Nov. 3, 2009
Tulane Head Coach Bob Toledo
We're going to talk about LSU real quick. Plain and simple. They're a more experienced football team than we are. They're much more physical than we are. And they're much more athletic than we are. There's a reason why they're a top ten team. They were a very good football team.
Offensively, I thought we did some good things at times. We moved the ball at times. A lot of people asked about Ryan Griffin in his second start. I thought he managed the game well and did some nice things.
Wide receivers - I thought caught the ball very well and made some good plays catching the football.
They are very good on defense. They are really physical on defense. I think we had more yards on them than Auburn had against them. We just struggled in making a lot of plays, a lot of big plays and scoring points, but they're hard to run the football on. Their front seven is really good. And they're hard to protect. They get a great pass-rush, they get every bit of the ball they can and they really put a lot of pressure on you. So, one of the things going into the game...obviously, we wanted to throw some quick passes and we wanted to throw some screens. We moved the pocket; we rolled out a little bit away from the pressure so they didn't know exactly where it was going to be...and we had some success doing some of those things. The one thing we didn't want to do was we didn't want to hold the ball long because we knew they'd sack us and we didn't want to be put in those positions. We tried to get rid of the football. We got sacked twice and we had the one interception and on that (Ryan) Griffin was actually hit as he threw the ball - otherwise, he probably would've completed that pass down to the 5.
We had a couple good drives and they were stopped obviously. We had a bad pitch on the foot play that we called. He kind of pitched it in front of Andre and Andre had a harness on and couldn't reach out for the ball...it was less than a foot away from his hands, but he just couldn't reach out to get it. That put us in a bad position in the red zone again and we ended up missing the field goal - kicked it in the student section way to the left. And then we threw an interception, as I mentioned. Griffin got hit as he threw it and unfortunately had the interception. So, we could've got some points out of the game and that's the real disappointing thing is we had the chance to score some points in the red zone and we didn't.
Kicking game-wise, it was a poor performance again by some of our players. Punt team in particular. We had a punt blocked again. It's our third blocked punt this year. We've gone to that shield spread punt and one of the things we wanted to do...Greg Davis is our kicking coach...he coaches the punters and kickers...we coached the kids all week to try to kick the ball away from Trindon Holliday. Kick to the short side of the field or kick it out of bounds. We wanted to move the shield with them. Well, when we got the first punt, obviously, the shield stayed up front...we moved to the left...we kicked it and the guy blocked the punt. They were actually in a return; they weren't trying to block the punt. The shield did not pay attention to what we were trying to tell them and we kicked the ball and it got blocked. A lot of other times we tried to kick the ball out of bounds and we never really kicked the ball out of bounds. There was one time we were on the right hash and actually kicked it outside the left hash. So, we're not kicking the ball well and we're not covering well...again, against a guy who is a world-class sprinter - he made us look bad in the open field. (Alex) Lauricella did a nice job running him down from behind that one time to stop him from scoring on the punt. But, those things created good field position for them as well.
And again, I hate to belabor the point...but we practiced hard on the kicking game. We meet, we talk, we practice and then we get in the game and we do some things that are just mind boggling to me. But, all we can do is continue to practice and continue to get better - kick the ball better and go from there.
One thing I want to mention is Chinonso Echebelem; he is the leading tackler in the league in conference games. He's really playing well for us. I'm really pleased with him. He's also second in the nation for forced fumbles. He's forced four fumbles already. He made some nice plays the other night - he was all over the play. He's got a pinched nerve in the neck, so he's playing hurt, but really doing a good job.
UTEP, they're 3-5, 2-2 in the league. They beat a good Tulsa team who is now starting to struggle a little bit. They beat a good Houston team that will probably win the Conference. They're capable of some good things. Offensively, I think they're really well balanced. They run the ball well. They throw the ball well. They're scoring points. Trevor Vittatoe has been a starter there for three years now, ever since he was a freshman. He's gotten better - he's does some good things. He's not injured like he was a year ago, so he can hurt you with his legs as well. Donald Buckram, he's got 10 touchdowns and 947 yards. In the last few games he has really played well. He's a really good back. Defensively, they run a 3-5-3. They come and attack you. It's the same defense they ran last year. Osia Lewis became the defensive coordinator there last year - Osia was with us...Dan Dodd and myself at New Mexico. He's running Rocky Long's defense. It creates problems for you. It could be very annoying at times.
Kicking game wise - their punter is averaging over 43 yards a punt. He's a really good punter. They have a really good punt returner and good kick returner. So, their kicking game is good.
This is the last game for 16 of our seniors. We'll honor them prior to the game and their parents, families and friends will be out there and those kind of deals. 8 of those seniors were actually here through Katrina. So, it's the last game for those guys. They've seen this program go through a lot of different things over the last few years.
On if Joey Ray's hand injury is to his snapping hand:
It's his right hand. Yea. It's his right hand and it's broken. It's his snapping hand. We're either going to teach him to snap left-handed or see what he can do. We'll wait and see what kind of movement he has, how painful it is, and those kinds of things.
On if he's surprised that they are struggling with the punting game since they have a returning player who was considered one of the best in the country:
I think that's probably the most discouraging thing...is that we had a guy who was up for the Ray Guy award and for one reason or another he hasn't been able to perform to his potential. Yea, that's a big blow to us.
