Second-year head coach Curtis Johnson reviewed last week's win at ULM and looked ahead to the homecoming showdown against North Texas during his weekly press conference.
Oct. 1, 2013
NEW ORLEANS - Fresh off a 31-14 road win over the weekend at ULM and following a morning practice at the New Orleans Saints Practice Facility on Airline Drive, 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 his team's performance against the Warhawks - which saw the Wave run for 253 yards on offense while the defense tallied five sacks to go with five turnovers - before moving on to the upcoming game against North Texas. The game against the Mean Green is the centerpiece of the 2013 Homecoming celebration and Johnson spoke of the importance of carrying on the momentum of last week's win as well as playing well in that ballgame. A complete transcript of Tuesday's presser is below.
Kickoff for the Tulane/North Texas contest is slated for Saturday, Oct. 5, at 2:30 p.m. in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. 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 on Fox College Sports. In addition, the game will be broadcast via tape delay locally on WHNO-TV 20 on Saturday at 6:30 p.m.
Tailgating for the homecoming contest will be held atop Garages 5 and 6 with both opening at 9:30 a.m. Pregame festivities begin at noon with a concert by Amanda Shaw & the Cute Guys. Other tailgating amenities include the Academy Kid Zone, a video game truck and face painting.
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
"I want to introduce my pastor. He's here today to support me. Last week was the one week that I prayed more than anything. A lot of stuff was going on. First of all, I just wanted Cairo [Santos] to come back. He still has a situation with his family, as we know. Then, right before the game, Kyle Davis lost a friend. And tomorrow, my wife is going into surgery, so you won't see me tomorrow. I'll miss practice tomorrow. She has a little breathing issue, and hopefully they can clear it up. I've been doing a lot of praying, but some of my prayers were answered. I did pray for the win and to be pretty healthy. We're pretty healthy and we got a big win this week. All that does is make the next game more important."
On Saturday's Homecoming contest against North Texas
"As I told our team earlier this week, there is no homecoming for the football team because you didn't go anywhere. In order for it to be a homecoming, you've got to go away and come back home. Well, they don't have any homecoming so this is just another game to them. There's no party, there's no reunion or nothing like that because we didn't go anywhere."
On the improvement on the road wins from last year to this year
"If you would have told me before the season that we would win two of three on the road, because they were really three bowl-game teams that we played against. Louisiana Tech had a little bit of debacle there and they didn't get to one last year, but all three of those teams were very, very good teams. They were bowl [caliber] teams and they were very good contenders. It just goes back to the character of our coaches. I think our coaching staff is outstanding and I'm glad all of them stayed with me. They're much better people than coaches and their coaching is much better. And then it's the players and the character of the players. We got some new guys in Chris Davenport and Jeremy Peeples, who are leaders. Some of the existing guys like Zach Morgan and Zach Davis they came back and come with character. You can do those kind of things if you have character and we have the 24-hour rule. Our 24-hour rule worked this week. They forgot about the loss."
On if quarterback Nick Montana is healthy
"I think he's healthy and probably as healthy as he can be in the middle of a season where he's taken a lot of hits. He played well. Here's the thing of what we want to do, and I thought this game was typical - each game, you have a script. You go to the script, you run, you pass. Your run, you pass. You run, run. Then you pass, pass. We're beginning to run the ball. Orleans Darkwa was just a man and Rob Kelley was a grown man. I'd be a bad coach if I wouldn't keep running those guys. I think that kind of threw Nick off a little bit with his rhythm and stuff. [ULM] did some things to take away our pass, and we ran it. That's what you have to do if you want to win and you want to build a program. If in a game, they're giving you one thing, you do the next thing."
On the overall health of the team
"Zach Morgan was a little bit sick and Royce LaFrance was out of practice today with the flu. There may be something going down around the locker room, so I suggest you guys don't go down there."
On Tulane having issues recently winning homecoming games
"Whenever you want to win, there are a couple of things you want to do as a program. You want to start winning on the road. Then you want to win a homecoming game with all the alumni, the boosters, everybody in their childhood and the older people who want to come back and want to feel good about the game. Like I told the team, the only way a homecoming is good is when you win. It's not any good if you lose. This is a big challenge for us. This team is a good football team - very good. I've been watching then almost 24-7, and you look at what they did to Georgia. This team could have beat Georgia. It was 21-21 in the third quarter, and Georgia just went out and upset LSU. Now, all of a sudden, here you go. You're playing another one. This is another good team."
On if Jordan Batiste is officially out of the doghouse with his recent production
"After last week, he's out of my doghouse. For real! He had a couple of brownie points before, but Jordan has been a good player for us. We discipline everybody on this team. It's just part of being a football team. Ever since day one, he's had tremendous character, great parents. He's been great with us. He's toed the line. He's done what he's supposed to do. He's playing. He's playing well. He's playing at a high level, and I expect him to play like that because he's that type of an athlete. He is a good player and a great kid."
On how the running game did so well last week at ULM
"The backs are very, very good players. I like the five backs that we're playing with. To say that, you begin to get some continuity in the games. What happens in games is you have to throw, throw, throw so everything looks bad. Ask the Dolphins last night. Now all of a sudden, you can run it, you can throw it and you can balance it out. What teams were saying prior to this game is that we can't run it. Finally, we got some tape out there that we can run it. I just think being able to balance it out and get some continuity in our offensive line were key. We didn't simplify things. We just did the things that we thought we were good at and it worked out."
