Talk about the play of your defensive during the game.
(Tulane) hurt us early on. We were trying to bring some pressure, and they kept us mixed up early. When we were in our run defenses on first down, they would bring in their nickel package and run out of it when we were thinking throw. They kept us off-balance early. I'm proud of our defensive line because I was concerned particulary with our starters and the humidity. It's the first time we really have had to go that long in any kind of degree of humidity, but it's obvious that all the running and the conditioning that we did in training camp and through the course of the summer paid off. We'll continue to do that because when we start playing in the daytime, it's going to be even worse. Our defensive line really rose to the occasion, really put some pressure on the quarterback, and I thought we got better, made some adjustments, and got better particulary in the second half.
Did you think about the significance of you coaching in this game?
Throughout the course of the day, I guess. I thought to myself, twenty-eight years working towards this day, and now it's here. A dream that was an impossible dream at one time, today was a reality. I just relish the moment with our players and our coaches, with our fans. I'm very fortunate that we can celebrate tonight and really enjoy it all.
When will you forget about this win and start thinking about Auburn?
The first thing you said was win and that's always important. A win at home is even more important. Everytime you win is a good feeling. That's why you play the game. I'm not worried about the other ten right now. We're going to enjoy this one. I told the players I don't want them to even think about next week's game. I want them to enjoy tonight and tomorrow, and we'll start talking about our next game on Monday. I'm going to do the same thing.
What about Darren Williams' interception that jump started the offense and got you guys going?
Anytime you score in the first five minutes of the second half, or the first five minutes of either half, that has a tremendous impact on the other team. This was something the old coach I used to play for constantly used to preach to us. In fact, while I'm thinking about that, I've got to tell a story. Coach Bryant was legendary for being known as a brutal halftime coach. But I played for him four years and coached for him for six years and the only time he literally cussed the football team out, we won the game 77-6. But he cussed the defense up and down the dressing room because they scored a touchdown just before the half. I was in shock, but I learned a lesson. He wanted to make a point. And we tried to make that point with our team today before we came out there. Don't give up anything before the half, and those first five minutes of the second half were critical. Our defense came out and scored. As far as I'm concerned, that was the turning point in the ballgame. I told them we have to score points on defense and they did that tonight.
What did you think about the play of your offensive line?
Again, I don't want to single anybody out. But I tell you what, late in the second half I saw David Stewart time after time after time blocking guys in the secondary. I mean, he was driving his guy down there, and when it wasn't his guy, he was hitting somebody that didn't have on maroon. I was very impressed with that.
What was it like to finally coach your first game as a head coach?
It's the fun part for me. Everything else I do is work. I mean, that's the fun part for me--coaching the team. Let me say this too, I'm proud of our players and I'm proud of our coaching staff, too, now. Them and their wives. Since December, they've been through a lot. On the way over, I was talking with Brad Pendergrass on the bus and we got to talking about all those nights when we were up in the office in December and January working till 2 and 3 o'clock in the morning. Wives were at home having babies and their husbands were not around to do things. That was a great deal of sacrifice by those men and those women. I'm proud to have every last one of them on our staff, and I'm proud to be associated with them.
Your team scored 28 points all in the second half. What adjustments did you make in the locker room offensivley?
I didn't make any. I just stuck with the gameplan. All this halftime adjustment stuff that everybody writes about and talks about, hey, you're not going to change anything in there that you haven't been working on. You don't have but 20 minutes in there, and you know, they've got to go to the bathroom and all that stuff. I don't know why everybody makes a big deal about all these great coaching adjustments at the halftime. If you don't have it in that gameplan before you get here, it's not going to happen in that dressing room at halftime, I can assure you of that.
After they scored their touchdown, your team came right back and scored one of their own.
