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September 25, 2017

Steve Addazio

Boston, Massachusetts

COACH ADDAZIO: Last week in the hustle to get ready for Clemson, really forgot to just mention what a great home environment we had here against Notre Dame. It was great to be in the stadium. It was electric. Looking forward to having a good home environment again. On the road down at Clemson we had a group of students and a group of fans that were down there that were really incredible in that environment. So I thought that was awesome. And I know our guys are looking forward to playing again at home at our place, and I hope we have a fantastic crowd.

Central Michigan, coming in here, good football team. Head Coach John Bonamego I've known for an awful long time, going all the way back to the early days I started coaching. He's a heck of a football coach. He's had a great career. He's done a great job at Central Michigan. He's made a name for himself in the NFL in special teams, and you can see his handprints all over that program. So a lot of respect for them.

They've got some real talent, at quarterback, at running back, at tight end, at wide receiver. They have good players. That MAC Conference is a really good football conference, and defense they've got some really good players. I really like their linebacker, Malik Fountain is their Mike linebacker; and Josh Cox, their DB. And I just think they have some talent on their team and have had a couple big wins. And excited about the opportunity to play them here Saturday. Any questions?

Q. Can you update us on Richardson and Monteiro. What is their status, do you think, for Saturday?
COACH ADDAZIO: I'd say it's probably too early to know all that right now. As you know, we do these press conferences on Monday, and Monday is a pretty early point in time. So we'll have an update later in the week. But you know, I'm hopeful that we'll be able to rebound from some of these injuries. So time will tell.

Q. Do you have enough moving parts on the offensive line that you could maybe move the center outside, and what is Shane Leonard's status? Anything you can tell us about the O line?
COACH ADDAZIO: That's a good question. We had a lot of moving parts, but we've on lost some of those moving parts right now as you know. Elijah Johnson has been gone all year. He was a starter for us last year. Jon Baker, of course, is gone for the year. And Shane Leonard is not cleared to play. So your moving parts are starting to shrink right now in terms of some of those things. So you know, I think the best thing that we can do is stay as healthy as we can and try to keep intact our unit. I thought our offensive line played pretty well in that game down at Clemson. That's two weeks against two real formidable opponents. I thought they've improved. So the last thing in the world we want is chaos up front right now. So let's keep our fingers crossed and hope we can keep some continuity there. Do we have a couple moves? We have a couple, but we don't have many. So we need a little good fortune from that standpoint. We've had -- we got two out for the year. A third one has been out basically the whole year. So that's three. And when you get a few more nicks and boo-boos, which you're bound to get, you're into four and five now, so that is something you're hoping to avoid.

Q. I was kind of surprised. John Lamot had seven tackles today. Has he played better than I kind of noticed him?
COACH ADDAZIO: John did a good be job. Here's another guy that's never really played in that role before. And having to do that against that team in that environment, I thought he did some really good things. There's a learning experience for him there. There's a learning curve. And he'll continue to grow there. And it's all about -- you know a couple weeks ago when we replaced Connor, we had a couple of fit problems, linemen problems. I thought our defensive staff and our players did just a fabulous job in that game. That's the best we've played against that Clemson team since I've been here, and our game plan with that game I thought was very, very accurate. We didn't let them throw the ball over our head. We kind of discouraged them out of their throw game. We made them go the long, hard field. Like I told you, when you have guys up front like we do, you saw it in every game this year. You saw it at Notre Dame. You saw it last Saturday. When those guys can play nose up like that, meaning you don't have to always plus one in the box, you can get a lot done, and you don't put yourself as much at risk in man coverage all the time. And so I thought we did a lot of really good things. We had two plays that hit us in that game. One, we were in perfect position on. They made a play on us. And one where we weren't in perfect position on where a young player hasn't played a lot of football. But other than that, we took the number two team in the country, probably the most explosive offensive team in the country, and we played them nose up. And so I was really proud of our team and our guys. There's a lot of guys in there that are playing a lot of new football and did a fabulous job. They really did. Now, John will continue to grow and get better. And he's going to be a really good football player. And what we have to do is work on our depth, of course. We're getting very, very thin. And we're well aware of that. And so we need another great week this week to bring Davon along and continue to bring Isaiah McDuffie. And we're very excited about both of those guys. Those guys have real good talent. It's just a matter of getting them adjusted to the system. In the case of Isaiah, and in the case of Davon, it's both adjustment to the system and just adjustment to playing on that side of the football. And those are not easy things to do midstream, but those two guys are doing a great, great job with that.

