PISCATAWAY – Here’s Rutgers head coach Kyle Flood’s post game press conference transcript following the 28-24 win over Arkansas courtesy of Rutgers Athletics:
COACH FLOOD: Good evening. I apologize being a little bit late in here. I’d like to ‑‑ you know, I said during the week that I thought this game would almost be a snapshot into the future of what our program would be from an atmosphere standpoint, and I think it lived up to every ounce of that.
I cannot ‑‑ I can talk about our crowd today for probably an hour in terms of the energy that they brought to the game, getting in there at an earlier time I think than we usually do; staying even when the game seemed very hard at times, and as disruptive a crowd as we’ve had here probably since the 2006 Louisville game.
It was deafening loud when they were on offense in that fourth quarter, and I can’t thank them enough for that. That is what a home‑field advantage should be. It’s what a home‑field advantage can do for a football team and it’s one of the factors in the win today, there’s no doubt about it.
There’s certain statistics you look at this game through, and you find it hard to believe that we won when you look at the turnovers 3‑0, but you look at some other ones in terms of scoring on special teams, making big plays on special teams, stopping the run with tworeally fine running backs they had, neither one averaging four yards a carry; and for us having the ability to run the ball well enough when we needed to.
And a quarterback who, even though it wasn’t always pretty for him up front, and I don’t think the protection was as clean as it needed to be early in the game, hung in there and really toughed it out. I think somebody told me he had over 250 yards passing in the fourth quarter; it does not surprise me. Gary’s greatest attribute is his competitive fire, and it does not surprise me that he can come through a game like that and perform like that in the fourth quarter.
I think Arkansas has got an excellent football team. I think they are very well‑coached. I think Coach Bielema has done a tremendous job there in a very short amount of time, and I think that’s a football team that will win a fair amount of games this year.
So, we are excited. We are excited to be 1‑0 today, and now we have a lot of work to get ready for our conference schedule.
Q. The 98‑yard drive, I think Gary finished it off with a touchdown and threw on fourth down, just talk about the 98 yards, do you feel like that’swhere momentum really changed and how many big plays have to go into that?
COACH FLOOD: I don’t know if it’s just one moment. I think that fourth down play is a huge play in the game. It’s a scoring play. It’s fourth down; we are a little too far away against the wind to really attempt a field goal at that point, so we are going to go for it, and it ends up going in the end zone.
So it’s a huge play. But the punt return Janarion had later in the game, that gave us freight field position, that’s a huge play in the game.
Some of those third down stops that the defense had: I look at the drive chart, and in their second half, after they had scored their touchdown: Three plays and a punt, three plays and a punt that goes back for a touchdown, six plays and a punt, three plays and a punt, five plays and a punt, seven plays and a punt; the defense gave us the opportunity to have enough drives so that we could get back in the game. And that’s ‑‑ this is as complete a team win as I’ve been a part of in my career.
Q. At what point did you realize that Grant could take that ball back for a touchdown? When did you know that that might be?
COACH FLOOD: After he clears the last defender (laughing). That’s usually when I figure he’s gone, because Janarion’s got great speed, there’s no doubt.
But Arkansas has got excellent team speed. So until he cleared the last defender, I was not comfortable that somebody wouldn’t have an angle on him to catch him.
Q. The punt return, what did that mean ‑‑ the biggest gap was 24‑7,what did that do ‑‑
COACH FLOOD: I think if you’re going to lose the turnoverbattle 3‑0, and you’re going to be down 17 points in the third quarter, you need a play or ‑‑ you really need more than one play; but that was one of them, to happen, to get you back in the game.
You can’t get back in those games three and four yards at a time. You need to chunk the field somehow. Sometimes they are 25 yard completions; sometimes it’s a punt return for a touchdown;sometimes it’s a punt return that puts you into plus territory so you have a short field.
And there’s a lot of ‑‑ as great a job as Janarion did returning those punts, there’s a lot that goes into it, and there’s ten other players on the field that are doing a great job for an extended period of time covering a lot of distance.
