Watch & Read: Napier takes full responsibility

Press Conference

by Inside the Gators Staff
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Billy Napier took full responsibility for Florida’s 24-11 loss to No. 14 Utah. Read and watch what he, Austin Barber, and Jason Marshall Jr. had to say during Monday’s press conference


BILLY NAPIER: How is everybody doing today?

A little bit about the game. I think obviously very disappointed with the performance of our team. I think the lesson here is that execution wins. I think having the discipline to execute in the moment is something that this game requires. There’s no question that we can help our players by coaching better, and certainly we can play better at times.

I think the key to the drill here is that we don’t waste this experience. I think, just having met with the leadership group, I think we’re in great position to do that. We can’t waste a minute blaming or complaining or sulking, thinking about the past. We have to learn. We have to change. We have to adapt. We have to grow.

We’re getting to a point in the season here where we’re going to be Sunday to Saturday a couple weeks in a row. You have to get consumed with your process, right? All parts of the organization, What can I do that can affect the outcome and get really good at my job? Essentially just do your job, right? Take responsibility, take ownership. Certainly that starts with me.

I think success is a dirty process, right? I think you’ve got to navigate a world that has doubt, that has fear. There’s always disruptions, there’s always challenges. It challenges everything inside of you. If you’re a competitor, this game will challenge you. I think it demands all that you’ve got.

For many it’s not worth it. But for the select few out there, they wouldn’t have it any other way. We certainly embrace the things that come with this challenge. I don’t know if you’ve watched the Netflix quarterback documentary, but Kirk Cousins said, and I think when you get in a leadership position, oftentimes I think this way, he said, I think God has given me a gift to do it, and I want to steward it as well as I possibly can. I certainly feel that way about this opportunity.

Adversity uncovers who you are, right? Leadership causes you to look in the mirror. I’m confident in this staff, this group of players, and we’re excited about being back at home this week.

McNeese comes to town. If you know football, you know the history and tradition of McNeese. This is a place that has winning expectations. Obviously this week for us is about improvement. We have to compete each day like we’re playing the best competition we will play this year. I think that was the message from the leadership group earlier today.

We look forward to getting this taste out of our mouth, and this weekend presents that opportunity.

What questions do we have here?

Q. You mentioned not wanting to waste any time here. Is there a level of concern at all about when it comes to honing in on fundamentals and execution that you have to dedicate so much time to studying the opponent?

BILLY NAPIER: I think the big issue for me is the self-inflicted wounds. Gators beat the Gators in a lot of ways. Not that Utah wasn’t deserving to win. We like to say we like to control the things that we can control, and we didn’t necessarily do that. Red zone miscues, protection issues. We had a few plays on special teams that were significant in the game.

So I do think there were some positives that came out of the game. I do think we took a step forward on defense. I do think that we’re close in a lot of ways. We got some really good play from some individual players on special teams and offense.

But there’s work to be done, for sure.

Q. Do you feel like as a coaching staff that you had the team prepared to play? The procedural issues, seems like maybe first-game jitters.

BILLY NAPIER: I do. I was surprised by that, to be quite honest. We had played pretty clean football, scrimmages, practice setting. We’d done quite a bit of significant crowd noise work. So those were surprising. I really felt confident our team was ready to play.

But you watch a weekend of college football, you see a lot of success, but you also see a lot of struggles. So the key to the drill here is how we respond and how we adapt, right? That’s not just coaches, that’s individual players.

I think this group is ready to do that.

Q. What can be done to improve special teams, the communication on the sidelines?

BILLY NAPIER: Yeah, I mean, I think that we had a really, really unique situation in the game that required us to have three personnel groups ready to go. Also we’ve got third down grouping in defense on the field. We have a rush team because we’re in the tweener area between kicker, field goal team out, or their punter runs on the field, right? That was one that I think we’ll be working on the future that caused some issues.

Look, we had some miscues in the game. There’s no doubt we missed a field goal. We shank a punt. We had the penalty from a personnel standpoint. But I do think we did some good things in the game, as well. The things that have nothing to do with the opponent are the things that we need to correct.

Q. I think I asked you back in May about the effect of the clock change rule. What was your experience? How do you think it had an impact?

BILLY NAPIER: I mean, I think our volume of plays was on schedule. I think we had an SEC crew, I think they do a great job of putting the ball in play. I don’t know that the play counts were affected.

I think we’re, like, time of possession, way up there on the charts, right? I don’t know that it affected us this game. There may be games in the future where that’s the case.

