Tulane head coach Bob Toledo shakes hands with the McNeese State coach following the Wave's victory over the Cowboys in its last home game on Sept. 26.
Oct. 6, 2009
Tulane Head Coach Bob Toledo Opening Remarks:
Let me start by recapping the Army game. Let me just say that you can either call it poetic justice, divine intervention or just plain old luck but it was about time that we got one. We haven't had much luck so it was a great opportunity for us. It was the best win, in my opinion, we've had in the three years I have been here and it was the best defensive performance we've had since I've been here. Our defense played super. The only thing I thought that was really kind of neat was it was probably the most focused our players have been in the three years that I've been here. They were really focused. They really wanted to win this football game. And it was just a feeling - you'll really just have to talk to our players to understand it - but really focused. It was our first road game of the year and we had 63 players on the trip and 22 of them were freshmen. And I asked them in the meeting Friday night how many of them have never been on an airplane raise your hands and three guys raised their hands. So it was kind of interesting and they got some laughs out of it. But from the flight to the hotel to our meetings and locker room - it was electric. It was just an experience. Prior to, at halftime and after the game it was different than it has ever been. It was a different feeling. The other thing was that we had great practices leading up to this football game. We were very well prepared and we were extremely focused; so preparation was really good.
Offensively, we struggled early in the game. One of the things we were doing because of their defense is we were trying to check some plays and as Joe (Kemp) was checking the plays, our two freshmen guards just kind of shorted out. They struggled with the audibles. We just flat out missed some blocks. We didn't block anybody. So that was an experience factor and one of the things we did. We just got to the point where we made an adjustment and stopped checking and just started calling the plays and running the plays. And we started going on a quick count so they couldn't stunt us. So we did some things to kind of slow that down a little bit and that helped us.
Our kicking game was pathetic. I'll be the first one to admit it. We had poor judgment. I mean we did some poor things. We blocked their punt, it goes down the field and one of our guys tries to pick it up. We have a rule every day - when we have special teams meetings our coach has a rule of the day for that particular special teams group. We have covered that when the ball gets blocked and goes over the line of scrimmage get away from it. We say Peter, Peter, Peter get away from it. So again, poor judgment.
We worked hard on all that kicking stuff but right now the performance is not acceptable and we're looking to try and make some changes and what we're doing is we're looking at changes in personnel. The thing that hurts us right now is special team players usually are linebackers, which we don't have many left and defensive backs, which we don't have a lot of. So, we're struggling in that sense. We've put some fullbacks in, we've put some tight ends in but we've got some receivers on the kickoffs and they're not used to tackling - but that's all we have at this point, but we'll continue to work at it.
We inserted Jeremy Williams after the first kickoff and again, it just shows that good players make you a good special teams unit. Our kickoff return was really good because of Jeremy Williams. So, anyway, he helped us tremendously. The key thing is we found a way to win the football game. Somehow, some way we found a way to win the football game. I talked to this leadership group once a week, every Tuesday. As a matter of fact I remember two weeks ago telling them that I almost wish that we would get behind in a game and come back and win so that we learn how to win. So that we know that we can come back. I always talk about never give up and never quit, because if you never give up and never quit you always have a chance to win the game. If you give up or you quit you're not going to win. And that's one of the things that happened in this game. Our guys didn't give up and didn't quit. There was a look on the sideline - when our Coaches were meeting with our players on the sideline-- there was a feeling. Even when we were down by two scores there was a feeling that we are going to win this football game. Somehow we were going to win the football game. And of course, it happened. It was an amazing feeling on that sideline one I haven't had since I've been here and talking to the players yesterday, the team and talking to some of them individually - same thing. You can't explain it, but you can see it in their eyes and you can feel it that somehow we were going to win that football game.
Let me go into Marshall real quick. They're 3-2 and they're coming off of a real tough loss against East Carolina 21-17. I think their quarterback ran for a 30-yard touchdown to beat them, but they're a good football team. It's our homecoming. I'm kind of like Bob Hope, I'm used to these homecomings. We have a lot of homecoming games around. We're either playing in them or we have one, but we have homecoming this week. We have a two-game winning streak and hopefully we can keep it going. Big thing, hopefully last week it helped us to learn how to win. We have to learn how to win and I've been saying that for a long time, but hopefully that helped us. Marshall has a super tailback, #5; He's also a great kick return guy, his name is Darius Marshall. He leads the nation in rushing. I believe he's 1st in all-purpose as well. But anyway, he's a great little running back. Not a big guy, but good size and fast. They have an outstanding tight end, Cody Slate - I think he got 6 or 7 balls last week. They have a huge offensive line. Defensively, they have a real good defensive lineman, Albert McClellan. He's a Lombardi Candidate; he's a really good player. They have an outstanding linebacker, Mario Harvey and a frosh All-American a year ago, a corner, DeQuan Bembry. So, they have some good players.
For us, Shakiel Smith was the Louisiana Co-Defensive player of the week. He made 10 tackles including, two for a loss. He's from (New Orleans') Edna Karr High School, a local guy and he's really playing well. A true freshman starting for us.
