Louisville head coach Bobby Petrino had plenty of praise for Deshaun Watson and Clemson as his team prepares for the top four battle. A transcript follows of Petrino’s teleconference with the ACC media on Wednesday.
BOBBY PETRINO: We’re coming off a good win on the road at Marshall. I thought we really came out and played well in the first half defensively and shut their run down, shut their passing game down. Offensively we struggled early, but we came around and were able to explode and get some good points in the second quarter, and then I thought we finished the game strong. So we’re looking forward to a great matchup with Clemson. We know they’re a very, very good football team, very well-coached, and really play the game the way it should be played. Should be an exciting matchup for us.
Q. To go off what you were talking about, just assessing Clemson on film, just what you can say about them in three phases of the game going into this one?
BOBBY PETRINO: Yeah, I mean, they just play the game so well. They’re very sound technically. They play with great effort. They block well, tackle well. They’ve got a great quarterback and group of receivers, very good running back. So it’s a great matchup. We’re really looking forward to the challenge.
Q. And then as far as the first third of the season for you, kind of assessing — obviously there’s a lot of talk about Lamar Jackson, but for you offense, defense and special teams, what you can say about your team through the first third?
BOBBY PETRINO: Yeah, I’m happy where we’re at right now. We’ve been able to really play good defense and tackling very well, doing a good job stopping the run and hitting the other team’s quarterback, so that always helps you win games.
Offensively I like the fact that we’ve been able to throw the ball and run the ball both and have pretty good balance there, and special teams we’ve had great coverage and doing a nice job in our punt return game.
We still have a lot of work to do, and we must get better.
Q. On defense through four games, are you where you thought you’d be just as far as their performance? And then you’ve gone against Deshaun Watson or game planned against Deshaun Watson a couple times. What exactly do you have to do to get pressure on him?
BOBBY PETRINO: Yeah, I think we’re playing good defense, and I’m excited about the way our front and linebackers and secondary are playing together. I think we’re a smart defensive team, so we’re able to do a lot of different things.
Deshaun is a great football player. He can throw the deep ball. He can be very accurate in the medium and short-range passes. He can run with the ball, so he causes you a lot of issues. We’re going to really have to play well to slow him down.
Q. This matchup, the road game against Clemson, 8:00 game on ABC, Clemson has been a part of these for the past few years. This will be Louisville’s first time in that specific spotlight. Are you curious to see how your guys react to that, or based on what you’ve seen from the Florida State game and elsewhere, are you pretty confident that it’s not going to be an issue?
BOBBY PETRINO: Yeah, I mean, we’re just going to go through our normal preparation and just get ready to go play a great football team on the road. I think our guys are excited about it. But we just have to go through the same process we always do.
Q. Just wondering, aside from the obvious with the conference change, what have been the biggest differences with the state of the Louisville program now compared to the first time you were there?
BOBBY PETRINO: Oh, boy, that’s a great question, one I haven’t thought a whole lot about. I don’t know about anything that’s the big difference, but we are certainly excited to be in the ACC conference. It’s a great challenge. Every week you have to be ready to play because everybody has very good players, and they’re very well-coached. It just makes it — you have to continue to develop depth, and you have to be in very good condition because most of the games come down to be fourth quarter games.
Q. Is there anything different in terms of support or facilities that made this job any more attractive this time around?
BOBBY PETRINO: You know, we’ve always had the support that you need from our athletic department, our administration. It was just a fact of building everything and continuing to get better and making the move into a great conference.
Q. How much research did you have to do or how much adaptation of your playbook was done for Lamar, because it seemed traditionally you’ve had more traditional pocket passers than the kind of guy Lamar is.
BOBBY PETRINO: Yeah, Lamar can really throw it from the pocket. He’s done a great job, and we’re excited about where we’re at with our balance between pass and run. I think what people have been able to see here in the first four games is he’s a great passer and can throw the deep ball and the medium range. We’re really fired up about it.
Q. Is this the most in your career that you’ve orchestrated an offense that has used a lot of quarterback runs or zone read principles?
BOBBY PETRINO: No, not really. When I was here before, we had a young man named Stefan LeFors who was a great, great runner with the ball. We did a lot of great things with him. He was also able to pass the ball and throw it real well. It’s just over the years people have started using this term about the dualthreat quarterback, but Stefan was that before the term existed.
Q. You held Clemson to 20 points last year. What did you do particularly well on defense in that game that you’re kind of hoping to match that performance this time around?
BOBBY PETRINO: Well, we were able to do a good job of stopping the run and being successful on 1st down. I think that always helps you a lot. We tackled really well and then were able to get some pressure on the quarterback. But it’s always been a great matchup. Clemson is very good.
Q. Is the Clemson offense the closest to playing your own offense?
BOBBY PETRINO: You know, I’ve never even thought about that. They do a great job with the schemes that they have. They really do a great job running the football. Their quarterback can throw it deep and run it. So really we just are defending them. I’ve never really thought about any comparisons.
Q. What challenges does the Clemson defense pose for your offense?
BOBBY PETRINO: Well, they’re very physical up front. You know, they’ve got big guys. They’ll be the biggest defensive ends that we’ve played or probably will play the entire year, so they’re very physical. Their linebackers are smart, and they do a lot of things. They make a lot of adjustments and do a lot of things as far as defending plays and defending motions and schemes. So we have to make sure we do a good job blocking the front and take our shots and throw the ball deep.
Q. Arguably Louisville and Clemson are the two most prolific offenses in the ACC. Are you expecting a high-scoring game?
BOBBY PETRINO: You know, I don’t really know. There’s been times where you’ve expected high scoring and it’s been low scoring. There’s been times when we thought it would be low scoring and it ends up being high scoring. I really don’t know. We’re just going to go play and work hard and try to be successful in all three phases.