Oct. 16, 2007
HEAD COACH Bob Toledo
On last week's Conference USA loss at UAB
"It's two weeks in a row now that we had a chance to win a football game. We could have and should have in my opinion, and that's probably the most disappointing thing - when you have a chance to win and you don't get it done. If a team is better than you and they beat you, you can understand that. But when you don't feel they're any better than you and they beat you, that's disappointing. We have to get that changed. We still haven't won on the road. We still haven't won a league game this year. Hopefully, we can get headed in the right direction."
On what he attributes the close losses to
"Our problem is, more so than somebody beating us, we're beating ourselves. My whole deal is to make someone beat you. Don't lose the game. More games are lost than won. Last week, for example, we had 12 penalties. Nine of them were on offense. Seven of those nine penalties were by new starters - guys who haven't been playing. When you have those kinds of penalties, No. 1 they stop drives, and No. 2 they stop momentum. We had a lot of momentum going, we had drives going and they get called back. Now we're in third-and-long and we're put behind the 8-ball. We also had two interceptions. Both of those interceptions were close enough to the red zone that we could have gotten points out of them. If we don't throw the interception, we might have scored a touchdown or we could have had an attempt at two field goals. Instead we throw the interceptions. We had six sacks - I think we had five that were credited, but actually there were six when Anthony (Scelfo) scrambled on one and was caught behind the line of scrimmage. We've had open receivers that we're not getting the ball to. We need to hit guys who are open. We're not finding them. And there were a couple of receivers that we did find, and they dropped a couple of balls last week. I think we've improved in that area and the players are working hard in practice. But we have to come up with those catches. We had third-and-26 at the end of the game and we throw the ball down the middle. If we make the catch, it's a first down and we're at the 30-yard line. We need to make those kinds of plays."
On the play of the Tulane defense last week at UAB
"Defensively, we didn't get any interceptions. We had a chance to make a couple of interceptions and we're dropping the ball on defense as well. We didn't have any sacks, and again, that's a credit to them (UAB). They lined up in the shotgun, they cut our players at times to make them a little more tentative, and they threw the ball on time. There were several times where they made big plays when they just got the ball off and we hit the quarterback. I mean we just splattered him. But he got the ball off and he completed some big gains on those plays. We actually gave up 260 yards passing. Five of the plays went for 169 yards, so they made five big plays in the passing game. Coming out for the second half, we wanted to stop them, get the ball back and score. Instead, they throw a 50-something yard pass and then they throw a touchdown pass. That hurt us as well, but I thought our defense played pretty hard, stopped the running game pretty well, and pressured the quarterback. We just didn't sack the quarterback."
On the play of the offense last week against the Blazers
"We had 500-plus yards, we had a 200-yard rusher, we had three 80-yard drives and we only had two three-and-outs. So offensively, we moved the ball well. Again, the penalties hurt us tremendously. The sacks hurt us. We didn't score enough points."
On the play of Tulane's special teams throughout the 2007 season
"Right now our kicking game is really killing us. We have a lot of time in meetings, we have a lot of practice time, but we've got some problems. We've given up big plays and we've given up field position. Our punting is not very good right now, our kickoffs are not very good, our coverages aren't very good and our returns aren't very good. Normally we go out on Monday in helmets and shoulder pads, but we went out in full gear yesterday and scrimmaged our kicking game. We made a bunch of changes in the kicking game. We're putting some other players in. What happened earlier in the year, we had some guys in there like (David) Skehan, (Joe) Goosby and some of those guys who have gotten nicked up a little bit. We took them off and we're playing with seconds and sometimes thirds and, in some cases, a couple of walk-ons. It caught up with us. In special teams, that's where athleticism shows up. When you get spread out over the field, the good athlete beats the lesser athlete. When you have a walk-on who is not a scholarship guy, he's probably not as talented as the scholarship guy and it showed up. So we're trying to shore that up. We need to do a better job in the kicking game."
