This is a transcript of Coach Petrino’s comments and answers to questions at his Monday, September 19, 2011, press conference regarding Arkansas’ game with Alabama this Saturday.
Coach Petrino’s Opening Comments:
We’re 3 & 0. That’s where we wanted to be going into the Alabama game. When you watch the video from the game the other night, it was kind of two different games for us, particularly on offense where you get the ball, you’re going at a real fast pace, we’re moving it, scoring touchdowns, everybody’s making plays. Even coming out of half-time, I thought we did a nice job on the first drive, and then we just stuttered. We had some mistakes happen and didn’t move the ball like we want to, and we’re fortunate that Joe Adams made a tremendous play there in the fourth quarter, and we ended up getting a good win. It was a good win for us. It was much better competition, much harder fought which will help us here in the long run, and something that we needed to go through. We needed to go through when things aren’t going good all the time, how you react to it, and how you get better from it. We’ll be excited for our preparation for the Alabama game. They look good on video. They are a very good defensive football team, basically the same guys we played against last year, and offensively [sic] we know we have got to stop their power run game and their ability to throw the ball deep.
Question: What did you have to say to Tyler the other night after he missed the throw on the third down? When you have a “teaching moment” like that, do you consider a player’s toughness, his mentality when you address him?
Coach Petrino: Well, I’m not exactly sure what one you are talking about. He just really blew his technique. He brought his back foot around, didn’t do what he normally does throwing the ball. He was way off balance. I was just trying to make sure that he understood that you need to set, carry the ball high, and throw the ball like you’re supposed to.
Question: Do some players react to that better than some other players do?
Coach Petrino: You always consider how you coach different guys and sometimes you coach them hard for a reason, and it helps them later on in the season.
Question: (inaudible) getting hit the last couple of games.
Coach Petrino: They are always concerning. When your quarterback’s getting hit there is always a concern with it. We have to do a better job of protecting at times. We have to get rid of the ball quicker at times. I always talk about eleven guys pass protection. It takes all eleven of us, the timing of the receivers, the timing of the quarterback, the protection. So it’s everybody’s responsibility to make sure we keep the quarterback clean.
Question: Could you assess Tyler’s play through these first three starts, and how ready is he to start a real game of this magnitude?
Coach Petrino: I think he’s ready. He’s ready. I think when you look at his first three games, he came out and executed well. With the exception of really parts of the second half of the game the other night. When you look at his stats and his percentage of completions, his ways of throwing the ball, taking care of it, the yards he’s producing. The one thing we understand here is that our standards are very high. Our expectations are very high. We expect to go score every time we get the ball. I think overall he’s done a nice job.
Question: Do you expect to have those three guys back this week and were there any new injuries?
Coach Petrino: I think we came out alright from the game. Definitely Greg Childs will be back. Jarius Wright got some work in the other night, and Jake Bequette has made tremendous improvement. I’m not sure what his availability is for practice tomorrow yet.
Question: You talked about the line a little bit. After three games where do you think they are as a unit in meshing together and getting on the same page.
Coach Petrino: We’re getting closer. We’re getting closer to where we need to be. We’re not there yet. Our run blocking was much better the other night. We’re working together. We had a better understanding of our technique throughout the play, how to work your fundamentals throughout the play, so certainly there was improvement there. Pass protection wise our assignments are getting better. We still got to continue to improve on our technique and fundamentals and our finish. I think the number on thing that we’ve got to do better on the offensive line, run and pass is finish the play.
Question: This is your fourth trip through the SEC. Traditionally when you’re preparing for an Alabama, Nick Saban-coached defense, is that kind of as challenging as it gets in this game?
Coach Petrino: That, it’s challenging. They are very good at what they do. First and foremost they are very well-coached technically. They don’t make a lot of mistakes. They know what they are doing in their press coverage, in their off coverage and their linebackers understand where they are supposed to be. You have to go earn everything. You have to go execute, block them, throw the ball, catch it and take care of yourself, execute yourself because they’re not going to give you any cheap ones.
Question: Coach, after you guys played Alabama two years ago you said that your team didn’t believe that your team believe they could win. Two years later, what makes you think it will be any different this time?
Coach Petrino: Well, I really felt like we learned a lot from that game. Even though we were hyped up, emotionally ready and excited about the opportunity, I think deep down we didn’t believe that we would win the game. What happens then is… you see a lot of people do the same thing against Alabama. You don’t execute and do the same things you normally do. You drop passes. You overthrow a guy wide open. You trip on a line. You’re out of your comfort zone and you don’t play football the way you can. I think last year’s game has to help us some in our confidence and certainly the way we came out in that game, but this is a new team. We’ve got to go show and prove it to each other that we believe that we can win the game.
Question: How is ____ (inaud) doing physically after playing his first game?
Coach Petrino: Good. He’s doing good.
Question: In the second half were their individual breakdowns along the way, a loss of team focus with a 24 point lead?
Coach Petrino: Yeah, I think it was a little bit of everything. We lost some focus. We lost some energy. We didn’t have the ball as much, and when you go three-and-out, your not going to have the ball as much, so the combination of really everything. When you watch the game it’s like two different halves, completely. I really liked the way we were executing in the first half and the tempo that we were playing at and the plays we were making. Defensively [we were] making plays and stops on 4th downs and 3rd downs and getting off the field. And then the second half, we had our chances, too. That’s the bad thing. We had our chances to make more plays.
Question: Coach, do you feel like they did that in any of the first two games and maybe just got away with it, and against a tougher team or is it just the way..
