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Lots and lots and lots of Leavitt
Posted Nov 18, 2008 by Brett McMurphy
Updated Nov 18, 2008 at 07:08 PM
Since 1999, I’ve been the University of South Florida beat writer for the Tampa Tribune. I’ve covered every football game since then except two in 1999 (New Hampshire and James Madison) and have attended hundreds of Jim Leavitt press conferences: pre-game, post-game, during a game week, during an open date, after practice, you name it.
Tuesday’s press conference was something I’ve never experienced before from Leavitt. He always begins his press conferences with an opening statement, usually a minute or two. Tuesday’s “opening statement” was about 11 and 1/2 minutes long – or seven minutes longer than he stuck around answering questions from the media after Saturday’s loss to Rutgers.
It was a rambling take on what’s happened - or hasn’t happened - in the recent slide and against Rutgers. He mentions bad calls by the officials, injuries, lack of continuity, turnovers, pretty much everything. If you got a few minutes, here’s what Leavitt said before even one question was asked:
“Let me go back on our last game and talk about that a little bit and then I’ll go on with Connecticut. As you saw, it was interesting going back looking at the film and hindsight and all those things. Saturday night did not look at film. I waited until Sunday morning got up and watched it all the way through. The most important thing I, really for myself, wanted to know was one … is did we really play hard and what were the reasons for some of the mistakes we made.
“When I finally got done with it, I went through the whole thing from beginning to end, one of the most encouraging things I saw was I thought our guys were ready to play. As far as emotion, that’s real important to me. I thought they played extremely hard on the field. The only time I didn’t think they played hard was on the last drive when it was 42-16 on that last drive, I didn’t think the guys on our defense didn’t play as hard as I wanted them to play. That happened then. I told you before in the Cincinnati game I wish I would have called a time out. I was trying to save it then to tell the guys to play hard to the end.
“We played really hard. There were a lot of different things that happened. It was 7 to … We take the ball on the opening drive. We go down there and have some really good things happen. We have a penalty on A.J. Love for cutting the receiver, since then the [Big East] office has said they missed the call and it shouldn’t have been called. The next play was an interception [actually a fumble] that was replayed and we would have had the ball inside, right around, the 10-yard line.
“In starting off the game was really important to me. So, uh, they did look at the review again, and they did say A.J. caught the ball. I was wondering about the replay because I never had the angle on it. It still seems like he didn’t have possession long enough from the sideline. However, I don’t know.
“So that was a big turn of events right away. Beginning of the game, it ends up being 7-3. Uh, we do get the game, uh, 14-10, they get a kickoff return that was a big, big return. Our kickoff team did an outstanding job throughout the game, but they got a big return and we had two freshmen – true freshman that are great guys – that got out of position and, uh, the fact we had three freshmen that made a little bit of an error, they got the ball across the 50. That was disappointing. And then they got the ball down and made some third down plays and got it, it was 21-10. That was a tough score right before the half;
“We come back. We have a real good return by Ben [Williams] I thought he did a great ... that young man’s playing so hard, I appreciate him a lot. We get the ball down there, I’m yelling as I’m looking at the clock “time out, time out.” As you know my voice isn’t real good, I should have frantically ran on the field and done this [signaling a time out], since we, they have told us they should have signaled at least that the clock was stopped or keep starting the clock, so we know, I had two time outs, so I was yelling time out anyway. But, um, they [the Big East office] said they should have reset the clock back to seven seconds, so that has been told to us. But not a lot of good it does now – with four seconds. I don’t know what would have happened. We would have gone for one more play to try to gain 6-7-8 yards because we know before I went for the field goal on 7-8 seconds before [against Cincinnati] on the seven or eight seconds [unlike] the Dallas Cowboys. This one I would of because 54 yards is a long ways. We didn’t block on the left side, we didn’t do a good job with our wing. We got blocked and went in 21-10.
