Todd Monken Weekly Press Conference

Nov. 4, 2013

Coach Monken All-Access | Coach Duggan All-Access

Opening Statement...
"As I say every week, we've put last week to rest and now it's on to Louisiana Tech. I've known (Louisiana Tech Head Coach) Skip Holtz since I was a graduate assistant at Notre Dame and he is a tremendous football coach who has won at a number of stops. I believe he would have won at South Florida had he been given enough time. They are well-coached. Offensively, what (Offensive Coordinator Tony) Peterson does comes from Marshall. It's going to be exactly what we saw against Marshall last week within reason. Defensively, (Coordinator) Ken Dameron's a guy who has been around a number of years. You can see their defense really improving. They're similar to our defense, schematically. It's going to be a real challenge to us. They've got a really good staff. It's a program that's had success and we're excited about the opportunity to go over to Ruston and give ourselves a chance to get a win."

On challenges presented by the Louisiana Tech defense...
"They play hard. They don't give up a lot of big plays. Like I say every week, the sign of a good team is when it looks like they enjoy playing for each other, with attitude, energy and body language, and you see that. You see guys flying around to the ball. That's the thing that presents most of the problems is how hard they play."

On importance of Southern Miss having a strong performance versus Louisiana Tech, a game which marks the end of the first three quarters of the season...
"The hardest part is where we're at in our record. It's hard to keep breaking it up into quarters. At one point, you were trying to break it up to kind of piece together and win that quarter. That becomes a lot more difficult with the struggles we've had. But we have four games left, starting with the last game of the third quarter, to try to build a little bit of momentum for next year and for our seniors to go out the right way. We've just got to play better football."

Asked what he's seen on game day that can serve as cornerstones upon which to build momentum...
"Do I think there has been improvement in some areas? Yes. Some of our younger players have improved but others have regressed. Our job is to figure out how that's happened, why it's happened and how we can keep moving forward. Do I think (freshman) Nick Mullens progressed as a quarterback? Yes. Did he take steps forward? Yes, in a lot of ways but still making mistakes. I think he progressed. Some of our younger players are progressing, it's just we're not where we need to be as a team."

On junior defensive back Emmanuel Johnson's effort on a play in which he tracked down a Marshall offensive players and forced a fumble on what seemed a sure score...
"Tremendous. That's what you want out of your team. It's 28-0, probably insignificant in terms of the outcome of the game, but you see a guy who chases it all the way down and punches the ball out. It says a lot about him and that's what you want to see out of your team. I think we've had some of that and we're going to continue to ask that of our team. That's got to be our staple - toughness, effort, discipline, no excuses, finish. The effort has continued to be there, there's just some things we've got to do better."

On continued effort of entire team...
"We have guys that like to play the game. From an effort standpoint, from an energy, from an attitude, from a body language, it's been good. Our weeks of practice have been good; we just haven't done enough things well to give ourselves a chance to win. At one point it was strictly offense, now that's carried over onto defense for a number of reasons. As guys have been elevated from special teams players to defense, our special teams, from a personnel standpoint, have taken a hit. We've struggled in a number of areas. It's not that simple just to say, 'Boy, we get this fixed, we're cooking.' That's not it. The only chance you have is to just continue to move forward, to coach them and for us to go to the practice field and give us every opportunity to move forward. And that is with all phases of our team."

On the number of connections Southern Miss coaches have with Louisiana Tech, including Coach Monken, who coached in Ruston, La., for two seasons...
"We have a number of guys who have spent time over there. My son was born there. (Offensive line coach) Pete Perot coached there for a number of years. (Running backs coach) John Simon played there. (Director of Football Operations) John Carr played there. We have a number of people on our staff that have a history there. Louisiana Tech's a tremendous place. I enjoyed the two years I was there and look forward to going over and playing a really good football team and us giving ourselves a chance to win."

Asked if a win over Louisiana Tech would be more special given his and his staff's connection to that program...
"Right now, it doesn't matter who we're playing, what would make it sweet would be for our guys to be able to sing the fight song in the locker room after a game. But we've got to do things that give us that opportunity early in the game, to give ourselves that feeling of, 'OK, here we go on a positive note,' and force them to make plays, which we have not done the last three weeks."

On the leadership of third-string quarterback Cole Weeks...
"He's on our unity council and he wants to be a coach someday. He's a very positive person. I think he understands his role. We talk about it all the time, embracing your role. He embraces it. Does he like it? No. Would he rather be playing? Yes. Would he like an opportunity to play? Yes, but that's not his role. His role is to be our third-team quarterback and assist in any way he can on and off the field. I think he's done a great job of that."

On importance of younger players making quick decisions and flying to the ball...
"That's the hardest thing. When you have young players or inexperienced players, they don't trust what they see. When you don't trust what you see, you don't react as fast and your confidence level isn't as high. All you can do is continue to do the same things. We can't change what we do. That will never build confidence because they'll never have success on the practice field and then be able to carry that over to the games. The only thing you can do is to continue to give them the same looks, keep the same system, keep moving forward and, ultimately; it's got to translate to the field."

Asked if he had alternated the alignment of his offensive and defensive tackles versus Marshall...
"We did not flip them offensively. Defensively, our tackles do flip at times."

Asked if he's ever, as a coach or player, gone through a losing streak similar to the one he is experiencing at Southern Miss...
"No, thank goodness. It's difficult. You put your name on something, player or coach, and you haven't tasted victory, it's hard. I don't know if there's anything that's been any harder in my (coaching career), of 25 years of having to deal with it. But that is what it is. We've earned eight losses. That's the way it is and no one is coming to rescue us. No one's going to feel sorry for us. No one cares. They just want us to figure out how we can play better and give ourselves a chance to win. You bet it's hard. There's no way around it. But, when you go into this profession, that's what you decide to do. Good or bad, this is it. The guys you decide to coach, that's what you have. The bottom line is we have to find a way to coach them better and to play better."

Asked if he's seen moments where younger players seem to "click" and reach a new plateau in their development...
"Sometimes you see certain things that you feel that way and there's other times where they regress, where you think they're starting to build and yet their body wears down a little bit and they see a different look, they haven't had as much experience with it, and they don't have as much resolve. They don't have enough vested in this program to have that kind of resolve. They just got here. They're still trying to figure out, 'Where do I go to class,' and 'Where do I eat' ... So you're struggling in a lot of ways. I've seen progress with our guys understanding where they need to get and how hard they need to work to get there. Everybody's doing the exact same thing. Everybody has the same goal in mind. Their coaches are paid to find a way to score and stop us. They're players are on the same mission we are. It's not as if we're playing somebody that doesn't have that same mission. So how do we find a way, with our players and our coaches, to do it better than they do it? Regardless of talent, how do we do it better than they do it? If you rely on talent, then I'm in the wrong business here. We can never blame it on our players. We have to find a way to get our players to do it better and for us to coach it better, regardless of what we have in the room. That's our job."

Coach Monken

Coach Duggan

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