Countdown to Kickoff
Coach Mike Shula Press Conference: Tennessee


Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Coach Mike Shula
Coach Mike Shula

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Transcript of Opening Comments and 1st Five Questions

Opening Comments:

"We're heading into the thick part of our schedule with all these SEC games coming up; Tennessee this week. It's the best team we've played so far this year. We've got to do a good job of preparation this week but, the things that we've done well so far this season, we need to continue to do well and be even more focused and build on those things, a lot of the detail things: finishing on plays in all three areas, offensively, defensively, special teams. Guys have taken advantage of opportunities at times that have helped us either create field position, turnovers, make big plays. And then we have to minimize our mistakes. We have not done a good enough job with the penalties. We need to do a much better job. We'll focus on that this week.

"Tennessee, in all three areas, is very talented. They've got good size and speed. They showed a lot of character last week coming from behind. It's going to be our biggest challenge of the year (so far). Our players are looking forward, just like their players are, to this game because you know it's a good football team. It's a team that you can measure up against, so to speak, when the game is said and done."

Mike, as a guy who's spent basically two decades on the other side of the ball attacking defenses, when you look at your defense, what do you see that's making it effective right now?

"We've said all year long there have been a lot of guys just getting to the football, more so than we ever did last year. I think that, plus the fact that we're playing more guys and we've been able to keep guys fresh during the course of the whole game has allowed us to do that. I think their attitude of realizing when they can find a way to get to the ball quicker good things are going to happen. We've had more turnovers because of it. I think there's a little more experience with our defense. This will be our biggest challenge defensively all year. They've got a good running game. They've got good speed. They've got good speed at wide receiver. And, even though their quarterbacks are young, they've got guys that can throw it probably better than what we've seen all year."

Mike, can you talk a little bit more about Erik Ainge and the character that he's played with this year?

"Yes, he's done a nice job just coming in. As we know, it's a monumental task to come in and play as a freshman and play at that position. You know he's got good size. He's got good throwing motion. He's showing to be very accurate at times. He moves around in the pocket and can scramble to make yards doing that way or he can move around the pocket and buy some time for guys to get down field and make plays. Last week was a good example. They lost the lead. He just kind of watched them--you could see his demeanor it didn't faze him at all-- and did a nice job with that touchdown drive to get the lead again."

Coach, you talked about correcting some of the mistakes the guys are making, specifically the holding calls. Is that more of a technique thing or a matter of over-aggression?

"It's both. It really is both. You've got to keep your hands inside and obviously you can't grab. Some of the penalties we've had have been down the field which doesn't make sense to me. If we're making yards then all of the sudden to have your hand outside or grab or hold--to me that's aggression, too. You don't want to take away from that, but you have to be smart. You have to play within the rules."

Mike, how much has this rivalry grown since you were a player?

"I think it was big back then, I think it's big now. Where I learned that the most is last year during the game watching our kids and watching their kids and our fans and their fans. It's two good football teams in the SEC."

You've certainly been effective running the ball even though your quarterback situation has obviously changed some and maybe your passing game. What's been the key, do you think, to your ability to run the ball against those odds so to speak?

"I think our backs, Ray Hudson first, now Ken Darby, have done a great job. Our offensive line has come together each week and has gotten better, has made good adjustments. We've got three seniors up there. Two of them are first time starters at their positions. Even though Evan Mathis is a two or three year starter, it's a new position for him. Danny Martz is a first-time starter at the right guard position. So it was important for us to come together quickly in the spring and then early in training camp. We've got two good backs now, even with Ray out, now with Ken Darby and Tim Castille to come in. It's been a nice fit."