Postgame Comments by Coach Croom

Mississippi State head football coach Sylvester Croom talked about his team's loss to Auburn.

COMMENTS:

First of all, I'd like to congratulate Coach Tuberville and the Auburn team. They did an outstanding job. They beat us about every way you can beat us, and they're a very good football team. They're going to win a lot more football games.

It's obvious they ran the football. I don't think it takes a genius to figure out how they beat us. They beat us on the line of scrimmage where it always happens. They ran the football almost 300 yards of offense. It's pretty hard to do anything there. Offensively, we couldn't take any pressure off them by keeping our offense out there long enough. Every time we got something going, we'd self-destruct. Last week we didn't have penalties, this week we did. We had missed assignments and guys not focused created some of those penalties. We've got to improve in that area. We've got to get better in every area, for that matter.

The only thing that was even pleasing was the way our second unit went out there and finished the football game. I thought they played hard there at the end and didn't quit. Some of those young guys made some plays.

I won't comment on individual performances until I look at the film. But I can assure you of this, the guys that made plays will get significantly more playing time next week. Anybody that did not give us a maximum effort during the game will not get the playing time next week.

We're going back out next week and we're going to work extremely hard to try to get better. I don't think our players liked the taste of what happened out there today, and I know I don't. If any of them do, and any of them can be satisfied with our performance today, then they're in the wrong place.


Q & A:

Talk about your reason for going for it on 4th and goal near the end of the game.
Kicking a field goal wasn't going to make a difference. We get a lot of field goal practice in practice everyday. I wanted to see if we could put some points on the board. I probably should of called a time out there but the way we were slowing them down, I wanted to see if we could score with the minimum amount of time left on the clock We weren't even stopping their second string. Their third string guy came out, and he outran our entire defensive football team. I didn't want them to get another crack at it, because even on their running game, I'm sure they weren't trying to do anything extra out there. But they've just got that kind of speed right now. It's obvious when that third running back came out there and broke in the secondary, we couldn't even catch him.

Do you feel their running backs are NFL quality?
Oh, yeah. I knew they were NFL quality backs. I've been looking at them a couple of years when I was at Green Bay. Believe me, you'll see them playing on Sunday next year.

Do you feel after seeing today's game that you have a long way to do?
Oh, yeah. We've got a long way to go. I've been saying that all the time. I've been trying to tell it exactly like it was from day one. All I want our players to do is give the best we can get out of them. I don't think we gave our best today. I don't know if we'd given our best that we would have won. But, I know that's not as good as we can play. That's what bothers me. We didn't play as well as we can play. Again, if we'd played our maximum effort, I still don't know if we'd have won the football game. But I know that's not as good as we can play. I told our players in the dressing room if they think that's as good as they can play, then they are in the wrong place.

What was the biggest improvement you saw in Omarr (Conner) from last week to this week?
I thought his rhythm was better early on, knowing where to go with the football. His accuracy was better, particularly in the 3- and 5-step drop game. He's still good on the movement. The last couple of passes that he threw could have been a little bit better. They did have some pressure in his face. He's still a work in progress.

Our entire football team is, especially offense. The guys that will keep working, the guys that will keep fighting--when we look at the film, we'll see who those people are. We'll keep trying to move those guys around and get them in a position where we can develop into a football team.

As I said, I knew going into the game that they had far more talent than we did. I was hoping if we played with our maximum effort, hopefully we would get a turnover. We had some chances early to get some turnovers and we didn't make them. We had some chances early offensively to make some plays, to make some catches out there. We didn't make them. And when we had something going, we got penalties.

Again, we're looking for people that's going to give us maximum effort. I think it was obvious today that our talent level has got to improve. We're going to have to recruit hard this year. There's a great opportunity for young men who want to come in here and play in every area of our football team. I just hope that they will see enough of our program to enjoy it and think that this will be a good place to spend their four years of college. Our talent level must improve if we expect to be a championship football team. That goal has not changed, will not change, will never change while I'm here.

Your backs appeared to have trouble running the ball today. Was it something your guys weren't doing or was it their defense?
Their defense was whipping our front. Bottom line. They whipped us.

Can you front seven play better or were they simply overmatched?
It was a combination. I think it was the running backs as much as anything. Missed assignments and then poor tackling. But again, we do have to improve. I don't want to put it on any one position or individual until I look at the football film. But then again, we've all got to do better. Me, the rest of the coaches, all of us. We've got to be better than what we were today. That's not satisfactory.

Is Maine going to be a big challenge, a character challenge as well as a coaching challenge?
There's no question. You're right on both accounts. It's a coaching challenge on my part as a coach. It's also a character challenge on all of our parts to see what we have inside of us. This is that opportunity. I think we'll respond well. I think we'll come back out next week and work and try to improve from there. We'll come back out and play better next week. We'll find the guys that are willing to do that and continue to build the program. I'm disappointed in the way that we played. The goal has not changed. Our approach to things will not change. But it has to be better than where we are now. As I've said all along, we'll look at this one, learn from it, put it away, and get ready for the next one, because there's nothing we can do about it now.

Can you give us an update on Ronald Fields?
He was up and walking around. That's all I can tell you right now. I haven't talked to the trainer. I won't get with him until I finish up here.

Was it his knee?
When I talked to the doctors on the field, they felt like it might have been something in the knee. But they said everything was stable from their first diagnosis right there on the site.

Did it surprise you how well Auburn ran the ball against your team?
I knew they would run the football. I didn't expect us to totally shut them down. But you just can't allow the length of some of those runs. When they can run like that, they can do anything they want to do. I knew eventually they were going to hit us on some key passes because then we had to commit everything we could to try and stop the run. I just thank Coach Tuberville for not making it worse, as bad as it could have been at one point.

I thought coming out at halftime, I really thought if we went out and maybe took the first drive down and scored, that we had a chance to get back in the football game. I really thought that. But we didn't do that on offense. And then the defense immediately allowed them to take the ball down and get something on the board again. So then we're trying to really play catch up at that point.

How much did those last two touchdowns that your team scored mean to your players?
Just from those kids' reaction down there on the sideline, I think it meant a great deal to them. Again, that's a positive. It's a bad taste in my mouth right now. I'm just going to tell you that. It's hard for me to deal with losing, always has been. But until I look at the film tomorrow to see what we did well and try to build on that, I do know that was a positive.

Anytime you get in a situation like that it can get ugly real fast if the guys don't have a little character to them. I know we still have some young people with character. The thing we have to do is make decisions, particularly on some of those young guys. Some of them didn't play today. Do we play them now, or do we not play them? It's a tough decision. But I'm going to have to make that decision. After we look at film, after we look at practice early next week, we'll make that decision and we'll live with it.

Did you expect the production that you are receiving from Eric Butler?
No, I expect more. He's making some plays, but he hasn't scratched the surface of his ability. No, I'm not satisfied with his performance at all. He's making too many mistakes. He can be a good football player. He can be one of the best football players we've got. He has the ability to be as good a tightend as there is in the country. I expect him to be. He's got to expect more out of himself than what he's doing right now.

Did it bother you that Auburn was still passing late in the game when it was out of reach?
I don't worry about stuff like that. We're playing a football game. Their job is to put points on the board.


Mary Ann Swindoll is the editor of Dawgs' Bite, Powered by GenesPage.com, website, the source for Mississippi State sports on TheInsiders.com sports network. You can contact her by email at maryannswindoll@genespage.com.
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