Oct. 25, 2011
NEW ORLEANS -
Tulane University Interim Head Coach
On moving Doug Lichtenberger to co-offensive line coach
"With the change and having offensive line and head coaching duties, I knew I would be pulled apart sometimes from that group. Coach (Doug) Lichtenberger has been an offensive line coach for four years. He was at UC Davis and at Ohio as an offensive line coach. On Saturday's during the game, my comfort zone was to go over and draw up plays with the offensive linemen. That's been kind of left there, obviously, and he did a great job on Saturday. He handled the adjustments there and worked well with the group. I had some obligations that came up where I had to meet with some people on Thursday, and he took the offensive line. He's going to continue to do that. As a title, he is co-offensive line coach and deservedly so. Should any media obligations arise or any team obligations arise, he will take his position group of tight ends and fullbacks, and he will take the offensive line like he has been doing. I have complete confidence in Doug. I've worked with him for the last four and a half years. He handled it this past week. It something he aspires to do, go back and be an offensive line coach, and certainly he has the qualities and did a great job last week.
On moving John Hendrick to assistant head coach
"He's been here a short time, but as the special teams coach, he handles every player on your team from the walk-ons to your star linebacker or your star tailback. He has to use them in the kicking game. He also coordinates the staff. I did special teams for eight years, so I know how this works. You have eight assistants, you have to coordinate them, take their time and manage them into all phases of that. Even though John has been here a brief time, I have grown to love and trust him. That goes along with the staff and that goes along with the players. He's got a great pedigree. He's been with some of the same coaches in that chain that I have: the Frank Broyles chain, Houston Nutt, Jackie Sherrill. We think a lot alike and in that regard - with the team having the most respect for him, his players having the most respect for him, and the coaches - he's going to be our assistant head coach. A situation arose last week where I was scheduled to be in two places at the same time. Obviously, I'm not able to do that as you know. Should that situation ever arise again, John is more than capable and more than willing to help the team."
On how things went in his first game as interim head coach
"You look at game day. You worry about that, the operations and how it goes. I thought Greg Davis, Steve Stanard, John Hendrick performed well. They came in and we didn't have 12 men on the field. We didn't have 10 men on the field, so that operation went smoothly."
On standouts in Tulane's special teams play against Memphis
"A guy that stood out for us was Derrick Strozier. He's second in the league in punt returns and had an outstanding game for us. He had a 24-yard punt return and had a big momentum swing for us. After they scored, he blocked a PAT. Those were two big plays that Derrick made for us. Robert Kelley continues to shine. We'd like to limit him to fewer kickoff return opportunities, but he is a tough competitor. I know he's young, he's a freshman, but he has a chance to break the school record for kickoff return yards."
On Tulane's special teams mistakes against Memphis
"The big thing that came up for the game - two big things in special teams - was the punt block. For the second week in a row, we had a punt blocked. In visiting with John (Hendrick) and visiting with the special teams staff, we have to address that. Once that becomes a problem there, that's what teams are going to do. As you saw Saturday, that was a big difference maker and momentum swing in the outcome of the game. We've got to correct that in a couple of ways. No. 1 is personnel changes. It happened with our up-backs. For the second week in a row, our up backs - the three men that we put back in the shield punt - weren't able to protect. Jonathan (Ginsburgh) stepped wider on that than he normally steps and the outcome was a blocked kick. No. 1 we correct Jonathan's mechanics. No. 2, we make changes in the personnel. Also in doing that, we have to make some scheme adjustments. Without going into game-plan plays, and I think you understand that, we will do some different scheme adjustments in our shield punt and working with that. Also a crucial play in the game was Cairo (Santos)'s missed 46-yard field goal. It hit the upright, and that was an opportunity in the game to take it from a two-score game to a one-score game. That changes after we missed that field goal. That changes the way Greg (Davis) calls the game so now we can't be in a clock mode where we can win it with a score at the end. We had to go to a pressure. We had to go to an attack. We had to a two-minute offense. That changes the way Steve Stanard calls the game. He has to get into it. There's more pressure. He's got to get the ball back to us. That's the way he calls that. So those were two big plays in the special teams unit."
