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November 30, 2023

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Lovett gets defensive about D


It is safe to say new defensive coordinator John Lovett did not envision his first game with the Falcons going as poorly as it did against Wisconsin. The defense, which acted more like speed bumps than road blocks, was dominated both by the Badgers’ bigger offensive line and by transfer running back, Brian Calhoun.

Asked whether he was disappointed, coach Lovett did not equivocate.

‘You’re damn right I’m disappointed. I mean it’s not for me as the defensive coordinator, I’m disappointed for the kids that didn’t play well and I’m disappointed for the fans,’ he said. ‘Hell, our offense scored [42 points] and we didn’t win the game. That is not going to be the MO of this defense.’

Calhoun rushed for 258 yards and five touchdowns. His backup, Booker Stanley, gained 106 yards on only 14 carries and also scored a touchdown.

Not counting Wisconsin’s 4 second possession right before halftime, the Badgers were able to score touchdowns on six consecutive possessions.

To improve on the lackluster showing against Wisconsin, Lovett said he planned to ‘go back to the drawing board’ by emphasizing things such as tackling, getting off blocks and overall execution.

‘We didn’t finish plays well,’ he said. ‘That was a very good back we had a hard time tackling. Their offensive line was very good, but again we didn’t execute some fundamentals and techniques as I hoped we would. I put that on myself.’

Although he was disappointed, Lovett said he expected a few growing pains in the first game, as the team adjusted to a new defensive coordinator, and he adjusted to getting used to some of the players.

Lovett, who served in the same capacity at Clemson from 2002-04, said not being around during the spring meant he is still evaluating some talent and trying to put them in the best possible positions to succeed.

However, the defeat at Wisconsin didn’t dampen his spirits or lower his confidence in how good the defense can be this season.

‘We’re all grounded a little bit better, and we have an idea about where everybody [is] at,’ he said. ‘We’re going to get better this week and we’re going to continue to get better as the season goes on.’

Even though there were a lot of questions about the Falcons’ new secondary featuring rookie Antonio Smith starting at cornerback and Terrill Mayberry shifting over to starting free safety, Lovett thought they did well.

‘I tried to protect them at times and not put them in bad situations,’ he said. ‘They just have to get used to being there and the speed of the game and playing together as a unit.’

Lovett vowed for a much better performance from the defense against Ball State on Saturday.

‘I think we can make a big jump this week and next week to really improve,’ he said.

He was looking forward to the contest against Ball State because it represents an even bigger challenge than Wisconsin.

‘The game this week is more important than Wisconsin, this is a MAC game,’ Lovett said. ‘Our goal is to win the MAC. This is the beginning of the real season. The preseason is over.’

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