Second-year head coach Curtis Johnson reviewed last week's win over Tulsa and looked ahead to the C-USA road trip to FAU during his weekly press conference.
Oct. 29, 2013
NEW ORLEANS - Fresh off a 14-7 win over Conference USA rival Tulsa for the Green Wave's fourth-consecutive victory, second-year Tulane University head football coach Curtis Johnson addressed the media on Tuesday afternoon as part of his weekly press conference in the James W. Wilson, Jr., Center.
Already bowl eligible with a 6-2 overall record and undefeated in C-USA play at 4-0, Johnson and his team will look to continue their winning ways this weekend. The Wave, however, will play their first game away from the Mercedes-Benz Superdome since Sept. 28 as Tulane will square off against league newcomer Florida Atlantic in Boca Raton, Fla. A complete transcript of Tuesday press conference is below.
Kickoff for the Tulane/FAU contest is slated for Saturday, Nov. 2, at 4 p.m. (CDT) at FAU Stadium. In addition to the game being broadcast on the flagship radio station for Green Wave football - WMTI 106.1 FM "The Ticket" - live audio and video streaming will also be available on-line at www.TulaneGreenWave.com to paid members of the All-Access Pass. The contest against the Owls is the first of two straight road games as Tulane will play at Texas-San Antonio on Nov. 9 before closing out the home portion of the 2013 regular season on Nov. 23 against UTEP.
For tickets to that game, as well as future Green Wave events, contact 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 weekdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., over the phone at 504-861-WAVE (9283) or via the Internet at www.TulaneGreenWave.com.
TULANE HEAD COACH Curtis Johnson
"Thanks for coming today. It's so wonderful outside, I wish we could have this outside instead of in here. The game we played last week, I thought the defense was outstanding. On special teams, Peter Picerelli was special in keeping them pinned back. The offense played timely. We did something I thought we could do against this team (Tulsa) - we ran the ball pretty well on them. When it was time to make some big plays, [Devin] Powell did what he had to do to win the game. It was a team that we haven't beaten in a while. It was a big win for us and we did well, but we have to get back to doing the things that we do. This wasn't really the goal - getting bowl eligible. It's good to be bowl eligible right now, but we have to continue to win some more games."
On his implementation of two defensive coordinators
"I thought they were a good match made in heaven when we got them. They really complement each other. Lionel does a lot of stuff on the back end and John stops the run. Lionel does most of the calling. He's the one who calls the defense up and all of the other stuff. I think those guys work well together and really complement each other. It's been a good marriage."
On the health of Nick Montana
"We expect him to play. I would say he took 60-65 percent of the reps today and Devin took 30-35 percent of them. I don't know the actual numbers, but it was about that. He looks a lot better. He looks good. He looks like he's not injured any more. He'll be ready this game."
On if both Montana and Powell will see action this weekend against FAU
"We're going to play both quarterbacks. We haven't discussed exactly what we're doing. Both of those guys will practice their plays, and a lot of their plays are the same. We fully anticipate both of them playing. I've kind of got an idea, but we haven't talked about it yet. I just want to see Nick throw one more day and we'll make a determination on that probably after tomorrow's practice."
On if Tulane has a good match-up running the ball against FAU
"I don't think it makes it much easier, but it just makes us prepared. We know this defense is a quick, fast defense. They do bring some pressure. They do cause some problems for us. They're good on the back end. They tackle well. They're one of the better tackling defenses. Schematically, we're doing a couple of things differently. We just have to continue to improve in the offensive line and the run game. They do a little more slanting and angling, so we have to do something to counteract that."
On how important a good performance would be at FAU in terms of recruiting
"We know that no matter what we do, there will be two schools in the state of Florida from Conference USA and the conference next year so we have to make a good showing. It's good to have guys like Nico Marley going home to perform in front of his home crowd. His play and his performance will do a lot of recruiting for us."
