Raiders close out road slate at Southern Miss

Kickoff with Golden Eagles televised on CSS at 2:30 PM

November 19, 2013 · @MTAthletics

Middle Tennessee Head Coach Rick Stockstill

Opening Statement:

We are coming off a bye week and I think we put it to good use last week, getting away from football for a little bit. They got a chance to rest and catch up on schoolwork and then we started preparing for Southern Miss the middle of last week. I am excited about this challenge. I told our team they are crazy if they don't think we are not going to get Southern Miss' best effort. Not to look at their record, they have not won a game, but have they talented football players there. The tradition and history of that program and it being senior day for those seniors. We have talked about that and they understand that we are going to get a team that still plays hard and is trying to get a win. We are not by any stretch of the imagination overlooking this crowd. They have got a talented bunch of guys there and for whatever reason, they have not put it together for a win.

We have got to play our football, play well and play smart, protect the football, and create turnovers ourselves. They have struggled protecting the ball and hopefully we can create some turnovers ourselves defensively. We have to play smart. We can't put the ball on the ground and must protect it. We have to play smart from a penalty standpoint, which we have this entire year. We are preparing this last four or five days of practice and we will continue to prepare for a very physical football game, a very tough game. I believe it will be a fourth quarter game because I think they are a very talented team and we have to be prepared to play our best football.

On looking at a team solely based by record:

If you look at them and block out Southern Miss and watch how hard they play and how athletic they are. They have some really dynamic wide receivers. The two guys can fly and make plays in space. They are playing a freshman quarterback. I think it is the fourth game that he has started now. To me, he is getting better each week, which you would expect from a young player. They have a couple of defensive linemen that can play anywhere. They are very big, they can run and are talented. Where they have struggled is that they have not done a very good job of protecting the ball. They are kind of beating themselves. That is why I talk about how it has to be about us as much as anything. It is how we prepare and how we prepare ourselves mentally and physically to play this game. It is going to be a physical football game and Southern Miss has always been that way, and they are this year. Our players have watched film now because of the open date and they know how explosive they are and how talented they are. They are a good football team that hasn't put it all together yet.

On the challenges presented in playing a winless team:

When we lost three straight games, a lot of people starting having doubts about us, if we were a very good team or not. I continued to tell our team how much I believe in them and how much I thought they were a good football team. We got beat by three really good football teams; you get beat by BYU, who was ranked going into last week, you get beat by ECU, who is leading the East and you get beat by North Texas, who is leading the West. So you played some good teams in there and I continued to preach to our team that we are a good team. Yes, we have to correct some things and get better. Now, you are looking at a team that hasn't won a game. You turn the film on and you don't say its Southern Miss. You guys don't think its Southern Miss, don't look at the name on the jersey and just tell me if you think they're a good football team. They will watch the film and know they are good.

You play with great physical toughness and mental toughness and worry about yourself. You play smart, the effort and tenacity you play with. The mental intensity that you approach each game with and how you will play it. When you get late in the year that is what you rely on because everybody is hurt and has had injuries. We have probably had more than anybody. But you have to fight through the pain, fight through the injuries, through the fatigue, both mentally fatigued and physically fatigued over the course of a long year. That is why when coaches say it is about us and you worry about yourself and how you approach each game.

On the formula to win the game:

Our identity is a very physically and mentally tough football team that plays with tremendous effort, that never gives up, never quits and never flinches. Yes, we have had success creating turnovers. We've had success here the last month of protecting the ball. We have done some good things but our identity is what I just said, the toughness, the never flinch, the never quit attitude. As long as you do those things, and you play every game like that and then you add playing well, creating turnovers, protecting the ball and the kicking game that is how you win the game. That is our identity.

On if running the ball or throwing it is the first option:

I believe both go hand-in-hand. We have had success running the ball here lately. I think we have run the ball well all year and these last three weeks, we have run the ball really well because we have thrown the ball really good. You take out the UAB game, where we didn't have a bunch of yards, but we didn't have a lot of possessions in that game. I think it goes hand-in-hand, the better we can run it, the better we are in the throwing game.

The better we can throw it the better, we are in the running game. We are going to be a balanced team. We are not going to go in each week and say, we think we should do this or that. We have to be able to throw the ball effectively to win games. As long as we protect the ball, and as long as Logan (Kilgore) is smart with the ball and not putting it in harm's way. He is as good as anybody out there. We have good enough receivers that can make plays in space and can win individual, so we feel good about our receivers. Our running backs, we have had to bring Drayton (Calhoun) in pass protection. You have Corey (Carmichael) back there in the passing game. People don't think about that when you are talking about the passing game with all the injuries that we have had. Drayton has been there for three weeks and Corey has been there for ten days from a tailback position. There is a lot of factors that go into the passing game.

