Sept. 11, 2007
HEAD COACH Bob Toledo
Recapping Saturday's 38-17 loss to Mississippi State
"Obviously, we were disappointed in losing the football game, but I don't think it was because of a lack of effort and that's one of the things I've kind of preached to our football team. I want great effort and intensity from start to finish and I thought they did a good job, particularly early. We got down, we fought back and we ended up tying the score at halftime. So we didn't give in to that. The thing that did us in were the turnovers. We had the three turnovers and all of them resulted in touchdowns. We got two turnovers and we turned it right back to them. We have a thing called sudden change where there's a turnover on one side or the other our team has got to take advantage of it and we did neither. We've got to improve on the attitude of sudden change.
"In the second half, Mississippi State took the ball and went right down the field and scored and that was disappointing. They threw five passes and completed all five. Two of them were on the third down and what I told the defense is you have to get off the field. When it's third down, you have to make the stop and get off and we didn't do that. We fumbled and then they scored right away, so that put the nail in the coffin. Offensively, we couldn't sustain drives. We couldn't knock them off the ball to run the football. I think we only had 16 plays the entire second half and part of that too is because our defense couldn't get off the field. We couldn't stop Mississippi State, so it was a combination of bad offense and bad defense. And as everybody saw, we just kind of wore down at the end. I know our players don't like to hear that, but if there's a point where you have to give credit to the opponent then Mississippi State was just a little more physical than we were and wore us down."
On the fan turnout on Saturday in the Louisiana Superdome
"I thought the crowd was great. It was really exciting. When we walked through the crowd before the game and when we took the field, there was a lot of energy in the Dome for us. We had a good crowd. I was pleased and I want to thank those people that showed up. I appreciated them being there."
On this Saturday's game vs. Houston
"As far as Houston this week, they're the defending Conference USA Champions. They're returning 15 starters, so they're a good football team. They had a bye this last week after losing to Oregon 48-23. And Oregon of course went on to beat Michigan, so Oregon is a good football team. It's our first league game. They're in our division. They're a very athletic team - really athletic. They had 545 yards and 30 first downs against Oregon, so they're a heck of a football team. Anthony Alridge, their tailback, had 205 yards. I look at him and he is extremely explosive. When he gets his hands on the ball, he can take it to the house anytime. Last year I know they beat us and he had 150 yards and 2 touchdowns."
On Tulane's captains for the Houston game
"Matt Forte and Antonio Harris will be the season captains. As for the game captains, we picked two guys that are from the Houston area - Aryan Barto and Joe Goosby - and they will be the other two captains."
On his attempt to get the ball more to senior running back Matt Forté
"There's no question we want to get him more touches. We tried to throw him the ball and do some things, but we only had 46 snaps (on offense). I can never ever in my coaching career recall less than 51 snaps. Fifty-one was the lowest I ever had before and that's when I was a Texas A&M. We were playing Rice and we had a guy named Leland McEroy who returned two kickoffs for touchdowns. We didn't have the ball, but we won pretty decisively. (The Mississippi State) game was one of those games where we couldn't sustain drives and then we couldn't get the ball back...and we couldn't stop them either. It was a combination of both things, so therefore we weren't able to get him the ball. We didn't play much the second half. We only had 16 snaps as I said. So we just didn't have the ball enough to utilize him and to utilize the game plan the second half. In the first half, we were finding our rhythm and we were doing things. In the second half, we kind of lost rhythm, so to speak. But there's no question he's going to get the football and he'll get it a lot through the course of the year."
On Forte's fumbles vs. Mississippi State
"I was disappointed in the fumbles, but they weren't all his fault. On one of them, the ball hit him up here in the chest and he fumbled, and the other one, our tight end turned opposite of blocking down and the defensive end hit him in the backfield before he got the ball. It was kind of a bum rap on his part. He really wasn't at fault in that sense, but what happens is you try to protect a guy without scrimmaging him because you don't want him to get hurt in practice. It's like a preseason game. They have to get used to getting tackled."
