Transcript From Mike Price Press Conference
“First of all, I’d like to say thank you to the thousands of fans that drove to Albuquerque, and apologize to them for our performance. If there was any way I could give them the money back for their tickets, I’d do that, because it certainly wasn’t what we expect from our coaches and our players on how to prepare to win a football game. We played very, very poorly. Please stay with us. Give us another chance. That is what’s great about football is we have another chance this Saturday. Looking back at the game, it was a bad start. We weren’t ready. I thought we were. We weren’t ready and they were. It’s not guys jumping up and down in the end zone getting ready, it’s the dropped passes, something we hadn’t done. The first couple of plays we dropped passes and then there was a quarterback sack, a miscue, and then a quarterback sack getting hit and fumbling the ball and they recovered. It was just the opposite of what our plan was. Our plan was to get them on their heels. They were the offensive line that was leading the nation in giving up sacks, and we were the offensive line that had allowed no sacks. And then New Mexico State puts a drive together and the next thing you know you look up and it’s 14-0. So we’re going to try to come back, and they have a nice punt right down to our two yard line and then we tried to run a little bit and go back for a quick pass. Jordan [Palmer] dropped back and Johnnie Lee [Higgins] is running naked down the middle of the field with nobody on him. He was running all alone down the middle, and one of our offensive linemen decided to block left instead of block right and bam, he doesn’t block anybody and Jordan takes three steps and gets hit and throws and then we get a safety called. Then we punt and the guy drives it right down and now we’re looking at 19-0 before you can even turn around. We put together a nice 15-play drive trying to get back into the game, and we called a play where everybody blocked to the left but for some reason the quarterback said go to the right. Those kinds of things show you that we weren’t ready, we weren’t focused, we got out of our comfort zone. We were doing things that we don’t normally do wrong. It was just some things that happened that were like, what is going on? We did suck it up at halftime. They came out and put together a real good drive and went right down and scored against us and right now it’s 26-3 and we’re thinking whoa, it’s still the third quarter. But our offense came out and put a 10-play drive together and came back. One thing we didn’t do was we didn’t give up, we played hard, we gave great effort but we almost gave too much effort. Sometimes that’s what happens when you get behind. We weren’t ready to go, we’re shook up, we know we can beat this team, let’s get fired up, and then we get fired up and we’re still off balance, we’re trying too hard. It was a combination of not being mentally prepared and then, once the game started, of not playing catch-up as well as we’re capable of playing. We were off balance and really out of rhythm. They’ve been off balance the whole season until this game, so you’ve got to give them credit, they came back and did a nice job.
[Who is going to play for injured OL Cameron Raschke?]
“Andy Smith will probably get the start right now. We may pull Anthony McNac’s redshirt. He’s a freshman. We normally like to redshirt freshmen until they get a little bit bigger, but he can’t. He’s about 330 pounds. I said why are we recruiting this guy, he can’t get any bigger.
[What did you say to the team at halftime?]
“I told them New Mexico was the same team that we had been looking at on tape that we thought we were going to beat. It’s the same team that we watched in the two games, but we weren’t the same team that we were in the first two games. No question, our goal is to score 35 points a game. Our guys responded well. They were mad too and upset, and more frustrated I guess than anything else. New Mexico ran a two-deep coverage against our offense, we’re dinking around throwing little short passes and stuff. Then I look at the play selection and we selected 17 passes that were downfield throws, either a post deep over the middle in a two deep coverage or a corner, where they fake the post and run to the corner deep. That’s how you beat the two deep coverage. You can throw over the middle, in front of the safeties, or throw between the safeties and the corners. We only completed downfield three of those 17 calls, we dropped it off underneath or got sacked or got flushed out or something, but we didn’t get the ball completed downfield to make the big plays. We had one touchdown, but that was it. New Mexico was coming like gangbusters up front.
[How do you overcome the slow start?]
“I don’t know, it’s human nature ... I guess if I could figure this thing out better, I’d bottle it and sell it ... hey, drink this before the game. Now I’m drinking it after the game.
