Oct. 11, 2011
NEW ORLEANS -
Tulane University Head Coach
On the crowd on hand last week for the Syracuse game
"First of all, I want to thank the people who came out and supported our football team last Saturday night. They were great. They inspired us. They were very vocal and it was kind of neat to see. It was a heck of a college football game. It felt like a college atmosphere. It really felt good for our football team.
On coming up just short against the Orange
"Obviously, there were a lot of big plays made and a lot of excitement during the course of the game. But I will say this, I still hate losing and it hurts. If you know me well enough, you know that there are no moral victories. I will also say this: I was extremely proud of our football players. I'm extremely proud of our team. They responded. A week ago, we met and we talked after we had two really tough losses. They responded and I thought they performed really well. That's what I was concerned with. They gave great effort, and the thing that I always preach is that they never gave up. They never quit. If they do that, I can live with a lot of things."
On Tulane's come-back effort vs. Syracuse
"We were down 24-7. We were down 31-14. But we fought back and we got it to a point where it was 34-34. I honestly believed that we were going to come back and win that football game. Whether it was toward the end of the game or whether it was in overtime, I just felt that we were at a point where we were going to refuse to lose. I felt good about that."
On if there was a key play that he felt cost Tulane in the loss to the Orange
"Like all games, there are a handful of plays and mistakes that cost you a game. Both teams make mistakes. There are no perfect games, but there are times during the course of a game where mistakes are made that end up costing you at the end. I don't believe that there was really a turning point. Some people always like to look for a turning point, but there are too many plays during the course of a game for one play to be a turning point. It's usually one mistake that kind of costs you, but there were several."
On the remainder of the Green Wave schedule
"Now we're in the second season so to speak, the second half of the season, there are seven games remaining. Six of them are league games - Conference USA games - and then of course our last game is against Hawai'i. In talking to our football team and of course our coaches, we believe that we can win every football game that we're going to play. Right now, it's important that we take it one game at a time. It's the old cliché - one game at a time. It's a one-game season and we've got to go and we've got to play well against UTEP this week."
On this weekend's opponent, the UTEP Miners
"They are 2-3. They're 0-2 in conference. You probably saw them on tv when they lost to Houston, 49-42. That was a heck of a football game a week ago. This last week, they had a bye. Their running back is the third-leading rusher in the conference. Their quarterback is the second leader in pass efficiency. Their kicker is No. 3 in kick scoring. The kickoff returner is No. 1. Their punter is first in the league in punting. We've got our work cut out for us."
On Tulane's special teams play
"Right now, we're last in the league in kickoff coverage. Last week, we had two players that didn't play in the game. One had a concussion. One had a high ankle sprain. We really believe that cost us, particularly on that first kickoff return. It's an interesting story because Trent Mackey came up to me after that return and said, `Coach, I want to get on the kickoff team.' He is on the punt team and he made a couple of tackles on the punt team. But this is interesting, he comes up - and a lot of guys will say, `Coach, put me on the team...I want to do it' - and we did. We took one guy out, we put him in and he made two tackles on kickoff. What does that say about Trent Mackey? I thought that was awesome. That was awesome that we did that. So anyway, we've got to improve on our kickoff coverage. Part of that is the kick itself."
On Tulane ranking near the bottom of C-USA in several stat categories
"Our redzone defense is 12th (in C-USA). We've got to improve on our redzone defense. Penalty wise, we're 11th in conference. Last year, we were first in the conference when the season ended. We were fifth in the nation, I believe, in the least amount of penalties. Right now, we're 11th. That shows me, No. 1 we're either more aggressive than we've ever been or No. 2 we're not as disciplined as we need to be. We need to work on that."