I think it’s about a half of a possession per game when you look at the analytics, right? I think the national average is like 10.6, 10.7. Now it’s like 10.2, 10.3. It’s definitely affecting the game. About half a possession a game difference.

Q. Sloppiness of communication on special teams, does that make you rethink the process, not have one coach dedicated to that?

BILLY NAPIER: It was a very specific error. It has nothing to do with what we do year-round. It was a very specific mistake within the game. It has nothing to do with infrastructure or job description or assignments. It’s just one very specific mistake, one that we will learn from going forward, much like we do every week we make mistakes. We adjust and adapt.

So I think it uncovered something that’s a challenging situation, one that we’ll work on in the future.

Q. The number of touches for your two running backs seems pretty low. Some of that is dictated by the score. Is that acceptable moving forward, for those two guys to touch the ball as little as they did?

BILLY NAPIER: I think it’s a great question.

I think ultimately, for me, looking back at it, that’s something we could have been a little bit more committed to. There’s no doubt about it.

But we get into all of a sudden it’s 17-3, 24-3, that affects the approach you take. But I do think Utah has something to do with that, as well. I think we were 3.1 in carry on called runs. When we do run it, we got it in that four, five, six range. They got us on the ground, right? They tackled much better. Ultimately they contributed to that, as well.

But it’s a really good point.

Q. Identity-wise, do you still see yourself as a run-first, power-run team? Is that what you want to do?

BILLY NAPIER: I think our history’s pretty well-documented. We’ve been able to rush the ball effectively in the past. We didn’t do that Saturday. I think that ultimately balance is required in this game, in my opinion, if you want to have a good team. I think there’s some weeks where you got to rush it effectively, there’s some weeks where you got to pass it effectively. Situations call for both in this game.

I think if you’re going to be really good, there’s times where you got to rush the ball, right? There’s a short yardage red zone goal line four-minute situation. Then you’re going to have to pass it. Third and long, two-minute situations.

You got to build your team where you’ve got balance and you’re capable of both. But I think just from a demeanor standpoint, I think we definitely want to be more committed to the run game.

Q. How are you processing the losing?

BILLY NAPIER: I’m committed to not getting used to it I guess is what I would say. I’m not joking when I say that.

I asked the team yesterday, I said, What motivates you? I think for me, seeing the players get the reward from the work is motivating, but it’s also just as motivating to watch them have to go through the difficulty of losing, right, knowing what I’ve observed for a very long time, if that makes sense.

Sometimes as a leader, it’s not about me, it’s more about the rest of them. Players in particular.

Q. Do you notice a common thread, these are three wildly varied situations, but the last three times you guys have played publicly, I’m including the spring game, the offense just doesn’t seem to have a lot of punch to it? Is there a common thread?

BILLY NAPIER: Yeah, I mean, I don’t necessarily view them as they’re all separate entities. I mean, they’re different groups of people. A lot of football left to play. I think that’s probably a question to ask at the end of the year.

Q. You’ve always run the ball well everywhere you’ve been. This was maybe the worst running game you’ve ever had. Is it more the offensive line, what they didn’t do, or was Utah just that good on the defensive line?

BILLY NAPIER: I think we were behind the sticks quite a bit in the game. I think negative plays are the enemy, right? When it’s second and long, third and long, it’s tough sledding. I think we got to play better on first and second down, on schedule.

We moved the ball up and down the field at times in the game. We had red zone issues in the game, whether it was penalties or negative plays, sacks.

Ultimately I think we can do better is what I would say. I think it’s a great point. There’s no question we didn’t rush the ball as effectively as we’d like. 3.1 in carry on called runs is not good enough based on our metrics. The sacks contribute to the statistics in college football. We’re still behind. We add the sacks to the rushing yards.

Q. Were there communication issues on your offensive line during the game?

BILLY NAPIER: I think everybody likes to talk about the offensive line, okay, when it comes to protection and maybe inefficient runs. All position groups contribute to both, okay?

I’ve said this publicly many times. When you rush the ball effectively, it’s not just the offensive line. I mean, I think we’ve got to play well on the edges. We’ve got to have precision in footwork and eye discipline at running back. The quarterback has to make the right decision in terms of distributing the ball. The same could be said for protection.

We had other position groups that caused problems in protection in the game. It’s not always just the offensive line. I think we’re quick to point the finger at the quarterback. We’re quick to point the finger at the offensive line. I think all positions contribute.

