KYLE FLOOD: Exciting week, a little different doing this press conference after having two practices already in preparation for the game Thursday night. From our standpoint, the type of game we would like to be playing every year where you get an opportunity in the last game of the season to play another team that's having a great season of their own, an opportunity to go to a BCS Bowl game.
I know we're closing in on a sellout. I know there's some tickets still left, but it should be a tremendous atmosphere Thursday night in High Point Solutions Stadium, and we have a great opponent coming to town.
Louisville has got an excellent football team led by Charlie Strong, who was one of the architects of the Florida National Championship teams and really one of the leaders of the staff that I once heard Urban Meyer say himself he thought would go down in history as one of the great staffs in college football history. So that's quite a compliment to Charlie being the defensive coordinator on that staff. Certainly his reputation preceded him before even at South Carolina. So he's been coaching good football and good defense for a long time and has had a lot of success at Louisville as a head coach.
His team plays with the kind of passion that he coaches with. I think defensively they run very well. They're very thick in the middle of their defense with their two inside tackles and their middle linebacker, and they've got good speed at the defensive end positions, and really offensively they've got a lot of weapons.
But I think it really begins with Teddy Bridgewater. He is one of the premier offensive players in our conference, and having been on offense last year, he certainly was not a guy that I was studying because it wasn't my job to. But as I started to look at him this week, I was really, really impressed with the accuracy with which he throws the football. He's very comfortable in the pocket, does a great job stepping up, but even when he has to move, he's got a tremendous ability to deliver the ball in accurate places, sometimes across his body, sometimes really outcuts to the field from the opposite hash, so he's got excellent arm strength, great accuracy. He really is the total package at quarterback.
And I know he got banged up a little bit late in the game last week against UConn, but I would fully expect him to play. He went back in the game. And even if he didn't play, their backup quarterback, No. 4, is a senior and an excellent football player. I believe he played against us a couple years ago, and sure enough, he comes in the game and the first play he was in the game he delivered a fade route that was really inches from being completed in the end zone in the overtime. They'll have a very capable guy behind center regardless of who it is.
They've lost their starting running back, Senorise Perry, and now No. 28 has 164 carries, averaging four and a half yards a carry, nine touchdowns. They really haven't even skipped a beat at the running back position.
This is a complete football team coming to down this week. I think their record displays that. We're very excited about it, and we're looking forward to it. It should be a great atmosphere, and with that I would open it up for questions.
Q. What do you remember about the 2006 game?
KYLE FLOOD: 2006 game?
Q. Yeah, against Louisville.
KYLE FLOOD: Well, I remember it being a very close game with a lot of talented football players on the field. I think if you went back and you looked at both teams and projected those guys into their professional careers, you'd see quite a few of them made an impact even in the NFL. So it was certainly a great night for college football in general, and we were excited to come out on top of it.
Q. Charlie said today that Teddy Bridgewater would play, but obviously last week he fractured his left wrist, non-throwing wrist, he's got the ankle issue. How much will you or your assistants in the booth look for any tells to see if he's limited, if he's favoring something, and how might that impact the way you attack him defensively?
KYLE FLOOD: I think you definitely look at it. Certainly a player who's going to have the ball in his hand as much as he is, and I think you have to always game plan for what you see on film, and you have to be ready for everything because we don't really -- we won't really know until we get into the game what his status is, and we know he's a very -- regardless of his status in the game, he'll be a very dangerous football player.
But I think as you get into the game, if you find he's a little less mobile, probably means they won't run him as much, and possibly your play calling could change a little bit defensively.
Q. How important is the first BCS trip for program building, for recruiting, for exposure nationally to get that first trip?
KYLE FLOOD: I think everything helps. I think everything helps. I think when we went to the first bowl game in 2005, that helped. I think when we had the first 10-plus win season in 2006 and won our first bowl game, I think that helped. I think going to five straight bowl games helps. I think winning your first Big East title this year, that will help.
I think all those steps along the way help you build on what you talk to players about in recruiting, and that is that we want to play for championships every year.
Q. Everybody always says there's no replacement for experience. Having gone through this for the first time yourself as a head coach, who do you lean to or who are some of the people that help you through this part and what to look for in games like this?
KYLE FLOOD: The people I lean on the most are the people in this building because that's who I'm with the most, and I'm fortunate that the nine assistant coaches on the staff, they've been tremendous. And as you guys know, and I'm not sure the casual fan always knows, but we spend a lot of time together from the beginning of August through the end of the season, and to have two coaches on the staff in Norries Wilson and Dave Cohen, former head coaches, to have somebody like Fred Mariani, our director of player development who's a former head coach, I think all those things help. You have Dave Brock, who's an assistant head coach; Robb Smith at other places has had a lot of involvement in the game management.
So I think all those things really, really help, and having the ability to talk to Greg (Schiano) during the season, and that's hard sometimes because we're on different schedules. We play on different days, and we're both very busy, but I've had multiple conversations with Greg throughout the year that have been very helpful. And then my high school coach has been very helpful. He's been somebody that I've always leaned on really throughout my entire career.
Q. Did you talk to Greg this week, and what's been his most recent advice throughout this entire season?
KYLE FLOOD: I have not spoke to him this week. I think the last time I spoke to him was probably about 10 days ago, and really we talked more about things in general than anything specific. But I think throughout the year, he's certainly been an encouraging voice for me.
Q. At guard position do you plan on maybe switching Alexander and Watkis? Is it going to be a game-time decision?
KYLE FLOOD: Taj (Alexander) will start the game and then we'll go from there. We don't have any plans right now for rotation.