Coach Petrino:Naww, I don’t feel that. It just…We’re alright guys. We scored 38 points. We had a good win. We threw the ball for a very good percentage for a lot of people in the world. We’re alright. We’re doing ok. Our standards are high and we’re going to push them hard to work for perfection.
Question: You made the point to stock up on the D-Line tackles in particular. Is this type of game where the accumulation of depth can help you aiming for games like this?
Coach Petrino: Yeah, definitely. I think there is no question about it. This is where our size, our physical-ness, and out ability to rotate guys in there and stay fresh has to help us. We understand that most of the games in our conference are won in the fourth quarter, and we’ve got to make plays and make stops in the fourth quarter on defense and stop their run and force them to throw the ball.
Question: Is Alabama’s offense more conservative with the less-experienced quarterback?
Coach Petrino: No, no, I don’t think so at all. I don’t think they are more conservative. I think that they are probably doing some things where they are preparing for our game. [In the video right at the 8:00 mark, you can see the otherwise tired Petrino start to perk up to the point that he suppresses a smile as he says the last sentence.] That’s always the thing you wonder when you go into this game. What is it that they have shown? [His face turns serious] What is it that they are really going to do?
Question: How do you feel about the secondary after the game the other night? What have you seen from ‘Bama’s receivers so far minus Julio Jones?
Coach Petrino: Well they are very good. They are fast. They can make plays after the catch. They are going to come out and try and threaten us deep. There’s no question about it, and we’ve go to play the ball. We’re in position. We’ve got to play the ball in the air. Carry it over from the drill work we do in practice and what we do in practice into the game.
Question: When you look back at last year, ya’ll finished really well in games against LSU and Carolina, and of course ‘Bama and Ohio St. not as well. Is there a common thread in those two games, and breakdowns that ya’ll tried to correct over the off season?
Coach Petrino: No. We really don’t feel like that. We feel that you get an opportunity in the fourth quarter to make the play and you either make the play or don’t make it. One thing I’ve always tried to do in coaching is to emphasize the positives, and look at the positives why we finish games strong and what helps you carry it over.
Question: Coach, last week you spoke of D.D.’s vocal leadership within the team, it would almost seem like he would go out there and tell the crowd to get up, that they would go from being quiet to being in an uproar. How important is a person like that on the field?
Coach Petrino: Oh, I love D.D. He energizes everybody and certainly when he gets the crowd going, and out defense’s best friend is the crowd, particularly on third down or when they are trying to change the plays. His emotion and his energy, he’s a high-strung guy that plays very hard I think really helps everybody. Part of the second half one of the things that I was not happy with was the energy and enthusiasm by everybody on the team. We certainly love the way D.D. helps our team with our emotion.
Question: Do you feel Wingo established himself as your bread-and-butter back?
Coach Petrino: Yeah, I thought he had a good game. He hit the holes harder. He broke tackles. He did a good job in open space. I was happy with the way he played. Three touchdowns, that says enough for it.
Question: How’s Garrick? I think we got word that he’s under-the-weather the other night after the game.
Coach Petrino: He’s still feeling a little bit under the weather. It was just a situation where it wasn’t the game that made him sick, ok guys. He was sick in the first quarter. I looked at him in the first quarter and said, “Are you alright?” He said, “No, not really.” So it was a situation where after the game he needed to get home.
Question: Did you get Dennis as much reps as you were hoping to? Is that about what you thought?
Coach Petrino: I would have been nice to have the ball more in the second half and be able to get him a few more carries and a few more touches in the second half. We felt like that was the time in the game and were going to use him more. We just didn’t establish, stay on the field long enough.
Question: You’d mentioned on TV that you worked for a week in pre-season against Alabama. Is that a usual thing to do for a tough early opponent like that?
Coach Petrino: We do. You know a year ago it was Georgia. You always have that week when you’re back in school and you don’t have a game. Generally we’ll take that week, and you teach your players to go through game preparation. You practice a regular Tuesday practice, a regular Wednesday practice, a regular Thursday practice and game plan and this year we chose to do it for the Alabama game.
Question: Alabama preparation week, and did you notice any difference in the way that they approached it?
Coach Petrino: They understood what we were doing. They understood exactly what we were doing.
Question: What’s your take on McCarron, the Alabama quarterback?
Coach Petrino: I think he’s a good football player. There’s no question about it, and when you go all the way back to the Spring Game and watch how he executed in the Spring Game, he’s very, very capable of making all the throws and everything they ask him to do. It’s new to him, and he keeps getting better each game.
Question: With Alabama you don’t know what they might have held back the first three games. Does Alabama need to worry about what you might have held back?
Coach Petrino: You always wonder that, don’t you?
Question: Do you kind of want to get your first win over Nick Saban?
Coach Petrino: It’s not a personal standpoint, but for our program and for our football team, that’s a win that we need. We’ve not beat Alabama yet, and we certainly need to do that. More importantly, we need to start off the conference with a victory.
Question: Talk about Trent Richardson just as a back and just trying to prepare for him after the games that you’ve had.
Coach Petrino: That’s tough. It’s a completely different deal with the power game and the physical-ness, and it seems like he’s been running the ball against us forever. I remember two years ago at Alabama when we thought we had him four different times and he broke four tackles, and he went for a long touchdown run. He’s so physical and so tough. I have a tremendous respect for his toughness. Last year he was their number one guy on kickoff coverage. So we have to do a good job. We have to gang tackle. We’re going to have to fly to the football and make sure we understand where he’s at on every play.