Coach Sylvester Croom Post-Game Comments

"We were glad of course to win this game. I was very concerned going into this game. These guys have played very well against a lot of SEC schools, they beat Maryland. I thought we came out offensively and moved the ball very well, then they started blitzing a lot and gave us problems with some of the slants and twists they were doing inside."

"I felt like we had control of the game, then defensively the things they did in their offense it was pretty tough. They had our front three guys running around all night, we couldn't sub because they'd go quick huddle. And we weren't going to sub particularly if the ball was on the far hash, we just couldn't take the chance because they'd go very quickly. I thought we did some good things defensively except we didn't tackle as well. I was really disappointed with our tackling. There were several times we were one-on-one and just didn't get the guy down. They have some pretty good athletes but we've got to tackle a lot better than that. It's something we've worked on a great deal and we're not getting it done in that area."

"Other than that we had a couple of deep balls we had chances to make, we didn't come up with. But all in all we were very fortunate to win. It's Homecoming, everybody can enjoy it tonight. Then we've got to get back to work next week with Kentucky coming in here. I told the players I wanted them to have fun tonight but we have to play better. We haven't played as good as I think we're capable of yet, getting all three phases playing well."

"I thought our kicking units did pretty good tonight, we punted the ball well, we made our field goal, our coverage was pretty good. We had some short kick(offs) going into the breeze, it was more than I thought it was down on the field. Because their guy, when they were kicking with the wind almost all were going off the field; then we switched it around and it changed up. So obviously the wind definitely hurt us then. But all in all we were very pleased we got a win, and we move on to the next one and see if we can get better."

Q: How important was Anthony Dixon in the win? "Well, he's important every week. He's got to play well. I was very pleased he was able to out-run them for a touchdown, I told him he was still pretty slow! But he was just slow enough to get it in the end zone, so we were very thankful."

Q: How important was it for him to get in the end zone, it's been a while for him? "It's been a while for us, too. I don't care who gets it in there, I want somebody to get it in there."

"But no question it starts with him running the ball well. And I thought we did a good job of mixing up what we were trying to do. Because they changed some things. We expected them to be based on the film we'd seen all year to be a big, big man-coverage team, just line up in your face and bump guys. We had some things especially designed for that, and they start mixing in a lot of what we call cover-two trap where their corners end up being the ‘force' guys. Particularly when we started running A.D. to the edges. With those corners inside the wide receivers they're not in a position for the wide receivers to block. So we had to make some adjustments there. Then they were running a lot of middle stunts. We caught them in one with the linebacker, #44. That was the only one we broke, we caught them in a blitz on that one."

"So it was just a little bit of a chess match and that's why we got in a little bit of a slump there in the second quarter, they were stopping things that we did early. Our flair-screen we ran to (Arnil) Stallworth, we hit on that a couple of times. And we had another in for Arceto (Clark) but after they nailed that one, the third one, we thought we'd stay away from that. Even though the sweep we ran with him, previously the edge there was nobody over there; but they got smart and changed that up. Some other things we had for him, the way they played when he was in the slot totally changed up the way they played that."

"So some things we'd seen from them all season, they took them away in this ball game so we had to make some adjustments. We got in two tight ends and were able to make a couple of plays there to help up. It was a little bit of mixing and matching; when they countered, we countered."

Q: Was it worth burning Clark's redshirt? "Yeah, we're going to play him some more. Guys, I'm not worried about what's happening four years from now. I'm going to let someone else worry about that if that needs to be; I'm worried about winning that game today. Burning a redshirt? All I want to do is win today. And we're going to play him next week, we're going to play him the week after that, and what happens four or five years from now I'm not concerned about."

"Don't get me wrong on this. My philosophy is to play guys that can help us win games. I've talked to Nick Saban and other coaches about it; when you get good athletes, hey the guys might go in the draft after their junior year so you never know. I'm not going to worry about it, if a guy can help us play we're going to play him and go from there."

