Mike Locksley reviews Northwestern loss, previews Penn State matchup

Maryland will look to end its three-game slide when ninth-ranked Penn State heads to College Park on Saturday. Head coach Mike Locksley met with the media on Tuesday and reviewed what went wrong against Northwestern, previewed Penn State, expanded on the departure of WR Tyrese Chambers and the state of the team:

On reviewing what went wrong vs. Northwestern

“I’ve had the chance to obviously watch the film from Northwestern on Sunday with the staff, obviously the players. A few things stand out. It’s not a magic button to push. If you look at how we’ve played the last couple of games on offense, the turnovers. We’ve lost the turnover battle. We’re not getting them on the defensive side of the ball. On the offensive side of the ball, we’re committing them. And then the next part of it is the explosive plays. Though we had some explosive plays on the offensive side of the ball, we didn’t have enough. And then defensively, we gave up some explosives. I think when you look at game changing plays, I would say that goal line stand against Northwestern kind of changed the complexity of the game for us because to get down inside the three-yard line and come away with no points and then have the defense give up a 99-yard drive were the type of momentum plays that have kind of plagued us the last couple of games. And for us, we’ve got to find a way to get back to that explosiveness on the offensive side of the ball. And then on defense, probably was the worst tackling game we’ve had this season. We had 16 missed tackles, which we track during the course of the year and that was the most coming out of a game. But I was proud of the way our defense responded in the second half. If you looked at the fourth quarter and when we needed to get stops to get the ball back to the offense, we were able to get the necessary stops on defense, which was one of the bright spots for us. Offensively, being able to go down [and] score to pull us within six was huge. And then we got the defensive three-and-out. We preserved a lot of time there for us to run our two-minute offense and we came up short down there with the interception. Losing back-to-back games by one score is disappointing. We’re a team that, we talked about being ready to compete for championships, but obviously we’re just not there yet but that won’t stop us from continuing to do the necessary work to get us to that point.”

Game Captains vs. Penn State

“Our game captains this week are Jeshaun Jones, Dante Trader, Corey Bullock.”

On WR Tyrese Chambers

“They’re all personal reasons. Tyrese is one of those great kids that joined our program for a year. He left for personal reasons. He has a few things going on in his life that he felt he needs to take care of. We’re in full support of him. Still in school finishing up classes. Still has access to the academic stuff that we do for him. As with anything, when guys leave the program, everyone leaves for whatever their own personal reasons and we’ll support Tyrese as he continues to move forward.”

On Penn State

“We got Penn State coming into The Shell this week, a team that has all of our attention. They’re a top ten team, one of the more talented teams in the country. I look at this week as a great opportunity for us here at home. They’ve got quite a few guys on their roster from our area. We’ve got only a couple from their area. Very familiar with their program. They’re very familiar with us. Obviously their defense is one of those top tier defenses. They play a lot of man coverage, which we have to be able to defeat man coverage this week. Their front seven is one of the best ones we faced or will face this year. When you look at them on offense, it starts with the run game, which a year ago, I think they rushed for over 250 yards. So I would imagine that they’re going to try to establish the run. Our goal will be to take the run away on the defensive side of the ball.

And how do you do it? If you look at the way we’ve played Penn State when we’ve been able to have success, it’s been being very aggressive in terms of lining guys up, attacking the line of scrimmage, and forcing them to throw the ball to beat us. And that’s what we’ll try to do this upcoming week.

Their quarterback is playing at a high level. He made a big throw there last week in a critical situation. So he’s very capable, but like always, it’s going to be more about what we do, how we prepare and how we execute than it will be our opponent. We need to try to block out as much of the outside noise that we can, but we’re not going to shy away from having expectations here at Maryland for our football program and we embrace it. It’s something that we’ve got to do our part and it starts with me leading the program and everybody within the program being the best version of themselves going into the game and then performing at a high level during the game.

On Penn State’s front seven & defense

“They’re a fast defense. When you look at the six sacks in the Northwestern game and [offensive] line coaches cringe when you hear six, but I would say we gave up three sacks. Three of the sacks were scrambles [where] the quarterback has to throw the ball away and not just run out of bounds or get tackled for loss. There are opportunities to get rid of the ball, but we did give up three sacks where we turned guys loose. And I can tell you with the type of pressure that they play and run on defense, it’s going to be important that we’re really sound on our assignments. They try to give you a lot of looks. They put a lot of guys up at the line of scrimmage and we’re going to have a bunch of one-on-one battles that we’re going to have to compete but we also can help. If you look the last few weeks, we run a lot of screens, which are kind of the antivirus for pressure. We’ve hit a couple and we’ve kind of become a little efficient there, but we’ve got to do a lot of different things on offense to slow down their rush. I mean, they’re [a] very talented front seven. Athletic, 50% of the snaps are some form of pressure and they play man coverage. And so to me, those are the challenges on defense. We’ve got good players on our side of the ball that we’ve got to get to play to the best of their ability and we’ve got to win some of these one-on-one matchups, whether it’s in protection or whether it’s in coverage.”

On Penn State QB Drew Allar

“Protecting the ball is really important at that position because of how much they’re exposed to it and he’s taking care of the football. They’ve run the ball efficiently for the most part. They’ve got two big-time running backs. Both those guys are really talented, probably one of the better O-lines in the country. As a quarterback, when you protect the ball the way he has and has managed and done the things to put him in this position, he’s playing at a really high level.”