On what Tulane does to correct the special teams mistakes
"What we have to do there is we have to be solid in there. In talking with the special teams, we say we have to not only be solid and not only be sound but be special. We have to make plays that contribute to us winning the game and not contribute to us losing the game."
On Tulane's defensive effort against Memphis
"Steve Stanard and the defensive staff, and I've shared this with them, but I thought they played an outstanding game. They've been under some fire from the previous weeks. It was 14-10 at halftime and they had given up two big plays. They gave up the screen pass and they gave up a wheel route. They held Memphis to less than 10 yard rushing, so it was a great first half. They came out in the second half and there was 12 points that they weren't truly responsible for without their team allowing a first down. They allowed one big play in the second half, and it was the reverse. On all of those plays, it was a back-end problem. It was a problem with the outside linebacker. We corrected that on Sunday. We went through those plays on Sunday and we will continue to work on those type of plays that hurt us in the game on Saturday to make sure that we learn from those mistakes and move forward from that. In the second half, I thought the defense really came up big. It was fourth down on our end of the field and we didn't get it. In previous games and previous seasons, that would have been the end of it. The defense would have gone out there and Memphis would have went down and scored. But they didn't do that. They went three downs and out, and we got the ball back with an opportunity to go. Another big player in the game was Ryan Travis. He leads our league in interceptions and he made a big play on the goal line to stop another scoring opportunity and allow us to gain a possession and not allow Memphis for a field goal or something there to expand the lead. Overall defensively, we just had the one turnover. We have to do more to create the turnovers. We have to do more to give the offense field position and to give them a chance to score there. Steve addressed that on Sunday. We have to play better in the red zone. We keep talking about the red zone. We're going to devote today's practice and some of Wednesday's practice to the red zone on both sides of the football in trying to address that issue."
On who stood out defensively against Memphis
"Another solid game, and he does it week in and week out, is Trent Mackey. He's fifth in the nation in tackles per game. He's obviously a defensive leader for us. He's fighting through some nagging injuries, but it hasn't slowed him down. His performance on Saturdays has been exceptional and we need him down the stretch run. Dezman Moses on d-line has played extremely well. He didn't get the fumble after the review, but he pressured the quarterback all day and he made plays. I mentioned Derrick Strozier on special teams, but he had an outstanding game from the safety position. We moved him in positions there, and he contributed. He had an impact in the game. We lost a corner. We lost Alex Lauricella. What we're going to do now is move Ryan Travis back to his corner position. That's where he played before, that's where he'll return back to and that's where he'll practice this week."
On Tulane's offensive performance against Memphis
"There are some crucial things in a game, some components, that we must do. We turned the ball over too many times. They had three takeaways - two interceptions and a fumble. In the first half, we didn't run the ball extremely well. We didn't take some of the pressure off of Ryan Griffin. We wound up with 16 carries for 50 yards in the first half. Orleans (Darkwa) wound up 4.5 a carry there, so he did do well when he was given those opportunities. Offensively, the key play if you look at the game there, was obviously the interception. We came out in the second half and scored on that drive. We had another opportunity in the red zone, which I have addressed, to score there. What happened on the play was Grif didn't see the DB - the corner in the area there. As a veteran quarterback, that ball needs to be thrown away. He knows that and he probably told you in the press conference. Either that or he takes the sack. Our tailback in the protection scheme on that scheme needs to come over. He needs to chip, if you will, that linebacker. Those things didn't happen. That comes with coaching. Players play and the coaches have to coach that. Just like the defense and special teams' mistakes in the game, that was addressed Sunday. We went over that Sunday. It was the first thing we did."
