"We have a great challenge this week in Mississippi State and, really, looking at them this is an extremely talented, very well coached football team. We will certainly have our challenges with them coming in here for our first SEC game.
"It's going to be another great measuring tool for us to see exactly where we are when it comes to competing in this conference. We have a lot of improvement to make. Usually you see that in between your first and second weeks. We're hoping that will be the case with us.
"We certainly have a ton of room for improvement, and we fully expect to do that. It's a great SEC opener for us and we expect to see a lot of improvement."
On last Saturday's defensive problems being more mental or physical:
"I think it was a mixture of some things. I think we weren't as physical as we needed to be. I don't think there's any question about that. I feel like there were some mental errors out there that really kept us from getting off the field several times in terms of anything from alignments to leverages, technique.
Really, just top-to-bottom, a lacklustre performance, but again we were able to look at all of those over the weekend and really work toward getting some of those corrected. Overall, as I said Saturday after the game, we're happy we came away with the win. I think there are a lot of great learning moments for all of our kids on every side of the football."
On the team's ability to not panic during comeback situations:
"When it comes to being a championship-caliber team you have to find ways to win and they usually come in a lot of different ways. Certainly last year, which we're not reflecting back on, but last year is an example. We found different ways to win games in several different ways. What you don't know until this year is how a young team will respond when things aren't looking very good.
"The good news is they saw what it looked like a year before, at least half the team did. Our expectation in a football game, as we talk about all the time, is we're not looking at the scoreboard, we're looking at individually what we have to do during the game to play better and do better and really take it one play at a time.
"We work situations constantly here. We talk situations constantly here because you never know when the onside kick is going to have to come up, and you're going to have to execute it perfectly. We work those things relentlessly. We work different things during practice that are going to happen in a ball game. Some much fewer than others, but when we do come upon those situations, we have to execute them.
"All that being said, you have to look back and try to take some positives from the game. One of the positives was that they didn't panic. We weren't playing well much of the game, but in the end when we had to do some things to win the game, we were able to take those situations we work in practice and apply it to game day with a lot of young people, and we were able to win.
"Now, we don't prefer to be in that every week, as you all know, but at the end of the day, it was what it was. We have to continue to improve. We have to continue to play until the clock says zero on it. Our team is always going to do that. Again, pulling some positives from Saturday, we were able at the end of the game to have a pretty great rally in the last two or three minutes and come up with a win."
On how it benefits the freshmen to have a game like Utah State under their belts:
"I think it's invaluable. I think it's very important that those guys understand ‘now you're involved in it. Here's your role in it.' You're not just watching on TV or saw it happen last year when you were a redshirt. This is the way it unfolds.
"I think more than anything, it validates the different things we work at practice all the time and the importance of the details of those things. Case in point, two-minute offense, onside kick, a lot of different things. To me it's extremely important that at some point in the season you win a game like that because, again, it validates the things that you try to work every day in practice."
On the game being a "lacklustre performance" vs. Utah State:
"When I say ‘lacklustre,' I'm putting everything into perspective, meaning the mental part of the game, the physical part of the game. When the other football team controls the clock and the possession time by that much, there are concerns there. Yes, some of it was the physicality of the game. Some of it was the mental part of the game, the execution of the calls made. Again, great learning moments, and I fully expect us to be better at it this week."
On the importance of being more physical against Mississippi State:
"It is of the utmost importance. If we don't do anything else better, we better be more physical than we were last week. Again, you can look at the physicality of our special teams, and it is more in line with where we need to be. Our special teams are made up of offensive players and defensive players, same guys that play on offense and defense, so we have it in us. We have to be that on both sides of the ball when it comes to offense and defense."
On the physicality of Tuesday's upcoming practice: "It will be our normal Tuesday practice. We do as much best on best as we can full-speed, pad level and contact, and all that, nothing out of the ordinary other than just what we do on a Tuesday."
On the possibility of the lack of physicality being a result of hesitation from the young players:
"I don't think there is any question that part of the physicality of a game, when you're a defensive player, you are physical when you don't have to think very much. The same thing goes for the offensive line. The same thing goes with the running backs hitting the ball downhill. The less they have to think because it becomes more of a second nature type, muscle memory type action, the more physical you can be and play.
"That's why I fully expect us to be much better this week versus last week because, again, they have a game under their belt. They understand all of the different things that are going to happen during a game, the speed of the game, but experience, there is no substitute for it. I think there is no question that was part of our problem when it came to the physicality of the game, and let me make this clear, it wasn't every single part of our existence out there on both sides of the ball. There were moments when it looked like it should have looked, but over a 60-minute span that was not what we wanted."
On cutting back the defensive playbook:
"The bottom line is we have to have our team playing faster. We have to play faster. Anytime you can eliminate any second or third thought process it's going to allow you do that so that's part of the plan. We had a really good practice yesterday. I thought they were focused. I thought they understood. A lot of guys saw their own game film for the first time ever, and I think there were a lot of points made everywhere on all sides of the ball and special teams of this is not going to win at this level so I think it was eye-opening to a lot of our guys. That's why we will expect them to be much better this week."
On Mississippi State's offense:
"Looking at this now being their third year, it is really incredible the strides they've made just in terms of everything. They are an extremely physical downhill football team, both the running backs and the quarterback are extremely physical when it comes to running the football as evident in all the yards they rushed for the other day.
