"Good win for us under the circumstances in the first game. Thought it was great to play at 6 p.m. at night. I thought our fans did a great job and our student section was packed. They did a great job. It was a lot of fun. We got a bunch of young people in the game throughout the game, even actually in the first quarter; they got a lot of meaningful experience. We got some meaningful reps with a lot of kids. We made a lot of mistakes, a ton of mistakes actually throughout the game, but we also created a lot of turnovers and did a lot of really good things. We’ve got a lot to work on. For a first game, you get the win and that’s what you want, and then you want to learn from all the mistakes you made and then you become a better football team.”
What do you think flipped for the team midway through the third quarter?
“You go in at halftime and our guys were disappointed in what happened in the first half. They were extremely excited about going back out on the field, and they were riled up and the energy level in the locker room was incredible at half. And it wasn’t anything the coaches did, it was all them. We go back out and the defense starts creating turnovers left and right, and you do that, you have a chance to win a bunch of games. What’d we create, six turnovers in the game? I don’t know how many of them came in the third quarter, but quite a few of them, I remember. It was just a change in attitude, really.”
So defensively, there were no halftime adjustments?
“Oh yeah, we made adjustments on both sides of the ball. But, I don’t want you to think we changed the scheme, it wasn’t that. It was just the energy level of the guys, and you get one guy who is really positive and excited, and it’s contagious, and it goes to the next guy. And the next thing you know, good things start to happen. I mean, that’s the way it works, when you have a bunch of guys who are positive and have a lot of energy and are bouncing around, usually good things happen.”
What’d you like that you saw out of your quarterbacks?
“I thought they did a good job of managing the game, I really did. They moved the chains, I think we were 9-of-17 on third down, which is pretty good for us. What I didn’t like were the interceptions, all three were avoidable. Especially one of them in the situation we were in. But again, we got out of it with a win, both of them got a lot of really good reps, and I think we’ll get better there.”
Can you underestimate how valuable the experience is for the young guys?
“It’s tremendous, because no matter how much you do in practice, and scrimmaging and all of those things... We were trying to figure out how many true freshmen got in the game... I know at least eight got in the game for the first time, not to mention all the redshirt freshmen that it was the first time they stepped into a live game. We got some really good reps. And whether they did it right or wrong, they’re going to get to learn from it. Just getting real live reps is so valuable for them to learn from. Because when you go back and look at it on film, it’s never as good as you think, it’s never as bad as you think, that old saying. But, they’re going to learn a lot from what they get to see.”
Can you assess the performance of your makeshift secondary, especially against a veteran quarterback like that?
“First of all, that quarterback is really good. I mean he is a good football player. He picked on us quite a bit, he found the open guy, and they did a great job with that. If it hadn’t been the turnovers, it would’ve been a game, for sure. I thought those guys stepped up and did a really nice job. Kedrick Davis got an interception, and T.J. Jiles did a nice job throughout the game, and [Alex] Dixon played extensively. Tim Scott moves back to corner when he hadn’t had reps over there in the entire camp, and he comes out on Wednesday and we throw him out there and try and get him some reps into the boundary. I think those guys did a good job under the circumstances. I’m proud of the way they reacted.”
Outside of the four-minute stretch in the third quarter when you scored those four touchdowns, what do you take away from this performance?
“We’ve got a long way to go. It’s nothing pretty about the game I can assure you if you go outside those four minutes. But, again, for us, the way we look at it, it’s a win. And we’re going to enjoy every win we get, because winning is hard to do. It’s not as easy as everybody thinks. I should say not losing is hard to do. That’s the toughest thing to do. With the turnovers we created ourselves offensively, we've got a lot of room to grow. Again, we had 10 penalties, which, I can’t tell you how much emphasis we put on getting that cleaned up, and we have a long way to go in that area also.”
You talked Wednesday about guys had worked too hard to let what had happened this week to be a distraction. Did you think it was a distraction, and did you talk about it with them?
“I did not address it. I didn’t even talk about it today. We were beyond that; now it was all about coming together, picking each other up. If somebody needed some slack, somebody else was going to have to pick up the slack for them. It was really good to watch at halftime in the locker room, because once we made the adjustments offensively and defensively, I just kind of sat back and watched, and really the team took over at that point. The leadership was incredible in there, and I didn’t have much to say really, other than we've got to fight, let’s go fight. And they came out and got after it.”
What went into your decision to start Marquise, and after what happened tonight, how will you evaluate it going forward?
“The decision was we felt like coming out of camp he deserved to start. We felt like because of his experience, and neither one had really separated from the other, that he would get the start. We knew Mitch was going to play, and he was going to play meaningful reps, not just mop up duty at the end. That was going to be important because we need to have the next guy ready. How are we going to evaluate them? We will go in there and break them down completely, both of them. We’ll point out the good things then point out the bad things and then they’ll learn and they’ll grow from it.”
Are their strengths similar that the offense doesn’t change?
“Yeah, we really didn’t change anything. Both of them can run and both of them can throw, so we really didn’t change the offense. So it makes it much easier on the staff.”
Was the plan with the running backs to split them as evenly as you could?
“Well, unless somebody got the hot. The guy that got hot was (Charles) Brunson at the end. Yeah, we just felt like if somebody got really productive and was tearing it up that they would stay out there on the field. I don’t know if anyone really did that throughout the game. We split the reps with them, which means that they’ll all be fresh for next week. That’ll help us throughout the season.”
Did the younger players engage more as the game went on, and that’s why they fought a little bit better?
“Part of it was early on, they were feeling their way. Believe it or not, when I see a guy that’s coming out in the victory walk and he’s standing in the hall and he’s sobbing, and he’s a true freshman, and he’s just overwhelmed with excitement... Now, you think this is a college football player, he’s an 18-year-old kid, and he’s fixing to play in his first game. We all think it’s no big deal, but to them, it’s huge, huge. Getting out there and being wide eyed, and you think you’ve had 29 practices, you’re going to be alright, it doesn’t always work that way. So that’s why those reps we got tonight are going to be critical to our success. Because every one of them is going to play throughout the year for us. It wasn’t just let’s throw some freshmen out there and see how they can do. We know they’re going to help this team win, so they’re going to have to get as many reps as they can. Tyler Powell did some really nice things inside, Nazair Jones that played inside, Dajaun Drennon played really well, [Cayson] Collins caused a fumble there at one point. It was good to see Tyrell Tomlin come off the edge in the money package. There were some really good things that were happening with those young guys even though they weren’t perfect.