Coach Hopson Media Conference (Oct. 30)
HATTIESBURG, Miss. - Southern Miss football coach Jay Hopson held his weekly news conference at the Duff Athletic Center Monday, recapping last Saturday's game versus UAB as well as previewing this week's contest at Tennessee.
The Golden Eagles and Volunteers play Saturday, Nov. 4, in a 6:30 p.m. CT/7:30 p.m. ET, contest at Neyland Stadium. The game can be seen on the SEC Network as well as be heard on one of the affiliates of the Southern Miss IMG Sports Network.
Here are some of things Hopson said during his news conference:
"Tough loss. Give UAB credit. They certainly deserved the win. We came out and moved the ball well offensively in the first quarter. Other than the first drive defensively, we played well that first half. Went in at halftime, 12-7. We got down in that red area a couple of times and would've liked to get seven instead of three (points). Again, I thought UAB had a good drive to start the second half. They came out and had another touchdown drive to open up the half. Other than that drive defensively, I thought we played well. Offensively, we didn't have one of our better halves in the second half. (It was) 13-12 going into the fourth, or with 11 minutes left, we were certainly still in the battle. Certainly, that fourth quarter reminded me of the North Texas third quarter. We didn't have our best quarter that fourth quarter. A disappointing loss. Again, give them credit. Now we'll go to work and get ready. That's our challenge. Get ready for a tough Tennessee team."
On fixing the ground game:
"We've run the ball well. We didn't run the ball well Saturday. That's something we have to do. We have good running back and he's a guy who we need to get the ball to and let him go. We understand we also have to play smart football, too. We have to see what the defense is doing and make sure we're being wise when we give it to him."
On the emphasis on passing game and pressure on Keon after run game stops:
"Looking at film, I didn't think Keon (Howard) played that bad. I really didn't. He got us in the right reads. We had a couple passes that were dropped. At the end of the day, you can't always put it on the quarterback. It's a "WE" game. We're all a part of that. If you want to put the blame on anybody, everybody blame me. I'll take 100 percent of it. It's all Coach Hopson's fault. The reality is that there were a lot of passes that were in there that we should've caught. You catch those passes, you keep the chains moving and the drives alive. It's a "WE" game and we didn't get it done. We just have to go to work and get better this week."
On Keon Howard:
"He played well. The quarterback is that position if you don't win or have a good game offensively, that guy gets all the criticism or the fame. Actually, everybody is included in that. We know we have to go to work this week and have a tough challenge this week. Our guys will get up and fight. I know they will."
On Quarterbacks Keon Howard and Kwadra Griggs battle heading into Tennessee:
"We're still looking at it. We watched (Kwadra) and he's got much better mobility now on that left side. He's a guy who can catch it at ease and have no problem. When we put him in there, we wanted to give him that opportunity because it was still a ball game at the time and see how he was doing. It really wasn't...the series before, Keon put up a great pass across the middle that could've been a 25-yard gain and we also dropped a couple earlier. I wanted to give Kwadra that chance and sometimes you get that spark. We put him in there and just give him that opportunity. I've said it before, we're going to let those guys compete and both of them have played a fair bit of football. I think competition with those two guys is good."
On whether or not he'd make the decision again to put Kwadra in:
"Oh yeah. We'd gone, for a while there, and things hadn't gone our way. We wanted to shake things up a bit. After he settled down, took a couple of possessions, he had a nice throw there on that last drive. It's part of it. Again, I think both young men, especially Keon, had a lot of positives out there. We just have to keep challenging."
On how Keon took getting pulled during the game:
"He's fine. Keon is a competitor. The thing I like about both of them is that they're both team guys. They both pull for each other and that's tough when you're competing. Both of them want to play. Both have a competitive spirit but they're also team guys and pull for each other in there. We have a great situation in that room with those two guys."
On what's unique about Tennessee:
"You look at their games and they've had some tough losses. The last second throw at Florida and the tough loss last week (at Kentucky). They had a tough last-second loss at South Carolina. They had a nice win against Georgia Tech, winning the first game of the season. They're a team that has had some late, last-second losses. You look at some film and you see what type of football team they are. They have our upmost respect."
On the offensive line versus UAB:
"We probably didn't play our best games up front on offense."
On defensive concerns:
"We didn't do a good job right there on thirds. They hit us with the draw a few times on Saturday night. We just got out of gap and that's something we're going to work on today and make sure we own our gap integrity on the gap draw. That was a play they had success on. We didn't tackle as well as we have in games before. That's another thing defensively we could've done better. Except for that fourth quarter and two drives, it wasn't a bad day defensively. It was like bang-bang on those first possessions of the half. They got us. At the end, give them credit they had the pick-six for the touchdown and drove down there and kicked the field goal. We just have to go back to work."
On what a win against an SEC team will do for Southern Miss:
"I'll just take a win any week. We just want to win games. That's the journey each week. We want to go 1-0 for the week. It's football. That's something as a football team, as a football coach, you have to understand that week doesn't go as well as you want it to go. You have to re-program and try and go 1-0 the next week. It's a battle of highs and lows. To me, a win's a win and a loss is a loss. We just know when we're playing a SEC football team, we're playing a talented team that has a lot of good players. We understand that Tennessee has had some tough losses. We understand that. We know what type of football team they are looking at film. We know we have a big challenge."
On what they do that will cause challenges:
"They're a talented football team. Upfront, they are big, strong and fast. (They have) talented receivers. Running backs are fast and the quarterback's extremely athletic. They're what you expect an SEC football team to be. Those are the things on film that will affect us."
On what has led to 3-0 road record:
"I wish I could tell you. Sometimes being on the road is an advantage because of distractions. Sometimes you have less distractions. On the road, you're in the hotel and get locked in and be together, and there's not a lot of things coming your way. I think that helps, I really do. We've been fortunate on the road so far and it's something we're glad about. Each week is a different week and a different journey."