"That being said, where the offense to me has grown as well is there is certainly a different level of confidence in the quarterback and the receivers in terms of the passing game, which comes with you returning 10 starters out of 11. They throw the ball extremely efficiently now. Their play-action game is really, really good because it comes off such a really good running game.
"That offense right now is clicking. It's hitting on all cylinders. There's no question there is a lot of confidence. They are physical. They have a great complimentary passing game to their running game, so scoring over 50 points in their last two games is not by accident.
"Defensively, we have to be very sound. Again, going back to what we just talked about before starting out with the physicality part of the game. If we can't match that, it's going to be a long night defensively, but we have to be very sound in what we are doing with our run game fits and then be able to protect some of the deep balls when it comes to their play action game, which is where they have hurt people in the past. We have to play them both equally as well, and we have our work cut out for us."
On losing the time of possession against Utah State by such a wide margin:
"I think the reason for time of possession being so distorted was a number of reasons. You can really start off at the top at us not being able to get off the field on third down defensively and us not being able to get first downs and run the football offensively so you can just take those two right there and do the math on that and figure out why their time of possession was so much more than ours. Those are all the things that we are going to have to get better at.
"We know we have to run the football better than we did Saturday. There's no question about that. We know we have to get first downs. We had some explosive plays obviously that turned into points, but in this league you have got to be able to methodically move the ball as well. You have to be able to move the ball down the field. You have to be able to get first downs. You have to be able to wear guys out, which is hard to do in this league.
"When we have been successful here before offensively, typically we've been able to do that. It doesn't matter whether we are running the tailback or the quarterback. The bottom line is we are running the ball. We have to find a way to do that much better to even out the time of possession, and we have to get off the field on third down, which we didn't do the other day either, so it's a double-edged sword for us. Again, it is going to be a work in progress."
On the importance of first-down defense:
"There is no question that first down is huge in this game. For defense, any three-yard stop or less is usually a win on first down. Anything more than that and you are putting yourself in a bind for the next two downs so first-down defense will be huge, but at the end of the day it'll be huge because if you go back to Saturday we put ourselves in so many third and shorts. We won't be able to play good defense if we are in third and shorts. That's just the way it is so first down is critical, there's no question about it, but when we get our opportunities on third down. We have to get off the field."
On Barrett Trotter as a running quarterback.
"I think he has an element for our run game that we haven't really ventured out on as much at this point, but I thought you saw Saturday that he can get out of trouble when it comes to dropping back and feeling the pressure. I think there were a couple of times where he scrambled out of there and made some yardage so there's no question that down the road as we go further that would be something that we definitely would look at. I don't feel one bit reluctant to run him at quarterback because I think that he can pick up some yards."
On the young defensive linemen "playing high:"
"The problem with playing high is that you know usually those inside guys, and the problem is coming from our inside defensive linemen which is where we were encountering the problem...When you play high down there on the inside, a lot of times you are encountering double teams so you have 600 pounds versus your 290.
"The higher you are, the less chance you have of being able to set and hold a point at the line of scrimmage. They were playing high, getting knocked off the ball some, and again as the defensive lineman, your job is to establish a new line of scrimmage or play on their side of the line of scrimmage.
"Obviously, when your pads are up and theirs are under yours, you are going to go backwards so that's not a good thing so they saw it and again. It was great teaching moments for our young guys, and they'll get better with that. I think they understand that in game situations the importance of low pad level and coming off the ball full speed because again when you are getting those double teams with 600-plus pounds right now, you don't want to be going backwards, and that's what we were doing Saturday."
On younger guys seeing film for the first time:
"A picture is worth a thousand words, a kindergarten saying, right? But very true. Again, they watch a ton of film in practice, but now all of a sudden they're watching the game film against other people they don't know. It's very glaring and what's very glaring in a position meeting room when it's just your position, it's very glaring when you do something great and you do something really poor and everybody in there sees it.
"There is no hiding from it so I think it's a huge teaching moment and teaching tool for these guys. Again, we have a lot of guys that have never seen themselves on game tape so I think those pictures were worth a lot of words."
On John Sullen's status after being hurt in the opener:
"We're anticipating John being able to go. He got beat up and dinged up a little bit in there, but we are anticipating John to play."
Is there more pressure on the running backs without a quarterback running threat?
"Well, without question, when you have two anytime, doesn't matter who they are, if you have two run threats in the backfield then you know that doubles their problems. Does it put more pressure on them? Well, obviously we have to run the ball better and from the tailback position and the offensive line and our perimeter blocking as well. We won't exempt the wideouts from that equation either. We have to execute better.
"Basically, and I'm not saying again that our quarterback won't eventually run the ball, but having one threat back there to run the ball as opposed to two is certainly different for a defense. We just have to execute and be a little bit more physical up front and be better at what we do."
On wide receiver Emory Blake:
"Emory, going in to his third year now, has a great feel for the offense. He can play several different positions for us at wideout. He's very involved in our special teams, and he's just a football player. I think he's kind of found a niche for himself just on our team in general being one of the few guys we have coming back that actually has experience and been successful at his trade.
"It was good to see him make some big plays for us Saturday, as expected. He'll have to continue that. Hopefully, he gains more and more confidence as each game goes by, but he has to be a leader for our football team. Again, he's one of the few guys that have been there and done it. He has to be a leader for our team so I fully expect his role on the team to be one that is very productive for our team.