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Jay Hopson Weekly Media Conference (Sept. 4)

Sept. 4, 2017

HATTIESBURG, Miss. - Southern Miss football coach Jay Hopson held his weekly news conference Monday at the Duff Athletic Center as the Golden Eagles get ready to face Southern at home this Saturday.

The two teams play at Carlisle-Faulkner Field at M.M. Roberts Stadium this Saturday, Sept. 9, in a 6 p.m., contest.

Here are some of things Hopson said during his news conference, recapping the Kentucky and previewing this week’s opponent:

Opening Statement:
“Just a hard fought game. I thought our guys played hard. At the end we gave ourselves a chance in the fourth quarter to win the ball game. Just came up short. But, again, I thought our guys competed hard. It’s a tough loss but a lot of bright spots, too.”

On who will start the Southern game at Quarterback:
“We’re probably going to start with Kwadra this week. We’re going to let them compete, but he probably earned that. Both quarterbacks played a half. He really had an outstanding half. I think Keon did a lot of great things, too. We’ll just let them compete. That’s all I know. Competition is what this whole world is all about. At the end of the day, we’re just going to let them compete and Keon will be ready when his opportunity comes.”

 On using Julian Allen more:
“Yeah, we will. Julian’s been out a lot. He’s just getting back to healthy about a week ago. He’s missed  a little bit of camp. Julian’s a guy who was a big, major part of our offense last year and he’ll continue to do so this year.”

On injuries:
“We’re pretty healthy. One or two that are banged up, but other than that we’re pretty good.”

 On Southern University:
“They had a big win yesterday. Their coach does a great job there. Southern is always consistently a nine, 10-win football team. I think he does an outstanding job coaching their football team and it has our football team’s utmost respect. They’ve always had a lot of playmakers. They’re a physical football team and we know we have a good football team coming to town.”

On coaching against them and what their brand of football is:
“Well they’re a really talented football team and are a multi-dimensional team. They can throw it and run it. Austin Howard, their quarterback, does a great job. He’s a four-year starter if I’m not mistaken. He’s a guy who leads their ship and is an outstanding football player. They have good running backs and good receivers. Upfront, they play hard and tough. Again, we know we have a good team coming to town.”

On addressing certain things in practice after Saturday’s game:
“We just have to keep working on execution and keep trying to get better every week. That’s going to be our journey this year. I want to see a football team week to week that just gets better and if we could do that, everything’s out there for us. We have to meet that challenge and get out and get better every week.”

On what he saw from QB Kwadra Griggs:
“He did a great job running our offense and getting the ball to the right people. Kwadra is one of those kids who has a good natural feel. He really does. I thought he threw the ball well. He did a good job of running the ball, directing our team. The biggest thing is that we were a little bit more consistent on his reads. Football is a journey. We’re going to evaluate things week to week. I think he’s a young man who earned the opportunity to get to start this week so we’re going to give it to him.”

On Kentucky’s front seven from last year to this year:
“They’re better. I like their two ends. They have two really good ends and good corners, too. But their ends played extremely well; they’re good football players. Defensively, Kentucky is a much improved football team. They’ve done some really good things there. I was really impressed with the way they played defensively. Offensively, we knew they had a good football team. They proved that to us last year. I was pleased with the way we stopped the run on Saturday because Snell was a kid we really thought was a really good player who could do a lot of damage. I was pleased with the way we played upfront, on the defensive line and the front seven.”

On Kentucky sticking with the wildcat formation:
“That’s kind of what they started doing in week four of last year. They went to the Gator Bowl and had a nice run at it. They had a chance at the end in the SEC East and that wildcat package is something that was an instrumental part in their success, mid-to-late in their season last year.”

On the Golden Eagle defense’s play versus Kentucky:
“Other than a couple plays where we had our eyes on the wrong spot, the largest gain of the game was 10 yards. I thought for 60 minutes those guys played hard. You have to give credit due where it’s earned. Those guys played physical for four quarters. We always talk about hard-nose, nasty bunch defense. I thought those guys played that for 60 minutes. Again, that whole fourth quarter and we had the momentum on our side and we’d get the ball back and we had a drive and I think we had a turnover and then a fourth and four. Then that last drive on fourth down is touch and go but that last drive where we got the penalty on the third down kind of killed the clock down a little more and field position. We gave ourselves some chances at the end to win it but we came up short.”

