giving up total yards per game.
So we've got our work cut out for us.  It is a 7:30 game here in Charlottesville.  We're excited about the opportunity to play our next ACC game and move forward from there.
With that, I'll take any questions.

Q.  I know you addressed some of the things you're looking forward to in this match against Pittsburgh.  What can you say about where your team is now, practice this week what you've kind of addressed, and some of the improvements that you've wanted to make? 
MIKE LONDON:  Every game has been something has come out of it that we've had to learn from and improve upon.  It gives us opportunities to keep defining what we are and who we want to be.
Defensively, we've done a pretty good job here of late, trying to create things we're known for thus far in the season.  That's the turnovers from this past week.  We didn't get any the week before, but that whole mindset of hunting the football is something we continue to keep harping on in practice.
Offensively, continue to be efficient.  We addressed some of the red zone issues in the second half of last week's game.  We've got to be able to win, and if we get down in the red zone, we want to score touchdowns.  It's good to have field goals, but you've got to get six points out of that.
Special teams‑wise, there's been a couple of long returns on us that we have to shore up with technique.  We believe we have a pretty good return game ourself.  Just kind of mainly taking care of ourselves and the things that we do and knowing that this game against Pittsburgh is going to be a very physical game because that's kind of the mindset of Coach Chryst.
You look at him offensively, the running back that has over 200 yards, you'd better be ready to tackle a big back like that.  It's going to be a big physical battle, but nonetheless, it's one at our place, and our players are excited about the opportunity and challenge.

Q.  I was wondering, it was a big talking point at media days, the quality and the depth of the conference moving forward, but right now there's only one team ranked in the top 25.  With your team, you guys have a top 25 win.  You've taken two other teams down to the wire.  I was wondering, what do you think about the depth of the conference about five weeks into the season?
MIKE LONDON:  Obviously, you can only go by records right now.  Records represent the powers that be there looking at it.  I know it's a very competitive league.  We have the National Champion in the league.  There's some really good teams in this league as well.
It's interesting that everything is‑‑ everyone's talking about where we've started and where we are now.  But just like any team, you're always worried about how you finish and where you finish in the end.  So I'm pretty confident that, with the teams that we have here in the ACC, that some of these teams will emerge and be seen and noticed when it comes down to the top 20, top 25.
Like I said, right now almost half the season, but in the end, I believe, just like we're looking at, all that matters is what happens at the end of the season, and I would say the same thing for potential teams in our league to move up and be involved in the discussions for playoffs and Championship.

Q.  Just wanted to get an update on Greyson Lambert.  Last week you said, if Greyson were not 100 percent, you would not play him.  Does that still hold?  Let's say he's 80 percent.  Would you play him this week?
MIKE LONDON:  It's a different week.  He's done a nice job as far as getting himself in the training room.  He practiced today, and he'll practice again tomorrow, and then come Friday, we'll look at him again.  Saturday, we'll make the game time decision.
For right now, he's looked good in practice.  I don't know what percentage he is, but he looked pretty good today.  I could tell you better.  We'll probably know 100 percent on Saturday, but I can tell you he did practice today.

Q.  Let me ask you another kind of unrelated question.  Much has been made about all the turnovers your team has forced.  A little bit surprising, when I looked it up, was the fact that you committed 13 turnovers.  That's tied for the most in the conference.  When you were talking about turnovers earlier, was that what you were referring to, that you've had a few more turnovers than you'd like?
MIKE LONDON:  One, obviously, offensively you don't want to have the type of turnovers particularly that lead to touchdowns in the red zone and all those things like that that can cause you to lose.  On the flip side, defensively, we have improved in that area from putting our offense in position to score points.
Either way, the whole thing is not to give up the ball.  Sometimes on balls that are fumbled and other teams scoop and score, sometimes that happens.  But protect the ball where we throw it, and when we catch it or run it, to protect the ball from that standpoint.
It's an ongoing process of teaching, of communicating what needs to be done.  And of learning.  We're just still‑‑ we're still learning, but we have to get better at hanging onto the football because we do a pretty good job taking it away.

Q.  People talk about the turnovers, but you guys are forcing that.  How much is scheme, and how much is a mentality to your team?
MIKE LONDON:  A lot of it is just it's a mentality.  The other part of it, we talked about when you've been in the system for two years in a row and terminology and the expectation of the execution, players know that.  And then what happens is the guys play faster.  They play faster because they demonstrated confidence in what they're doing, and it's led to some of these sack strips from behind.  Guys get in the throwing lane, different things.
So we like to chart how many times we hit the quarterback, how many times a guy gets his hand on the ball.  It's important.  That's defensive football.  I would attribute to, again, guys that have come back in the same system, guys feeling comfortable, and guys playing faster, which leads to opportunities to be ball disruptive.

Q.  How long does that usually take for guys to get that sort of confidence in themselves and the system?
MIKE LONDON:  Every team is different.  Every makeup of players are different.  I mean, you want to keep preaching it and harping on it.  You know, you make a tape of ball security issues that quarterbacks or wide receivers or running backs sometimes have, and you show your players that, and they look at it, and they see the guy holds the ball away from his body.
Like anything, it takes time.  It takes practice.  When you can do it, you do it efficiently, then it leads to opportunities to win games.  So it's a process, and you just learn as you go on.
Like I said, it's the second year of the same terminology and the defense and the expectations our guys have learned.  And now with that, they've made a big emphasis on also tackling the football.

Q.  Now that Tra's playing the game, how is he practicing this week, and how kind of closely are you still monitoring kind of that whole situation?
MIKE LONDON:  We're monitoring Tra's situation closely because it's important about what happens after this game.  He practiced yesterday.  He did some work today.  Again, it's‑‑ we're going to rely heavily on Tra and how he feels, his body, and just the reaction to now planning and turning and tackling and doing all those things.
So we'll practice again tomorrow, and we'll kind of see how things go.  But we definitely have a close eye on him.  We want to make the right decision, what's best for him in the long run.  But it was good to see him out there on Saturday.
As I said, we'll make a decision, and we'll make the decision, particularly in consultation with our doctors, to make sure it's the best decision.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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