Nov. 9, 2010
Doc Holliday Press Conference
Marshall (3-6) vs. Memphis (1-8) - 11/13/2010
Opening Statement: Obviously with it being the 40th anniversary of the crash this is a special week. I remember I was in 8th grade in middle school, so I understand the importance of it to the program, I understand the tragedy and I understand the questions on why it happened. I understand the history and how far we came to getting back to winning championships. There are bigger programs in America than what Marshall University is, but there is not a program in America where the football team and the football program means more to the fan base and more to the University and the community and more to school because of what we have gone through. I can assure you that there is not a day that goes by when I wake up as a head football coach at Marshall that I do not take responsibility to get this program back to winning championships. It is important to me, it is important to our staff and it's important to our team. It is a great weekend. Our team understands the importance of the weekend and the coaching staff does too.
Getting back to the UAB game, I think it is two weeks in a row that we executed the plan to win. When you look at what the plan to win means, and I talked a little bit about it last week, and we have talked about it the entire season, it starts with playing great defense. Our defense did a great job against UAB. They were averaging over 400 yards per game and we held them to 318 yards and 17 points.
I think the key stat the last two weeks and the reason we are playing better on defense is because we have been able to stop the run. We held UTEP to 2.4 yards per rush and we held that UAB team to 3.0 yards per rush. Their tailback, prior to the week we played them, had rushed for 169 yards versus Southern Miss and we held him to 45 yards rushing, which was key. The second thing and the most important stat to winning is to eliminate turnovers. They had one and we had one so that was a wash. We have had one turnover in the last two games, and that's critical. The third thing is scoring in the red zone. We were four-out-of-five in the red zone. Two weeks ago we were two-for-two, so that is six of the last seven times we were in the red zone and that helps with our success. Finally, we talked about special teams. I think that every press conference we've had, and it is imperative that the fourth thing you do to be a good football team is win the kicking game, and we were nine-out-of ten. As far as reaching our goal as we are concerned, we dominated the kicking game on Saturday, and that's why the game got to the point that it did. I told you the week before that I was proud of how our kids had overcome adversity. There was a time in the football game on Saturday when there was 10 minutes to go in the game and it was 17-17 and they had just gone down the field to kick a field goal and tie it up. At that point, from the 10 minutes on, we dominated the game and that is attribute to our strength program and what our kids have done in the off-season. It is just another example of how our football team has grown and being able to overcome adversity the last two games.
There was a point earlier in the year when we were up against that one team and 21 to whatever with eight minutes left in the game and we didn't finish. There was a time at Bowling Green when it was 28-28 with about eight or ten minutes to go in the game and we didn't finish. But we dominated in all phases against UAB and that is what we are trying to get to as a team, and to see our team grow in those areas.
The Memphis game this week is not about Memphis, it is about us. The games the last two weeks, the football game has been won on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, and that we prepared from Thursday to Saturday. The same thing has to happen this week. It worries me that everyone is running around telling these guys how good they are and patting them on the back. Everyone is talking about going 3-0 and making a bowl, but if we don't go 1-0 this weekend there is no chance of going 3-0. We have to have a great practice today followed by a great one tomorrow then do a great job on Thursday and then the mental preparation takes place before Saturday.
On the team staying the course and buying in to the system:
There was a time, about a three week span, that I didn't feel we were getting better as a team. I didn't see the progress I wanted. With that being said, I pick up the paper now and I see where Vinny Curry talks about `playing rock solid defense, and competitive excellence and that when my number was called I made the play.' I hear kids talking about the things I have been beating in their heads since I took the job and they are starting to understand the plan to win and starting to understand competitive excellence and starting understand that when you have great practices, you have great games. There is no question that they are starting to breathe. The greatest thing in the world is being able to win a couple football games where you can say `Hey guys, the plan to win actually does work.' Living right and doing the right things and practicing all those things along with preparation and investment in all of the things we have been talking about since day one pays off. I think they are starting to listen. It has taken, unfortunately, a long time for that to happen. Longer than we have anticipated, but I think they are getting it.