[Can the offensive line struggles be fixed?]
“I think if you get beat and get run over, that’s one thing. If you’re stronger than me and run me over and knock me on my butt, I can’t do anything about that until I get stronger in the weight room. But if I don’t block you and block someone else, then that’s not giving us a chance. We have to correct those. It’s more mental mistakes than physical right now. And physically we’re not great either. We’re not as good as we’d like to be physically. Sure, we’ve got to do some things with the running game, but we’ve got to win, and get back on track. We’re not blocking for the run worth a damn. Marcus [Thomas] ran a lot harder this week, but there were no holes there.
[What positives came out of the New Mexico game?]
“Some of our guys played really well. [Troy] Collavo played well, [Quintin] Demps, [Bryant] Tisdale, [Jordan] Palmer and Marcus Thomas played well. Daniel Robinson had a really good game. [Chris] Morrow had a really good game, Jordan hit on about 19 passes in a row at one point of the game, with no interceptions. So there were some good things. We gained a lot of humility. Hopefully we’ll come together as a team. This team has pretty good guys, and we’ll rally. They were hurt puppies. There was not a word on that bus for four hours coming home. They felt bad, they look up and see all that orange in the stadium and they know those people care about what they’re doing, and they wanted to win too.
[Thoughts on New Mexico State]
“First of all, I’ve said all along that Hal Mumme is a good coach and he’s going to get their program turned around. I said that when they hired him, and I said that after last year’s game. He will find a way to win eventually, he’s that kind of guy. I can see from the talent that he has acquired in recruiting that he’s moving in that direction. They have an outstanding quarterback. He leads the nation in passing. You look at what they did in scoring up until this time a year ago, and they scored well over 75 points more than they did a year ago at this time. They've passed for 600 more yards than at this time a year ago. In every single statistic, they’ve improved from a year ago. You look at our statistics from this year against their statistics, and they’re ahead of us in every category. We’re in for what they call the I-10 rivalry. Their running back came in for his first start and gained over 100 yards rushing and over 60 yards receiving. They’ve really increased their talent pool at wide receiver. They’ve got great speed. They’ve got a kid back now who just played last week from the University of Miami, a wide receiver, and they have a wide receiver from the University of Alabama who is really quick and fast. And those two guys aren’t even their best receivers. Their quarterback is a big, strong, NFL type, 6-5, 235 pounds. They’re playing better as a team. They have a good coaching staff. Their defensive coordinator has a Super Bowl ring, so he knows what he’s doing. It’s going to be competitive, and it’s going to be lots of fun in the stadium. This is a tough place for the enemy to play.
[Are you expecting surprises from coach Mumme?]
“I don’t know if he’s going to add a bunch of crazy stuff. They do enough already. They’re pretty good right now, I don’t know why he would want to tinker with it. I think he thinks he can come in here and play with us. A year ago he might have tried that. He doesn’t need to do that, he just needs to get his guys fresh and hungry. What they do now is enough.
[Thoughts on New Mexico State’s defense]
“They have improved their defense. That linebacker they had last year was pretty good. Now they have a JC kid from Corona, Calif., Michael Hernishin, who is big and stout. Tim McManigal is their leading tackler, he’s playing really well. They’re running a little bit more man, the corners are bumping the receivers a little bit more. I don’t know if they’ll do that against us, but that’s what they did against Texas Southern and Southeast Louisiana. They’ll blitz a little bit, but mostly run a three man front with four linebackers and basic coverage in the secondary. If they play us like they played the other two teams, we won’t have too many quick passes.
[Can you compare New Mexico State’s talent level with UTEP’s?]
“I don’t know about that, I guess we’ll find out on Saturday night. But I know one thing, they have a lot better talent than they did a year ago. The offensive linemen are moving better and blocking better, the defensive line is hard charging, they run to the ball well, and their receivers are all playing pretty well. They have a lot of new names, guys from New Jersey, Louisiana and Florida, all over. They’ve done a good job recruiting. Their quarterback is actually from Texas. Coach Mumme recruited him when he was at Southeast Louisiana.”