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Coach Mike Shula Press Conference: Arkansas Game


Tuesday, September 23, 2003

Coach Mike Shula
Coach Mike Shula

Arkansas Game Press Conference
Opening Comments & First Five Questions Transcript


"Everybody is looking forward to getting back on track this week with practice starting today, and also getting back into the SEC against Arkansas. What another challenge as well all know anytime we face teams in the SEC. Arkansas is a team that has a little bit of everything; they've got maybe a lot of everything: size upfront especially on the offensive line. They've got speed on both sides of the ball with their wide receivers, with their back, with their quarterback. Defensively their corners are very fast, good cover corners. And they've got some experience, too. I think that's why they're playing as well as maybe anybody in the country right now. So it's going to be a great challenge for our guys. We've got to have great preparation just like we've had the last few weeks and then go out there and make it pay off on Saturday night. That's what we are going to talk to our players about when they come in today."

Coach, with the bye week not coming until November, most teams use that week to sort of scout themselves and see if they have any tendencies or things they're picking up. Do you guys have time to do that, and, if so, have you found any tendencies?

"Obviously it's not as much time as you would like, especially when you've got to get ready week in and week out for teams like Arkansas. What we do and what we've found is that now, all of a sudden that we've played four games and teams are getting a little better feel for what we're doing in all three phases that teams are making little adjustments. And not it's up to us to make adjustments. And we've got to do a better job obviously than we did last week. And it's not that we aren't going to continue to run some of the things that we're running or we're also going to add things that we feel are good against whoever we're playing. But it's important that you start with the base stuff and be able to coach our guys well enough so they can make adjustments. The defenses are going to make adjustments, too, so things that we're seeing on tape this week all of a sudden might be a little bit different on Saturday. We've got to be able to adjust."

Mike, can you talk a little bit about Matt Jones and the problem he poses?

"What a great athlete. He can do it all. He has a strong arm. He's made some throws-- just in the games that we've watched--down the field and hit some receivers versus tight coverage, press coverage. His best asset is probably when he's got the ball in his hands and is just running.  He's fast. He's big. He can make guys miss on his own just because of his quickness. And then when there is a guy who is trying to tackle him, he does a nice job of stiff-arming and keeping him away from his body so to speak, and he's athletic enough to do that. We've had some other quarterbacks that we've talked about as far as challenging and bringing them down with (Jared) Lorenzen, but this guy, as far as that goes, bringing him down is going to be as tough as we've faced. I can remember when he first started playing watching him on TV, and he just gets better and better. He's playing with a lot more confidence. He can do a lot of things. He can run the option, keep it himself and then create on his own if maybe it's a normal drop back pass where maybe something breaks down and he keeps his eyes down the field. He's always looking for that receiver. A little bit like Lorenzen, he's got a strong arm, too. If he's scrambling or if someone's hanging on him, he's not just going to be able to throw a five or ten yard pass. He can still get it down the field 20 or 25 yards or 40 yards, whatever the case is."

Mike, they're leading the SEC in red zone offense. They're 13 out of 13 with 10 touchdowns. What makes a good red zone team and what do you see with them?

"Number one it's probably because of Matt and the ability to run the football. I think a lot of the teams over the years that have done well in the plus territory have been able to run the football. Now all the sudden you add the dimension of a quarterback being able to run it himself  whether or not it's the option or bootlegs or things like that. That's one of the main reasons. And just staying out of long yardage situations--not losing yards probably. I haven't looked at that on them, but I think those are the things sometimes that if you get into a second or third and long in the plus territory, it's a lot harder to convert."

Mike, how impressed are you with the fact that they can go into hostile environments like Auburn last year, Texas this year and play very well?

"It says a lot about their leadership I think with Houston (Nutt). I think they've taken on some of his characteristics where he does a lot of things with positive mentality and keeps poise---all those words and all those things that it takes to go in and focus on the job at hand and keep out everything else.  I think those are the things that you see on tape. And I think the other thing is because of their experience. Their offensive line is a little bit older. When you play in the SEC and you are there (at Arkansas) you get some great experience after you play a while. So when you get on the road the second or third time, your chances of playing better and relaxing and understanding what you've got to focus on, your chances of winning go up."

Coach, talk about controlling the line of scrimmage against Cedric Cobbs and being able to stop him this weekend. Plus did you see any weaknesses in either side of the line of scrimmage last week?

"As far as with Cedric, I think the whole thing with the line of scrimmage is that we've got to be able to control our gap, so to speak, not give him a lot of space to run through. And that's going to be tough because they've got some big guys, probably the biggest offensive line we'll face all year. They're going to try to knock us around. We're not as big. We're big inside. We're not quite as big on the edge-- our linebackers aren't quite as big--so we're just going to have to be disciplined, control our gaps. And then when we have the chance a play then go make it and swarm the football. But he's explosive as we've seen on tape; at any moment all of a sudden he can go right through the line and next thing you know he's in the end zone.

"As far as weaknesses on our part, I think the main thing is we talked about consistency on both sides of the ball. And we've got to make sure that we don't get pushed back defensively, that we can get more than one guy to the football. And when you do that, one, you've got to make sure you don't give ground and two, you've got to know your gaps, know where your responsibility is and don't leave those too soon. Offensively, I think it's just a matter of focusing in on something we talked about earlier: making a few little adjustments whether or not it's mentally or just technique wise on how we can better execute and do our job consistently."