On the playing status of junior quarterback Scott Elliott this weekend vs. Houston
"If Elliot is not ready to go then Scelfo would have an opportunity to be the starter because he's the most experienced at this point. I would also say that Kevin Moore would get an opportunity as well because. This is what we've been concerned about - if something happens to Elliott. We want to get these guys some game experience. We tried to get Scelfo some but I think he only got three snaps because we didn't have the ball. But we'd like to get both of them some opportunity to play if Elliott can't play."
On redshirt-freshman quarterback Kevin Moore
"I think he's gotten better. I think he's improved, as all of them have at quarterback. I'm anxious to see what he can do, but it's got to be the right opportunity, too. I don't want to put him in there in a situation that doesn't give him a chance to succeed. It's got to be the right opportunity. They're (Scelfo and Moore) going to get a chance to play in the next couple of weeks."
On sophomore quarterback Anthony Scelfo
"He's a little more athletic than the other two guys. He's able to avoid some rushes and just has a little more mobility, so to speak."
On if Scelfo's athleticism would change the way Toledo calls the offensive plays
"It does a little bit, yes. He does some things a little bit differently than the other guys, but it's still what we have in our game plan. It's not like we have to change our game plan because we have all of those in there. He would just do the certain things that would take advantage of his ability so to speak."
On how he would grade Scott Elliott's performance against Mississippi State
Probably a C-plus if I had to grade. I'm a bad teacher I guess. No. 1, he did throw an interception. No. 2, he made an audible, turned the wrong way and then he decided to throw a pass, so he made a mistake there. We needed to complete some other balls that we didn't get it done. But all in all, I think he managed the game pretty well and got us into the right place. We just need to do a better job of blocking."
On David Kirksey starting over Cody Sparks at strong-side linebacker vs. Mississippi State
"Sparks was supposed to start the last game but he got a stinger in his shoulder and that's why he didn't start. But it's either/or right now. Kirksey could start the game just as easily, but it's our concern that Dillard has the sprained ankle, so we'll actually move Kirksey to the starting weak side backer if Dillard can't go. That's the reason for it."
On whether he is concerned about being able to slow down Houston's offense
"You look at (Cougar running back Anthony) Alridge and like I said - he is explosive. They're a passing team. They don't run a lot of runs, but what they do is they try to make you defend all of the formations of the pass and then they pop one on you. It's not a complex running game, but it's a very efficient and effective running game. The thing they do is they run all these different formations and substitution groups. They'll put tackles way out there and receivers in here - they do a lot of crazy things and it causes you to have to line up correctly. If you don't, that's when they make some big plays."
On the advantage of playing Houston early in the season
"I don't know if it's a good time to catch them because they have had a bye and they're preparing for us. They got a chance to rest up, but they've got two new quarterbacks and they both played in the game. Obviously, their quarterback last year (Kevin Kolb, a second-round pick of the Philadelphia Eagles in the 2007 NFL Draft) was a great one, but I think these guys are great players - but they're young and inexperienced. And the thing, again, that gets you is Alridge and their receivers. They've got a couple receivers that can flat out go with it. They can take it to the house. They're going to be difficult to stop and we're going to try and slow them down and try and keep the ball away from them. We have to do a better job of not letting them have the ball."
