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Transcript from Tulane Football's Weekly Press Conference

TULANEGREENWAVE.COM Tulane football head coach Curtis Johnson discusses his team's win over UTEP, as well as the upcoming opponent in Rice
TULANEGREENWAVE.COM
Tulane football head coach Curtis Johnson discusses his team's win over UTEP, as well as the upcoming opponent in Rice
TULANEGREENWAVE.COM

Nov. 26, 2013

NEW ORLEANS - Following a convincing 45-3 win last week against UTEP in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, 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.

Moving to 7-4 overall record with a record of 5-2 in Conference USA, the Green Wave is guaranteed a spot in a bowl game this year, per C-USA rules. This weekend, Tulane travels to Houston to play Rice on Saturday, Nov. 30.

Kickoff for the Tulane/Rice contest is slated for at 2 p.m. (CDT) at Rice 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 streaming will also be available on-line at www.TulaneGreenWave.com to paid members of the All-Access. The game will also be televised nationally on Fox College Sports.

The contest against the Owls is the last regular season game of the 2013 campaign for the Green Wave. It also marks the third straight game against a Texas school, as Tulane defeated UTEP last weekend and lost to UTSA two weeks prior to their win against the Miners, and the Rice game will mark the Wave's final contest as a C-USA member. Tulane will move to the American Athletic Conference on July 1, 2014.

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

Opening statement...
"This is Thanksgiving Week, so we have to be thankful. I thought last week's game (against UTEP) was outstanding-- offensively, defensively and on special teams. I'd like to really thank my team and my staff, especially the assistant coaches. After two weeks of losing, they got together and did a fantastic job with the game plan and how we played. They prepared well and our guys played well."

On any unit making dramatic improvements from recent weeks...
"The one thing you do in coaching is you go to practice every day and you want to address some things. We began to address our things up to two weeks ago right after the game. We continued (to address them). The false starts were one of the things, and the penalties were one of the mental (mistakes). We had minimal mental (mistakes) last week. The running game was outstanding. I thought we threw the ball better than we have done in the past month. Defensively, those guys played like you would expect them to play. And one of the things is that we played everybody. We played everybody we could possibly play. They played substantial plays. It was a good feeling. It was a good way to leave the (Mercedes-Benz) Superdome."

On Rice's program...
"I think Rice is a good program. They went to a bowl game last year and won the game. You look at those programs like that, the academic programs. I think all programs are academic, but similar private schools (like Rice) they've been in this league, and they understand the league. They've done a phenomenal job of getting their players in and getting them ready to play."

On the message to his team regarding potentially making it to the C-USA Championship...
"The bottom line is we just have to win. No matter what happens, we just have to win. We are going to approach it like any other game. Even though there is definitely something on the line, you want to look at yourself at the end of the year and have a good taste in your mouth. If we win this game, at least we are tied for a (division) championship. This one is for all of the marbles. We have to win this game."

On communicating the scenarios to the team...
"With this group of guys, a vast majority of them are young or haven't been in this position before. We just have to keep (the preparation) as much as the same (as we can). We have to have normal days and normal practices. We have to work on the things we have to work on and worry about the big picture at the end of this whole thing. The big picture is we have to get up tomorrow and go practice."

On whether he thought playing for a conference title was a realistic expectation prior to the season...
"As coaches, we all have high aspirations and high goals. I don't know if I would have said that we have a chance during the last week of the season to play for a conference championship. There were so many variables at the beginning of the season that we didn't know about. We didn't know about our offensive line. We didn't know who the quarterback was. We had some good backs. (Running back Orleans) Darkwa was coming back. We had a lot of guys coming back from injuries. If I would have said we would be here, that's not true. But our guys have played so well throughout the season, that I felt that I wanted them to have some type of reward. It feels good to be in this position, but the job is not done."

On being able to stop the run against Rice...
"I'll say two things about Rice. They have a plethora of backs. Those backs are good. Big backs, fast backs, scat backs. They are all good. Their offensive line is a very physical bunch. I would say that is the strongest unit on their football team. But, the quarterback is what makes their offense go. He is phenomenal. We have to stop the running game by stopping the quarterback. If we can make this team one-dimensional, I just think we'll have a good shot at winning that game."

