Second-year head coach Curtis Johnson reviewed last week's game against South Alabama and looked ahead to the Conference USA opener at Louisiana Tech during his weekly press conference.
Sept. 10, 2013
NEW ORLEANS - Following a morning practice during the Green Wave's short week of preparation, Tulane University head football coach Curtis Johnson addressed the media on Tuesday afternoon as part of his weekly press conference in the James W. Wilson, Jr., Center.
Johnson reviewed the team's 41-39 loss to South Alabama last Saturday in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome and addressed the upcoming game at Louisiana Tech - which will not only be the Conference USA opener for both teams but the first ever C-USA game for the squad from Ruston.
While the second-year coach was happy with the way his team battled back from an early deficit in the narrow loss to the Jaguars, Johnson was quick to point out that improvement is necessary across the board and that the game in Ruston represents a chance to turn a corner as a team.
Kickoff for the Tulane/Louisiana Tech contest is slated for Thursday, Sept. 12, at 6:30 p.m. at Joe Aillet Stadium in Ruston, La. In addition to the game being broadcast on the flagship radio station for Green Wave football - WMTI 106.1 FM "The Ticket" - the contest will also be televised live nationally on Fox Sports 1.
The game at Tech is the first of three straight road games for the Green Wave, who will play at Syracuse on Sept. 21 and at ULM on Sept. 28 before returning to the Superdome on Oct. 5 when the Wave play host to North Texas for Homecoming 2013.
For tickets to the Tulane/North Texas game, as well as future Green Wave events, contact the Tulane Athletics Ticket Office. The Ticket Office is located on the first floor of the Wilson Center on Ben Weiner Drive, and tickets can be purchased in person weekdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., over the phone at 504-861-WAVE (9283) or via the Internet at www.TulaneGreenWave.com.
TULANE HEAD COACH Curtis Johnson
"It was a very, very disappointing game for us last week. They jumped out to a 28-7 lead, and that's exactly what we as a coaching staff talked about. This team was going to give us their best shot. Finally, our defense settled in and played pretty decent the rest of the way. But we can't expect Nick Montana to throw it, throw it, throw it to get us back in the game. We actually took the lead and made some mistakes down the stretch and they came away with the victory. We scored a lot of points, but we've got to play better offensively, defensively and special teams wise."
On if his team learned a lesson following the loss to South Alabama
"I really hope so. As I said last week, the most desperate team wins. I thought they were more desperate. They came out very, very desperate. In the second half, we were the most desperate team. We kind of shut them down pretty good - they only got three points in the second half off of our defense - but it was too late. The lead was probably too insurmountable, especially with a new starting quarterback. One thing that you have to learn is that desperation comes immediately, especially in college football. You can't lose one or two games and expect to reach your goals."
On if he was encouraged by his team's play in the second half
"Absolutely. We talked about that a lot. I never wanted to put Nick (Montana) in a position to do that, but I'm glad he did. Now, I understand that we can use him more and throw the ball more. This whole game plan was run Darkwa, play action, run a little bit more, and play action. When it got out of hand, (Montana) threw it and threw it very well. And I thought the defense was very encouraging. We're going to settle in on some guys. It was good in the second half, but in the first half there were a lot of mental mistakes."
On the similarities between Tulane and Louisiana Tech with a first-year starting transfer quarterback
"I think their guy is just like Nick. Both are good players, strong-armed guys who can throw it around. They want to lean on their backs to run the ball. Their offensive line is good. Their defense is pretty good. The defensive front is playing well. We're very, very similar in that aspect. They've got some momentum. They won a game. They beat a good football team and they'll be a tough team for us."
On Tulane's rushing yards per carry average
"It was a situation we were in. We ran it in that game just to run it because we didn't want Nick to just get killed. I don't know what play to call to get us back in the game when you're down 28-7 or 31-19. You've got to advance the ball and you've got to throw it a lot. Going into the game, that was not the gameplan at all. We didn't want to throw it that much but we had to. It was uncomfortable, but there is a light at the end of the tunnel. We did complete a lot of balls. We played pretty decent in our passing game. Now, we've got to run it."
On if the Jackson State game is a more realistic depiction of his running approach than the South Alabama game
"I want to be 50-50 if I can. I really want to run the ball a lot more, but I can't run it when I'm down that much. At halftime we were scrambling on what routes can we run because we were down."
