Mississippi State coach Jackie Sherrill talked about the game against Tulane and his team's upcoming game against Houston."> Mississippi State coach Jackie Sherrill talked about the game against Tulane and his team's upcoming game against Houston.">

Jackie Sherrill Teleconference, September 15, 2003

<img src="http://www.genespage.com/images/coaches/football/sherrill.jpg" align="left" width="121" height="160"> Mississippi State coach Jackie Sherrill talked about the game against Tulane and his team's upcoming game against Houston.

Individual ranking of MSU players in the NCAA and SEC:

  • Kevin Fant is 2nd in the SEC in both average passing yards and in total offense.
  • Nick Turner is 4th in the SEC and 19th in the nation in rushing with 114.5 yards per game. He leads the league and is 4th in the nation in kickoff returns. He is 7th in the nation and 1st in the SEC in all-purpose yards.
  • Justin Jenkins and Ray Ray Bivines are ranked among the receivers in the SEC. Justin is 2nd in the league in both receptions and receiving yards per game. He is 9th in the country in receiving yards per game.
  • The September 27th LSU at MSU game will be played at 8 p.m. and will be on ESPN2.
  • Opening comments by Coach Sherrill:

    "I felt the (Astroturf) would have its toll and we have quite a few players who have an ankle, knee or foot problem and either won't practice today or will be out there very lightly. Hopefully, we can get those guys full speed pretty quick.

    "Houston has a lot of speed. They have always had players that can run and are very athletic. Their offense is the type where they want to stretch the the field and give you a lot of different formations and a lot of different things to defend. Defensively, they have a lot of guys who are very athletic, guys that can run. They have played people very well. Against Michigan, Michigan, late in the game, got into a niche of running the football and kind of wore them down. Up until that time, Michigan had to fight to get some things done."

    Did Jerious Norwood get injured?
    "Yes, he has a slight MCL (injury). We are going to hold him out (Monday), but, hopefully, he will be ready this week. His (injury) is very, very slight."

    Do you anticipate him playing Saturday?

    Was the two too many men on the field penalties on the decisive field goal?
    "We had 12 on the field on the field goal."

    On the third quarter touchdown to Chris Bush from Losman, he was wide open. I'm assuming there was a breakdown in the secondary.
    "He just got beat. They ran a post corner and he got beat. He actually slipped on the turf. That's why the separation was so big."

    Since the change in assistant coaches, what have you seen differently?
    "Offensively, we are making a lot of progress. Defensively, because of the number of young guys and new guys, we are still trying to find out from real game experience what their best position is and what they can do best. Having to also make some adjustments for (DE) Kamau Jackson not being out there and having him come back kind of settles what we are doing up front."

    Will Kevin Dockery be able to play Saturday night?
    "Yes. We really need to get him back. He is one of the only guys who has a lot of experience in the secondary."

    Last year, you had a lot of problems with lack of experience on the offensive line. Is that similar to the problem you are having in the secondary?
    "That's a lot of it. We are, at times, trying to do some things differently. And the adjustments have not been as smooth as you would like it to be."

    Is Brent Smith's back situation something that will flair up from time to time?
    "I hope not, but unfortunately, this happened last year. Being a kicker you put a lot of stress on your back. He will get some treatment for it. Watching him warm up Saturday, I felt like I should warm up someone else but Brent said he was fine. When he came back out for the second half, we scored and he kicked off. He kind of wrenched it then."

    What were the players and coaches attitudes in the locker room after the way the last five minutes went?
    "Not very good. One thing I did not let them do was spend much time taking a shower, getting dressed and getting on the bus.

    "This season is still young. If people want to write these kids off, that is a drastic mistake because this football team is going to get better and better. You look at Nick (Turner). You look at Jerious (Norwood). Justin (Jenkins) played very, very well. Ray Ray (Bivines). Kevin (Fant). There are a lot of weapons on this team. Defensively, we will drastically improve."

    After seeing the replay of the Justin Jenkins catch that was ruled a fumble, what is your opinion of that call?
    "That was a judgement call. (The officials) felt he had possession. On film, you can look and you can say he did or he didn't."

    Right after Tulane scored to make it 28-21 you put (true freshman) Tyler Threadgill in on the kickoff. What was your thoughts about that?
    "That was our hands team. We wanted to make sure they didn't come right back and (recover) an onside kick."

    Were there aspects of the defense that you felt showed improvement?
    "There were a lot of things. There were some plays that were made and there were some plays that weren't made."

    The defensive line appeared to put a lot of pressure on Losman during most of the game but he found a way to get away from them and complete some passes.
    "He's not rated the top quarterback in the country pre-draft for nothing. He is a talented quarterback. But again, we need to make sure we get a lot more pressure at the right time. We also needed to bat down a lot of the quick throws down. You have to make the decision on whether you are going to give them the quick throws."

    What are some adjustments you feel you still need to make on the defense?
    "We had a couple of packages in the first game but we took two of the most experience guys out of the secondary (in the second game). We didn't have Demetric Wright and Kevin Dockery back there. There were some coverages that we were going to play if Kevin and Demetric were in the game. The thing that we must do is make sure we have the right players in the right positions. And right now, we are not playing with a lot of confidence or toughness and certainly technique. We have to demand that and practice it."

    Is Houston's offense something that you have seen before?
    "People in the country are running no backs and putting three or four receivers on one side. The think you have to do is try to find the patterns they are trying to do and make sure you cover those. One thing you can't do against them is turn people lose because they are going to have one person going deep all the time."

    Talk about the running game from this past weekend's game.
    "We are working on that every week. The thing that has hurt us after I felt we had made a lot of progress was the fact that our guards are so valuable in this offense and all of a sudden we lost both of our starting guards. Then, we lost (Richard) Burch for a while and (James) Redmond for a while. We got them back and were doing fine and ended up with (Otis Riddley) breaking a finger and he has to wear a cast. Knock on wood, but I think we are finally getting everybody back except for (Brad) Weathers."

    What is Weathers' situation right now?
    "We probably won't know for another two weeks."

    Will he redshirt?
    "There is a possibility of that if we can't get him back within the next couple of weeks."

    Starting and playing so many freshmen the first two games, how do you keep the losing mentality from setting in on them?
    "The first thing you do is show the positive things you did. Then, you try and correct the things we didn't do well. They know how they played as soon as they walked off the field. They don't need someone else to tell them or read the newspaper to know that. To change that mindset, the players have to go out and make a play. They want to win more than anybody. And they want to play well more than anybody. They want to not only win for themselves, but for their families, their school and their fans. Sometimes the kids put too much pressure on themselves and you have to get them to relax."

    Do you feel the Houston game is a must-win game?
    "No. Years ago, Tennessee lost their first five games and then came back and won their last six. The next two years they won the conference. You not only look at today but the development of the players. Does everybody's patience get short? Everybody wants to win."

    Gene Swindoll is the owner of Gene's Page, the unofficial source for Mississippi State sports on the internet. The URL for Gene's Page is http://mississippistate.theinsiders.com. You can contact him by emailing swindoll@genespage.com.

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