On Kevin Byard being ranked for interceptions:

I think first of all Kevin (Byard) is a very talented young man, he is a very good football player. But the thing that makes Kevin special is how he practices. He never takes a play off, even if you are doing half-line over there on the defense or you're going against the offense. He never takes a play off, even if he is not in there he is getting a mental rep. He will stay out there after practice working on different aspects of his game. He studies film on his own. He does all of the little things that at some point in the game will enable him to make a special play. I talk about Brian Dawkins a lot to our player. I recruited and coached Brian at Clemson. He will someday be in the NFL Hall of Fame when his time is up. Brian was the first guy that I had been around, that from the first day all he was focused on from the first day he got at Clemson from the last day he was there was school and ball. He wasn't worried about parties, playing PlayStation. He was relentless in how he prepared not only his body, I snuck him a key to the weight room so he could sneak in there and lift.

That is the way KB (Kevin Byard) is. We have a lot of players like that. When you are comparing a safety, Brian was a safety for us, he wasn't involved in as many plays, interceptions, fumbles as Kevin was involved in but from a work ethic standpoint. When (Franklin) Dunbar when he went to the Eagles several years ago, I called Brian and said, hey, make sure you look out for him in everything. The thing that Brian told him, Brian was probably in his 10th, 11th or 12th season in the league is, practice like a rookie every day. When you think about that, if you will practice whether you are a four-year starter or three-year starter, whatever you are, an All-Pro or All-American. If you will practice every day like you're a rookie and have something to prove you will be successful in everything you do in life and as a football player.

On Josh Walker:

The three things that stood out the most; Josh loves football, he loves football and if you don't love football you shouldn't play. Football is a game of love. To run your 300 pound body into another man's 300 pound body is not fun. You have to love doing that. Second, he has great feet. Three, he has great toughness. As a lineman, that is what you look for. You want somebody that loves the game. You are in the trenched getting hit and hitting somebody every time. He has great feet, he can move and he is tough.

On the bowl possibilities:

Again, I tell my team everything. I told them last week when we got back that yes we are bowl eligible. We have six, but seven is a lot better. I will tell them next week that if we get this when that eight is a lot better than seven. Yes, they are aware of it and they know what is at stake. That does not have anything to do with us playing a good football game against Southern Miss. I will address it, so that they don't have to come up and ask. They know everything and I believe in telling them everything upfront so they know what is going on. They know we need to get seven wins and they know we want to get eight. It is because they want us to get seven wins for this football team, this program and this university. We will let this bowl stuff take care of itself at the end of the month.

Redshirt Senior QB Logan Kilgore

On the running back situation:

I think that no matter who we have back there we've always had the same schemes, so I don't think it's going to be a huge difference. We're bringing some younger guys along and that's a good thing. Even though we have some guys injured, they are still able to go to practice and be out there to mentor the young guys. I don't see it as I have to do anything more or different from the quarterback position, they know how to run the ball and the new guys are learning they're blocking assignments and continuing to get better each week and I have a lot of confidence in them.

On if there's a difference with different running backs:

I definitely know who is back there with me. A guy like Jordan (Parker) knows all the pass protections and really doesn't have to hear the center's calls when we line up. He's been doing for this a while and he has it down pretty well. Some of the younger guys I may remind them what the protection is or who they have. I don't think it's a necessity that I do that, but I do believe that it puts everyone at ease if we have just a two second conversation to just say "this is what we're doing." But whoever is in there, I have the confidence that they'll do a great job and ultimately get the job done.

On playing teams with a bad record:

It's easier to not look at the record of each team because we're only focused on one team at a time and only focused on them for a short amount of time. We might talk about they're record early in the week just to remind us what they have to play for. But the tape never lies. We can see on film if they're flying around and playing together, that's pretty obvious. And a school and program that has as much rich tradition as Southern Miss has is always going to be tough. This week was Coach Nix's scout and he talked about all of that because he played and coached there. This is also Division I football, no one is just going to roll into some place and win. And we've prepared like that all year long.

Redshirt Senior LB Stephen Roberts

On the bowl talk:

We've looked a little bit at it but we're really just trying to execute and get better, so we really can't think about the bowl stuff right now. We have two games, hopefully three left, and we want to win them all. So we just have to stay focused on Southern Miss and get ready to play them.

On weather tradition makes a difference:

Southern Miss has a good tradition. They obviously haven't had great seasons the lasts couple of years, but they definitely know how to win games and win a lot of games. But we don't really look at that a lot, we mainly just look at what we have to do to win this game this week against the guys who'll be out there on the field Saturday.

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