“We go in the second half, it’s 21-16, we get it to that, no, I don’t know what it was. We were still in the hunt, maybe 24-16, we were in the ballgame there and, uh, turnovers. Turnovers really hurt us. Turnovers in the first half, obviously, and hurt us after that. Why the turnovers? Well, when the ball is tipped, you got another … another ball that was thrown. We should have run a different … one of the receivers should have done a different thing, which probably would have helped out on the pass play a little bit. Jessie fumbling and Jessie’s a real good receiver for us. That was huge, because that fumble, I think it was 26-14, I believe. And that fumble, we were across the 50 and moving the ball, we were still in the hunt.
“The two long pass plays they got on us. On [Jerome] Murphy. The thing is Murphy should have had help. We had a young guy, some guys that didn’t line up right and should have been on the post pattern. Should have had two guys on there. Why we made the error? I really don’t know. I know it’s things, things we work on a lot, so those two big long pass plays, at least we should have – at least 88 [Kenny Britt] might have made the play over two of us, but we should have had another guy on there. Those are the mistakes, the effort was great. Too many mistakes certainly and too many turnovers. Certainly can’t have those things happen.
“On defense, we don’t want to give up the big play and we have been throughout the year too much in our losses. We don’t want to turn the ball over and we have too much in our losses. Against two pretty good teams we lost two close games in the fourth quarter, we had the lead both times and we didn’t finish it out.
“And, the, it all came, it all came on the scene last game with the turnovers and the mistakes came to a head against a good team. That’s what happens. Why are all the things happening? One, no question, we’re missing some guys that normally would be in there. As you prepare for the year, you hope to always stay healthy and at some key positions we didn’t. But that’s part of it. That’s not an excuse. Some of the other things that have happened, you know I don’t know if we’re pressing too hard or coaches trying to coach too hard or players trying to play too hard. We’ve got some other guys that have been in there, making mistakes that have been around for a while. Those things shouldn’t happen. Uh, you know, no question, we have to coach better, no question, the injuries have, it’s been a combination of those things. Those things have been frustrating.
“I think the world of this football team, no question. I think we have some awfully good football players. We have some awfully good talent. The continuity’s been hurt with different guys not being in there certainly and you all are well aware about that. But, um, we need to play better and we definitely need to play better. Is the loss of some of the players enough to get over the hump of winning some games? I don’t know about that honestly. But I know we should play better and play all the way through hard. The effort again through the first was there. The guys played hard, the guys fought and we felt at halftime, down 11 points, I thought we could win the football game. It certainly wasn’t insurmountable. Them taking the ball and driving it the length of the field in the third quarter was tough, but even after that we went down and scored. So we stayed in there, there was some fight there and then they hit the long pass play. We needed more help on that play, we didn’t have it. We should have. We should have.
“It’s not, to me, it wasn’t a difficult thing to line up to, but it’s not what I think, it’s what the players can do. We have to do a good job with them and if we got younger guys in there, moving people around, we have to understand who we have and try to do the best we can with it. We are. We’re trying. It’s you know … you know, a couple guys out that usually line us up a little bit, that help us line us up a little bit. So that’s kind of that it in a nutshell.
“Now what do you do? You try. We’re going to work hard. I believe this team will play extremely hard Sunday night, like they did and hopefully we will not turn the ball over. If we turn the ball over like we have we won’t win, it just not going to happen. Some of the penalties at the end, we lost [Jake] Sims, had to put some other offensive linemen in position, to play and got a couple of holding calls, which we shouldn’t have done. But it was a tough situation. Already told you about the one penalty, there was another one also, I didn’t want to go into … the guy is grabbing [George Selvie’s] leg, trying to get the guy to stop grabbing his leg. So, you can’t do that, you got to let the guy continue to grab your leg and just stand there and not react to it. The two holding calls at the end were big and A.J. was a big penalty, [the league said] those were missed calls, but you still don’t want any penalties, we certainly know that.
“I’m encouraged by the team. We have to get some guys that are playing now that normally aren’t playing to play better. And that’s our job. And we’ve got to fight hard and I think our guys will. I believe we’ll put a good game plan together, but, uh, our guys work hard, our coaches work extremely hard. We have the same coaches here that have been around for this year and last year, a number of them, we’re working very hard at it.”
If you haven’t gotten enough, here’s the video from GoUSFBulls.com of Leavitt’s press conference.