JS - What will it take to walk away from the Liberty with a win?
AW - Our Liberty Bowl opponent, South Carolina, represents the best team and the toughest opponent that we will have faced all season. It will take great preparation from both coaches and players, 60 minutes of support from our fans present, and execution of the game plan on both sides of the ball to be successful.
JS - What is your assessment of the South Carolina offense and ho do you feel we match up with them?
AW - South Carolina is one of the more balanced offenses that we have seen this season. Their 2 back running game sets up their play action passes. They can spread the field with very talented athletes. Coach Spurrier is very patient, taking what the defense gives him while at the same time always having the threat of the big play long ball.
We like our speed match up in the game. Our defense can run and the teams who have given the Gamecocks problems are teams who can run.
JS - What do you see as the keys to the game?
AW - I feel that the keys to the game that we can have an influence on are as follows:
1) Sure Tackling. When we have gotten in trouble this year, it can be attributed to poor tackling. It is going to be very important that we tackle well not giving ball carriers extra yardage or big plays. Controlling the Line of Scrimmage and good tackling can keep 2nd and 8 from being 2nd and 3 or getting them off the field on 3rd down rather than moving the chains. We have conducted tackling drills every practice during bowl preparation.
2) TURNOVERS: This is a type of game of potential strong offenses. Getting the ball back to our offense is of utmost importance. The best way is through turnovers. If the Coogs can have a +2 turnover ratio this game we should have a good chance to be in it to the end. We have conducted fumble strip drills/turnover drills every practice during bowl preparation.
3) Winning in the 4th quarter… We have spent a lot of time with Coach Jackson during bowl practice for strength and conditioning. This could be a very close game with lots of emotional shifts. If the game is close in the 4th, Houston should have the advantage since we have won 7 games in a row in the 4th quarter. We talk that the 4th quarter in a close game is when MAD DOG defense needs to be at its best. The Mad Dogs want an opportunity to win it in the 4th.
JS - It appears that the coaching staff has done a really good job of making halftime adjustments. What is the key to our elevated second half play?
AW - First of all our staff and our players have not panicked. We have calmly assessed the situation and made adjustments. No yelling or screaming or pointing fingers. We have evaluated what our opponents have done successfully and what we have done successfully. We have simplified some things by eliminating things that were not working or useful against what we are seeing. Finally we have determined what was necessary to take away what they had done best. Our players have done an excellent job of playing hard and due to Coach Jackson and our superior conditioning, we have been able to out execute our opponent for the past 7 ballgames in the second half. That is what MAD DOG DEFENSE is all about.
JS - How does it feel to compete against a coach with the reputation of Steve Spurrier?
AW - The question should be how does the South Carolina def. coordinator feel about having to compete against an offensive coach like Coach Briles? I've never lost to Coach Spurrier - (never played him either) yet have lost twice to Coach Briles!!! (Stephenville over La Marque).
On a serious note, I have for the past 20 years been a big fan of Coach Spurrier, both because of the success he has with his offense/team and the way he coaches his players. The more I learn about and watch his teams, the more I respect him as a coach and a person. I think he is one of the most outstanding college coaches of all time. I and our staff are looking forward to the challenge of the game and going against Coach Spurrier's offense.
JS - What are the most critical things that we need to accomplish to contain USC's offense?
AW - We have to control the line of scrimmage, not give up big plays due to poor tackling or mental breakdowns, and I think we must get our offense the ball via a couple of turnovers.. South Carolina offense does not score while on their bench. We need to control the down and distance. In other words we need 2nd and 7-8 rather than 2nd and 2-4. We need 3rd and 8 or more rather than 3rd and short. We have a lot more options defensively and can mix our calls up better when the down and distance is in our favor rather than always scrambling in poor down and distant situation.
We need to be the best defense on the field. We need to be the best defensive line, we need to be the best set of linebackers, we need to be the best secondary. We need to be the best defense on the first play and every play that follows. Offense is selling a lot of tickets but defense wins championships and we want to be the Liberty Bowl CHAMPIONS!!!
Finally, we need to put pressure on their offense to execute at an extremely high level in order to be affective. In other words make them beat Houston not Houston beat ourselves and in the 4th quarter, rise up to a level that we expect of ourselves and show the country what MAD DOG defense is all about against one of the most respected offenses in college football.!
GO COOGS AND SEE YOU IN MEMPHIS!