The following is Ole Miss Coach Ed Orgeron's Monday press conference prior to the Vanderbilt game this Saturday at 1 p.m. at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium.
Coach O's opening statement: "First of all, our crowd was definitely the 12th man Saturday night. It was exciting, especially when they were cheering 'defense, defense.' You could feel the enthusiasm and the momentum. It was a fantastic night for Ole Miss except for the end result of the game.
"On offense, we established some physical toughness on the line of scrimmage. The running of BenJarvus Green-Ellis was very good and I was glad to see Robert Lane get the ball in his hands. We need to get him the ball more. We had no penalties on offense.
"On special teams, obviously we are pleased with the two punt blocks. The one called back could have won the game for us had the correct call been made there. Cassius Vaughn, a freshman, blocked the second one. We were glad to see he can make a play in a big-time game as a freshman. We had a real good kickoff return too.
"On defense, our intensity level obviously picked up. Our third-down defense was much better and our D-Line improved. Marcus Tillman played an excellent game at DT and Brandon Jenkins continues to improve. Chris Bowers made some good plays. I really think DE Greg Hardy is becoming our best defensive lineman. Later on, he's going to be a really good football player. Our linebacker play improved because Rory Johnson made us faster there. He was able to make some plays with his speed that had not been being made. Jamal Harvey, Jonathan Cornell also contributed as first-year players and we were happy about that.
"The disappointment was that I thought we should have won this game. Like Kentucky, we had our chances and didn't make it happen. I need to teach this team how to win. I was disappointed on the dropped pass on the fourth-down play we went for. If we had caught it, we might have scored a TD and definitely would have made a first down. We had another key drop on a third down that was right in our hands. I was also disappointed in a poor throw on the interception that ended our last shot at winning.
"On defense, we gave up 14 points in the second half because we didn't do as good a job stopping the run. We had a couple of missed fits and we should have played better in the second half.
"Looking at Vanderbilt, they are a well-coached team. Coach Bobby Johnson taught me a lesson last year. He prepares well. He had a good gameplan last year with some plays we had never seen. Those guys are option coaches from Furman and are very sound. We don't know what we are going to see, but we have to be prepared for everything. He is a very well-prepared coach and they do a good job on their staff.
"They are plus-3 on turnover ration and we are minus-5. I think that's a key stat. On offense, they score 23 points a game and rush for 164 yards a game and have a 5.3 yards per carry average. Their third-down conversions are 31%. Their best players are WR Earl Bennett, QB Chris Nickson, who is dangerous with the ball in his hands, and Cassen Jackson-Garrison is a good tailback. On defense, they are very well-coached and very sound. They run a similar defense to us with a lot more blitzes. We have our work cut out for us.
"The thing I want for this team this week is for us to answer the challenge to continue to improve. We have to coach better and practice with better intensity than we did last week. We have to start playing football like I know my team can play."
Q: What's missing in your passing game?
Coach O: Protection, routes, timing - everything. We can't just put it on one thing.
Q: Talk a little more about your true freshmen who are playing.
Coach O: They are doing fantastic. When you look at Greg Hardy and what he's doing, you have to be pleased. He comes off the ball well and has good pad level, but the best thing he does is that he has a motor. He's mature and plays hard every down. He's exactly what you are looking for in a defensive lineman. Marcus Tillman - can you imagine a freshman DE being told on Tuesday you are going to play DT against the defending SEC Champs and doing as well as he did? He played better than Hayward Howard ever played on any snap in the first four games, so we are going to continue playing him at DT. Jonathan Cornell came in with the game on the line in the fourth quarter and did very well. Cassius Vaughn blocked a punt. Rory Johnson, not a freshman but a newcomer, played excellent in his first game. We are really pleased. Jamal Harvey went in there and was on everything and had very few mental errors. We are very pleased with that.
Q: How difficult is it to develop a consistent rushing game?
Coach O: It all starts up front. BenJarvus is a good player. If you give him a crack, he's going to make positive yardage. We have to get more consistent up front. BenJarvus is going to make yards if you give him somewhere to run.
Q: What does Vandy do in the running game?
Coach O: We have had problems with the spread offense and Vandy runs it. We have to do a good job of gameplanning it. They do a lot of things on offense we will have to be ready for. This week is a big challenge, a very big challenge, for us on defense.
