Comments from Tuesday's football press conference

Blue Raiders set for season opener on Saturday

August 28, 2007 · MT Media Relations
MT would like to extend a special thank you to Jim 'N Nicks Bar-B-Q for providing the food for today's luncheon.

Captains for this week will be DeMarco McNair on offense, Tavares Jones on defense and Damon Nickson on special teams. All three of these young men have done a great job during camp in those positions.

Your team played very well on the road last season, going 4-0 in conference games. What is the secret to your road success?

"I hope we can carry that road success over to this season. We approach each game like a business trip. When you are home or way you can get so emotional and there is a point where you can get too emotional and when that happens it can affect the way you play. This is a business trip for us. We are not worried about tickets, fans, or anything like that. We are only worried about ourselves and we approach these games in a calm demeanor."

Press Conference
How do you feel about being the underdog in the season opener on the road?

"You have to make somebody the underdog and somebody the favorite. I'm sure this is based on the people we have to replace and the people (Florida Atlantic) has returning, plus it is an away game."

How do you feel about your team coming out of fall camp and where have you made strides?

"Defensively we should be ahead of where we were last year because we do have a lot of those guys back. We have had continuity through camp. Offensively there are still questions we have to get answered. Joe (Craddock) will be making his first start at quarterback. I think he will play well and have an excellent game. We are starting a new tailback. We have had so many injuries up front. It's really a wait-and-see type deal offensively."

Does the fact that the opener is a conference game make it any more significant?

"I think it does. It heightens the awareness of the players during camp. The importance of the first game is magnified because it is a conference game. Their concentration and their attentiveness is so much greater during camp because they understand how important that first game is. You get their attention so much quicker because you are playing a conference game."

Does opening with a conference game bother you?

"Last year (against Florida International) I didn't mind it because we were at home, we had an experienced line, a three-year starter at quarterback, and we had a lot of experience overall. Now we are going on the road and playing a team with experience. We are the inexperienced team going on the road. I'm not saying I wish we didn't have to play a conference game, I'm just saying last year the cards were probably stacked more in our favor with the experience."

What are your thoughts on Florida Atlantic's defensive line?

"I thought Florida Atlantic's defense really dominated our offense last year, especially up front. We couldn't block (Jervonte Jackson) and half of our rushing yards came on two plays. We didn't throw much last year because the game didn't dictate that we do that. We have to play better than we did last year to hang with them."

Talk about your new starter at quarterback, Joe Craddock.

"I've told Joe all preseason that he doesn't have to win the game for us, I just want him to run the show, be a leader, get us in the right player, make the correct reads, protect the ball, and live for another down. If he will manage the game and be a leader then I think his natural ability will allow him and us to have a good game. I have really been pleased with Joe Craddock. He has answered the bell just about every time it has rang."

What are your thoughts on Florida Atlantic quarterback Rusty Smith?

"You would expect him to play better this year with a year under his belt. The big thing for us is doing a better job of stopping their run. They did a good job last year of keeping us off-balance with their running game. If we can get them in long-yardage situations on second and third downs it could help us. He is an excellent quarterback, he throws the ball well and he is surrounded by good people."

DE Tavares Jones What are your thoughts on opening on the road?

"We approach every game the same. I think it's going to be a great match-up and a great game. We have been working really hard and I think we will go out there and play well. Our guys have done a great job. We have had less missed assignments and we have focused on the little things."

What did you learn from last year?

"Last year's senior class showed us what leading is all about and they were good leaders. They molded the whole thing for us. Now it's our turn and we have a feel for the situation as upperclassmen. Hopefully we can give our fans an even better season than last year."

What is the mentality on the road?

"We approach it as any other game. It would be nice to be home but playing on the road is not that big of a difference."

QB Joe Craddock

Can you talk about making your first start on the road? Would you rather it be at home?

"I don't think of it as being home or away. I just think about being out there. I didn't really get into many home games last year and most of my action was on the road so that may help. I don't look at it as being on the road. It's just another game we have to win."

What about the team playing its opener on the road and it being a conference game?

"Every game is important. The first game being a conference game makes it even more important. We want to play like we have been practicing. Hopefully we can carry out our plan."

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