On if it is different winning a game where Tulane controls the line of scrimmage offensively
"It's different because it's the first time that I felt our running game was pretty effective. Then I begin to watch the backs. If you look at Rob [Kelley], Orleans [Darkwa] and Danté [Butler], it was just catch the ball because we couldn't really [run]. Now, you begin to control the game, control the line of scrimmage and control the clock. This is the first time since I've been here that we've done that. It's a great feeling to know that we could do that."
On Sam Scofield being able to play last week in Monroe
"It's funny. He's one of my favorites because every time I look at him I have to laugh a little bit because you can never know if he's serious or not with his facial expressions. At the end of the Syracuse game, I felt that he may be out for six weeks. He didn't know anything. All of a sudden, he didn't practice early in the week. On Thursday, he began to practice and Sam came to me and told me he could play. I began to wonder if the doctors were going to release this to play because he's such an important part of what we do. He gets us in and out of plays. He's an interceptor. He's a hard hitter. He changed his body and developed into a very high-character young man. All of a sudden right before the game, I got the news that he was playing and I really couldn't believe it. He played outstanding again."
On if he's talked about the opportunity to be 2-0 in conference play for the first time since 1998 with his team
"I never knew that, so no we haven't talked about that. The one thing that we talk about is single-minded focus. Our single-minded focus is the next play, the next game, the next time, the next meeting. When you're building something, or you're trying to build something, that's what I think you have to do. You can't give them too broad of a picture because if you do, something gets lost in the wash. I think it's just one thing after another, but that's good information to know."
On the passing game being stifled against ULM and what the team needs to do to get Ryan Grant more involved
"We had plays for Ryan in the first 15 plays, but with the way Darkwa, Kelley and Butler were running, I wouldn't be a smart coach if I said, `Let's stay on script and do those things,' so we didn't. We took some shots at Ryan, especially in the second half, because I thought we were a little bit heavy with the run. They did something different with Ryan. They were kind of doubled him and they rolled the coverage to him, so Montana's reads were going away from Ryan also. We're going to do a better job of moving him around somewhat, and we did do some of that, but the main thing was the run game. That's what stopped us from getting him the ball more."
On the maturity of the team with no one calling for more touches as the game unfolded last week at ULM
"I didn't get it one time. Usually it's Cairo [Santos] or usually it's Ryan [Grant] saying `I need the ball.' This week, they were like, `Coach, who do I have to block, the corner or the safety, on this.' It was the right questions at the right time. It was good to see that."
On the effort shown on special teams with two fumble recoveries on punt plays
"It's the young guys. When you guys play with that type of effort and make a play like that, it's infectious throughout the whole program. When the older guys see that here comes a young guy making a play, they look up and say, `Hey, I better do something, too.'"
On forcing turnovers makes an ordinary defense play that much better
"It's goes back to this summer. Coach Lionel Washington and coach John Sumrall talked about what we have to do is win the turnover battle. If you're plus-five in turnover differential, you're probably going to win every contest you play in. That's one of the things that I think makes our defense what it is. We preach turnovers. We talk about it. We had a deal today where we did some stuff with turnovers. That is one of the keys in a transformation of what we're doing on defense."
On if it is hard to get players to buy into a turnover-based system when it hasn't happened before
"The coaching part has to come into play. It's power point stuff now. I don't know much about it, but I see it on the board and it's working pretty good. You have to do every little trick you can to get them to say, `Okay, here it is. This is why we're doing it. This is what we're doing.' Turnover results are showing throughout all leagues."
On leading the nation in pass break-ups and what that says about the team's secondary
"Last year, we knew those three freshmen were going to be good players and they are. They're sophomores now. The best thing about freshmen is that they become sophomores. The best thing about sophomores is that they become juniors. They're playing outstanding. It also helps that you have a defensive line that is playing really, really well. They're starting to play well. They're working on their consistency. What happens is all of a sudden, the quarterback is getting a little more antsy. We're getting our hands on some balls that we probably shouldn't. Now, it's time to start intercepting some of those pass break-ups. I want to lead the country in that."
On his thoughts about ULM head coach Todd Berry's comments about Tulane after Saturday's game
"One thing is we don't dwell on this - dwell on the negative. We won a football game. There are a lot more crisis in the world than just football. We won a football game. If the comments are negative about our program, so be it. At least they're talking about us. It's funny, sometimes they don't say anything. They didn't say a word about us last year. Now, they're beginning to talk about us a little bit. We got a big victory for us. We got a road victory. I remember last year, I talked about their program and how outstanding it was. They're a good football team, if you ask me. They have 15 returning starters and a great quarterback. I think they're a good team. I think we're a good team. We just played better last Saturday."
On the importance of impressing the fan base during homecoming
"I talked about this with the staff, but I don't think the team knows or if they get the big picture like that. I just want our guys to focus on the task at hand. They just need to go out and play, play up their abilities and execute the game plan. If you do that, you play better, you put a good product on the field and they'll buy it."
On his team showing support for Breast Cancer Awareness Month throughout October
"We're going to wear pink this month for Breast Cancer Awareness. I have a sister with breast cancer and several family members. We'll wear it throughout the month. It won't be a one-week thing. I just want to bring the awareness to it. I want to do it the whole month, and I'll have something pink on, too."