Paul Johnson's VMI Postgame Comments

Johnson discusses the play of several freshmen and points out areas of concern heading into the TCU game (Sept. 6th, 6pm ET)

Q. Your thoughts?

A.  I'm happy that we won.  I'm proud of the effort.  We made a lot of mistakes and we have a lot of room for improvement, but that usually happens in first games.  I thought we came out and played very well in the first half and then we lost our focus a little bit in the third quarter.  Thankfully, we went back out there in the fourth quarter, after the delay, and kind of got the game back in hand.  We still had a lot of breakdowns and we made a couple of very poor decisions.  The interception (Polanco's) right before halftime was a very poor decision and the fumbled punt (Wesley's), deja vu.  We had the game in hand.  We're up 28-0, we stop them three and out to start the second half and make them punt and he carries the dang balldown on his thigh pad.  I mean it's inexcusable.  But, it's  just as easy, or easier, to correct those mistakes when you win so I'm excited for our players for that.

Q. How about the way Craig ran the offense in the first half?

A. I thought after the first series we did some things.  We had some things in the passing game, but for whatever reason we can't seem to get the home run.  Whether we're not fast enough, or we don't lead them enough, or whatever, but we had some plays and it was disappointing not getting some for touchdowns.  We had some big plays in the passing game in the first half and that helped us.  They had 10 guys in the box.  They were firing guys out of the secondary. He had some opportunities in the passing game.  We could have had a couple of touchdown passes if we don't drop them.

Q. You were throwing the ball a lot on first and second down.

A. When we throw the ball, that's generally when we throw it.  We aren'
t a big third and long team that can throw the ball.

Q. Do you see a lot of nine and 10 guys in the box?

A. Today we were, I don't know if a whole lot of people will line up that way.

Q. Were you pleased with Eckel today?

A. Yes.  I think he ran very hard.  He looked like he does against us in practice out here on the field today and a lot of times he made what he got himself.  He broke a lot of tackles.  I don't know how many yards he ended up with (129), but I thought he played very well.

Q. You had almost 600 yards of total offense today despite the one stretch in the third quarter where you didn't do much.

A. We killed ourselves (in the third quarter).  We hit a big pass play and we got hit with offensive pass interference, the next play we get a holding penalty, the next play the fullback goes the wrong way, it was just a complete lapse of concentration.  We flashed back to the way we played last year.  It was hot in the first half and we lost some guys.  We lost August Roitsch (center) at halftime.  We had Marshall Green playing (center), Dennis Phillips (guard), Casey Hughes (tackle).  A lot of guys that had never been in a college football game before so there is naturally going to be some growing.

Q. How about some of your freshmen?

A.. I thought Jason Tomlinson stepped up and made some nice plays.  I don't know how many catches he had (three for 65 yards), but he was consistent and he made some nice plays.  Hampton (Brian) ran a kickoff back pretty good. Keenan Little made some plays and Mahoney (David, linebacker).  We got some contributions out of our freshmen I think.

Q. It looked like VMI was on the edge of something before the delay and then you guys came out after the delay and were clearly sharper and put them away.

A. I think we got our focus back.  We've had a history here of losing focus for a quarter or two and then the games over.  We got our focus back.

Q. What are some of the things you need to work on?  It looked like you had some sloppy ball handling in the second half.

A. Snapping the ball late at times.  We were having a hard time with a new center doing that.  I thought for the most part Craig took care of the ball pretty good.  It was the same old, same old, we have our turnovers on the damn special teams, which is what happened last year.  You can say we turned it over a bunch (last year), but other than a game or two it was the special teams that turned it over last year.  It's one thing if you're having them on mesh fumbles (quarterback-fullback exchange) and option fumbles, but that's not what happens to us.  We just do it (fumble) running in the open field with the ball down on our leg.  We're going to have to get a little mentally tougher when we get tired, but that's learning, that's part of the learning process.

Q. Are you glad you don't have to talk about not winning at home again?

A. Yeah, hopefully we took care of that for at least a week.

Q. That is a big deal though, breaking a three-year home losing streak.

A. I'm sure it's a big deal to everybody that's been here that long.  A one-year losing streak was a big deal to me, that's all I had.  That was a long one.  I came from a place where we won 38-straight at home (Georgia Southern).  I'd rather start one of those, they're a lot more fun.  Dinner tastes better, everything's better when you win.


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