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October 8, 2014

Al Golden

COACH GOLDEN:  Return home on Saturday versus Cincinnati, an explosive team, a team that put up 230 yards against Ohio State.  They can score and score quickly and in bunches.  Very impressed with their receivers, their ability to go down the field and get it.  They hold you to five sacks on offence and 43 percent on third down and they have been really good in the red zone as well.
On defense, really like their ends, 92 and 95, both are doing a nice job getting after the quarterback.  Jeff Luck in the middle I think is leading the NCAA in tackles.  He makes it go, very aggressive at the Sam nickel slot and the safety.
So a very good team coming in and obviously one that's explosive.  They are doing a good job protecting the ball and taking it away and so going to be a great challenge for us.

Q.  I wanted to ask you specifically about Nick Linder, he's a first‑year freshman you had starting in the offensive line in couple year, can you talk about how he graded out?
COACH GOLDEN:  Yeah, he did a good job.  Again, I was worried about their inside guys.  I thought they were really good going into the game.  I was looking at that match up early in the game just to be sure we could hold up and to see if we needed to change up our lineup, and he did a great job and he really held up.  He's smart, very poised throughout the game, great effort by him.

Q.  Georgia Tech, obviously that game, you said a lot of things about Cincinnati and what's coming up.  What did you learn about your team that you can take into this match up?
COACH GOLDEN:  There's not much, when we played Georgia Tech, we usually leave Georgia Tech there, most particularly on defense.  I think on offense, we have to improve our third down.  I think we had eight yards per play, our output was good.  We didn't hold the ball well enough and we threw two interceptions.
So because of that, we didn't get enough reps.  I think we only had 44 reps on offense in the game so.  If we convert on two more third downs and throw one less turnover, you have a chance to get 60 plays in the game and obviously can have more output in the kicking game.  I thought Vogel ended up kicking off much better after the first one, and our coverage was better.
But in terms of defense, there's not much that we carry forward when we play Georgia Tech.  It's a completely new‑‑ that's a different scheme than what we are playing this week against Cincinnati?

Q.  When you look at Cincinnati and their scheme, what are the biggest things you take away?  What poses the biggest threat to your offense?
COACH GOLDEN:  To our offense?

Q.  Yes, to your offense.
COACH GOLDEN:  Well, No.1, I really like the length and activity of their outside ends.  I think their linebacker core is good.  I think Jeff Luck is a guy that's active and can get off blocks.  He diagnoses plays really well.  Payne has been a very active Sam nickel for them, whatever they call it in their system but a very active player.  Their safeties are aggressive.
They play a lot of quarters and two high locks and have ability to go a lot of could have one and nice zone pressure package and then not afraid to come after you situationally with the blitz.
So again, I think it's an experienced group, eight starters back, I believe, as I look at the depth chart, a lot of seniors and juniors.  Again, it's going to be a good challenge for us.

Q.  How much input do you have on non‑conference scheduling and do you have any opinions regarding whether the ACC sticks with the eight‑game conference schedule or nine‑game?
COACH GOLDEN:  Again, I don't have much input in the schedule, No.1.  No. 2, the conference is set at eight games and that's the way that we're going to proceed.  That's the only way we can operate right now.
We can't really get into, you know, conversations about it or talking points or whatever.  The bottom line is, the decision has been made and so we all have to prepare our schedules accordingly.

Q.  I know Jon Feliciano has been one of your better offensive linemen.  What did you see in him when you first got there?  I think his spirits may have been a little bit down and you gave him some words of encouragement.
COACH GOLDEN:  Again, I think they had some guys on that team were really good, Orlando Franklin and others.
You know, when you as a freshman are comparing yourself to some of those guys, you can get down and I think he was probably not in the condition that he is now, certainly and he had not developed physically the way he needed to to have the type of confidence and power in terms of his body weight and explosiveness and that's something he worked really hard on.  He worked incredibly long hours.  He changed his body.  His weight is down right now.  At any moment in practice, he can play any of the five positions.  He's very smart.  He's tough.
He's playing with a lot of energy right now, so I'm proud of him.  I'm excited about him and I think he's playing his best football.  But certainly he was a young man that when we first got here, was probably a little bit down on himself relative to some of the guys that were in the program and not recognizing that some of those guys were really, really good.