Sometimes it’s a receiver, right? Maybe the receiver doesn’t run the route with precision, and the quarterback has to hold the ball. I think there’s a number of things that contribute to protection issues.

So the lesson here is that there’s no one single individual to blame here, other than me, okay? I think ultimately the buck stops here. We’re going to go fix it. That’s what I would tell you.

Q. How would you evaluate third down play calling in this game? How did you think that went?

BILLY NAPIER: I think we’re living in third and long, and that’s not where you want to live. I think national average in all these situations that we had are not good for any team, much less our team. We want to live in third and manageable. That comes down to eliminating the negative plays.

Ultimately if you take care of the ball and you limit negative plays, you’re probably going to have a pretty good day on offense. Those are two significant stats in this game. We took care of the ball outside of the turnover, which was a little bit unique in itself. Then the issue was the negative plays. Penalties being in that category, right? We’ll take those third and ones and convert those and not have a delay of game, which I can help there.

I think the negative plays on third and manageable contributed to third and longs, and now all of a sudden we’re not near as successful as we’d like to be.

Q. What did you think about Eugene Wilson?

BILLY NAPIER: Yeah, no, I think we’ve observed him in the practice setting. He proved to be a really good competitor on game day. There’s no doubt he’s really unique with the ball. We got it to him, and he’s capable. I think he’ll be out there running around for the Gators in the future, for sure.

Q. What do you think about Miguel Mitchell in his first start?

BILLY NAPIER: He was one of our players of the game. I do think that Miguel showed promise last year. We tried to play him as a true freshman last year in some different roles.

Miguel has got height, length and speed. He’s a smart player. I think he’s had a good off-season. I think he’s in position to have a good year. He was one of our players of the game.

Q. Princely’s production, what can you do to get him more involved?

BILLY NAPIER: Well, I think at times late, he landed a few times. Think did a good job getting the ball out of their hand.

But I think at times his position was disruptive, if that makes sense, the position that he plays. T.J. was productive in the game. Princely affected the quarterback. Maybe he didn’t land a couple times, but he did affect the quarterback at times. Princely will be just fine.

Q. Does the loss make you question the fundamentals of the infrastructure, special teams? Are you more engaged now? What has this done to you?

BILLY NAPIER: Yeah, I mean, you just want to do the best job you can do for your people ultimately. When you struggle, you just want to do better for your folks ultimately. I think you guys can agree, right? You got the people that work really hard, they don’t get the result they want, you’re frustrated and disappointed with the performance.

Ultimately you want to do better for your team, right? I would tell you that a lot of people feel that way. It’s not just me. So I think this group’s going to respond the right way.

All right, guys. Thank you.


Q. Talk about the team’s reaction, what the last couple of days have been like, the response to wanting to show this is not who this team is.

AUSTIN BARBER: Yeah, I mean, that’s something that we’ve been harping on a lot since we’ve been back, which is not what we wanted. I feel like everyone in this room got a little bit of an open mind, like clear eyes that we can come in, come back up and dominate these opponents coming up.

This game is not what we wanted. I think everybody knows that. I think we can come in and work every single day to the point where we want to be.

Q. A lot of guys talk about pride in the program. How important is that to you, taking the pride? How helpful is that going to be?

AUSTIN BARBER: Yeah, I think that’s very important because everyone took the flight to Salt Lake City, that’s across the United States, and the fans were there for us through the whole game. I didn’t see anybody leaving. I think it’s win or lose, we got to be there for them.

They come and support us through every game. Just the little things like that can kind of show we’re proud to put the orange and blue on.

Q. What did you see in the penalties and procedural issues at the line of scrimmage and red zone?

AUSTIN BARBER: In my opinion, just not being totally locked in. I think those things like that are something we can learn from, not happen in the games coming up.

A lot of those penalties were self-inflicting. Sometimes it’s just what we got to fix. I think we’re going to do a good job of fixing it.

Q. What was the trip back like? It was extended several hours on the back end.

AUSTIN BARBER: The trip back was a lot of just thinking about the game, trying to figure out what went wrong in some aspects. I think a lot of people were trying to just soak in what happened, watch the film on the plane back, just learn from it.

That’s what the main thing on the trip back, learn from what happened and going back to next week.

Q. What is the key to not let this sidetrack you guys?

AUSTIN BARBER: Yeah, obviously there’s disappointment. You don’t want to lose your first game. Everyone is excited for it. It was a big game.

I think you just got to learn from it. This whole experience is a big learning process for everybody on this team. I think that we’ll come back and learn from it, practice hard, do what we have to do to be prepared for the next game.