On this weekend's opponent, the SMU Mustangs
"Preseason-wise, they were picked to go to a bowl game. They had a lot of returning guys and a lot of good football players, but like us, they're struggling. They're 1-5. I think they're a pretty good football team. They've got some pretty good athletes. Their program was on the rise so we expect to play a pretty good football team this weekend. They've got an outstanding athlete at quarterback in Justin Willis. He's not only their leading passer, he's also their leading rusher. So we need to contain Justin Willis if we're going to have a chance to win the football game. They've got several good receivers and a couple of good running backs. They have a lot of speed at linebacker and defensive back, so I expect a heck of a football game."
On Tulane's injuries
"Brian King, he's questionable. He suffered turf to on that long ball we threw and he had to leave the game. Jeremy McKinney, the fullback, he's questionable. He's got a bad back right now. Carlis Jackson is still questionable with a quad. Troy Kropog is very doubtful. He couldn't do very much yesterday with that shoulder, so he's still doubtful. Scott Holt is definitely out. And we've already talked about Fred Smith. He's out for the season.
On what Tulane can do to improve its special teams play
"We're struggling in that area, but we're going to add some people there. We're actually going to add a couple of defensive ends in that group to run down on kickoffs. We did it yesterday. Sean Carney did it and Adam Kwentua did it, and they looked pretty good. We're going to add some guys there and we're going to add a few other players. We need to have more beef hitting that wedge and we need to get more athletes running down field. We're going to play with more of our starting group of players. (Joe) Goosby will go back on, and so will (David) Skehan. Otherwise, we're going to get beat on a kickoff again."
On if he plans on sky kicking at all
"We haven't but we have the ability to do that. We did it yesterday a little bit, and we practice that every week. What we're trying to do is cut the field down. We're trying to put the ball on the hash and pin them in the corner with kind of a fence closing in. But when you do that, you can't kick it down the middle of the field because you don't have enough people on the right side. What's happening is our kickers are kicking the ball left enough. You have to kick it by the numbers. We're kicking it almost on the hash or in the middle of the field and it's killing us. If you can't kick the ball in the right direction, we've got problems."
On what he stresses to his team right now to make them feel good after a couple of tough losses
"As a coach, you try a lot of different things. At first, I tried to be positive and be encouraging and see the light through the tunnel. Now, they know I'm mad and I'm angry. I'm getting after them pretty good. I'm demoting some guys. We're moving guys around. We're making them compete. We're putting some guys who actually have started on the scout team this week. We're moving guys around. We're going to play the guys who are going to perform. There's competition at practice right now. We want them competing. There's a lot of ways to motivate, and one of them is fear factor. Right now, it's the fear factor that I'm going to motivate with. They know I'm really upset because we let two slip away that we should have had."
On if this team is regressing after showing promise earlier in the year
"I attribute that to the fact that we've lost some people. We lost (Scott) Holt on the third play of the Army game. We lost (Troy) Kropog last week. So we have two of our better tackles that aren't playing. We've got some young guys - freshmen and sophomores - who didn't perform real well. The problem is we don't have enough depth. You always want quality depth. We just don't have enough experienced depth right now. That's our problem. We're kind of stuck with what we've got. Offensively, I thought we moved the ball really well. If we don't have the penalties, we score more points and we win the game. Penalties killed us, and it's by the new guys who were inserted. Defensively, I thought we played really well. You take away three or four passes, we played really well. Our kicking game is where we're really suffering. We're not punting the ball well, we're not kicking the ball well and we're not covering the ball well - that's because we've got some guys in there that probably shouldn't be, and that's our fault - and we're not returning well because we're not blocking people and running it back. We're struggling really bad in our kicking game and that's where it shows up more than anything. Not offensively or defensively. We'll get those things solved, I think. Hopefully, we'll get the kicking game solved. The kicking game is really killing us right now."
On opponents game-planning to stop (Matt) Forté yet he still put up back-to-back 200-yard games
"That's good coaching (laughs). No, what we try to do is find some plays. Every week, we add a couple of plays every week. We put in two plays last week that they (UAB) weren't ready for. But then again, it comes down to players. The kid is a great player. I told you that in the beginning. He's a great football player. Unfortunately, he's not playing on a good football team right now. If he was, he'd be a Heisman Trophy candidate. He really would. Like I've said, I've been a lot of places and I've coached a lot of great players - Heisman Trophy winners and No. 1 draft choices - and he's as good as all of them. He's a big, strong, fast, tough, athletic guy. He takes a beating and keeps coming back. He'll be a very high draft choice and he is carrying our football l team right now. He makes the people around him better. He's second in the nation (in rushing yards per game) right now and my hat is off to him because he's doing a hell of a job."
