First of all, congratulations to the Maine team. They did what you had to do to win, and we did not. We had a couple of turnovers inside the red zone and a missed field goal. I thought our defense responded well. We didn't start well early, but I thought they did a good job. For the most part, they kept us in the ballgame all day long, but we didn't take advantage of opportunities. I knew that there was a strong possibility coming into this game that this could happen if we didn't get off to a good start and put this team away early. They are a dangerous football team. Their coaches do a fine job, and they have a great scheme. Bottom line, when we had an opportunity to put the game away we didn't do that. Our team is extremely disappointed. They should be. But now, we'll find out what kind of character we've got. We'll find out if we have the strength to stay together as a football team and come back and improve. We have another tough test (the LSU Tigers in Baton Rouge) coming up next week. We'll find out in our dressing room if we'll point fingers at one another, or if we'll stay together and go on and try to be a good football team and be the best football team that we can possibly be. That pretty much sums it up. We had opportunities to win the game, and we didn't. (That's the) bottom line.
What did you say to the team in the locker room after the game?
We had opportunities. I told them obviously that I didn't do a good enough job of convincing them that this football team would play for 60 minutes. They would fight to the end, and that they were capable of winning a football game. The fact that they are a Division I-AA team makes no difference. They were a good team and had good schemes. They had good personnel. I knew if we didn't get off to a good start and put it away with the team on the road, that this could possibly happen. During the course of the ballgame when we really started to move the ball well offensively, and we shut them down defensively, I thought that we were in pretty good shape. But when you don't put points on the board when you get in the red zone, it's a dangerous thing. Basically, I summed it up to the team by saying how they handle this as a team will be a real test. We'll find out what kind of character we have now.
Do you think the players looked at Division I-AA and thought it was a win?
I'm always worried that's in the back of their minds. I thought we practiced well. I thought we came out and played hard. But, that was always a concern, just realizing what the real possibilities were. I knew the running back they have, Marcus Williams, is an outstanding player. He could play for us, or he could play for just about anybody in this conference. I was very concerned about that. I thought our defense, after that first drive, responded very well and contained him. Except, they did run some time off the clock at the end after they got on top. You always worry about the teams that everybody thinks you're supposed to beat. You always worry about those games.
Was the scheme coming into the game more that you wanted to run the ball or pass?
We wanted to do both. We want to be a running football team and be a balanced offense. But, we have to establish a run, and we also have to stop the run. We haven't been as good as we need to be in either area. If we get in the mode of having to throw the football all the time, it could get ugly real fast.
Could you feel the team getting frustrated out there?
I think there was some frustration because we didn't score. There's always going to be some. We kept fighting back then we had that last turnover in the red zone. We were moving the ball down there, and we get the turnovers. If you just convert and walk away with 3 points, that's a positive thing, particularly early. If we had gotten three points out of each of those, I think the confidence would have gone up and we would have been in good shape as the game progressed. But for us to move the ball all the way down the field and not get it in once we got into the endzone, that's a confidence booster for their defense.
What happened inside the red zone?
Two turnovers. We were running the ball well there at the end, and we fumbled. That ball, instead of it going out of bounds, it went into the endzone and it's their ball. We had an interception down there on a slant play. We didn't cross. At worse, it should have been an incomplete pass. But we should have had a completion. And then we had a missed field goal that, for us, should have been a chip shot. At worse, that's 9 points right there. But, again, we didn't make the plays.
Was that a hard decision for you to call a punt late in the fourth quarter with just over a minute and a half left to play?
Yes, it was extremely hard. But, it was the only logical choice at that point. Our odds of making that fourth down were very miniscule. We got the ball back and had a shot at it at the end. It's hard giving up the football at the end, but I couldn't go with my emotions. You look at the clock and your charts. We actually ended up with more time than we thought we were going to have. We ended up with about 23-25 seconds. It would have been nice to have another one of those timeouts there at the end, but we had to use them all.
Would you say that from an overall standpoint that this team played better against Auburn?
We moved the ball well, we just didn't score when we got down there. That's the bottom line. The defense did a good job and stopped the run. Offensively, we moved the ball at times. Omarr made a lot of outstanding plays. But, when we got it down there, basically in the gut zone, we didn't show up. We didn't make plays. We didn't put the ball in there. They wanted to stop us more than we wanted to get it in.
Do you feel confident that your team will respond positively?
Yes, I do think they will respond positively. We've been through too much. Everything is a wait and see, but I've got to believe that the progress that we've made, and with what they have invested in it, it's tough to turn back. I expect them to continue to press forward, hang together, and we'll get through this.
You've said you always wanted to take at least two steps forward and not take steps back. Do you think this loss tonight might have taken steps back?
There's no question we took a step back. With two losses at home, back to back, that's taking a step back. We've got to learn to win games at home. You've got to expect to win games at home. If you're going to be a good team in this conference, you've got to win your home games. Two home losses back to back is extremely difficult. But, we've got to move forward. We've got a tough game coming up on the road next week. We've got to go to Baton Rouge. We've got to get ready to go down there and play.
What's the status of Jerious Norwood?
I haven't talked to the trainer since the game, but there was a possibility that we could have used him again in the second half. I didn't want to take a chance for any further damage.
Mary Ann Swindoll is the editor of Dawgs' Bite, Powered by GenesPage.com, the source for Mississippi State sports on TheInsiders.com sports network. You can contact her by email at email@example.com.