Coach O Monday -

The following is Coach Ed Orgeron's Monday press conference prior to the Ole Miss-Arkansas football game.

Orgeron: Obviously we're excited to get our team back today. We reviewed the film of our game against Alabama. Now we move on to Arkansas. Obviously we are very disappointed in the outcome of the game. After reviewing the film, we feel it was an unfair call, that the call should have never been overturned, and the review from the (press) box doesn't show conclusive evidence that it should have been overturned. I just want to let everybody know we're doing everything we possibly can to fight the matter, and I'll leave it at that. We were very pleased with the play of our team, very spirited, we came out to attack Alabama. It's the third year in a row our games against Alabama come down to the last play. We feel we're just a couple of plays away from beating these Alabama teams. We feel like we're going to get there, there's no doubt about that. Looking at the defense, we had some better play with our fits. It was no way perfect. In the second half we mad some adjustments that would stop some plays that were hurting us in the first half. We got to our third-down package, and we thought Greg Hardy had an outstanding game. We saw on the film that we had a mismatch against one of those linemen, one of their linemen, and we put him against him. We thought he did a fantastic job of rushing the passer. On offense, I thought Dan for the most part called his best game. I was very disappointed in the 10 points scored in under eight minutes because of the pics and because of the punt return. Again we thought we had poor special teams play besides the punt block and the stopping the fake field goal. That was a big play for us, and again that was Greg that stopped it. We have to improve in our coverage unit, and we'll start to work on that again this week. Looking at Arkansas, we think that they're very, very strong again. Auburn did a good job stopping their run. Their two running backs are excellent. Watching them again today, they have a big-time running game. They have a big physical offensive line. But I will say this, the last two years we have defended Arkansas' run game pretty well. They made some big plays on us last year, and we have our work cut out for us. We'll be ready for the challenge. Look forward to seeing the team today, and look forward to showing them the film. Show them that last play, put it to bed, and move on to Arkansas.

Q: Talk about Marcus Monk for them.

O: He's a big playmaker. He's tall. He's fast. He's made some big plays against us in the past.

Q: How do you handle the overturned play?

O: Well, you know we have to deal with it. I'm the leader here, and I can't tell you if I'm more sick or less sick. I'm sick. But I have to deal with it. But there's nothing we can do about it. It's very, very unfair. This is not about me, it's about my team. We should have been allowed to play those last seven seconds, and let the best team win. We have to let go of our feelings and move on to Arkansas.

Q: You said something about doing everything you can to fight it. What can be done?

O: We questioned it. We're going to send in our film. We're going to have conversations with the SEC officials. We're going to do everything that we know how to do underneath the rules. What else can you do? That's the way it is today.

Q: What can come from it?

O: I don't know. Hopefully better calls at the end of the game. Games should not end on a judgemental call from the (press) box. Not after a game like that.

Q: What was inconclusive about it as far as you saw?

O: Well, it took a long time to figure it out, No. 1. No. 2 is we did step out of bounds, but we were pushed or blocked or whatever the word is. Next thing is we feel Alabama touched the ball first. We don't feel there is anything on the film to show that it should have been turned around. The rule was made on the field that there was a catch. It's supposed to be inconclusive evidence. We didn't see it.

Q: How does your team put it behind you?

O: We have to be mentally tough. We play in the SEC. There are challenges week in and week out. This is one of the things our team has to learn how to do.

Q: Coach Croom at Mississippi State said today that he feels that the lower echelon teams at this point are unfairly treated by the referees, that they aren't given as much help as the teams that are successful year in and year out. Do you agree with that?

O: Let me say this, I don't think Ole Miss is a lower echelon team. Never thought that, never will. I feel since I've been here we've had some very unfair calls against our team. What it's all about I don't know. I don't understand it, and I will never accept it.

Q: Which part of the call, the out of bounds part or the who touched it first part do you disagree with, or do you disagree with both of them?

O: I disagree with both. I think it should have never been overturned, No. 1. No. 2 is there was a slight nudge. There was nowhere for us to go. We were pinned. The receiver could not go anywhere else but out of bounds. In my opinion there was a slight nudge. When he came back in my opinion, there is not enough evidence to say that they caught the ball or they touched the ball first and we did. It should have never been turned over. Never. I think we were pushed out of bounds. I think they touched the ball first. And I think we made the play.

Q: Have you talked to any SEC officials that have told you there is precendent for them making a judgement call from the booth? Is that something that's kinda out of whack for you?

O: We talk to these guys. All the conversations I have with SEC officials are private, and I will keep it that way.

Q: What did you see Auburn do to stop the Arkansas run game?

O: They have a lot of speed at linebacker. They played base defense. They didn't blitz them a lot on first and second down. They were always in good position, and they tackled. They brought eight men don in the box and they were in good position all night. One of the things they did do was they didn't allow them to have a big kickoff return.

Q: Since both Ole Miss and Arkansas are winless in the SEC this season, is this game more important to be able to get that first win.

O: Well you know last week was the same way. We felt like we made the plays to do it. We take it one game at a time here, whether we're 3-0 or 0-3. We're playing Arkansas. We want to beat Arkansas and that's all that matters.

Q: Talk about Brandon Thomas and Johnny Brown.

