Nov. 15, 2011
NEW ORLEANS -
Tulane University Interim Head Coach
On the positives he saw during the Houston game
"It's hard to imagine that there were positives in as lopsided of a loss as it was, but there were. The defensive line did a nice job of getting pressure on the quarterback and had two sacks on the night and also had numerous pressures on a group that had the fewest sacks in the conference. The offensive line and the people that protected in the game gave up zero sacks in the number of opportunities that we threw the ball. When you look at it and see 73 points, it's hard to imagine that the first quarter was a shutout. That's the first time in a long time that they had been shutout in the first quarter. Then, midway through the second quarter, it's a 14-7 game. Also, offensively, we've been working hard to eliminate turnovers. We had one and it came on the opening drive after a 15-play, seven-minute drive. That was our only turnover in the game. Usually a score that gets out of hand and is as lopsided as that was, there are numerous turnovers in the game."
On the negatives he saw during the Houston game
"Houston has been a big-play offense all year long and they continued that on Thursday night. Their tailback Sims had an incredible first half with his runs and screens. He wound up with 10 carries for 207 yards. We didn't contain him. Their quarterback, we knew he was an outstanding player, had another great night against us. In the second half, their receivers had one big play after another. When you break it down and look at the film, it wasn't a lack of effort on our part. We were in some key one-on-one matchups with them in all three phases - from the punt game, to offense and defense - and we didn't win those one-one-one matchups. Sometimes in the second half, defensively we had two-on-one matchups and credit their receivers and credit their quarterbacks. They went up and made some outstanding plays."
On the similarities between Tulane and Rice athletically and academically
"With the exception of the one great year that Rice had where they had three offensive players who were truly outstanding...we have been. When you look at the recruiting, we recruit a lot of the same players. Houston is a hotbed for us in recruiting and it's their home city, so we recruit a number of the same players. Our academic standards are very much in order there. When you look at the schedules, we usually play them late in the year. The goals for bowl games or postseason play usually haven't been intact for us, and with the exception of their outstanding year, haven't been intact for them. Those are the similarities. We are similar athletically. I call it the mirror effect. When I watch them stretch and us stretch, it's like looking in a mirror. They have similar athletes to us. I'm not basing that on salaries to compare athletic budgets but I think they would be along the same lines."
On the performance of Trent Mackey throughout the 2011 season
"Trent Mackey has brought it every day, whether it be practice or on game day. We've spoken about him a number of times and he's an outstanding competitor. He wants in on every special team. This week, he's wanting to run our goal line package and play fullback for us. He just has a big heart. I know that's an often overused statement in the sports world, but he loves the game and he loves to compete. I compare him to the Rice linebacker who's 5-10. Some of the players chuckled because Trent's not 5-10, but I say I'm going to give him 5-10. But no matter his size, he does bring it in practice every day with the same enthusiasm, the same emotion and the samework ethic, and he brings it every day to the game field."
On the performance of Robert Kelley throughout the 2011 season
"He's a freshman and we've had a large number of kickoff returns this year. He hasn't shied away from it at any time. He's a very tough individual on the football field. He wants the ball. Just like any tailback, he wants more carries and more touches in the receiving game. But every time that kickoff return team goes on the field, he makes it an opportunity for us to score. That's the way he approaches it. He's taken a number of hard licks throughout the season. He had a number of opportunities against Houston on Thursday night, unfortunately, and every time he was the first one in the huddle and was ready to go. Robert's got a bright future ahead of him. With an offseason, w ith a summer conditioning program, his potential hasn't even been touched. Being a true freshman coming out of the high school ranks and doing what he's doing now for us, the sky is the limit for him."
On if it is on the backs of players like Kelley that Tulane can build on
"Certainly. Not only this program, but every program. The kind of caliber that Robert Kelley is, along with some of our other younger players - especially our receiving corps with Justyn Shackleford, Brandon LeBeau and Xavier Rush - those players are getting seasoning as we speak right now. Down the road, they'll make someone else's scouting report before they play them that week as a key player and as someone that they have to stop just like Edwards and Carrier for Houston. I'm not saying that they'll have the stats like them, and not many do, but they'll be impact players for Tulane down the road."
On if the off-the-field distractions have affect the team
"It's the same concerns now. It's you people doing your jobs that help to create those distractions because you want answers. Our young men are no different are no different than their parents or us as a coaching staff. We look to see who's going to be next. We listen to the general public and we listen to people who have an opinion or may have some insight into what is going on. I think things have settled since that first week, obviously it couldn't be as hectic as the first week. But as we go into week five, we have settled in as a coaching staff and as players into a practice routine. As far as the off-the-field circumstances...we have no control over that. That's going to happen and that's going to take place hopefully in two weeks when the season concludes or shortly thereafter. We'll get some more information and get some closure, if you will. The players, the coaches and the families will move forward. We chose this profession. We know the ups, we know the downs, and we'll face that in a couple of weeks."
