"I Stand By That Statement"

OXFORD – "Give them credit, their kids played hard, made a lot of plays when they needed to make big plays. And we had a lot of, a lot of critical errors. Especially in the red zone, we had a lot of opportunities in the red zone. I think three opportunities in the red zone in the first half and netted three points."

"Those are things obviously on the road, in the SEC, you can't make those mistakes and not come away with points and expect to win. That's what I see happened."

Do you kick yourself for those opportunities and coming away with just three points?
"Yeah. And you look at the first half, kind of a sloppy first half. I think they made some mistakes, we made a lot of mistakes in the first half. And when you're on the road in this league and you get opportunities and you don't capitalize on them, you're not going to be successful."

You tried to attack the edge and didn't get the run game going, what was Ole Miss doing?
"We really didn't. I think we lost two linemen in the first quarter, (Charles) Siddoway was out for a couple of series and then Tobias (Smith) in warmups didn't think he could go tonight. I don't know if the weather, what it was, he just didn't feel he could go. I think that hurt early on."

"And I just don't think we played very well on the offensive side of the ball at all tonight."

All week there was talk of going 4-0, was overconfidence a factor?
"No, no. I think our kids prepared to go play, we didn't execute very well, we didn't play very well. I don't know if it was overconfidence, we had a good week of practice. So you never know exactly how it is going to play out until you get to game day and start doing it on the field."

How much did Ole Miss' energy and their stakes play into it?
"I can't imagine it playing into it any more than the stakes for our game. I know this is such a big game for us and we take this game extremely seriously. But I'd be shocked if they didn't have that energy for this game all the time."

Tyler Russell was rocked, you mentioned the linemen, what else was going, were they doing something with their linebackers?
"No, I think he was holding the ball a little bit long and missed a couple of throws. He had a couple of high throws especially in the first half and never got himself in rhythm."

This was another high-tempo spread that gave you trouble, is there something to pinpoint on defense?
"Well, we'll evaluate that in the off-season. As we get into this off-season really evaluate where we are and what we need to do to improve it."

How tough was it to cover Donte Moncrief?
"He made a bunch of plays so obviously we didn't do it very well. That's another thing we'll evaluate as a staff."

Two years ago in this locker room you said you'd never lose to this team again; they showed that on the jumbotron…
"Oh, they love me here! Right? I tell you what, if they keep putting me on the jumbotron here I love it, that's how much they love me!"

What did you tell your team?
"We've got to look at what we did, evaluate what we did well, what we did poorly in this game. If you're a younger player right now we've got a bowl game to get ready for, for the next couple of weeks. So it's a big opportunity for younger players to get a lot of reps over the next couple of weeks in bowl prep. And get ready for the next game."

How would you evaluate the season?
"Ahh, pretty successful. I mean we're 8-4, obviously our goals are to win a conference championship. We didn't accomplish that but we also play in the best conference in all college football. So there are a lot of people that had good seasons and didn't get to win a conference championship in the SEC. In fact last year the team that won the national championship didn't even win the conference championship in the SEC."

"So it just shows what type of conference it is. But a 8-4 year, going to another bowl game, I still think it's a pretty positive season."

What happened after the game?
"I don't know what was going on. To me, how we want to represent our program, I was just trying to find out what was going on and if our guys were involved in any of that, and who was so I could make sure that they learn and know we're not that type of program. We're a class program and we don't do that type of stuff."

The fourth down in the second quarter, you had two timeouts to think it over?
"We felt good about the play call we had. We didn't feel good about the first play call we had, so we took the timeout. Talking about it we felt pretty good about the situation we were in; we're down in the red zone and I wanted to score a touchdown. It's a big game and we're here to win, and you could feel that there was going to be kind of an explosive game and some scoring going on."

"I thought, we had the ball down there, and fourth-and-one, let's take the opportunity to go for it."

The emphasis on this game, the campaign, and the first time to lose, would you change any of that?
"Absolutely not."

You talk about never losing this game, do you regret saying that?
"Never. I stand by that statement."

You still agree with that?
"I still agree."

Was this loss more disappointing than the other three this year?
"This loss is always the most disappointing loss, when you're playing your rivalry game like this."

Does the final score sting more?
"Nah, a loss is a loss to me, you know what I mean? A loss is a loss, you don't feel good about any losses."

What did you say to the team about bouncing back?
"We've just got to work harder. What you put in was not enough. You've got to put in more, and that starts Monday. When we get back we've got a workout on Monday. What we put in was not enough, if you want to see a different result you've got to be better, put in more, put in more effort, work harder. That was kind of the message for our guys, come back with that attitude."

"And the great thing is we've got a couple of weeks of bowl prep now for a lot of young guys to get experience out there on the field."

"Bowls are huge in the development of young guys. And part of it, I love the bowl system overall. I think bowls are so fantastic. One, it's a celebration of a great season for your fan base to get to go to a great location for the New Year. For your players it's really a great celebration for the seniors. And for our young guys a couple more weeks of practice time, to get to develop and kind of kick-start them into the spring."

You've talked about good-to-great, does losing road games hold you back from that level?
"Yeah. I mean we're working there. I think we had our best home record that we've had in a long time. And I've talked about winning at home is critical. So we're slowly chipping away at it year by year."

"When you play in the best conference in college football to win championships is hard. It's really hard, That's just what the SEC is. So for us, we continue to build. I think you look, going to three-straight bowl; as I've said you can't be a one-year wonder. You've got to consistently build and we've been able to do that the last couple of years. And hopefully that will put us in a position to compete for championships in the very near future."

Gene's Page Top Stories