"We're getting ready for our first SEC game and our first road game. It's always important to understand the difference between playing at home and playing on the road. There's a lot that goes into it.
"First thing that we want to do is go back in practice this week and try to figure out why we played so sloppy in the second half last week. We played a good first half and we've got to go back and look at several things and look at reasons why. There are no excuses or reasons why last week we looked like we had the game under control and we let our guard down. We didn't have a sense of urgency, we didn't coach with urgency, and we got sloppy. We played the same guys in the first half as we played in the second half, but we may have played a few extra.
"The thing that we want to do is, going into this game, we want to understand what we did wrong and what we've got to do to change it and get better. It was a good football game for us and we know more about ourselves as we did the first week. We've got to keep working and doing the little things right to make this team better. There's a lot of room for improvement and a ton of things that we can do to make us better, but we've got to understand first and then put a lot of repetitions and time into it.
"Our guys worked very hard in practice today, but longer than usual. Most everybody was out there running around and doing things to try to get better. You could see the extra step in their legs and they are upbeat in terms of knowing what game we've got this week. If you're trying to go to Atlanta, you've got to start out well and last year we didn't do it.
"We didn't play very well and Mississippi State beat us. I'm not taking anything away from them, but we just turned the ball over. This week we want to understand who we're playing and where we're playing and understand that we can only control what we do and how we practice. It was a good practice today. I liked the enthusiasm and the intensity.
"Mississippi State is a lot like how they were last year but with a little more passing the ball down the field. They've got a good running game, their defense has played well, they had a few turnovers, as we had, that cost them and what we've got to do is understand and learn from them as well as from us. Those can cost you games.
Going into this week, we're looking forward to competing, and competing on the road in a different environment. We've got to get ourselves ready to play. We'll have fans there, but not quite as many as we do in Jordan-Hare Stadium, and try to play better than we did last week for four quarters."
Are turnovers something that you're trying to look at closely this week?
"When you go back and look at each one, sometimes it's football, sometimes it's loss of concentration, execution, and coaching. You can put all of those in as factors. There is never just one thing that causes it and so we've gone back and we are looking at what we've done wrong. We always wonder why they happen and we try to correct it.
"One thing is that we always start with our running backs and our receivers and everybody who carries the ball, especially during an 11:30 game when it is very humid. Even when you go out for pregame, you're soaked from top to bottom and that ball becomes very slippery and you've got to protect it. You better have better technique than ever before when you've got a wet football that has perspiration on it. They came out and they hit us hard and a couple of times they just knocked it loose. They were there and that's good football.
"Sometimes there's not a lot that you can do besides just bounce back. Unfortunately for us, most of them were in our red zone and on their end of the field and that cost us. I can remember that for the opening play of Mississippi State, we threw an interception for a touchdown and it's hard to overcome something like that. We're not going to hold our guys back and we've added a few things this week. We're going to try to make our offense and our defense better. It's going to make things a little more complicated, but nothing that we don't think we can handle.
"We're still working a little bit on special teams and doing well, but we can do better and that goes back to the mistakes, like blocking below the waist on the touchdown. We took four points off the board and we can't do that. Mistakes, fumbles, and penalties that shouldn't be there are all things that we are trying to work on to correct."
What's the game plan for quarterback this week?
"Knowing that we've got two quarterbacks who we feel good about, you can still only have one guy who gets a majority of the reps in practice and that is usually your starter, no matter what kind of offense you're running or what team you're on. Kodi (Burns) will learn from a lot of mental reps. Chris (Todd) will probably get seventy percent of the reps in practice in terms of team wise. Chris is our starter and he will be given the reins. There won't be a short leash. We want him to be in the game and competing, making sure that everything is going right in terms of the competitive part. Kodi is going to be ready to come in at any time, special situations, and crucial situations when things aren't going too well.
"I'm glad that we've got two quarterbacks, but I'm also glad that we've got one guy that everyone can look at as the guy that's going to play well for us and lead this team."
Where does the consistent level of play start?
"It starts with me and coaches. I'm in that game knowing the stretch that we've got coming up and the things that we may have to do and players sense that. What I was trying to do is get as many guys in the game as we could, keep as fresh as we could knowing the stretch that we've got and get guys that might be a little bit beat some rest, but Southern Miss wasn't going to have any of that. They came to play and they kept their intensity and we probably dropped our guard coaching and playing. That's what you do and that happens when you have a game that's non-conference getting ready to play a game that means a lot more in terms of your conference race, and you're trying to do as much as you can to try and rest them.
"We learned as coaches, but we did get the win and a little rest from some guys who know that they're about to go into a tough battle for the next few weeks. I think that's what happened after we go back and look at the intensity of the first half compared to the second half."
Does bad weather change the performance or the philosophy of this offense?
