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December 13, 2014

John Donovan

COACH DONOVAN:  We're excited to be playing in a Bowl.  Every rep, every meeting, everything we have with these kids right now is vital to our future.  It's vital to us trying to win a game, which is our goal.  We're excited to be in a Bowl game.
We have a lot of respect for Boston College and the staff.  I've worked with Don Brown, defensive coordinator, and Ken Lempa who is on the defensive staff.  A lot of respect.
They do an unbelievable job.  No different with the team they have now, just the little I've seen.  We have a great challenge ahead of us.
But hopefully these practices that we've been doing and will do will help us get a win.  End on a winning note and a good note and help us as we work towards the future.

Q.  What was one of the greatest‑‑ what was the greatest challenge that you had, have had this season with this particular group of guys?
COACH DONOVAN:  It's crazy, every time you go somewhere new or do something new just like you, you have a job, you don't fully understand the job you're in sometimes until you have a year, full year circle of doing it.
We've got a very young group and they're very influenced by some things.  And that was a little bit, that hurts a little bit.  You try to control the room and all that stuff.  But at the same time, because they're young and inexperienced, the majority of them, they learn by doing, by the game reps they do get.  And that comes over time.  When you don't have an experienced group, each rep they have in practice is great.
But until it happens in a game happens full speed where they've got to think and think fast and go through it, sometimes it's a process and they've got to work through that and that's been a couple of things.

Q.  Coming into the season both you and James talked about kind of tailoring the offense to the strengths of whatever players you had.  Not just this year but in future years.  Did you kind of have to maybe tailor to some of the limitations of these guys, just because of the experience and the youth issues this year?
COACH DONOVAN:  Just going off of last season where we were at, we had a second round draft pick, got him 112 catches.  That was easy to figure out.
Last year here, they had a second round draft pick, able to get him 90 something catches, whatever he had last year.  We don't have a sure‑fire first, second round pick now.
Will they eventually be?  Hopefully they'll grow into it, some of the guys.  The seniors we have, especially on the perimeter, they're young guys.  We played two true freshmen, a redshirt freshman, who led the league in catches and a sophomore.
So some of those guys, especially the true freshmen, just happen to be playing at Penn State.  This is awesome, you know what I mean, if it's time to‑‑ but when you still need to make plays for us to win.
And I think that will happen over time.  And that group will get so much better.  Up front we had a lot of guys that were inexperienced, too.  But that's college football.  You're going to go through that.  You're going to get teams that have a lot of experience and some teams that don't you have to try to find a way.
But long story short we don't have a true exceptional veteran difference maker to try to get him the ball.  So we've gotta do whatever we have to do per defense, per week, wherever we're healthy or whoever is playing and go from there.

Q.  Christian Hackenberg showed his frustration several times during games when things weren't going well for him.  What was your opinion of those reactions and what was your relationship with him overall do you think this season?
COACH DONOVAN:  He's frustrated.  He wants to win.  That's the bottom line.  He's a competitive son of a gun.  And when you're not winning, we won enough games to go to a Bowl game.  We had two games we could have closed the deal and we didn't.  We didn't play as well as we could have and all that stuff, too.  But he's just a competitive fiery guy.  He's 19 years old still.
So he's only a sophomore.  Last year he was the young buck, and everybody kind of carried him along and take the reins and take charges when needed to take charge, when things are going good or bad whatever it might have been.  He was the one guy that from last year that basically played in every game.
Him and Jesse James, I guess, were the two returning guys that started every game that started last year.  I mean, that's it.  The other guys that were here part of last year didn't complete the whole season for one reason or another.
So he's just a competitive guy that gets his juices flowing.  He can get frustrated at times.  We get it.  There's certain ways you've got to handle yourself because you know the camera's on you or whatever, the team's looking at you and you need to be positive when you need to be positive and you can't always show frustration.
But there's times where, hey, you gotta be who you are and show your emotions, but there are times where you've got to understand that you've got to keep it in check and handle them, too.  And he's learning that.  And he will, he'll just get better.
This season for a lot of guys, including myself, including him, is going to help him tremendously as he goes forward, because as we all know and Coach Franklin always says life is not easy.  When you have to go through tough times and tough experiences, you gotta fight through it.
You gotta fight through it.  And we gotta fight through some stuff this year, and that's the bottom line, and when you're going to be able to draw from those experiences and whatnot as you move forward, competitive guy in you is going to want to work to get the good experiences in and that's going to happen next year, as we go on.

Q.  As the season progressed, many people look at the Central Florida performance and Christian threw for a lot of yards and kind of wonder what happened from that point.  Now, I know there are a myriad of things that didn't end up happening but was it frustrating for you that you couldn't quite reverse the momentum once things kind of started going south?
COACH DONOVAN:  It's natural, absolutely.  You're frustrated when you come up with a plan, you come up with a game plan, you come up with things to do and execute.  And you don't do them to the fullest extent.
That's the nature of anything you do.  So, yeah, absolutely.  The bottom line is we had two games where we could have put the game away and we didn't.  And our last possession, we do that, we're sitting here at 8 and 4 maybe it's not as big a deal.  But at the same time we didn't.  So we gotta be able to win those situations.  We talk about situations a lot.  We have opportunity really to close two games out.  We didn't do it.  That's as frustrating as anything.
But, yeah, you're going to have games where you'll throw better than you're running, vice versa, and play teams that have good defenses and not as good.  Bottom line it's about your execution and making plays.  We came very close on a lot of big plays.  We got a lot of big plays that game that helped.  And we were very close to making big plays at other games that we didn't make.
You make those plays, it's a whole different story.  Whole different story.  And you guys may or may not have seen it, but we see and we recognize them and you just make this, the whole game changes.  And we just didn't make as many plays for one reason or another and some of the games we struggled.

