MSU-UAB Postgame Press Conference Transcript

Mississippi State head football coach Sylvester Croom talks about his team's game against UAB.

Opening Statement:

"First, I wish Neil Callaway and the Blazers nothing but good fortune the rest of the year. Neil has done a great job trying to rebuild that program. And he had his kids ready to play and they played extremely hard throughout the course of the ballgame.

"I am very proud of our players for the way we played in the second half. We only played one half of football. We didn't get much done in the first half at all, but they came out and played our kind of football in the second half and we were able to win the football game."

What did you tell your guys at halftime?
"I told them we weren't playing very well. I told them I didn't do a good job of getting them ready to play. It was obvious, despite all the forewarnings during the course of the week, I didn't do a good enough job of making them understand what was going to happen in this game if we didn't get out there and get it done early. So, what I asked them to do was go out in the second half and try to play above my coaching and that's what they did."

What did you think about Anthony Dixon's play in the second half?
"He did an outstanding job. That's the way he should run all the time. Anthony Dixon's a big-time player when he's doing things the right way. And he did it the right way today. He got his pads down, he kept his feet moving. Early in the game they tripped him when he had a chance to break out of there. I told him in the second half get his knees up and pick his feet up because they weren't hitting in the pads. They were going to hit his feet. When he's running hard, at some point during the game that's what is going to happen, the defensive backs are not going to tackle him high. They are going to start hitting his feet and then he's going to break out of there. But he's got to put them in that situation by pounding them early and getting his pad level down and driving and churning and get the extra yards. When he does that, there is probably just one back in this conference that is better than him. But when he doesn't do that, then we are going to have a difficult time with him."

Did the second half show how important Dixon is to your running game?
"We can't play good football without running the football. I think that's pretty obvious. And he's the key to that. And we can't get better if he doesn't get better. If he goes backwards we go backwards on offense. I told him before the season started that this is a team game, but on every good football team there are one or two playmakers that everything goes through, on offense and defense. On offense it is Anthony Dixon and on defense it is Titus Brown. It is just plain and simple. And they have to accept that responsibility. But we have to get some other guys to come up and play at their level when they are playing their best."

Did you know in the back of your mind when you decided to make Anthony Dixon the backup for this game that he is the kind of player that would respond to that?
"If he didn't, then I made a mistake in signing him."

Will you allow Anthony Dixon to talk to the media now?
"I told him he can talk, but he had better have a little more discipline about what he says."

Is is a big lift to know you can run the football on a team even when they know you are going to run it?
"Well, it is. And I think everybody in the country knows if they stop us from running they are going to have a good day. And that's the way it is - if we can't run the football they are going to beat us. It's just that simple because we are going to run the football. We may not even throw a pass in practice anymore (media laughs)."

Why did you decide to bring in Michael Henig in place of Wesley Carroll?
"We weren't getting anything done. We started off real slowly. And I was concerned that Wes didn't have as good a week in practice throwing the ball as I had hoped. And that is why we went with Mike. I thought that Mike had a great week in practice throwing. And I felt like we needed to throw the ball. But we didn't get anything going. So, I felt like we had to go back to running. And Wes does a great job of managing the offense and getting us in the right things. But today, in the second half, he made some big throws. The third down throw he made to Lance (Long) in front of our bench ... I asked him after the game how can he make that throw and miss Jamayel Smith wide open for a touchdown? I can't comprehend that. He told me, 'Coach, I will get it down.' The guy has a great deal of poise and is not turning the ball over. Some kind of way he moves the football."

Why did you decide to rush Michael Henig back?
"We didn't rush him. He threw the ball well in practice and all I can go on is what I see in practice. He threw the ball better in practice then he did before he got his hand hurt. All my decisions are made on what I see in practice on a day to day basis. That's all I can go on. I don't have any crystal ball. I'm not a magician. I tell the players all the time what you do in practice determines how I make decisions on Saturday."

Is that what you will go on for next week's game?
"No, Wes is our quarterback. Wes is our quarterback. And Tennessee knows we are going to run the football. It's clear and simple. That's the way we are going to start the football game, so they had better get nine up on that line of scrimmage."

