Oct. 9, 2007
HEAD COACH Bob Toledo
On last week's overtime loss at Army
"I was telling someone the other day, I feel for Sean Payton. Him and I are drinking the same water. We've got the same problems. We're playing pretty good, but we're not very lucky right now. It was a tough one. Back Saturday night, we let one slip away. Let's be honest, we had a chance to win it and we lost it at the end on a fluke - if you want to call it that. Any time you throw a Hail Mary and you get it, that's a lucky play. I don't care if it's me doing it or anyone else doing it. Those don't happen very often, so it's pure luck when that does happen, in my opinion. Our guys were back there, our guys jumped up in the air, and the ball actually hit one of our defensive backs right in the facemask - it hit him right there - bounced to the back and their guy caught it. Again, they signaled touchdown, but it could be very questionable either way. He could very easily have called it incomplete. It was such a close call. I still can't tell on the video whether it's good or not, but obviously it was good because it was a touchdown."
On the number of penalties against Tulane on Saturday
"There were obviously a disproportionate amount of penalties. We had 11 penalties for over 100 yards - we actually had 13 and two of them were declined - and Army had two penalties. They probably had a few more that weren't called, but again, it was one of those things that it wasn't meant to be. It wasn't going to be our night. The penalties obviously caused us to have bad field position and it hurt any momentum we were trying to have. Field position was horrible. I think our starting point was on the 18 yard. The penalties and their punter really put us in a bind for most of the game. It's hard to drive the length of the field and score many touchdowns."
On the play of the Green Wave defense
"With all that being said, we still had a chance to win the football game, and that's the disappointing thing. Defensively, we played extremely well for 59 minutes and 31 seconds, and I thought we did a good job in overtime forcing them to kick a field goal. That's about as good as it gets. They had 160 yards up to that point and we had five sacks. I think our sack total ranks fifth in the nation, so I'm pleased with the amount of sacks we're getting and the pressure we're putting on the quarterback. They were 4-of-16 in third down conversions, so we've done a good job of defending and putting pressure on. They had one real big pass play for a touchdown, and they obviously had the Hail Mary for a touchdown, so you take away those two plays and I thought we had an excellent defensive plan and the kids carried it out well. The one thing I would have liked to do was to intercept some of the passes that we dropped. If we intercepted one of those, one of those probably gets run back for a touchdown - the one to Devin Holland. We just need to come up with the ball. Maybe that's why they're playing defense and not receiving because they can't catch. But all kidding aside, our defense really played well and I'm pleased for them."
On the play of the Green Wave offense
"Offensively, we played well enough to win. Our plan going in was to try and run the ball. We felt we could run the ball on them and throw about 25 passes, and we did that. We didn't make a lot of big plays throwing the football, but we made enough big plays to win the football game. The disappointing thing was short yardage. Up until this game, we had one short-yardage play - that was a quarterback sneak against LSU. Normally, you have two or three a game and we had one over the first four games. Last week, we had four opportunities. We made the first one. The other one, we make up but we've got a penalty so it gets called back and we don't make that. Then at the end of the game (regulation), all we have to do is make a first down. It's third-and-one. Make the first down, the game is over. They don't have any time outs left, we take a knee and we win the football game. But we can't make a yard and we have to punt the football. And then the last one was in overtime. It's fourth-and-a-foot. Now I could have run a quarterback sneak or something, but my thought process was to give the ball to our best running back and see if he can make a big play...see if we can score a touchdown. We had a couple of guys flat out not block anybody and that really, really hurt. Then we go to kick the field goal to try and tie it and we miss the field goal. It wasn't meant to be. It wasn't our day."
On the term `Run Reliability'
"When I talk about run reliability, I'm talking about making four or more yards half the time. If we can make four or more yards half the time, we're on schedule and we feel good about calling plays. Nineteen out of 40, we made run reliability. But at the end of the game, we were one out of eight, and that one was quarterback draw where Anthony (Scelfo) scrambled. So seven times, we give it to our best back and we can't make four yards at the end of the fourth quarter. That was really disappointing."
On what he told his team following the loss
"As I told our team yesterday, we have got to learn how to finish football games. That's how you win. You've got to put people away. You can't relax. You've got to play for 60 minutes. Our whole thing right now is to finish. We've got to finish games. We haven't played well at the end. We've got to play well down the stretch here if we want to win, so our guys have to learn to put the game away and finish games. We're going to coach hard on that - 60 minutes and not relax."
On this weekend's opponent, the UAB Blazers
"Alabama-Birmingham is our next game, and they're a lot like us. They're 1-4. They're 0-1 in the league. It's a league game, it's on the road and it's another homecoming game. Why does everyone have us for homecoming? I don't understand that. But anyway, we've got another homecoming game and we're going to see more homecoming queens than anyone else in the country. They have a new coaching staff. Neil Callaway is their head coach and I've known Neil for a long time. I coached against him when he was at Houston and I was at Texas A&M. Eric Schumann, their defensive coordinator, was here and (UAB defensive line coach Lorenzo) Zo (Costantini) was here as the defensive line coach. It's kind of interesting. I was talking to Neil during our conference meetings, we were playing a little golf today and he's a good guy and a good coach. I didn't realize it, but when I was at USC in the mid- to late-70s, and both he and Schumann were playing together at Alabama. So I'm really old, okay!! But were'going back to Birmingham and Legion Field. I haven't been there since I was at USC, we beat Alabama and won a national championship. It's going to be fun going back there.