Q.  You said earlier when you got here you realized you had a young group, very influenced by some things.  I thought that was interesting.
COACH DONOVAN:  Let's not‑‑ you can control the room all you want, but all you guys in here, too, you have all your opinions.  It's like a buddy of mine in coaching says everyone can do your job better than you can.  You know what I mean?  They're a young group, they'll get influenced.  You've got to be able to keep it tight and keep it within that.
Like I said, the two things, the experience on the field and the experience of just keeping the noise outside outside.  Not let it affect you.  But when you're young and you're a kid‑‑ some of these kids are kids.  True freshmen and whatnot.  So they're going to get influenced in some regard.
It's a learning experience for them as they go forward.  So that's all I meant.  We could sugarcoat it all you want.  But social media these days, they're on Twitter, they read stuff, they get messages and you know they get their friends telling them, their parents telling them or whatever it might be.
So it's natural.  It's natural wherever you are, really.  But when you do have an inexperienced group it could affect them in some regard.

Q.  Could you maybe describe some of the intricacies of how long it takes to develop an offensive line?
COACH DONOVAN:  Oh, gosh, a while.  (Chuckling) a while.  That's why you love to have‑‑ ideally the kid hasn't played redshirt sophomore, get him a couple of years of learning the system, getting bigger and faster.  It's such a different game up front.  Especially for an offensive lineman.  It's like calculus to those guys.  It's very intricate, the defenses and what they do and how you need to block them.
So not only do you need to be smart and be able to think fast you need to be strong enough and big enough to handle the one‑on‑one matchups.
Guys just don't stand still.  So when they do, you gotta be able to block them.  When they move you've got to be able to think fast and react fast and that just takes time.  That takes time.  So ideally you get two years in the system and they're ready to play after a couple of years but sometimes you don't have that luxury and you gotta do with what you've got.
When you move from defense to offense, we've got a couple of those guys, they're basically new there, too.  But we had to do it out of necessity.  And those guys did as good a job as we could ask them to do.  They'll just get better because of it.  It's a whole new world on that side of the ball.

Q.  You had mentioned that you're more comfortable upstairs.  You came down on the sideline this year.  What's the balance of being there for Christian and having someone that he can talk to that he's familiar with versus some of the things that you might be more comfortable with that you can get the bird's‑eye view upstairs?
COACH DONOVAN:  It's a fine line.  I say it's always like playing chess you don't play it by playing eye level but by looking down.  It's obvious to see stuff.  The one thing that I miss being upstairs is that you kind of see the progression of the game.  You kind of see the story of the game as it unfolds a little bit and what they're trying to do and whatnot.  So that's the one thing that was an adjustment for me.
But the bottom line is we need that key to play as well as he can and if that's going to make him feel better we'll do whatever we can to make him feel better get his mojo right and go from there.  The good thing is you get the human element you're able to see those guys look them in the eye and get a size of the opponent.  That kind of stuff you don't get upstairs when you're in a more controlled environment.
So there's pluses and minuses to both but it was an adjustment for me, a little bit.  But not as much as I would like to think or whatever.  But we gotta be able to execute and play wherever I am.

Q.  So as you alluded to earlier, a guy like Robinson is not here anymore.  So Christian's gone through the highs and lows.  But how important is the rapport he's developed with all these younger receivers, these redshirt freshmen going forward and what have you seen along the course of the year, for example, in the Michigan State game at the end of the first half throwing that bomb to I think it was Chris Godwin, but still he took that look and it seems like he's trusting his guys a little more as he goes through?
COACH DONOVAN:  Chris made a heck of an adjustment on that ball.  Just one of those things that he just couldn't finish it off but I mean it was athletic.  And he made a great adjustment in the air and everything else.  He'll make that play as time goes on.  But I'm sorry I cut you off.

Q.  How like important is this going forward with that rapport with these young guys, because they're going to be together, moving forward, and especially this Bowl game how big is this for them on a confidence level?
COACH DONOVAN:  Absolutely.  Chris Godwin was playing Delaware high school football at this time last year.  But now he's playing in this kind of environment and against guys that are 22, 23 years old.  You know that are physical and experienced.  So as they get older it's going to be impressive to see them develop.
I mean, you don't necessarily have to rely on or you wouldn't love to rely on too many true freshmen at any spot.  When you've got three or four top receivers that are freshmen, one being a sophomore, you know, I mean it is what it is.  They're just going to get better.  That's what happens in college.  You get more experience.  It's like anything else.  I'm sure when you're a senior in college, whatever you do, you look at a freshman come through you're like I see this guy's future, whatever you're doing, whether it's football or whether it's just the classroom or whatever it might be, whatever major you're in.
You kind of see that future.  Those guys are coming in like looking at everything wide eyed and what's going to happen next and everything else.  So as they get older and they've been through the fray, they're going to look at a couple of years at some other kid coming in here some hot shot and he's going to look at him and go, boy, you've got a long way to go or whatever.  Who knows.
But they're just going to get better.  That's the bottom line.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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