Oct. 29, 2013
Press Conference Video
Game Notes vs. Southern Miss
"Captains this week on defense will be defensive back Monterius Lovett and linebacker Evan McKelvey. McKelvey is a guy that has played very well for us and this will be his first shot at being a captain. Lovett has been a captain for us before. On offense we have offensive lineman Chris Jasperse who has been a captain multiple times. Offensive lineman Alex Schooler will be the other captain and this is his first time as a captain. Those are our captains. We have a Southern Miss team coming in here this weekend. I can assure you our kids are glad to be playing back at home in front of the home crowd. When you look at the Southern Miss team, you see a guy by the name of Khyri Thornton (defensive lineman) that started against us two years ago. You will also see a running back in Kendrick Hardy that plays a significant role on that team. You'll see a lot of athletes running around out there and they are a very dangerous team. Southern Miss is similar to Florida Atlantic because they have a prime location to attract very good athletes. They are a team that we have to be well prepared for. We have to go back to work this week and have a great week of practice today and tomorrow to get ready to go."
On Rakeem Cato understanding the talent Southern Miss has:
"Cato at the quarterback position has learned to prepare. That's what good quarterbacks do. They understand and can see talent. There's no doubt that Southern Miss is a talented bunch and again where they are located there is a junior college in Mississippi that is second to none. They have a lot of players running around there. They have Texas close by and other places that they can go get players. (Khyri) Thornton, number 98, is a nose guard that can play three technique, plays the shade and will play in the NFL next year. He's an excellent player. Our guys are smart enough to understand that if they don't prepare very well and come ready to play then they will get beat."
On the talent of Southern Miss despite its record:
"It's like anything else...you have to execute at times. They will play extremely well at times and then have a turnover here and there that gets them off their game. You have to take a look at the schedule they've had to play as well. Their first three of their first four games were at Nebraska, at Arkansas and at Boise State. With first-year head coach Todd Monken going in there after losing 12 straight games the year before, I'm sure he wasn't real excited to take a look at that schedule. It's hard to boost the confidence following that, but they have tremendous talent on that team. He's done a great job with them. You can tell about how well they are being coached from watching tape because they play hard every down. They continue to play hard and I expect them to come in here ready to play against us on Saturday."
On the large number of freshmen and sophomores getting a lot of playing time for Southern Miss:
"When you are playing a lot of young kids like that they are going to make mistakes. Freshmen will make freshmen mistakes. I think coach Monken sees the talent in those young kids and that's why they are seeing a lot of playing time. They will get better and they will keep coaching them. You have to give credit to coach Monken and his staff because he has them continuing to play hard. You watch the film and you'll see they are excited on the sideline jumping up and down and they are excited on the field. I'm sure they'll be the same when they get here on Saturday."
On MU running back Kevin Grooms complementing fellow running back Essray Taliferro:
"I talked to Grooms last night on my way home and one thing I told him was that probably the best game he played last year was against Southern Miss. Of course he played very well against Rice as well. To me, Grooms is still not Grooms with the explosiveness and what he can do. He is getting closer. I mentioned to him last night that it's about time that he starts looking like Grooms. Hopefully this will be a great week for that to happen. He's still not to where he was a year ago, but hopefully this week he will be closer."
On the performance of running back Taliaferro this season:
"He's been important. He is the best guy we have for protection. He's done a terrific job with the protection of Cato and that's one of the reasons that he is playing more than the rest of them. A year ago, he wasn't to where he is now, but he has worked hard to get there. He's done a great job with the younger guys on the team and he's been a captain for us multiple times. He's become a really good player for us."
On Taliaferro's biggest improvement:
"He's made the decision to work really hard, to live right, make good decisions and be a good player. It's helped him. Especially with the way he has handled himself off the field. He's done a great job with that."
On getting the full focus on Southern Miss and off of last week's loss to Middle Tennessee:
"Honestly, I'd be really disappointed if they weren't really hurt by that loss. We would have a lot more problems if they weren't hurt. We're not where we want to be and it is unacceptable to lose a game like that, but effort has never been a problem this year. These kids play extremely hard and it's important to them. Execution has been a problem at times for us, but not effort or the caring part of it. These guys will be fine with the way they showed up Sunday and the way they were all hanging around here even when they didn't have to yesterday and the way they approach practice today. They'll be fine. I'm not concerned about this team going out and playing because they've done that all year and that will also be the case on Saturday too."