Q. Talk about Lukas' run support tackling.

Q. I was surprised.
COACH ADDAZIO: Yeah, Lukas did great.

Q. Six of his 13 were run tackles.
COACH ADDAZIO: Yeah. Well, you know, and that was by design, and I thought Lukas played his best football game, and did a great job in coverage and did a great job in support, in run support. I thought as a whole, in the secondary, we played pretty well. We missed a couple tackles, but as a whole I thought we played well. Like I said, there was a point in that game where, you know, a team that typically wants to take shots down the field wasn't real interested in taking the shots down the field. They hit a couple of runs, but that's part of that. And it's called the long, hard field. And I think that strategy for the most part was pretty accurate. Like I said, up until about five minutes into that fourth period there was only a couple of real plays that we really had an issue with, one of which was really quite well covered. So I was pleased with that. I mean we went into one of the toughest environments in the ACC, and I thought we really silenced that crowd. And so there was a lot of things to be excited about, a lot of things to be proud of. Obviously not winning the game is not what we strive for, but in terms of what we had to get accomplished there, I thought there was a lot of positives.

Q. Just talk about the special teams play, Mike Knoll.
COACH ADDAZIO: Right. I think they put six punts inside the 10 or something like that. I thought our kickoff return unit did great. I thought our coverage unit -- the one thing that happened to us at the end of the game was we let up that one punt return. And that was very uncharacteristic of us. In fact, we had the punt -- we had that thing, you know, corralled, if you will. But we had a couple of guys that probably were a little gassed at that point that we probably needed to substitute, and we let that one out, which was very uncharacteristic of us. But as a whole, I thought between our -- I thought our punter did a great job. I thought our punt coverage, I thought our kickoff return. I thought our kickoffs were good. You know, and I thought we did a great job in special teams. We had that one opportunity for the field goal early, and we just hit the upright, six inches wide on that one. But I thought it was a confident stroke. And that was a little bit pressing our limits right there distance wise. We were right on the edge of that. But we had enough leg on the kick. We were just a little bit, about six inches wide. Kind of got picked up in the wind a little bit and we lost it at the very end. It looked like it was going through and right at the end it kind of came out a little bit. You know, in a close game like that, those are all important things. I mean it certainly would have put us in a 10-7 game right into the final minutes of the fourth quarter in our favor. So in those kind of games you get a handful of opportunities to score. You're talking about one of the best defenses in America, really good front end, really good back end. You're going to get about a handful of shots. We took advantage of a couple. We missed out on a few. And that's the difference in those styles of games. But I thought overall Anthony Brown, once again, handled the environment, handled the situation pretty well. I thought Ben Petrula handled it pretty well. They're both two young guys at the apex of our offense right there that this was another great learning experience for them. It's not easy in those environments, and I thought they -- all in all I thought they did a good job with that. I thought John Hilliman and A. J. Dillon did a good job in the running game. I think we needed a little bit more consistency in our running game, and we needed to have a couple more connections in the throw game. I don't think our third down was particularly great, and there's a couple of things that put us in the ^ down and distance too early. We dropped a snap early on when we had field position. And we had a couple other issues that skewed it. It's hard -- Alabama against them didn't have a great third down percentage. That's hard to do against that defense, but we probably had an opportunity for a couple or three more good third down conversions which could have made all the deference in the world for us.

Q. Just talk about how tough it is to convert on third down in that type of environment, redshirt freshman quarterback.
COACH ADDAZIO: Well, it's difficult. I think you're really talking about just the quality of who you're playing against right there. That back end -- they talk a lot about the front end, but the back end is loaded with NFL players. There's not a great margin for error in that back end. They can run. They're physical run support players, but they can run in the back end in coverage. We had an opportunity earlier where we caught them in a breakdown in man coverage, and we weren't able to get the ball to Tom Sweeney who was wide open. That was a critical play for us right there. That would have put us down around the 10-yard line. So we had a few opportunities there. Those are things that with a little bit more experience those are going to happen. And those are great learning experiences for us, because like I said, against those kinds of teams you have a very finite amount of opportunities, and you gotta connect on those, and we weren't able to take advantage of enough of them. Some of them we did, but not enough.