That’s the thing about special teams, it spans six to eight seconds and it covers a wide ranges of field zones. And there was some tremendous efforts that I think we’re going to see on film; and not just Janarion, although his was tremendous, as well.
Q. What did you think of that fourth quarter and what Gary did, the connection with Leonte; how would you describe the way they found each other in that fourth quarter?
COACH FLOOD: I know it’s very romantic to think of it like that, but I think Gary throws the same ball if Brandon Coleman happened to be in the game at that point or Quron Pratt.
I know Gary and Leonte have played a the low of football together over the years and connected quite a few times, but I think it was strictly a matchup and a read and a well‑thrown ball and an excellent catch.
Q. The end ‑‑ was just the timing ‑‑
COACH FLOOD: We should have done it on the last play, butwhen we started the drive, we could not have, so we needed to run some plays at that point to make sure we could get into victory time or downtime or whatever people will call it in their programs but we could have done it on the lastplay; maybe we should have.
Q. What changed in the defense in the fourth quarter to allow them halt Arkansas’s drives?
COACH FLOOD: I don’t know that a lot changed for our defense. You know, the first drive of the second half, the Arkansas coaches did an excellent job at half‑time. They came out, had a ten‑play drive for a touchdown, but other than that, it was really just a one‑play touchdown on the toss pass after a turnover for the other touchdowns.
So I don’t know that it was really the second half. I thought we played some excellent defense in the first half, and we had a drive where ‑‑ they had a six‑play drive, if we made them punt; they ran a fake, completed it. And then after the fake, we stopped them three‑and‑out and forced them to kick a field goal and I think that’s atremendous series in that game to hold them to three points in that circumstance.
I think we played pretty good defense throughout the game aside from maybe a drive or two, but I don’t you can take the credit away from the other team, either.
Q. You used the phrase this could be “a snapshot into the future” and what the program can be; what does that snapshot look like to you?
COACH FLOOD: I think that snapshot is a football team that can compete with anybody in the country; a fan base that is in love with college football and when they come to the stadium will be apposing a 12th man as there is in college football.
Q. Quentin Gause, first start ever, what was it like to get a performance like that from him tonight?
COACH FLOOD: I thought this would be a game Quentin wouldreally enjoy. Quentin is a physical football player. Arkansas is a physical football team. We knew we were going to be tested in ways that we had not been tested in the first few games physically, and I knew Quentin was looking forward to that.
Doesn’t surprise me. I think, what did he have, seven tackles? Almost had a scoot (ph) score touchdown.
Q. Any update on what happened to Paul James and with him on the sideline, how impressed are you with the way Savon was able to run out the clock?
COACH FLOOD: I don’t have an update on P.J. just yet. It’s a lower leg injury. I’m not sure exactly what type it is.
But Savon, that type of performance doesn’t surprise me. Savon is a proven commodity to me and somebody that we have trust in; that we have faith in. And at that point, when P.J. goes down, we are going to hand the ball to Savon and we expect him to perform at a high level, and he did. He did a good job for us.
COACH FLOOD: Well, I said earlier in the week that I wasn’t sure who the starter was going to be, and I didn’t really feel that either one of those guys during the week had a great practice week. I thought they were just okay. I didn’t feel like either one of them did anything to make me make a change.
But the first kick Kyle had was a little lower than I wanted it to be and that was concerning to me, so I wanted to give Nick a chance at that point.
As he hit the ball, some of those extra points, it got up a little quicker and there’s a lot to be said for early rise. They are a very strong defensive front and they have got some tall, long guys. If the ball doesn’t get up quick enough, that’s why it gets blocked the way it did on the first one.
Q. What did you do well defensively to stop the run game?
COACH FLOOD: I think it starts up front. I think you have to win up front. If you let people the size of their offensive line move your defensive linemen back into the linebackers, you have very little chance of ever stopping them. You need to make plays in the backfield.
Somebody spoke about Quentin Gause’s TFLs. I’m sure he wasn’t the only one that had TFls or stops for zero or one yards in the run game. I’m going to tell you without looking at the film that we probably played a pretty good game up front with our defensiveline and I thought that would be one of the keys.
