Monday Morning Teleconference

MSU offensive coordinator Sparky Woods, speaking in place of head coach Jackie Sherrill, answered questions from the media during Monday's teleconference.

Sparky Woods reviews the Alabama game:
"Alabama certainly has a great football team. We thought we played hard but weren't able to beat them. It was a game of two halves. The first half both offenses had a chance to move the ball and had a chance to score, whereas in the second half it became more of a defensive ballgame. Offensively, we were not able to get the ball into the endzone against Alabama's really fine defense. Although we were able to get a blocked punt and get field position, we were still not able to capitalize on it.

"Nevertheless, it was a great game. I thought overall we made some improvement offensively and certainly in the second half our defense stepped up. It also looks like our special teams improved from the Kentucky game."

Johnny Wadley's play during the game:
"I thought that Johnny Wadley, a guy who we didn't really count on at all going into the season, played pretty well for a young guy playing against a really good team like Alabama."

Would you say the first half of the Alabama game was the best that you guys have played offensively this year?
"I think it was the best we've played since earlier in the year. We were able to get started pretty good in the fact that we made a play or two on the early downs. We were able to convert some third downs which is tough to do against them. We were able to run some and pass, which was positive. We did drive the ball."

How is Jerious Norwood in regard to his injury?
"I think he has an ankle sprain. How bad that is is really hard to tell until we start to run him. I guess questionable is how he would be listed right now."

Kevin Fant played better in the first half than he did in the second half. How much do you think that was a result of him taking some shots and wearing down near the end of the game?
"I don't know how to answer that except to say that he is going to get hit some. Obviously, Alabama is a team that is going to hit you hard. I didn't sense that he was beat up or out of gas. I just think he has to make some of those throws. I think them being a little quicker on the pass-rush may have had something to do with it. He had to make his decisions a little sooner."

After the game, coach Sherrill mentioned the fact that maybe Kyle York should have come in earlier if for no other reason than to give Fant a breather. How close were you to doing that in the Alabama game?
"We have a lot of confidence in Kyle and intended to play him in the first half. I told he and Kevin that we had planned on getting him in the first half and probably come back with Kevin no matter what he did. We were having enough success in the first half that it didn't make sense to me to take (Fant) out. Then, it got in the second half where we were fighting the clock and you are trying to win the game. So you go with the guy you believe has the best chance to do that. I felt we did the right thing, but we didn't win the game so who knows."

You put the ball on the ground quite a bit against Alabama. After reviewing the tape, was there anything in particular you noticed about those fumbles?
"I think they are the kind of things that have plagued us most of the year. At times you can see where we are a little careless with the ball and get it away from our body. We just have to continue to stress to our players that it is important to squeeze that football and hold onto it."

I know the offensive line has had new starters just about every game this season. Do you expect to have the same offensive line starters this coming week as you had during the Alabama game?
"Yeah, I think so. But hopefully we might get Brad Weathers back and that would help in turn of depth at the guard position. Anybody we could get back would be a real plus."

You mentioned that Johnny Wadley played well during the game. Percentage-wise, how much did he play during the game?
"He played them all. He played fine for his first start against a really good Alabama team. It was fast for him and a new experience for him. He didn't really cost us anything and he made some good plays. But we didn't win the game so he didn't knock them all down either. He will have to play better as well as the rest of us will to beat Tennessee."

How did your tailbacks perform against Alabama?
"I thought that they ran the ball hard. I was a little concerned that we were careless with the ball at times. We have to secure the ball better than we have. Alabama really runs to the ball well, but I thought that we attacked them. I thought that was positive. I thought that Jerious (Norwood) gave us a burst or two. He made one 30-something yard run where he made a guy or two miss. I think you could still see that he wasn't totally full speed because it took him a while to get his feet under him and get going. We would like to get him completely healthy if we could. Maybe this week he will get better. Fred (Reid) played consistent and Dontae (Walker) made some good plays. We didn't play Justin (Griffith). We missed him. All indications are he will return for this game."

The score was better than previous SEC games. Does that, when a team is struggling, does that give the kids hope for the Tennessee game?
"Certainly there is hope. We have the film and we can find positives out of it. There were plenty of those positives in (the film) that should encourage our guys."

Talk a little about Tennessee.
"They look really good to me. I can't say too much about their offense since I haven't had a chance to see them much. I know they are suffering on offense at times because it seems like everybody is so good on defense. Their defense seems to be really fast. They play a lot of people and they have really good cover guys. They play several defensive linemen on their front who can move and really get to the ball. Their linebackers are fast and active. They do a really good job of coaching them.

"I watched Miami, who I feel is a great team, play against them and they could only get a couple of touchdowns but mostly field goals. And they had very good field position a lot of time."

Being from Tennessee, do you have relatives there who are still Tennessee fans?
"About half my family may be pulling against me this week. You never know. (laugh). My mother still lives there and I have a brother who is the head coach at Morristown West High School, Don Woods. My sister lives there and her husband works with him there. I also have uncles, aunts and cousins all over. I grew up near Knoxville."

You mentioned earlier that almost all teams have struggled on offense this year. Is this just a cycle where the defense is just better than the offense across the board?
"Well, you are talking to an offensive coach, so I'm real biased. I think people realize you don't go to bowl games unless you are real good on defense, so they put good players on defense, certainly in (the SEC).

"The biggest thing is the game has gotten to where people play offense on defense. The rules are such that it is hard to move (the ball) in the sense that they are going to get up in your face and grab you. And they can rush more players than you have (to block them). That puts the quarterback under a lot of pressure to execute. I just think we really have to look at where the game is going. You see it on Sunday that it is all about big plays. There isn't much of the 4 yards and a cloud of dust and 12-play drives. The NFL moved the hash marks in a little bit and they now have it where defensive backs can't collision receivers once they get started down field. I think they know what they are doing because they spent a lot of money on it. I think it would be wise to pay attention to how their game is going."

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