Coach's Corner: ‘We will be better'

It was a strange press conference for John Mackovic. He made some bold statements, positive and negative. He frankly discussed his team's limitations and then all but guaranteed it would make drastic improvements by the end of the season. He even joked around with a local cameraman and had some fun with the local radio audience.

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After a brief run through of the injury report, Mackovic began his press conference by addressing the Oregon game.

John Mackovic: "I am angry at the way we tackled, and I am angry at the way we blocked. We are better than that, and our coaches know that, and our players should know that. We can block and tackle better than we have, and it is time for us to do it. There should be no excuses that we don't block or tackle better. We are going to emphasize the fundamentals of the game in practice this week. It makes no difference to have a great strategy or a great scheme and get things set up, and then we don't do the basic fundamentals. If you want to have a good football team, you have to block, and you have to tackle. We missed enough tackles Saturday night to fill a season."

"I'm not angry with anybody, and I am not pointing fingers at anybody. There is a time and place to draw the line and say that we need to get serious about having a good football team. If you're not blocking your man, that is serious. If you're not tackling your man, that is serious. We are going to emphasize that, and we are going to work on some things. There are some things we would like to work on and some things we would like to do this week. That may mean we have some personnel changes. We need people who are on the field doing it. Did our guys play hard? Yes. They played hard, and they tried. But, we can try hard and play hard and still block and tackle."

"Our guys are flying, and they are going so hard that they are out of control. You have to be under control to make the tackle. It was everyone from the defensive backs to the linebackers to the linemen. It was everybody. It is more obvious when a secondary guy misses a tackle, but it was everybody. I am not angry with anybody. I am not angry with the coaches, and I am not angry with the players. If we want to have a good team, we have to get serious about this stuff."

Question: Where does the team go from here?

Mackovic: "The month of September is such an important month. I didn't want our team or our fans to feel that we had to prove everything in the first couple weeks of the season. I really feel that we will be a better team at the end of September, and that we will continue to improve. Only time will tell. I knew it was going to be tough sledding against these teams, so I didn't want everyone to think that we had to prove it all right off the bat.

"This week on the road, we are going to have some fun, we are going to go on the road, and we are going to do it the right way. We are going to treat them just like we were 3-0 as far as the trip goes. We are going to try to enjoy it for what it is worth."

Question: Do the nasty things the fans say bother you or as a Division I coach are you used to it?

Mackovic: "The least we talk about what bothers me or doesn't bother me, the better off we all will be. It's not about me personally. It's about what we are trying to do with our football program, and it's about what direction we are going in and how we are doing things. It should never be about how the coach feels; every coach feels badly when his team doesn't play well."

"At halftime, we challenged the players, and they responded. They did not necessarily play that much better, but they did respond. That's good. Now, we have to be able to respond in a progressive manner in our fundamentals. I don't think anyone is happy, but we are going to do better. We're going to be better. You wait and see, we are going to play better this week."

Mackovic also had high praise for Brandon Phillips, the senior offensive tackle who was lost for the season.

Mackovic: "Brandon Phillips is going to be done for the year. He is going to have surgery on his knee. That's tough. It's always tough because there is no extra redshirt year. He put so much in. He didn't miss a workout all summer, and when people were missing, he would call them and get them over here. He can make a full recovery; other players have made a full recovery. It's really poignant because he was here early Sunday, and he had a plan. He knew what he was going to do. Besides our own doctors, he had some other doctors to talk to. He had a rehab plan, and he had a school plan. As bad as Saturday night was, by noon on Sunday, Brandon Phillips was already planning on what to do next. That is a great lesson. It certainly is a good example of someone who had a plan in spite of everything that happened, and that is a great way for anybody to look at anything. I think his pro prospects look terrific. Both Mike Deal and I told him that if his rehab comes slowly, he still has a chance to go to NFL Europe or to go to training camp the following year. He's young enough that he should not count himself out."

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