Oct. 7, 2008
“The last game (27-0 win vs. Duke), I was really pleased with the effort of our defense. It was the most complete game we have played. We had a few mistakes and there were some mental errors, but the bottom line is anytime you can shut someone out this day and age, it is a real feat. When we got them (the defense) off the field, we talked to them a lot about third downs and they really took it to heart. I think through three quarters we only played 30 snaps on defense. You have to give the whole team credit for that.
“It was frustrating to only have three points at halftime. We turned it over inside the 10-yard line, and we were going down in the red zone not executing things the way we needed to or we got a penalty to set ourselves back. We just couldn’t seem to finish a drive in the first half. To give the kids some credit, we came back in the second half and put some points on the board and we played a little better. I think Duke is an improved football team. They played hard the whole game, ran the ball (well). I think Coach Cutcliffe has done a very nice job.
“Now, we are back getting ready for Gardner-Webb. Our big focus this week is Georgia Tech. We want to make sure that Georgia Tech gets better and improves. It’s like I told the guys on Monday: Gardner-Webb will have some good players, everybody does. The first thing that jumps out at me when I look at stats is I think they are number three in their division in rushing defense, giving up about 40 yards a game. No matter where you play, that is pretty impressive. Maybe only one team has gained 300 yards total offense on them. Defensively, they have put up some pretty good numbers. Offensively, their quarterback has been very accurate. I think he is completing over 60 percent of his throws. They have a wide receiver who is the conference champion in hurdles in track. He is a kid from here, maybe Stone Mountain, and I’m sure he is excited to come down here and play. They will be ready to play. It will be a big-time atmosphere for them. We have to make sure we take care of business. It is not going to be a walk in the park. A year ago Mississippi State won, 31-16, but the game was really close up until the fourth quarter. They are going to come down here to play and try to win the game.”
What kind of impact is the defensive line having on the game?
“I think the biggest impact is not allowing the other team to run the ball. The key to the game last week was Duke couldn’t run the ball. If you can get a team to the point where they can’t run it, then you can do a lot of different things to help out on pass defense. We are able to get some pressure with four guys. We do not have to blitz all the time; that is a positive. It probably changes your mindset a little bit from a play-calling standpoint. Duke actually chipped more on the ends this week than I had seen them all year. They had to change up some of the things they did because of those guys.”
“I do not know if you ever really know what to count on with the freshmen class. I knew the group we were bringing in was a good group. As soon as they got into camp, you could see that some of those guys were probably better than some of the guys already here. We have some other guys that could be playing, but quite honestly, unless we have to use them then I’d rather sit them. They are going to be much better players four years from now. Our hand gets forced at some positions, but my take on it is that if you are a freshman and you are better than the guy in front of you, then you are going to play.
“We are probably going to have another freshman (beginning) this week. I hate to do it but it looks like we are probably going to start playing Marcus Wright — just from a depth standpoint. We really don’t have a choice. Lucas Cox is going to have to be a guy who plays a lot of B-back until we get Quincy Kelly back. Embry Peeples is hobbling a little bit and we don’t know what his status for the game is. Bottom line is we are going to need another guy to play. I talked to Marcus [Wright] and he was excited about wanting to play so we will see if we can get him up to speed. We still have seven games left.”
Your players don’t seem to do much trash-talking or over-celebration. Is that a focus for your staff?
“I would say that it is a focus for our staff. I think it reflects the type of players we have, too. It hasn’t been a big deal and we haven’t had to get on a bunch of guys for it. I think our guys have been good. I tell them all the time that when you score a touchdown, run over and hand the official the ball. Act like you have been there and like you’ve scored before. Don’t act like it’s the first one you have scored in your life and it is the only one you are ever going to score. I think that reflects more on the players than it does the coaches. The kids have bought into the fact that it’s not all about `me’ — it’s about the team.”
How would you characterize special teams?
“It’s not very good right now. We talked about that in meetings Monday. We can change some personnel and the way we go about some things. We haven’t done a very good job coaching in my opinion. We haven’t done a very good job of execution, so right now I would say that it is unacceptable. Other than the kick-off team, the rest of the (special teams) is fairly atrocious.”
Is your play calling spontaneous? Have you always gone without a playbook on the field?
“I’ve done it all the time as an offensive coordinator. I just try to watch the game and see how they are playing. I know our system enough to know what should work the way you are playing. You could do that all week by writing it down and charting it, but if they don’t play the way you thought they were, then what good is that sheet? It is just as easy for me to look out there. Going into Saturday’s game, did I have an idea of how they [Duke] were going to play? Yes. I watched a lot of tape and we talked about it as a staff. We had a game plan.
“There is usually something in our system that we can do. We don’t go into the game thinking we are going to throw Bay-Bay [Demaryius Thomas] the ball all this time. Once we saw how they lined up, and that they were really committed to stopping the option, we knew it was one-on-one and tried to see if the corner could cover.
“From a play-calling standpoint, if it’s working, you are going to have to show me you can stop it. We are not going to stop running the play because we already ran it twice. We don’t mark through that one and say, `We did that one.’ If we get 10 yards, then it’s coming at you again, and again and again. Sometimes they work and sometimes they don’t. It’s like I always said: `Physical superiority cancels all theories.’ And there are times it is a cat-and-mouse game and the other side is doing the same thing.