“When you review the game from Saturday, there’s lots of positives we can take out of the game on both sides of the ball, and there’s lots of things we can learn as a football team to continue to grow and improve. First of all, it’s about things that we can control, which is assignment, alignment, stance, technique, how we finish, lots of things that we’ve been preaching for the entire year. It’s interesting when you go and look at the game, how many clean plays we play on both sides of the ball. When we play clean, what’s our success rate? And when we don’t have clean plays, what’s our success rate? There’s lots of things there that we can control, that we’ve got to improve on, we’ve got to learn from, grow from.
“When you look at the game in itself, I felt like we had guys that played faster than they’ve played before, and you can kind of see that at this day and time with GPS and things, so we’ve got to get guys to play that fast. Offensively, we moved the ball in the first half, created some explosive plays, and had some success running the football. We didn’t finish the first half there. We missed a field goal. Second half, we probably missed some plays there that we wish we had back, but we’ve got to fix that and put some drives together. We turned the ball over two times in the second half, which hurt us, and then finished the game in the red area at the end of the game and didn’t get the ball in the endzone.
“Defensively, way too many yards after contact, too many loose plays. We’ve got to be able to generate pass rush. They created some tight windows and covers, and made some throws and catches, but we’ve got to find a way to create negative plays, have to be able to get turnovers, and when people get the ball in the red area, you have to keep them out of the endzone and force them to kick field goals. We didn’t handle the two-minute situation before the half very well. We gave up a draw on the first play. We’ve got to do a better job of executing calls there. I’m a little disappointed in the kicking game from a standpoint of our kickers. They’ve done a really nice job most of the year, and we missed a field goal, and didn’t punt the football as well as we had an opportunity to do. There’s a lot of things that we can learn from this game and move forward.
“Getting ready for this week, looking at Mississippi State, I’m looking at their two-deep on offense, and I think every starter they have, depending on who they start at quarterback, is a fourth- or fifth-year guy. It’s an experienced football team, a mature football team offensively, lots of big guys. Defensively, they have some really good retuning players. Last year, they had one of the best defenses in all of college football. They have 21 consecutive games where they’ve created the turnover. They create negative plays by bringing pressure and put the offense a little bit on their heels, so it’ll be a tremendous challenge for us. It’s a great opportunity for our guys to build. We’ve improved every single week, but numbers one, we’ve got to quit turning over the ball, two, we’ve got to get turnovers, and we’ve got to play clean football. We’ve got to grow up and do those things to give us an opportunity to have success.”
On assessing the game from Brian Maurer:
“I thought he had really good energy, he did some nice things, especially early on. He made some really nice throws and got the ball out of his hand. But he also made some mistakes, too. He probably should have handed the ball off a couple of times, and he made incorrect reads there. In the second half, a couple of times, he worked the wrong side of the field. He made probably a poor decision when he threw the interception down there, and they ran the cap blitz there, and we have to have control of the corner in that protection. So, there’s way more positives than there were negatives. He’s got to learn from them and not make the same mistakes again. But he did step in there and make some nice throws, and I thought our kids rallied around him pretty well.”
On if he anticipates Maurer starting against Mississippi State:
“We’re going to see how this week goes. I think he would really have to have a bad week of practice not to, but we’ll see how the week goes.”
On where he sees the most depth issues and how that affects them:
“There’s several positions where we probably lack depth, and not necessarily just in numbers but just in experience. We’ve got some younger guys that haven’t had an opportunity to play. Really, what happens is, is like when Alontae Taylor gets a hip flexor that he’s had bothering him for a couple of weeks, and then Warren Burrell turns his ankle on Wednesday, and you’ve got guys that play on the kickoff cover team or the punt return team or the punt team and now they’re out, so it forces guys like Jauan Jennings or Josh Palmer to have to start doubling up. That’s where just sheer numbers hurts you a little bit there, and it probably lessens some of the reps that you take at practice.”
On the struggle in the kicking game and if Paxton Brooks will get a look this week:
“I think Joe (Doyle) has done a really nice job for two years. I think he picked his head up on two punts Saturday. It’s kind of like when I swing a golf club, I keep my eyes down and my head down and I usually hit it, you’ve seen it. I raise my eyes up and I don’t hit it too well. But, I think that’s what Joe did. Paxton has always been in the game plan and he will continue to be.”
On the status of Aubrey Solomon and on how he thought Quavaris Crouch performed after watching the film:
“Quavaris continues to improve. He has to improve his pass rushing. In some of the games and things that we have done inside there, he has to clean those up. Aubrey was playing a really good game and unfortunately, he has been a little banged up with his knee and shoulder, but that is football right? He has pushed through most of the year because he has had it. He will continue to do that. We will monitor and see how he is. We won’t put him out there unless he is ready to play. I think he played 18 snaps in the game and in those 18, he played really well.”
