The following are player - plus one coach - comments after the disappointing - to them - overtime loss to Alabama in Tuscaloosa yesterday.
P Rob Park: (On throwing the completion on the fake punt) That was the first pass I've thrown since I was a senior in high school. I threw some before the game to get warmed up, just in case it was called, but I didn't know we were going to use the fake until right before we went on the field. It was in the gameplan and I was ready, but I can't say I expected it. Once it was called, I knew it was going to be a big play in the game, one way or the other. We needed a score there and the only way to score was to move the chains on that play. I was holding my breath on the measurement. Bruce (Hall, the receiver) made it by a few inches. My part wasn't a big deal - Bruce is the one who made the play. Great call. (On the team's attitude) We're OK. Coach O is proud of us and everything is positive. He loved the way we played today. We are hurting we didn't pull it out, disappointed we were a couple of plays short, but we'll bounce back.
TB BenJarvus Green-Ellis: (On the team) We'll be alright. This one hurts, but it's part of big-time football. If you can't accept the losses and move on, you will have problems the next week. We have a real big game against Arkansas next week. We can't dwell on this one long. We'll replay it on the bus ride home in our minds and hopefully we'll all step off the bus with Arkansas on our minds. Coaches and players can't dwell on wins or losses in the middle of the season. We have to move on or you don't take care of business for the next one. We put everything we had out there - a good team effort. We played hard, Alabama played hard. We came up one play short. We just have to keep working hard and make sure we are one play ahead next time. We are fighters and we will fight to the end in every game. (On QB Brent Schaeffer) Brent had a couple of bad games, but he bounced back today. He played smart and didn't give the ball up. That's what you have to do, especially on the road, as the quarterback. He controlled everything out there and did a good job with it. (On his injury that held him out of the fourth quarter and overtime) It's just a minor shoulder injury. It will be fine. I've been dealing with it for a while.
LG Andrew Wicker: (On his illegal procedure penalty late in the game) No excuse. The other team was making checks and I flinched. It was loud out there today, but I have no excuse. (On the difference in the first half and second half offense) Alabama threw some different packages at us in the second half and we sometimes weren't able to check out of what we had called with the noise. They were faking blitz sometimes and coming with it the next. They did a good job. We knew what to do, but sometimes we couldn't hear our checks. (On Schaeffer) I saw a competitor out there today. He's a gamer and a hard competitor. He's the leader of the offense. (On the overall play of the team) It's hard to say this was a moral victory because it was a loss in a game we easily could have won, but I think Coach O is right when he said this is the best we have played since he has been here. (On the OL) I thought we came together as a unit today better than we have. We were just one play short. (On the crowd noise) It was a great environment to play in. I was pleased we were able to quiet them some today. For our young guys to come in here and play like we did was pretty special. They answered the call - we all did. Every Alabama fan knows they were in a fight today.
Offensive Coordinator Dan Werner: (On the loss) This one hurts pretty badly because we have worked so hard to get to this point and we feel we are one step away from winning games like this. We are battling hard. We just need to keep working on it and hopefully the ball will bounce our way next time. (On the Alabama defense) They did a nice job blitzing us, but we were able to pick it up enough times to hit them with some good plays. They didn't really do anything we hadn't seen on film, but our second-half execution was not quite good enough. (On the series right before half where the Rebs were deep in Bama territory, didn't throw into the end zone and took the field goal) They were in a defense where we were uncomfortable throwing the ball. They dropped too many in coverage and we felt we could run it in or take the field goal for the halftime lead. (On Schaeffer) I talk to him all the time about being smart with the football and he was today. We just need to get the ball in our playmakers' hands and we will start popping plays. That's what he did today, for the most part. We didn't have any turnovers and that gives you a chance to win the game. I was proud of the way he progressed today. We had a lot of posession throws in our package today which worked some and that eventually led to the long TD being open. We went with a quicker passing game today, and some naked boots and sprintouts and things like that. We have to throw the football to be successful. The thing I was worried about were the sacks and the interceptions, but I don't think we had a sack today, the protection was pretty good and Brent did a good job with his decisions. (On the Alabama defense) In the second half, they showed blitz and would bail out or then there were a couple of times when Brent was going to audible thinking they were going to bail out of the blitz and they didn't. We finally started calling plays that we thought would go against blitz or no blitz because we couldn't get in a chess match at the line of scrimmage with them with that noise. They can take as long as they want on defense, but we have a play clock to deal with. Alabama did a good job with it. A couple of times, it was hard to tell if they were coming with the blitz or not. (On the team's progress) I'm happy with the way we continue to compete and battle. With the schedule we have played, some of the teams we didn't think were going to be very good are real good - Missouri, Wake Forest, to name two. Our guys are competing. We just need to get it over the edge. Once we do, we expect to get the snowball going and growing.