Q. Was there anger?

AUSTIN BARBER: Yeah, obviously. In every loss, when you’re a competitor in football, competitor in any sport, a loss is not what you want. You always want to go out there and win.

There’s going to be anger in a loss. That’s just the bottom line of it.

Q. Having Kingsley not there after 26 straight games, did that have an affect on the procedures? Do you think some of those wouldn’t have happened if he played?

AUSTIN BARBER: No, if you see the penalties, I’ll take the blame, I had a penalty. That’s nothing Jake did. I need to be more locked in. I think Jake played a pretty good game. First start, obviously you don’t want to go and have all these penalties in his first start. You can’t blame him for it. You didn’t see him have the penalties.

His first start, it’s hard to come in against a ranked opponent in a first start. My first game was Utah, I played seven snaps. There was one play where I went the complete wrong way.

It was just a big learning curve for Jake. I think he’s going to embrace it, going to learn from it. He’s a guy that’s always in the building watching film. He’s locked in. He knows he wants to do this. I have all the confidence in Jake.

Q. Can you share your emotions after the game, why you made some of the guys sing the song?

AUSTIN BARBER: Just because of the fans, all the people that went, all the people that watched. I feel like we can’t just have our heads down walking out. That’s not what we did for eight months, just to put our heads down and feel sorry for ourselves.

I think there’s a lot of things in that game that we can fix and control. I don’t want anyone to be thinking that we don’t have to support the fans that were there with us.

Q. Offensive line played at a tremendously high level last year. All-American that you don’t have now. How important is it to try to get back to that level?

AUSTIN BARBER: I think that’s where you want to be, you want to be one of the top offensive lines in the country. That’s how you succeed. I think we’ll get back to that level.

It’s the first game. There’s a few new faces on the offensive line. I’m confident in every single one of the people in that room. I’m not pointing any fingers. It’s all of us. I think we’re going to be back to that level.

Q. Billy is clear the team is going to get back. How does that help?

AUSTIN BARBER: I think one game can’t define the whole entire season, in my opinion. This team, especially the offensive line, will come back and work their tails off to be where we want to be.

Q. After having a really good August, how surprising was it that the offensive line as a whole had so many misfires?

AUSTIN BARBER: It’s hard, you know what I mean? We’ve been putting the work in every single day through training camp, through the weeks of practice we had coming up to this game.

It’s not what we thought we were going to do. We just got to learn from it.

Q. How does it feel to get back playing in the Swamp, the importance of that home opener?

AUSTIN BARBER: I think it’s going to be great. Playing in the Swamp is always fun. You see all the fans. It’s home-field advantage for sure. It’s awesome. I love seeing all the fans out there supporting all of us. I think it’s going to be fun getting back each week in the Swamp. We have three games in the Swamp, especially this one coming up, an important game for us. I’m excited to be back in the swamps.

Q. Reaction to the new LED lights?

AUSTIN BARBER: It’s really cool. I’m excited for it. The first time I seen those lights was when we played in the bowl game in my freshman year. I thought it was the coolest thing ever. It’s going to be great to see the lights, the orange and blue thing back and forth when we score and stuff like that. I think it’s going to be cool.

Q. What did you think about how Graham handled the huddle…

AUSTIN BARBER: His stats show he had a career high in completions, career high in passing. Graham did a great job staying composed. I know the offensive line didn’t help him. He got hit five times. I think he just handled it really well. Came back to the next play, tells us to, Let’s go, keep working. He never pointed a finger.

I think that’s a great thing for all of us. When a leader like that takes ownership in stuff like that, it’s really good. Take ownership in the offensive line, take ownership in that aspect because we got to be better.


Q. Billy said it was a unique situation on the punt where you and Eugene were on the field at the same time. What was the unique situation, the communication breakdown?

JASON MARSHALL JR.: Like he said, it was just lack of communication. I didn’t know he was going to be out there at that time. Like I said, lack of communication.

We’re going to fix that in the future, so…

Q. How tough was that for the defense in that situation?

JASON MARSHALL JR.: It kind of sucks. We stopped them, then we got the penalty, turned around, had to go back out there. It was like a sudden change. That just gained momentum from them.

Q. When you game plan for other quarterbacks, was there anything that stood out to you maybe you hadn’t seen before, difficulty preparing for those guys given the lack of film on them?

JASON MARSHALL JR.: Not necessarily. We game planned for whoever was going to be out there, if he played or not. Unfortunately he didn’t play, so we just had to go against whoever it was out there.

