Paul Johnson Monday Press Conference

Navy head coach Paul Johnson spoke the the media on Monday about Navy's 37-9 win over Stanford and the upcoming game with Tulsa.

In Attendance: Bill Wagner, Annapolis Capital; Peter Schmuck, Baltimore Sun

Wagner: I want to state for the record that I did not pick Navy to lose to Stanford. That was a misprint in the Capital.

Johnson: Yeah, sure. I hear you. We used that for motivation Wags, it was good.

Wags: Is that Gallion in Red? Is he going to be OK?

Johnson: I think so.

Wags: Do you want to put a timetable on Price (DuJuan) at this point?

Johnson: I don't have any idea what the timetable is. He's not going to play this week.

Schmuck: Paul, you talked about how the next few weeks you were going to find out a lot about your team. I assume you were thinking the same thing before last week's game, going on the road against a Pac-10 team.

Johnson: I was.

Schmuck: Do you sense, after a win like that, anything different about the team as far as confidence continuing to build?

Johnson: We'll see as the week goes on, today is just kind of a conditioning day, but I would hope that it's the kind of momentum you can build on. I think we played probably one of our better games this year as a group. We scored eight out of 10 times on offense so that was pretty good. We got contributions on special teams and we did a good job on defense of not giving up big plays. We kept them in front of us and they had a hard time driving the field. They would make a mistake or we would find a way to get them off the field. We played about the way we need to play to have a chance to win.

Schmuck: Did you learn anything about your guys when they had the mistake there at the end of the first half (botched pitch), but then held them to a field goal on defense and came out to start the second half and scored.

Johnson: I think it was important that we came out and scored to start the second half. We got a great kickoff return to set us up and we were able to push it in. I was a little concerned that the momentum had swung in their favor because it looked like we were going to go up 17-0 and instead it was 10-3 so that should have given them some life and spark and I think the spark they got we took right out of them when we came out and scored.

Schmuck: Even though you played a great game and you dominated Stanford it didn't appear, watching it on TV, that the offense was as precise as the offense the last couple of years. Is that a fair statement or is it because it's the third game of the season?

Johnson: I don't know. I don't know what the expectations are for the offense. Can we play better? Yeah, we gave away a couple of scoring opportunities, but we scored eight out of the 10 times we had the ball. I think any time you can do that you have to be satisfied. Do you always try and get better? Sure. You know what is misleading is that the way we have to play to have a chance to win is to limit the possessions in a game so it becomes more of a big deal if you don't score. I was watching the North Texas-Tulsa game and North Texas punted the ball 14 times. We might have a few more than 14 possessions in two games if we're playing well. Can we play better? You bet. We need to play better on offense. We can't have the ball out. The goal is to score every time we get it.

Wagner: I think what people are saying though is that you guys have run it so well for so long that there is usually absolutely perfection. The ball is exactly where it's supposed to be, the timing is exactly the way it's supposed to be, there is never any flaws and it just seems like there have been a couple of those.

Johnson: The only flaw we had on Saturday is that Brian pitched the ball the wrong way (on the goal line).

Wagner: What about the bobble between him and Ballard.

Johnson: That's fundamentals. He's probably riding the thing up there too far at times.

Wagner: Is Ballard supposed to take that ball?

Johnson: No. Hampton has to get it out before he gets up in there. It could have been a big deal, but it wasn't a big deal because he got it and ducked it up in there. There are some fundamental things, but if you go back and look at the last two or three years this stuff has happened early on. One thing I think that's good about what we do is that we get better as the year goes along and if you go back and look we weren't all chipper against Maryland, against Stanford, heck the first half of the Air Force game last year was awful. The ball was everywhere. You're comparing now to the end of last year when we were hitting on all cylinders. Can we get better? You bet. We can get better in a lot of places.

Wagner: You got better in this very game.

Johnson: We got better in the second half and hopefully we can build on that. I guess it's good that the expectation level is so high that you get 470 yards and score 37 points against a BCS school and people want to know what's wrong.

Schmuck: I can't remember the last time a coach has had four different quarterbacks in four years and this is an offense that depends tremendously on chemistry and precision. Is it just a product of hard work that you've been able to continue to have success with that kind of turnover?

Johnson: I think we've got good assistant coaches and everybody understands what we're trying to do and they work well together. Coach Jasper has done a good job of coaching the quarterbacks. He's done a nice job of getting them ready to play. I feel good about where Kaipo is. I think he could come in and play and I think Jarod (Bryant) has a chance. We have some guys, we just have to continue to get better at that position.

