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Head Coach Ellis Johnson Press Conference Transcript

Oct. 29, 2012

Press Conference 

Opening Statement:
"It was another very disappointing day for us as a team. One of the most frustrating things is that I thought there were more good football plays on both sides of the ball than probably any one game we've had. There were some strikes down field in the passing game. There were some catches we haven't been making. On the defensive side, we hit the quarterback twice and stripped the ball, something we haven't done all year. I just think that there were great plays, but no great performances. We couldn't sustain it throughout the game; we didn't take care of the ball. If there's one story about the season, it continues to be the turnover ratio. I guess there are several elements that you could go back and say contribute to it, but the one as coaches is we keep trying to find ways to practice it: tackle better, pressure the quarterback better, all those little things that you keep emphasizing. We've just got to keep coming and sometimes those things come in bunches and we sure do need a bunch to come. The turnovers are shortening the field for the opponent and lengthening the field for us, and at the end of the day, we've got more yards than they've got and they have more points than we've got. We had a mishap in the kicking game. It was a good snap and somebody got in the way of the snap. That was the first big field position switch that sort of opened the can. We've got to fight through those things and we didn't. There are some areas of improvement, some things we can build on, but obviously the consistency from the first whistle to the last has to get better."

On the play of quarterback Arsenio Favor:
"As with every quarterback, they all have their strengths and weaknesses. I was real proud of both (Arsenio Favor and Cole Weeks) for the way they went out and competed on the short preparation. Neither one of those guys have been getting the starting quarterback reps, haven't even been getting the backup reps. To try to get them ready in five days, (Offensive Coordinator Steve Buckley) did a solid job of getting them ready, teaching them and so forth. (Favor) can make some throws down field in the intermediate and long range passing game that frankly some of our others guys are not as good as he is. On the other hand, we're running with the ball uncovered and hit it on our thigh right before the half with a chance to score. And then, throw the ball on the wrong side of the formation that resulted in an interception. Again, there were great plays but no great performances. I think he struggled at times with the total time, but the kid had three days of preparation as the starting quarterback. I'm real proud of the way he went out and competed. He did not grade out well, but he made some big plays and gave us a spark at times. Actually, we had a few more balls that both he and Cole put out there that would have been good catches, but some people are making them. There were two or three of those long shots that were pretty well defended, but hopefully if you get both hands on the ball, you've got to come down with it."

On the starter at QB:
"We'll have to see who is healthy and see. If he had a little higher grade, (Favor probably would start). We have to see who is healthy. (Chris Campbell) and (Anthony Alford) are coming back off injuries that are not extremely serious but they were limited to the point where the only way we would put them in is to get us out of a ball game. We'll have to see how healthy they are."

On the play of the defense at Rice:
"I keep repeating it, but there were great plays but no great performances. In other words, the total picture was not completed. I thought we had two good stops to open the game, confidence builds and everybody in feeding off it. Then we had a bad mishap in the kicking game, ball at mid field, and the confidence sinks. You just have to bow up right there and play through it. Late in the game, the young secondary is having some tough days. They are going to benefit from this. These kids are going to be better football players one day. We've got two true freshmen and one redshirt freshman, and frankly, two of them are starting. They are not just going out there and playing a little bit. There are some things they are struggling with on adjustments, but they will get better and better each week. That caused some of the breakaway plays. Those are the ones - when we hold them to the five, six, seven-yard gainers and then all of a sudden you get a negative yardage play, you get off the field, but when you allow a 25-yarder or 30-yard play, that makes it too easy for the offense. We didn't play as well all the way through as we stated off and we have to find a way to sustain that."

"We know their personnel. They have extremely gifted receivers. They're struggling a little bit up front, but they are running a system that doesn't demand a real physical control of the line of scrimmage. The scheme of offense is exactly the same that (Former Arkansas head coach Bobby Petrino) ran. Garrick McGee does an extremely good job with that offense. They are efficient in the passing game. The timing of it is very good. They have a younger quarterback, but he has played and he's very good throwing the ball. They don't run him. That's not their offense. It's a pro-style, and you'll see everything from empty formations to two backs and two tight ends. I think they have really been lighting it up. They are a good offensive team, but they are having a difficult time stopping people. Lately, their defense has been making some key turnovers in stopping people and that's dangerous with an offense as good as theirs because they can get the ball back and it's tough to keep them off the board. They are a team like us. They've had some close losses and games they could have won and just couldn't close the door. I think they are a dangerous football team, and any game is going to be a big challenge for us with the mixture we're having a quarterback and some of those things. They have a great offense and that's going to be the biggest challenge, slowing them down. I think we're going to have to hold onto the ball in order to limit their number of snaps."

On handling any negativity and keeping morale up:
"(Outside negativity) is going to happen when you're having a lack of success; everybody is going to be unhappy. Players are unhappy, the coaches are unhappy. I don't have anything to say to anyone other than we are going to work as hard as we can to put the best product on the field. The thing you have to do right now is you have to turn your attention to the team, to the players, and that we're 100-percent on top of that and helping them in any way that we can to improve and get better. I've said it many times, this is not my first time (working through a transition). I've seen it before and some of these kids have not. I went through it as a player. I've been through it nine times as a coach, and it is a very, very difficult transition for a football. Then, when you don't get any wins of top of that, it just makes it even harder for (the players). My attention right now is on our kids and trying to keep them motivated, focused and playing hard. Hopefully, it's going to pay off with some rewards down the way, but it's always going to be that way when you're not winning."

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