Tuesday, October 15, 2002
"Just let me say a couple of things about the open week. It came at a good time for as we said, halfway point of the season just about. We've got a tough schedule ahead of us, all conference games (with the exception of the last one, Hawaii, being a non-conference game) and all very meaningful games certainly. The rest, the healing, all those things were positive. We came back Sunday and had a very lively practice. I thought we looked a little quicker. Our legs were a little fresher. Going into today we've practiced one time in the last five days, so it's given us an opportunity to get fresh. We did lift weights a couple of days so they have worked on that, but as far as practice we didn't do anything until Sunday.
"But Sunday was good. We need to make the open week work for us and the only way to make that happen is by playing well on Saturday. We're going to have to play well. Ole Miss is a good football team. Nationally ranked, on a roll, playing with a lot of confidence, good offense, great quarterback. The defense is improved and improving every week. It's easy to see. New scheme and a scheme that they are getting more and more confidence in. I think they've had six or seven interceptions the last couple of weeks. They're playing with a lot of energy. They're 5-1. They're ranked up there in the Top 25, and they have a good football team so this will certainly be an interesting game. We're fortunate to have them at our place for Homecoming.
"We're going to have to somehow defend the running game and slow down their quarterback and find a way to move the football on a consistent basis, play solid in the kicking game. That's kind of become the formula week in and week out for these kinds of teams right now.
"Y'all want to know who's going to start at quarterback. Don't know. Okay? Save you that question. How's Tyler (Watts)? Okay. What's Lane Bearden doing? He's practicing. Okay. Those are the ones I know you're going to ask me about, so I took care of those right off the bat so that way you don't have to address those and we can go on to the ones. And if there aren't any other ones, I'll see you guys later." (Please note: This last paragraph is all said in a humorous light)...
Coach, how much of a motivation is last year's result for the team this year?
"Tremendous. That says it all right there. I don't know about them, but I'm fired up."
That was also my question. Is this a game that you circled at the beginning of the season and do you look at last year's tape and talk about that?
"I circled this one on Sunday last year after Saturday's game."
Coach, other than the outcome, what else different would you like to see happen in this Ole Miss game? What else as far as fundamentals would you like to see your team do?
"I hope that the areas that we are able to improve upon, that we do. I hope we can do that some this week. Our kicking game in some areas, there are some areas offensively and defensively. Consistency, those kinds of issues, I hope that we can do that and show improvement each week. The opponents sometimes take certain things away from you and they make you have to do other things well. Hopefully we adjust and adapt to those things that they defend or that they utilize and we get better."
You talked about making the open date work for you. It seemed to have not worked for some other teams recently, namely Tennessee, Arkansas and Auburn. How do you explain teams that have an open date and then they come out so flat?
"That's hard to explain. Probably our worst game last year was after open date. LSU. I think sometimes there is something to be said about the daily regimen for young people. The daily discipline and the preparation, and all of the sudden when you interrupt their schedule, if you're not careful, things don't go like you want them to be. That's the only real thing I can think of. And I think the key as a coach we had about 20 minutes of good-on-good Sunday, and we'll have 20 minutes again today of good-on-good. And making sure you get full speed, fast, good-vs-good repetition, I think has something to do with it. I hope it does. I think it does. And then you've got to come play well right from the get-go. And you've got to get back in that weekly grind and weekly mental (approach) where `Tuesday is this,' `Wednesday is this,' `Thursday is this,' Friday is this,' `we play the game.' Regenerate. We got out of that cycle, and every team has during open week. I think as a coach you can be lulled into, `we're fresher. We've backed off, this is good.' Then all the sudden we're not crisp. I think that's a real juggling act for all of us. And the opponent that you play, being in their rhythm and playing good has something to do with that certainly. It's a fine jugging thing to make sure you accomplish that."
Coach, (Eli) Manning seems to spread the ball around to everybody. Reads defenses well. Because of that and what he's able to do on any given play, talk about the pressures and the difficulties of trying to stop him because on one play you might be able to stop him but the next one you can come out and make a big play.
"You're not going to fool him very much. He understands football. He understands defenses. He knows where the ball needs to go. You're just going to have to execute. He won't let you sack him much. He'll throw it away. He'll move out of the pocket and throw it away. He's not going to put his football team in 2nd and 17, 3rd and 12 very often. And as a result, you're going to have to execute just as well as they execute, and if you don't you're not going to slow him down. You don't go into the game thinking you're going to slow down or stop Eli Manning. You go in there hoping you make one more play than Eli Manning does. I think you have to understand that in all aspects of your football team or you can get frustrated if you don't. He's going to make some plays."