Todd Monken Weekly Press Conference

Head Coach Todd Monken

Sep 9, 2013

Coach Monken All-Access | Coach Arroyo All-Access | Coach Duggan All-Access

Opening Statement...
"After yesterday, we've put the Nebraska game behind us and we're moving on to Arkansas, a quality SEC opponent. They've got a new staff, obviously, Coach (Bret) Bielema coming over from Wisconsin where he did a great job. Again, I think it's a real challenge for our players, obviously, going there but the biggest thing is how we get better as a football team and the standard we set. We've got to do a better job of hanging onto the football, not turning it over, to at least give ourselves a chance. The bottom line is playing good football. We're doing a great job of playing with energy, enthusiasm, body language. Our guys are playing hard but, at the end of the day, you can't turn it over like we're turning it over and expect to give yourself a chance. We need to do that Saturday."

On overall satisfaction with the Golden Eagle defense versus Nebraska...
"I thought our defense, for the most part, kept Taylor Martinez in check. He had a few plays. We didn't give up a bunch of explosive plays. They were going to make their fair share of plays. They're a good football team. They've won nine or so games (each year) over the last five years so they are a good opponent. But we didn't help it out. I mean, there's nothing more deflating than a turnover ... then a turnover and a score. We've got to find a way to run the football, not turn it over and give ourselves a chance to play because our defense has played well enough two weeks in a row to keep us in the game ... Have they made mistakes? Of course they have, but we've played well enough to at least give ourselves a chance."

Explanation for what went wrong on Southern Miss interceptions versus Nebraska...
"The first one was our split. I mean, we're six yards wider than we should be lined up. Now can we correct that quarterback wise? Of course. Does (wide receiver Rickey Bradley) need to have a little bit of awareness of where he's at? Of course ... Then the second was a throw over the middle that got tipped. That's always a concern when you throw the ball over the middle, you get a ball tipped. People are around the ball. Then the third one was just a misread. The fourth one was just a desperation play. That one I don't count. Everyone can tell, that was fourth down, end of the game. That's insignificant. But the first two were ones that led directly to scores. Not indirectly, directly to scores ... The week before it was the fumbling issue. Then this week obviously we did a better job of protecting it as we are building and trying to set a certain standard. But obviously we have to do a better job of holding onto it."

On use of true freshman backup quarterback Nick Mullens in the Nebraska game and whether this might lead to a dual quarterback situation in the future...
"I don't see it that way. Nick is our backup. We needed to play him some, I don't care what age he is, just in case something happened to (starting quarterback Allan Bridgford) because he's our backup quarterback. So regardless of what age he was, redshirt, not redshirt ... There's a chance Nick doesn't play the rest of the year. That's just the way it is. I don't know that. There's times you have to make decisions with freshmen that you have to base on the here and now, not the future."

On preparing for Arkansas and its run-based offense...
"It's interesting. Jim Chaney, runs their offense, does I think a great job. You talk about a guy that's ... I mean he can change spots. He is a chameleon. Last year at Tennessee they were no huddle and throwing it around and had really good success. And this year he comes to work with (Arkansas head coach Bret Bielema) and they're running what they did at Wisconsin ... Smash-mouth, downhill, tight end, play-action pass, which I was around for many years (at LSU with coach Les Miles) and then in the NFL ... Which is good football. When you watch them, they play good football. That's what we're trying to accomplish. Whether you're spread, whether the philosophy they believe in, it's still about taking care of the football and playing good football and I think they do a good job of that."

On development of the Southern Miss offensive line from Week 1 versus Texas State to Week 2 versus Nebraska...
"They did (get better). We obviously didn't have Vincent Brown so I thought Aaron Reed came in and played as well as he had played, hadn't really played a lot here. There were signs of it. Certain guys, maybe not so much. But I thought our communication was better. There was a little more resolve with our guys up front. Not to be confused with where we want to be, but I thought our communication was better. Our ID's were not always perfect but I thought it was better ... We're going to continue to improve. Where we're at in the schedule, I'm not sure you'll see it as much as you would (due to) the quality of opponent we're playing."