On how big of a set-back was Saturday's loss
"The setback is what it is. You lose a game you that you probably should win. Going into this game, we thought we were a good match for them. We lost the game. The biggest setback was we have to play better defense early. We didn't come to play early on if you look at the tape. Again, anytime you get a loss, it's a setback. If we lose, it'll be another setback."
On the blocked punt
"The blocked punt was huge. The young center goes in, he hitches and he snaps it. We weren't even ready. Rob Kelley was still calling out the signals, and he just snapped it. We've got to get these little mental errors out of these young kids. We've got to be done with them, we've got to mature and we've got to move on. I think that was the turning point of the game. I thought we had the momentum before that. I thought our defense had settle down and I thought we were going to get the ball back, take the ball from them again and we were going to win the game."
On what he tells the team after the loss to keep a positive mindset
"You've got to forget about that one because this game is already here. We've getting on a plan tomorrow (afternoon) and we've got to go out and win another football game. Win or lose, we've got to have a 24-hour rule where we forget about it. We can't linger on anything. We just need to move on to the next opponent. We'll evaluate this thing at the end of the season and we'll do whatever we have to do at the end. Right now, we're in the middle of the fight. It's next opponent, next man up. We just have to keep moving."
On moving Jeremy Peeples into the starting line-up and Kyle Davis being taken off the two-deep
"Kyle Davis is definitely out this week. He had a concussion. I don't know how mild or severe - I don't know the grades of a concussion - but he's out. He hasn't been around. He hasn't been at practice. We didn't lock him in a shed or anything, he's just out. But Jeremy Peeples showed that he can get off a pass rush. Jeremy Peeples is one of the people that we need. We need some edge speed. This team will pose a big problem for us because we need some four-man pressure. They can throw the ball around and they can run it, so I think he'll help us a lot coming off the edge and putting some pressure on the quarterback."
On Tulane's undefeated mark against Louisiana Tech and Tech's recent run of success overall
"I don't think you worry about history too much. The last time we played, some of these kids probably weren't even playing football yet. Some of them probably weren't born. What you worry about is getting your team prepared after a defeat like this. The team that is going to win this game is the team who can handle this Thursday game the best. I told that to the team. I really think that. If we can go up there and handle this like business as usual, we can handle it like `Hey, we're on the road, we just have to play, it's us against the world,' we'll win the game. If they handle it better, they'll beat us."
On what adjustments he made to help the defense play well from the start
"We've shook them up a little bit. We shook the line-up up a little bit. We come out to practice and we start these brisk periods early on. We're usually kind of quiet a couple of days before the game, but if you saw us today the defense was raring to go. We've got to create a sense of urgency. I think defense is played with a little bit of panic in your bones. As a defensive player, you almost have to come out angry. You just want to come out and play fast. Defensively, I think we played like an offensive team. We sat back. I didn't see anything that was drawn up. We corrected the mistakes that we made. There was a lot of mistakes early on, but after that the guys settled in and they played well."
On Montana throwing 47 times and handling the situation
"I told the team this, and you can ask those guys, but we can't put Nick in that position every again because what's going to happen is he's going to get hit and he's going to get hurt. You can't throw the ball 47 times, not in this controlled-type offense. I've got a lot of guys on me saying `We need to run Darkwa, we need to run Darkwa.' We do, but we can't when we're down 28-7. I don't know if Jim Brown can run the ball at 28-7."
On the chemistry between Nick Montana and Ryan Grant
"We're working on all of those things. When you get a new quarterback and an established receiver, the receiver is pretty much used to one thing or one way. Now all of a sudden, it's a new quarterback with new timing, new system, new ins and outs, ne nuances within the passing game. I think they're working together. They're working after practice every day. I see them out back sometimes throwing balls together. I like what they're doing. I like what Nick's doing with all of those guys, so I expect to get a lot better."
On how close freshman linebacker Edward Williams to being healthy enough to play
"He's playing. He's playing in this game, and he's playing a lot. He's still a little gimpy from the ankle, but we've got to play Edward. I think Edward is a good player. He gives us a physical presence. We needed him last week, but he's going to play this week."