Q. Is there any temptation with the last game of the season and everything at stake to coach this game a little differently, or do you have to avoid that temptation?
KYLE FLOOD: I think you've got to block all that out. The thing we talk and we preach to the players is we need to approach this game the exact same way we approached the first 11 games and do everything we can to prepare, practice as well as we can, execute our offense. I think to do things outside of your personality is very dangerous in a game like this, and I think lesser experienced players might be more prone to that.
But I think when you get into a game like this, you've got to really lean on your older players, established players, guys that have been there before. Fortunately for us this will be the second Thursday night game of the year that we've played so the players on the team are familiar with the format, with the atmosphere. As we said before, it's like the Monday Night Football of college football. Thursday night, you're the only game in town and everybody is watching. The No. 1 TV crew is here, the cameras are there. So it is a little bit of a different experience for the players when they come out.
And the ones that have been through it before, and we have quite a few of those, they're the ones you really have to lean on in these games.
Q. With it being Senior Night, how do you make sure those guys keep their emotions in check and it doesn't affect them to start the game?
KYLE FLOOD: I think they understand that Senior Night is really an opportunity for us to show them how much we appreciate what they and their families have sacrificed for our program, and we do it briefly in the beginning of the game, and then we get on with the business of the game. But I do think it's important to do because these players and these families, they pour a lot of their lives into Rutgers football for four or five years, and I think they deserve that moment out there on the field to be recognized.
But at that point the players know when the ball is kicked off, there's no thoughts of senior night or anything like that. The only thought is just trying to be 1 and 0 Thursday night.
Q. When you look at your offense, do you term it as conservative this season, or how do you describe the offensive philosophy?
KYLE FLOOD: I'm not concerned with really describing it to be honest with you. We're a pro-style offense with an emphasis on running the football to create one-on-ones in the passing game, and other than that, we're really conservative, spread, you know, aggressive. But we're going to attack on offense in every game. Unfortunately if you don't execute, it doesn't look very good. Last Saturday we didn't have enough plays really to get much done, and that's unfortunate.
But we're two practices already beyond that, and we're working on the new game plan.
Q. Jawan said his ankle feels fine but it's more of a mental thing right now. Can you is simulate that, or is it just really get in the game and do it first before you know he's okay?
KYLE FLOOD: I think Jawan is going to be ready to go Thursday night.
Q. To come as close as you are right now to that BCS bid, would the season be a disappointment in your mind if you don't get it?
KYLE FLOOD: To me, I judge success much more on the effort of the football team and their attention to detail than anything else. If the only way you judge success as a coach is by the scoreboard or by reaching the ultimate goal, you have a lot of seasons where the players feel like they didn't accomplish anything.
I think our goal this week is to be 1-0. At the end of this week, we'll assess the season and see where we are. We know we've accomplished some things already that have never been done here, so could you say there have already been some successes in the season? Sure you could. But I think those conversations are best left for the end of the season where you can look at the complete body of work over 12 games and then say, okay, what were we able to accomplish this year.
But this is a very special group of young people. They've worked tremendously hard in a very different environment than any other team I've been around where you have a new head coach and nine new assistant coaches, and I'll say nine because Robb Smith is in a different role than he was last year, and to really take to those coaches and have the success they've had this year I think is a testament to how badly they wanted it.
Q. How important have Jones and Cooper been to the defense this year?
KYLE FLOOD: Extremely important. Extremely. To have two seniors at the corner position with their just physical attributes, size, strength, et cetera, they're very valuable. They do a lot of things for us on special teams, as well, provide leadership. They're excellent players for us, both of them.
Q. What did you see out of the team Sunday and today that told you that they're already past Pittsburgh and focused on Louisville? What kind of things did you look at per se?
KYLE FLOOD: You know, I saw a team that was very attentive in the meetings, and then we went out and we practiced, albeit with no equipment on, but we went out and we practiced to run through the beginning stages of the game plan. But probably the most impressive thing I saw was after that, how many players were still in here watching film when we got done and the coaches went back to the game plan. I just took a walk down here by the meeting rooms and we had players in every meeting room that were getting ready for this game the way they do every other week except they didn't have any of the other time available to them, so they stayed after practice Sunday night to do that.
That told me we were in the right frame of mind.
Q. If Nick Borgese needs to have a Jeremy Ito moment, are you confident that he'll kick the field goal?
KYLE FLOOD: I have tremendous confidence in Nick. He's done everything we've asked him to since we put him in. Jeremy Ito moments, they don't come around very often, but whatever the situation is in the game we'll have confidence that he can go out there and execute for us.
Q. Given the stakes, have you ever coached or played in a game of this magnitude? Can you compare it to anything?
KYLE FLOOD: I have. I've been fortunate. I've been very fortunate to be around quite a few teams that have had the opportunity to go into the postseason. For every team, when you get to that final game, it's tremendously important to win. I could go all the way back to 1996 at C.W. Post and we're playing in the ECAC bowl game against Bentley. That was our Super Bowl. That was everything to us.
And we win the game in 2003 at the University of Delaware, we're playing for the National Championship. We're 14-1 and we're playing Colgate for the National Championship and we win the game 40-0. That was everything to that coaching staff and those players.
And I think this game, because we are, again, the focus is on the game and on the schematics and on the players. We're certainly not naïve to what the result of the game will dictate for either team. It's a big game. It's the kind of game that you want to be in as a player and as a coach, and it's the kind of game as a program that we hope to be in every year.