Oct. 30, 2012
NEW ORLEANS - With wins in two of his last three games, first-year Green Wave head coach Curtis Johnson was all smiles when he took the podium to address the local media during the Tulane football weekly press conference on Tuesday in the Hall of Fame Room of the James W. Wilson, Jr., Center.
Coming off a 55-45 shoot-out victory over Conference USA foe UAB, Johnson reflected on the state of the Green Wave following the win and looked ahead to this weekend's Homecoming contest against league rival Rice. In the game against the Blazers, senior quarterback Ryan Griffin set a Tulane single-game record with 466 passing yards and freshman cornerback Lorenzo Doss tallied a pair of fourth-quarter interceptions. The pair claimed Louisiana Offensive and Co-Defensive Player of the Week honors, respectively, and Griffin was also named C-USA Offensive Player of the Week for his performance on the field.
In addition, Johnson talked about the ways his defense can improve, the continuing evolvement of his offensive line and how recruiting has gone with three straight solid performances on the gridiron. A complete transcript of Tuesday's press conference is below.
Tulane (2-6, 2-2 C-USA) will kickoff against the Owls (3-6, 1-4 C-USA) on Saturday at 2:30 p.m. in the Mercedes-Benz 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 his defense allowing 45 points to UAB and if he sees a bright spot on that side of the ball
"In the (established) programs of college football, those young guys should be redshirting but they're all playing. I've got three true freshmen starting in the secondary. If I was in the NFL and you say three rookies were starting, I'd throw at all of them all day long. But they've been great. Lorenzo Doss had two picks in this game. These young kids - a lot of freshmen and redshirt-freshmen - are playing. What's happening to our defense is we're starting to get banged up. We're starting to get hurt. In that last game, there was a couple of series where it was one guy after another after another after another. In football, once you begin to get injured in those positions, it gets hard to come back during the season."
On to what he can attribute Tulane's play in the last three games
"It's the quarterback position. The other quarterbacks, and nothing against them ever, but it's just that they weren't ready to play in those games. All of a sudden you've got your fifth-year starter in. He understands protection. He understands how to get you in good plays. He understands everything. It just looks better. When he calls a play, we're not having substitution penalties and stuff like that because he's in command of everything. I don't know if a freshman or a guy who never really started could manage the game like that. I think it's that, plus our offensive line is starting to gel. We got (Orleans) Darkwa back. We're starting to get some guys on offense back. The receivers have been playing good all year. With a little bit of a running game, you're playing well. On the defensive side, we're giving up some points but again we're getting turnovers. You're kind of pleased with where you're headed."
On the reason for the improved play of the offensive line
"The plays are the same. Again, it's the quarterback understanding. He's not running the ball in the down-safety plays. He's running it when he's supposed to. He's throwing it when he's supposed to. The offensive line, when you've got four guys who haven't played ever before, here it is and they're starting to play. They're starting to play together and they're starting to understand the calls. If Ryan (Griffin) IDs the mike (middle linebacker) right and the defense right, then the offensive line knows exactly who to block. Sometimes before, those guys weren't getting IDed right so it looked worse than it actually was. I think they're starting to play together, and then, they're getting a little bit of confidence. I tell them that they've got to get a little swagger about them. They're starting to do that so now we're running the ball better. I like where they're heading. I like the direction."
On how involved he has been in locking down the final fund-raising pieces with the new on-campus stadium
"There's going to be a piece in this naming that you know I had something to do with. Everybody has been great. I've been out on the road, been different places and campaigning for this. It's just what the doctor ordered here at Tulane. I think some other places can get by going somewhere else, but it's like I've always said - I just love for students to get out of bed, bring their parents and have that homecoming (atmosphere). Everybody can come to the game and the support of the community falls in behind us. It's just magnificent for these young men."
On making a bridge between the Saints and Tulane
"Mr. Benson and Mrs. Benson, along with Rita and Mickey (Loomis) - he was at the game, I couldn't believe he stayed the whole game and I know he has better things to do now that he has those twins - Sean (Payton) and everybody over there are really the guys who gave me the confidence and have been helping me with this job. I just feel that they are an integral part of my life and my past. I will have those people with me at all times just because of how important they are to me. I think being here at Tulane, and giving me my first opportunity to coach on the head-coaching level, I just appreciate them and the Bensons and everybody over at the Saints. It's a happy marriage right now between all of us."