On what he is looking for when it comes to kickoff returns and what needs to happen to return a kick:
“If you look, we have a couple things we do. We study the kickers for the other teams and what their hang time is. For example, this last weekend, Rodrigo (Blankenship), I guess by now he has probably kicked over 95 percent of his balls into the endzone. So, the ones that he doesn’t, what is the hang time? You look to see where the opposing coverage team is at when you catch the ball. If the guys are on the 22-yard-line and you catch it at the one (yard line), your chances on getting it to the 25-yard-line is probably slim. Sometimes you can kick the ball six or seven yards deep into the end zone, but when the guy catches the ball, the coverage team may be at the 38-yard-line and then you have a chance to bring it out. There is kind of a little bit of a routine we go through there to see what gives us the best opportunity. Last year, I am not exactly sure what the stat was, but if you were to fair catch the football every time and take the ball to the 25, I think you would’ve finished in the top 30 or 35 in the country. As soon as you turn the ball out, especially if it is a corner kick, people get you pinned down there. That is where you see guys get tackled on the 12 and 14-yard line. I think we just have to make good decisions. I do feel very comfortable with our plans this year. I do think Ty (Chandler) is a dynamic returner, but I think you also have to look back and see what all goes into the risk versus the reward for the return.”
On the status of Riley Locklear:
“Riley got banged up a little bit and I don’t want to say it is a concussion, but he got his bell rung. So, we are taking precautionary measures there.”
On the difference between the two Mississippi State quarterbacks, Garrett Shrader and Tommy Stevens and preparing to play two quarterbacks:
“That’s one of the things I was looking at this morning—what is the difference with No. 6 (Shrader) and No. 7 (Stevens) in the game? I don’t see a whole lot. I had an opportunity last week because we were off to watch the Auburn game, and I saw Shrader playing. It looks like the running part of (Nick) Fitzgerald, who was there before. Shrader can throw the football—you see how the game’s called. As you go back and look at their body of work, the other kid is running the football just as much, too. I think that’s who they are, so I don’t see a whole lot of difference.”
On Warren Burrell and Roman Harrison’ s possible injuries and how Brian Maurer is reading plays:
“First of all, Warren Burrell got hurt on Wednesday, and he was a game-time decision. The kid wanted to play and really came a long way in a two- or three-day period. He actually didn’t practice on Thursday or Friday. We almost thought he couldn’t play Saturday afternoon after watching him warm up. He’s still a little swollen, but I think he’ll be ready this week. Roman didn’t play in the game, and he’s got to continue to work and get himself ready to contribute because we need him to.
“When we talk about Brian, I think Brian just got the ball out of his hand. [He] knew which side of the field he was working with and make quick decisions and did it. [He] let the ball loose. There were probably a couple of times if he had held for a count or two, we had other guys breaking open, but you’ve got to have a clock in your head as a quarterback. You can’t sit back there and hold the ball. I thought he did a nice job for the most part.”
On a sideline incident during the game:
“I don’t think it was Will Friend, I think it was some of our players. I didn’t see it either, so I got told about it and was fired up. I’m glad we have some passion around here where people want to do things the right way. We need a few more of them if you ask me.”
On what he wants to work on with Brian Maurer during this week:
“It’s the first game where we’ve put in a game plan for him. He came into the Florida game, but the plan wasn’t exactly for him. Him and Jarrett are different, him and JT are different, just like all of us in this room are different. We all have strengths and weaknesses. He made some really good decisions Saturday. He made some really good plays. But there was some inconsistency there, just like everybody on our football team, that he has to improve on. We need to improve on some things and the things that he did well, maybe we need to go to the next deal and continue to create opportunities for him to have success. I thought the guy stood in the pocket, I thought that for the most part he controlled the game. There were some parts there in the second half when you talk about inconsistencies, we had a couple of false starts. He has to be louder when he’s under center and he has to be more direct when he’s clapping his hands. Just small things like that that probably cost us a few plays. We’re at second-and-1, now we’re at second-and-6 just because we don’t clap our hands loud enough. We have to consistent on our clap. Some of that is that for the first time he’s in the moment, he’s seeing what folks are doing in the back end. Is this backer coming? Do I need to do something here? Where is the safety at? He’s doing all that and maybe forgot the simplest thing, which is having some force when he claps his hands. There are lots of things to learn.”
On becoming a complete 60-minute football team:
“It starts with execution. It would interesting to see exactly the turnover margin from halftime on this season, on Saturday we were minus-two and then we had one penalty where we made some plays. It’s one thing to get penalties, it’s another thing to make them when you’re getting positive plays. Two games in a row, we’ve got penalties for offensive linemen being too aggressive. Number one, we can’t break the rules and we’ll learn to stop when they blow the whistle, but first they have to blow a whistle so we can stop. But I am excited to see that we have guys up from that are trying to finish people and trying to put them into the ground. That’s a long ways from where we started 22 months ago. We couldn’t find five offensive linemen out there to practice. So now we’re starting to have to slow them down, and that’s a good thing. We have to get some discipline to understand not to make mistakes. But I would say that it’s probably turnovers, maybe depth, maybe execution, maybe maturity. The same plan that all of us have had wherever we’ve coached, you probably could have taken a video and went into our locker room and went into Georgia’s locker room, and the operations of the coaching staffs are probably identical when it comes to coaching the players because we coach every play all the way through the game. But we have to execute better in the second half and not turn the ball over.”