University of Alabama Football Coach Mike Shula
LSU Game Week Press Conference
Transcript of Opening Comments and First 5 Questions
November 7, 2006
“We start back to work today with our players. It’s obviously been a tough couple of days for everybody in this building here; tough to swallow the loss knowing we didn’t play as well as we are capable of playing. It’s a tough time and everybody’s down a little bit. We talked to our football team on Sunday and watched the tape together and wanted to make sure that everybody knew exactly where we were, exactly how each guy was playing and how we could play better and what we’ve got to do to correct things. We talked to our football team about this week being a tough week for all of us. It was a loss where we felt like we should have won and if we play well we have that opportunity. But the thing I talked to our team about is, That’s over now. There’s nothing you can do about it. As bad as you feel, as bad as things seem, as bad as everybody seems to feel, you’ve got to move on.’
“We’ve got an incredible opportunity this week. We’ve played 10 games so far. We’ve lost three tough games on the road against some real good football teams. And we lost one at home where we didn’t play like we’re capable of playing. So there’s nothing you can do about that other than bounce back this week. The biggest part of the challenge this week for us, and I think that’ll start today, is making sure everyone is in the right mindset as far as getting their focus on LSU and what we’ve got to get done in this week’s preparation. We’ve had a real good week. Our team has given unbelievable effort during the course of each and every week of practice. It’s unfortunate that it hasn’t paid off like we think it could have. Again, all that can change this week with the way we prepare and go out.
“We’re going to have to be at our best. We haven’t played four quarters of football yet. I think it’s important for our players to do that whether or not they’re fifth year seniors or younger guys and find out how good we are. And that’s what our goal is going to be this week. Going into Baton Rouge, it’s one of the best atmospheres in all of college football, especially on Saturday night. Coach (Les) Miles does a great job with them. They’re coming off a huge win on the road at Tennessee. Their whole team: they are talented offensively. It starts with their quarterback who has made a bunch of plays in all different kinds of varieties: quarterback runs, quarterback scrambles, some deep throws, some underneath throws. They’ve got real good talent at the wide receiver position. They ran the ball probably as well as anybody ever has lately against Tennessee last week, and they won it with the game on the line. Defensively, they’re always very, very athletic and physical. They’ve got good speed in the secondary, and special teams are very solid.
“So we’ve just got to get ourselves ready. And, like I said, the main thing is going to be the right mindset. I think a lot of times it’s easy to tend to think that you’re not a good football team. Even though our best game is still out there, we’ve played one game where we felt like we should have played better. That doesn’t necessarily make us a bad football team, so that’s where our mindset has got to be. Again, I think our kids did a great job on Sunday and now it’s time to go to work, starting today, and have three of four real good days of preparation and get ourselves ready for our road trip to Baton Rouge.”
Coach Shula, from a personnel standpoint, is LSU as good as you’ve seen or faced so far?
“Yeah, probably the best in the conference so far. Tennessee was very, very talented. I know we’ll be facing Auburn next week and they are going to be real talented, but, overall, they’ve got good size and speed and that’s really with their offensive and defensive line. They’re very athletic. Their receivers are exceptional. JaMarcus Russell is playing at a high level, and I say that because, even though I think he had three interceptions last week, he kept his poise, game on the line, came down and made some huge plays and obviously the game-winner at the end. And that’s about as good as it gets for a quarterback, when you can do that when the game is on the road, and, especially after having some turnovers early in the game. And then defensively, they’re real good in the secondary, too. Besides their defensive line, they’re real good in the secondary and they’ve got some good, young linebackers.”
In situations like this, people talk about coaches losing their teams. How do you prevent that from happening, and how do you feel about suggestions that you already have lost your team?
“You look at your players and the way they prepare. You talk to them about it. You know, our guys have prepared as well as they (could) last week and came in Sunday night, even then; we all were down, went out there and had a nice short work out, as well as they’ve had since we’ve been here. And they’ve played hard. We look hard; each and every week we look hard on effort things. That’s one way you could talk about your team not playing as hard and not playing like they should play. That hasn’t been our case. Talked a lot about our coaches; our coaches have a great feel with their individual positions on guys. If there are some things that come up during some tough times, we communicate that whether or not it’s with me, with certain players, with our coaches. I lean a lot on our trainer and our strength coach because those guys are around those guys even more than we are during the course of treatments, during the course of their lifting times and things like that. Our guys play hard. They play their hearts out each and every week. They did that last week. We came up short. It was frustrating for everybody. But these guys are going to come out and give their best. They know they have to this week to go in there to Baton Rouge.”
Last year at this time you were 9-0 and you’re in the national championship race. This year things are different. What kind of goals do you think are still on the table for your team when you talk to them? What do you talk about?
“Like they are each and every week: win. Winning cures a lot. The opportunity to go to Baton Rouge and play one of the better teams in the country, who’s real hot right now, on national TV--those are all things that we talk about to our kids about motivating them and, if you want to call them goals, goals. Each and every week, we have always talked about it being like a one week season. You’ve got to block everything from last week that’s happened, and you’ve got to forget about anything that’s going to happen in the future. And, again, our kids have done that. They’ve been through some trying times, now is probably more so than ever, but the one thing they’ve done is they haven’t let things bother them, and that’s tough to do. And I’m proud of our guys for that way. Now we’ve got to go out there and practice hard and play hard and go make some plays on Saturday night.”
How do you scheme for a guy like JaMarcus; obviously a big quarterback, strong arm, really tough to bring down? What kind of things can you guys do against a player that’s really different than a lot of other players in college football?
“What, a quarterback that’s bigger than just about all your defensive linemen you mean? Probably going to be hard to tackle him too high. If you tackle him too high, he might run you over. So you’ve got to hit him about right at waste high and try to hold on for dear life. He’s made a lot of plays, more so than in years past. They’ve designed a couple of plays for him to run the football. I don’t think I’ve seen that as much in years past. He’s playing, if you can believe this or not, at the quarterback position, in my opinion, more physical than he’s ever played before. He takes hits and just keeps going. That was obvious when you watched the tape against Tennessee. He stands in the pocket, waits for the last second, kind of wards off blockers. What we’ve got to do, obviously to get pressure on himevery quarterback is much better without pressure than he is withwe hit him a few times the last couple of years. We’ve got to keep trying to get to him and force him to throw the ball before he wants to throw it and not let him out of the pocket, and when we have a chance to get him down, get him down. And then for our secondary, we’ve got to cover and cover hard; be disciplined because they do a lot. They’ll throw the ball down the field. And they also throw a lot of those quick screens underneath so we’re going to have to react real quickly. They’re going to make some plays. You can’t panic. You’ve just got to keep playing and keep playing and keep playing and play through it.”
I think it’s fair to say some of your guys’ best games have come on the road in losses; anything you can take from those games to use to finish this one?
“Yes. And that’s a good question. Especially with a young offense and a young quarterback I think you go back to some of the experiences. We’ve probably played in three of the loudest stadiums in the country and we’ve been in position to win all three of those games. We just haven’t finished those. I think it’s important to talk again this week about that. We’ve started fast in those games; I think in all three of those games; and just haven’t quite finished. The one thing we’ll continue to talk about is, Hey, it’s going to be four-quarter-game. Work hard to make things go your way. If they don’t, hey, keep your poise, just like you did in this game. Just like you did in that game, and go on there. And then go believe that you’re going to make the play and help this team win the football game.”