Wagner: Hampton clearly did better in all facets in the second half. Can you elaborate on what he did better?

Johnson: I think he just relaxed and played. He didn't get a stupid delay of game penalty, he didn't run the wrong way, he didn't check the wrong way, he hit the pass plays when he relaxed and threw the ball. Now, fundamentally can he do a lot of stuff better? Sure, and we just have to keep working on it.

Wagner: But that was an encouraging sign.

Johnson: Yeah it was encouraging. He played better. He got better. The kid has been a starter for three games. Everybody wanted to anoint him before the season as the next coming. There is a big difference, I'm telling you right now that I've coached 27 years and there's a huge difference between standing over on the sidelines as the back-up quarterback and just going in when called on and being the starter and thinking about it all week and the night before the game and all that pressure, some kids handle it better than others. Look at Aaron Polanco. Craig Candeto gets hurt in the Notre Dame game in Baltimore and Aaron goes in and it's lights out. Everyone is wondering why in the world isn't this guy starting. What happened the next week when he knew he was starting against UConn? It wasn't good.

Wagner: Tulsa. What can you tell us about them?

Johnson: I think they're a very good football team. They have a good quarterback, they have an experienced offensive line and defensively they held North Texas to 79 total yards. That's total for the game. I haven't heard anybody doing that in a long time. They fly around and they have a lot of experience. I think they are the pre-season pick to win Conference USA. They have a good football team. It will be a huge challenge. They will be one of the better teams we play this year.

Wagner: Obviously you already played one Conference USA team this year.

Johnson: I think they (East Carolina) have a good team too and they were picked to finish last in Conference USA. Now, I don't think that's going to happen because I think they have a pretty good team.

Wagner: Tulsa is coming off a bowl win so they probably have some confidence as far as their program.

Johnson: They have a lot of guys that have played. Coach Kragthorpe does a good job. He's a good coach.

Schmuck: One last question on expectations. You've done some amazing things and you've created some expectations, but isn't that what you intended to do when you started out?

Johnson: Yeah. It's way better than not having any. It's good news, bad news. The good news is that we've gotten to the point where people are looking for the problems. The bad news is that we are to the point where everybody looks for the problems.

Wagner: Five years ago people were looking for the bright spots.

Johnson: I saw Scott's release today and he had in there that this is something like the second time in the last 26 years that Navy has started 3-0 or something like that and both times happened the last three years, but nobody is talking about that. We're to the point now where everybody expects to win, which is a good problem to have I guess. I would rather for it to be that way than everybody going to the stadium going "Oh man, here we go again".

Schmuck: Is this team playing at the level you're looking for?

Johnson: No. I don't know if we can get to where I'm looking for. I think that's a good thing. We keep striving to play the perfect game and we haven't come close to doing that. We have to keep trying to get better. That's the challenge to me. I'm not going to accept the way we are playing. We could play better this week and I still won't accept it unless it's what I'm looking for.

Schmuck: I kind of view you from a distance, but am I wrong in saying that you're a perfectionist?

Johnson: I think I have pretty high expectations of people.

Schmuck: So when I said earlier that it didn't look as precise, I wasn't insulting your team.

Johnson: Oh, I know you're not, but I've just heard that for the last two weeks. After we played against UMass people were saying that everybody has figured out the secret to playing the option. It's frustrating because when you've coached at different schools it's like as soon as you have a bad game people are saying, "everybody's figured out how to play you." It would be like Notre Dame having a bad game against Michigan so they are never going to win again because everybody has figured Charlie Weis out or that everybody has figured Miami out or whatever and as a coach you get frustrated talking about it all the time because it's still about execution, players and doing the right thing at the right time.

Schmuck: Again, I'm not a football expert by any means, but the offense that you run is more about precision than say the West Coast offense is it not?

Johnson: It has to be here. If you had bigger, stronger people it probably wouldn't have to be, but it has to be here. We have to be precise, because we probably aren't going to overpower people and we are probably not going to outrun them or do all those things so by nature, whatever you do here, has to be precise. It's the same way on defense. You aren't going to be able to line up in the wrong gap and run somebody down from behind. Everything has to be more precise here. I understand what you're saying. When I watch it from a coaching standpoint every time that a play isn't perfect it drives me crazy. To me, I feel like we could score on every play and if we don't then I'm trying to fix what went wrong. Even last year when we were firing on all cylinders we weren't even close to playing perfect. That's what you strive for.


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