On if Forté's production is a sign of good things to come for the Tulane offense
"One of the things is I think we're doing a good job of scheming to block defenses. I think we're practicing right. We're practicing hard. The thing that's not happening is when you run the ball as well as we're running it - and it's what I talked about when I first got here - you've got to be able to play-action pass and make big plays. We've got guys open that we're missing, and I mean for big plays. We've got guys open that we're not seeing open, and we're getting sacked and scrambling. We have a chance to make big plays passing. That's the thing about this offense. If you can run the football and they start putting eight or nine guys in the box like they're doing right now - SMU is going to have nine guys in the box, their corners are going to be on an island and they're going to have both safeties within six or seven yards of the line of scrimmage - you've got to make pay. And when you don't make them pay, then they keep coming after you. We did a couple of nice things the other day. They came up, they blitzed us, we sight adjusted and we threw a touchdown. That's how it's supposed to work. But you've got to see it and you've got to do it. So it comes down to execution."
On if Anthony Scelfo's size is a factor in the lack of production by the passing game
"I think it has an effect on him. I was a quarterback and I was a little guy, too. I'd be lying if I didn't say that height hurts you in the pocket. There are some big guys around him. I'm in practice and I'm standing behind him. I tell you what, it's hard for me to see guys back there. So yes, it affects him. You've got to move. You've got to throw in lanes. But I think the thing that hurts Anthony more than anything, and this probably stems back to his high school games because he is an athlete and he can run, I think he leaves the pocket a little too soon. There are guys coming open, and he gets off them too quickly and starts running. He needs to learn to stay in the pocket, moving the pocket and see down field. That's the problem when you're short. You have a problem seeing down field."
On having back-to-back games with a 200-yard rusher and coming up with a pair of losses
"We had 500 yards but we don't score points because we don't hit balls. You have to hit the passes. If we hit just three passes, and we had a lot more open than that, they're all touchdowns. But we don't complete the pass and we don't see the receivers. That's what has hurt us. If you have a 200-yard rusher, you should win a lot of football games. That's what I was raised on. You get a 200-yard rush game and a 250-290 pass game, now you're playing football. Now you're scoring points. We're not throwing the ball well enough."
On if he intends to play Kevin Moore more next week
"To answer your question, (Kevin) Moore is going to play. We haven't decided exactly what's going to happen. Anthony (Scelfo) is our starter. Anthony is our quarterback. Moore is going to get an opportunity to play in this game. He will play in this football game."
On the matchup between Tulane's defense and SMU quarterback Justin Willis
"He's completing something like 57 percent of his passes. He's got three really good receivers. His scrambling ability is the thing that really concerns us. He can rush for 100 yards. He's their leading rusher. If he does that, we won't win the football game. We need to contain the quarterback, we need to pressure the quarterback and we need to get him off rhythm. If we lose contain and he breaks the pocket, he's such a good athlete that he's going to make a lot of yards. Willis was a highly recruited guy. I know Kansas State was after him as well as some other teams. He was highly recruited out of high school. He's a heck of an athlete."
On how Tulane's secondary can stop giving up big plays
"We've got (Josh) Lumar starting at one corner, and I don't know if you've seen the depth chart or not, but I'm going to start Phillip Davis - a true freshman - at the other corner. He played a little bit toward the end of the game last week."
On what Tulane has to do to stop SMU quarterback Justin Willis
"I think we need to get more pressure on the quarterback. That's the best thing you can do to a quarterback. If you can get pressure on a guy and make him throw off rhythm, then you've got a chance. My hat's off to the guy last week, (UAB's Sam) Hunt. He did a great job. He's getting hit just as he releases the ball. He completed three long pass plays, two of them for touchdowns, when he's getting hit. We were that close. If he holds the ball for just a 10th of a second more, we hit him. We sack him. Instead, he threw a touchdown and he (Hunt) had a lot to do with it."
