Press Conference Comments from Head Coach Al Groh
Q: Opening comment:
A: We pretty well have closed the book on chapter five and moved on here to this next one. This is a pretty big challenge for our teamone of the bigger challenges so far this year because we really haven’t handled this type of circumstance very well the last two times we’ve been out; that is a non-conference game on the road. We definitely feel very challenged to prove ourselves under this set of circumstances and as such (we) got really good concentration out of the players yesterday towards that objective. I think they are well aware of what’s at stake and that if we are going to keep this thing going as we have been fortunate to move on, that there are a number of things that: 1) we are aiming to improve at in our own performance, and 2) to prepare ourselves for this team that we are playing that is clearly a different team in the last two games than what it was earlier in the season. Particularly since they’ve got a pretty dynamic young player having moved into quarterback. We are pretty well aware of the circumstances and the challenges that face us and now we have got to spend the week getting ready for those things.
Q: They’ve been up and down a lot this season, but when they’re up they show the ability to be a very explosive on offense. What is it about them when they are at their best that’s going to pose a challenge this week?
A: They are a different team now than they were. It really kind of started in the fourth quarter of the LSU game, when the young quarterback (Dwight) Dasher came in. And he is just that, he is a dasher. You can just see on the tape he’s got that little presence about him. In trying to paint a picture for the players, he’s a Marques Hagans-style quarterback. (He) gains a lot of his yards as he has escaped from pressure, changing directions, stop-start runs, those kind of things that very electricifying to those people who are cheering for his team, but not much fun for the other side. Their team has really changed dramatically with his presence and his style of play, so that’s what we really have to get ready for not the preceding games.
Q: How do you approximate Dasher in practice? I know back in his younger days didn’t Vic Hall get to play Reggie Ball once?
A: Vic helped us out with that, but unfortunately Marques is tied up today. We couldn’t import him back. We just have to set the situations up and caution the players to the fact that, obviously, it’s going to be a lot more difficult to corral whoever the guy who is doing it in the game than whoever is doing it here.
Q: Is this the old Clemson offense with Rich Rodriguez?
A: You can certainly see the foundation of it, yes, very much so. It’s got a little mix of a few other things in there, but that’s the basis of it.
Q: It looks like throughout their coaching lineup they have a lot of guys with ACC ties that you’ve bumped into along the way.
A: Actually they are principally guys with Clemson ties. You know coach Stockstill spent a long time there with a number of different head coaches, (including) some time with Tommy (West) and that’s when the association with Rich Rodriguez came up, when they brought that offense in. They actually had a similar type quarterback playing for them at Clemson when they had Woody Dantzler. I’m sure that the people who were there at that time and who are now at Middle Tennessee are more than likely seeing the similarities in the circumstances and the skills between Dantzler and Dasher.
Q: Where do you feel like the team is defensively?
A: I think we are the same place there that we are with our other units. We’re doing a number of things better than we did earlier in the year. We’ve got quite a ways to go with some of our units.We’ve got a long ways to go yet and hopefully we’ll see that progress continue so that it will carry us into the final stretch of the season.
Q: Which parts have improved the most?
A: I think all three units have made progress in some specific areas, but with quite a number of areas that we’ve pinpointed to the players that we need to make progress on if this thing is going to keep moving forward.
Q: When you had Marques Hagans, were teams able to spy on him at all? Can you spy on this quarterback at all?
A: As time went on there were a few teams that would do thattake a man out of the rush in order to that. If that’s necessary, that’s a legitimate strategy because … in the long run it doesn’t make any difference how the ball moves. If he scrambles around and runs for 22 yards or throws a pass for 22 yards, the ball moves the same distance. That’s what this type of quarterback causes you to dobe very discipline in rush lanes, to set the edge and not let them get outside of the boundaries of the defense. It’s certainly a lot different than a quarterback who’s just going to sit there and try to throw the ball out of the pocket.
Q: What is Middle Tennessee’s defense like?
A: They are a 4-3 team. Just as the offense shows some foundation in the type of things that West Virginia and some of those teams are doing with their spread offense, their defense shows a lot characteristics of the Florida State and NC State defense when Chuck (Amato) was there. The defensive coordinator at Middle (Tennessee) has background at both of those places and in working for Chuck and he’s brought over a lot the same schemes and the same philosophy.
Q: TE Jonathan Stupar said after Pitt game the offense is clicking .When you’re able to mix the runs with the pass so successfully like you did the other night and the camaraderie that you were seeing in the players, did it seem like they are having fun with it as well?
A: Their confidence level is growing as their performance does. I think this particular group is pretty aware of the fact that fun, that camaraderie, that all ended at about 10 o’clock Saturday night. That’s the challenge of the season. You have to recreate that on a weekly basis. It doesn’t come back to you. It’s not like throwing a ball against the wall and it just bounces back to you. You’ve got to go and recreate it again every week. That’s just that much extra degree that you need. As a team or as a player, you’ve got to do a lot of things right to win a game; you don’t have to do very many things wrong to lose one. You can have a lot of good plays in a game and you do a few things wrong and you’re going to be in trouble. It’s the same thing with players’ individual gameif each player understands that then, collectively you’ve got a better chance of having a game where you don’t do many things that put you in trouble. What he said is very true but I think the team also realizes that when they walk out of the locker room after a game, it leaves with them, it does not automatically come back.
Q: You don’t have to say much to them?
A: I think this team understands that very well. That’s part of the teaching about how to win games. You do that all the way along the line, you just don’t do it one year. They hear it year after year after year, but I think they understand it pretty well.
Q: Do you study a lot of the things about opposing stadiums, the surface, how big it is?
A: We do. We kind of want to know the environment that we’re going into and let the players know what the surface is going to be, how long the walk is from the locker room to the field, so that we can put together our pregame schedule and how much time we have to allow for each group to get out there.
Q: Have you ever played in a place where the largest crowd is 27,000?
A: I think they had 32 there sometime there last year, right? That’s one of the things that I said is part of our challenge for this week. We haven’t handled this situation very well the last couple of times we faced it. We’re going to have to step up and that’s why I think collectively as a team we see this as being a very big game for us.
Q: Did you really study their Louisville game?
A: (It was) pretty wild. It took a long time to watch that one. What was it? A hundred points scored in that game? Clearly those are the kind of things that get our attention. They scored 42 points on Louisville. Miami, who is also very attention getting, and Maryland both played Florida International and in the whole game Miami got 23 and Maryland got 29. In the only half that Middle (Tennessee) played their first-team players, they got 47. If we are to draw some comparisons (or) some measure of what to expect from that team, that gives us a pretty good idea of what they are capable of doing. As I said earlier, it’s all been energized by the presence of this young player who’s brought a whole new dimension to what they are doing. They’re a whole lot different team now than they were earlier.