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October 15, 2014

Dave Clawson

COACH CLAWSON:  We had a very productive bye week.  I think our guys got a chance to get healthy, which after six straight games certainly helped.  It was nice for our players to be able to focus on academics.  We're in the middle of midterms right now.  As coaches we got on the road, did a little recruiting, got some practice in, got some of our younger players some work.  Overall a very productive week.
We're excited to be back at home.  We face a very veteran and physical football team in Syracuse.  It should be a great game on Saturday.  So we're excited to be back home again.
Any questions.

Q.  You were talking about going up against Syracuse.  What have you seen from watching film on them, some of those key points you've tried to zero in on with your team?
COACH CLAWSON:  I think, number one, when you look at Syracuse, it's just how physical they are.  I mean, they're a very veteran offensive line.  Three seniors and two juniors.  Overall they've got 34 players in their two‑deep that are juniors and seniors.  They've got some youth mixed in there, but overall it's a very experienced football team.
With that comes usually a very physical football team, which we know they are.  When you've been able to be in a weight program for three, four, five years, it certainly helps the physicality of your football team.  I think that's our biggest challenge with Syracuse, is how experienced and physical they are.

Q.  You talk about the experience, having juniors and seniors.  Their quarterback being a true freshman, what can you say you saw from him?
COACH CLAWSON:  Again, I think it's a skill set that's somewhat similar to their starter who just got hurt.  I've played with young quarterbacks before.  I think young quarterbacks can have success when they're surrounded by veteran football players.  It's not like they're breaking in a freshman quarterback with a freshman, sophomore offensive line, a freshman tight end, freshmen receivers.  They're plugging this guy in with a bunch of guys that have played a lot of football.  I think that really helps in the transition.  They're adjusting to one guy, they're not adjusting to half their offense.
He's got a good still set, very athletic, he can extend plays.  Certainly when the play breaks down, he becomes a weapon in that area, too.  I mean, we're impressed with him.  We know he's athletic.  We're going to have to do a great job of getting him on the ground and not letting his plays extend.

Q.  Your defense is pretty much keeping you within striking distance in about every game you've played so far.  On offense what signs of progress have you seen that things might be improving there?
COACH CLAWSON:  Well, a lot of it right now for us is just having a good practice.  I think the bye week was a good time for us to evaluate the first half of the season, especially with our run game.  Okay, of our run plays, which are the ones that are right now the better efficiency runs, what are the things we've done well, trying time trying to become better at those things.  Then the things we're not doing well, minimize or eliminate from the offense moving forward.
As young as we are, we have to make sure our guys are playing fast, that they're aware of the assignments, how those things change when there's stems and blitzes, line movements, all those things that can happen in the course of a game.
My experience is when you're struggling, you don't do more; you try to execute what you do and try to do maybe a little bit less.

Q.  Both teams have true freshmen starting quarterbacks.  I know Wolford has started every game so far.  Do you fret a little bit more when there's a true freshman at quarterback or do you just put him in there and look for him to play as if he was a third‑ or fourth‑year player?
COACH CLAWSON:  No, I don't think there's a coach in the country that goes into the season and says, I hope we play to true freshman quarterback this year.
If you're playing a true freshman quarterback, it's usually because something went wrong.  Maybe you missed on a couple of quarterbacks before that or you have an injury.  Then when you have one, you've got to be very careful how to manage them.
You're not going to have the same playbook as you're going to have with a third‑year sophomore or junior or fourth‑ or fifth‑year senior.  They just don't have the accumulation of reps through practice, through spring football, through the off‑season stuff, that an older guy has.
You really have to try to narrow it down, say, Okay, what do these guys do well?  Where is their comfort zone?  Every quarterback has a breaking point in terms of I think overload, giving him too much.  That breaking point with a freshman happens a lot quicker than it does happen with a veteran quarterback, even if a player is exceptional.
You can't play that position with any hesitation.  So I think you have to be careful how much you put on those guys' plate so it doesn't overload them and overwhelm them.

Q.  What do you see on film against Syracuse when they played against Florida State?
COACH CLAWSON:  Again, they're a very physical team.  They certainly move the ball with a lot more success than we did against Florida State.  One of their wideouts made some good plays on the edge.  As you'd expect with Coach Shafer, their defense plays hard and those guys compete.
I think the games were very similar except Syracuse was able to put some points on the board late and we weren't able to do that.
The Florida State game is a great reference point for us because we just played them the week before.  I think both defenses probably have similar results.  They had a lot more success on offense against Florida State than we did.

Q.  Talk about the maturity of your quarterback.  Is he growing since that Florida State game?  The defense at Florida State manhandled him.
COACH CLAWSON:  We protected him a little bit against Florida State.  We didn't drop back as much.  He did not get hit that much against Florida State.  Two weeks before that against Louisville, he just took a lot of hits going up into that game.  The Florida State game, he didn't take as many hits.  We didn't drop back as much.
I think it was really good for him to have a bye week, take a breather, heal up a little bit.  A lot of times you take that bye week, you get back to your fundamentals and your core offense, making sure you're running those things correctly.  I think it was really good for him to kind of recenter him a little bit.  He's looked really good.  He's had a great week of practice.
He's very mature to begin with.  It's one of the reasons he's our starting quarterback.  He's got a maturity and a poise about him that's very unusual for a true freshman.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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