On Marshall's special teams:
Our kickoffs have become better. I would like to see our kicker place the ball a little further with a little more hang time, but our hang time on our kickoffs when we did kick it deep against UAB was 3.8 to 4.0 seconds. It is important where he places that ball, which is on the numbers, so that has gotten a little better. Our punt team has been excellent. Our goal on our punt team is to hold the other team to zero return yards and I think UAB was -2 on Saturday. We pinned them down inside the 20 yard line one time. Our kickoff return team, there is another example, when it became 17-17, that Troy Evans catches that ball and sticks it back to about the 40+ yard line, which is huge for field position. Of course, Tyler Warner kicking field goals was great. He stuck that field goal at the end of the first half which was huge. Winning football games is all about field position, changing field position and coming up on the plus side, and the kicking game is the reason for that. Every time you punt the ball you have a chance to change field position. Every time you return a punt, I think there was one great example in that game where I think we were at about the 35 yard line in the second half, it was after Donald Brown's interception, we ended up punting and sticking them down at their own eight yard line. The defense goes in and they go three-and-out. They punt the ball and Troy [Evans] gets a great return and returns it back to about the 28 yard line which gives us great field position. You have a great chance to score when you get that kind of field position. That is what the plan is all about. That is an example of it right there. I know the kicking game has come a long way and I know what we are doing is the right thing. We work out tail off even though at times it doesn't show it. We work our tail off at coaching all these plays and our guys are getting better at it.
On the use of the squib kick against UAB:
I think that can help us, especially if the wind is in our face. I don't have a kicker that can kick it to the goal line or in the end zone, and that squib gives us a good chance, if it is kicked well. Of course you don't want to kick it to the up back and give them position at the 40 yard line, If you can place that ball, there is some indecision there as far as the returners are concerned and I think that the squib at times has helped us because we haven't had a big return against us since we have started doing that.
On Lee Smith:
We really haven't done anything differently offensively. Brain did a nice job and taking what UAB gave us and Lee was there quite a bit. They got the ball to him and did a nice job. There is nobody more deserving than Lee Smith to have a great game. I was happy for him, for sure.
On the Marshall defense stepping up:
We are playing nine freshmen on defense. We are not starting nine freshmen, but there are nine freshmen who are playing a significant amount of time. They are starting to understand the total package that we have in place. I thought at times, and I mentioned that stretch we went through, I wasn't happy with the way we were playing. Not that we weren't playing hard, but we weren't playing with passion. A lot of times we were running just to run. Now I think we are running to make plays. Donald Brown, the juice he brings to that defense and the excitement has been excellent. It is hard for a defense to go play and think, and these guys aren't thinking right now, they are just playing. Coach Rippon and Mike Cassity and that entire defensive staff have done a tremendous job of putting these guys in positions to make plays. Right now they think they are pretty good playing like that.
On the Marshall run game:
It has helped us, everything you have the ability to run the ball. We didn't run the ball real well against UAB. Tron [Martinez] had 17 carriers for about 40 yards but that doesn't bother me. There is still a threat of him sticking the run up in there which opens up some play action and some things that created issues for the opponent down the field. I have said all along, we have to have the threat of running the football and the last two weeks we have run it well, especially against UTEP. UAB's front was pretty solid. No. 43 was an excellent player. With that being said, they still had to honor the fact that we still had the ability to run the football and Tron had another nice day of running it.
On Brain Anderson and establishing confidence early in games:
I think that when we have had success early we have played well. You can go back and look at the entire body of work throughout the season, whenever we have gotten out of the blocks we have taken it down and done well. It is important that we work extremely hard offensively and as a staff to put our kids in early situations where we can have success. Aaron Dobson did a nice job checking that zero coverage blitz and Brain did a good job getting the ball to Aaron. That play kind of ignited things. The first two drives we take it down to score and the third one we should have. We ended up turning it over in the red zone, which is unacceptable, but I thought offensively we played well.
On focusing on no let down vs. Memphis:
Surely we have learned our lesson throughout the year. When we look back at Bowling Green, we got embarrassed. So that being said, it is our job to make sure that we focus on ourselves and not about Memphis. We have to come out there today and have a great practice, and I guarantee we will. We have to make sure the exact same thing happens tomorrow and Thursday and the preparation from Thursday to Saturday continues to take place. The most prepared and most invested team always wins.