Billy Napier discusses the struggles on defense and more after 52-35 loss to LSU

by | Nov 12, 2023 | 0 comments

Napier after LSU

Florida Gators head coach Billy Napier speaks after the 52-35 loss Florida suffered at the hands of LSU.


Opening statement:

“Alright, you know, we challenged the kids to be ready to compete, you know, physically ready to compete, mentally ready and then emotionally ready, and tough-minded, you know, ready to play through adversity, momentum, go punch-for-punch, knowing it was going to be that type of game. And I think we got that type of performance. Now, not a perfect day. Obviously LSU’s very accomplished on offense, they’ve got an elite group of players, and they were tough to stop, and I think we stopped them a handful of times but not enough. I think maybe it was a three-point game there with about 10 minutes to go, we took the lead one time there maybe in the 3rd, but I think the kids played hard. I mean, there’s no moral victories here, we all understand that, but I think what we asked them to do, they did. And I think they’re probably gonna, I think just the feel that I get from them is they feel like they had their chances. There definitely was opportunities out there tonight for us to come out on the other end, so I’m proud of that, OK. The mentality, the mindset, the resiliency, the resolve, the toughness, the togetherness. Their ability to sustain that intensity, you know, so there are some intangibles that I can respect from the players. I think we can help them, I think there’s opportunities for us to do some things strategically, maybe to put them in better position. I always feel that way, whether we win or lose, certainly I feel that way tonight. So, that’s a great venue, that’s a challenge to play here. We were ready, and I have respect for the approach the players took. We came up short, but I think we played until the last snap. And I think this group will do it again, that’s what I think. I think they’ll do it again, and this is a group that I think has got something about them, you know, I’ve told you all that many times before, but I’m on the inside and I know every one of these kids and it’s a fun group to coach. They’re not perfect, I’m not perfect, and we’re going to continue to work. We have work to do, OK, and we’re up for the challenge, this group’s up for the challenge, and we’re going to continue trying to work hard and improve both as a staff and at the player level. And look, for us to go where we want to go here, as an organization, as a program, as a team, every single part of our organization is going to have to work their tail off. We have to be relentless in finding an edge, relentless in seeking improvement, right, and taking experience and learning and growing from that, knowing that there’s going to be other opportunities. So, hats off to LSU, you know, got a good football team, heck of a football game, and I know you got a bunch of questions so we’ll let you ask a few.”

Surrendering a program-worst 701 yards:

“Well, the reality is we got off the field on a couple of fourth downs. Ultimately, you’ve got a challenge on your hands relative to matching up. You know, you’re going to deny the ball, you’re going to play man or match coverage, and then all of a sudden you’ve got your back to the guy and he takes off running, right? Or, you can choose to die a slow death and play zone, play coverage, try to keep him in the pocket. And we did a mixture of both all night. I do think the game comes down to matchups, and sometimes you can help your players and sometimes the players just gotta go play, right? So I think there’s a little bit of both, right? The quarterback is exceptional, and I think his legs ultimately are the difference in the game. I mean, he’s a really good passer, they have great skill [players], they have a good balance of run game that complements his legs. But ultimately, I mean, I think we all can agree that the difference in the game was his ability to take off running, right? So, you know, we played against him last year and we played against him this year, he continues to improve. We’ll give their staff credit and him credit, he’s definitely improved as a player. So, you pair his skill set with that group of skill players, and you’ve got, I think it’s a challenge.”

Trevor Etienne’s performance:

“Yeah, no, Trevor is one of our best. He’s not only one of the best competitors and players that we have, but he’s also one of the better young men in our program. His leadership, his work habits, the way he treats people, I mean he’s a class act. He’s been raised the right way. And he’s an elite competitor. I think you can tell this was special for him, and when given opportunities tonight, you know, he was elite. I thought he showed a spirit about himself, he showed some toughness tonight. So there’s no question, and I’m proud of him. He’s fun to coach, and he’s made our team better since the first day got here and he’ll continue to make the team better in the future.”

Jayden Daniels night, skill or defensive breakdowns?

“I think there’s a little bit of both if I was betting. I think the plays that are hard that you struggle with are the ones where you match the pattern, you compress the rush lanes and then one guy can’t finish on him and he’s loose. Then there are other areas where, ok, hey, I’ve got the quarterback. I’m the weak safety. It’s zone read I’m supposed to be the quarterback player. I’ve got bad eye-discipline and all of a sudden the guy scores a one-play touchdown. Those are things that ultimately, you know, there were a handful of those in the game where we’ve got players who can do better. We also had plays where we’re in a good call and the guy made a play. I think it’s a combination of both. I’ll probably have a little bit of a better answer for you on Monday.”

The back and forth third quarter, 51-yard LSU TD,  the overturned Kahleil Jackson catch, and the message to keep guys together on the sideline:

“We don’t have that problem. We don’t have any problem keeping guys together. We need to execute a little bit better. We’ve got intangibles. We’ve got morale. We have a group that tries to do the right way. We’ve jut got to continue to learn and grow. Play with more detail, more discipline, more poise, communicate better. Work hard on our fundamentals. Those are where our issues are. We don’t have any issue staying together. That’s a fact.”

Manufacturing more touches for Eugene Wilson throughout games:

“We called a lot of plays for Tre tonight and I think sometimes concepts are designed and you try to put your best players in primary spots and then, ultimately, the defense kind of dictates where the ball goes, to some degree. But we did some designed touches. I think we had a reverse to him in the red area. We pitched him a couple sweeps. Yeah, I mean, I think that has nothing to do with our intention, I can promise you that. If there’s been one thing that’s been evident, we’re trying to get him the ball.”

The chippiness of the game:

“I’m OK with it. My issues are with the undisciplined decisions. There’s a line that you don’t cross. When you compromise the team, that’s a line you don’t cross. All the other stuff, I’m all for it. Look, man, you have to be in a certain frame of mind to put it all on the line out there so the way I would describe it is under control but just barely and I think maybe we had one scenario tonight where we retaliated and we did retaliate from something that happened before. It wasn’t just our guy doing something. You have to have that mentality and mindset and we were ready to mix it up tonight from the jump so to play this game and to compete against this type of competition, you have to be in a certain frame of mind.

How Austin Armstrong has handled the defense’s struggles:

“I think Austin’s done a great job leading that group. I think ultimately we’re approaching 30 percent of the snaps this year from true freshmen. We’re probably playing more young players than anybody in America. There’s some issues that come with that. Look, Austin would tell you that he could do his job better. That’s what he would tell you. There’s nobody who wants to do it more than he does. And look, playing the unit’s performance is a reflection of a lot of people, not one guy. We all like to think in those terms. But it’s position coaches, it’s analysts, it’s GAs, it’s the scout offense, it’s the head coach, it’s the strength coach. There’s a number of people who contribute to our ability to perform on a consistent basis. Austin’s the leader over there and he’s the coordinator. We’ve played well at times and we’ve been very inconsistent at times. We need to continue to learn from our experience and continue to grow and improve.”

What needs to improve on defense:

“It’s what winning football is. There’s a long list that contributes: it’s communication, it’s alignment, it’s eye discipline, it’s playing with the right leverage, it’s right fundamentals and techniques, it’s situational awareness. There’s a long list of things that contribute. Each play’s a little bit different. So we’re working on it. I know that’s not what anybody wants to hear. But I think we’ll continue to work on it.”

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