Monday's football press conference quotes

November 15, 2004 · MT Media Relations

Opening comments: Saturday's game was a really positive way for our seniors to go out against a good Louisiana-Monroe team that had won four of their last five coming in. We knew going into it the challenge we had. I was very proud for the eight seniors who got to finish their last home game with a win, which gave us four straight in our conference at home and that was a positive. I'm proud of the team and the way they have fought back. The leadership and youth of this football team has been great this season.Going into this game we knew we were banged up in a lot of areas, but we had some kids who stepped up and played big for us. We came out really good in that first half but then we hit a lull in the second quarter and hurt ourselves, but our kids came out in the second half and it came down what we felt were our kids really wanting it. I'm real proud for (place-kicker) Colby Smith. I think it's another great statement for him as far as the Lou Groza Award. He's now 14-of-16 on field goals and 29-of-29 on extra points. I'm very proud of Walt Bell, our holder, because he handled a tough snap on one of the field goals and got it down, and he doesn't get recognized a lot but he does a great job for us, as well as John Crawford, our deep snapper, because he's been consistent. Offensively, we had some guys really step up, RBs Terry Jackson, Lee Baker, and Demarco McNair. They really played well. The offensive line played well, created some seams and gave us a chance to run the ball. We believed they would do some things coverage wise to try and take Kerry away from us like some other teams have done, but Cleannord Saintil and Chris Henry continued to step up and made big plays. QB Clint Marks played well. Defensively, we had some guys step up. Dennis Burke played well coming off an injury, Sean Mosley, Erik Walden, Thomas Johnson, Marcel Horne, Keon Raymond with the big interception. I thought Jeremiah Weaver was very active, especially with the injuries we have had to deal with at the position.

Has having the opportunity for a winning season been the primary motivation for this team? No. This is our last game. I don't think we have sat here each week saying we have to have a winning record. Do we want one? Yes. We want to play well and finish strong. Am I going to walk into the meeting today and say we are playing for a winning record? No, I want us to have a good week of work, knowing we are playing a very good football team at their place and we want to be good on that day. That's what we are preparing for this week.

You were beat up last week. Will you be more a full strength for this game? I don't know yet. I don't know how many teams have played 11 straight weeks, but I'm sure there are some. It's something that doesn't get said a lot but on behalf of these kids there has not been an off week. There's not been a week where we could sit one out and try to get him well. We have guys playing through injuries right now. Jeff Littlejohn is playing through a tough injury. Eugene Gross is battling injuries. Jonathan Harris, maybe we will get him back. I don't know the status of Darren Mustin and Jerry Vanderpool or whether we will get them back. We lost our back-up tight end, Jason Krupinkski, Saturday and I don't think we will have him back. It goes on and on this time of year but it says something about these guys going into their 11th straight week playing. We will try to get through it. (Head athletic trainer) Joe-Joe Petrone and his staff do a tremendous job and we will work like everything to get as many back as we can for this last one.

Judging a kicker is a little different because you can't throw competition in there. Either he makes the kick or he doesn't so where do you think Colby Smith is in regard to the season and the Lou Groza candidacy? He's made pressure kicks. On field goals, 14-of-16 is pretty dang good. He's perfect on extra points and you look across the country at how important extra points have been this year in games won or lost. He's been consistent. He also handles our punting and does a fine job there. When our kickoffs aren't going the way they are supposed to he also handles that job so there's a lot to be said for what Colby does for this team and how important he is. He's been very consistent.

How do you show your guys how good Troy is? Are they aware? Definitely, this isn't the first time we have played them. We played them last year. We played them two years before that. It's a team our kids have a lot of respect for. Troy has played very well all year. Defensively it is probably the best we have seen this year and that includes Florida. They have a lot of older kids, a lot of seniors, and a lot of quality players who have played in a lot of big games. We know about Troy and the challenge ahead of us.

They start a wealth of seniors. How much of a difference can that make this late in the year? It's going to be two teams fighting for a win. Louisiana-Monroe had 16 seniors last week. You go into game 11 and your freshmen are growing up. They are still growing up and seeing things they haven't seen but you adjust. Troy has a team that does a great job. They have three or four-year starters. Their defensive end, Demarcus Ware, is as good as there is in the country. He will make a lot of money playing this game. Derrick Ansley, their safety, is tremendous. You can go on and on. Alfred Malone, their big defensive tackle, is a great player. Their linebackers run well. Their tailbacks are really good football players with great speed. Their freshman quarterback does a good job. The offensive line is very athletic. Their receivers are athletic. They have played in big games and beat a lot of good people over the years, but our team is growing up and we are going to prepare to do the best we can against a quality opponent this week.

Does a player like Ware put added responsibility on your running backs in the blocking scheme at all? He's a difference maker and he's a great person. He has a great attitude and great character, plays the game the way it's supposed to be played. I think anytime you have a player of that caliber you have to be aware but you can't sit here and focus on him because Sullivan on the other end is good, too, and their two tackles are good. They are one of the top defenses in the country, period, and that's regardless of conference or anything else. They are the best we've seen.

It seems they don't mess around on offense. They just line up and run it at you. They are a physical football team. Their tailbacks and fullbacks are physical and run well. Their offensive line is experienced and does a good job. There are not many flaws in this team.

With Troy coming into the league is this one of the better chances to get a rivalry in the conference? I think it already is. I think it was a good rivalry before they came into the conference. It's two teams located close to each other. Two teams that recruit a lot of the same players. Two teams that, I think, have a lot of respect for one another. I know we have a lot of respect for them. I think it's been like that before now.

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