Nov. 11, 2013
"Right now we're sitting at 1-8 and certainly not where we want to be, but it's reality. We have a game coming up against Florida International that has the same record as us right now. If the two teams looked in the mirror, they would probably be staring at the same picture. There have been some struggles at different points on both sides of the ball for both teams. The team that goes out there Saturday night and competes the hardest and commits the fewest mistakes will have the best chance to win that game. We didn't give our team a chance against North Texas. Offensively we didn't run the ball efficiently. When you have a new quarterback in there, you've got to give him help. We didn't do that in the run game. Losing Aaron Jones hurts some, but we have very capable backs so that shouldn't have been an issue. We did not protect the quarterback well whatsoever. There were too many instances where his back foot was hidden and getting ready to set the throw and he was getting hit, and nobody can operate under those circumstances. That being said, for his first start Mack Leftwich did a nice job with his legs. He was 14-of-20 for a 70 percent completion percentage. He was hit several times. That can rattle any quarterback, let alone an 18-year old quarterback. I think with preparation time and more practice reps with his teammates and timing with his receivers, he will be better even this week. Defensively we looked solid at times and boom, we give up a big play. There are a lot of factors that go into that, whether it be out of the gap or a missed tackle, but we were not efficient at stopping the run. That's going to be our formula for success here. When we don't run the ball efficiently on offense and we don't stop the run, we're not going to be successful and we weren't on Saturday against a really good North Texas team. I really felt that was the best defense physically that we've faced all year, as they should be. They had several seniors starting and several other seniors rotating in. They have built that program the right way. They're physical on both lines. They're physical on defense and they play outstanding on special teams. That's the goal here eventually. We know we're not there yet and we will continue to strive to get there."
(On what impressed him about Mack Leftwich)
"Just his composure. Number one, he was hit too often. Any quarterback under those circumstances is already facing a difficult battle. But it didn't faze him. He kept competing and he'll continue to do that. He has a very accurate arm. He really had only one bad throw and that was a misread on a route. I was nothing but pleased with his efforts, but there was not a lot of help around him. It was our worst outing as far as rushing the football and protecting the quarterback."
(On possibly shuffling the offensive line)
"We're kind of limited with options. With [Jerel] Watkins being out, we're really thin there. All the other guys that are on our roster haven't played. We don't have many options there right now."
(On getting Nathan Jeffery going)
"He has been hobbled all year and he's even hobbled right now. Sometimes as a player you go through that. I know he has been really frustrated. I feel for the kid because he's a great kid. He works hard. He just hasn't been healthy all year. When he's been healthy he has looked great. He's a little hobbled right now. We're hoping we can get him healthy. We're extremely beat up there with Aaron Jones and Nathan hobbled with his ankle. But we have capable running backs with L.A. Dowell, Josh Bell and Autrey Golden. We've just got to pick up the slack in that area. But a lot of that on Saturday had to do with getting whipped up front physically."
(On when he'll know the extent of Aaron Jones' injury)
"It will probably be a couple of days to see how he responds. Rib injuries are very sensitive, especially if you're a running back taking shots on those ribs."
(On Leftwich's toughness)
"He took some shots and just popped right up. It didn't faze him. He's competitive and he'll continue to compete. If we give him more time and put him in some more manageable third downs ... third and 10, third and nine, third and 10 plus, that's not easy for any quarterback at any level. But third and four, third and two, third and three, those are manageable. That's what they were in because they were running the ball efficiently. We need to help Mack out and try to put ourselves in those best positions."
(On the team's other injuries)
"We're hoping to get back Adrian James and I just had a conversation with Wesley Miller. That will be hit or miss, kind of like Aaron Jones. We'll have to monitor it throughout the week to see if he's available. The guys that are long term - Showers, Laufasa and Watkins -- we don't anticipate having those guys back any time soon."
(On Florida International)
"Offensively, they are extremely young. They have played two quarterbacks. The quarterback that I anticipate will start against us started the last two games. He has brought a little spark to them. He started against Southern Miss, their only win, and moved the ball extremely well in that game. They've got two very capable young running backs. They're just a young offense and have had their growing pains but they have improved as the season has gone on. Defensively, I think they've got a lot of talent, particularly up front. They're kind of a veteran group up there and they've got some senior defensive tackles that are very active. I know #8 has close to five sacks and over eight tackles for losses, so he's an active interior guy. Their linebacker who's leading their team in tackles, #25, also has some tackles for losses. Defensively they've got some talent and they've been disruptive some at the line of scrimmage. We've got our work cut out there. We've got to improve the things I've just mentioned in the run game and protection. They can certainly get after a quarterback. Their special teams has been solid. They've had some switches there. In fact, their quarterback who was starting is now their starting punter. He's a very capable rugby style punter. And they've got some capable return guys. It's going to be a battle on Saturday night. Again, I think the team that makes the fewest turnovers and comes out with the most fire and passion will have the best chance to win that game."
(On hoping to see defensive improvement this week)
"I'm always hoping for defensive improvement. Some of the games that they [FIU] got shut out, they played quality opponents like Louisville and Central Florida. Those are ranked teams. And they're young. They have grown and gotten better. But defensively we want to go out and play our best, not only this week but moving forward every week."
(On possibly re-evaluting the punting situation and utilizing Brandon Moss because he's quicker getting the ball off)
"In backed up situations yes, but actually I can't blame those two punt blocks that we've had on Ruggles' operation time. It was more of a schematic thing off the edge. That one this week was really disheartening because it was the exact same pressure that we got against A&M. When you have a mistake like that, you work on it continually throughout the week. They came at it and we had a young freshman in there that made a mistake at the line of scrimmage and the blocked punt was the end result. Mike Ruggles' operation time has increased dramatically and I think he's third in Conference USA in punting and punting net. His hang time has gotten better. His ball delivery is better and his placement kicking it inside of the 20. Mike Ruggles is really one of the more improved players on our team. He's a hard worker. I don't see a switch there, maybe in backed up situations where we have to get it up."
(On the final home game of the year and sending out the seniors)
"I know it's been tough for those guys. It's been tough for all of us, but those guys [seniors] in particular. I want to see the seniors go out in style. I'd love to see them walk off the Sun Bowl field for the last time with a victory. We'll need fan support to do that. It will be a beautiful day. We're honoring the military and we're honoring the seniors. I think it's important that the fans come out and support these seniors. Even though the results haven't been the best for them, they have been working hard and they deserve to go out as winners. We're going to try to do everything we can to make that possible."