On DL Rod Crayton:
“He played one heck of a football game. He was our defensive player of the game. Korey Robertson was our offensive player of the game. But Rod played tremendous up front. I thought our front played well. Rod certainly had the best game. Just impressive to watch him play. He played tough football.”

On Picasso Nelson and Trae Collins:
‘Both were hurt. But hopefully we have them back this week. We didn’t have Tez (Parks) either. We had a few injuries leading in (to the game). Hopefully we get these guys back and ready to go. It’s part of football though. You get guys injured, you just have to get the next guys ready to go. Hopefully we heal up and not have any season ending deals.”

On whether there was a silver lining of the game:
“Two things to a coach. Wins and losses are definitely one thing, but you also, as a coach, you like to look in and see how your team performed. Are they competing? Are they tough? And as a coach when they do that, you’re proud. Or at least I am. You see guys who are competing for 60 minutes. They’re playing hard. Again, we got down two scores and it would’ve been really easy to sit down against an SEC team and, say well, but we fought back, we scored and we gave ourselves two or three chances in the fourth quarter with the ball to make a run at it. At the end, I was hoping we’d get the ball back, score and go for two. That was kind of our plan. I’m proud of the way the guys played. You say that’s a silver lining. When guys play hard and compete hard that’s all I can ask. I can’t ask anything more. We just had some tough circumstances. That’s football. Sometimes the ball bounces the wrong way but we just have to get better and that’s all we can do.”

 On the players that stepped in for the injured players:
“We got T-Rod (Daniels) involved some. He almost broke away for one on that kickoff. We were close on that one, but we got him involved. He’s going to be an outstanding football player. How about Rachuan Mitchell? He came in and did a great job out there at the corner. He played well. That’s the spot where Trae (Collins) would’ve been. How about Kelsey Douglas?  Kelsey stepped up for Picasso (Nelson, Jr.). They’ve kind of been in a battle. Picasso’s been hurt a little bit. I think this is Kelsey’s first true start and he came in and played well and did a great job.”

 On Boothe’s performance:
“(Sherrod) Ruff and (Rakeem) Boothe played really well. Boothe is a young man, who is a freshman linebacker, and will be a special player.”

On limiting Allenzae Staggers and Ito Smith and adjustments to make:
“What we’re finding is that you can’t be a good football team if there’s just one guy that’s the guy. What we’re establishing is that it’s fine if you’re going to load the box and take away Ito and you’re going to try and take away Staggers, but we’ll get the ball to Quez Watkins. We’ll get the ball to Korey Robertson. We have T-Rod (Daniels).  The one thing we have here is that we have a lot of speed and guys that can make plays. That’s the one thing we saw with those guys like Quez and Korey. They’re phenomenal athletes, too. The one good thing that we’re going to have moving forward is we are not a one dimensional football team. That was the great thing about the second half. Kwadra threw for about 222 yards in the second half. There are guys out there that can make plays.”

On no drops by the receiving corps:
“Isaiah (Jones) made a couple of nice catches. That out route (by Jones) was an excellent catch. Of course, we didn’t talk about him, but Isaiah is one of those guys who can take it to the house too because he’s already proven that. Our guys caught the ball extremely well. There was a lot of good execution. Even the one hit with Kwadra. They guy’s helmet hits it right on the ball but something freakish things happen in football. Yes, those are difference makers in the game but it’s football. Our guys played hard and we just have to keep plugging and keep playing.”

On getting 50/50 balls:
“We have skills at those spots. That was a real nice one on the sideline with Quez (Watkins). You saw a guy get up. That probably shocked Kentucky a little bit. They probably thought going in looking at last year’s film, Allenzae and Ito. That’s the one thing we proved in the second half is that there’s a lot more weapons on the football team. Those two runs by Korey were tremendous. He just kind of ran through guys and ran over guys and I think he’s had a heck of a spring and a heck of a fall camp. That’s a positive that we can go anywhere with the football.”

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