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November 25, 2014

Al Golden

COACH GOLDEN:  We're getting ready for the Pitt Panthers coming in on Saturday.  Another night game for us.  A great challenge.  Led by their All‑American runner James Conner who is having an unbelievable year.  Number three rusher in the country.  They're averaging about 255, 260 yards a game rushing.
Excellent quarterback in Voytik.  Completion percentage in the mid 60s.  Can run the ball.  His TD to interception ratio is great.  Holtz inside at tight end.  Physical offensive line.
On defense they're excellent on third down, not giving up explosive plays.  Got a good kicking game.  Boyd's an excellent returner in that round, too.
Going to be an excellent challenge, getting ready as we practice here today.

Q.  What is the biggest thing you need to improve or correct from last week against Virginia to go back to the way you were playing before that game?
COACH GOLDEN:  Well, there's a lot of things.  Number one, give Virginia a lot of credit for how they performed.  We didn't run the ball effectively enough on offense.  We got to get back to protecting the ball.
Clearly we have some special teams' concerns we got to get cleaned up that are going to require some personnel changes, things of that nature.
On defense we got at this point to play good, tackle really well.  We didn't play as well on the perimeter as we had been playing.  We didn't get the takeaways we needed.
Those are just some areas.  We're obviously working on many others, as well.

Q.  Lost in the shuffle of Saturday's game, special teams miscues, the block towards the end.  Hugo gets the touchdown.  What did it mean for you and the guys to see someone like him be able to score a touchdown in one of his last games?
COACH GOLDEN:  Hugo has been a guy that has played special teams for us, a guy that could put out fires for us at either corner or safety.  He's been with the program.  He's experienced.  He has wisdom to offer young guys.  He works hard.
I was glad to see him do that, to be in the perfect position to make a play there, then execute it.  We're grateful to the commitment he's made to our team and the difference he's made on special teams for us, for sure.

Q.  Looking at Stacy Coley's numbers, he hasn't broken a long one like last year, no touchdowns.  He's not alone.  Kind of a universal things in the ACC.  What are you telling him to try to keep him from getting frustrated?  Is there a reason it's been difficult for teams to spring big returns this year?
COACH GOLDEN:  In terms of Stacy, I tell him to just stay with it and not look for the big one.  I think it's important to keep trying to hit singles, let the triple or home run express itself, obviously use your gifts at that point.
So we've worked it really hard.  We have to perform better, there's no question about it.  In terms of the overall philosophy of that play in college football, I think clearly there's seven guys running down on the snap, which is a little bit different than the NFL model.  Punters are getting good hang.  I think those two things combined have made it a little bit more difficult to get returns.
You sound like you have some data in terms of the numbers being down, whatever the case may be.  I would certainly think more people taking advantage of the college rule, just the disparity from week‑to‑week in what we're getting formation‑wise.  Everybody has a different punt team.
It's not like the old days where you were seeing the same punt unit.  NFL, everybody has the same punt team basically.  We're seeing so many different formations, styles, blocking schemes, guys running down on the snap because of the rules.  Maybe it's finally caught up.

Q.  I know games are won by who executes and who doesn't.  How much of a hangover do you see from your team last week after the Florida State game?
COACH GOLDEN:  Again, you can certainly argue there was one.  But that topic and those things are never brought up in our building.  Our building is about executing, not making any excuses, just 12 one‑game missions.
It's easy to look back and say we didn't play well or Virginia played well and had a lot of energy, for people to point to that and create an excuse.  That excuse has not entered our building.  We're in a results‑oriented profession.  Clearly we didn't play well enough.  That's my responsibility.
I've never bought into that notion.  I think we laid it on the line against Florida State.  We have to come back to work and lay it on the line against Virginia.  There's no easy games in college football.  This Pittsburgh team provides a lot of challenges for us.  Obviously they're playing really well.

Q.  What kind of similarities do you see in the running styles between James Conner and Duke Johnson.
COACH GOLDEN:  Other than the production, not much.  I think James, he runs with his pads over his toes.  He can make people miss.  So it's not all brute strength.  He's an excellent runner, has excellent vision.  Duke has a little bit different style in terms of agility, tuck‑backs, things of that nature.  Both very effective.
But I think there's a definite difference in the way those two approach the game.  Just utmost respect for James Conner and really Pitt for how they're using him.

Q.  You faced Virginia, who has six losses.  Pitt has six losses.  Is there a certain air of desperation you need to guard against with a team playing an extended season?
COACH GOLDEN:  From our standpoint, we're trying to play better and improve and do all those things.  It's really not about the other team.
Regardless of what Virginia's motivation was, we didn't perform well enough and we didn't execute well enough.  We have to concern ourselves with our motivation, with our approach, with our process, ultimately with executing and playing with energy, doing all the little things well on game day.
We're really not concerned with what their motivation is.  Obviously they got a great staff, coming off a big win.  I'm sure they're going to be plenty motivated.

Q.  When you have the ACC's two leading rushers in this game, do you get this is the kind of game Duke is excited for, even though they're not going against each other?
COACH GOLDEN:  Duke is a competitive person by nature.  I'm sure in some sense he's looking at it as a challenge.  Obviously he's going to stick with our game plan and his running style, the things that he's done well.
But I think it's more of a storyline outside.  But in terms of Duke, it doesn't really matter whether you're throwing him the ball, having him block blitz pickup or handing it off to him, he's a very competitive player and is going to compete with not only the runningbacks at his position, but anybody that's on the field.  That's just his nature.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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