Countdown to Kickoff
Coach Mike Shula Press Conference: Western Carolina


Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Coach Mike Shula
Coach Mike Shula

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Transcript of Opening Comments and 1st Five Questions


"We're getting ready for `Week Three.' We've got our guys coming in today. We talked Saturday night after the game on our focus. Our focus has been real good so far this year, and we need to continue that way more so than anything else. When I say our focus, I'm also including our attitude. I think the guys are sensing that a little bit, that it's paying off and some of their hard work has paid off so far. It's early in the year. We've got a lot of young guys who have a lot of room for improvement, and the consistency part with those guys especially is the thing we're going to talk about this week in our preparation. Now we're two games into it. We've got a few more guys who are nicked up, not serious where they're going to miss practice or anything like that, but just enough where it kind of can take your mind  off some of the things that your really need to be concentrating on, which is what we did earlier that helped us win football games.

"In all three areas we've got to continue to improve. I've never played or coached against a football team that two weeks earlier scored 77 points. You watch them on tape, and, offensively, they're a good running football team. They use a lot of the zone schemes, zone concepts running the football. Defensively, they're a little bit like Ole Miss style-wise. They've got good athletes, good team speed on defense. They move around. They're not just going to line up and let you hit them. They're going to move around. Special teams, they've got fast returners. So those are the things we've got to get used to.

"We don't know this bunch and we've got to get used to their personnel. We've got to get used to the way they do things and just have a real good week of practice."

(Regarding the approach of Hurricane Ivan to the Alabama Gulf Coast): Have you been keeping up with the weather and how do you handle that, at least in terms of practice this week and as a distraction? And, also, as a follow-up, I guess you went through Hurricane Andrew. You were in Miami at that time. Would you just talk about that, too, and how it affected the (Miami) Dolphins at that time?

"Right now it looks like we're going to be able to get two good days in, two solid days, hopefully, unless things speed up. So we're just going to concentrate our players on that. Planning ahead, we've got to be flexible. Obviously, we want to play this football game, but if circumstances don't allow us to do that than we've got to be able to be flexible enough to make adjustments. One more thing to make sure our guys are focused in on and concentrating.

"As far as going back to Andrew, at the time we were able to move our opener back, and we obviously had to use that as the bye week and play that game later on in the season during a bye week. The thoughts that I remember, we spent that weekend, the whole organization did (dealing with hurricane victims). In fact a lot of us stayed at the stadium because there were other places that didn't have power. Once it was over, I can remember hauling 60,000 pounds of ice down to a mall in Homestead that had been wiped out. They were delivering all the supplies. Schedule wise, something was new every day. The guys just had to come in and show up. It was going to be a change, but they were good that way.

"It does, it kind of throws you a little bit. You go down there, and we had a ton of guys helping out, and you realize, all of a sudden, it all becomes real. You're sitting there worrying about your job or what's going to happen, the schedule, having to change things, and you go out there and see all these homes that have been ruined and people looking for anything. Again, it keeps everything in perspective. So you just hope and pray that this one, where ever it hits, it hopefully causes minimal damage. It's scary."

Mike, with the best-case scenario on Saturday would be you get out to a big lead and you play a lot of young guys on Saturday?

"Yeah, I knew someone was going to ask a question like that. I'll go back and say this: we won two games last year, two out of three games last year, and we got the same question last against Northern Illinois."

Coach, can you talk about what Brodie (Croyle) has done in game situations after two games this year that maybe he wasn't able to do last year? What he's improved on?

"He's getting the ball out faster, which tells me, just like he's done all fall practice, that he's more comfortable with his decisions, seeing things better. Physically, I think he's in better shape. His arm is stronger. And we've got some receivers who are doing a real good job around him. This past game, he did some good things, but there were some other things where there is still a lot of room for improvement."

How much of a challenge is it for you to get your guys totally at the peak of their game to play a team this small from a school this small? I know whenever you are playing an Auburn or somebody (similar) there's really nothing you have to say to fire them up. But what does it take to get a team focused for a game like this?

"First of all it's a challenge every week I think to make sure you're consistent with your approach. What we're going to talk about to our guys is just what I mentioned earlier: we're playing a team we don't know a lot about; we've related to the guys since we've been here, and you go back to last year--we'd won two games and we were playing a team we didn't know a lot about where we were favored to win. And we got beat. So we've got to make sure that we don't do anything the way we did it last year because obviously it was no where near good enough. And that feeling after that game in the locker room was not a good one. And none of us want to feel that way. And that's what we're going to talk about this week."

Coach, can you tell us a little bit about your impressions of Roman Harper's improvement this year?

"He's been a little bit like Brodie on the offense. He's been very productive for us on the defensive side. He just always seems to be in the right place at the right time. He is emerging more so as a leader than he's ever been. A lot of it's been because he's running the defense. He's making sure the guys are where they need to be, that he's where he needs to be. He's very athletic. He's benefited from a good off season, so he's moving around faster, he's bigger, and he's making plays when his number is called so to speak. He's had the one interception. He had a couple of other chances in the first game, but we've been happy with him and Charlie (Peprah) so far."