On Tulane's offensive production in the second half against Memphis
"I thought the offensive staff and Greg Davis did a great job with second-half adjustments. Obviously, the inside runs weren't being as productive as they needed to be so we went to more perimeter runs, we went to more draws and we went to more screens and we were able to have success there in the second half with those type of plays. There were no sacks in the game. The offensive line needs to do a better job with the tackle-to-tackle runs. We'll have an emphasis this week in middle drill on working those runs we feel will be successful against East Carolina. We must improve in that area and get to where that happens - zero sacks and few pressures in the game. Overall, in reviewing the film, Ryan Griffin had more time than we thought before going into the game. I mentioned the fumble, and that was crucial play in the game. The interception obviously was a momentum change, but we were in the red zone. We just had an eight-play, 73-yard drive to get us down there and the ball was stripped from Xavier Rush. We've got to be able to put that away. What would the outcome have been? I don't know. We would have loved to have the opportunity to score and go for two. We were down 16 points. Obviously, we would need an onside kick, we would need another score and we would need another two-point possession. That opportunity wasn't presented. Turnovers is something we will continue to work on. We'll work hard in the blaster with all skill guys and we'll do turnover circuits."
On who stood out offensively against Memphis
"Orleans had an outstanding game for us. He averaged 4.7 yards per carry really made some tough yards and some tough plays. I mentioned Harris Howard. Harris had an ankle injury a couple of weeks ago. For an offensive lineman with an ankle injury, you just put more tape on it. He battled through it and worked hard. He had an outstanding game for us. Another receiver who is starting to show up is Wilson Van Hooser. He made some plays for us there, and we'll need some plays down the stretch run."
Overall thoughts on the Memphis game
"There are seven or eight play in a game that will make a difference. You roughly run 75-80 plays of offense and defense and 30-35 plays in the kicking game. Somewhere in there, there are seven or eight plays that are going to make a difference. Some people would say there are three or four. This game was no different. For us to move forward and for us to be successful this weekend at East Carolina, we have to flip that and we have to be the one in those three or four plays or those seven or eight plays for that to make a difference."
On this weekend's opponent, the East Carolina Pirates
"You have the stats and you have the press release. They have a 1-2 home record and have been on the road the last three weeks. They're 3-4 overall, 2-1 in the East and tied for first place. Obviously, this game means a lot to them and it's a chance for them to come home. Offensively, they're a spread team. They spread the ball out and they have talented wide receivers. I had a chance to watch their offensive line last week when we were looking at Memphis, and they're a solid unit. They're a tough unit. They're aggressive and they get after you. The guy that makes it go for them is the quarterback, Dominique Davis. He broke the NCAA record with 36 straight completions and was 40-of-45 (against Navy). He had an unbelievable game. He is a difference maker for them and is somebody that we have to contain or at least limit his big plays that he made last week against Navy. Their wide receiver, Lance Lewis, was all-conference. He can do things after the catch. He's an outstanding athlete and he was an all-conference punt returner so John and the special teams units will have to contend in working with him. Defensively, they employ a 3-4 scheme. It's a pro defensive attack. They're very multiple in that. There'll be three down linemen and there'll be four down linemen. This week will be a little difference than the Memphis week. There will be a lot of concerns in protection. There will be a lot of concerns in the running game. There will be checks for Ryan, so it'll be great to have him back for the entire week so that we can start that process today with him. Defensively, they are led by linebacker Jeremy Grove. He's the leading tackler for them with 76 tackles. Their DB Emanuel Davis was first team, he makes plays for them and is an exceptional player. It will be a challenge on offense, defense and special teams, but that's what lies ahead. Also, former Tulane coach Duane Price is in his second year there as the outside linebacker coach, so it'll be a good opportunity to say hello to Duane before the game."