On his opinion of Tulane senior defensive tackle Antonio Harris
"I tell you what, I've really been impressed with him. I didn't know if he was a pro prospect, but a lot of guys are starting to ask about him now. He's just productive. He really is productive. He plays tackle. He plays end. He runs and gives great effort. He's got to be one of the best defensive linemen in this conference. He is really productive."
On to what he attributes the penalties by the offensive line last week
"I think they need to focus more and need to concentrate more and need to compete better. Sometimes, when a guy is beating you, you can't just tackle him. We've got guys who, because they're out of position, they don't have a lot of experience where they're playing. You've got to learn the fundamentals better. They're young guys. They're freshmen and sophomores, and one of them had never play until this year. They're young guys. (Nick) Landy is a young kid. He looks the part, but he's a 19-year-old kid who hasn't really played yet. Pete Hendrickson hasn't played much. (Travis) Olexa is a sophomore and he didn't play (last year). We've got three guys there who are struggling because of inexperience more than anything else. They need fundamental work and technique work. They just need experience."
On if he is contemplating bringing in someone to push Ross Thevenot at punter next year
"We're talking about it, yes. We honored the commitments from the previous staff. They recruited Darren deRochemont, and we though he was going to be the punter. But he's been very inconsistent in practice. We time them in practice and we chart them in practice, and deRochemont actually punted better yesterday. We're going to continue to do that through the week. If he can continue to do what he did yesterday the rest of the week (deRochemont) will punt in the game."
On if using more starting defensive players still adds to the inexperience on special teams
"First off, we didn't have a lot of guys. We didn't want to have any defensive linemen on it, but those two guys I mentioned run as good as linebackers. We just don't have a lot of people. We don't have a lot of experience. We don't have a lot of older guys. If you look at our secondary, we only have two seniors and one of them is hurt. They're all young guys, basically. Then (David) Skehan separates his shoulder. Carlis (Jackson) has a thigh. We have some guys in there and you try to give them a break. Look at (Devin) Holland, the freshman, he's on every special team and he plays a lot in the secondary. He made a great tackle on a kickoff and made a great tackle on a punt, but he's getting worn down. He's not used to playing this kind of tempo. We've got a fast tempo in practice. It's physical and then he's got to go play these games. You can see him start to wear down after six games already. I'll tell you, he's a heck of a football player. We got him out of Baton Rouge. He's a 100-meter sprint champion. He's 6-0, 200 and he'll hit you. He'll knock you out. But he had a holding penalty too, and that hurts. It's just young guys."
On if it's a catch 22 using defensive starters on special teams
"That's why we're trying to rotate guys. We've got some guys who are on every special team. Now we're trying to pick and choose. Look at Evan Lee. He's getting worn down. He's on kickoff, kickoff return, punt and punt return. (David) Skehan had 105 plays one game. That's too many play. We're talking about a 12-game schedule with no byes. It's a catch 22. It really is. We just don't have enough guys at this point to put in there. We're redshirting some freshman that probably could be helping us right now, but there's six games left to go. If I would have known then what I know now, I probably wouldn't have redshirted them, but I don't want to bring them out of a redshirt at this time."
On if he is building the team more toward next year than winning this year
"If I would have been smart enough to redshirt (Matt) Forté, then I'd say yes. Let's bring him back one more year. (laughs) No, I don't think that way. Coaches, we're funny. First of all, we think we can win every game. We're crazy. Second of all, there's a lot of football left to be played. We're trying to build a foundation. We're going to start playing some younger guys. If a senior is not performing, we're going to start playing younger guys ahead of them. But if seniors are performing, I feel that I owe it to them to let them continue to play. But I feel bad for the senior group. I wanted to win for them. I wanted to win a championship. I wanted to go to a bowl game. And obviously, that's start to slip away. I think there are some seniors who are performing well and I feel bad for them. On the other hand, some guys who are not performing well, we've got to move it up. That's the way we've got to go about it."