First-year Tulane head football coach Curtis Johnson reviewed the win over SMU and previewed this weekend's contest at UTEP during his weekly press conference on Tuesday.
Oct. 16, 2012
NEW ORLEANS - Coming off his first collegiate victory, first-year head coach Curtis Johnson stepped to the podium on Tuesday to address the media during Tulane football's weekly press conference in the Hall of Fame Room of the James W. Wilson, Jr. Center.
Thanks to a solid first half and a last-minute touchdown drive, the Green Wave picked up their first win of the 2012 season and gave Johnson his first victory as a head coach in Saturday's 27-26 decision over SMU in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. While Johnson reflected fondly on the win over the Mustangs, he also stressed the importance of keeping things going and not becoming complacent with a weekend showdown at UTEP looming on the horizon.
In addition, Johnson talked about the importance of senior quarterback Ryan Griffin's return, the emergence of sophomore running back Rob Kelley and the injury status of a handful of Tulane regulars. A complete transcript of Tuesday's press conference is below.
Tulane (1-5, 1-1 C-USA) will kickoff against the Miners on Saturday at 7 p.m. (CST) at the Sun Bowl in El Paso, Texas, and the game will streamed live on the internet at www.TulaneGreenWave.com to paid members of the All-Access Pass. The Wave's next home game is slated for Saturday, Oct. 27, when they play host to league foe UAB at 2:30 p.m. in the Superdome.
Tickets to that game and future Green Wave events are available through 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, over the phone at 504-861-WAVE (9283) or via the Internet at www.TulaneGreenWave.com.
TULANE HEAD COACH Curtis Johnson
On rallying for a 27-26 win over SMU on Saturday
"This game was a little bit funny. As I look back on it, and it's been a couple of days, but for us it's like Moses parting the Red Sea or Jesus feeding 5,000 because we did some stuff that we've never done and never heard about doing. We got some stops on the goal line that were miraculous. We hadn't driven the ball downfield all year, then with about a minute left Griff takes us down the field and we score a touchdown. I look up and we've got like 30 second left, and I thought, `gosh, why did we have to score so quick.' But it was good. The funny part was I looked up a couple of plays later and there was one second left on the clock...It was big for everyone. It was an emotional victory for me. It was my first win. It was crying time. There were tears. The players were great. I was just so happy for them with all the adversity that we've gone through this year. It's hard on young men who put so much into it. They want to win. They want to be successful. It just hasn't happened. To show their character - like I've always said, they've done everything we've asked them to do and more - and get a win against a quality opponent made it a great day. It was a great day for me and for them."
On if his motivation to the team has more credence after getting into the win column
"The reward is the most important thing with it all. If you don't have the reward, it's just the labor without the paycheck. I hope this is the first of many, but those players are amazing guys. They're an amazing group of young men. One of the things that was said, even before I got here, was that these guys will quit. They'll quit. But they've never quit. It was tough sledding for a while there, but they never quit. They continued to play."
On if he heard from injured safety Devon Walker after the win over SMU
"Yes. He was happy. I didn't talk to him but I heard from him."
On how Ryan Griffin's shoulder felt after the game
"On Sunday, he was sore. Today he was better. Again, we've got to continue to strengthen the shoulder, but he's getting better. He's getting better each day."
On if it feels better to get a win as a head coach after years as an assistant
"Absolutely. The Lord made me wait for it, too. I waited five weeks for it, but it was so rewarding. I always say I compare it to the Super Bowl and the National Championship, but it really was comparable to that. It was kind of stunning that it finally happened after five weeks. It was great."
On SMU's decision to kick a field goal late instead of trying for the endzone
"I was a little bit surprised that they did, but I thought that because we held them on previous occasions. It looked like we were playing bend-but-don't-break defense all day. They'd get down to the red zone and they couldn't punch it in. Finally they did and then we had a couple of stops where I thought they may go for it. Then all of a sudden I said well, if they kick the field goal (SMU head coach June Jones) knows we can't probably score a touchdown and win. We may get a field goal, but he's thinking we can't score a touchdown. They won't ever score a touchdown. Good thing he was wrong. On the final drive, Griff was the difference because of the communication. I thought the offensive line played great on that last drive. They had their communications down. The receivers actually caught a back-shoulder pass for the first time I think since we've been here. I haven't seen us do one, then all of a sudden we do one and then he comes around and catches a hitch route and breaks a tackle. That was amazing. Then it was the first time Griff has thrown to the back on that particular play - an all-go play - since I've been here. I've been trying to get him to throw it to the back. All of a sudden, he throws it to Rob Kelley and Kelley scores. It was just things that you hadn't seen. It was great though."
On the improvement in the passing game early and late and what happened in between
"I think I kind of got out of their way a little bit. I wanted to come out in the second half and do something special. I kind of got into it and I was like, `Let's do this and let's do this.' I think I confused the coaches a little bit. It was more or less me just saying, `Okay go on. You guys got it.' So once they got it, I thought it was good. In the first half, it went well. Everything was good. Then I went into these NFL halftime adjustments and it didn't work. After we got back into the groove a little bit, we ran it. We tried to run it a little more. Finally on that last drive, it was stuff that we knew. (Griffin) can execute and our offensive line can execute the stuff we know. It was the offensive staff. I was the middle man."