On the recent performances of Orleans Darkwa
"When you talk about Robert Kelley and you talk about Trent Mackey, he's another one that you can talk about as just a competitor. He loves to compete. When you look at the running back position, you look at Matt Forté and a 40-carry-a game guy you can see what kind of a physical toll this takes on your body. Orleans just keeps going. He took a shot a couple of weeks ago at East Carolina, and I didn't know if he was going to get up. Not only did he get up and shake it off on the sidelines, but a couple of plays later he was trotting back on the field. He is a physically tough individual and a tough-minded individual. He was slowed with a toe injury in preseason camp. As you've seen that heal over the course of the season, we've increased his number of carries. His yards after contact has increased."
On if he foresees himself at Tulane under the next head coach and what advice he would share with the new coach
"Those are great questions, and it's not something that I think at this time is the time or place to address it...not with two games remaining in the season and not from being in a standpoint of leadership with the team. As far as my involvement with Tulane, from the beginning this has been a great place. I've spent five years hear. My wife is very active in the Destrehan community and its certainly a place that I would like to stay at. But again, those situations and those decisions will be in other peoples' hands and other peoples' control. Your questions are good. It's just at this time, I don't think it's the right time to address that."
On what a win at Rice would mean to the team
"A win over Rice, that's what we've worked for. And not just Rice, but the previous weeks that we've been playing. Any time you put in the amount of work and put the time in from the staff and the players, you want to see some benefits. You want to see some gains from that. On the flip side, they have the same number of scholarships on their side and they put the same time and same amount of work in. Saturday's all across the nation, when two teams are competing and playing against each other, both sides feel an urge to win. With everything that has happened this year, with the changes, with the ups, with the downs, with the different emotions, certainly a win Saturday in Houston would be a great thing for the team and the staff. It would be an emotional time for all of us."
On the biggest challenge he faced in taking over the program midway through the year
"From that Tuesday that Rick asked me (to be the interim head coach), the things that went through my mind of having been an interim before - the meeting with the players, the meeting with the coaches, dealing with the academic department, dealing with equipment, dealing with the training room, dealing with matters across campus and dealing with the athletic director and the president - I knew what that entailed. As far as being strenuous and the worst week, it's always the first week. It's a time when change is announced. It's a time when not only players and coaches and everyone in the Tulane family is dealing with that. It was a situation where I knew coming in we had goals in place. We had team goals in place and we were a family. I knew it was a time where we had to hold the team together and went through a series of what I would term Fall Camp, August, team building, just to put it back in to be the family we were before but to reinforce what had happened and become an even closer group. Your question on what was the toughest time? Certainly the first 48-72 hours with the first 24 being the most difficult in being what was going to be said to the players, what was going to be presented to the fan base and to the Tulane public. Those were things that had to be thought through and we were able to present to the team. As coaches, whether you win or lose and there's no moral victories in it, but seeing the team respond, seeing the staff respond, still being competitive, still giving effort and not having major distractions...that you see across the county."
On Cairo Santos being used as a punter
"When we were having some punt issues in protection, we had to change some personnel and we had to change some schemes. One of the things we wanted to do was move the pocket. We didn't reinvent the wheel as the roll punt has been in college football. Cairo is a natural at rolling out of the pocket and punting the football. He did a nice job on Thursday night against Houston and he'll have other opportunities over the last two games. He's back to full speed or very close to it, so we could place kick him if we needed to. Ryan has grown accustomed and has done a good job in that role. If we needed to, Cairo could kick off and he certainly as you saw Thursday night, he can give us an advantage in the punt game."
On how the coaching staff has worked together lately and how they are handling the last two weeks
"The lot of us have been together now for five years. This group is a great group of men. It's become a close group through the good times and not so kind times. You become that. You can't spend 12-14 hours a day and not feel some attachment and get close to your working group. The last two weeks, they're coaching as professionals. We all have a contract and we all signed a contract. We all got into the game to make a difference in a young man's life. I know that sounds different to you, but that's why we chose this profession. In the last two weeks, and not only in the last six weeks but the five years that we've been together and some of us one or two, we'll continue to do that and make a difference in their lives. Whether we're here or whether we go on, which all of us want to stay in the profession and keep working, we'll do that at another program because that's just why we got into it and that's what we do."