Ole Miss Head Coach David Cutcliffe
We played yet another physical game. I'm proud that we played as physical as we did against a really physical Arkansas team. It took its toll on us, because we are a little bit banged up. One of the most pleasing things about the game is that we got better as the game went on. We got better in the second half. I'm very proud of that. We're playing another physical opponent that will test us on both sides of the ball. This team really impressed me on the tapes I've seen. They're playing extremely well right now. They have a lot of athletes and a lot of talent and speed on their team. We're in for another big challenge, but that's SEC football. Every week is going to be a big challenge. We're excited about getting back out on the practice field and preparing.
Q: Do you have any concerns about the high the team may be on being 4-0 in the SEC and leading the SEC West?
A: I think you have to address it. I think it's important that we maintain what we've been doing. That's what I am going to stress to the players. There are a lot of people ready to pat you on the back and tell you how good you are. You have to ignore them. We know we have a big challenge next week. I'm going to remind them of what we have done to put ourselves in this position, and hopefully we'll be ready to handle it.
Q: Can you talk about Lou Holtz and facing a Lou Holtz-coached team?
A: Well, Lou Holtz is a great motivator. His team is going to play really, really hard. It's going to be a team that's well prepared in all phases of the game. It's a well-coached football team. He's one of the best coaches there's ever been. It's really intimidating to play against (that mystique).
Q: Can you talk about the crowd and the effect it has on your team?
A: I thought the crowd was the best it's been. It was early arriving. They were there at the beginning. The atmosphere coming out of the tunnel was great. That affects our team and our players. Hopefully we can keep that going.
Q: Can you talk about getting Eric Rice and Rick Razzano back in the lineup?
A: It's been really nice on offense to have Eric Rice and Rick Razzano back. They're good, veteran football players and proven playmakers. You can't have enough guys who can make plays in critical times, and that you trust.
Q: Can you talk about being physical and running the ball? Is it just a new mind-set or do you have a new approach?
A: I think being physical is partially a mind-set. It's not going to happen by itself. You have to develop that confidence and that mindset. I think it goes back to the way we approached things in spring practice. Everyone on our squad and staff was well aware we weren't as physical and didn't run the ball or defend the run as well as we could have. It's a work in progress and something that doesn't stop. We'll have to maintain that approach in practice and maintain this level of physical play. I think the other part of it is we are seeing the dividends from Coach Mendoza and his staff. The stronger you get, the more physical you can be. We're much stronger than we have been.
Q: Can you talk about Rick Razzano?
A: Rick Razzano is a veteran. He's a very tough, physical player. I like him being out there. He likes to play the game in a physical manner. He understands all the blocking schemes and pass protection.
Q: Can you talk about the adversity he has overcome?
A: Anytime you deal with adversity, it can take its toll on you. You have to learn to handle it. That's part of the territory. Anyone faced with adversity knows it's going to take some sort of toll. You just have to do what you believe in and do the things you know are sound and solid and move forward.
Q: Can you talk about Kerry Johnson?
A: Kerry Johnson has always thought of himself as a receiver. He came in as a quarterback and then played a little defense, but he let me know quickly he could help us at receiver on a regular basis. I'm proud he's there. In a short period of time, he plays like a veteran. He's a local product and it's exciting to see him play so well.
Q: Can you talk about freshmen Charles Clark and Patrick Willis?
A: Both are playing well defensively and on special teams. They have tremendous speed and explosiveness. Each week they gain confidence and get better.
Q: Will Vashon Pearson be OK for Saturday's game?
A: Thanks for reminding me. I didn't give an injury update. We don't know at this stage. I doubt Vashon will get any work today. I don't think Josh Cooper will get any work today. Tre' Stallings has been ill since the game, and I don't think he will get any work today. Right now it looks like Tre' has a virus. Everyone else should be at practice. I don't know how limited some people will be, but we'll have to see. We have some people banged up.
Q: With the top 20 ranking and holding the top spot in the SEC West, is it easy to get impressed with yourself and do you have to make sure to refocus?
A: I hope it's not easy. We're halfway through the SEC schedule and that's it. That's what we've done at this point is play half of our conference games. When I turn on the tape and look at South Carolina all last night and today, I know we have a big challenge in front of us. We just have to stay grounded.
Q: Do you think a lack of being grounded has led to the meltdown the last two years?