On what he can attribute to his team's emotional level prior to the game
"Every night, I've gotten into this baseball thing. My dad played with the Yankees organization and played for the Yankees. I love the Yankees and couldn't root for anybody else. I just watched those millionaires - the Yankees, the A's, Detroit, Oakland - and you just watch their emotion. I felt the one thing our team needs to learn is emotion. We have to learn that when we make a big play, it's a big deal. We talked about that. I talked about how when I was at the University of Miami, I would see Randal Hill, Lamar Thomas, Andre Johnson and those guys catch a six-yard hitch and it was a celebration. We catch a hitch and we do something good, and we've got nobody congratulating the next guy. We talked about the fact that we've got to play the next couple of weeks with some emotion. When we stopped SMU on the first drive, I looked around the sideline and I couldn't believe it because we finally got some emotion. I think LSU won their game the other day because of emotion. They were emotional now. Those guys were playing. We've got to get accustomed to celebrating our little victories and we'll celebrate our big ones even better."
On if he heard from anyone from his days with the Saints after the win
"I have. You wouldn't believe how many texts and calls I got. I haven't been able to call everybody back. I think I got all the texts taken care of, but I think I heard from just about everybody I've known in coaching. Any time you get your first win, it's big. But yes, they all left me messages."
On if knowing when to step aside and letting his assistants do their job is part of learning to be a head coach
"Absolutely. It wasn't that I didn't trust them. It's just that my ideas can be a little out there sometimes. We have the same plays and whatever, but I think they have a handle on what they can and cannot do. Once we got that figured out and once they got me knocked out the way, it was good."
On if he thinks it will get easier to know when to step aside in the future
"Yes. Understand this. It's the first time we've had our quarterback in a couple of weeks. You just want to do a lot of the stuff that he can do and a lot of the stuff that we can do. Sometimes, you just have to step back and say, `Hey look, let's keep it simple.' On that last drive, we were very simple."
On Tulane offensive coordinator Eric Price coaching against his father and brother in the upcoming game at UTEP
"He talked to his dad last night and had me laughing...I think that last week was a good team victory, but I'm putting this one on him. It's going to all be on Eric. If we win this, it's going to be Eric's game. No, really. If we continue to play and continue to improve, like I've always said, it's on us. It's about our improvement. It's about our play. It's about our emotion. It's about us getting the job done. If we can do that, I think we'll be fine."
On that status of safety Shakiel Smith
"He didn't practice today. He just got out of a walking boot and he was walking around. He didn't do anything today. He didn't do absolutely anything. Renaldo (Thomas) was the starter today. We also have some packages for (Sam) Scofield, so we have a couple of guys that are playing there. I thought Shak had his best game of the year this past week."
On the emergence of Rob Kelley
"(Orleans Darkwa) got hurt at the end of the first quarter or early in the second quarter. I think Rob Kelley is playing good. Besides the fumble, I thought Danté Butler was playing well. I think we're going to do our same things. I don't think there's an Adrian Peterson on our team right now that we can say, `He's going to get the ball 20 or 25 times.' I just think we'll do it by committee and do it by personnel groups, just like the Saints. I thought Rob has played well the last couple of weeks. He played very physical against Lafayette. I thought he did some good things against UL-Monroe. He's been playing pretty well, but this week he really turned into a pass receiver. That's something we haven't had from that position since I've been here. He's catching. He's scoring. He's making guys miss. He's doing with Rob can do. He's doing a great job."
On the level of competition over the next couple of weeks
"I look at it and say I think it challenges us to compete even harder and challenges us to get better because there is a crumb out there. We had a guest speaker the other day who told us about our crumb. There is a crumb out there that we'll have a chance to go after. We're not looking at the big picture. I don't think we're mature enough to see a big picture. I just think that there is some reward out there that we may be able to take advantage of."
On if he is concerned about a hangover after picking up the first win of the year
"Well if you would have heard me at practice, it was more yelling than I've done and I yell a lot. We just need to mature and understand that (last week) is over. It's done. I didn't think we practiced well today. This is the first time in weeks that you've heard me say this. I really didn't. When you win, you begin to feel good about yourself. You begin to think you've got it all figured out and as of right now we really don't. It's the same old issues. We've got to stop the run. We've got to stay on the field on third down (offensively) and the defense has to get off the field on third down. We just have to continue to improve on those things. I think our special teams has been playing well for most of the year."
On Tulane traditionally having a let-down performance following a win
"One thing we can't do as coaches or as a staff - and I love winning just like everybody else does - but you can't let them get away with one thing. This week, we've got to be on top of everything, and I'd like to simplify what we're doing a little more. We just need to stay on them this week. We can't have one iota of complacency."
On how much easier it is to have swagger and emotion after a win
"I think this is the beginning of confidence. We've been beat down and beat up for so long - it was 15 in a row that we had lost - so just to get out of that and get into the win column helps the confidence of the guys. I don't know if we're ready for swagger yet, but I think we've got a little bit of a crumb to look forward to. I hope they want to duplicate this feeling because it's a good feeling."
On the status of linebacker Zach Davis
"He didn't do much today. He was dressed, but he didn't do hardly anything today. Zach is one of those guys and I'm starting to see that he's like (Saints linebacker Jonathan) Vilma. He won't practice much, but all of a sudden for the game he's ready to play. I've got to just be patient with Zach because he's playing great football for us. He's had an ankle and he's had a shoulder (injury). Playing that position, you're going to get a bunch of different injuries and Zach's had a lot of them - ankle, shoulder, back, neck. It's just everything. I don't know what will keep him out but nothing has kept him out yet."
On some other first-year coaches around the country throwing their seniors under the bus a bit
"I don't think that's the case here. I think our players have great character. I think our players work hard. I think our players do what we ask them to do. I don't think there's a little coup going on. I think those guys are playing hard, they're playing well and they're classy young men. I don't see doing that. I don't think that it's in my personality to throw anybody under the bus."