Q. How did you process that first play, try to shake it off and bounce back?

JASON MARSHALL JR.: It’s football. It happens. Yesterday we got in the meeting room, fixed it up, talked about what everybody seen, basically how we could do better, not allowing that to happen again.

Q. How do you feel like the defense responded after that? Forced a lot of punts, great drives.

JASON MARSHALL JR.: We responded very well. It’s unfortunate that that play happened. You wouldn’t want that play to happen on the first play of the defensive drive.

We responded well, just put that behind us, keep moving forward.

Q. How has this team rallied, learned from that experience? What’s the key to doing that?

JASON MARSHALL JR.: Like I said, better communication on the back end, not look for that to happen again.

Q. In general, the whole experience…

JASON MARSHALL JR.: Can you elaborate on it?

Q. How do you guys as a team, I’m not talking about that play, just saying the whole performance, eight months buildup, you’re ready to roll, then lose. How do you learn from it, shake it off, rally?

JASON MARSHALL JR.: Like I said, just putting it behind us. We went into that game, we made a lot of mistakes going in. Now it’s time to fix the mistakes, learn from that, and just keep moving forward.

That game is behind us. We can’t go back and change the outcome of that, so…

Q. Coach said Miguel Mitchell was one of the players of the game. What did you see in his performance?

JASON MARSHALL JR.: He played well. He played tremendously well. I give him his props. He made some big plays, ultimately helped the defense out.

Q. Other than that one big play, they only averaged about four yards a pass. Y’all really shut them down. What was the key?

JASON MARSHALL JR.: Once we gave up that big play, we just had to come back to our senses and calm down. We gave up that big play, 70-plus yard touchdown. Like I said, it’s football, it’s going to happen.

Coming to the sideline after that play, talking it out, calming down, that was pretty much it.

Q. How did Jordan perform, seven tackles? What was your overall assessment of him?

JASON MARSHALL JR.: He’s another guy that played tremendously well. Like you said, contributed with the seven tackles. First game out there…

I kind of talked to him before the game. He was kind of anxious and things like that. Just told him to calm down, you’ve been playing football for a long time, just go out there and play ball.

Q. What is the meaning behind your ‘enough said’ tweet?

JASON MARSHALL JR.: It’s a lot of media and things like that. Sometimes you get caught up in looking at it, hearing what they say, seeing what they say, just taking that in, grasping it. Enough said, you know. Now it’s time to get back to work.

Q. Are you trying to block all that out? Are you using some of it as fuel being counted out by some people?

JASON MARSHALL JR.: I wouldn’t say using it as fuel. We do see it, people doubting us, things like that. I wouldn’t necessarily say we’re using it as fuel.

Q. How big is this game to get some confidence back, energy back, SEC opener a week later against a rival and good offense?

JASON MARSHALL JR.: It’s very big. Playing against a very disciplined team. We have to be disciplined ourselves. No matter who we play, we can’t just go out there and lollygag, things like that, not be focused.

We have to go out there minds ready, get the game plan, go over the game plan, set it forth because we do have a big one next week.

Q. What was the difference in the execution and mentality on third-down defense?

JASON MARSHALL JR.: Just getting off the field. Third down, you want to be off the field. You don’t want to have long drives ’cause those could turn into touchdowns. Our defense, we don’t want to give up touchdowns. So just getting off the field.

Q. The way you were feeling when you tweeted, did you share some of those emotions with your teammates?

JASON MARSHALL JR.: No, I didn’t. No, that was basically like a self-motivate thing.

Q. Austin tried to get guys after the game to stay and appreciate the fans. How important is that?

JASON MARSHALL JR.: I did see it. I was right there with him. I kind of gathered some players, as well. Coming from here, going all the way to Utah, we did have quite a few fans. Just appreciating them, that they came out and supported us.

Q. How excited are you to play a home opener under the new lights?

JASON MARSHALL JR.: I heard about ’em. I haven’t seen ’em necessarily. I’m excited. I have seen a couple of stadiums with those lights. The lights get the crowd into the game. I’m excited for it.

Q. What have you seen from Billy Napier since this loss, his attitude, what he said to the team?

JASON MARSHALL JR.: I could say he’s more locked in, more into the team. He’s putting us, some of the leaders, forth. He’s just rallying behind us.

Q. (No microphone.)

JASON MARSHALL JR.: Gathering the team and being more focused and locked in.

Video courtesy Gator Vision | Transcript courtesy ASAP

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