On the strength level of the Tulane team
"It's something I said when I first got here. One of the biggest problems I saw was the (physical) strength of our football team. We only have two players that can bench press over 400 pounds. That's kind of unheard of at this level. You should have 40 or 50 guys benching 400 pounds. What happened because of (Hurricane) Katrina and the loss of the weight room, our older guys are a year to a year and half behind a normal junior or senior and it shows up. It shows up later. I used to liken it to pounding on a rock. When you keep pounding on a rock, eventually it breaks. When you're physically better than that other guy in front of you and you keep pounding, eventually it breaks. And that's what happened the other night - they kept pounding on us and eventually they wore us down. That is a concern, but hopefully we won't play against many Mississippi States or LSU's down the road. We'll play against people that are more comparable to us. But it still is a concern because you don't get strong overnight. What we do is with our guys who are on the travel squad we lift on Monday and Wednesday and mainly what we're trying to do is maintain strength - not lose the little bit we have. It's hard to gain strength because if you lift too much you're not able to practice. With the guys who aren't playing and are redshirting is we also lift on Friday and then on Saturday, prior to the game, we have them lift and run. So those younger guys are getting workouts the older guys should've been doing that didn't have the opportunity to."
On how amount of players he uses during the game
"We play quite a few guys, so we play a lot of guys. There's only so many guys you have. The travel squad in the league says 70. I can only come up with 64 guys right now because I want to redshirt some guys and some guys are nicked up and hurt a little. We've got 64 guys going to the hotel, so we can never come up with 70 players. I'm not complaining and I'm not using it as an excuse. As you get to know me more I'm very honest. I'm not going to pass it by. I'm going to tell it like it is. If it's a fact, it's just a fact. Hopefully, we'll play well down the road and win some games."
On junior weak-side linebacker James Dillard's success in making plays Saturday vs. the Bulldogs
"I think it's a combination of things. No. 1, he's a good football player, and No. 2, it's a position where we can cover people up. We have a tackle and an end in front of him and the other guy who can get to him is a lead blocker or back. If they don't have that lead blocker then he's able to run free and make plays. The position really affords him an opportunity to make plays and he has the athletic ability to get it done. He's a good football player."
On kicker/punter Ross Thevenot
"One of the things we're doing is we're trying to protect the block point - that's nine yards - and we're trying to funnel everything outside. We did a pretty good job of that and, at times, we kind of held our breath. But if he kicks the ball straight, he can get it off. He did a great job this summer punting the football and practicing. He worked out hard because he didn't really want to be a punter. He wanted to be a place kicker and we thought the freshman kid coming in, (Darren) deRochemont, would be the punter. But he's too inconsistent to do it for us right now. Thevenot worked at it and I thought he did a super, super job. He had one bad punt, but outside of that, I thought he punted the ball extremely well, made all his extra points and kicked a nice field goal. I would have liked to see him kickoff a little deeper. He's done that in practice, but he didn't kickoff quite deep enough in the game."
On having great quarterbacks in the past and developing freshman Joe Kemp
"I've been known for having great quarterbacks. I played the position, myself. I was kind of the runt of the litter, but I threw the ball around, too. I love quarterbacks and I've had a lot of good quarterbacks - No. 1 draft choices and all. I think we've got some good quarterbacks in this program. I think the guy you're going to really like is a young man next year, Joe Kemp. Joe Kemp has got a lot of ability, too, and he'll have a chance to compete in spring practice. We're going to redshirt him right now, but I'm taking him to every game. I take him to the hotel. I want him to get that experience of being with the team, seeing how we conduct meetings and that kind of thing. He's in our game-plan meetings. The only thing he doesn't do is he doesn't practice with the offense a lot when we're going our team. He's down on the scout team. But he's a good football player. He'll be in the mix in spring."
On what the Tulane team needs to do to get better
"It all starts up front. We need to get bigger and stronger up front. If you can run the ball, you can play action. If you can play action, you can throw. You stay out of long yardage situations. The first half, I felt good. I felt good about what we were doing. We were changing things up and used a lot of different substitution groups. We were mixing some plays. In the second half, we just didn't have the ball and, when we had it, we didn't do a very good job with it."
On what winning a game would do for the program at this point
"I think winning a game, hopefully beating the conference champion at home, would give us a lot of credibility. It's easy to say, but you've got to go out and do it. I think it's going to happen eventually. When? I don't know. But yes, I think it's important that we win - hopefully soon.