The following is Ole Miss Coach Ed Orgeron's Monday press conference prior to the annual Egg Bowl, which will be played at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium Saturday at 1 p.m.
Coach O's Opening Statement: "We just finished practice and watched the tape of LSU. A lot of positives came from that game. First of all, the attitude of our football team throughout the game was fantastic. We loved the competitive spirit of our team, we fought to the last second.
"I was really pleased with the play of our special teams. Our kickoff return team was challenged after our (poor) play last year and they responded. Marshay Green did a fantastic job, but all 11 out there had a hand in it. Frank Wilson did a great job of gameplanning it. On our fake punt, Coach Hugh Freeze called it. I gave him the OK. It was a great job by him. He has gameplanned our special plays all year. He is a fantastic coach and has a great mind for football. The onside kick was a great opportunity for us. We talked about it this past summer and finally got the right situation to call it. Mico McSwain made a great play on it, going down there and knocking their closest guy back so we could get the ball. The blocked PAT was something we had worked on and John Jerry did an excellent job. He was determined to get that ball. I wish we could have scooped and scored and finished the game in great style, but we didn't.
"There were a lot of things that we saw on film that we need to get better at, especially our finish in the fourth quarter. We needed another first down or two and didn't get it. Brandon Jenkins had a chance to scoop and score on an LSU fumble and we didn't get that done. There were a lot of things we could have done. We need to learn to finish. We have to move on and get ready for a tough Mississippi State team that is playing very well. They have a very good running back in Anthony Dixon. Last year we went down there and they got the best of us. I have to get my team ready - we will be ready. We will have a week of great practices and look forward to finishing the season strong."
Q: Talk about the Egg Bowl rivalry, how it felt last year and what you learned.
Coach O: I know in the state of Mississippi it is very important and it is THE game. I completely understand that. We have had to hear about it for a year. We went down there and did not play well. We are looking forward to changing that this year.
Q: Rory Johnson originally signed with MSU. What's it like having him on your side instead of theirs?
Coach O: I'm very happy. Rory has done a fantastic job for us this year. It just shows you the battles in this state in recruiting and the fact you have to continue to battle. We won that one.
Q: Is Brent Schaeffer your starter this week?
Coach O: There's always competition for it. Seth Adams went in and did a fine job. He made some good decisions and moved the ball down the field once. He made a good throw on third down for a first down to Mike Wallace and another to the tight end. He didn't make many mistakes. We'll see how the week goes, but right now Brent is the starter.
Q: How much difference did Jeremy Garrett and Peria Jerry make in the middle of your DL?
Coach O: It was good to see them in there. They both played very well against the run. We held LSU to 308 yards - one of the top offenses in the nation. It helped having those two big guys in there.
Q: What aobut MSU's defense?
Coach O: Their defensive line is playing well and they have a good linebacker in Quentin Culberson. Titus Brown, Jeramie Johnson and Culberson are their best players. We know they will play physical, tough football. One thing I learned last year is that they will come here prepared to play and I understand that.
Q: Has there been a common theme in the four very close SEC games you did not pull out at the end that caused you to lose?
Coach O: Not really. We will win those when we get good enough. We have had an opportunity to make plays, we have had an opportunity to make some calls and we have had a bounce or two that helped us, but we haven't gotten it done. Are we there yet to beat those teams? We're close. I believe if we keep on building, with better talent and getting better as a staff, we will get it done.
Q: What did you think of Brent's play versus LSU?
Coach O: He had a couple of throws that were off and he had had some problems during the week, so we decided to give Seth a chance.
Q: How would you assess Brent's play this season?
Coach O: He's done a lot of good things. He's trying and giving us effort. He's made some big plays, but he's missed some plays. I'd like for him to be more consistent.
Q: You mentioned Jenkins not making the scoop and score. With linemen, do you prefer scoop and score or just a recovery?
Coach O: We teach scoop and score. We teach to bend, get your knuckles on the ground and scoop it forward. We want to score on defense. Brandon just didn't use the technique properly.
Q: How did the OL perform against LSU?
Coach O: They did very well. Since I have been in coaching, I have never seen a unit improve that much from one year to the next. I told that to the team and to OL Coach Art Kehoe. He is an excellent coach. He's created a great chemistry among those guys. He's here early in the morning and is very thorough. He takes about five hours to grade his film, but every Sunday morning he is the first one to give me his grades. Do we have better talent this year? Yes, we do, but he gets a lot of the credit. He has molded a great group. Last year, we couldn't get a snap right against LSU. This year he handled the LSU front pretty good. John Jerry, Corey Actis, Wicker, Michael Oher and Mo Miller. Last year, Miller was on our service team. Now he's starting and doing very well. I want to give all those guys credit. They are the most improved unit I have seen in my 22 years as a coach from one year to the next.