On Tulane having six Florida natives playing in their state for the first time as collegiate student-athletes this weekend
"Whenever you go back home with your parents, you have to make sure it doesn't become a distraction. There will be a little extra incentive with their moms' and dads' being there. It'll be a good atmosphere for them. You always want to schedule - and I know basketball coaches do this all the time - at least one home game wherever a kid is from. You like to bring a kid back to their home so they can perform in front of their friends and families."
On being an underdog on the road again and if that gives the team an emotional edge
"I didn't know we were the underdogs. It's good. Here's what I think: if you ask me, we'll probably be the underdogs in all of these games. We just have to continue to come out and control what we can control and play well. I really don't use underdog, revenge or those things. I just want us to get our game plan, play well and practice better. I think you play like you practice."
On if he feels that when the defense is against the wall that they will continue to come up with a big play
"You have to feel like that. They prove it to me week in and week out. Once they get down there, they tighten up and the field does shrink. I think we do a great job - Lionel and John - of scheming the defenses down in the red zone. And I think our kids are opportunistic. That's what we do. That's what we talk about, especially once we get down there. [Jordan] Sullen made a great, one-handed pick this last game. That's what they do. That's what they are coached to do."
On if he would be happy playing in the New Orleans Bowl
"I would love to go to the New Orleans Bowl or any other bowl. It's just that what we want to do right now is we just have to concentrate on what we're doing and play and win as many games as we can. Hopefully, we can win them all and then whatever bowl accepts us, we'll go to that bowl. If we win them all and we go to the New Orleans Bowl, that'll be fine."
On if focus is an issue for his team with bowl eligibility already secured
"You know what, it is. It's hard. It's like I told them this morning, they have even more girlfriends than they had last week. They have more family members. They've got more everything. Their pastors are calling them. The coaches from high school all over the country everywhere that they've been are calling them. The concentration level has to be right on. We've got to continue our single-minded focus. We haven't achieved our goals yet of what we want to achieve. We've done some stuff, but we're still climbing uphill with a lot of this stuff so we've got to just continue to do what we're supposed to do and do it well."
On if his quarterbacks understand the positions that they are in
"I would say this - more than anything else, they have their set of plays. Nick is the starter. Nick was hurt, Devin came in and he did something that we haven't seen him do. He won two football games. It's no different than all of a sudden you see Lazedrick Thompson come in, and he ran over a couple of guys, and he's going to play more. Devin is going to play more. I feel confident that both of those guys can win games for us. It's just whose doing what to win the game and how we're going to win the game. I like what Nick has done and I like what Devin has done. It's a good problem to have."
On if he feels validation as a head coach in helping Tulane attain bowl eligibility in just his second season
"No, not at all. I guess I live in the future. My sister always tells me that I'm a forward thinker. I live in the future. I really couldn't celebrate this last victory very much because I was on to FAU. It's always on to the next one. All that night, I had my iPad. I was looking at them and what they were doing. I watched them a little bit against Auburn on the television. I'm always thinking forward. I never really thought about what I have done. I just like to make the people around us happy - the president, the athletics director, the assistant coaches and the team - more than just reflecting on what we've done. I'll reflect one day when I'm sitting in my rocking chair, I guess."
On the status of Jeremy Peeples
"He wasn't at the last game. His grandmother passed, so he was attending a funeral. He's struggled with the hand (injury). I think he's up to 20 plays a game in the game before. He wasn't there this past week, so now he's going to be up for more plays."
On the status of Chris Davenport
"I think he's with a cast or a walking boot right now. I don't know if he's going to be ready this week. He's getting his cast off after this interview, so we'll see. He's very tender in the ankle, so I don't know if we'll have Chris this week or not. If he doesn't practice some time by Thursday, we definitely won't have him."
On how he replaces Davenport's presence inside if he can't go
"I would say there are six or seven defense linemen that we've been playing every game. Tanzel Smart's got to play. [Corey] Redwine's got to play. [Kenny] Welcome will play. We'll do some things like that. We also have two packages. We have a 4-3 package and a 3-4 package. We'll do what's best for our team if Chris doesn't play."