Did you expect this kind of poise from Wes Carroll?
"I knew he had poise based on what he did against Auburn. And that's as bad as it is going to get I would think. He's one of those guys who has some deficiencies in some areas, but as (late Alabama) Coach (Paul 'Bear') Bryant use to say he's nothing but a winner. And that's what he is ... he's a winner. So, he's our quarterback."

Is there any aspect of the passing game that you feel is doing ok?
"We have some pretty good receivers and sometimes they do some things well and our quarterbacks don't. And sometimes the quarterbacks do some things well and the receivers don't. But the one constant is our offense line knocks people off the line, which we didn't do early in the game. I told the offensive line that they are the heart and soul of this football team. And I told them they had to go out in the second half, if we had any chance of winning this ballgame, and knock them off the ball and we will take the big fella and roll up in there behind them. And that's the way we are going to win. If we don't, then we are going to get beat and it's going to be a bad homecoming for everybody. And we are going to be the laughing stock of the whole country."

You played a lot of players on the defensive side of the ball today.
"Yeah, we are starting to play more people. Some of the young guys are starting to step up. A guy in particular is K.J. Wright. I think he is going to be an outstanding player. Zack Smith is playing more, now. Those guys are going to be really outstanding football players. They are just young. Sometimes you worry about them making a mistake, but those two in particular ... I told the defensive coaches I want them to play. Get them in the game and let them play. Although they may make some mistakes now, we have a long season left. And those guys are so conscientious about things they are probably not going to make the same mistake twice. What is getting us hurt are the guys who have repeat mistakes. We can't keep making the same mistakes over and over again. If that happens, we are going to go with a younger guy."

Your guys seem to be better about not making penalties in this game and not turning the ball over.
"Yeah, we are a lot better with the penalties. We had the two interceptions, but the backs are doing a good job of protecting the football. We had a ball loose on the ground that we didn't come up with and we had a couple of tip balls that we didn't come up with, but we did get some key ones. And that's been a good thing about our defense all year long. I thought we got pressure on their quarterback throughout the second half. We've got to find a way ... and listening to our secondary coaches on the phone today .... still our corners and safeties aren't playing their techniques exactly like they should be playing them. Our guys are putting some pressure on. We are trying to rush with three and four without having to blitz in obvious long yardage situations so we don't have to have those guys hanging back there in man to man coverage. But they aren't quite being disciplined in playing their technique. You have help inside, you play outside. If you don't have help inside you have to line up and play inside. And those are just simple, little things ... it sounds simple and seems to be simple, but for some reason we don't always have the discipline to always do that in the games. And that's how they are coming up with some of these third downs. We've got to get off the field on defense on third down."

Will Eric Hoskins start at fullback next week like he did today?
"He will start again next week. I've been looking for a fullback that is going to stick his face inside somebody's belly with three points of contact and drive his feet and put him on his back. And Hoskins is the kind of guy who will try to do that. He won't always get it done but he is at least trying to do it the way I want fullbacks to do it. So, he's our starting fullback."

Talk about the blocked field goal.
"We thought we could block a field goal going into this ballgame. And our guys had great effort on it. By the same token we didn't anticipate us missing an extra point, which is ridiculous."

What is your opinion of their kicker?
"Their kicker is outstanding. Believe me, I've been trying to find out how we missed on that guy."

Outside of Dominic Douglas, are there any other injuries?
"Nothing that (MSU head trainer) Paul (Mock) has told me about. And I really haven't had a chance to sit with him and visit. I'll do that when I leave here and get the final details on that. But I don't think Dominic's was serious either. I saw him go back out there."

Your team has four wins now, and a lot of fans are going to look ahead at who you have left to play, but is it one game at a time for you and your players?
"It's definitely one game at a time. Let me tell you something, I took a quick look at what's ahead the other day ... it ain't pretty, ok. It's one game at a time and it you don't take it one game at a time it's going to get ugly real fast because the rest of this thing is the real deal now, ok. It's the real deal. All the tuneups and the warmups ... all the experimenting is over. We are going with the guys who make plays. I want to look very closely at this film at every aspect of it ... offense, defense and kicking ... and the guys who do what we asked them to do and the guys who played well in the second half and fought, those are the guys that we going with at every position."

Gene Swindoll is the publisher of the Dawgs' Bite, Powered by website, the source for Mississippi State sports on the sports network. You can contact him by email at

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