Interim head coach Mark Hutson addressed the media during Tulane's weekly football press conference at the James W. Wilson, Jr. Center.
Nov. 1, 2011
NEW ORLEANS -
Tulane University Interim Head Coach
Overall thoughts on the East Carolina game
"It was a great atmosphere there and there were close to 50,000 in attendance. The weather was cool and windy. Overall, I thought the players managed the game well, especially in the closed end of the stadium early. They handled the crowd noise offensively and did a great job with that. The effort and enthusiasm for the second week in a row was there. We knew going in that the East Carolina quarterback was a very talented player and we had to control him in the passing game. He hurt us also in the running game and we'll talk a little bit about that part of it. Ruffin McNeill has done a great job there. They're a solid team. They had a rough first part of the schedule with non-conference. They had a tough loss to Houston, but you could see it on the film - even from the week we played Memphis and watching them - they had been building and they had been improving. He just does a great job with the program along with his staff. I was able to visit with him before the game and talk on some of his experiences at Texas Tech. I just appreciate him in what he did in talking with me there."
On Tulane's special teams effort against the Pirates
"They were sound. I mentioned the effort by the entire team. They gave a great effort. The punt corrections that have plagued us in the past, the team did a nice job with that and the scheme. We were solid there. There was a big play by Jonathan Ginsburgh early. He saw that the opening was there on the right side, pulled it down and ran for a big first down in the game. Derrick Stozier continues to play well for us. He had two big returns in the game. Robert Kelley had a big kickoff return, and our kickoff coverage was the best it's been all year. We'll need that. SMU has an outstanding kickoff return unit and we'll need them to have that same type of game in Dallas."
On the areas on special teams that Tulane needs to improve on
"They had to big returns on us. Their punt returner was all-conference last year. We'll have to make some adjustments in the scheme to get some of our force players so they can go down on that group."
On Tulane's defense effort at East Carolina
"We forced two turnovers in the game. Dominique (Robertson) forced a fumble on a reverse and Trent (Mackey) had a big return to the five-yard line. Darryl Farley's interception in the game, also, was a big play for us. Defensively, we were good on third downs - holding them on five out of 15 for 33 percent, which was one of our highs for the season. Again, we only gave up three explosives of 25 yards or more - two passes and one run. In the red zone, we forced two field goals. That kept us in the game early where the score could have gotten out of hand if we allowed them to go in. In meeting with the defensive staff, they gave the `Best Effort of the Game' (award) to the entire defense. They really ran to the ball, held the cup and kept people in front of them."
On who stood out defensively against the Pirates
"Trent Mackey again had an outstanding game at linebacker - 15 tackles, 115 on the season. He is one of only three players this year to have over 100 tackles and leads the conference. He's third nationally. Dezman (Moses) was the player of the game defensively. In his two years here, he has 12.5 sacks in two seasons. He had 1.5 vs. East Carolina. He played well for us, and Ryan Travis continued to have a solid game."
On Tulane's offensive performance against East Carolina
"Overall, it was a solid first half for us. We were able to run the ball efficiently. Some things we have to improve on we were three-of-three in the red zone with two field goals. Down the stretch with the opponents that we have, certainly with SMU, it's great to get points but we need to turn those into seven points at some point in time. We missed a field goal on the opening drive. We missed a 48-yarder. We had the wind. He had hit it from a considerable distance further than that - he hit some 60-yarders in pregame with the wind - and he pushed it off to the left. It was a 12-play drive. It was an opportunity to get on the board early. Some things we did well, our run efficiency - which was four yards or more - we were 20-of-28 on our runs for 71 percent. First down efficiency, which we look at four yards or more being successful, we were 19-of-26 for 66 percent. Some areas we have to improve down the four-game stretch and this week against SMU are third downs. We were 4-of-15 for 27 percent. In the second half, we didn't execute as well as we needed to. Give East Carolina credit for that. We had two turnovers that stopped drives in the second half. We had three three-and-outs in the second half. And overall, we had four sacks in the game. One sack came as a coverage sack early in the game. Two of the sacks came in the second and third quarters, and then when we were in the two-minute offense one of our drive stoppers was one of the sacks there. We have to improve in protection."
On Tulane's passing game
"Be it protection, be it routes, be it reads, be it throws, something that continues to develop and we will work in practices this week and we'll have to have it during SMU. Again, East Carolina is second in the conference in pass coverage defensively, so we knew it would be a challenge there. In the second half and in the fourth quarter when we were down by two scores, we went into the throwing game and it certainly was a challenge for us."
On Tulane's offensive standouts against the Pirates
"Orleans Darkwa continues with back-to-back games. He had the breath knocked out of him. He had to leave the game but he did return. He's played well for us. Albert Williams, who did not play the week before, was in on 16 snaps. He picked up a big third down for us and ran the ball well. He had over four or five yards a carry in the game. He stepped up and was ready to go when Orleans wasn't able to. Offensive lineman Joey Ray was our offensive lineman of the week."
On the passing game struggling recently
"When the offense is not doing as well as you would expect, the quarterback takes the brunt of that. I talked about sacks and the offensive line gets too much credit and too much blame. So does the quarterback in the offense. Ryan never got into a groove last week. Never found his comfort zone. That's something offensively that we're looking at scheme wise...what can we do to get him involved and get him comfortable in the game."
On the team improving but still losing games and what can be done to change that
"They effort is there and the attitude is, too. The players and the coaching staff are working hard. The results on the scoreboard aren't there. It's still a loss in the game. We have to just continue in what we're doing, continue working, the players giving that effort and the players playing with that attitude. We have to continue to eliminate the mental mistakes. It's been said that mental mistakes lose games. Physical mistakes lose ground. Now, we have to go to the one-on-one physical areas where those players as part of the whole have to dominate their area physically and do their part - whether it be offensive line or defensive line - in each segment and then carry it over into our three team phases."