Q. A week ago, Gary concussed (ph), and in the first half he’s sacked three times. How much of what unfolded in the second half is in your frame of mind at half‑time?
COACH FLOOD: When Gary had his issues last week, as I said, the medical staff makes those decisions and they don’t make them on awhim. They have a procedure that they go through and when they tell me that Gary is go to go, then he’s good to go. So we don’t hold anything back in the game plan. Gary goes out there and he runs the team and we know he’s going to compete.
I’m not happy that he got sacked. It has nothing to do with what happened last week. We need to protect him better, and I think we did protect him better as the game went on. So I’m pleased that we were able to learn through the game and do a better job to give him a chance to stand back there.
Q. On the fourth down touchdown to Carroo, do you get involved in a play call like that or is that just Ron?
COACH FLOOD: I get involved in telling Ron that we are not going to kick the field goal, but I try to tell him that on third down.
You try to give the play caller the advantage of being able to set the plays up in his mind. I don’t want him to think if we don’t make it on third down we are going to kick it on fourth down. I try to tell him as early as possible; not that you can tell him all the time really, but in that case I think I told him after second down that he had four downs.
Q. Tyler Kroft, six catches, first hundred yard game for a tight end in like seven years; what did you see out of him?
COACH FLOOD: Yeah, somebody said that to me. I did not realize that. Almost sounds like we’re against the tight ends.
But Tyler has got great hands, and Tyler has built himself into a tight end that can play in the run game and that was the only thing he needed to do to get the opportunity to catch these types of passes.
I don’t say this as a joke, this is just the reality of it: The tight ends that don’t prove themselves in the run game become slow receivers. That’s really all they are. And Tyler has done a great job over the last two years of getting better and better in the run game, and a tight end who, like him, who can run and catch the way he does; if he can run block proficiently, he’s ahuge weapon for us because he catches the ball ‑‑ he does catch the ball like a receiver.
Q. Can Greg be a bigger weapon in the offense? Is that something you could look at with his speed ‑‑
COACH FLOOD: Oh, we have, we have, and he’s playing receiver right now, he plays in the slot for us and we are fortunate at that receiver position, we have got some very talented players.
You know, right now, he’s helping us on special teams and doing a great job, but I think his career is probably going to be a little bit like Leonte. He spent last year on special teams and now everybody sees what he’s doing at receiver, as well, as he continues to help us on special teams. I think Janarion is going to be the same way. We are fortunate that he’s a selfless player in the fact that he’s willing to do that for us.
Q. Was there more of an emphasis to get Leonte the ball tonight after the last two games after not much ‑‑
COACH FLOOD: No, it’s really just not the way the passinggame works for us. We are fortunate between Brandon Coleman, Quron Pratt, Leonte Carroo, Ruhann Peele, etc., that we have got a number of receivers that when called upon can make big plays for us and consistent plays.
And tonight was another night that just happened to be, maybe Leonte’s where his number got called a little bit more. But I think you saw Brandon Coleman make a huge play in the fourth quarter after not touching it as much earlier in the game.
And again, those are mentally tough football players who are willing and able to play through the game and be ready when their number does get called and not be discouraged.
Q. The second half seemed like a huge sort of emotional swing, you were very down in that game, didn’t look like ‑‑ do you get that sense, as well, or is it more in the aftermath, you know what I’m saying, do you feel the swing in that game as it’s happening out how quickly it seemed to change?
COACH FLOOD: I think the crowd feels the swing. I think the fans, maybe the people who watch it on TV feel that kind of swing. I think as football coaches, my message to the players is very simple: Trust your training. Do your job one play at a time. If we do that enough times, we will get back in the game.
I knew we had enough talent on the team to get back in that football game if we would just continue to chop away at it, as we say here at Rutgers.
Now where I think the momentum swing comes into play is when the crowd really gets involved and when our crowd is able to get involved on first down and second down because we have them pushed back a little bit into that student section, that I think is an emotional boost for every player on defense who is out there.
Thanks guys, I appreciate you staying around.