WR Mike Wallace: (On his 55-yard TD catch) It was a slant-and-go. Bama had been playing the slant all day and we kept baiting them in for the slant until we saw the opportunity for the slant-and-go. Coach (Matt) Lubick had been telling me all week that's what we were going to do. It was a called play. I just had to sell the slant. The corner bit on the slant and I cut it up the field. I looked back and saw Brent almost got sacked, but when I saw him get out of the pressure and let it go, I knew it was a TD. All I had to do was catch a perfect pass. (On Schaeffer) Brent has kept his head up through everything. He made some mistakes in a couple of previous games, but we all did. He played real good today in a hostile environment. The main thing he did was protect the ball. Even on the passes we didn't complete, the ball was thrown where nobody could catch it but someone in a white jersey. He threw well and ran well.
LT Michael Oher: (On the line progress) We have gotten better at communicating. Just talking at the line. That's one thing we weren't doing early in the year. Now we are doing it and we are starting to pick things up. I think we are getting a little better every week. We still have hopes of doing some good things in our last five games. (On the QB play) He stepped up today and should be around the corner now. We are excited about his progress. (On the noise) We had to go on a silent count a lot and I think that caused us to jump offsides a couple of times. The noise was tough, but we communicated well enough to overcome a lot of it.
WR Marshay Green: (On the game) We just came out and played hard. We had people telling us we were going to lose by 25 points and I've been thinking to myself 'what team have you been watching the last couple of weeks?' We came here to win and play Ole Miss football. We came up short, but I don't think there is any doubt we are making progress. We are competing and doing some good things. We just have to keep working and get a little better every week. (On the hit he took on a completion) I had the wind knocked out of me, but I held on. That is the hardest hit I have ever taken, ever, but my job is to catch the ball regardless.
MLB Patrick Willis: (On the close game) This is not a moral victory to me. A loss is a loss. We got over the moral victory thing with Georgia. This one is hard to swallow because I thought we played well enough to win. We didn't tackle as well as we should have in the second half and that's probably the difference in the game. We had (Kenneth) Darby stopped in the backfield a couple of times and let him get away. Like Coach O tells us all the time, once you get your hands on someone they aren't supposed to get away, but he did and that's our fault. I thought we were more physical than Alabama most of the day. I know we were in the first half and I don't think they were expecting that. We played hard the whole game. I could see in their eyes that we took them by surprise.
WLB Rory Johnson: (On the second half) I thought we hit a little lull where we got a little tired, but then we got our second wind. We are in great shape - nobody prepares as hard as we do - but we got a little winded late in the third quarter and early in the fourth quarter. Once we got our second wind, we were fine. (On Darby's success in the second half) We missed tackles. We bottled him up in the first half, but didn't put him on the ground when we had some chances in the second half and he popped us for two or three big runs. (On the defense) We are finally getting used to each other and playing more as a unit, but we are still giving up too many third-down plays. We have to work on that. We are playing hard and we are effective a big percentage of the time, but we are having some key lapses that we have to eliminate.
PK Josh Shene: (On the game) It was so loud, even louder than I expected. But I went out there with confidence and didn't pay much attention to the fans. I never look at the crowd. I stare at the ball the whole time and block the crowd out the best I can. I only take one look at the goalposts when I am lining up. You just have to wipe your mind clean. (On his three field goals) It feels good to make them in this environment, but we lost, so the satisfaction level is not as high. (On his FG in OT) That was my first time ever in overtime, even in high school, but I wasn't nervous until after it was over. I felt good out there, but I have to admit I was nervous after the kick went through. I guess that's good - to be nervous after the kick instead of during the kick.
QB Brent Schaeffer: (On the game) I felt real good out there. Things were falling in place better today. We didn't have a lot of big mistakes. The protection was very good, the routes run were precise and the running game did a good job. The short passing game kind of kept Alabama from coming after us as hard as they wanted to. When you get the ball out quick, it slows down their rush psychologically and opens up the longer passes. (On the long pass) I told coach I thought we could get them deep. We had them set up with the short passes. Their DBs were coming up on our receivers and it was there. Mike Wallace ran a great route and the line protected well. When the ball left my hand, it felt good. I was waiting the whole game for that play. I got a little bit of pressure from the rush, but I just stepped to the side. I wasn't going to let anything keep me from getting that pass off. Alabama was in the perfect defense too because their safety was lined up to the wide side away from Mike. (On coming close but coming up short) We are upset because we had the game in our hands and let it slip away. We just didn't get over the hump. (On his game) I thought our gameplan kept them on their heels. I saw the frustration in their eyes - they didn't know what to do sometimes. We changed things up and confused them, but we can't just stay with this gameplan because it worked today. Teams will adjust to the short passing game too. We have to keep switching it up every week. Alabama wasn't ready for our short game, but Arkansas will be. We have to be able to mix things up and do a little bit of everything so when a defense hones in on something, we can do something else. (On the second half offense) Alabama came out of the locker room and had an answer for our running game. They were bringing people from the outside and they batted a few passes down at the line. That's why the deep ball was open. (On the noise) It was loud, but we were prepared for it. We had crowd noise all week and it was as loud as today. The speakers were right in our ears. You couldn't even hear yourself talk at practice this week.
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