Quotes from Today's Final Football Press ConferenceNovember 12, 2001 · MT Media Relations
We've said all along that its not OK to lose, but I couldn't be more proud of the effort that our kids played with. We played one of the top teams in the country and I felt like that, in going from year one to this third year, that our kids came out of that locker room and expected to win the game. It's a complement to LSU that they came out ready to play, too. We battled and played hard. We said going into the game that we couldn't turn the ball over and the one turnover didn't get us off on the right foot. We had some kids come back and play really hard to get us going again.
McCollum on the chance to win eight games
I think the last time that Middle Tennessee won eight games was in 1994 and is a great complement to this senior class and this football team to have an opportunity to win eight games. It is also a big complement to have a championship in only our third year.
McCollum on UConn
We're getting ready to play a team that is much improved from last year. You can see that on both sides of the football. We know we have a great challenge ahead of us. Last year against Connecticut we played one of our best games of the season and we have to do that again this year. Offensively, they are throwing it around. They have thrown over 100 passes in the last two games, so defensively we have a big challenge this week. We have to do a good job of making plays and getting off the field on third downs. Offensively we have to do the same things we do every week and not turn the ball over. We have a great senior class that will be playing its last game here and we hope to have a great crowd because these kids deserve it for all the adversity that they have gong through.
McCollum on the senior class
We've got two guys that have been here for five years and, I think, five guys that have been here for four years. The thing about it is, that when you have transition and change and everything is different. They had to hear that we were going to get rid of all of the players that were here and bring in our own guys and all of that junk that you hear when you have transition. These guys had to hear all of that and were able to fight through it. They have been able to stand above it and be a close senior class and I couldn't be more proud of that. They deserve everything that has come to them and they have been great leaders for us. They have been a part of a lot of firsts. They were a part of the first winning record in IA a year ago, they're part of a championship team, and I hope that they can go out as a senior class that didn't lose at their house during their senior season. If something good could happen for us then they could be a part of a bowl game. We have to focus on UConn on Saturday. These guys have learned how to have a great work ethic and how to make a big commitment. Scotty Brown is a prime example of that kind of commitment. During my first year here, Scotty didn't play a lot and I wasn't a big Scotty Brown fan, but he's grown up and I couldn't be more proud of what Scotty has done. He has become a conference player of the year a couple of times and it will pay off 10 years down the road because of that work ethic and leadership.
McCollum on bowl possibilities
I'm kind of past keeping up with North Texas because we had an opportunity to take care of our business and didn't. It is a big learning experience. We had an opportunity to take care of it ourselves and didn't. Now, does this team deserve to be in a bowl game? I'll say that there will be a lot of teams in bowl games that don't deserve it as much as this team does, but I don't know about all of the politics and the money that go into it. The Sun Belt will fight for us if [the New Orleans Bowl] doesn't happen. No one will want us if we don't take care of business this week against Connecticut, so we need to take care of ourselves and hopefully everything will take care of itself.
McCollum on UConn's passing attack
I think we've improved on defense. When you look at some of the games we've been in you know other teams are going to get a lot of passing yards. When you're ahead of some teams like we have been this season, then they are going to throw the ball and get a lot of passing yards out of it. When you talk about passing there is more to it than the secondary. We have got to get pressure up front and collisions on receivers. When a team has thrown over 100 times in the last two weeks, then we have to get pressure on the quarterback and hit the quarterback, and make plays and break on the ball. But it goes as a whole defensive unit and as an offense because we have to put points on the board. This team scored 31 against Utah State, who beat Central Florida. I think that says enough about them right there.
DL Wes Stephens
On the progress of the program since his arrival: "It's not hard to see where we came from. There was tradition here in football, but from 1997 to now is unbelievable with what's been done to the stadium, the facilities, and the athletes."
On losing the OVC championship in 1998: "We thought it would be the only one and we gave it up. We thought that was the only chance we'd ever have. We didn't think we'd get in a conference and win a championship in I-A so early."
On the senior class: "This senior class is one of the better ones I've ever been around. We have so many leaders - Scotty Brown, Kendall Newson, Wes Counts - they do their job and lead us where we need to be."
On stopping UConn this week: "We've stopped the run against most everybody we've played. We've given up a lot of passing yards. We've just got to get off the field on third downs and not give up the long balls."
QB Wes Counts
On this being his last game: "It really hit me after the New Mexico State game. I knew I'd only walk in the locker room three more times and see that 17 jersey. It will be a little hard when I walk out and hug mom and dad. There will be some tears, but you want to go out with a good taste in your mouth."
"I've never really been part of a winning season, not even in high school - 6-5 in high school and 6-5 last year and now we have a chance to win eight games this season and be the quarterback of the first Sun Belt championship team. I'm not a great athlete. I can never accuse my parents of passing down to me any athletic genes. I've been able to overcome a lot because of heart and desire and willing things to happen sometimes, and I hope that's how the fans around here remember me."
On the UConn team: "We had better athletes than they did last year and they caught the Blue Raiders on the wrong day. They are a lot better team this year. Nobody's running away from them this year."
LB Scotty Brown
On this being his last game: "This is my last game. I don't know how I'll react after the game. I just want to go out with a win."
On his progress in this program: "I knew I was cheating myself a few years ago. I didn't commit myself to the program during the summer and make sacrifices to the team. I have not had a perfect season and there are some things I could have done better and should have done."
On the UConn team: "UConn is a better team this year than last year. They remember last year's game and will be coming in here playing for respect. They have a good passing game and like to spread the ball around from the shotgun with one back, a lot like our offense. We have to get pressure on the quarterback and contain and get some sacks."
WR Kendall Newson
On this week's preparation: "I've just been thinking about the past and the things I've been through here. I want to remember everything that goes on this week. There will be a lot of emotional feelings leading up to this game."
On last year's UConn game: "That was a game you dream about before you ever play. It all happened for us. The coaches kept calling the right plays. I think the offense showed in that game that if we executed we could be unstoppable, like we have a few times this year - against Arkansas State, Vanderbilt, Idaho, the fourth quarter against New Mexico State. Everything just clicked."
On the transition period between coaches: "My heart was gone when Coach Donnelly retired. But I knew football was the same no matter where you go and that if you work hard, good things will happen."
On leaving mark on the program "In some ways I feel like I've already done that. I just want to go out and finish the game like I always do, hard-nosed. As long as I can put my head on the pillow and not say if, then I'm all right."
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