O: I thought Johnny played fine He did a good job, especially in the second half. He was in some good positions and he mad some critical plays back there. He was in the right place and made some adjustments. We were really pleased. Brandon for the most part was really pleased. He missed some tackles and missed some plays. But he did better than our previous linebackers were doing as far as fitting the run. So he did OK for us.

Q: Peria is becoming more consistent, isn't he?

O: He's manhandling guys up front. That play he made on the tackle for a loss was excellent. He's doing some great things. He and Greg Hardy are some big-time defensive linemen. Really pleased with his play.

Q: How do you think Seth Adams was able to play Saturday even though he was sick?

O: He loves playing football here. He has tremendous character. He handles his business all week. He's a young man who can handle adversity in the right way. He's very mature. It didn't surprise me he played. Toward the end of the game you could see he was sapped. He gave us everything he possibly could. We were very pleased.

Q: Talk about the progress of the wide receivers.

O: We thought those guys would come along. I could see all the work we were doing in the spring. We changed our side receivers coach. Coach Freeze is a tremendous coach. We made a big emphasis on the short passing game. We made a big emphasis in practice on catching the ball. We made a big emphasis offseason about what we were going to do to get these guys open against different coverages. We have a quarterback in Seth who realizes what's going on out there and make the right decisions. We have good protection for the most part. So I think it's a combination of all the work we've done in the offseason and it's coming together. Those guys played last year for the first time. I will say this, it even shocks me a little bit at the progress that they've made. The catches they are making they're attacking the ball. They're very aggressive. They are acrobatic catches and they're just competing for the football. The play Mike Hicks made in the end zone was unbelievable.

Q: Talk about the impact the Jerry brothers on the field and also about their recruitment.

O: Anytime you can get a great defensive lineman and a great offensive lineman, it's bigtime for your recruiting. I wish there were 10 of those Jerry brothers. Peria is a very passionate, strong, fast, quick, agile defensive lineman. I don't think I've seen an offensive lineman as athletic as John Jerry is. Those guys mean a lot to our program. It also means a lot for them to be at Ole Miss. Both of them wanted to be at Ole Miss. Both wanted to represent their state. So it means a lot to us.

Q: Talk about Dexter McCluster's return.

O: He's quick and shifty. He can catch the ball over the middle. We can run reverses with him. He's probably the best over middle right now. And he has great ability to so something with the ball once he catches it. So we're happy to see he's competing to get the ball. When Dexter came back, we didn't have anybody that could catch the ball as well. Now he's a member of a good receiving corps.

Q: How have yours and Arkansas' defense evolved during the season?

O: We weren't very good on defense at the beginning of the year. There's no doubt about that. We gave up way too many yards, way too many points. Since the Georgia game we've improved. We have a lot of improving left to do. In the last two weeks we've tackled a lot better. We've hit the gaps a lot better. We changed our defensive backfield rotation up a little bit, and we're not getting beat on the deep ball like we were. Those are some big-time improvements. But this by far will be our biggest challenge against the run. I believe they are the best running team in the SEC and maybe in the country. I know Arkansas' defense played very good against Arkansas.

Q: How close is your team to being good and winning a big game?

O: We have to continue to make improvement. There was a spot there we're up 24-17. We just need to take the ball down and score and go up 31-17. I think the way we played defense we could have won the game. We threw picks. We allowed punt returns. We mad mistakes. We gave them a chance to get back into the game. We kept on fighting. Our defense stiffened up down there and forced them into a field goal. We stopped the field goal fake. So we're starting to play better defense, which always gives you a chance to win. But we're not there yet.

Q: Will you try to speak to Doyle Jackson yourself?

O: No. I'll go through the proper channels, which I already have. And that's about the extent of that.

Q: How will you defend Arkansas' kickoff and punt return guys?

O: Well we definitely won't defend them like we did last year. We have to come up with a plan, and we're looking at it. I don't know if they'll receiver many kicks from us directly.

Q: You were once at Arkansas, right?

O: Yes. I was a graduate assistant there. I had played and coached at the I-AA level. I went up there as assistant strength coach. The next year I coached under Ken Hatfield and Fred Goldsmith. I really, really learned a lot off football from those guys. Their work ethic, how to break down film, how to get there early in the morning. They gave me a lot of responsibilty. I had a lot of respect for those guys at that time. That was my first Division I-A job. I remember Arkansas playing Texas. My eyes were that big. It was a great experience up there, it really was.

Q: Does Shay Hodge have the best hands on the team?

O: I don't know if he has the best hands on the team. But he's definitely tied for first. The thing he went to in camp (while he was in high school) was that he went after that ball. That's why we recruited him. He's a competitor. He's matured. Coach Freeze has done a tremendous job teaching those guys how to attack and to go get the ball.

Q: A year ago during Arkansas week, you had some discipline problems. Now it's been almost a year since you've publicly had any problems. Is that a tribute to the quality of athletes you are bringing in?

O: I think so. I think they are understanding the program. I really feel that after that incident last week (during Arkansas week), we suspended I think it was seven guys. Our team was better. I think we played better. It just goes to show you discipline works. I think our guys understand we're not going to put up with any foolishness. And we expect them to follow certain rules and if they don't, then they're going to pay the price.


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