Sept. 4, 2007
HEAD COACH Bob Toledo
"First of all, myself, my entire staff and our entire team is really looking forward to starting Saturday. It's kind of like Christmas. Everybody else had a chance to open all of their presents and we're waiting - and finally - we get a chance to open our gift. I hope it's a good one. We worked extremely hard in the off-season, and spring and fall camp, and now we're anxious to find out about our football team.
"A lot of people have asked me over the last several months `how good are you' and I really don't know. I don't know how good or bad we are, but we'll find out more about our team this Saturday. Obviously there is a lot of excitement. Anytime there's change there's new enthusiasm and I think there are a lot of people that are excited to see what's going to happen. I hope things work out right. Obviously there are a lot of new things and you're aware of all of them - like the new uniforms for example. A lot of people are looking forward to seeing those and so on and so forth.
"One of the things I want to mention that we're going to do that probably hasn't been mentioned yet - we're going to do a little walk through the (tailgating) crowd. So we're going to arrive about two hours prior to game, get off the bus right off the side and walk through the tailgate area and down into our locker rooms. It's something that hasn't been done here, I don't believe, so we're going to do that to create a little more excitement for the team and for the fans. Then it's our job to maintain that enthusiasm and I think you do that by playing exciting, entertaining and winning football. My big thing is I want us to be competitive and I want us to play hard from start to finish. If we play competitively and give our best effort then I can live with about anything and that's all I ask our football team to do. Hopefully when it's all said and done we'll win more games than we lose."
On how this week of practice will be
"This week has not been a typical normal week. Monday, when we normally go out in just helmets and shoulder pads - we went out in full gear and wore them out considerably longer than we normally would. We banged them pretty good. The reason being is that not only did we have Saturday and Sunday off, but also (last) Thursday we had 45 minutes of practice that was called off because of lightning. So we missed some practice there and it was a chance for us to make it up. We'll make it up on the front end and then back it off at the end of the week so that hopefully they'll get their legs back and they'll feel physically better for the game itself."
On who the captains will be for this year
"I picked a couple captains this year - Matt Forté and Antonio Harris are going to be the offensive (and) defensive captains. They'll be the captains for the remainder of the year and then I'll pick a special teams captain every week. This week we picked Ray Boudreaux, a senior who's on every special teams and who has really done an outstanding job of being a leader and being enthusiastic about special teams. I'll also pick a game captain. This week it's going to be Craig Gelhardt, our long snapper, actually. He's really been involved in being a leader on this football team and has really been good with the young kids and, as you know, he's great with the community and those types of things so we thought he was well-deserving of it."
On Saturday's season-opening contest vs. Mississippi State
"As far as Mississippi State is concerned, they're an SEC team. They're in a great conference and when you're in the SEC, you're going to be physical and you're going to be talented. I honestly believe they are. I think they are very physical and I think they've got a lot of talent. Unfortunately they played the No. 2 team in the country last week - LSU. It's tough to play them when you don't make any mistakes and, obviously, Mississippi State had seven turnovers. When you make seven turnovers, it's hard to beat anybody. As I told our team yesterday, if you look at just prior to half, it's 10-0 with a little over a minute to go in the half and Mississippi State is really playing well, particularly defensively. Well they throw an interception and then LSU takes the ball down the field with four seconds to go and score a touchdown and go up 17-0 at half. Now that's hard to overcome, plus it makes you get out of your game plan. And I think that's something that Mississippi State had to do to try and get back in the game. Then it backfired on them. So, they're a good football team - that's what I'm trying to say."
On the Mississippi State football team
"Last year, Tulane beat Mississippi State, so there's no question they feel embarrassed. They even said its one of the most embarrassing losses they've had so I believe they'll have a little chip on their shoulder. They'll come in here and there will be that revenge factor, if that's what you want to call it. They're upset that we beat them a year ago and so we're going to expect their best shot. They're very good defensively. They're very physical, very athletic and they've got some outstanding players on their defense. Offensively, they're big and they're strong. Four of the five offensive lineman return so they've got experience. They've got a big tailback and some big receivers. I believe they'll come out and try to run the football on us and try not to put it in the hands of the quarterback. The special teams - they have a really good punter and kicker who has a lot of experience and they have an outstanding punt and kick returner in Pegues. They've got some good players so it's a great challenge. It's a challenge that we're looking forward to. I knew when I took this job there would be a lot of challenges and this is one that's coming up. It's going to be a very tough football game and again, I just want to be as competitive as we can in the game."
On the fan support
"I hope that the fans come out and support us. They've talked about coming out, buying tickets, being supportive and creating a home-field advantage. So I hope that that comes true. I hope that they will come out and I hope that we give them an opportunity to get excited and make them want to come back and see us again. We would really like to create that home-field advantage. And I'd like to ask them all to wear green. Let's be proud of green and let's have more green than red in the stadium this coming week. Again, I'm looking forward to it. Everything's behind us now. After this week, I may no longer be undefeated, untied and un-scored upon. Something's going to happen."
On which backup quarterback would play if Scott Elliott had to come out of Saturday's game
"I would say right now, because of the experience factor, (Anthony) Scelfo would go in next. He's played a little bit and he has more experience. But Kevin Moore has come along. The last few days of practice, he's been very good. He's getting better all the time. Scelfo's gotten better. Elliott's gotten better. All three of them have progressed. I think Dan Dodd has done a nice job coaching them and preparing them. But I think if we had to put a guy in right now if Elliott got a broken shoelace, we would have to put Scelfo in the game."
On Mississippi State saying they were "embarrassed" of the loss last year to Tulane
"They've been quoted as saying that, so I'm not making it up. I've mentioned it to our team that they've been embarrassed and, more than anything else, to expect their best shot. I told them don't think its going to be an easy game just because we beat them last year or because they lost to LSU. They're a good football team."