Again, that's part of mental toughness. We showed some mental toughness tonight. Hey, they're going to score, I told them. That offense is going to score. I talked to Ellis when they hit that play, and he was concerned. I said Ellis, 'don't worry about it.' I've been around and been in the NFL long enough and played those offenses. When you play those spead offenses, they're going to hit you sometime. They're going to move the football. They've got big-time receivers. That quarterback can throw the football. If you make one mistake and he gets time, that's going to happen. You make a call, they get one, so what. You line up, you play again. But it's critical that whether it's the defense or the offense, whoever gets scored on, our return team has to go out there and make something happen. Our offense has to go out there and put some points on the board. That's the thing we've been preaching ever since we got here. Stay in the present, put the last play behind--good or bad--put it away. The game's not over till we get in the dressing room. I hope, I think, they've bought into that now. They sure displayed it tonight. We'll keep reminding them because it's going to happen again. You're never going to play a perfect game. Things are going to happen. It's the same way in our lives. It all goes hand in hand. Bad things happen. How you deal with it is the difference between being a success and a failure.
How did your players handle the touchdown the officials called back?
I think there was a split second when they thought about it (because) I saw heads drop. Particularly after Rico's touchdown when we got into it and I didn't do a good job in that because I was angry. That's the worse thing, I've got to control my temper. They actually handled it better, but I did see just a little bit of heads dropping. But we rallied, talked, looked each other in the eye, and hung in there.
What was the reason for the timeout you called in the first half during their drive?
I called a timeout at one point when they were driving on us because there isn't any use in bringing them to the dressing room. But, I thought we were losing our poise a little bit out there. So we called timeout just to settle them down and let them play. Our defensive front was getting a little winded.
The one thing different in college than in the NFL is (the timeouts when you make a first down). It's been so long since I'v been in college ball, but that first down deal sopping the clock is so huge. You can afford to burn a timeout ever now and then. If you make the first downs, you're still killing the clock. In the NFL, you go into the two minute drive and you don't have any timeouts, you can forget it. It's over. After last week in practice when we had the SEC officials in, it really dawned on me how big that clock is on the first stop of the first down, so I was more inclined to use them because of that.
What kind of impression did the pre-game Dawg Walk make on the team?
I don't now, but it was impressive to me because I've never been through one. I tell you what, that was impressive. It really was.
What was going through your mind while you were walking in it?
I thought the band was a little slow (laugh). That was the first thing I thought. I love the music and all that was great, but I've got to go. This walk is a little longer than I thought, but the fans were great. That had to be impressive to them. The other thing is I thought we looked good today as we got off the bus and even on the field. I was pleased with the uniforms, if I must say so myself.
Describe your emotions the last few seconds of the game.
Well, I was just enjoying a victory. Again, I've said it all along, it's not about me. I know the historical significance of my hiring. I told the players in the dressing room the game is about the players. All the hype has been about me, but to us, to our team, it's always been about them. I didn't get into this to break any kind of barriers or to make some kind of history. Those players are the only thing that's important to me. Their welfare, their learning how to win, that's what my motivation is. When it ever gets to be anything other than that, I'm putting my whistle up.
Were you satisfied with Woody's playcalling?
I thought Woody did a great job calling the game. We opened it up. We wanted to make sure that we didn't, as coaches, do anything early to put our players in a bad situation. So we were very conservative and early on we weathered a storm. I thought Omarr got just a little bit rattled at one point in the game--he got exhausted--but I thought he gathered himself. One thing I do like about Omarr, he does have mental toughness. I can chew him up and down. He just laughs at me and doesn't even worry about it. It's like talking to a wall. But, he always seems to bounce back. I was pleased with the way Woody called the game and the way we executed. In the second half, we opened up and got some of our things going, some of our passing game, and made some nice hits. That throw he made to Eric Butler down there on the touchdown, I thought he was about passed out at that point. He made a bad play the play before, We were lucky the ball, when it got knocked out of his hand rolled off their defender, then rolled off Omarr out of bounds. If that ball had stayed in, I think I would have cut my throat right there. He comes right back the next play and just throws a strike. I know he was flat out exhausted at that point. That showed a lot of courage on his part.
Talk about Willie Evans play tonight
I know this, I don't think he left anything out there on that field. I think he gave it all. I really think he gave it all. And he's been doing that all training camp. I've said all along, I've never been worried about Willie hitting. I'm glad we were able to hit people and not get any roughing penalties. I don't think we had an offensive turnover; we had one fumble and we got it back, didn't throw an interception, I'm pleased with that. I think we only had three penalties. We had one motion penalty--David (Stewart). David gets a little edgy sometimes.
Mary Ann Swindoll is the editor of the Dawgs' Bite, Powered by GenesPage.com website. She can be reached by email at email@example.com