"Not really. We can still run the ball, but we got into a tough situation when they scored and they kicked off to us and the bottom falls out. I thought that was probably one of our better drives of the game in terms of concentration, guys coming off of the ball, knowing that we had to make first downs and that was just as much as points, run the clock off, keep our defense off the field, and it was a great drive and a drive in the rain storm, and it was probably good for us as we go into this week. With possible effects from the hurricane on Saturday night it could help us.
"With this offense, you can still throw it and you can still run it no matter what the weather, and that's why I like this because you are pretty in tune. You can run all routes, you can still run trick plays, and it's an advantage for a defense when you have weather like that, but you have to prepare for and have experience when you play in weather like we had the other day."
Talk about the shake up on the offensive line with Bosley moving to right tackle. "It's worked well for us. It was great to see him get rewarded with the Offensive Lineman of the Week in the SEC. Jason has been a team player since he's been here. He's worked hard. He's played hurt numerous times. He's a guy that enjoys playing. He was out there practicing today, and I probably wouldn't have been out there practicing as beat up as he is. He's just sore because he has played 75 plays. He's a guy that is not going to waste any downs in his senior year. It's good to have leadership like that--a guy that shows he's there for the team and would do anything for the team. He would probably much rather be playing center. I think that's his first love but moving over there and doing what he can for the team and playing like he did was good to see."
What kind of weapon is Robert Dunn?
"It's a huge weapon knowing that you have a guy they fear because a lot of times they change their mentality whether they are going to kick to him, kick it high, kick it away. It puts a lot of pressure on the punt team getting down there, covering the field and who's got to contain. There are a lot of things that go into it. Then you've got to worry about if they are going to block one on you. All of a sudden your protection is not as good and you're worried about coverage. That's a great weapon to have.
"I know going into some games over the years we've had to cover guys that had a great reputation, and you've got to spend a lot of time on it. When you put time into that, it takes away from time somewhere else. As many things as you can have working for you that the other people have to look at and figure out ways to stop really gives you an advantage, and that's a huge advantage for us. It's given our offense and defense a huge shot in the arm the first two games."
Do you see a little extra "pep in the step" this week after last year's loss to Mississippi State?
"This is the first game in the SEC. They work all year long knowing that they've got eight opportunities each year to have the best chance to get to Atlanta. It starts with this one on the road and last year brings back a little incentive. They beat us and we can't say we gave the ballgame away. They played a good game. We didn't play a good game but that's the reason some people win and some people lose. Take nothing away from them. They ended up having a heck of a season, going to a bowl game and winning that bowl game. We have a shot this year as we'll have next year.
"We'll try to play better, go over and be more prepared mentally and if we do that, win or lose then you feel a lot better about it. You don't really feel good about a game when you go out and turn it over that much. You don't give yourself much of an opportunity, and I think that is what we were more disappointed with more than anything. We kept shooting ourselves in the foot. Whether we win or lose, we don't want to make those mistakes that you shouldn't make in a big game like a conference game."
Do you think Coach Croom has got his football team where he wants it after the first couple of years?
"He's a lot better. He has done things the right way. He's worked hard at it and got good assistants. He's got a disciplined program and he's had to make a lot of changes within the team players as we all have had to do over the years when you are starting a new program. As I said last year, he's done it the right way. He's worked hard and got people who are going to lay it on the line for him and that's all you can ask. I think they have improved. They were much improved obviously last year. The improvement will come slower because of the season that they had last year. It's going to be harder to improve on that week in and week out. They've got good players. They've recruited good players and they play very hard. They are well coached and you know what you are going to get. This is a different Mississippi State program than what we played three or four years ago."
Talk about the play of Ben Tate so far this season.
"Ben has got a lot of confidence. We'd like to get him in the game a little more in terms of carrying the football. At times what they are dictating on the defensive side of the ball is going to dictate whether he gets it or Brad Lester gets it. Then they turn into pass blockers or pass receivers. Ben is probably one of the faster guys on the team. He doesn't look like it because he's so much bigger. He's a strong runner and a strong inside guy. He likes this offense because it gives him the opportunity to find his own hole, run inside or outside. I like his mentality. He comes to work every day and doesn't say a whole lot. He is very dedicated and enjoys the game of football. You have to enjoy it if you're going to play running back in the SEC because you take your lumps week in and week out. You get your licks in but they get their licks in too when they're playing running back."
How valuable is it for Chris Todd to have grown up as a coach's son? "It's valuable because you get to see a lot of little things. You get to be around other players and watch them growing and watch the leadership side, the discipline side, the winning side--how teams handle winning, how teams handle losing. That's huge for a young guy growing up. You learn a lot of your principles and your values in terms of what you are going to use as an athlete. We always look for coaches kids. It's pretty interesting. When you get one, you know that they might not be a great player but you know what you are going to get when you get them. They've been around a pretty strict environment and they understand criticism. They understand tough love, tough coaching and obviously Chris knows that."