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Weekly Q & A With Tom O'Brien




Oct. 26, 1999

Q: Your thoughts on the Miami game?
A: We played very hard. We came out and played extremely well offensively and defensively. We controlled the football and tried to keep their offense off the field, and we were able to do that for three quarters. In the fourth quarter, missing a field goal and fumbling the football hurt us, and we just couldn't re-group to stop Miami in the last two series. We didn't tackle well, we had some mistakes, and they're a good football team and they came back and beat us. Now we have to get ready to play Syracuse, another very athletic football team which has had a week off to prepare for us after having been in Blacksburg (vs. Virginia Tech). I'm sure they're embarrassed about that game and will be happy to come out and take on Boston College on Saturday.

Q: How is the spirit of the team following the loss?
A: They feel bad, but they're fine. We're 5-2, we played a top 20 team that was supposed to kill us, and we took it to them. Maybe they (Miami) were a little rusty to start out, but when we got opportunities, we took advantage of them. We knew they were going to make a run at us, which they did. At times we were in position to make plays, but we just didn't make them, and Miami made plays. A week ago, we made plays in the fourth quarter to win a football game, and this week we didn't. I asked the team, ?Friday, if you had told me that with less than four minutes to go in the fourth quarter, it would be 28-28, would anybody not take that score?' We were in position in the fourth quarter to have a chance to win the football game, which is what we wanted to do. We weren't able to capitalize and make a play, either offensively or defensively, from that point of the game on.

Q: How difficult was it for you personally to put this game away and say 'let's go on'?
A: It's harder for us old guys. It's tough, but we talk about it every week - a week ago, we won, and we had to forget that one and go on to Miami. Now we have to put Miami behind us and go on to Syracuse. That has to be the focus.

Q: Obviously there are going to be two angry teams meeting on the field at the Carrier Dome.
A: I would guess so. We need to get our legs back. We just couldn't get any push there in the fourth quarter with our pass rush. The pressure came free and we just didn't make plays. When we have guys free, like we did, we have to be able to come up and make a tackle, and not give them 10-15 extra yards as they break free. That's what killed us in the fourth quarter. The one thing we did do well is defend against the long bomb. They didn't get a deep pass on us. We played the game we had to play, except we didn't finish it. And that's the most important part, to finish the game. That's something we've got to learn how to do.

Q: There were comments on a national level about how hard your team played vs. Miami.
A: I think we did. Who gave us a chance to even be in this football game? We made it bad, because we got up 28-0, and everybody thinks you blew the game. But we took advantage of everything and played as well as we could for three quarters. But we didn't finish it. And you knew, everybody there knew, they were going to make a run at us. Pedro (Cirino) said it best, at some point you've got to be able to stand up and stop it.

Q: Does it hearten you to hear things like that from your own players?
A: Absolutely. For two years, I don't know if it's really meant anything to lose around here. Now it means something when they lose, and I think that's a major step.

Q: What did this game tell you about what you need to do the rest of the season?
A: We have to continue to play as hard as we can, and with the teams we're playing, we have to play hard for four quarters. We cannot turn the football over, we cannot shorten the field, we cannot give up big plays on defense and miss tackles the way we did. If we do that, we're going to find a way to win a football game. If we don't do that, we're going to have trouble.

Q: What about Syracuse?
A: This will be a tough one for us. We've gone through two emotional games. You don't like to play too high, and you don't like to play too low, you like to play at an even keel. We've gone from one end of the emotional spectrum to the other, so I think this will be a key game for this football team. If we can go play the same way we've played the last two weeks, and play with some fire and enthusiasm and emotion, we'll make bigger strides than the little steps we've been taking.

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