On the overall health of his team
"The linebackers today were the biggest problem. Dominique Robertson didn't do much. Zach Davis didn't do much and Edward Williams didn't do much, so we were kind of mixing guys around. I didn't feel that practice was as good as it should have been because a lot of our linebackers were out. But we'll get those guys back hopefully tomorrow. If they do what they're supposed to do tomorrow, we'll be alright."
On if the linebackers missing time sets the team back in learning the game plan
"I think right now, this far into the season, our plan is going to be more or less our plan. There will be a couple of wrinkles, but the plan will be the plan. We just like to see them on the field. We like to see them running around and getting their fits properly, more importantly than anything. But I think they'll be fine."
On the list of awards the Tulane players are earning becoming lengthy and if that has built a competition
"It's kind of how we coach them. We coach at a high level of competitiveness. We compete on everything. I've been competing with [Darion] Monroe to get his first interception and he finally got it. Now, I've got to find somebody else. This morning in the meeting, I told [Sam] Scofield, `Now, it's your turn. You've got to get one.' It reminds me of the mentality we had a Miami. We competed more in the meeting rooms than we did on the field because back them we knew we were going to beat most of those teams. I like it. It's a healthy competition. Today, we had a good little competition of offense vs. defense. We had the receivers and the DBs, and all of a sudden, whoever won the last one between the receivers and the DBs had to do push-ups. So the DB coach came off the sideline and knocked the ball down. It's been a very, very healthy competition. Lionel still can play."
On if it is realistic for the defense to continue making the big plays that they have through eight games
"It is. I think our team built around our defense. Defense is the thing we talked about last year when I first got here. We went out and got [Darion] Monroe and [Jordan] Batiste and moved Lorenzo [Doss] over to defense. It was the thing we wanted to concentrate on. We didn't get very many offensive transfers. We got Gilbert. We got Peeples. We got Davenport. We just wanted to get this defense solid, especially in our conference where everybody is throwing the ball around and everybody is putting up big numbers. If the defense can come around - and if you watch our recruiting classes, it's heavy heavy defense - I think we have a chance offensively. Do I expect them to make those plays? Well, no. You can never really expect it, but I expect our defense to be good."
On if he is concerned about Montana showing rust after not playing the last two games
"He looked good today. I thought he looked pretty good. If you look at his last couple of games against Monroe and North Texas, he made some throws that he hadn't been making before. I think his arm is a little bit stronger. He looked pretty good to me today."
On managing Powell's passing and if he is thinking about giving him more plays on offense
"As a back-up quarterback, you don't take very many reps the whole time. When you become the starter, and this is going to sound redundant, but the reps are repetitious. You're not just opening the playbook and saying, `You've got to do all of this.' You've just got to do this certain amount. The first week, he had a little bit of nothing. This last week, he had a little bit more and he's getting a little more this week. We've got to continue to bring him along. I think he's doing fine. One of the interceptions definitely wasn't his fault. One of them was. It was just a bad underthrow. He got hit while he was throwing. You see him do some things that a month ago he couldn't do."
On if he talked to the C-USA office about the hit Zach Davis took after recovering a fourth-quarter fumble
"We've sent some stuff in. They've agreed with some stuff and they've disagreed with some stuff. To me, it's just getting clarification on what are we calling. Whatever it is, I just want some consistency about what are we doing and then I can tell our team how to play. It may have been a little bit late. I really didn't see it. I didn't dwell on it. I was more concerned about the injury but he's fine. Zach came in the game after that, so he's fine."
On if the team has more of a target on its back now after winning some games and heading on the road
"What I've sensed from today's practice and seeing them around, they're anxious. They are in here. If this was Miami and we were playing somebody, what they would do was they wouldn't come in. They would be like, `Aw, we got this.' But these guys are more eager. They're more ready to go. Julius Warmsley, you'd swear he was playing a game today with how he's getting ready for this one. I think this is a tremendous opportunity for us and our program, and what these guys are doing is they are trying to prove that we belong here. They may know we're the underdog. I really didn't know. I told them we'd probably be the favorites. But they know they're the underdogs, so now you've got to play with a chip on your shoulder. That's how I think these guys are playing."