Oct. 21, 2008
New Orleans - Following the team's first mid-season bye week since 2004, Tulane head football coach Bob Toledo talked about his team's performance through the first half of the season and discussed the Green Wave's upcoming home game this weekend against the Rice Owls today during his weekly press luncheon.
Since we've got a bye this week, what I'm going to do is just recap the first half of the season and then talk a little bit about Rice then open it up to any questions that you might have.
As I look at the first part of the season, as I told our team and our coaches know, we have played very hard. We've played with great effort and I feel good about that. We've been in all games with the exception of Army and that game we were probably still in it until the fourth quarter when they scored 21 and we didn't score anything.
But the reoccurring theme, if you want to call it that, is missed opportunities. I really believe we've had a chance to play well and do some good things if we would have taken advantage of some opportunities. When you look at turnovers right now, we're sixth in the conference in turnovers so we're turning the ball over. And we're turning it over in a bad area. Penalty-wise, we're 11th in the conference in penalties. And I kind of pride myself on trying to be disciplined, but we've have some penalties, particularly at inopportune times. We've had some penalties after a big play, for example, and those things just kind of kill you.
Our red zone. We've been very poor in the red zone. And I talked about this the last time we met but offensively, we're 10th in the conference; defensively, we're seventh, so we're not doing a good enough job in the red zone. We emphasized it last week and we're trying to get better at it. And obviously we're not scoring enough points. And all of that comes into play: turnovers, penalties, we've had missed field goals...we're six of eleven in field goals. So we've given up a lot of points. I honestly believe that we should be scoring over 30 points a game right now if we'd have taken care of our business and do what we're supposed to do.
Anyway, the thing that's hurt us is our punt team and our field goal team. We've had punt blocks, we've had field goal blocks, we've had them returned for touchdown. Those are the things that have killed us in special teams and those are the things that are glaring. They stand out there. So in special teams, that has hurt us.
Statistically, I believe we're a better football team than we were a year ago. What does a statistic mean? I don't know. You've got to win, that's the biggest statistic--you've got to outscore your opponent, that's the biggest statistic. But we're better than we were a year ago--offensively, defensively and special team-wise so it gets back to missed opportunities. If we would have taken advantage of some of the opportunities we had, we wouldn't be 4-2 [2-4] and 1-2 in the conference right now. But anyway, we didn't and that's the way it is.
As far as the bye week last week, it was much needed rest I guess you could say. We needed to get some guys rested. We needed to get off our feet the last weekend and we did that. We healed up a little bit although I passed out an injury report so you could see it. Those are the guys that are out for this week and some of the guys that are questionable. It doesn't go into what they've done but basically they're out.
But one of the things we wanted to do was rest up, heal up and we wanted to improve fundamentally and technically. We got after it doing some individual drills a little bit more and trying to get better at the things we have to do. And then it gave us a chance to look at some of the young guys. We did some scrimmaging where the young guys got an opportunity to show us what they can do and it gave them some reps. And when we talked about all the reps it ended up being about a game, it's about 70 plays. So they got a chance to really play a football game last week, the young guys. The other thing we did was an in depth of self scouting ourselves. We self-scout ourselves every week but we really wanted to detail what are people seeing us do, we do we have to improve on, those kinds of things. It really gave us an opportunity to back up a little bit.
As far as Rice, the thing that kind of stands out to me, and I talked to our team about it yesterday, they are number one in the conference in the least amount of turnovers, they are number one in the conference in the least amount of penalties so it gets back to they are not beating themselves. It's my philosophy or theory or whatever you want to call it that you've got to keep from losing before you win. Most games are lost, not won. So I believe they are doing a great job of not beating themselves right now. They are scoring 39 points a game, they are averaging 429 yards a game, they are doing a great job. Their quarterback, Chase Clement, is number two in total offense, number three in passing, their receiver Jarett Dillard is outstanding, as is James Casey. They are one and two, not only in receptions, but in receiving yards. They've got some weapons, they're going to be very difficult to stop but hopefully we'll be able to do that.
I put out an injury report so if you have any questions we can talk about that too but that's where we're at. Now we got the second half of the season, hopefully we can improve on what we did the first half, get better, not make as many mistakes and win some football games.
On even though Rice has scored almost 40 points a game, in their losses they seem to give up a lot of points.
They actually have given up 39 points a game too, I'm glad you asked that, but they're giving up some points. They've struggled defensively a little bit, as well. And our job is to try and keep the ball away from their offense. We're one of the leading teams in the country, possession-wise. If you look at statistically, our defense...there are only five teams in the country, defensively, that have had more snaps than our defense, the least amount of snaps. I think we're giving up something like 59 snaps a game, that's pretty good. So yes, our defense isn't on the field a lot and part of it is again, the offense trying to keep the ball and keep our defense off the field.
On If this game turns into a shootout, do you think you have any advantage or do you think Rice does?
If it gets to be a shootout, it's going to be a very difficult football game for us. We just are not capable right now of scoring a lot of points, I don't believe. [interviewer: Matt had a real good game last year against these guys...] yes, he rushed for 350, and that's what we got. We got...the matchups, if you look at statistics, their offense is better than our offense and our defense right now is better than their defense, so offensively, we need to not turn the ball over and have penalties, and we need to ultimately score some points and keep the ball away from them. And then defensively, we can't give up the big play. If they're going to beat us, they've got to beat us running the football, not throwing the football. You sort of eluded to Rice won a game last week, 45-40, can you win a 45-40 game? I don't know. I think if we did everything perfectly, and we control the game, possibly. But we can't make any...we can't overcome mistakes. We're not good enough to overcome a big mistake--a big penalty, or a big sack, that kind of thing. We just have a hard time making a big play, we have to have a 12, 13, 14-yard drive and not make any mistakes to score.