Q: How much did Arnil Stallworth help tonight? "He did a real good job. Stallworth is playing very well for us now, and the great thing about it is he's playing fullback and halfback."

Q: Did Tyson Lee have his best game? "Hmmm…Yeah. No picks, I would say one missed read in the game. So that's pretty good. The throw to Jamayel Smith (in the 4th quarter) was a big, big play. I thought there was another play he had when he had Stallworth wide-open on the sideline…but then again I think there was pressure on the tight-end side on that so there was probably something that made him flush out of that. I think the tight end broke down."

Q: What made the difference tonight in the second half? "The second half we went out and we executed. We made some good adjustments I thought offensively as far as what we did to continue to drive the ball. We moved the ball extremely well offensively for the whole game except the second quarter. They went all-out blitz and started blitzing on what normally had been coverage downs or run downs, they changed it up."

"Something we did differently this game, we ran a lot more from what normally was our passing sets. Because we felt if we put two backs in the game, a fullback and halfback, that they were going to stack the box on us. So we spread out, we put three wide receivers out there. And you mentioned Tyson's best game; one of the things we've hesitated in the past is about running what we call the inside-veer, a zone-read with Tyson because we were really worried about how he would handle the part when they made him keep the football. I think his ability to make some runs off the keeps early, I'm sure it surprised them because they hadn't seen him do that. And we were very reluctant in the past to do that, it's something that Wes (Carroll) had done but ever since we made the change to Tyson it's been a small part of what we've done. But we felt the way people are playing us we have to be able to do that to spread people out more. In order to be able to make some plays without people stacking nine guys at the line of scrimmage on us. And he did a very good job of that. I told him like A.D. he's got to learn to beat that guy and outrun some people. But he did a very good job."

Q: Can you talk about the trouble they gave the offensive line? "We just had some missed assignments. I know Nelson (Hurst) missed one, just didn't make the block. We had some missed assignments early on some stunts, some things we work on all the time. I thought our line, particularly in the run game, did a better job of picking those things up in the second half."

Q: With Mike Gates not available, were you relieved to get through the game playing just the five linemen? "Yeah, that was good. Because if we'd got anybody hurt it would have been a problem, we'd have had a little bit of a drop-off. We have some young guys that are coming along, but they're not quite ready yet. I think Addison Lawrence is really making improvement, Dakota Merritt is making improvement, those two guys are going to be good players and those would have been the next two guys that we would choose to get out there."

"It takes time. A lot of our guys that were freshmen last year, they're redshirt freshmen now. And offensive line, it takes a while. A lot of our kids are young and when we recruited them we thought a year-and-a-half, two years before they could play quality SEC football. The thing is, some people we anticipated being there where we wouldn't have to press them into service quite as fast. You can't force a guy to mature any faster, that's one thing I learned. We've tried, I promise you that, we tried. We'll continue to get guys reps."

"Even there in the fourth quarter you're hoping to get the game in a situation where you can get them some game repetition. Because I think that significantly helps. No matter how much practice I think getting the guy in the game is a critical, critical thing as far as his development. We just haven't had the opportunity to put some of our younger players in a game where you're not risking them a mistake that might cost you. The game was still pretty tight there at the end and I wanted to put some young players in there. But the opportunity did not present itself."

Q: You've talked about missed chances before, tonight you were four-for-four in the red zone. "We executed a lot better on offense. A lot better. Fourth-and-one, we got those. Early in the season we missed on several of those that we should have gotten, that really cost us in the Auburn game. We had a big third down and the throw from Tyson to Jamayel was a big play in the game. If we have to kick the ball right there I'm really concerned."

"But we executed a lot better. I think if we continue to get better, and I see a lot of room for improvement. We're still not where I would like for us to be. We played better offensively. And I know their schemes gave us a lot of problems defensively when they spread you out like that, but we've got to tackle better one-on-one. We really do have to tackle better."

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