Q: Will Rory continue to start?
Coach O: If he continues to practice well, sure he will. Yes.
Q: Talk a little more on Nickson and how he compares to Jay Cutler from last year.
Coach O: They want to run the ball more. Cutler made a lot of plays for them last year in the passing game. Nickson is more of a runner than Jay. He's an athlete - he can go. You cannot give him the edge. And they have a good scheme. Remember, they are option coaches who understand option football.
Q: Did the freshmen just take some time to get ready?
Coach O: Yes. Last week, we simplified some things. We let them put their cleats in the grass and dig in more. We will have to do the same thing this week, but mainly it's about game experience and you can only get it by playing. You can see them becoming more comfortable. I was pleased we had a big, loud crowd. Those young guys performed in that arena and are now comfortable with it.
Q: How important is it to get the ball to Robert Lane?
Coach O: Very. He's a guy who can make plays. He's tough and good with the ball in his hands. He gets our team excited with his physical toughness. We need to move him around, create mismatches with him and get him the ball more. We're trying to do that.
Q: Talk about the decision to move Marcus to DT over Howard.
Coach O: I really want our guys to understand that everything they do counts - everything. I want them going to class, going to tutors, going to meetings on time, going to weightlifting, everything they need to do. When they show me those things on a consistent basis, they will play. If they are lacking in an area or two, I will not play them. They will follow this program.
Q: Talk about the intensity level Saturday night.
Coach O: I guess it all stems from me being the defensive coordinator. I was just coaching them the way I know how to coach - no big deal. We will continue on those lines.
Q: Where is Brent Schaeffer relative to where you want him to be right now?
Coach O: Behind. I thought he'd be playing better in some situations. Against Kentucky, we had a chance to win the game and we had a fumble. Against Georgia, there is no doubt in my mind the team thought we were going to win the game, but we had an interception thrown on a poor throw. Those are two key mistakes we can't have. But he shows flashes. The scrambles he made were really good. The throw to Dexter McCluster for a TD was fantastic. He's hot and cold. I would like to see him get more consistent. Again, we are going to stick with him because we think he is extremely talented.
Q: Talk about Andrew Wicker at right tackle.
Coach O: He struggled. He struggled with his pass protection. He's hurt. We missed him with his pulls at left guard. He's has a defensive mentality, he's a decent athlete and he's aggressive. We missed him coming around the horn and hitting someone. Thomas Eckers got out there quickly, but missed some blocks. Andrew couldn't push off properly due to his foot injury to block Georgia's DE in single blocking situations. We had to change some protections to help him out against that guy. He's a better OG than tackle. Andrew is a smart player. He's a team captain. His attitude is great. He'll do anything to win. He's been fantastic. I'd like all our players to be like him.
Q: During the game, there was a video played with a clip from a Rocky film. Are those the type of tools you are trying to implement as motivation?
Coach O: You have to give my man J. Stern credit for that. I thought it was great. Great timing and fantastic. I applaud it. Terrific job by J. You could not ask for a better atmosphere in that stadium last Saturday night. It was the best I have been in in a long time.
Q: How important is the Vandy game?
Coach O: Very important. They all are. I believe we made tremendous strides from the Wake Forest game through the Georgia game. I feel a turn in our program, but I have challenged everyone this week to show that we are improving by taking another step forward. We have no choice but to take another step forward. It's all about improving as a football team for us.
Q: Do you expect any of the players who are injured back for Saturday?
Coach O: It's kind of early for that. We are growing immune to injury. Whoever we have, we are going to play. We are going to do the best we can. I think (Trainer) Tim Mullins is busier this year than ever and he has done a fantastic job, but we have the attitude that we are going to play whoever is healthy and get them ready.
Q: You mentioned Saturday after the game that you changed some basic principles in your program. Can you expand on that?
Coahc O: The way we practiced. Getting down. Practicing the way I know championship teams practice. Be demanding. Be disciplined. No penalties. Being on time. Doing things right. Everything counts in all phases of their life and I am going to look at them harder every week. I want to teach the young guys that this is the way we do things and there will be no compromises. This is how we do it every day and you have no choice.
Monday Press Conference
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