Southern Miss Coach Ellis Johnson Press Conference Transcript
October 22, 2012
"The film didn't show anything different. Post-game, you sometimes don't know all the little details, execution, those types of things, but the bottom line is we had a great week of practice, came off a week where I thought we showed a lot of character and fight and progress. In the effort department, we were fine. The film showed that we tried hard. The mistakes, poor angles to the ball, all of these are types of things that we have to do a better job of coaching and preparing. I was very surprised at our performance. I think Marshall is a very good football team, and they are going to have a bunch of wins going down the road. They came out and executed better from the very beginning. Although the score stayed close early, I thought they were playing better than we were from the very first snap. It's hard to put a finger on it. If you had a problem in practice or a poor week of preparation or poor concentration, you'd have a reason for it, but it really puzzles me that we didn't play better. We've got to find the answer to it and do a better job coaching and get them ready to go. We've still got five games. Obviously, the winning season is off the books. The chance to go to a bowl game is off the books. A lot of things that the players had that they could play for are gone. We've tried to challenge them just to play for each other, get as many rewards and fun and memories out of it for the seniors as they can grab on the way out. For the rest of them, it's the very first game of 2013. We have to try to improve as a football team down the back stretch, grab some wins and get better."
On the quarterback situation:
"(Chris Campbell) has been released for practice, but we don't hit our quarterbacks during the week at all. He is available for contact though. The reservations I have are that he's been out for three-plus weeks, if he gets hit again in the game, can he sustain that? You never know until it happens. It's very difficult to put the starting repetitions all week in a quarterback you're not sure can finish the game. We'll just have to see how that looks. Right now, I feel like (Arsenio Favor) deserves a shot to get the starting reps in practice and have a chance to take the football team Saturday and see what he can do. (Anthony Alford) had a turf toe injury. It was not serious at all, if you can say missing practice is not serious. It's very, very painful though. His practice reps are going to be limited this week, if at all, until about Thursday. That will be reevaluated today or in the morning. That's a variable right there because we don't know how many reps he's going to be able to take in practice. (Cole Weeks) is available and has been. We've got a lot of confidence in Cole. He's probably the brightest, sharpest kid we've got. He's going to be there in case we have to have someone to get us out of a ball game. Injuries, not only with the quarterbacks but in total, I never saw it early on, but as the weeks have passed by, it's just been a different year. I think we've got 17 players now that will miss at least a game and 15 of them are legitimate starters or critical players in key roles. Four of them have been quarterbacks. We don't know the final word on (Ricky Lloyd's) knee, but he's definitely out until they can do further analysis on it. We've lost him for a while, hopefully not for the season. It just keeps coming in bunches. We've been able to overcome it in positions where we have a little depth. Other positions, it's hurt us but it has given some young players a chance to play. That's good for the future. Right now, we need a win and need to overcome some things to get it."
On Arsenio Favor:
"Well, athletically, he's one of the more talented ones of the bunch. If we go back, he hurt his knee right before spring practice and was coming onto the field with five guys and was the only one who had taken a legitimate snap in a college football game. It was very disappointing that we did not get a chance to have him in the spring and work with him. Who knows, he could have won the job but never got the chance. It was a serious surgery. He's only been back now two-and-a-half weeks. We told him when it happened, 'When you come back, if we're somewhat settled at the position, it's going to be very difficult to let you get back in and compete for it. But, you have to be ready because if something unusual happens, you could be the guy.' And here we are. We've got two quarterbacks hurt in one game and (Arsenio) is out there finishing the game and hasn't been back but two weeks. It's been a crazy year, and obviously it's affected our football team. We've got a lot of confidence in him and he hasn't had enough repetitions in the scheme to know how comfortable he's going to be, but he's going to have to get the first team reps this week and be ready to go."
On his frustration immediately following the Marshall game:
"It wasn't the 0-7 start (that immediately frustrated me). No one is having fun with that. Don't get me wrong. I'm not trying to dismiss that, but coaches are a little different. We're in a process. It's not a product; it's a process. When we come back Sunday, win, lose, whatever, you're back at the grind. If we ever win a ball game, that first win, these are going to be difficult kids to handle - we're going to have to get their focus back. That's obviously not what we're talking about right now, but when you come back on Sunday, it's a process to get them ready for the next game. That's all it is. But, the biggest thing is that I didn't feel like we played as physical and as competitively as we did against Central Florida. Maybe Marshall had something to do with that - they are more spread, open attack and probably took advantage of some things and matchups that UCF was not in their nature to do. I just didn't see the confidence and the competitiveness and the physical play, especially on defense, that we'd had the week before. It was not a lack of effort, but it just wasn't there. Even after the game got going, we didn't stop the run effectively. Bottom line, we're giving up way too much rushing yardage and not creating any turnovers."
On if he would consider making any staff changes:
"It's way too early to even talk about (making staff changes). That hasn't even crossed my mind. I have confidence in these guys. If I thought they weren't pushing the right buttons, we'd have pushed a different button. It comes down to coaching, teaching, motivating and player accountability. You've got to have all of it if you're going to be successful. Any time we've felt like we've made a wrong decision, we've tried to go back and evaluate it and change it. If we've felt like we're doing the right thing, it doesn't matter to me what the results are. That's what we're going to keep doing. Again, I've (come into a school with a new staff) nine times and have a reference point on it. I've seen it worse than this in a couple of places. I've seen it easier than this. A lot of times it falls in place and it's really not something you have control of. This one has been tough. We came in here, the last time I did it here, we walked in and won 10 games and went to the Independence Bowl but there was a guy named Brett Favre on the bus. We thought were geniuses, but the next year we had a losing record. Transitions are tough. I know how hard this is for our fans, our coaches, our players, everybody. We've just got to keep grinding and keep pushing forward. Too much second guessing will cause you to waver. You have to find that happy medium in what you're doing. You evaluate what you're doing. If you don't think you're doing it right, you better change and take responsibility as a coach. If you're doing it the way you think it's supposed to be done, you can't keep wavering. You'll have no direction.
"Their quarterback has been very consistent. He's a veteran. Their passing stats are not all that impressive, but it's pretty effective. They are definitely a run-oriented team. I think they are second in the conference in rushing offense. They've had some really tough, close losses. They've played a good slate. They've already upset Kansas. They had a very close ball game with Tulsa who seems to be playing as well as anyone on that side. They had an overtime loss to Marshall, a team that beat us handedly. They are a really good football team that has just struggled on a couple of close ball games. I feel like the core of their football team is a good, physical run game. That's something we haven't been very good at so it's going to be a challenge for us. The other thing is that I think they are about even in turnover ratio. We're minus-11. If that doesn't get corrected, that's going to be a huge obstacle to overcome."