On if he changed who was making the line calls when Andrew Nierman was unable to play:
No, Joey (Ray) continued to...our center makes that call. He's got to know the fronts and who we go to. But the quarterback always trumps him - he can change the protections to protect himself. So he maybe doesn't have to throw hot or whatever. But Joey Ray did make the calls and he did some good things.
On Tyler Rice being able to make the line calls:
Well, he has played center and he has played guard and tackle. He has a pretty good understanding of what we're doing. There's a reason why you're a starter and there's a reason why you're second and there's a reason why you're third. But, those guys all sit in the same meetings and they all hear the same thing and they all practice pretty much the same thing. So, they should still have an understanding of what's going on.
On why he hasn't switched to the pro formation teams in the NFL use that yields 0 blocked punts:
That's the formation we started the season with. That's the season we used all last year. And what we felt is our snapper is not capable of snapping and blocking. And in that formation you either have to block the guy to your right or left because the person protecting has the other guy. So, he hast to be able to snap and block. And we weren't doing that very well. He was struggling snapping and he was struggling blocking. So, we figured in this formation, all he has to worry about is snapping. And he still has to try to cover punt and tackle, which is still difficult for a guy who is not sued to doing that. But, we started with that formation. We felt that we had a problem inside - we had a punt block - and we weren't having enough coverage down the field. This formation gives you the luxury to get people down there quicker, to use smaller, faster, quicker people up front and if the operation time is good...if you get a good snap and you kick it on two steps, he can get rid of the football if you just protect with that shield that holds the punter. They can't come around and block it. The problem is if you try to change the angle that you're trying to kick to and the shield doesn't move with you - you've got a problem if the guy doesn't come off that edge. If you're a little slow, which, some of our kicks have been a little slow; we like to get it right around 2. We've been getting some kicks that are too slow. The snap is not quick enough; the kick is not quick enough. So, operation time is the key. You don't have to block anybody if you snap it and kick it. You really don't. They can't get back there quick enough. But, the problem is when you don't block people and the balls not back there fast and you don't kick it on time - it can get blocked.
On UTEP's defense being similar to Houston's defense:
Right. We moved the ball well at times on them last year. We did some good things. Dan Dodd and I have a pretty good understanding of that offense - Rocky Long coached with me at UCLA, so I know that defense. I was at New Mexico with him - Osia (Lewis) is running the same defense. Last year we did some good things. We had a chance to beat them last year. We had a ball down to the 3 just before half - it got called back because of holding. Third quarter, we make a run down to the 8 - it gets called back because of holding. We get no points out of that. We're still leading with just a little over a minute to go in that game and they throw a touchdown pass...a 68-yard touchdown or whatever. So, we had a chance to beat them. So, we feel like we've got a pretty good understanding of what they're trying to do. Again, we have to execute and do the right things. But, we'll have a good game plan. But again, we have to execute the plan.
On if he feels like they are opening up another chapter at this point in the season:
Well, what I told the kids yesterday in our meeting is we're putting everything we've had up to this point behind us. We can't do anything about it obviously. But what I told them was people will remember November. And I think that is important...that we finish strong and we show people that we are improving and that we are getting better. The scores, sometimes, aren't indicative to how well we've played. And that sounds crazy, but we've done some good things. But they're overshadowed by the poor things that we've done and by the losses and the scores. My thing to them is we're going to remain positive. We're going to coach hard. We had a good week of practice last week leading up to the game - obviously, we were outmatched in that football game...they mauled us. We just feel that we have to continue and hopefully, with these last four games that we will have a good opportunity to be very competitive with those games.
On staying positive:
I think it is important. I think it is important that we now start having some success. We now stop beating ourselves. We now finish by winning a few games down the stretch here. If we can do that, it will give us a lift going into the off-season - going into recruiting - going into next season. Getting some of these younger guys more playing time and more experience. Getting them bigger, stronger, and more mature and those types of things. So, I think if we can show progress in these last four games then I will be pleased.
On the 16 seniors:
If you look at the 16 guys, I think there are ten or eleven who are starting for us now. It was a good group of players...there are some key people in that group that we'll sorely miss next year. They've been through a lot as a team. As I mentioned, half of those guys went through Katrina. But we're going to miss some key people off of that group, but hopefully, we'll be able to overcome that with what we brought in recruiting-wise and what we're going to bring in this next year. I think we're red shirting about 11 players that are true-freshmen this year and guys that played a year ago that we've red shirted...a couple linemen and so on and so forth.
On his message to the fans/people following the team:
Well I think that the message would be to be a little more patient...just be patient. And I know it's hard. It's very frustrating. It wears on you. I know a lot of people who have given up on us...who have given up on me...who have quit on the program. And I can't do anything about that - hopefully, they will come back when we show them our improvement. But again, I appreciate the loyal people that have kept with us...that have supported us...and know that we're going through some growing pains at this point. It takes a while to build a program...and that's what we're trying to do. We're trying to build a program and the thing that makes it look difficult is the way we've lost football games.
On building a program and playing younger players:
And that's what I've been trying to say. And it's hard because when I try to give an explanation, it's like I'm trying to give excuses and I think you all know me well enough...I'm just being honest with you. I'm telling you what our problems are. And part of the problem is when you play young people - they do make mistakes. They are not as physically mature as some of the guys we've gone against. They are going to get bigger. They are going to get stronger. They are going to get faster. They are going to get more experienced. They are going to perform better as we go along. But, again, we're trying to build it from the ground on up and we've had to overcome a lot to be perfectly honest with you.