Q. A. J. Dillon, I think, had 18 carries, I believe. Are we going to expect to see more and more of him as the season progresses?
COACH ADDAZIO: Yeah. I think he and John together, you're going to see more. He's just getting up to -- at this level you're basically learning how to handle that conditioning load. It's that load that you have to carry, where every snap, you gotta be at your maximum with ball security and everything else. He's doing a fabulous job. He's going to be a great player here. I don't think there's any question about that. And I think each week I think what you've seen us do is bring him along. And I think John Hilliman is playing his best football, absolutely his best football. So we are -- and you need them all, because, you know, it's taxing. We play an up-tempo deal. And so those guys gotta stay fresh. The last thing you want to see is those guys get real fatigued. That's when things start to happen, especially when you're young. When you're young, you gotta learn how to handle that fatigue. But I love the growth and development. I love the growth and development of a lot of young guys. I love the growth and development of the quarterback. I love the growth and development of the center. I love the growth and development of the tailback. I love the growth and development of Kobay White at wide receiver. There's a lot of really good things that are happening against really good opponents. That's the other piece there that never wants to go under the radar. That's important.

Q. So coming into the game you guys were averaging 87.3 plays per game.

Q. Saturday I think you guys ran 66. Was that a by-product against Clemson's defense or was that the game plan going in?
COACH ADDAZIO: No. That wasn't the game plan. That was a by-product of Clemson's defense. Our third down conversion wasn't where it should have been. So we weren't able to keep the chains moving as well. But that's -- we knew that that that could happen in that game. I mean we had to be able to play that game and be able to sustain in that game. Our deal was, quite frankly, go down there, hit them in the face, play a real physical game, okay. We did that. Our goal was to play great on defense, make them go the long field. We did that. Our goal was to be able to run the football. We did that at times, probably not consistently enough. Our goal was we were going to get a handful of opportunities in the throw game. We needed to capitalize them. Our goal was to have great field position. I thought we did that with our special teams, our defense and our run game; we had pretty good field position in that game. Last thing you want to do is have poor field position against that team. That compounds your issues. And we wanted to play well on special teams. So I think a lot of things we set forward to do we were able to accomplish, obviously not the ultimate one, which was one the football game. And we had a couple opportunities in there, like I said. I think it's fair to say we had a great opportunity to be, at least worst case scenario, 10-7 deep into that fourth quarter. Our goal was to drag them into the fourth quarter, drag them in, and then at that point it's anybody's game. Well, we did that. Okay. We drug them pretty deep into the fourth quarter. And then at that point we had a couple issues. I think we had a little fatigue -- we have a little bit of a lack of depth right now, and I think fatigue set in just a little bit on us and caught us a little bit.

Q. Looking forward to next week, Central Michigan the past two weeks has given up 41 of 31. Offensively you guys have moved the ball well, but haven't been able to move on drives. So how important is it to put up some points this week?
COACH ADDAZIO: Yeah, I mean I think what's really important here is continue to develop. Each week I've come in here and said our goal is to get better every day and every week. And that's what we've done. And again, against who we're playing -- we're not playing -- some of these people have this great opportunity to play some of these teams that are lesser teams. We're not doing that. But in the same vein I think that's really going to help develop our football team right now, and I think we're getting better each week. We gotta go out here and play at the highest level that we're going to play against, and we gotta come out on fire. And I anticipate we will. There's a great attitude on our team in our locker room. Our players sense and understand that every week we get kind of hit sometimes with some unpredictable things, like injuries and things that are pretty severe to us. And what we do is we digest that; we go to work. We develop it. Whatever errors we had we fix. That's been our M.O. each week right now, and we continue to get better. I think we have the development right now of a really good football team in there. Now we've gotta go out and that's gotta manifest itself and show, both offensively and defensively. We're speaking about offense, and we'd like to be able to go out here and move the ball effectively and be able to have more and more explosive plays. When you play the level of teams that we're playing, whether in our conference or out of conference in the MAC, you know, we're playing very good football teams. And they come to play. And you've gotta come out; you've gotta have a great week of practice, and you gotta come into that football game, and you gotta go earn everything. And that's the mentality. And I think our kids fully understand that. That's not who we are right now. We got a lot of fight and a lot of scrap in us and realize we got a ton of football and we gotta take them one week at a time and just continue to improve the areas that we need to improve in and adjust to the areas that we need to adjust in based on personnel changes. And I think we've done a really good job of that.

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