On how the team moves forward now after all the turmoil of a week ago
"It was a disappointment with the loss. A total disappointment there. But for our student-athletes and our coaching staff to respond the way they responded in that type of week was a great credit to them as good people and good players in this University. What do we have to do? We have to stay together and we have to stay focused. One game believing doesn't always measure up to success. It's a challenge. It won't happen in one week or a half a week or however many days we had to work with that. We must continue to believe in ourselves. The staff believes in the players. The players believe in the staff. We just need to keep pressing forward. We have to create the best game plan that we possibly can. The players have to believe in that game plan, be excited, be enthusiastic and be consistent from one week to the next."
On Tulane's game captains for the trip to East Carolina
"Team captains for this week are based on their performance from the game Saturday. Derrick Strozier will be a team captain and Harris Howard will be a team captain for us."
On Derrick Strozier's move to safety and his performance against Memphis
"It gave both the DB position and the defense a real lift. Earlier in the week, I told Ryan Travis that `I think pound-for-pound, you're the toughest guy on this team.' Well, Derrick must have overheard me because in Sunday's meeting I had to go back on that story and say, `You know Ryan, Derrick is giving you a run for money. I'm not sure if Derrick's not the one who is pound-for-pound the toughest player on this team.' He moved back to the safety position and he really brought a lot to the game. He helped us and I think he'll help us down the five-game stretch."
On the decision to move Strozier to safety over some others at the position
"As coaches, we know that the way to motivate players and the way to move them is the word `next.' If you know that you're not performing as a player and you know there is a next, then that creates competition and that creates fire. Coach (Jason) Rollins and Coach (Steve) Stanard did a great job of creating competition back there in the secondary."
On if Strozier's move was based on the lack of depth at the position
"Yes - with the injuries we've had at the safety position and the overall injuries in the defensive backfield. Then losing Alex (Lauricella) is a tough loss. We'll have to close ranks and move on with that. That's something that Steve and the defensive staff had to discuss and they were able to make moves. Alex goes down in a game and they are able to shift some key players around and make some moves there."
On Tulane throwing so much against Memphis and if that is a sign of things to come
"I think we ran the ball 24 times and we threw the ball 50 times. In some of those passes, I know three or four of them were checks. We had runs called and we had to check to a pass due to the front and due to the coverage. Also the game dictated to where we had to throw the ball more. We were behind by two scores in the fourth quarter. We sprinkled a few draws in there, but we knew we had to throw. The 24-to-50 ratio is high. We'd love to be balanced, but again it's not going to be 50-50 every week. The game situation will dictate that. What the defense is allowing us every week will dictate what that ratio is."
On if running the ball is paramount this weekend facing a quarterback like Davis
"Certainly there is, and as I said earlier, we need to take some pressure off of Ryan. As an offense, we need to run the ball and be more productive there. If we can keep it out of their quarterback's hands and in our hands, then we will have some success Saturday."
On how he plans on shifting those four or five game-changing plays in Tulane's favor
"You go out, you address the issue with the team, you show them the video, you make personnel changes and you make scheme adjustments. That's how you do that. Saturday night after I got home, I was watching TV and I'm seeing a reoccurring theme from some teams. Whether they have a history of it or not, that's something that happens on game day. We've addressed it. We've addressed it in the past. It has been an issue in the past, and until we take ownership as coaches and players, that may continue again. But we addressed it Sunday. We're addressing it today. We'll address on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, and we'll follow through on Saturday. Like I said, in some of those areas we've made personnel changes. In some of those areas, we'll make scheme changes."