"UAB has played some really good competition, very similar to us. They've played Florida State, Michigan State, Mississippi State and they lost to Tulsa - one of the better teams in our conference. They've played some good people and beat Alcorn State, so they're on the same track that we're on."
On Tulane injuries
"Scott Holt, our right tackle, injured his knee on the third play of the game. He appears to be out four to six weeks and may require surgery. We're waiting on the MRI right now, but he didn't finish the game. He only played three plays. Troy Kropog, our left tackle, injured his shoulder during the game. He's very questionable and won't practice for the next couple of days. Carlis Jackson, one of our corners, still has a quad pull. Charles Harris started in his place (last week) and (Jackson is) very questionable. Fred Smith - a lot of us have been waiting for Fred to make a comeback - but he had that injured leg and reinjured it against LSU. It appears that he's going to be out for the season. He may require surgery on that hip, so Fred isn't going to be playing any more. Outside of that, we've got some nicks, bumps and bruises, but we'll go through the week, get some treatment and see if we can heal up a little bit."
On what the injuries mean to the team
"We're hurting right now at the tackle position. We don't have a lot of depth there. (Travis) Olexa, who injured his foot a little bit, will play. Pete Hendrickson and Nick Landry will also get a chance to play."
On Tulane's Players of the Week
"Obviously, Matt Forté rushed for over 200 yards with two touchdowns and caught five passes for 45 yards. I believe he now has three games with over 200 yards, which is a record here, and I'll venture to say that before it's over he'll have another 200-yard game for us. He's a great back, as I mentioned when the season started. Our Defensive Player of the Week - and we had a bunch of good plays there and had a lot of players play well - but Adam Kwentua is really doing a good job at defensive end. He was a linebacker a year ago, we converted him to defensive end, and he's really picking it up. He had a couple of sacks and did a nice job. And our Special Teams Player was Chinonso Echebelem. He did a nice job covering kicks."
On Tulane's game captains for the UAB game
"Along with Forté and Harris, this week David Kirksey - who played extremely well - is going back to Alabama. We made him one of the captains. And Anthony Scelfo, who gives us a lot of emotion, is always fired up and doesn't like to lose, he'll be the other captain."
On what he will do to get his team to bounce back from such a tough loss
"I think the biggest thing to get them to bounce back mentally is to make them realize that we had the win if we just finish it off. We need to play a little bit better. And I think the most important thing is the non-league part of the schedule is done. We're done playing `the preseason.' We're now back in the league. We still have a chance to make some noise, if you want to call it that, in the league. But it's important that we get off to the right start this weekend. We still have some goals that are attainable and that's what we're hanging our hat on right now."
On the attitude of the team after Saturday's loss
"They weren't upbeat. In fact they were very quiet. It's the quietest I've seen them. I talked to them, and I got after them a little bit and the coaches got after them a little bit, too. They realize that they let one get away that they had a chance to win. It was very, very quiet, and sometimes that's good. They worked very hard yesterday. I think they realize there is still an opportunity to have a good season. The season is not done. We have a lot of football still to play. I think if we go out, work hard and practice, we have a chance to win some games down the stretch here."
On how much of an advantage UAB has with two former Tulane coaches on the Blazers' staff
"I think that's a big advantage. You never really know players. You think you do when you watch them on video and you recruit them, but unless you've actually coached those kids, you really don't know them. (Eric Schumann) has a good bit of knowledge and so does Zo, their defensive line coach. So they know our players pretty well. But Greg Davis, Jr., was here and he knows them pretty well, too. We've kind of quarantined him and we've hit him for some information. We've talked a lot and put him under the light. We know a lot about Schumann's philosophy and what they're trying to do defensively. Offensively, Kim Helton is the offensive coordinator, and when I was at UCLA we played him twice when he was at Houston. So we know Kim pretty well. Again, you watch the video and you look. They're playing a lot of young kids. They've got a lot of young football players that they're playing with, so they're obviously trying to built their program back as well. I would say the advantage goes to them because they know our players."
On if Eric Schumann knows more of Tulane's defensive players or Tulane's offensive players
"I think (Schumann) knows all of them. He coached our defensive players and he coached against our offensive guys. He has a great insight. He knows who's strong, who's weak, who's fast, who's quick, who's this and who's that."