On emergence of freshman receiver Tyre'oune Holmes, the team leader in receptions...
"He's done unbelievably well. I mean, we're frustrated with the fumble two weeks ago and the tipped pass but to ask a guy to come in and lead your team in receptions coming right out of high school, that's a lot to ask a guy. But he accepts that responsibility and wants to be a great player ... He's going to continue to get better with his route running, with his ball skills and those things and hanging onto it."

On the prognosis for injured offensive lineman Vincent Brown...
"I don't really speak to injuries. We don't have him right now."

On expectations from the Arkansas defense...
"Very sound. Guys play hard. Obviously, that philosophy came with (head coach Bret Bielema and staff) from Wisconsin where they did a great job for a number of years, starting with Coach Bielema, whose background is on the defensive side. So they do a great job ... What you don't see on tape is a lot of explosive plays. You see some games where they turn guys loose but, for the most part, they force you to drive the ball and that's a sign of a really good defense. They believe in their philosophy and they don't waiver from it. So we're going to have to do a good job of executing and finishing off drives with touchdowns."

On mental makeup and resilience of starting quarterback Allan Bridgford...
"He's been fine. His personality is great. He lets things roll off his back. He's taken a beating the first two weeks. Some of it we've put on him because we've thrown so much, others because of things our opponents have done. But we've got to find a way to protect him better and then keep him upright because he's obviously been our best offensive player two weeks in a row. (Regardless) of the interceptions, he's been our best offensive player."

Asked if Southern Miss ground game was not what he'd hoped...
"Well that's being really nice. I mean, I've had people say it as nice as they can. It's been terrible. I don't know what to tell you. We haven't, obviously, schemed it up right. We haven't been able to get the kind of push and the movement or get our running backs to run downhill and protect it. Obviously, when you fumble the ball then you run a little defensive as we did this week. But we've got to do a better job and it starts with us. It starts with us as coaches, our offensive coaches, to devise a plan that gives us a chance to be more balanced and take the pressure off our quarterback. Some of our screen game that we run does take a little bit of that off but we just haven't been able to get ourselves going in that regard. But that is obviously the biggest challenge we have right now is running the football and not turning it over. And that's obvious. Anybody can see that. That's pretty simple."

Asked what the biggest problem with running the football has been...
"If I knew the biggest problem, we'd have it solved. We have more problems than just up the middle. Obviously, in terms of ID'ing ... in terms of what we're doing ... it's naïve to not think that there's certain things that we're doing that we have to get better at as coaches and as players. Playing more physical. And then certain things that we've got to change to give ourselves a chance to at least take some of the pressure off our quarterback."

On overall health of the team...
"We're beat up. We're hopeful to get guys back but we're pretty beat up at this point. And that happens when you go play a physical team but it doesn't matter. I've said this plenty of times. I don't care where you're at, nobody cares. So I don't care who's beat up, when they line up in the black and gold, we expect them to play well. The fans expect them to play well and we've got to give ourselves a chance to win and do what they can do, not what they can't do. We're not into excuses, I don't care who it is. Whoever we line up with, we've got to find a way to score, stop `em and to win the game."

On what he's seen on film from last week's Arkansas-Samford game, which Arkansas won 31-21...
"(Samford) didn't turn it over. Arkansas, it appeared, I couldn't tell through some of the tape whether it came through special teams or whether turnovers, there were times I thought Samford got the ball in pretty good field position that led to a couple of those scores. For the most part, Arkansas held them in check. I haven't had a chance to really dissect all of it but you have those games. You have those games where you don't play as well as you like, a few things go the other way ... Samford has been doing a good job the last couple years and has good players. It's not as if they don't have good players and they executed a lot of the things they wanted to in the game. But at the end of the day, I'm sure just like Samford, like us, there are no moral victories. At the end of the day, Arkansas won. And whether it was 56-0 or whatever it ended up being ... Arkansas still got the win."

Coach Monken

Coach Arroyo

Coach Duggan

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