On if he thought the team would perform better the last two weeks
"Going into the last two weeks, we were confident. We felt that we were going to win the games. We'll continue building this week and preparing, and we'll go into Dallas with that same attitude."
On no longer being bowl eligible and if there will be a letdown from there
"When you start out the season, you look to win a conference championship and a bowl game. As the season goes, we had opportunities to this point to be in a position for a bowl game. That didn't happen. But the players and the coaching staff, we're all in it together. We're all in it for the same reason. The reason these players work out all summer, the reason they go through two-a-days, the reason they go through surgeries and come back...whatever drives them to play the game is what we have to pull from these last four weeks. The same thing in the coaching staff. What motivates them could be family. It could be a scholarship. Whatever the reason that drives them with those goals no longer intact, has to be the driving force for both the staff and the players."
On Griffin not getting much help from his receivers at times
"You continue that in practice. You continue to work on fundamentals and techniques. You look at personnel groups. What is your best personnel group? Is it four wide receivers? Is it three? Is it two? As far as changing the scheme, that happens in the spring. That happens in the fall. Without us having an open date, the terminology won't change. The overall scheme won't change. With Greg (Davis)'s personality, you see a difference in play calling. You see more one-back sets now than you see two-back sets. The players, the terms and the schemes are really what we have so we have to continue developing them. We have to continue to develop each day in practice and then look at the routes and look at the personnel groups and see what give us the chance to be successful on Saturday."
On if there is a thought of playing D.J. Ponder at quarterback
"Ryan is our best quarterback. He's our No. 1 quarterback and as a staff, we feel that he gives us the best opportunity to win. As far as playing D.J., should the role be necessary or should Ryan need relief, to go in and do that is a back-up role. That's still being looked at in the game plan. He is the back-up quarterback and should the need be, he will go into the game."
On what facet he feels needs to be improved the most in the passing game
"Against Memphis, Ryan threw for 300-something yards. This week was different. East Carolina did a nice job of mixing coverages from man to zone. Our receivers have to continue to develop to read those coverages along with Ryan. The receivers aren't alone. We have to give them time and protection - be it offensive line, be it running backs, be it tight ends, be it fullbacks or whoever is in the ballgame. There is no quick fix to this. Like the question that was asked earlier, we will go out today, we'll go out tomorrow and even Thursday with individual drills and seven-on-sevens and we'll continue to build with that. We do a self scout, we do it all year, and we'll look at what's been productive. We'll go back and look this week at why it hasn't been productive and see was it scheme or was it personnel. We'll take that and put that into effect for SMU."
On the SMU offense
"They are very good. With maybe the exception of East Carolina, which we played this past week, SMU is by far the best team we have played to this point. When you talk about them offensively, their scheme - the run and shoot - has been an exciting offense. They haven't been the last two weeks, but overall they have the ability to put a lot of points on the board. They have nine senior starters on offense, five of them on the offensive line. They're a seasoned group. They're a veteran group and they do a nice job of protecting the quarterback. Their wide receivers have as speed as we've seen to this point in the season. They do a nice job of stretching the field and you add that with the protection that the offensive line gives and they're a very explosive offense."
On the Tulane/SMU series changing a bit over the last few years
"They've had success and they've built upon that success. The attitude of the program and the confidence of their players took off. They've just build on that and they followed through in recruiting and it's followed through this year. They've had some big wins. They had an early-season loss to Texas A&M but then they had the big win vs. TCU and the big win vs. Central Florida. They went on a five-game winning streak. They're coming off of two road losses, one at Southern Miss and most recently they had four turnovers in the Tulsa game. It was 17-7 I believe in the second quarter and the fell behind early. They've had some success. June and his staff have done a great job in recruiting and then they've built on that success. Now their players have the confidence that no matter the opponent, they're going to go out with that style of offense. I haven't gotten to the defense yet, but they're just as talented on defense and they're just as talented on special teams."
On if there is a sense of optimism since SMU lost its last two games
"Yes. With them having the two weeks where they haven't performed as well, they have to go back and take a look. They had a five-game win streak. What happened? The Tulsa game was because of turnovers. You look at last year, we take a lead into the fourth quarter against them. With what's happened recently with SMU and the last two losses and how we played last year up until the fourth quarter against them, I think that's certainly something to build on this week with confidence going into Saturday's game."
On SMU's defense
"A lot like East Carolina, they have a three-man front and they're built big. Their defensive ends, one is 6-6 the other one is listed at 6-8. What June has done is they played a lot early. They played as freshmen. They played as sophomores on both sides of the football. Some of these guys, we're asking `Will they ever graduate?' We've seen the same group now over the last two or three years. They have an all-conference performer in Taylor Thompson, the defensive end. The have an all-conference performer in their linebacker, No. 56 (Ja'Gared) Davis. They have an outstanding group and a number of second-team all-conference performers. They pressure the quarterback. They're second in the conference in sacks. You watch the film and third down is really a nightmare vs. them because they're able to get a three-man rush, getting to the quarterback in all the games that we've watched. And then you add the multiple schemes, like East Carolina, that they can run in blitzing their linebackers. They're very sound in the secondary. Their two safeties are among their leading tacklers as you would expect."
On the physical play of SMU as a team
"Most people don't view the run and shoot as a physical offense. They are. Their tailback leads the conference in rushing. Looking at June and having played him not only here but when I was at Tulsa, if you just defend the pass and drop eight people, he'll run the ball. He's done it well this year and throughout the previous years. On defense, they're a very physical unit. They run to the ball. They gang tackle. In looking at them in total defense, they're third in the conference."