On emphasizing the message ‘players need to make plays’ 

“That’s the great thing about this team is that they’re all in. They bought into the accountability piece and it starts with modeling at the top. It’s my responsibility to have us ready to play. I didn’t think the last couple of games we came out with the mentality that we need to. It’s a little different program now because Maryland is now a team that gets hunted before we show up and people say, oh, it’s Maryland and maybe they approach the game with the mentality of it’s just Maryland. But right now, I don’t think very many people, when we show up, say it’s just Maryland. And so, what our team has to do when we take this next step to become a championship type program is we’ve got to be able to learn how to play when you are the favorite, when you are expected to win. And those expectations are ones we’re not going to shy away from.”

On how Maryland avoids losing mentality heading into Penn State

“We always are defined by the present. We’re not defining what’s happened in the past, and we can’t look too far forward. Right now, it’s about Penn State, it’s about this game. The last three or four games have no bearing on this one, other than for us to evaluate what we’re doing, as we have…I’ve said this a lot in here, our winning formula is winning the explosive play battle and winning the turnover battle. The last two games, we haven’t done that, and we’ve lost by one score and it’s up to us as a coaching staff to put us in position to make those plays and have the right guys in there. And it’s up to the players to make the plays and each and every one of us have accepted that responsibility and the accountability that goes along with it.”

On elevated preseason expectations to compete for Big Ten championships

“We’re still ready to compete for Big Ten championships. Just right now, we’ve shown the last couple of weeks that we’re just not there yet. And how do I evaluate it? By the scoreboard. That’s why they keep score. We’ve lost the last two to teams that going into it, teams that are in the Big Ten, that we need to be able to compete and win those games. We didn’t do it this week, the last couple of weeks.”

On how player-led leadership has shown during the losing streak

“By how they show up and work. After the game Saturday, I met Sunday with a bunch of our leaders. I had a leadership meeting [Monday] before practice to gauge where we are. And I can tell you the same way that we felt as coaches after that game is the same way our players felt that, again, we let another game slip away that it really came down to what we did more than anything. And so, to take the accountability, we’ve got to do us better. We’ve got to do the things we do better and more consistently. And that’s where me as the leader has to has to get us playing and doing those things more consistently.”

On discipline coming out of unsportsmanlike conduct calls vs. Northwestern

“It’s something that I evaluate, and just like, you probably don’t have kids yet, right? You raise each kid a little, you gotta figure out who the kid is, and then you figure out the punishment, but there’s no cookie cutter, so I’m not gonna let you box me into saying, is that what you expect? It depends on the game, depends on the type of penalty, what happened. I try to evaluate it all, but I try not to be as emotional in making these decisions. But we’re fifth, I think, in the Big Ten in penalties. I thought this past Saturday, you know, those unsportsmanlikes are the ones that really get under my skin because they’re about having discipline and not being emotional. And most of the time it’s the second guy responding more than it is the first. We’ve got to be a team that understands, take care of those things within the whistle and not after the whistle.”

On relationship with Penn State HC James Franklin

“We have a great working relationship. We see each other when we see each other. We don’t text Merry Christmas to each other. He’s a head coach in the Big Ten. We see each other when we do Big Ten things. Type of relationship we have. I don’t know what you want me to say.”

On what he remembers from 2014 game between Maryland-Penn State

“I remember that we didn’t shake hands at the beginning of the game and it’s not sportsmanlike to do that. It was a tough game. I think we had the winning field goal, kicked the winning field goal there at the end up there…that’s the piece I remember more than anything is that, what happened before the game, which won’t happen before this game.”

On what he’s noticed from the team during Maryland’s losing streak

“We struggled one with winning the turnover battle. We’ve lost that in both the last two, three games. The explosive plays, those are runs of ten or more passes of 15 yards or more considered explosives for us on the offensive side of the ball. And to me, that’s been probably the two biggest things that jump out. Both these games have been one score games where we’ve had opportunities to win the game on the field and, whether it’s on offense or whether it’s on defense getting off the field and getting the ball back and we just haven’t made the plays.

And to me, that’s the part where as a head coach, when I talk about evaluating everything, I need to evaluate what we’re doing, how we’re doing it, and if we’ve got the right people out there doing those things. And that’s what we will continue to do but there’s no really magic formula to it. It’s just a matter of those two things are what helps us win. It’s when we take care of the football and on defense when we create turnovers. I said this to our staff the other day. We’re one of those offenses that if you’re using a basketball analogy, we need 30 shots to get 20 or more points.

And we’re one of those type of offenses where when our defense gets us the ball and we steal [a] series, we usually are able to create the type of explosive offense and explosive plays that we will need to win. We haven’t gotten those turnovers and then we’ve turned it over so it’s limited us and then you look at this past week’s game, to have two 90-plus drives where they’re time-consuming and the way the clock is working, it shrinks the game, which puts more pressure for us to have to score and not waste series, which we had a few wasted series on a Saturday at Northwestern.”

On what he needs to see from OL and RBs to lean on rushing attack

“Good question. I mean, leaning on the running game. I mean, I don’t feel we abandoned the run this past weekend. I think, again, when I always talk about balance, it’s doing what… the defense shows us. We’re an offense that likes to attack and so based on what we get, it tells us whether to run or throw. If they have numbers in the box, if it’s RPOs that we have attached to it. I can tell you that when you’re down two scores, running the ball is, you pick and choose your spots there, especially with the way the clock works now. So I thought being down two scores in the second half of the Northwestern game kind of dictated that we throw the ball a little bit more, but I don’t feel like we’ve abandoned the run. We go into every game with a great run game plan and a great passing game plan. And then based on what the defense is doing, kind of dictates a little bit of what we can get executed.”

On Halloween

“I won’t be home for it. My wife’s not allowing me home. I have to stay here. She’s unhappy with the way the last three weeks have gone and so I’ll be working through trick or treating. I don’t expect many people to come by my office looking for any candy. I do have Starbursts in my little cup on my desk…not a lot of people want to come see me this week. I don’t have a lot of friends.”

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