On Tulane having success against UTEP in recent years
"We have had some success against UTEP. I don't know what all the answers are except that maybe it's because Mike Price is one of my best friends and you always compete well against your best friend. He teases me and I tease him. We both have the same kind of personality. It goes back to when he was at Washington State and I was at UCLA. We had some competitive games there. He's just a great friend. But I don't think it has anything to do with me and Mike. It just has to do with maybe the matchup of the teams. We match up good against each other. None of them have been blowouts, that's for sure. They've all been great football games. I remember two years ago here, we beat them in overtime. I look for a good football game again. I just finished watching their South Florida game. I think Mike is calling the plays himself again, too, so we're both calling offensive plays. We'll match wits and see what happens."
On the breakout performance by wide receiver Xavier Rush
"Xavier Rush is a true freshman and we originally had him at split end. You don't try and teach those freshmen all those different positions - the split end, the flanker, the slot. Sometimes when we go three receivers or four receivers, we call them different names. But after a while, after watching him practice, we decided to move him to flanker - particularly after Ryan Grant was lost for the season. So him and Wilson Van Hooser were at that position. When we to three wides, we figured we needed to get him in the game more. We got him in the game more this week, and he will be a big part of what we're doing in three and four wide receiver offenses. I'm going with what got him there because he made some big plays. He's a young freshman. I look out there, I see (Justyn) Shackleford at one receiver and I looked at him at the other. I was sitting in the meeting the other morning before we went to the game, I looked at the receivers and I said, `Joe (Kemp), you're the oldest guy.' The next oldest guy is Wilson Van Hooser - a sophomore. All the rest are freshmen. It was interesting to see, but they really responded. They're learning how to route run. They're learning how to run fast. When you don't know what to do, you don't run down the field fast. You kind of are thinking as you're going. It's exciting to see that they're starting to progress and contribute. I think he's going to be a heck of a football player, as is Shackleford."
On why Rush was able to have such a big game against Syracuse
"I don't think they were ready for him. They didn't know a lot about him. He had only caught one pass before, and it had to do with some match-up stuff that we did. We put in some positions to make some plays and he responded. He competed and he responded. He just did a great job. I wish he would have gotten the third touchdown instead of it being called back because of a penalty. We ended up kicking a field goal to get three points instead of seven."
On being 2-4 at this point in the season
"Well, let's put it this way: I would like to be 4-2 at this point instead of 2-4. It would be a lot easier. But as I mentioned, I still feel and our team still feels that we have a chance to compete and win every football game that play from here on out. As I talked to Ryan Griffin yesterday, he said, `Coach, it's a one-game season.' We've got to win this game and we can get on a roll. But we have to win this football game because (if you don't) you get farther and farther behind the eight ball."
On if the attitude of his team has changed after the Syracuse game
"I think I felt that last Sunday in our meetings. I think our kids realized that we let two games go by us that in our opinion when the season started were winnable games in Duke and Army. We didn't play well in either one of them. We had too many penalties, too many turnovers and too many mistakes. I think that kind of cost us. We felt that if we could get in the Syracuse game, play real well and win that game, then that would really get us going. It hasn't worked that way and unfortunately we've got to live with what we've got. Again, it's not over yet. We've still got an opportunity. We've got to take it one game at a time. We've got to go out and win five games if we want to get to a bowl game. They know that, I know that and everyone else knows that."
On if the injury to Harris Howard is just one more issue the offensive line has to deal with this season
"He had a high-ankle sprain in the game and we thought he was out. I got after the offensive line in some meetings and I told them this game had to be on them. They did a great job. For him to come back, a lot of players wouldn't have done that, he showed a lot of courage and a lot of toughness in playing through the course of the game. He got retaped and played. Of course it hurt more on Sunday. Emmanuel Aluko did the same thing. He's got a knee problem. He played through some injury. We don't have a lot of depth at that position right now. There are some positions that I talked about earlier in the season where I said we had quality back-up depth. Offensive line isn't one of them right now. We lost several players in the offseason that hurt us. We don't want to play some of the freshmen that we've brought in. We think that they're going to be good players, but offensive line is very difficult to play as a true freshman. We just have to hope that he's going to be healthy and hope that Emmanuel and those other guys are able to play. We'll find out more as the week goes on."
