"But, one of the top defenses in the country. And one of the top teams, that was obvious watching the game last week that they just played one of the top teams in the country. So we'll have our hands full offensively. Everybody knows they've got just a stable of running backs and a big, giant offensive line that pounds you. And continues to pound you play after play after play after play. And last week they did a great job throwing the ball on top of that and balancing their offense out a little bit more, which makes them even more dangerous on that side of the ball."
So it should be a great challenge for us. And we're going to have to come out play, as always when you're playing Southeastern Conference games, especially here in the West you're going to have to bring your A-game every single week."
In the two losses you did some good things in the second half, were there some adjustments? "We did some good things at halftime. But obviously not enough to bring us back to win the game. So I think we did a nice job making a tweak or two that put us in a position to be successful, but not enough to win the game."
Last year you were good in the red zone, what has changed defensively this year? "Well, some games we've been good, some games we've been poor. So I think overall it's your game execution. There's a couple of games we've been excellent in the red zone both sides of the ball; a couple of games we've been poor. To me it is a lack of consistency, that's what I'd attribute it to. And we have to be more consistent."
In bouncing back after the losses is the physical aspect or the mental most difficult? "I think it's everything. I don't know that it's bounce-back from two-straight losses. Because you can look at them and say how are they going to bounce-back from a loss they just had."
"I think you understand when you're in this conference, it is the bouncing-back week after week, whether you win or lose. The quality of the opponent you're playing week-in and week-out. A lot of leagues there's one or two big games a year, in this league it's every week seems to be that way. So it is not just the mental part of having to be up for such a big game every single week, but also the physical toll it takes from playing top national teams week-in and week-out on your body, that you have to respond. Especially this point of the season, you have to have great mental and physical toughness to get through and win these football games."
The last two weeks have started slow, is there any specific way to address that? "More consistent execution of plays, really is what it comes down to on both sides of the ball. We have to execute cleaner on both sides of the ball. We made some plays, you look in the first half. But there always seems to be mistakes that jump up, and that's what slows you down."
Do you feel this team is as physical as it needs to be? "Oh yeah. We're a pretty physical unit, when we go out there and play. That's one thing we're kind of always known for, being physical and kind of smashing people. I think your schedule, I mean we've played a lot more spread teams this year, that have spread it out all over the field. That maybe takes away from the physical pounding that we're usually are getting into in the trenches. Part of that might be, I don't know, we have less injuries maybe that knock on wood we've dealt with. I know you guys love the injury reports; it's really the same as last week. A lot of bumps and bruises but everyone that played last week we expect to play this week. But this week is going to be a physical, physical ball game."
With Zach Mettenberger's play last week, how does that change their offense? "I didn't see them change a whole lot. I just saw them execute a lot better. I think when he got started, he got hot and when you're hot, you're on the money, you're talking in the SEC games--six inches is an off throw. You have to be that accurate to that point and that's what you saw was his accuracy. He got hot, he was accurate and they were making a lot of plays and that led to the night he had."
What does Dak Prescott bring to the offense? "You kind of have a little package for him. And it goes to more of a single wing when he comes in, at least the threat of that anyway. Any time you have that type of scheme, and we've always tried to do it more with a quarterback than a tailback over the last 12, 14 years we've been doing it. That adds that extra dimension that it is a quarterback back there. You can run your entire offense or you can run the single wing and that's what he brings to the table."
What makes night games at LSU so different? "There's so many tough environments in the league. I think it becomes a mindset on their players, more difficult than a lot of stadiums. It's as loud as anywhere that you're going to go play, but it's the mindset and the confidence that their fans exude on the players playing at night that make it tough to go play there."
What can you do to protect Tyler Russell better? "Well, I think we've given up one sack each of the last two weeks. Which that's pretty good against teams. I think Texas A&M was one of the nation's leaders in sacks and we only gave up one against them. So I think we held up pretty well."
Do you look at anything offensively and defensively to adjust at this point of the season? "We've just got to execute cleaner. When you watch the film it's pretty simple. If you're a student of the game and study the game, it's very simple. You see a little minor breakdown here and a little minor breakdown there. When you make a mistake against quality teams it costs you. So changing-wise, really nothing."
In the middle of the defensive line is something not clicking as well as last year when Fletcher Cox was beside them? "Probably the best d-lineman in the country, you know? That's an easy one right there. Anytime you do that, you always have to adjust in your personnel. Fletcher if you look at the draft last year I think he was one of the top d-linemen in the whole country. You take that guy out, I mean we don't just kind of reload those type of guys constantly. He was a special player for us. But, overall I do think we've played well. And different games schematically dictate what you're doing and what you're trying to take away of where you take people and what you're going to take away from them and how you're going to do things."
With all the hits Tyler Russell is taking is there a concern at offensive tackles? "Nope. You can look at those things. Some of them are (Tyler) holding on to the ball too long. Some of them are holding onto the ball as long as the route is needed to develop. I look at the sacks. There's times he's going to hold the ball and we'll need him to hold on to that ball up to the last second. If you guys call them pressures, or whatever you guys call them in a stat sheet. We look at sacks. Sacks are what I look at because that involves us not having enough time to get (the play) off. I don't think our numbers are that bad. What are our sacks in SEC play? Eight sacks in nine games? I guess that's not that big of a concern."
What happened on the fourth down when Tyler said he didn't have time? "Well yeah, we had five protectors and they brought seven guys. So yeah, you gotta get rid of it pretty quick when we don't have guys to even block their guys coming."
"On the fourth down, they blew a coverage. It's kind of hard, they didn't cover one of the guys. Obviously you expect them to be sound and cover somebody and they didn't. That can cause problems for you too at times. You say ‘oh, well, that guys' open, why didn't you throw it to him?'; but you're not looking at those guys."
Do you work red zone more in practice? "We work on it, a ton. When you get down in the red zone, when you start having negative plays, that's where it comes (from). You have a penalty, you have a negative yardage play, you're not going to execute. I guess if you want to make it easier, you make a lot of big plays so you don't have to go on ten-, twelve-play drives down the field. We've been more of the grind it out team this year than the big, explosive plays. You know, scoring 50- and 60-yard touchdowns. When you do that, when you run more plays, one mistake will set you way back. And it's hard to recover from 2nd-and-20, it's not a good down."
Were you expecting more explosive plays this year, that vertical threat? "I mean, we've hit it a couple of times, we've missed it a couple of times during the course of the year. But, no, because I know what our guys are and who our guys are. They're the same guys that have been playing for us for a couple of years. You know, that is what it is. The nice thing is we've made a bunch of those plays when we've had opportunities, we have made a lot of them this year."
After two losses is there still the chance to do some big things? "Absolutely. I mean, the team we're playing has the identical record as we do this week. That's kind of how we view things. We've got two 7-2 teams. I didn't do the overall count, but we're in the minority of the 124 Division I teams that are 7-2 or better this season. So we're still doing OK."
Does the pass rush have to become more aggressive? "Again, it depends on who you are playing and what the scheme is going to look like. You watch this team and they're going to protect eight and run a two-man route. You say well why aren't we getting a pass rush? Well if they're blocking with eight on four and everyone is double-teamed that's going to be tough."
"Last week, you play a scrambling quarterback, we played a little bit more of a non-go-all-out blitz. A couple of times we did blitz, we got him a couple of times and we got creased a couple of times. So we got pressure and gave up big plays; got pressure and made some big plays. So I think week-in and week-out kind of the scheme the opponent does is going to determine how you do things. And the talent of who you're playing."