Q: Talk more about Bruce Hall.
Coach O: He's a playmaker. We can put him at a lot of places. A couple of trick plays at QB would be nice. He's a quiet young man and a good athlete. We look forward to him growing in our system.
Q: What did you think you would get from Brent this year? What were your expectations?
Coach O: Me? I thought we'd go undefeated, he'd take us to the Sugar Bowl and be the hero. But that's just Ed Orgeron. Really, I thought he would have played better than he has. It just hasn't worked out that way yet. Does he have the talent to do it? Yes. Do I still believe he is going to be an outstanding QB? Yes. But we have some things to work on to get there.
Q: Talk about Patrick Willis' contribution through the years.
Coach O: It's been amazing. He's a wonderful young man with a lot of character and heart and he's very unselfish. He works hard and he has bought into this program totally. The bigger the game, the better he gets. He will be very hard to replace, if you can even replace him. It's disappointing that he and the whole team have not won more because they have put in the effort to do so. I have seen a lot of improvement and he's been a big part of it. He knows that he has created a positive atmosphere here. He's gotten us better and if we do accomplish the things we plan to accomplish here, Patrick will be a big part of that.
Q: Patrick said you and him sat down earlier this year and you asked him what was going on, why he wasn't playing any better. What did you say?
Coach O: There were just a couple of plays he wasn't making that I thought he could. It seemed like he was a little tentative. I wanted him to go out there and be more aggressive. He has been since.
Q: How difficult will it be to get the team up after the crushing loss at LSU?
Coach O: It will be no problem. They had a great spirit today and we had our best team meeting of the year this morning. They were positive. This team is together and I expect them to play very well Saturday.
Q: How was the locker room after the game?
Coach O: It was tough for everybody, but everyone knew they gave it their best and you can't look back when you give it your best shot.
Q: What about this senior class and what they have meant to you?
Coach O: They bought into the program. They helped me out. I confide in them. I'm not as close to them as I would be had I been here all four or five years, but they have helped us turn the corner and play a lot better. They have helped us come closer as a team.
Q: Is MSU playing better now than at the beginning of the year?
Coach O: Yes. They are running the ball well with Dixon and Tony Burks is a very good receiver. Those were two guys they recruited who are very good. I think they will go with Omar Conner at QB. Overall, they are just playing better.
Q: Do you have a better feel for this rivalry game after having been through it a year?
Coach O: A lot better. I understand the magnitude of the game. After the game, just going to get gas or get some prok chops at the grocery store, you hear it and feel it. Maybe it will make this year a lot better when we do win.
Q: Does this game matter a lot in recruiting?
Coach O: I think it gives you some momentum, but I do not think players choose a school over one game's results. I think the best recruiters get the best players. I think a win can help you, but I rearely see a decision hinge on one game.
Q: Talk more about Seth Adams.
Coach O: He's solid and smart. He runs the offense the way we want it run. He does not have the scrambling ability Brent does, but he does some good things, he makes good decisions and he's a good leader in the huddle.
Q: Are there a lot of unknowns as far as their QB is concerned?
Coach O: I think they will go with their regular gameplan. The key to their offense is the running of Anthony Dixon and the receiving of Tony Burks. They have a very good OL coach and a good scheme. We will have to play very well on our front seven.
Q: What are the benefits of no classes this week?
Coach O: Lots of them. We have them focused on one thing. They come in at 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. They are fresh, rested and ready to go and they can watch some extra film on their own in the afternoon.
Q: What will be the Thnksgiving Day schedule?
Coach O: We will practice early in the morning and let them go around 9. They can go home and be with their families. The out-of-state guys will eat with other players or their coaches. The team will be back 2:30 Friday afternoon.
Q: Will Dexter McCluster play?
Coach O: I don't think so. I don't think he's there yet and we don't want to take a chance.
Q: Did it help to have Marcus Tillman back at DE?
Coach O: He did well out there. I thought we played our best game as a DL. We sacked JaMarcus Russell four times and they had only given up 12 sacks all year previously. They didn't have but 91 yards rushing. It was the best DL combination we have had this year.
Q: How big is it that MSU does not have a healthy QB?
Coach O: We'll see, but we have to stop Anthony Dixon first. He's made a lot of people miss. I've studied him. He's a big, strong, physical back. I have talked to other coaches who have played them and we have to be ready for him and a couple of more players like Burks. They are the key.
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