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November 20, 2013

Scott Shafer

COACH SHAFER:  Starting off, we're extremely excited about playing our road rival in Pitt.  We've been playing them every season since 1955, and it's just great to get that old northeast rival back together here in the Dome.  And the only new part of it is now we are members of the ACC.  So it's an exciting time for Syracuse and we look forward to it.

Q.  One of you guys is going to become Bowl eligible, but the ACC is already pretty crowded with eight teams Bowl eligible.  So I'm looking at how many slots there are, just what is your take on‑‑ given how hard it is to get your team to the post‑season, once you make it there, how important is it that there's a home for you?
COACH SHAFER:  Obviously it's important for all the programs that are looking to get in that position.  But really, for us, the focus has got to be just getting the next win, and if we stay small with our target and our focus is on that, all of the bigger things take care of themselves.
So really, that's the approach we're taking and that's the belief I have.  I always talk to the kids about controlling the controllables, and as a coach, you have to do the same thing and I really think focusing in on those smaller targets is the key to getting the opportunity that could come down the road.

Q.  I know you guys have needed to be a little creative on offense this year, and you moved Ashton around some.  Do you guys have a feeling at this point on where his best long‑term fit is?
COACH SHAFER:  Well, again, when we get through the season, we'll look at all those things with everyone on our team.
But right now, he's a good weapon for us on offense.  He's getting to the point where we can move him around a lot and play him in different positions on offense, and really, that's our only focal point right now is finding ways to get him and the other guys that we believe give us a chance to stay creative and put the ball into our playmakers' hands and focus in on getting that next win.
Right now, we try to stay small with our mind‑set and not look at the big picture until we get through the season.

Q.  I know this is a little bit big picture.  Dan Conley is a guy you've said you respect and you've mentioned you guys initially recruited him on defense, and he likes his fit there long‑term; is there any chance that could happen down the line when you consider at the end of the year?
COACH SHAFER:  We're just looking at trying to get the next win.

Q.  I'm interested in the scores you've put up this season.  There's four games of 40 or 50 points you've given up, but three games in the second half of the season, where in total you only gave up one touchdown.  Is it just the quality of the opponent or is something else going on?
COACH SHAFER:  I think it's all‑inclusive.  You know, we've played some of the best teams in the country, especially with offensive weapons, and they did a good job against us and we didn't do as good a job as we needed to.  I think it's all‑encompassed, I really do.  I don't think it's any one thing.
Going into each game, you have a good plan in your mind and then you come out of it and you learn a lot about yourselves and the opponents that you played.
For instance, last week, the biggest lesson I learned is that Florida State team is the real deal.  They are as good as I've seen in my whole career.  They put it on tape against us and everybody else they played.
So at least we know where the bar is set and what we have to start doing both in recruiting and preparing from a team point of view and personnel point of view to try to fight the good fight to get through battling those teams, especially the Clemsons and the Florida States of the world.
For me, it's just great for the conference to see that we have a team that has a great chance at going and winning that National Championship, and another great BCS team in Clemson.  You know, I think it's all‑encompassed when you look at the struggles we've had, and it's all‑encompassed when you look at the positive games we've had, as well.

Q.  What have you done well in those three games?  I'm talking about NC State, Wake Forest and Maryland, where you only gave up 13 points total.
COACH SHAFER:  We were consistent with our production to stop the run.  We tackled well.  I thought the coaches had a good plan with all three of those games with some wrinkles in it to change things up, and we pressured the quarterback in those games.  So I think those are probably the constants.

Q.  I wanted to ask you about Terrel.  I know he has not thrown for a touchdown since the Tulane game.  How hard is it for an offense to kind of gain confidence and a rhythm when you can't get a passing touchdown aside from the wide receiver pass?
COACH SHAFER:  I think if you look backwards, you're making a mistake.
All you can do is look forward and try to focus in on the game plan at hand and try to control the things that the coaches have taught you throughout the course of the week.  And if you do that, good things end up happening, and that's the focus with both Terrel and anyone else on the team at their different positions; to try to improve upon.
I mean, you can't look backwards.  That's not a positive way of looking at getting better.  You have to control the controllables daily and work towards the small goals and objectives that the coaches put in front of you throughout the course of the week and believe in the system, and know that good things will come if you just focus on those types of things.

Q.  I guess looking at Terrel and just stats aside, are you happy with how he's grown?  What have you liked and where do you think he could be doing a little bit more?
COACH SHAFER:  Terrel, he's a competitor, so I am happy with that side of him as a player and student athlete.
He just has to continue to work on his consistency, and the guys running the routes have to continue to work on their consistency to give him a chance.  It's all‑inclusive.  I've said it many times; the quarterback is going to take the brunt of the criticism when you're not as productive as you want to be in any particular area with the passing game.
But there's more to it than just the quarterback.  It's all‑inclusive.  So all 11 guys have to do their part to upgrade our productivity on offense.

Q.  Coach Lester and even Coach McDonald said timing routes where a big thing with Terrel; sometimes he might just be releasing a little late.  Do you see that as one of the biggest things he might need to fix?
COACH SHAFER:  Yeah, Terrel is working every day at trying to improve his reaction time at seeing the coverage and throwing to spots.  Coach Moore and the wide receivers are working hard at learning how to find those windows and then go get the ball.
The good quarterbacks put the ball in the open area and the good wide receivers go get it, and that's an area that both sides have struggled at, and that's why we're working the heck out of it every day.

Q.  You held Pittsburgh to I think 32 points last year.  What did you do well in last year's meeting that you need to recapture this week?
COACH SHAFER:  Well, I think, you know, consistent with most of the games that we've played well on defense, I think that we had good answers to the run game and the play‑actions off the run game, and, you know, kind of kept them out of groove, out of tempo with regards to pass protection and timing of getting balls out and being multiple with our pressure packages, both the run and the pass.
I think it all comes together when you stop the run first and have an opportunity to pressure the quarterback in early situations.

Q.  Talking about the big rivalry game against Pitt, what's it like playing them every year, even if it's not a BIG EAST game; now it's an ACC game.
COACH SHAFER:  It's great.  It's what college football should be about.  With the push towards the big mega‑conferences, to some degree, I'm saddened that some of the rivalries are not played anymore.  We don't play West Virginia anymore.  That was a great game.
So I'm glad that we are able to do two things, first and foremost, this week playing a Pitt team that we've been playing for the last 55 years; I think it's great for the fans in both towns and for the fans in the northeast that have watched these games for so many years.
And I'm equally excited about the fact that we are re‑doing the Boston College game, too.  I think any time you have that familiarity with an area and a fan base, it's a positive thing.  And that's one thing that's nice with the ACC bringing ourselves into the league, as well as having Boston College and Pitt, you get that opportunity to see some of those old‑time rivalries stay the course.  I know the fans enjoy it and I know our fans are fired up about it.

Q.  Talk about Pitt's quarterback, Savage, what type of quarterback have you seen this year?  You've seen a lot of different quarterbacks through the whole year.  Just that you can about that.
COACH SHAFER:  He's a big, strong‑armed kid.  We played him three years ago, I guess it was, back when he was at Rutgers.  Very talented, highly‑recruited kid coming out of Pennsylvania there.  And he's having a good year.  You know, I think he's got 18 touchdowns, seven interceptions, if I'm not mistaken, which is not a bad number.
He's talented.  He stays the same.  He handles tough situations well.  He bounces back.  He's a tough kid.  He takes some shots and comes back the next play and completes a big ball. He's a good football player, and seems like he's just a great kid, too, from everything I've heard.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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