On coming back and playing at home following the loss:
"There's always a comfort factor when you're at home. These kids enjoy coming home and playing in front of the fans. There's no doubt that there is an advantage playing here (Huntington)."
On freshmen receiver Justin Hunt's size possibly opening up some rushing and blocking on the outside:
"Yes, I think so. I think they all block pretty well. He's a big, physical kid and he's going to be a really good player. He was a state hurdle champion in the state of Tennessee. He'll be an excellent player. He's a young freshman that is still getting his feet wet, but he will be really good. I'd like to see him come along a little quicker than he has, but he will continue to get better, that is for sure."
On starting the game quicker on offense and limiting the three-and-outs:
"We have to execute better offensively. If we make a couple of plays that we should have made, then we go into that half up 21-to-14 instead of 21-to-21 and they don't get the ball back on that last drive of the first half. Offensively, in that first half, we needed to execute better. We have to make plays. We have to throw it better, catch it better, run it better, block better and come out of the blocks executing better than we did. We didn't do a good enough job at getting that done as we need to. We went into that game thinking tempo to be honest. We play better when we go fast. The second half we were able to develop some better tempo because we were getting first downs. You can't be a tempo offense getting three-and-outs. You have to move that chains and once you get that first down you feel like you get rolling a bit. In the second half, we were able to do that. We have to make sure to get that done in the first half of the game this week."
On taking the loss at Middle Tennessee and using it for motivation:
"They better. It's like we're in the playoffs now. When you get into conference play, every game is a championship game. You have to go into every one of them and win it. East Carolina has a loss, we have a loss and Middle Tennessee has a couple, but we can't look beyond. They understand that. If we do anything but focus on Southern Miss, then the rest of it isn't going to matter. We have to find a way to win this game against Southern Miss and then we'll look at who we have down the road. If we look further than that and are not focused on Southern Miss, then we'll be sitting here next week having a conversation about no longer controlling our own destiny. Right now we do. We have to make sure that we continue to."
On getting back to the up-tempo style:
"We have to be able to do that, but also, if there's a point in that game where you need to slow it down, we've proven that we can do that as well against a pretty solid team. Hopefully when you get to that point, the game is under control a little bit. You have certain situations as a coach where you want to get the tempo slowed down. I think you get a feel for that during the game."
On having five games in the next 27 days:
"You just can't worry about it. There are a lot of other teams in the league that are facing the same thing. I think the kids have to do a great job at taking care of themselves off the field by eating right, getting the proper rest and all those things. To squeeze that many games in that amount of time means that fatigue could become a factor. It's important that we do a great job of living right and making great decisions so we're ready to roll on Saturdays. I'm not sure I've ever had five games in that span to be honest."
On the adjustments for the punt team:
"We have to make sure we execute better. The problem wasn't anything scheme-wise. That's what frustrates me more than anything else. The bottom line is that I have a sign in the coaches' room that says you have to see what you coach on the film. You have to see what you coached there and, if not, then you've failed. The scheme part of it is fine. It has to be executed by the players. We have to do a better job at setting it up in practice and if I have to block that guy right there, then get him blocked. That's what has to happen and we'll make sure that gets done. The punter has to catch it and punt it. The snapper has to make a great snap. I don't mean to make it simple, but do your job. I don't have a whole lot of slogans, but as coaches and players we need to do our jobs. Whatever that job is, you make sure it gets done in practice so it happens in the game. There is no one that works on the punt team more than we do. My coaches get mad at me because we spend so much time with punting; whether it is with meetings or practice. That's something we do every day and that's something that we have to get corrected because when you get punts blocked, then you get beat. Unfortunately we've shown that this year. That's not the reason we have been beat, but it's one of the reasons. You eliminate those and who knows? We can't let that happen. It's unacceptable."
On coaching responsibility for the punt team:
"We all coach it...Todd Hartley, Adam Fuller and myself. We don't have a special teams coordinator, but we have guys that coach all the different teams. Evidently, we have to do a better job at getting that done because the product that you see out there didn't happen and that is on us. It will be important that we get that fixed."