On him being able to help open financial doors with the Saints personnel
"I think Mr. Benson, Mickey and all of those guys give to all kind of projects in everything. There are Christmas drives. They're just loving people who love to give and I'm just fortunate to be in there company and for them to help us out over here at Tulane."
On Rice's quarterback Taylor McHargue and his ability to both run and throw the ball
"Defensively, we have to watch our cues and wait for our times to come. If I'm going to sit here and tell you they won't score any points or gain any yards, that would be the best thing in the world but they may. We have to keep him off balance a little bit. He's to them what Ryan Griffin is to us. He's they're guy. He will move the ball. He'll do some things. We've got a couple of wrinkles in and `knock on wood' they'll work out well for us. I think our defense will be up for the challenge and that they'll play well."
On how much credit he gives to his offensive line for sticking with it and continuing to improve
"I would say the offensive line is the heart and soul of the team just because of their character and the adversity that they all went through. I never heard a complaint - not one. They come to practice, they're the first guys on the field and they're ready to play. They have a sense of pride about them. When we get to the places and the heights that we need to get to, they were the first guys to jump in and help change this culture and to make it where we need to be. I can't say enough about the adversity and all that stuff. They're unsung but they are probably the most important part about the change besides the assistant coaches."
On his assistant coaches remaining calm through the 0-5 start
"I have the best group of assistant coaches you could ever be around or you could ever have. All of the guys are experienced and they all kind of know. I'm not saying that with young, youthful or immature coaches you begin to panic, but I never saw a sense of panic out of anyone. I just know that we're together and they've just been doing a fantastic job."
On how tough Ryan Griffin will be to replace next year
"He is the one position that you see without him how we went along and we were fighting uphill. Now, I'm feeling that we're starting to level off and beginning to start downhill. You can't replace him right away in what he can do and what he means to the program. What you have to do is you just kind of cut back, find out who's the next in line, what he can and cannot do, and just work around it. The best thing about whoever the guy will be next year, the pieces around him are very good. He'll have four starters back on the offensive line. The receivers will be back. The tight ends will be back. The running backs will all be back. At least you'll have everybody around him. This year, we hardly had any starters. But you'll have an experience everything else. That's the other thing. If you don't have a quarterback, you'd rather have everything else."
On how hard it was to hold Griffin out in the last two non-conference games based on what he can do
"I think he's a very honest guy and he'll tell me what he can and cannot do. If he said he couldn't do it, he just couldn't do it. I never want to put a young man in a position to play when he doesn't want to or can't or shouldn't be playing. I just felt that I trust him. The decisions were made right. I'm the guy at the helm so criticize me, because it really was my fault. He just couldn't do it. There was nothing that anyone could do. I'll take the criticism for protecting the young man."
On how big a birthday celebration would be after a win
"You're killing me. I'm just getting old. I think my wife has something up her sleeve. I don't know what it is, but it'll be something. She's got a bigger imagination than I do, so it'll be something. It's on the fifth, Monday. I'll be 51."
On the state of Tulane recruiting
"I've been to almost every high school locally that I can and I've been to some in Baton Rouge. Everybody has kind of embraced us with what's going on, what's happened and the adversity. There are some concerns, but I think the coaches are kind of understanding. Everybody has had a season where it wasn't touchdown left and touchdown right. I would say that we are probably received as well as we possibly could be as of right now. The young men right now, it's early on in recruiting. Everybody has commitments and everything, but the reception from the players has been very good. I think just by having a school as academically sound as this one, you can compare this school academically to anyone. Just being in New Orleans, everybody knowing we're getting this stadium going, our affiliations with the guys from the NFL and the Saints, we're starting to play better, and they see that we're not just telling them that freshmen are going to come in and play. Freshmen are actually coming in. Lorenzo Doss made two interceptions this week - big plays for us. They're looking at us and saying, `Wow, this may be a chance.' It reminds me a little bit of Boise where they got their little deal started. That's kind of where we are with it. I'm pleased right now."