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Southern Miss coach Jay Hopson transcript: "A field’s a field."

Southern Miss coach Jay Hopson met with the media on Monday. Here's everything he had to say on the Golden Eagles' loss to UTSA and preparing for LSU.

Opening statement:

“(The UTSA contest was a) tough game for us. It was certainly a game that started off bad early and we never seemed to get a lot of momentum. They had a ton of big plays, which certainly is something that we can’t have to be successful. Our guys fought hard for 60 minutes. Late in the game it was 48 to 32 and we were down on the door with four or five minutes to go to try and make it a one score game. Proud of the fight, but way too many mistakes and that’s my fault. It’s something we have to go to work and clean up.”  

Anything in the week’s preparation that could’ve been better for the game:

“I always kind of blame myself for that stuff. Sometimes you don’t know during the week if they are as crisp and it was something I was a little worried about.  But on game day I thought coming out of the tunnel we were really ready and felt good energy there. I thought we were ready to play, but it kind of snowballed on us early there and that’s the reality of it. The first play, they picked our receiver and they got deep. He was by himself and he was in another zip code from everybody else. After they scored a couple of officials came back and told me they probably should’ve called offensive interference on that one, but it’s still 7-0. But I appreciate them coming back and acknowledging that. The second one, we weren’t in position and they make a play and boom. We had some third down drops on the first two series, and then the next one, they hit the zone play and it goes for another touchdown. Now we’re down 21-nothing and it seems like we just got off the bus. I don’t think we ever really recovered from that. We battled back and I thought going into the third quarter if we score on the opening drive, we get it to a 10–point game, there’s still almost a half to play. We got down there and weren’t able to get it in there and then we gave up another big play. That’s something we have to work on this week.”

On prognosis of quarterback Nick Mullens for this week who left the game once in the second half: 

“It’s something we’ll look at day-to-day. See how he does in practice.”

On big plays being given up on defense because of new defense philosophy of high risk and high reward:

“Looking back we were giving up around 270 yards a game, which on defensive standards is pretty good half way through the season. If we eliminated some of those we’d be around 210, but this game had some fluky things that happened. As a defensive coach, you’re never happy with dynamic or explosive plays and that was certainly the tale of the tape Saturday early. I don’t know if you were like me where you felt after four minutes and you’re down 21-0. You felt like, my gosh, and you’re almost shell shocked at the very beginning of the game. That’s something we can’t do. The second one, we were in great position, but just have to make a play. I always talk about gap integrity and things of that nature and that’s something we have to do a better job of inside. We played hard, we kept fighting and fighting and that’s one thing I do love about our football team. Down 21-0 with five minutes to go, we score. Our guys played hard and competed hard and I’m proud of that. I have to do a better job of getting them ready and that’s just the reality of that. Again, I’m proud of their effort.”

On the run defense: 

“We know we’re playing a very good football team and a very physical football team and we know we have to get better. That’s our charge this week. We have to go out and play physical football, Southern Miss football, play with great leverage, do the little things right fundamentally and I think that’s the big push for us this week. That’s what I’m preaching.”

On mindset after UTSA: 

“We’re going to fight. Our guys are going to work and fight. We’re never happy after games like that. Coaching is tough business after losses, or losses like that, and the ones you didn’t see coming. Those are always hard to wake up to the next morning. It’s always good to get back on the field. You just want to get back out and compete again. It’s always fun just looking up at your ceiling Saturday night and trying to replay, and as a coach, you’re always trying to figure out what we can do better this week and that’s what I’m constantly doing. Again, what I do love about our football team is that they go out and play for 60 minutes and I thought we did do that.”

On Nick’s thumb: 

“He came back in and played. He didn’t break it, but he came back in and played the third and fourth quarter. He’s a tough guy. He threw the ball well, too. Right now I think he’s going to be fine. We’ll go out today at practice and we’ll go out there and see how he’s chucking it around. I think the linebacker came through and I think hit his helmet as he was coming through.”

On defensive lineman Draper Riley’s returning this week: 

“That’s what we’re targeting right now. We’ll see how he does this week and that’s what we’re hoping for.”

On the motivation after a loss and facing LSU: 

“We’re going to be motivated. You better be motivated every chance you get to play football because you don’t get that many chances in life to play. It’s always tough that day or two after a loss. It’s always good to get back on the field and get to play. That’s what I’m looking forward to tonight, just getting to practice and be on the field. Last week isn’t going to have anything to do with this week and that’s the reality of it. Two weeks ago has nothing to do with this week and three weeks from now has nothing to do with this week. We have to get ready this week and we know we’re playing a football team that had a close loss to win to Wisconsin and controversial end to Auburn but if they won both those games they’d probably be ranked number 2 or number 3 in the nation. We know those are close losses. We know we’re playing an excellent football team and we know we have to be ready to go.”

 On how it affects the team with LSU having a new coach and a “bye week”: 

“Coach Orgeron has given them some juice. They went out there and played well against Missouri and they play hard every Saturday. They have done that since the beginning (of the season). They’re a football team that we know is a really good football team. We know they’re a very talented football team and understand that we have to play better. That’s a big thing as a coach, we have to come out and play better football than we did last week for sure.”

On crossing paths with Coach Orgeron: 

“We’ll see each other every once in a while when we’re on the road or when we’re recruiting. The guy is a tremendous coach and they have a great staff. We have the upmost respect for their coaching staff and for LSU. “

 On being on the LSU staff the last time playing in 1994: 

“I was a graduate assistant (at LSU). It was a game that I can remember a little bit. As you get older certain things get away from you. I think it was probably one of those games that went down to the wire and was a big win in Southern Miss history.”

 On any new personnel look against LSU: 

“No. Right now, no. Right now I don’t see anything out there that needs to be changed.”

On a different game plan if Leonard Fournette returns: 

“No they’re good at running back. Their ones, twos and threes are good at running back. We know we’re going to get good players whether Leonard goes or not. He’s a great football player, but so are their backups. We know they’re going to do what they do.”

On doing anything special in preparing for the environment of Death Valley: 

“No, not really. That’s one thing I learned a long time ago: A field’s a field. I said that when we went to Kentucky or whether we go to Alabama over the years or LSU or Starkville, Georgia or Florida. The bottom line is that it’s still a 100-yard field. What counts is what goes on between the lines and not what goes on outside the lines. That’s something we have to do better this weekend inside the lines.”

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