Q.  What did you see in him?
COACH GOLDEN:  Just what I said.  I mean, he's smart as can be.  He wants it.  He's tough.  He's durable and he's versatile and that's a great combination to have.  You could see it early on that he's a very humble kid, from a humble background, and it just meant a lot to him, lunch‑pail ethic, grateful to be here, grateful for the opportunity to be able to graduate from Miami which he already has.
Those are all great signs.  When you have got hungry guys in your program, they tend to develop at a pretty linear pace over the course of four years and maybe don't have the ups and downs of somebody that's maybe outcome‑oriented or maybe not really focused on a process.  Jon is a process guy and has really grown in his time at Miami.

Q.  Halfway through the season with a 3‑3 record, are you surprised or were expectations before the season too high?
COACH GOLDEN:  Well, again, I just take it one game at a time.  So it's not like we have a break right now and can take a deep breath and look at everything and analyze everything and then move forward.  That's not our mind‑set.  I appreciate the question because in your mind it's the halfway point but for us, it's just the next game, it's the next mission and it happens to be Cincinnati and they pose enough threats.  You watch them on tape, they get your attention.
So they pose different threats on offense and certainly defense in the kicking game.  It's going to take all of our energy and all of our experience to go out and play well and beat them.  It's really not about what anybody else's expectations are and certainly there's a lot of things that we need to improve and better improve as we evolve this year, but I'm not really‑‑ we're not really assessing anything but Cincinnati and the threats that they pose.

Q.  What is the area on your team that you do want to see some more progress than you have so far?
COACH GOLDEN:  We've thrown too many interceptions, so we're putting the defense in too many situations.  I think we are minus four or minus five turnover ratio, which is not winning football. 
       So turnover to third down offense, for sure.  And when we get in the red zone, we have to score.  We have to drive it in from that standpoint.
On defense, again, third down defense, taking the ball away, we are not taking it away, as well.  Continue to increase our TFLs and sacks and our tackling has been inconsistent.  Those are just some of the areas; our kickoff coverage, we have to do a better job there, certainly, and we haven't got an explosive play in the return game on special teams.  So those are just some of the areas that we're focused in on.

Q.  Six games through the season, your quarterback, Brad Kaaya, is at the top of a lot of ACC passing statistics.  What have you seen this season development‑wise from him?
COACH GOLDEN:  I think he's grown a lot.  And again, it's very important for everybody in our organization and certainly as we recognize him as our quarterback, there's no qualifiers, there's no excuses.
We can't say, oh, he's a freshman quarterback, because he's our quarterback.  Whether you're a freshman or a senior we can't throw interceptions in the red zone like we did last week and think we are going to win the game.  We have to be better on third down, certainly.
There is a high standard there for Brad, and I really appreciate the effort that he's given, the growth that he has shown throughout the year, the poise on game day to go into the environments he's gone into and conduct drives in the manner that he's done it.
Really excited about his growth and about, more than anything, his focus.  He's focused and he loves ball, he studies it, he's in there studying it on Sunday and I give him off Monday and he's still in there preparing and ready to go.  I think everybody around him appreciates what he's given up, the sacrifices he's making and continue to see him make progress here as we go into Cincinnati.

Q.  Can you talk about the limited possessions in the Tech game and how that influenced play calling on offense?
COACH GOLDEN:  We're 14‑14 at the half, so it's not like we thought we needed to change our play calling.  We needed to convert on third down and not throw red zone interceptions and we needed to take the ball away or get third or fourth down stops on defense, it's as simple as that.
Again, give Georgia Tech all the credit.  I said it after the game, they didn't turn it over.  They converted on third down.  They stumped us on third down and that led‑‑ you're usually playing at a deficit in time of possession against Georgia Tech but that led to that chasm that showed up there.

Q.  I wanted to ask about Michael Wyche.  I noticed he was listed on top of the depth chart.  Can we expect more snaps from him at defensive tackle this week?
COACH GOLDEN:  He was listed on top of the depth chart?

Q.  He was listed as a co‑starter, I believe.
COACH GOLDEN:  Again, I don't know what the depth chart reads.  I apologize for that.  But certainly he's in the rotation this week and he needs to prepare really well the next couple days and get ready to play a big game.  He's in condition now, he knows the defense, and it's time.  It's time for him to bring energy to the defense and help us out.
Again, if he's at the top of the depth chart, I just want to make sure that I'm being fair all of those guys are competing for playing time, those three defensive tackles.  We should see all three of them in the game.  How much is up to them.

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