On if Toledo knows the Tulane team well enough to know if they have the character to bounce back
"I think I'm getting to know them pretty well and I believe we have the character to bounce back. I think part of that is coaching, too. We need to remain as positive as we can, realizing that we have a lot of league games remaining and a lot of good things can still happen. We're going to remain consistent. Yesterday, I put a video together of highlight plays and players of the game. When you lose, sometimes you don't do that and you get upset. But I'm trying to be consistent with them. There were a lot of great individual efforts in that game. I just think that if you keep chipping away and you keep working, not just now but for the long haul. We're trying to build this thing to a point where we can be very competitive and we're trying to stay the course."
On if he can tell in pregame warm-ups if his team is ready to play that day or not
"I tell you what, I've been coaching for almost 40 years and I can't - and I don't think any coach - can answer that question. There were teams that I thought were ready to play. They were jumping up and down, they were fired up, we had great practices, and we got beat. There were other teams where we don't have good practices, we can't do anything in practice, we get out to the game and they wonder out there, and all of the sudden, we win the game. I don't think you can tell. Sometimes people say, `Well, you were jumping up and down out there and you're all fired up and you're ready to play.' That doesn't mean you're ready to play. You've got to practice well, you've got to know what to do, you've got to execute and all those things. That's when you're ready to play. I don't think any coach really knows if you're ready to play."
On if Scelfo playing the entire game under center on Saturday is an indication that he has solidified his starting position
"I think it was the game itself. Again, I'd love to get Kevin Moore in the game and get him some playing time and some experience. It just wasn't the right time. It was too close of a football game, and Anthony was playing well. He didn't throw an interception. He was showing some mobility and making plays with his legs. And he completed more passes than we had all year percentage wise. He was doing a good job. It just wasn't the right time."
On the play of Tulane's special teams
"We work on it quite a bit. We have more meeting time than they've ever had. We have more meeting time than (special teams coordinator) Fred Bliel has ever had. We practice kicking every day. Some of it is a case of we have to do a better job. We just have to do a better job of it. In the return game, I think the biggest thing is the player returning the football. Against LSU, we tried to block every punt, so were weren't going to get returns and we were fair catching a lot. Last week, we were trying to get returns, we gave their guy too much time and he boomed them. Our kickoff return has not been very good. We're working on setting up the wedge and the wall. We're going to look at a couple of more players there. I think kicking game is athleticism, too. If you have good athletes, and I'm not saying we don't, but blocking in space and running in space is where athleticism shows up the most."
On Tulane's three penalties last week on punts
"That's one of the things I've mentioned to the team. I looked at their kicking game and there were some penalties on their side that weren't called. But you can't block a guy in the back. Those were definitely penalties. They were stupid penalties. On Friday night, one of the things I mentioned to our team was that we can't have stupid penalties, and we had them in the kicking game.
On the possibility of going for it on fourth down against Army
"We couldn't make a third-and-one, and a third-and-this long (holds hands about a foot apart), so why would I go for it on fourth down. We kicked the field goal because our defense was playing well. They weren't going to score two touchdowns, I didn't believe, so I kicked the field goal. We were in a position where they had to score two touchdowns to beat us, and I just didn't think they were going to do that. Unfortunately, we missed the field goal. We kicked it wide left. If you watched the kid in pregame warm-ups, Ross Thevenot, he was kicking them something like 60- 65-yard field goals. Greg Davis came up to me and said, `Coach, watch him,' and he was booming them. I actually stopped him at 60 and said `don't kick any more' because I didn't want him to out-kick his leg. It was good as far as distance, but it was wide left. Just over a little bit."
On if there was a review of the game-tying touchdown at the end of regulation
"Some people claim that they couldn't see it on the TV copy. That's kind of what I got, but I don't know for a fact. They came back and said it was good because they signaled it good. It was very, very close, let's put it that way. On our video, it's hard to tell whether it was good or not, but it was as close as you can get to being good or bad. He did have possession of it when he went down. The question was with his feet. He did hold on, because if he did drop it afterwards, it's incomplete."
On what he does to improve short-yardage situations
"The thing you do to correct it is to keep giving it to the guy who can make the yard, and you change the guys who block for him. We're probably going to make some changes this week and see if we can do a better job of blocking. We haven't had many short-yardage situations. This is the first game where we've really had more than one."
After already saying he was thin at tackle, does he change schemes with two tight ends
"If I tell you two tight ends, I'd be telling you game plan. But I can tell you that we're making a change at tight end because Tyler Helm is going to start this week. We're not going to play many two-tight end offenses."
On how important it is to get the first Division I-A victory of the year
"It's important. We want to get this program going in the right direction. You know some of the problems we have. We have to start eliminating those problems and start getting better. If you look at our team, and this is too early to be saying this, but we're a very young football team. We've got a senior center. We've got a senior tailback. We've got a senior tight end, but we're going to start a freshman this week. So that's it. There's only two seniors on offense. You look at defense, we've got a couple of senior linemen. We don't have a senior linebacker. The senior corner has been hurt, so we're playing a sophomore. And we've got one senior at safety. Right now, we have two maybe three senior players on defense. So we're a really young football team. We're trying to build this. I don't want to say we're in a building mode because I want to win football games this year. But we're going to play people we think can help us for the future. If guys aren't getting it done as seniors, we're going to play younger guys."