Countdown to Kickoff
Coach Franchione Press Conference: Mississippi State Game


Tuesday, November 05, 2002


"Let me start out by mentioning the `Beat Hunger' food drive that we have kicking off for the needy that is non-perishable can goods. I just want to encourage everybody to get involved and we appreciate your help. We want to make that a success.

"In regard to what's ahead for us, this is traditionally a tough stretch going down the home stretch here of conference games. Our football team need to keep our focus and prepare well. We are fortunate the two of the games remaining, conference games in particular, are home games. We're glad that it's that way after being on the road for a couple of weeks though we've played well on the road and our crowds have traveled so well with us and been  such an inspiration. So we certainly recognize that fact but we know we've got to play well here down the end.

"Mississippi State is a team that is talented, have good athletes, very capable when they're hitting on all cylinders, offensively can power run the ball and throw the ball well at times. Defensively they always present some problems with their multiplicity, and they're playing pretty good on defense this year. They're fourth in the league, 23rd in the nation in team defense, so they're doing some nice things on that side as always.

"Offensively they've got good skill players, good young tailbacks. Good speed.  The receivers look to have good speed. It appears their problem has been maybe some inconsistency with the football. They're minus ten in turnover margin for the year, but they can be tough. They can be a difficult team to play and handle. Our players know that and they respect them a great deal and know that they'll have to be ready to play on Saturday."

Do you feel like you've arrived now as a head coach now that you have a bobblehead doll?

(Franchoine lightheartedly begins bobbling his own head as he answers this) "I just feel a little bit numbing, is the only thing I can think of to say right now." 

Do you look at this game as kind of an anniversary? It seems like last year against Mississippi State was when you started to turn the tide, so to speak, especially defensively.

"Yes. I've had a few moments to reflect back last year on this game. We were certainly a team needing a victory and kind of finding ourselves coming off a very tough stretch of football games at that point in time. One of the things that I remember very well is that our players were sticking together, believing in themselves, believing in each other, believing in the system and working hard and keeping a good attitude. Although our record wasn't what they wanted it to be I think they still felt good about where we were going. We had to come from behind and win in the fourth quarter. Win at the end, hold them out and it was certainly, as you look back now, the beginning of the team as we know it today. We've kind of had a tale of two seasons since I've been here and that was probably the first one of the new season."

Two statistical areas I'd like for you to address if you could: red zone offense been good the last few weeks and then cashing in on turnovers. Earlier in the year you really weren't doing that a whole lot. Where do you think the changes have come that have allowed you to do better on those?

"I think red zone is a combination of several things. Just getting a little bit better and being able to power run the football when there's a lot of people in the box and still make yardage. The emergence and strength of the offensive line as we've gotten better. that's probably the biggest thing.  As the season goes on I think you get a better feel for what you can do against some people than maybe you had early a little bit. You don't have as much film and you're guessing a little bit. As for cashing in off turnovers, that's a field position thing and kind of goes hand in hand with the other one, Tom. We've been pretty efficient the last three weeks offensively. We're not hurting ourselves with the negative yardage plays. We're not turning the ball over a lot. We're staying pretty sound, pretty solid. Our bad plays are not plays that kill our drive. It's all those things woven together I think that have led to those areas of improvement."

Not about the game, Fran, but I was thinking about the Michigan State situation with players. I wanted to ask how much responsibility do you as a head coach feel for his players and how much responsibility do players have to conduct themselves and maintain themselves in an appropriate way?

"I think in our world people hold the head coach responsible. As with my children at home I'm responsible. But sometimes some of the mistakes they make, it's not possible to be there to guide them. You hope that you've recruited responsible, accountable guys, that you've led them in the right direction; you've helped them to understand how to make positive choices. You know that they are going to make mistakes. I think today sometimes society has trouble understanding that an athlete makes a mistake. They do. They make mistakes. They're really just a piece of society and a reflection of what society is today and our culture, and they are going to make mistakes. They're held to a very high standard, and that's okay. But sometimes I don't think we're as understanding of what we need to do to help these young people and what our true mission is as a football coach. It's awfully easy when somebody makes a mistake--`let's hang them at sunrise or tar and feather them and kick them out'---and do this and do that. I don't think that's what we're about. I think what we're about is developing young people and helping them go where they can't take themselves. Their parents and themselves, there's no doubt they have to have some responsibility, but we have responsibility, too, and we need to take that and accept that and we need to help these young men grow up, make the right decisions best we can."

My question is that by this not being a (live) televised game, how does this affect the flow of the game and the tempo? And can you compare it to when you do have to be televised?

"There's not a lot of difference. We have some radio timeouts during a non-televised game as we did Saturday during the pay-per-view game. Really those are not as long as the TV things so the game really flows a little faster, a little quicker, and I think sometimes as coaches and players we almost appreciate that. Though we do appreciate the opportunity to play on television--I don't want to sound that we don't. But sometimes there seems to be a lot of TV games and a three hour game becomes a 3:30 game, and I think as players and coaches sometimes we appreciate when it's not that long between series as there are between segments at times."