A: No, I don't think it has anything to do with that. When you term it a meltdown, that describes it as falling apart, and I don't think it's been falling apart. We lost some football games. We've been there and fought hard, we just didn't win them. It's a tough league and Saturday is a tough day.
Q: How much has Eli Manning helped this team get off to the start it has had?
A: Eli has been tremendous all year. We can't ask more of a player on or off the field than we ask of him each week. The way he practices and the way he leads on the practice and game field, he's been tremendous to this point.
Q: Do you think Eli's performance along with the team's surge have helped him become mentioned for the Heisman and other awards?
A: I'm sure it leads to being mentioned, because I think in recent years it has become a team award. He's certainly worthy of any mention of any award. That's certainly not our focus at this point. We're trying to be the best team we can be. I promise you he'll tell you that is where his focus is at this point.
Q: Do you think Eli is the best player in the country?
A: I wouldn't trade him for any other player in the country.
Q: After the Alabama game, Mike Shula said Eli was a better quarterback than Jason White and David Greene. What are your comments on that?
A: You'd have to ask Mike Shula that question. I don't get into comparing players. Like I said, I wouldn't trade Eli Manning for any other player in the country, I can tell you that.
Q: What do you think it is that makes Eli one of the strongest players in the SEC?
A: Eli's got all the tools it takes. It starts with his decision-making and mind for the game and understanding what he's doing. He's got all the physical skills. He's got the ability to make any type of throw that needs to be made. He's a very gifted player mentally and physically.
Q: Can you talk about the play of Jonathan Nichols?
A: He's been good since he's been here. I can't imagine anyone playing his position better than he plays. What that means to a coach is immeasurable. To have the confidence of feeling that once you get within a certain range a field goal is good, that's a great feeling. This may not go on forever. Nobody can be that good for that long. What I like about Jonathan Nichols is his work ethic, focus and concentration. All of those things that you want a player to have, he has.
Q: Can you talk about the play of your defense, was it just their night?
A: It was. I think Arkansas is an outstanding offensive team. I know they have an outstanding offensive line. It was just our night. We had a good plan and it was well executed by our players. They were obviously without their top two backs, but regardless of what they had behind that offensive line, that's a great offensive line. That tells me we're getting better. We have to continue to build on that. But I promise you we are going to be challenged each week in that area.
Q: Can you talk about South Carolina and their quarterback?
A: Pinkins is a very big, good athlete. He's strong with a strong arm. He can make plays at anytime, anywhere. He can certainly run the ball well. He's not easy to tackle or contain. We've got another challenge from that standpoint.
Q: How do you find consistency as a team?
A: I think consistency may be the biggest challenge a team and coaching staff can face. Playing the best you can play each and every week in any sport is a challenge. It takes physical and mental preparation. How you do it, I don't know. I know there are solid things we lean on to cover all bases, but I don't know that there is any magic. Each individual has to get himself ready. That's part of our staff's job and my job. That's one of the challenges you are faced with in coaching that I look forward to each and every week. How good can you be? How consistently good can you be?
Q: Can you talk more about what you expect from South Carolina and their strengths?
A: When someone can run the ball well, it's frightening. South Carolina can run the ball really well. They have good backs. They have a good scheme. They have a powerful offensive line. Coach Holtz' teams are always going to be physical. We know that's going to be big. When you look at their receivers and how well they can throw the ball, don't think they are one-dimensional. We have a big challenge to stop a balanced offensive team.
Q: Can you talk about Tremaine Turner?
A: He hits the hole quickly. He has good, quick feet and good vision. Tremaine is a shorter guy, and sometimes he gets lost in there then explodes out of the pile. One of the things that impressed me the most is, to be no bigger than he is, his ability to finish the run. He tries to finish every run physically, trying to get a half-a-yard or two yards more. He's really been good after first contact.
Q: Can you talk about your offensive line and how well they have protected Eli Manning this year?
A: Our offensive line has done a good job the last few years. It's a challenge because there are a lot of people trying to get back there and get their hands on Eli Manning. We've been pretty consistent there. It's a challenge with the people you see each week in the SEC. There are good rushers and defensives lines. We've done a good job up to this point.
Q: Can you talk about South Carolina's pass defense?
A: South Carolina has really good corners and physical safeties. They are physical in the secondary. The other part of pass defense is the pass rush. They've got people who can come off the edge and people who can push inside. I have been impressed with their ability to pressure the quarterback.
Senior QB Eli Manning
Q: Talk about Jonathan Nichols' play.
