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October 25, 2011

Mike Archer: Saturday was our best performance

Defensive coordinator Mike Archer met with the media following Tuesday's practice to analyze Saturday's defensive performance, talk about the emergence of national interception leader David Amerson and preview Saturday's contest with Florida State.

A transcript of what the coach had to say is below:

Can you talk about how well David Amerson is playing right now?

I think he's played at a high level and people continue to throw in his area, which is fine. He's made plays for us and the turnovers have been critical. Right now, our turnover ratio is what's helping us win football games so that's something that's obviously very important. He's playing very well.

Where has he improved the most since last year?

I think it's just his confidence. We threw him out there as a freshman last year and started him against Virginia Tech. We knew he was very talented. Playing that position, you have to remember that you're going to play against great people, get beat once in a while and you have to move on. He's had a couple of bouts this year where people have beat him on double moves but, overall, I think he's played well. The interceptions have been really critical and to get eight interceptions at this point in the year - and I know people throw the ball a lot - but that's impressive.

Your defense has a lot of interceptions this year, even outside of Amerson.

He's got eight and Brandan [Bishop] has four, they have 12 of our 16. Again, I think part of it is college football has changed. People are throwing the ball 45 and 50 times per game, you hope that you're going to get your share of them, whether they are tipped balls, which is how they happened on Saturday. One of Amerson's interceptions was a tipped ball and Brandan's came on a tipped ball. Being in the right place at the right time.

How good was Saturday's performance and how much of an emotional lift does it give you guys?

Overall, I thought it was our best performance and our guys have a little bit of pep in their step. Just talking to the guys after the game, I think their confidence level [has risen]. The game is very much mental when you get to the eighth or ninth game of the year. I think they feel better about themselves now, but they are going to get challenged at a whole different level [this week] than what they saw last week.

A lot of teams say they want to create turnovers, but with your scheme, is that something that you really have to do?

When you play as much zone as we do, yeah, you should create more turnovers than a team that plays a lot of man. When you're playing man, you have your back turned to the ball a lot, you're not going to see things. When you're playing zone, you're going to see tipped balls, you're going to get balls batted up in the air. You hope that you have a higher ratio of turnovers. Having played in the NFL, where you play a lot of man, sometimes it doesn't work that way - sometimes you'll get a ball tipped, but there's nobody there because everybody has their back turned. It's something we've talked about. We did a good job of it last year but if you don't talk about it and you don't drill it and rep it, it doesn't mean anything to them. We do it every Sunday, we have a turnover period where we take five minutes and rotate different things that we do - we intercept balls, we strip balls, we try to scoop and score. As long as they know what we're trying to get accomplished and it gets back to the same thing - when you have success doing it, like Saturday, after David intercepted that pass, our guys on the sideline said, 'well, that's what you're supposed to do.'

How much does playing zone help you against a running quarterback?

When you got a guy that can move around and you turn your back, it's not good. Scrambling quarterbacks will kill you in that respect and this guy, in particular, [FSU quarterback] E.J. [Manuel], if he sees you in man coverage or man-under and you turn your back, he's taking off and running. He's a 240-pound guy that looks like Cam Newton running the ball.

I'm not trying to take away anything from the kid but some of David's interceptions aren't all that impressive, but he's got eight of them.

I don't care how impressive they are, you just have to be in the right place at the right time. He's gotten some breaks, on Saturday, the ball hits the kid's hands and he pulls it out of his hands, it's about being in the right place at the right time. On Brandan's interception, we were in zero-coverage - which is no safety in the middle of the field - and I hear from upstairs, 'who is Brandan on?' I said, 'he's on 18,' then the ball gets tipped and he catches it; you've got to be lucky, too. It bounces your way sometimes, sometimes it doesn't.

The first one he had against Virginia was a great catch, though.

Absolutely and it was critical in the game because we had them backed up in and it was a 21-14 game then he takes it and scores. When you score on defense, that's a big momentum swing for your football team, I don't care what you say. Again, it's being in the right place and it's being lucky, luck is part of it, too.

Can you talk about your third-down improvement over the last two games?

Really, it started in the Georgia Tech game. The impressive thing about that was they were in short yardage, they were in third-and-three but you're not going to make those very often. I think we were 4-of-12 in that game, we were 3-of-10 against Central Michigan. Saturday, at the half, they were 5-of-8 so we kind of jumped their [butts] a little bit, I said, 'that's unacceptable.' And on their touchdown drive, they converted on I think three third-downs. On the touchdown in particular, we were in zero-coverage, we blitzed, we lost contain, the tailback was blocking him and then he ran over and did something else, they throw it to him. At halftime, we said, 'this isn't acceptable,' and we came out, they were 0-for-9 in the second-half so they listened.

Florida State has become a running team.

Yeah, I think they wanted to do that early in the season. Florida State has always wanted to run the ball. I know that when I coached at Miami, they wanted to run the ball; with Bobby [Bowden] they wanted to run the ball, Jimbo [Fisher] wants to run the ball, too. They haven't had a lot of success [running the ball] but these last few weeks, this freshman, No. 8 [Devonta] Freeman has emerged since [Chris] Thompson went down and the guy is a good football player. They've been shuffling guys in and out with injury and it's hard to get any continuity there but I think they've had the same offensive line for three weeks and you can see it. They're going to try to run the ball, but they're also scary outside with their receivers, those guys can run and catch.


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