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Coach Mike Shula Press Conference: Ole Miss Game


Tuesday, September 07, 2004

Coach Mike Shula

Video Clip Watch Press Conference Now!

Transcript of Opening Comments and 1st Five Questions


"This weekend is a big weekend for our football team, opening up in the SEC against one of the better teams in the SEC that we faced last year and we feel like has gotten even better, especially defensively. They've done a real nice job. They had a difficult loss last week but we think they're going to be even more motivated because of that. They're very talented on their whole football team. They're well-coached. It's obvious when you look at all three phases. We've talked to our players about how we won last week, we've got a little confidence but now we've got to improve on the things that we did last weekend if we want to have a chance against Ole Miss. We've got to play better in a lot of areas.

"Going back to Ole Miss, defensively, they are a fast defense, especially up front. They do a lot of movement. They play with a lot of confidence in the secondary. They attack you. They'll blitz you. Special teams wise, they've got two real good kickers, some of the best in the country, their kicker and punter. They coverage well. They led the SEC in kickoff returns last year.

"Offensively, they're going to try to run the ball at us with their big, experienced offensive linemen up front. They've got big receivers that can run, catch the ball. They've got a lot of depth in a lot of positions. So we definitely have our hands full. We've got to have three great practices and just do a much better job in everything that we do this week than we did last week."

Mike, you have mentioned that you want your offensive line to do a better job of protection Brodie (Croyle) than they did in Game One.  Does the (Ole Miss) defense concern you?

"Yes. These guys rush a passer real well. They're fast. They can get on an edge and get to the quarterback in a hurry, plus they like to blitz you. Our protection wasn't good enough last week. It wasn't good enough especially on third down, so we've got to work hard this week first of all to understand what they're going to try to do to us and then just, fundamentally, be better within our own framework, whether or not it's technique or assignments, but we've got to be better. I think the key there, too, is to stay out of third and longs which each week we say that but it's important. When we look at our cutups, you look at usually three or four games worth of other teams that we've taped together and you look at their third and long real. And it's a long--in over three games they've got a lot of plays over in third and long and that's why they're successful on defense."

Most coaches say you want balanced attack.  But seeing the way you guys ran the football this past week, how much does that help the offense for you, I mean, it's one thing, but was that a surprise or did you expect (it) or is that something you wanted to come out and establish?

"We had a lot of question marks going in to last week. And it was just one game. We ran the ball pretty well, especially in the second half. What we look for is balance, yes, but we look for run efficiency where we're not just having one or two long runs---sometimes your run average can be skewed because of that. We're looking for four yards or more on every play. If we feel like we get that, then that opens up our passing game and keeps the defense a little more off-balance. You kind of use both the running game and the passing game to set each other up. And then if we get hot in one area or another then continue to do that.  But we felt like going into last week's game that we had some weapons so to speak with the new receivers and yet they were freshmen. They played well but they haven't played a game in the SEC yet. And we also, with the running backs, felt like we could run the football. And our offensive linemen, I've always felt since I've been here would be a strength, and that would be one of their strengths, running the ball. So, again, just try to keep teams off-balance doing it.

"The one guy we haven't talked about yet is Brodie (Croyle). Those are the kinds of numbers you like to see. But it's going to be a different deal this week."

Coach, last week you probably played the ones longer than you normally would in a 48-17 game. Where you happy with the stamina and the performance of them being out there for four quarters going into a game where they're probably going to have to play four quarters?

"Pretty much. I think more so offensively, especially up front with the offensive line and Brodie. We played them. And one of the reasons was just to get some experience, those first five guys, just working together. Defensively, I thought our coaches did a real nice job mixing in, especially defensive linemen and really pretty much everybody on defense, and we're going to need to continue to do that. The experience definitely helped but we're going to have to be ready, maybe a little more flexible to use some more guys on offense as we go through the season."

A two-part question:  number one, are you happy not to face Eli Manning? And, number two, what kind of things does (Michael) Spurlock do that concern you?

"I think first of all Eli (Manning) is a pretty danged good player. But when you look at their offense, when you really look at their offense and what they did last year--they've only played one game this year--they are big and physical up front. And they want to run the football. With Eli they had an added weapon. Spurlock is just getting his feet underneath him. He's going to be even more motivated this year. He's an added weapon in his own way. It might be different from Eli's style but he's very quick. He's another running back back there so to speak when you talk about guys that can make plays without throwing the football. Now, throwing the football, he's got a strong arm. And he's not afraid to use that. And they do a nice job protecting. So our corners and our defensive backs are going to have to do a nice job covering and we're going to have to try to get as much pressure as we can up front."

Mike, as you think back to last year's game against Ole Miss, was that one of the low points of last season the way they jumped out such a big lead early on?

"Yes, it was tough. It was a tough day for our football team from the get-go. We really didn't do anything we wanted to get done. It's a game of momentum. You go back to last year's game, and they go down and then all of a sudden we feel like we've got a chance to make a play and our receiver slips and they get an interception, and now we're down 10-0. We did nothing to stop their momentum, and they kept riding that wave and kept riding it and it was too little too late by the fourth quarter. And that's what you're going to face each week in the SEC and that's why you've got to be on top of your game. The better you play, meaning, the less mistakes you make, the better chance you have. You say that and you don't want your team to play cautious either. You want your team to play aggressive, to play with a lot of confidence, and I thought we did that and we showed that at times last week. But we're definitely going to have to do that obviously against Ole Miss."