A: "He is a big weapon for us. Every time we get in scoring position and are not converting third downs and getting touchdowns he is kicking field goals and he is making them. Obviously we would like to get seven points, but if we can get three that is big. He is kicking 40 and 50-yard field goals. He is putting points on the board and especially against Arkansas, he gave us a lead where they would have had to score two touchdowns to win the game. He is a big help, but the offensive has got to improve on scoring touchdowns in the red zone."
Q: Is there any dialogue between you and Jonathan when you are coming off the field?
A: "There is really not a whole lot. When I come off the field, usually I have to go over and talk to the players on the bench. A lot of times I don't even watch the kick, unless I know it's a long one. He is been doing really well and he just needs to keep it up."
Q: With the defense really stepping up, how much more comfortable does it make the offense?
A: "It helps a lot. When you get in to good field position it increases your percentages of scoring points. They are getting turnovers and they are making the other team give up the ball that much more quickly. That gives us more opportunities to score points and figure out the defense and become comfortable out there."
Q: You seem to be running more, has your Dad helped you with that?
A: It is really just from practice. I try to drop back in the pocket. I try to not look to rush. I look downfield. Arkansas was dropping eight guys a lot, so when they blitzed there was a lane up the middle. I was just stepping up in the pocket. The offensive line was giving me lanes. It cleared open and I had the opportunity to run. Obviously it is not something I look for first, to run. It is something I wanted to work on."
Q: Talk about Tremaine Turner
A: "Tremaine runs really hard. He has been in the system a long time. He knows the pass protection. He knows all the runs. He knows when his guy is not coming and when another person is blitzing to pick him up. He has been consistent. He runs hard and he has been a consistent runner. He lowers his shoulder and knows how to get the extra yards. He is not the biggest back, but he has been consistent and has been a good runner for us."
Q: What do you think about the Top 25 ranking?
A: "I did not even know we are ranked or if we are or not. I don't really worry about the rankings. It doesn't make a big difference to us, you still have to go out there and win games. We have a big game this week in South Carolina. That is all I have to worry about. It does not matter if we are in the Top 25 or not, we still have to go out and play well."
Q: Is there more focus right now at this point in the season than there has been in seasons past?
A: "We are more focused right now. But that comes from winning games and being 4-0 in the SEC. When you are winning games you are more focused on what you have to do. Obviously the team is really excited right now. We can't get lazy and think we can show up on the field and we are going to win. We have to keep working hard in practice, keep playing well and not make mistakes. We have to keep our heads on straight and focus on what we have to do to keep winning games."
Q: What are your likes and dislikes compared to your brother Peyton?
A: "I think we are pretty similar quarterbacks. We are both pocket quarterbacks and we try to play smart football. We are not known for running the ball, we like to stay in the pocket. In that way, we are similar. We both watch a lot of film and learn about defenses. We know what do with the ball quick and not sit in the pocket and hold it a long time."
Q: Talk about whether the Heisman has become any more real for you as the season has gone on?
A: "No, I have not changed. I am not worried about the Heisman. I am worried about Ole Miss winning games and we have been doing a good job of that. I need to keep my focus on what I have to do to keep playing good football and smart football. I need to focus on how I need to play to keep Ole Miss winning football games.
Q: Do you think by winning, by extension, that helps for individual awards, not just for you, but for some of your teammates?
A: "I think when you win games, everything becomes better. Your school gets on television more. I guess in that way it helps, but the biggest things is winning games and playing smart football."
Q: Coach Holtz is known for really complimenting his opponent. He has put your performance
through the stratosphere down here. Are you going to take a look at that? Will it affect you at all?
A: "I don't think it will affect me. I really don't get in to all of that. I don't read the papers much at all, so I don't think I will see anything that he says or has said. I usually don't listen to what people say. I just try to play my game and stay focused on what I have to do."
Q: He has been very complimentary to you, that is for sure.
A: "I have known that Coach Holtz is always very complimentary of the other team. He tries to hype them up and try to give them a big head and make them think they are better than they are. He has been doing that forever. It is great strategy. I will probably try not to read any of his quotes."
Q: What have been your strengths this season?
A: "I have been playing smart football. I have been trying to take good care of the ball. I have had some interceptions and some fumbles, but I have been trying to avoid those types of things. I am trying to play smart football and avoid the big mistakes. I am trying to get our team in to good plays and when people are open try to hit them."
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