On Tulane's Defensive effort:
Give a lot of credit to Steve Stanard and the entire defensive staff. We worked hard on this game plan. We worked hard in the off season, we worked hard during the bye week and we worked hard during the course of the week and our kids believed in what we were doing and we did the right thing. We played hard. This was the best defensive effort as far as playing hard since I've been here and it was really kind of cute on the sideline too...our offense was yelling defense. I told them, I said you guys sound like a High School team out here on the field, but I loved it though...they were going "Defense, Defense!" It was just a great atmosphere and our defense did a great job of getting off the field, stopping them, holding them to field goals. We put them in bad field position on the opening quarter with a blocked punt and they scored, but outside of that we made them kick field goals. We never gave up and never quit.
On the post-game celebration:
One of the things I wanted to do when it was over was go with the Army team and sing their Alma Mater. I was doing it out of respect for them. I have great appreciation for those guys and what they stand for. They are great kids and they played hard and they represent us well. So, I wanted to show my respect too and I told them to do that and then after I told them to go down to our people who were down in the end zone and they were going crazy. So it was kind of fun. It was kind of spontaneous. They just kind of do it now and we got in the locker room and it was wild. It was wild. That's all I can tell you. It was uncontrollable, which was great.
On the difference between being 2-2 this year than being at this point in the season last year:
Well I think the one thing is there's no finger pointing right now. Last year at this point, we started having some finger pointing. Our offense played extremely well against McNeese, the defense didn't. Our defense played extremely well against Army, the offense didn't. But they are pulling for each other. The coaching staff, which is crucial, is pulling for each other...where we had a problem a year ago and it divided our football team. So this is a much better feeling. Our kids are buying into what we're doing and by winning and doing it the way we did it starts to give them some credibility to what you're trying to do - whether you have to kick them off the field to get their attention or whatever they bought into what we're doing and it's a good feeling. They know what it feels like and they can't lose that feeling.
On pinpointing the Army game as a game Tulane had to win:
It's obvious that we felt we had a chance to beat McNeese and I took a calculated risk by spending some time on Army in the bye week. But, that worked out and then it paid dividends for us because we got a little more preparation time for Army and that definitely paid off because of the unique offense and defense that they run. But, yea, we did pinpoint it as a game that we had to prepare for differently and it's a game that we had to win this year and we did.
On his impression of Marshall:
The only time I've seen them is when I'm watching our opponents and I've watched them a little bit. I haven't really analyzed them until this week to be honest with you, because we just really prepared for our first four games in the off-season so we're spending a lot of time getting ready for them now. The thing that strikes me is they do a lot of things, defensively in particular, Coach (Rick) Minter, the coordinator, has been around a long time and has done a great job. Mark Snyder, the Head Coach, was at Ohio State when I was at UCLA. I know him a little bit and it looks like when they put both of their minds together they come up with a lot of things defensively. They are very difficult to prepare for. Offensively, they're physical. They have a big, physical offensive line and they have a great running back and they just keep giving him the rock and eventually he breaks them. And of course, the kickoff returns he gives them good field position because of that as well.
On if Tulane beats Marshall:
I think it'd be big. It's big because all of a sudden it gives you credibility. If you can put a string of wins together and show improvement, because that's what I want to do - I want to improve. I want our guys to continue to get better each and every week and I want to be as competitive as we can and try and win every game. And like I told our guys if you never give up and never quit and give good effort, it doesn't guarantee you're going to win but it gives you a good chance. That's all I can ask for. Give me your very best effort and this game now is kind of like a hump game - it gets us the chance to get over .500 and give us 3 wins in a row and a win in our league.
On getting better upfront:
I challenged the offensive and defensive lines this week. We need to get better up front. We need to continue to get more physical and we have to do what we're supposed to do. The young guys made some mistakes and it was obvious. They have a guy right in front of them and they're pulling. It's just crazy mistakes and that's because of youth and inexperience, but they'll continue to get better and we're going to pound the rock, so to speak.
On one of the themes this week is getting a Conference victory:
One of the things is to win a Conference game. We need to win a Conference game. And it would be nice to win at home, particularly homecoming after last year's disaster.
On if the confidence and enthusiasm brought to the Army game is as simple as a carry over from getting the first win:
Yea, I think it is. Like I said, they start buying into what you're saying. If you practice hard and practice good and prepare well it gives you a chance to win. And right now we're practicing as hard and as well as we ever have and I think...it's like seeing the light through the tunnel. It doesn't guarantee wins, but it guarantees an opportunity to compete. That's what is happening right now. When you talk to our players - they'll tell you - it was a strange feeling during the course of that game. It's something that I can't explain, but it's something you can just see it in their eyes. Like we are not going to lose this football game. Period. And we were down two scores and I was telling myself that we are not going to lose this football game. And I knew when they lined up for the kick, I'm telling you what, I said this guy is not going to make it. He is not going to make four in a row. He's going to miss it.
On if he's having fun:
I'm always having fun. I told the players yesterday, this is fun, right? You always want to have fun and how do you have fun? You win - that's how you have fun. And so they're having fun right now because we've won a couple games and we have to continue to do that.