Quotes from Monday's football press conference

September 20, 2004 · MT Media Relations

OPENING REMARKS: The loss to Florida Atlantic was disappointing because it was one we felt like we almost gave away. I thought we played very well in the first half. I was proud of the defense, especially in the first half, with their backs to the wall after the first turnover we held them to a field goal, which is what they have been working to do. We had about a six-minute period in the third quarter where nothing went right for us. We can't turn the ball over, and we can't give good football teams field position the way we did. We had a couple chances to make plays and get off the field and we didn't make them, whereas Florida Atlantic did.

ON THE IMPORTANCE OF CONFERENCE PLAY IN THE BIG PICTURE: It's big because this is what you play for. I think (the Sun Belt) is a wide open conference. If you look around at the league, anything can happen. To have a chance in the league you have to go on the road and beat good teams. We have four tough road games in the league and this is the first one. We have to take what we have learned in these non-conference games and get better from them. We have to get healthy and get ready to go into a tough environment at Louisiana-Lafayette, a team we have had really good games against.

THE DEFENSE HAS ALLOWED 28 OF THE 51 POINTS IN THE THIRD QUARTER. WHAT HAS GONE WRONG IN THE THIRD QUARTER COMING OUT OF THE LOCKER ROOM AND CAN IT BE CORRECTED? We have discussed that. We have given up 28 points in the third quarter and scored none. You go back and look at this last game and it's just a matter of execution. We come out third quarter and drive it down to the 3 and then make a bad decision. The defense stops them on the next drive and then we don't execute offensively. I think we came out in the third and were ready because we drove it all the way down, we just didn't finish. Two turnovers in the third quarter are something you can't do, and then we had an opportunity to make a play and get off the field on one of the touchdowns and we didn't make the play. I don't think it's a matter of not being ready or being flat.

ON THE OFFENSIVE LINE: I thought they continued coming together. (Center) Marcus Gates got dinged up a little. We will get Kyle Ringley back this week. We gave up a couple sacks and when you give up sacks the first thing people point to is the offensive line. We had a couple breakdowns with the running backs, protection wise. In (QB) Josh Harris' case, we brought him in after the third interception and he really never had a chance to do anything. It was about a six-minute period with the breakdowns and then we settled back down and moved the ball, but we didn't finish drives. We had penalties that put us in third-and-long situations and those are hard to execute no matter who you are playing. Those are things we can't do.

ON THE STATUS ON (WR) PEDRO HOLIDAY AND (RB) EUGENE GROSS: Really don't know yet but we will no more this afternoon. Eugene went out in the second quarter with an ankle. (RB) Lee Baker was injured. It was one of those games where in a short period we lost Pedro, Lee and Eugene and we are scrambling pretty good. I thought (RB) Terry Jackson came in and did a tremendous job. (WR) Pierre Ingram came in and made a big play and that's what has to happen when guys get knocked down, others have to step up. (LB) Marcel Horne played really well in place of Jonathan Bonner, who we lost last week, but we will know more about the status of players later in the week. Some we may get back and there are others we may not, but we will have to wait and see as they are evaluated.

ON THE WIDE-OPEN NATURE OF THE SUN BELT CONFERENCE AND THE IMPORTANCE OF KNOWING ANY OF THE NINE TEAMS COULD WIN IT? I think our players know that. We take everything one at a time. No. 1, you have to take care of your team. In two games we have turned the ball over seven times. In most situations you would be 0-2 right now with that many turnovers so that is something that must be cut out. We are 1-1 with seven turnovers so let's cut the turnovers out and cut out some of the dumb penalties so we are not constantly in second- and third-and long situations.

ON LOUISIANA-LAFAYETTE QB JERRY BABB: He does a little big of everything and we saw that last year. He is athletic and throws well on the run. He is a great competitor. He will be the third good quarterback we have seen in as many weeks. Babb has some good receivers to throw it to and they have moved the ball well against some tough people. We know what kind of quarterback he is.

ON THE ATMOSPHERE OF "THE SWAMP": It's tough. They get loud and they have fun down there. There will be a great crowd. It will be a TV game. We have been there before and it's always a tough game for us, here or there. We will have to be a mentally tough football team to go on the road and try to get our first conference win.

DOES THE EXPERIENCE OF HAVING PLAYED IN SO MANY TOUGH ENVIRONMENTS HELP? In the past we have been in tough environments but it never makes it any easier. To have a chance to do what you want to do as a team, you have to be able to win on the road. We know we have to be at our best and it goes back to, No. 1, taking care of the football. Defensively, I thought our front seven did a good job stopping the run against a good running team in Florida Atlantic.

IS THERE ANY FOCUS ON GETTING THE RUNNING GAME GOING MORE CONSISTENTLY? Our whole focus offensively is to take what they give us. You would like to run the ball better and we always go into the game trying to develop the run, but if they load the box up we are going to run it and if they are going to spread out with us, then we will run it. We have had teams that load the box up a little and that gives us an opportunity to do some things in the passing game. Take Clint Marks last week. If you take the three interceptions away he's played as well as he had played, but at that position, those are three critical plays for us and they have to be cut out.

DL Jerry Vanderpool
On playing on the road
"The first win showed our team we can win, gel together as a group and make things happen. We just take whatever is given to us. If we go in with 100 percent effort, good things will happen."

On UL QB Jerry Babb
"We dealt with a good quarterback at Akron and will again this week. We just have to game plan, contain and deal with him like everyone else. He's tough and he proved that at our place last year."

On the defensive line in the Florida Atlantic game
"We still have a long way to go as a group. I think [the FAU game] exposed some weaknesses that we will iron out, and I think it will benefit us more than it hurt us in the long run. We talk about the chain and not being the weakest link. Everyone is accountable for themselves and the man next to you. "

On beginning conference play
"This starts a new season. The first two games were a warm-up to show our strengths and weaknesses. We want to try and keep the game low-scoring because that's our job. If you don't score, you can't win."

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