On how well he knows Mississippi State head coach Sylvester Croom
"I've actually never met Sylvester. I don't know him, but I do know of people that do know him. He's a great man who has high morals and he's a heck of a football coach. He's just been put in a tough situation and unfortunately hasn't had the success that he would have liked. But he's a pretty good man from what I've gathered."
On how the team is preparing for Saturday's game
"What we did is we took all last year's games, broke them down and then came up with a game plan for what they had done in the past, disregarding personnel. We knew some of the people who were coming back and we eventually looked at them. Then what we did is we looked at the LSU tape, we saw what they did differently and then we evaluated the new players - like the new junior college defensive lineman defensive tackle (Cortez McCraney), he's really good. They've got an outside linebacker who led the team in tackles last week - he's really good, too. So we looked at the new personnel and we looked at what they did differently against LSU that they didn't do last year. Then we tweaked that a little bit and we tried to readjust the plan accordingly."
On whether or not it was harder to handicap Mississippi State's offense because they played against LSU their first game
"If nothing else, I don't know about handicap, but we know what they want to do. We know what they're going to try to do. I just think they went up against a very good football team - one of the best in the country - and they just got behind the eight ball because of the turnovers. We know they're going to be a physical offensive football team. They're going to be a power running team and run a little play action - kind of a West Coast philosophy very similar to ours. We've been facing their offense and defense in practice because they run a very similar offense and defense."
On the leadership he's expecting out of junior quarterback Scott Elliott
"We want him to be a leader by being able to manage the football game. We want him to know what's going on - to get us in the right play. Our offense is very difficult, particularly for the quarterback because we ask a lot from them mentally. I will give him two and sometimes three plays to call at the line of scrimmage. So he has to go to the line of scrimmage, he has to look at the defense, he has to know defensive front and coverages, and he has to get us into the best play. I like to say that we don't want to run uphill - and when I say run its run or throw. we want to run downhill. We want to run the best possible play against what we're seeing. Therefore I give him several opportunities to get us to the right play. So mentally there's a lot. It's a big burden on the quarterback and he has done a good job of doing that."
On who will be calling the plays
"I will call the plays. We've already game planned it and we've all sat down as an offensive staff and discussed what we're going to do in certain situations and all, but I will personally call the plays. Our system is to try and run the best possible play against the scheme that we're facing."
On the amount of no-huddle that will be run
"Very little...very little. We're not a big no-huddle team. We have the capability of doing it and obviously we'll do it in our two-minute drill. But because of the checks and our system, we huddle and do the typical offensive system."
On Tulane's offense
"I look at the teams and it's interesting how it's cyclical. It's amazing how many coaches copy each other. Almost everybody is running the shotgun spread, read option offense now - like fast break basketball on grass. And we're from the old school. We're still running the traditional, pro-style offense with a tight end, most of the time with two backs, more of a ball-controlled passing game than run the ball and play action. If you look at the pros - if you look at the Saints, if you look at the Seahawks, if you look at the Chargers, any of those people - that's our offense."
On being in the bottom 10 of the turnover margin
"We've addressed the turnover margin when we talk about goals on offense and defense. And that's one of our goals to not turn it over and to create turnovers. I'm hoping that we don't create turnovers (as an offense). That's one of the reasons why your defense doesn't play very well because they're on the field too long. If they don't create turnovers and get the ball back and get off the field, then all of a sudden they get worn down. So, from an offensive standpoint that's what we want to do. We want to keep the defense on the sideline and we want to sustain the football, use the clock and ultimately score points. Turnover margins...that is such a big deal. The one who wins the turnover ratio battle usually wins the game. We do talk about it but we don't harp on it. We don't say `don't fumble.' We say `hold onto the ball.' We do things to make sure that they know that we can't turn the football over and yet on defense we have to create turnovers. And we practice that. We have a drill early in practice where we actually go through stripping the ball and creating turnovers."
On Tulane's offense in the upcoming game
"I think we feel good about what we're doing. We're probably not going to open up the whole playbook early. We want to execute some things. There are some things that we want to do as the year goes on - things that we have practiced in spring and fall camp. Mississippi State does a lot of things on defense as well, so it's really going to be an opportunity for our quarterback to manage the game as I've said. We're going to do what we have to do. We've got a plan, I think we've practiced well and I think the kids understand the plan. My concerns are the concerns I've had since the beginning - we're not a real strong football team. We need to continue to get stronger and that comes with time in the weight room. Schematically, I think we have a good scheme. I think our kids understand the scheme and I think they feel good about it. But again, this game is not just a team game. It's one-on-one match-ups. You've got to win your battles. And if we can win most of the battles, then we have a chance to win. If they defeat us in those battles, then we're going to have a hard time winning."
On Tulane's offensive line vs. Mississippi State's defensive line
"It's a real concern. That's my biggest concern is their defensive line. We're going to start a true freshman at right guard, Andrew Nierman. We're going to start a redshirt-freshman, Pete Hendrickson, at right tackle. Their best defensive lineman, in my opinion, is their left defensive end, so the match up is very difficult. We're going to try and do some things offensively to help that tackle."
On if Matt Forté reminds him of anyone he has coached in the past
"I've had some great running backs over the years - you know who I've coached and who I've had - but the guy he probably reminds me the most of is DeShaun Foster. Big, physical, fast, can catch the ball - he can do everything. However, DeShaun used to put the ball on the ground sometimes so hopefully Matt won't do that. That's the big difference I think. I think Matt Forté has the ability to be a great running back. He's got all the good numbers plus he's a great person. He is going to be a high draft choice if he stays healthy."