After the Rebels opened the 2008 football season with a comfortable 41-24 win over visiting Memphis, Defensive Coordinator Tyrone Nix and Offensive Coordiantor Kent Austin sounded as if they had compared notes and had rehearsed their opening statements to the media.
"We did some good things and there were some things we could have done better," both said.
"Overall, it was an average performance," said Nix. "There is a lot of room for improvement and we have to do that in a hurry because we are about to play a good Wake Forest football team.
"I thought we were ready for the game and into it and did a good job for a half or so, but I thought Memphis outcompeted us at the end of the game, which was disappointing to me. Up to that point I felt good about what we had done. Our conditioning was good, but I felt we needed to be more physical and play with more effort and intensity for the whole game."
Tyrone didn't want to get into the "what if" of not having DE Greg Hardy and DT Peria Jerry in the lineup due to injury.
"We have what we have. Injuries are part of the game," Tyrone began. "Cassius Vaughn went out early in the game with an ankle injury. You just have to coach the next guys up and see how they do under fire."
Early on, Nix was pleased with how the Rebel defense responded, especially against the tall Memphis wideouts.
"We were in good position for the most part. I thought we could have played the ball a little better than we did a couple of times and we left some plays we could have made out there, but I'm not disappointed with the first showing," he continued. "Dustin Mouzon should have made a play on one of their TDs, but I was OK with most of it."
He was pumped up about FS Kendrick Lewis thwarting one Tiger drive with a pick in the Reb end zone and the subsequent long return.
"I think that was a crucial play. It changed the momentum our way," he noted. "I thought we actually should have had a couple of more picks, but we didn't come down with the ball."
The Rebel defense was on the field for 84 plays and did not register a sack with Memphis throwing the ball 44 times, but Tyrone did not expect any QB sacks.
"They get rid of the ball. They are in a shotgun, get the snap and fire. When a team is doing that, you have to play more coverage than getting after them," he explained. "They are getting the ball out of his hands too quickly to sack the QB very much, if at all. Their QB didn't hold the ball but a couple of times all night."
So, in review, the Rebel defense started strong, but tapered off at the end. They made some big plays, but left some big plays on the field that were there to be had. The end result was a good first showing, but there is plenty of room to improve.
Austin's side of the ball fared a bit better, putting up 41 points and gaining 453 yards on a night when things could have gone a whole lot better as well.
"We have a lot of room for improvement. We did score points, and that's what it's all about," Austin noted. "I was pleased when we answered with a TD after they cut the score to 34-17.
"I also liked the way we got first downs at the end of the game to run the clock out. Those are good signs, things we can build on."
Austin felt the passing game was just a bit off of where he expects it to be.
"We had an opportunity to have more completions, especially a couple of deep balls, but we'll iron that out," he assessed.
The offense relied fairly heavily on the Wild Rebel formation, running it double digit times.
"It's a great curveball. It works and it's a lot to prepare for with all the personnel groupings we use," Austin explained. "As long as we can stay proficient and efficient doing all we did, we will be difficult to prepare for.
"We ran it about as many times as we planned. We are keeping people off balance with the regular offense and then we hit them with the Wild Rebel and you can sense some confusion."
QB Jevan Snead, despite a 10-22 passing night, got high marks from Austin.
"I was very proud of him. He came into this game with a lot of pressure and a lot of expectations and he threw the ball pretty well. He lost a couple of throws, but he made plays when we needed it the most," Kent said. "He made a great throw on the naked at the end of the game and a great throw-behind to Shay (Hodge) for a score. When we needed them the most, he made the plays.
"His best is in front of him, he's only going to get better. He even caught a pass. The Memphis CB wasn't respecting him too much and we slipped him out there and he did a fine job. Jevan is a gamer.
"I thought his decision-making was pretty good. He read the coverages pretty well and got the ball out quickly. Up in the booth, I thought he managed the game well and the clock well and he got the guys in and out of the huddle. He also had no interceptions. He took care of the ball."
Dexter McCluster was all over the field, with 6 rushes for 64 yards and one TD and four receptions for another 61 yards.
"Dexter is a playmaker and we want the ball in the hands of our playmakers," Austin stated. "We ask a lot of him and to his credit he does not shy away from any of it. He practices as hard or harder than anyone on the team and he relishes the roles we give him which allows us to give him even more. It's a credit to his character not to shy away from all things we ask him to do."
On McCluster's 32-yard TD run, LT Michael Oher pulled from the back side and sealed off the Tiger pursuit on the other side of the field, springing Dex for the score.
"That was great. We had a good call for the defense they ran and Mike is athletic enough to do that. He can cover you up in space and he pulled all the way from the back side," said Austin. "He's quite an athlete."
Austin was also pleased with the running game, especially freshman Brandon Bolden, who led the team with 76 yards on the ground in just 8 carries.
"I thought all the backs did a nice job, but Brandon doesn't look like a freshman. He's tough. He runs hard and he's determined," said Austin. "We also ask him to do a lot. We run him in the Wild Rebel some too. He's very bright and talented. He's got a great future."
In review, it's hard to thumb your nose at 41 points against any D-1 defense, but the Rebs will be the first to tell you they left plays out there that could have been made. The passing game will get sharper.
As Austin and Nix both said, some good things, some things that need patching up, but a real good starting point for the 2008 Rebel squad.
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