"We're looking forward to regrouping and playing back here at the Tar Pit in front of our fans and hoping to play a better game than what we did this last Thursday. So hopefully we'll make the improvements that we need to make as a football team in all three phases and we'll have a better showing."
Just talk about that first drive against South Carolina's defense. Your tempo on offense was pretty good, you just didn't convert that 1st down there at the end. Is that kind of the tempo that you want to see out of this team, out of this offense?
"It is the tempo that we want to see. I mean, there were numerous times during the game, during drives, that we had a really good tempo going. We just didn't -- we weren't consistent enough. And to do that you've got to move the chains. If you don't move the chains, it doesn't matter really what you're doing tempo-wise.
"We got into some situations there that we were in really good shape. I mean, we take it down, end on the 17, play, drive and score, and then defense comes out and goes three-and-out and holds them and they're punting from deep in their end. I know their defense had to be tired and didn't want to go back out on the field. Unfortunately we dropped the punt and didn't put them back in that situation."
What's the biggest thing that you feel like you guys need to work on defensively right now?
"Well, I would say the biggest thing is, for me I would say I'm going to say tackling. It's definitely tackling, and two of the big plays that we gave up were because of tackling. The third play of the game we just get beat on a stick post with the corner and outside leverage. But if we tackle better as a football team, we don't give up those big plays."
You had mentioned earlier in the week about Middle Tennessee beating Georgia Tech last year. Have you found that players respond to that type of alert or a heads up?
"Well, it's not really a tactic to try to convince them that this team can play. The main thing was just giving them a little bit of history. Middle Tennessee has beaten some ACC teams, and I wanted them to understand that. They're not going to come in here all big-eyed about the situation, they're going to come in here and expect to win. I just wanted to set the record for straight for our guys right off the bat so they understand the mentality that this team will come in with."
Dwone Hicks goes into Hall of Fame here next week. Can you talk about what made him special at Middle Tennessee?
"Well, Dwone was one of those kids, first of all, he wanted to please, and he was an extremely hard-working kid. So when you have a guy with his kind of talent, he was about 5-foot-10, 5-foot-11, about 220 pounds and most of it was from the waist down, I mean, just the way you want a running back built. He had great balance and could run through you, but also he could take it the distance, which he proved over the years. He just understood what we were doing, and Dwone was one of those kids that had a great attitude. I mean, he was a great player, but he also had a great attitude, so he could coach him really hard, and we coached all those kids extremely hard. It's easy to do when you can do it with your better players."
I won't mention the one player's name you've probably heard too much leading up to last week, but how do you feel your offensive line graded overall against a very good defensive line?
"You know, above average. I mean, especially with two kids, two freshmen in there. I mean, I really thought those kids as a unit performed fairly well. I mean, again, we're not saying that, hey, this was great and you dominated or anything by any means, but I did feel like those guys played well. I didn't know if they would do as well as they did, actually, so I was pleased with their effort. And yes, we've still got to get better, there's no doubt about it. But to walk in and play your first game on that kind of stage against that kind of defensive front, I was pleased with the way those guys reacted."
I guess Middle Tennessee was the first place that you really got a chance to run your offense. Could you just talk about what those years there meant to developing your style of offense and your career path?
"Yeah, obviously as you look back on it, it was very critical to the success I've had, really. We went in there as an offensive staff, not any of us have ever coached together, put together this offense, and then evolved with it. Back then in '99, nobody was talking about tempo. Nobody was. And we were doing it, and it was causing problems for people.
"So it was something that was a great advantage or equalizer for us as we played teams that had more talent than we did. Obviously nowadays it's the norm, really. But back then it was important, and we really coached those kids extremely hard to buy into that type of tempo of what we were doing because nobody was doing it, so you didn't really have anything to compare it to, and so we really were on them really hard. They responded very well, and because of it they had success."
I wanted to ask you about the tempo offense. Watching a lot of games Saturday, I saw several instances where it appeared that defenses that were getting rocked by the fast tempo faked injuries to slow things down. Have you seen that much, and if so, how big a problem is that?
"Well, I mean, first of all, I mean, who am I to say that they're faking an injury, you know? I mean, I don't know that I can make that call. I don't know that anybody can make that call, especially nowadays with the hoopla over concussions. I don't think anybody is going to be able to really question it. Are guys going down because they're fatigued? I don't know what they're being coached to do, I really don't. I do know that it is a way for them to slow the game down. That's been proven and it's been done. Whether or not they're faking an injury, I can't say that, and I'm not going to call out a kid, because you have kids in normal games that aren't tempo that go down and they're back in two or three plays. Who am I to say that? I don't know; it is what it is, and you just have to deal with it. I don't think you can put that on an official or anybody else because it's -- I mean, no one will know if a kid is really injured or not, and I think the worst thing we can do for player safety is to try to come up with one way and say that he's not injured, and he may really be that way.
"It is what it is, and if there are people out there that are taking advantage of the rule, then hey, good for them."
Would you at least consider -- I understand you've got to protect the possible injury, but would you consider it unethical to fake an injury to slow things down?
"From a player or from a coach?"
If a coach is coaching it, yeah, would you consider that unethical?
"You know, I think, yeah, I would question the ethical part of it, yes. But then again, I mean, I'm not-- I don't know. That's a tough one because a guy is trying to put his team in a position to win. He's trying to give them every advantage, and if they're getting gassed or they're getting worn out and he doesn't have time-outs or doesn't want to use time-outs-- I don't know. I don't know what the answer is there. I do know that it is a way to be able to slow it down, though, yes."
I'm sorry to keep going back to the Middle Tennessee years, but what was your connection to that staff there and how did you wind up going there, and how hard did you have to sell this offensive idea that was so new when you got there?
"Well, actually Andy -- when Boots Donnelly retired, Andy McCollum got the head coaching job, and Andy and I were on the same staff together at Baylor University back before I went to the Air Force Academy. So when Andy got that job, he called me. I was actually at our bowl game in Hawaii getting ready to play Washington, and offered me the coordinator's job. So that was my connection.
"He had already hired a few guys on the staff offensively, and so I really had no connection to any of the other guys on that staff offensively. You know, really I went in there with the mindset that I was either going to do two things; I was going to do what I really wanted to do offensively and start doing a no-huddle offense and doing some things that weren't being done at the time, or I was going to run the option like we were doing at the Air Force Academy, because again, that was a great equalizer, and it's very well proven.
"But we just didn't have the personnel to do that at that time, and so, I mean, we had some guys-- we had Wes Counts who could throw it around a little bit and we had Kendall Newson and Tyrone Calico and David Youell, so we had some receivers that could catch the football, and we were going to be smaller up front on the offensive line, and so we just decided, hey, let's go no-huddle; let's be multi-tempo; let's do something different that nobody is doing out there, and we had a lot of success with it."