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Todd Monken Weekly Press Conference

Nov. 25, 2013

Opening statement...
"We put Middle Tennessee to rest yesterday and look forward to going back on the road at UAB to play a team that's pretty similar to us. They've been banged up, played a lot of young guys. (Head Coach Garrick) McGee has done a heck of a job trying to change the culture there and recruit his kind of players, players who mirror his temperament. They've done a really good job offensively. They do a number of things well. Defensively, they've had to make a change through the year but lately they've made a decision they want to get up and challenge you a little bit more on the perimeter, which has helped them. It's going to be a real challenge for us. They have a great coaching staff. They are in the same boat that we are, scrambling to get wins. I anticipate a good game this week."

Thoughts on loss to Middle Tennessee, having watched film of the game on Sunday...
"There were some things that were real positives. I thought our guys competed. I don't think that's been an issue all year. I think we had a chance to start fast, as we have in a number of games, and just didn't take advantage of it. We didn't get in the end zone when we could have and then you have the catastrophic turnovers. That doesn't give you a chance. I did see some positives, individually, with some players. You see it defensively with guys continuing to fight. We've tried to simplify things to give ourselves a chance to play better in that area and I think we've seen that. I think our guys continue to want to improve and are continuing to work to build on something."

On offense's ability to score in the red zone versus Middle Tennessee after struggling in this area earlier in the year...
"Part of that's been our inability to run the football. That always makes it difficult when you get inside the 15-yard line. Luckily, we had some guys make some plays. We had a big third-down catch by (wide receiver Dominique Sullivan). We had a check-down to a running back in the flat who was able to run and get there and a fourth-down conversion. We just made plays when we got to a difficult down and distance when we were behind the chains. There have been other games when we haven't been able to do that. We were able to make some of those plays."

Asked if fast start against Middle Tennessee was attributable to something he saw on film...
"I wouldn't say it was something that we thought that we matched up against. We hit a few plays that got us going. We had a nice couple of runs that were involved in that. Even that first drive, you're not always sure that what you've watched on tape is what you're going to get. Most of the time you think you know what you're going to get but you're not always sure. We just executed better, had some guys make some plays and that gave us a chance to move the ball and put ourselves in the score zone."

On the growth and confidence exhibited each week by freshman quarterback Nick Mullens...
"The tough part was that he threw a couple into tight spots and yet the turnovers were not (thrown into tight coverage). They were mistakes. One was a misread in what they gave us, where they dropped out of zero coverage and he threw it right to a defender. He obviously didn't see him. The other the receiver is open, he just mechanically got himself off-balance and threw it high, which he doesn't do often when he's protected. But Nick is very accurate and confident. He's very capable of dissecting what they're doing and knowing where to go with the ball. He makes mistakes like everybody and those are starting to shrink. He has a natural confidence and we tell him, 'Let it rip.' We're not in any position to think that we can run the football consistently to win the game. We will need him to play well, and our other players to play well, to give us a chance to score enough points to win."

On UAB's dual-running-back system of Jordan Howard and Darrin Reaves...
"Both running backs are really good players. Reaves was already there and they recruited the freshman who is a good player. They are a handful. They are a great tandem. One's a little bit bigger than the other but they're both stout, powerful guys. You're going to have to find a way to get them to go sideways. When they get downhill, they're very difficult to stop and they move the pile. They continue to move forward."

Asked if UAB poses more of a threat running or passing the ball...
"I would say that they've built it around their running backs and now their quarterback's ability to run and then work off of play action."

Asked if he had addressed the players regarding this week being the final game of the season...
"We haven't gotten to that point yet. Last week was about our last home game. Sunday was a recap of the Middle Tennessee game and what we didn't do well, what we did well and what we need to do moving forward as a program. So we haven't really addressed that yet. I think they understand. I'm not sure that I have to address that it's the last game but we will address what it means. Last week it was the last game for the seniors at home. This week it's their last game ever in a Southern Miss jersey."

Asked if senior defensive lineman Kyrie Thornton has played his last game already due to an injury...
"I can't say that. We're going to find out more today. I'm hopeful that (Middle Tennessee) was not his last game. He's been playing so well."

Asked to comment on senior linebacker Alan Howze's potential for receiving a medical redshirt...
"We are hopeful. Alan had a significant injury that was not going to allow him to play the rest of the year. We are anticipating that we will have him back next year."

Asked if there were any other seniors who might also receive a medical redshirt...
"(Wide receiver) D.J. Thompson was not a senior, but D.J. was a guy that had been hurt until the last half of the year. We could have made a decision to try and play him. We think he is a good football player but we made a decision that, at this point, let's get his year back ... (Defensive back) Jacorius Cotton, as long as he takes care of things academically, he will be back."

Asked if Howze had played too many games to qualify for a redshirt...
"Basically what the rule comes down to, now that there are 12 games, is you can play in four of the first six games if you got injured - because if you play in any game and you're not injured you can't get redshirted. Now you have to have a medical redshirt. So you can play in four of the first six, which he did. And it was a season-ending injury."

Asked if struggles UAB has faced on defense are attributable to deficiencies or inflated due to the team having given up big plays...
"It's all of the above. It's the same when you watch us. I'm sure they feel like they can coach it better, they can play better and they can recruit better, just like us. I'm sure there are times when, I'm sure, they look at it and say, 'Boy we can do a better job of scheming it' and another time when a player's got to make a play and get off a block and where they've got to continue to improve their roster. I'm not sure it's any one thing. It's not as if they're doing things that are unsound. It's not like you look at it and say, 'Boy, look how they're aligned here.' That's not true ... I'm sure they feel like they've got to find a way to do it better. I'm not sure what that means to us. Like every opponent we have to look at it and try to figure out where we have an advantage, where we feel like we can give ourselves a chance to move the football and score."

On the play of freshman defensive lineman Dylan Bradley versus Middle Tennessee...
"It kind of worked out that it was a good matchup for him. They were kind of beat up, up front. Dylan's going to be a really good player. He's another one of our freshmen. He got banged up a little bit in the year a couple of different times. When he's fresh and rolling, he's capable of making some really explosive plays. He loves to play the game. We're going to continue to build around guys like him and guys who love to play the game."

Asked how important it was to have a player like Bradley, who was among the higher-profiled recruits to choose Southern Miss over other suitors...
"I don't even know who else recruited him. I do know this. Everybody that ever went against him or practiced against him or saw him in the Alabama-Mississippi All-Star Game said, 'That's a guy you have to have on your team,' and they were right."

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