Head Coach Ellis Johnson Press Conference Transcript
Nov. 5, 2012
"There was really nothing that we saw on tape that would change what I said after the game. We did some good things in all three phases in the first half. I knew we were concerned coming in about our pass production. I think we had six attempts for about 18 yards at half time and it was a concern. We made some X's and O's adjustments on that and thought we'd get some production out of that in the second half. We blocked a punt - it should have been a touchdown but it squirted out of the back of the endzone, but we got two points and great field position. I'm not sure we got as many points as we needed out of that, but when you come in with a halftime lead at 16-0, it's really, as we've talked about before, the first time that we've gotten the last punch coming into the locker room. You could just see how much it helped the player's confidence-wise. We came back out, hit a 56-yarder on the first play offensively and fumbled the ball the next play. It just - some of the same things that have haunted us all year long (came back up). They proceeded to put together a 72-yard drive. We knew coming out that we had frustrated their quarterback and they would probably turn to the run game, probably their screen game a little bit more.
I thought our defense front early in the game did a heck of a job pressuring the quarterback and keeping him from being effective in throwing the ball down field. When they really lined up and got physical, two things: I thought we did not play as well in our run fits and we also lost angle on the ball sometimes to allow long runs. But, our possessions in the second half - we had a two-and-out with a fumble, the next was a decent drive with a field goal, then we had three three-and-outs in a row and a six-and-out - one first down - and a nine-yard punt. I think it just suffocated our defense. Lots of credit to UAB. They are a young football team too and played very well in a tough situation to find a way to come back and win a ball game. That was my big concern with our players. We're improving in a lot of areas, just as football players, but the confidence level and the finish was not there. That's something as a head coach you have to look in your own closet and figure out, `What am I going to do different?' or what button we can push to get these guys to finish and realize that it doesn't take but one more stroke and we've got it."
On the possibility of changing quarterbacks during the game:
"We thought about (Arsenio Favor). (Chris Campbell)'s neck is still not really good. He was there in case we had an emergency. A lot of the problems - and (Anthony Alford) did not have a great day by any stretch - but a lot of the problems, he's not pulling the trigger because the route is not there. There are a lot of things contributing to the passing game other than the play of the quarterback. Now, it's got to improve, but he's a true freshman, I think he'll get better. He's been on a roller coaster ride. There hasn't been good, steady improvement. I think a lot of that has been because he's been injured, back, injured, back. We had the situation early in the season where nobody won the job, too many reps being taken from each guy trying to find the guy, so he hasn't had the opportunity because of things out of his control to make steady and constant improvement. It's been up and down. I thought he played really well against UCF - made about two or three mistakes that a young guy would make when he plays. But, it wasn't as consistent this week. It was obviously not nearly as good. We've got to find a way to separate on some routes. When you have a young quarterback struggling, you have to get some guys open. That's a factor. Then, the protection broke down sometimes too."
"They are a really good offense. If you go back and track them from the beginning, the first thing is that they've played a very tough slate early, similar to us. But, they have an experienced quarterback and are an older team and they were competitive. They got soundly beaten in a few games and it didn't statistically look like a June Jones team. They weren't converting third downs, but their defense was playing extremely well. They are up around the top two or three in the conference now, statistically. They've got an excellent defense, so early in the season when you looked at them you said, `SMU - that's a defensive football team.' Over the last three or four games though, the quarterback is really playing better and making a lot of throws and hitting some big plays. (Zach Line) gives them a big 230,240-pound back in a spread offense and that's a tough thing because sometimes you have to leave five or six in the box and he can break a tackle, be his own blocker. They put up 72 points a few weeks ago against Houston and that's good. We're going to have a huge challenge. We've played better defensively against the team that get in the pocket and try to throw the ball, but when we frustrate that, we've got to back it up and be able to stop the run also. It will be a big time challenge and we'll have to play a lot better than we've been playing to have a shot."
On if he sees consistency building:
"You always feel (that your team will be more consistent the next time out). You have to say it's coaching, because if you don't think it's coaching, what do you do to correct it? You're always looking for answers. It's obviously going to be tough with some of the young players we've got in key positions, but we've had a road game at UCF where I thought we played very consistently and overcame some things and had a chance to win a ball game against what looks like the best team in the conference. Then, we come back and play against other teams who have not had good records and we have not played our best. Inconsistency does worry me. The biggest thing is just the confidence factor. It's hard when the players don't have anything tangible to hang their hat on, such as a few wins and the success and the fun that comes after all the drudgery it takes to practice. You have to try to find a way to inject that and try to adjust practice a little bit. You can't just quit practicing because they aren't functioning well, but you have to find a way as it gets this late in the season, try to do something to pick them up a little bit physically and mentally. That's going to be the challenge. I think from executing, blocking, tackling, and all that. The only thing that will concern me is that we have to get our passing game where we can find something down field. Defensively, the running game, we have to find a way to quit giving up long runs. A lot of that is technical but a lot of it is physical too."