On the line playing well to give Ryan Griffin time to throw
"Yes, particularly with what Syracuse was doing. They sacked the guy from Rutgers five times. They only had five yards rushing. I was very pleased with the performance of our offensive line. I thought they responded to us telling them that they needed to play better, and they did. They played well."
On if Sam Scofield will be able to play this weekend against UTEP
"He broke his wrist in the game. He'll be casted up to (his forearm) so he'll be able to move it. He's a pretty good tackler. I hope it doesn't affect his tackling. He's intercepted a lot of passes in practice so we'll see what happens there. Yes, I think he'll be able to play. We're hurting at the safety position, as you well know. (Renaldo) Thomas is still out and I don't know for how long. (Devon) Walker came back last week, but he's got a cast on his arm. It's just difficult. We just don't have a lot of players at that position. That, like offensive line, were my two main concerns going into the season and obviously they are positions that we don't have the depth we have at other positions."
On if not having Scofield in the game late hurt Tulane's chances of stopping Syracuse on the final drive
"No, I don't think so. They weren't attacking his area. He made one tackle on the drive, but that didn't affect things. Unfortunately, we got the roughing the passer (penalty). It's third down, they throw and incomplete on their 36 yard line, and then they get a first down. Then, obviously, they throw the ball and get out of bounds. Throw the ball, get out of bounds. Throw an incomplete and then they run the ball, get out of bounds. Run the ball, get out of bounds. We were just playing and all of the sudden they're at the 16 yard line. I don't think not being able to be in there affected it that much. It was interesting. I look out there and I see Michael Pierce - true freshman - playing defensive end. I look at Sam Scofield - true freshman - playing safety. I look at Matthew Bailey, who is a heck of a football player out of Karr, playing linebacker. We've got three true freshmen playing on defense...starting on defense. That's not counting our receivers who are a bunch of freshmen, too. Matt Marfisi is a freshman. Those running backs, a couple of them are freshmen. Those guys are really contributing as freshmen, but freshmen make mistakes. Unfortunately, when you play with an older group and guys get hurt, you've got to play with freshmen again and that's what we're doing."
On playing so many freshman again this season
"We're playing with less than we have in the past. But still, any time you play with that many freshmen, they make mistakes until they learn."
On if he sees things the team can build on from the Syracuse game
"No question. I think we've got to build upon what we did this last week. Our guys really made a commitment and fought hard to win this last football game. If they continue to practice well and continue to get better, then I think we will win some football games. But we can't step backwards. We can't all of a sudden take a step backwards because we lost that close, tough football game last week."
On if it's more difficult to rebound from a close loss or a blowout
"It hurts because it's a game we had an opportunity to win where the two previous games, we were out of it. We messed up and we were out of the game. I think on the positive side, it showed what we can do if we do what we're expected to do and perform. If we go out and execute what we're supposed to do, we can be a very good football team. I've said that from the beginning. I think we have the makings of a good football team. But we don't have a lot of margin for error. We're not that good where we can make a lot of mistakes and overcome them. That's the problem right now. We've got to play really well to be competitive."
On the performance of Matthew Bailey
"I'll tell you what I like about Matthew Bailey. He's a local boy and the thing about him is he's very smart, he's very athletic and he's very competitive. The thing that struck me in his high school film was his ability to run and tackle people. He was really a heck of a football player. We're just glad that we've got him. He can play that strong backer position or nickelback position. He's really a good athlete."
On what Ryan Griffin did differently last week that he didn't do in losses to Duke and Army
"He got protection. The passing game all starts with protection, No. 1. Then, No. 2, you've got to throw it accurately. And then, No. 3, somebody's got to catch it. But it all starts up front. I think in those other games, he didn't have the necessary time to get his feet set to do what he needed to do to get the ball to the receivers. In this game, he did."