Southern Miss Coach Ellis Johnson Press Conference Transcript
Week 5 - September 24, 2012
"Obviously, it was a very disappointing loss. I think when you're not performing well in so many different areas, you have to start back at the head coach's feet. We've got to start back at square one and evaluate everything we're doing, from personnel to schemes to practice and just see what we can come up with and improve our football team. Offensively, it was the same thing. We'll have two or three explosive, good looking football plays and then we'll do something that stops the drive. Sometimes it the opponent, but too frequently, it's us. (They are things like) a pre-snap penalty or a misread or something of that nature that we can improve upon. Defensively, we gave up 17 explosive plays. In our terminology, that's a 10-yard run or a 15-yard pass completion. That's more than four per quarter and you're not going to keep people off the goal line or the board when you have that kind of yardage coming out in chunks. I thought for the first time since Nebraska, we had a couple of breakdowns and allowed one play to turn into two or three bad plays. Young players are going to have bounce back, get their confidence back, and step back up. I saw some things physically. We can get it done but we're just not playing consistent enough in that area. Special teams continues to be at least solid and sometimes extremely bright. We got some good returns. We didn't have any disasters occur. Peter still does a great job in the punt game. He had one or two that I know he'd love to have back, but he had a couple of them that really, really helped out football team at the time. Corey missed one of his field goals and that was very uncharacteristic. He's been a lot better than that. He just told me he just didn't hit it well. He came right back out a little later and hit a great one. He told me he could do it and I continue to have great confidence in those guys. The return guys, Justin Sims was one of the ones we really recognized for having a good game. We to move him into the primary return spot because of Lampley's injury was keeping him from 100-percent."
"The only thing I can tell you at this point is that obviously it affected our game rotation. That's part of football. When the guy gets his chance, he's got to step up and perform. To say that we're not concerned about some of the injuries that took some of our starters off the field, took a couple of our two-deep guys off the field, I don't know enough about the extensiveness or the details on most of those injuries at this time. I may know tonight, but there will be some examinations (on the player's day off on Monday)."
On the quarterback position if all three are healthy:
"Well, that's a hypothetical that I don't know that I have to answer and probably in all likelihood am not going to have to answer. (Chris Campbell) was playing solid when he left the game, wasn't playing great. Obviously, he didn't have a chance on a couple of those plays. (Anthony Alford) played O.K. when he came in, threw a couple balls that could have been more accurate to give a guy the chance to run. (Ricky Lloyd) came in and gave us some energy and some juice. He didn't get a lot of practice reps during the week and I thought he came in to a tough situation there and did a pretty good job. He's the healthy one of the three, and depending on what I find out in the next 24-hours when we hit the practice field, that decision could be made for me. As I said many, many times when all this was going through camp, there's never been a lot of separation in the three. They've all been decent. They've all had their problems. They are three quarterbacks who've never taken a snap in a college football game before this season and they are obviously, at times, playing that way. I think (Quarterbacks coach Steve Buckley) has done an outstanding job trying to teach three young quarterbacks - and it's hard to call Chris young, but he's never played in a college game - trying to teach those guys, rotate those guys, get guys repetition and have them all improving as football players. It's almost a job impossible to do. At one point, it just came to the situation of who is giving us the most consistent play and who could our players fit best with. We've made those decisions and whether they were right or wrong, the production has not really been very good with any one of the three. I really think it's more the play around them rather than the play of them. I'm saying all that to say this: we have complete confidence in Ricky Lloyd. That decision was not made because Ricky wasn't good enough. It was made because we thought the right guy at the right time was not him. But, I think he can lead our football team and if we improve in so many areas that we have to improve in, we'll be fine."
On the attitude of the players:
"Well, that's a question that I don't know that anybody can answer other than them. We've had cooperation. We've had commitment. We've had good work habits on the practice field. We've had some good performances in (the seniors). We've had some bad performances in (the seniors). Do we have great, confident, experienced leadership? That's something I think we're still trying to find. I really think that when leadership comes from inside, you have a huge advantage and it's something you can build and I think it's critical. I'm not trying to avoid the answer, but I don't have a real good feeling right now where they are. I told (Athletic Director Jeff Hammond) the other day that until you experience success together, there's always that human nature that you're in, you're all in, but until you experience success together there's always that doubt in the back of their minds. This is problem the ninth time I've done with an entirely new staff coming in and taking over a program. I've got a lot of experience to draw on, positive and negative. Some of these players don't. I think it's critical that as coaches, we work on that situation. We've got to be demanding but we have to have ears too to get a pulse of what those guys think. I think it's a critical situation and we've got to have that leadership if we're going to move forward."
On being more physical on defense:
"You can see it. There are times where we have to go back and question our plan and our calls and say, 'Hey, could we have done this or could have done that?" But, the bottom line is, when a player's in front of a player with the ball, you've got to make a tackle or make a play on the ball. I'm not defending us or blaming anyone, but you get them in to a position to make a play, they have to make a play. If you aren't getting them into the position to make a play, you have to coach better. And, there's room for improvement in all areas."
On the team playing with emotion:
"That's the chicken and the egg. I think success is what feeds emotion and which comes first, I think it's preparation and performance. When you perform, you can feed off it and get emotional. Maybe, one day we'll win a ball game and find out what our postgame chant is. It's supposed to be a fun game. Coach Stallings used to say, "The fun is in the winning." You can have fun in the locker room. You can have fun in the hotel on Friday before the game. And you'll always be close and tight with these guys in that locker room, and they will be friends forever but the real fun in competition is winning. I think it feeds off each other and we've got to get them to a point where we can have some success and I think they will start having that enthusiasm and that fun that you have to draw off of."
"I've seen a lot of film on them and they are a very good football team. The thing that impresses me the most about them is they are very young. They have a ton of freshmen and sophomores spread in their roster and mixed into their two-deep. They have a quarterback who is just a sophomore and is playing like a fifth-year senior. He has completed almost 75-percent of his passes at this point and they've played some very good football teams. They are playing extremely well. I know Charlie Strong very well and he has done and extremely good job into a reflection of what he wants it to be. He has built it up in three years to this point. They are ranked nationally in the polls and are obviously playing some really good football. We'll be their fourth non-conference opponent. We haven't beaten them since 1999. We own the series but we haven't beaten them since 1999. I think it's a great opportunity and a great challenge and great rewards come from accomplishing things when you have great challenges. There is something here that our team can grab onto if we want to and take advantage of this opportunity. This is a big time challenge. It's a big time opportunity. It's what you come to college football and play for."