Is Rice the best offensive team you've played?
I would say they probably are. Yes, they probably are.
Do you think there's been lingering effects of the Army game?
No. No, I don't believe so. I think we came out against UTEP and we played hard and we played physical. We were ready to play, we were fired up, you know, we just made some mistakes that really cost us. Like I said, just before half, we throw a screen and go down to the three-yard line, we get a holding penalty, so we don't get any points out of that. Second half, we make a long run, get down to the seven or eight yard line, have a holding penalty, bring it back; don't get any points from that. You know, we should have scored 35 points and had four- or five hundred yards against El Paso. But we didn't. And then we gave them a big play right at the end. They beat us throwing the football, not really running the football. But no, I don't think there's any linger effects. I like the attitude of the football team, they worked really hard last week and they know how close we are.
How's (Kevin) Moore?
Good! Kevin is a tough-minded kid. And he is doing well. He's got a little bit of a thumb problem, but he's doing as well as to be expected with that. It's not stopping him from playing. It's probably stopping him from performing as well as he'd like, but he's still performing well. He had one bad football game for us and everyone I guess is entitled to one of those.
So the extra week helped him with that thumb?
Yes, I think so, because he wasn't hit and banged up during the course of a game. So yes, it probably helped him to get a little better then the few days off that we gave them: Friday, Saturday, Sunday, that gives him a chance to let it heal up a little bit.
What's the most beneficial thing you've found out from self-evaluation?
We saw what people are seeing in us. And we saw what we needed to do better to have a better chance to win. That's all I'm really going to say.
Andre (Anderson) has had two big games now, is the next step for the offense to take advantage of the play-action and maybe get a little better balance run and pass?
Yes it is, but again you know, in a play action, one of the things we try and do with a play action is make a big play. When they are bringing eight guys or nine guys in the box and they got single coverage, we try to isolate a guy and we couldn't do that against El Paso. We ended up hitting the back, hitting the tight end, you know, that kind of thing. So we, you know, again, we miss Jeremy a lot. We just don't have the speed right now to make a big play. Hopefully a guy like Alan Mitchell, who we're starting to bring along right now, he's got some speed. He just hasn't played a lot. He could help us. Taylor Echols, who is a redshirt freshmen, had a sprained ankle but he's kind of coming along pretty good and he's got some speed so hopefully we can get them in the game and give them more opportunities as well.
Can you talk about how tough the last half of this year's schedule is?
Last year we were 1-5 and then we ended up being 3-3 in the second half you know, and right now we've won more games than we did last year before the half but I think we have a tougher schedule the second half. We're facing a team this week that can score a lot of points, hopefully that not score more than us but are very explosive offensively. And we play in team in two weeks [LSU] who is one of the top teams in the country. Then you got Tulsa and Houston, which are very explosive, so it's not going to be easy, let's put it that way.
You talked about young guys...did anyone impress you enough to move up and might be able to play more?
No, I wouldn't say...well maybe yes, maybe Mitchell and Echols did some nice things. Lineman-wise, back-wise, no...defensively, not really. A kid, [Kristofar] Rhymes did some nice things. Ian Harson did some nice things but for the most part, what it did was show us where they're at and how good they are, that kind of thing and it gave them a chance to compete a little bit but they aren't going to move ahead of people we already have.
Other than [Emmanuel] Aluko, is there anybody else you have that you have you might take a redshirt off?
No. Not right now. We'd have to have several more injuries before I did that. No. I like our quarterback, [Ryan] Griffin. I think Griffin... there was one scrimmage there where he was 11-11, threw two touchdowns. The ball didn't hit the ground. I was very impressed with him.
You talked about cutting down on mistakes. Other than showing them on film, and reminding them verbally, what else can you do during the week?
Well, again, emphasis. You know, if a guy is grabbing a guy, you get on him, tell him to get his hands in, work...constantly remind him, `keep your hands in, keep your hands in' and that's all you can do. You keep coaching him and keep reminding him but you know, players play the game. Pro guys have the same problems, why do those quarterbacks throw those interceptions, why do they fumble the ball, why did they miss tackles, why did they get beat deep. Players are players. They're going to get beat. Things are going to happen sometimes. We've just had them happen at inopportune times, like I said. We get in the red zone... all of a sudden we throw an interception. We get in the red zone we put the ball...throw it...it falls out of our hand, they run for a touchdown. Crazy things have happened to us this year. And I honestly believe that if those things hadn't happened, we would be probably 4-2 and 3-1 in conference.
What else did you get out of last week?
I think they have always been pretty focused. They have a feeling that we're close. That if we do things right, we can win some games down the stretch and in talking to our players, that's what they told me. `You know coach, we know how close we are and if we can stop from beating ourselves, we can win down the stretch and that's what we're going to try and do. The attitude has been super. We've got great leadership from our seniors. Matter of fact, I have a senior counsel group that I meet with here at one o'clock. The attitude has been phenomenal and I can't fault them for their effort and their attitude. You know, we've made some mistakes and that's what's beating us. It's not because of lack of effort. It's not because of attitude, it's not because of being physical, and we're being physical. Every coach I talked to says they can't believe how physical we've been in the game. So you know, again, it's missed opportunities. Period.