"This week's game, obviously a big game for us. The last game going into a bye-week you want to be on a positive note going into the bye-week obviously. With our guys, that's always a big stress because you don't get to play for 14 days. So you want to make sure you're leaving on a positive note. You know, you only have so many opportunities. We only have five more opportunities to play home games here this year. So I think we want to make sure we play up to the best of our ability in front of our fan base. We always talk how important it is to win our home games, so this is a critical game for us."
"And you want to continue to improve. You talk about what type of team you're going to be, you want to continually improve as the season goes on and start to peak in November. So we need to take a step forward and improve in this week's game."
"South Alabama, a tough team. I know being a newer program, they have a lot of similarities offensively to the team we played this past week in Troy. A very similar offensive system they run, they're going to spread you to try to create mismatches, try to get everybody out covering the pass game and try to run the football. Defensively they're pretty stout, they're only giving up 300 yards a game, have been a very sound defensive football team. And they play really hard, that's what you see when you watch them on film."
"So it will be a challenging game. We need our fans to come out and support us, create that home field advantage we have when we play here in Starkville."
After the dropped passes at Troy are there things you do to address that? "Yeah, you do a bunch. To me it's a focus issue. As a group it's focus and confidence, and you get that in practice. I think in practice sometimes guys can go in and they just assume they're going to catch a ball and they start to take their eyes off it. Just in drills they can get ‘I'm working on something else, I just catch the ball as part of it'. You can't be that way, you have to have a complete focus every time you catch the football."
"If you do that in drills you'll do it that same way in the game and you're going to catch everything. So that to me is just a point of emphasis we can get onto our guys. If you look at the drops, to me a lot of them they're starting to look to go try to make something happen after the catch, and they drop the ball. That gets down to just pure focus. We'll do that in practice today, we'll make sure they are (focused)."
Talk about Chad Bumphis' progression? "I do see it. You want your seniors to play their best football, and I think he is playing the best football of his career. Chad is a guy who had a lot of success as a freshman, and I think has felt a lot of pressure as kind of a guy that is supposed to be a big-play guy for us throughout the years. I think now though he has the confidence, he knows what is going on out there on the field, he's playing fast. And he has a good supporting crew around him that I think it has taken all the pressure off of him and it's allowed him to perform at a pretty high level. Where, I don't think he thinks he has to make the big plays; he wants to make the big play. I think having that pressure off him allows him to perform a little bit better."
There was excitement breaking into the rankings two years ago, is there that same excitement now? "I guess that's a good thing. I guess, for us, it is. It's good teaching for our guys of our expectations as a program that we do expect big things and I think, for our fan base, there is a lot of excitement. My Twitter, I guess, seems to blow up a lot with the excitement of all our fans with this opportunity. I do want it to be something that is expected for this program, to be a top 25 program year in and year out."
Third down conversions have not been good the last two games, but fourth downs have been really good? "Yeah. We set them up for fourth down, that's what we've been doing! You know what? No, it's I really want to look at it and make sure we're exact in what we're calling and we're calling the plays we want to call and we're adjusting over the course of the game within those calls on third down. You know, if it was one issue, that I've looked at, as you look at it, that you can put your finger on…it's been kind of an array of third downs. We've been pretty inconsistent across the board. We've made some third-and-longs. It's not like we've made all our third-and-shorts, it's third-and-plus we haven't converted yet. We've missed some third-and-shorts, too. It's something I'm looking at and making sure we get looks in those situations in practice, and get the play call exactly for what we want and how we want to attack it. We've missed some blocks, we've missed some throws, we've missed some protections. It's a little bit of everything right now that I want to make the guys know the exact plan for us to execute."
What is making fourth downs so successful? "That's been good. We've set them up for that, for those calls. You know, that's where we've probably been a little bit better in adjusting to the flow of the game. I don't know. When you scheme up fourth down, you have a lot less film to look at of fourth down than you do third down, so I think when you scheme up fourth downs you're anticipating what you see but you also get in the flow of the game and call what you think is happening in the game. That's why we've been successful. We've been a lot more flexible on fourth down. Within the course of the game, the third down we've stuck to our game plan and maybe they're playing us a little differently than we expected them to play."