On the team's offensive struggles prior to the UTEP game...
"I don't think UTEP was the strongest opponent. They had a bunch of injuries. But I'll say this: I think Nick has gotten stronger from his injuries. He has gotten better and better each week. He had the week off before, and now he looks even better. He looked real good today. That helps. Our backs are healthy. Darkwa looks like he has a little pep in his step. (Rob) Kelley looks good again. I think those backs are running the ball well. Our offensive line has started to play well because of the continuity. We are getting healthier at the right time."

On Nick Montana's practice today...
"I thought it went well. A lot of our guys are very eager to play this football game because a lot of our seniors haven't ever been in this position. We are usually talking about eating turkey and then going home and packing our bags. But now, we really have something to play for. I thought the seniors did a great job leading us. I thought Nick threw the ball probably as best as he has since he has been here. Devin (Powell) threw the ball well also. Rice will pose some problems, but if they continue to throw the ball like we did today, we have a good shot at winning this game."

On Jeremy Peeples...
"We probably won't get him back until the bowl game."

On other injuries...
"(Center) Zach Morgan didn't practice today. (Defensive tackle Chris) Davenport did a little today. The receivers were good, the backs were good. Of course, Lazedrick (Thompson) is out for the year. (Tight end Matt) Marfisi is back."

On any special plans for Thanksgiving...
"My wife better have a lot of food because I think (the players) are just going to bum-rush my house. We are going to practice early, and we are going to have some of the guys who don't have anywhere to go come by some of the coaches' houses. We want to feed them a good meal. We are going to practice them hard early. We are moving practice up an hour. But then we are going to feed them, also."

On the difference Chris Davenport has made this year on the defensive line...
"A huge, huge difference. He is massive. He is big. He pushes these centers back every play. If you watch him, he's always in the backfield. He and Julius (Warmsley) have caused so much havoc. They have opened it up for our linebackers and our guys in the secondary. The way Chris and Julius have been playing, they are really the anchors to our defense."

On a preparing during this holiday week...
"Our biggest thing was to convince (New Orleans Saints head coach) Sean (Payton) to let us practice this morning because they are practicing today as well. He didn't let us practice outside in the rain. That was the biggest thing, thus far. But you are right, this is a week of distractions. Whoever has the least amount of distractions, I think they'll win the game. Sometimes, getting away on the road is sometimes better than playing at home. You don't have the home distractions, or the distractions of tickets or this, or this, or this. We are at a site all together at once. The trick is to get them in, get them to focus and get them to do what they are supposed to do."

On the difficulty of getting road wins...
"It's hard to get a road win in any fashion. When Sean (Payton) was our guest-speaker last week, we were talking about how it was hard for them to get a win in Atlanta. It's just hard in any league to win on the road. If you can do that, I think that is what separates you from the pack. What I mean by that is the first thing you do to turn a program around is to win at home. That's the number one thing you have to take care of. You have to take care of your turf. Then, if you can go other places against good teams and get wins on the road and that's when you can say that you're beginning to turn the corner. This will be a tough opponent for us. This will be a hard game for us. But, if we practice well tomorrow and on Thursday, I think we'll be up for the challenge."

On Sean Payton speaking to the team last week...
"We have a guest speaker every Friday night. We've had bankers, doctors, real estate agents. It was his turn. We lost two games, and he was very inspirational. He said he has followed us from afar, and he said this team reminds him of the 2006 (Saints) team. He went on to say, `You guys are making a tradition.' He put on the movie Troy and said, `Make them remember your name.'"

On his communication with Sean Payton...
"Our communication will never stop. I was on him for the Pop Warner team that he coached last year."

On a potential LSU-Tulane game in the future...
"We are interested in playing whoever we can possibly play. I think right now LSU is one of the top teams in the country. I don't know if we are quite there yet. They are a phenomenal football team. We would like to play them down the road. We need to get some stuff going. Right now, I like going into a new league. Going into a new conference, it's hard to say that I'd like to play anybody right now. I'd like to get to know about our new league. Right now we have to focus on Rice, the bowl game and then next year."

On having an opportunity to play the final game of the season at home with the opening of Yulman Stadium next year...
"In the back of your mind, you would always like to play a game like this in front of your home fans. Unfortunately, for years, we haven't been able to do that. When you play at your own stadium, you play whoever you want, whenever you want at whatever time you want. I'd love to be playing this game next year in our new stadium."

On Edward Williams...
"He was just (medically) released last week. He is just starting to run around again."

On the quarterback plan...
"What we want to do is keep Devin (Powell) fresh. The third series of every game, we will put Devin in to make sure he is ready and alert. Montana is getting healthier, but he is not 100 percent yet."