On the team being able to not only respond to correcting mistakes but to come away with a win
"The difference is, just like it is with any team, it's confidence. It's a belief. It's an attitude. With the rough week that we had last week, this team had that attitude. They had that confidence. They did believe. Some of those negative situations that may have turned in the past, they held tight. They wanted to `link up', they called it, before the game. They came up to me and they asked, `Coach, can we link up before the game to show our togetherness, to show them that we are a chain, to show them that we are a bonded team?' I said, `Certainly, we'll link up.' Emmanuel Aluko asked, `Coach, can I bring a sledge hammer out.' I said, `Well, Manny, what are you bringing the sledge hammer for?' He said, `I want to bring the pain and that symbolizes bringing the pain and working.' I said, `Certainly Manny. We can do that. We don't want to bust the concrete up there on the floor so we'll create a pad there for you to hit.' And I said, `Please don't hit anyone.' I warned Dr. Stewart before the game to No. 1 stand clear.' It's an overall attitude. It's an overall belief. At times right there, we didn't respond to that. I felt the momentum change myself. I called the team up and addressed that during the game. The only thing I could do there to pull them back was to say, `Hey, this has happened in the past. Not today. Let's respond. Let's keep working.' But like some of the things I've mentioned, like the three-and-out after our fourth, that's a positive sign. The offense taking it down the field. Yes, we turned the ball over, but they believed on the sideline that we were going to score, we were going to get the two-point play and we were going to get the onside kick. It has to begin somewhere. We're pointing toward Saturday and that's where it begins."
On Albert Williams not playing last week against Memphis
"No, Albert didn't play. He's our third-team tailback. I had a number of second-team offensive linemen that did not play. Our second-team quarterback did not play. A number of second-teamers didn't play. We're not intramurals. We're going to play our best athletes. Will we need Albert down the road? We certainly will. We'll need him. Will there be schemes and game plans where he has a role in that? Yes, there will be."
On the importance of winning to establish a different mindset on the way he is doing things now
"That's a great question. We're judged on wins. We're judged on the losses that we have here. In the outcome, that's what will be judged by me and the staff that we have. I think, more important than the wins and the losses, is the attitude of the team. It's the belief in one another. It's being competitive throughout the game. It's when things go wrong like they did on Saturday, which they will in a game - it's ups and downs, it's like a rollercoaster in a game - that they pull together offensively, defensively, on special teams and as a staff. Is it crucial that we win a game? Obviously it's crucial that we win a game. But to me, you've got to take small steps. You've got to do building blocks, if you will. Even though it's been mentioned and it will be said again how disappointing the loss was on Saturday, I think when we look at our previous mistakes we learn from them and not dwell on them. If we dwell on them, it clouds future success. It clouds an opportunity for us to have future success. We're going to learn. We're going to correct those mistakes. Just like in the past, we're not going to dwell on those mistakes. We're going to go forward so we can have future success."
On the proposed changes to the punt shield
"Well, you'll see it today at practice, but Casey Blum will move into the place of Matt Marfisi. We'll try a couple of people at that position, put them on video and critique them. There may be some other changes, and not just today."
On Tulane having so many blocked punts in recent years
"We give a scheme and we give an execution. Their players are on scholarship, too, and they come up with schemes on how to break that down. It is frustrating more so than bewilderment. That's a question and a concern, and it is in our offices and it is for the team. I was a special teams coordinator for eight years. You can play well in every phase of special teams. Have one break-down, and the day is gone. You've lost in all six phases. But as I mentioned earlier, we'll make personnel changes. We'll show video. We'll make scheme changes. Not wholesale scheme changes but we'll make scheme changes to see that that problem does not arise again."
On how he plans to keep the team positive when they are trailing or fall behind late in a game
"Obviously, you try and address that in fall camp with team building to where times are rough and in times of crisis, you're just not going to turn loose of the rope. You hope that carries through during the season. And if you do have those situations, you rally the troops as assistants, as the interim head coach and you pull them together. Our leaders on the team - our Trent Mackey, our Dezman Moses, our Ryan Griffin - they have a voice, too. They have to say, `Come on guys,' and be the leaders. Mistakes are going to happen and breaks are going to happen in a game. We're going to stay positive and we're going to overcome those. That's the way I see it happening."
On to what he can attribute to Wilson Van Hooser's break-out game against Memphis
"Confidence. He's gained confidence each week. He has all season, from the opening bubble screen against (Southeastern Louisiana) that he took for a touchdown. He caught a bubble screen out here last week and I told him, `You know, Wilson, you are allowed to do that again anytime you want to, starting Saturday against Memphis.' But he's confident in himself."