Monday's football press conference quotes

October 25, 2004 · MT Media Relations
Oct. 25, 2004

OPENING COMMENTS: I was very proud of the way our kids came out and played against Idaho. I thought we were a little sloppy in the first half, especially on the defensive side of the ball. We just had too many mistakes hurting ourselves. I couldn't be more proud of the defense and the staff in the second half. We made adjustments and challenged the defense at halftime. We told them the offense should not have to score another point if you play up to your ability and they did. They played very well and shut Idaho out in the second half, which I thought said a lot about our kids. Offensively, we did some good things. They played over the top and kind of took Kerry out in certain situation but it gave us a chance to run the ball, and I thought our guys did a good job running the ball. I was pleased with Terry Jackson, Demarco McNair, Lee Baker, and I thought our offensive line did well. It was good to get Jeff Littlejohn back after a couple weeks out because he is such a big part of our defense, and having Thomas Johnson in there. I was very pleased with the crowd on a damp day. It was a good win for us, and it was good to end on a winning note against an Idaho team that is leaving our conference.

How is RB Eugene Gross' condition and should we expect to see more of Terry Jackson after the weekend he had? We will find out more on Eugene as the week goes. It was the same ankle, but I don't think it's as severe as it was earlier. Terry Jackson continues to get reps, along with Lee Baker, and the one I think needs to get more touches is Demarco McNair as he keeps growing as a running back. Like we've always said, it's nice to have some depth at that position because there is not a year that goes by when you don't need it.

Erik Walden got his first start on the defensive line. Can you talk about those young defensive linemen and how they are coming? I'm proud of the older ones leading them because those young ones are going to be good. Walden plays with a tremendous motor, he's relentless, and made some big plays. Sean Mosley has had a good year every game he plays. Antoine Owens, Brandon Nix, I could go on and on. At one time Saturday I looked out there and we had six freshmen on the field so the older guys are leading them the right way and our young guys are stepping up and getting better each week.

How much of a benefit is it having those older defensive linemen so you don't have to throw the young guys into the fire? Those upper classmen are good players and we've always said it starts up front. We said at the beginning of the year, if we are going to be successful it has to start up front, especially the defensive front, because we have a lot of guys who have played in several big games. Their attitude, leadership and work ethic is going to determine how we improve as a defense and we have had guys step up and are doing that right now.

Is it special this week since it's Homecoming? We don't look it. We are looking at Utah State. We are looking at a team that whipped us last year. It's exciting for our University. It's exciting for our players to know a lot of former players are coming back. A lot of people will be coming back to the University and hopefully we will have a good crowd after two good wins here at our place. Utah State is a very talented football team and this is a big game for us. We would like to have a crowd that is ready to get after Utah State because they got us pretty good last year.

Being the only SBC team to start the year with two road games in league play, how pleased are you with the progression of such a young team and fighting back to .500 in the conference race with last week's win? It's tough on the road and you look at what's happening when teams go on the road, it's difficult to get wins on the road and that's where you have to get big wins, but you have to take care of your house first and that's what I'm proud our kids have been able to do the last two times we have played here. We put ourselves behind a hard place, but it's one at a time for us and I have liked the attitude of our kids. We were coming off a tough loss against a Florida team. This (Idaho) game was one that emotionally and mentally, going into it, how would they respond? I am proud of the way they responded.

Any indication why two weeks in a row Kerry (Wright) has been hit flagrantly while trying to field a punt? No, I would like to find out. When your best player gets shots that are supposed to be controlled two weeks in a row, I would like to know why it's happening. We are supposed to be controlling that because of some of the injuries that have happened across the country. That's why the rule is in to protect the punt returner. It's tough to see your player taking a shot like that.

What's the significance of Utah State's bye week coming into this game? They can get healthy and prepare for us for two weeks. It's hard when you play the style we play, but they have had two weeks to get ready. There are advantages to having off weeks. I think we will see a well-rested team coming in here. We have to be mentally and physically tough to do that and it's another reason I'm glad we are at home.

Utah State's returners are at the top of the league, what do they do so well? They have great skill players. They have great speed. They do a great job scheme-wise in their return game and we've got to be very good on special teams in this game.

You have moved into the top half of the conference going into this game. Do you talk about that with your team? After a couple tough losses early we haven't really talked about conference. Right now we are worried about our team and how we play. We are right in the middle of things. It goes back to one week at a time and getting ready for a Utah State team that has had a very difficult schedule. They are a scary football team. They are a physical football team and they have tremendous skill players. We know the challenge that lies ahead. All we have to do is reflect back to the whipping we took last year. It wasn't just a loss. They whipped us and made us like it.

Have you talked to any of your former staff members (offensive coordinator Larry Fedora and offensive line coach Joe Wickline) now at Florida? I have. It's tough. Why it's handled the way it was, I don't have the answers, but I've talked to them. I also left a message for coach Ron Zook.

What do you remember about last year's game?
The snow and right from the get-go they came out and they did their job. We got embarrassed there and it's something no one on this team has forgotten.

Is there levels of payback given you guys are at home? I'm sure it's in the back of everybody's mind, but that can't be the main focus. We have to go after them like any other team we play.

Are you surprised at how well these young defensive linemen have played? Yes. When Jeff Littlejohn and Thomas Johnson went down they had to play and we didn't think they were ready, but they have come on and surprised a lot of folks. They have come from a point of giving starters a rest to coming in and making plays. They are going to be very good players down the line.

Is there any extra motivation being Homecoming? Of course, you are at home. Your friends and family can't follow you everywhere you play on the road so when you are at home they are there, plus you have former players coming back and you want to impress those who were here before you.

What have been the keys to success of late? Everybody staying together. There has been no letdown. Coaches have challenged us and we have responded.

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