Did Troy do anything to take Marcus Green out of the game? "He was a major part of the game plan. He just didn't catch many passes. He played a ton of plays, was in there most of the game with a lot of blocking. Just, kinda, sometimes it's how it plays out and how the defense is rotating and doing stuff in situations in the game that dictates a lot of our play calls. He didn't get as many balls thrown to him this week but he played a lot."
Do you expect South Alabama to see this game as their ‘super bowl'? "As we continue to improve as a program, that's something that comes with it. We want to be the game people are always trying to get up for. They have the opportunity to play a premier program, but we stick with what we've talked about all year. We have to perform to our level. That is the most critical thing. If we had made open-field tackles last week and had caught the ball, just those two little minor things we control, there would have been a very different outcome, probably, to that game. We keep that, really, as a lot of our focus. Let's make sure we're worried about playing the best football we can play as a team."
What is Arceto Clark's condition? "He is expected to play this week. Sam Williams had a concussion and is out today but should be okay to go Saturday. Brandon Hill is somebody I'd list as questionable for us with an ankle sprain. He is pretty adamant that he'll be ready to play but our trainers think he'll be ready but I want to see how practice goes with him. Tobias (Smith) is between questionable and probably. I want to see how well he looks throughout the week with him. One of our original plans was to let him play that full game against Auburn and then potentially shut him down a little bit afterwards. I'm sure he wants to get back out there on the field. I got to see how he holds up this week. Malcolm Johnson is still doubtful this week and we're hoping to have him back for Kentucky. That's probably everybody. They feel Corey Broomfield still has a shoulder deal but he has played all year with it. We expect him to play."
What were the defensive mistakes you counted? "I think we had 22 missed tackles and I think 18 missed assignments. And you know a couple of loafs, which you can't have. I think the tempo got to some guys at times. The guys weren't lined up in place and we weren't ready to go. The big part were the missed tackles that allowed them to keep drives going. The tempo never became the factor until they were driving the ball down the field. Then the tempo would become the factor."
Was Troy's offensive tempo an issue? "It was something that we prepared for and you look—that's who they are and what their offense is. The way you stop it is you never let them get it going in the first place. You saw those first two times with those 3-and-outs that their was no tempo. When they got their second or third first down, that's when they would speed things up and by not being able to do that on third down, missing tackles you allow them to play to their strengths."
You are 12 to 1 in turnovers, do you study how that happens? "A bunch. But to me a lot of it is if they make a mistake, you've got to be there to capitalize on it as well. A lot of our stuff, is it someone made a spectacular play? I don't know if a lot of our turnovers have been through guys just making spectacular plays. It's been our guys running to the football and being where they're supposed to be and playing hard, has been the main result of those turnovers. And that's something we want to continue. A general rule of the defense: if you run hard to the football, good things will happen. Then you have the film and the statistics to back it up with the turnovers."
What do you know about South Alabama's building process, scheduling these games? "I guess it's neat. I don't know if we're helping them out, they're a tough opponent. I think scheduling-wise it's beneficial for us, because it plays into what we look for within being able to schedule locally. I know we down there, and the Coast is a big recruiting area for us to go play at in a couple of years. A couple of years ago it was different. They're a little bit more of an established program. I know they're trying to build it from scratch, but it's not like this is their first year in football. Their guys have played, they have some establishment, and I think this is their first SEC game."
Do you know Joey Jones, have you met on the recruiting trail? "Not really. Les knows him and all that stuff, but not through recruiting. I don't talk to many people. I'm kind of introverted!"
Do you go hard after guys in practice today? "In certain ways you do. You also want to continue to build confidence in our guys. You look at some of the drops, some of the early drops, yeah, were focus. I think some of them become confidence-based. Those guys are all sitting around each other, ‘Hey, come on, catch the ball.' And then you're thinking, well shoot, I better catch the ball now. It's some of those things. Defensively the same way, is I think we have good leadership. Our leadership is going to help me do that where I don't have to get after the guys. Our guys are looking, we didn't play to our standard. That's not acceptable, and they're going to point the fingers at themselves first and say, listen, I'm going to make sure I play to my standard, so you need to pick up and play with me."