Derek Dooley Media Transcript (Oct. 8)

Oct. 8, 2012

(Opening Statement)
"I feel pretty good about how we handled the open date. I feel like we got a lot accomplished. We worked them pretty hard early in the week and they came back, took advantage of the two days off and had a really energetic practice today. We are obviously playing a good football team. They have won seven in a row, they know how to win and they are playing with a lot of confidence. They have a lot of good players on both sides of the football but the thing that kind of sticks out the most is that they play with great effort and toughness every snap and they are very sound. Their plus-11 takeaway margin is representative of how they play. They protect the football on offense, they prey on the mistakes of their opponents and they capitalize on them. It is going to be a big step for our team to go down there. It is important that we are ready early, so we have to go out and perform early better, better than what we did in Athens. Then we obviously need to learn how to finish the game. We'll see, it's a big step for the team."

(On Mississippi State QB Tyler Russell)
"He manages the game really well and philosophically with what they do on offense, it plays into his hands. They don't put him in a lot of positions to make bad decisions and then he just waits for somebody to have a breakdown and they hit a big play. He is a good, accurate thrower, he manages the game really well and they are running the ball good."

(On the team's mentality going to Starkville)
"They have never really been uptight or nervous but there comes a point where we are learning these lessons each week, let's convert them into some wins. We all know we need to do that. This is a good opportunity on the road against a good football team that has a lot of swagger right now. They are 7-0 in their last seven games. I don't care who you play, that is hard to do."

(On the 9 p.m. ET kickoff time in Starkville)
"We have a routine that we do for all times. We won't really get our day started probably until lunch time. We will eat breakfast and all that but you just kind of lay around. Then there is a little routine you do based on kickoff and we'll stick to that. The kick time is a big deal for the fans to me, but [not] for the players and the coaches. You should be ready, there is no excuse for not being ready. I think it is tough for the fans. I've expressed that concern since July. We have like eight teams play after 7 p.m. in the league."

(On the team's injuries)
"We are pretty good injury-wise other than the guys who are out for the year. It was a good week for Curt [Maggitt] to heal. Curt has been this hot-cold guy injury-wise. He has a toe that is always going to be there, a shoulder. He has to practice, that is the thing. It's hard to play well when you don't practice, especially if you are not an experienced player. Fitting the runs the right way, and it shows up in games. He plays better as the game goes because he is in there seeing stuff. Hopefully he will get through the week without any issues and go out there and play good."

(On Daniel McCullers)
"I think he is improving every week. Our challenge now is to see how much we can play him before he hits a dip because he is a good football player. We need to keep amping up his plays each week no matter what the offense does. We are learning more about him and some of the other new guys on defense."

(On using McCullers more in pass-rush situations)
We did last week and it helped us. He brings a different kind of pass rush because he can push the pocket which is just as effective sometimes. It's not like we have any sack-masters up there. We're not taking any pass-rush specialists out of the game if we put him in."

(On limiting big plays on defense)
"We did a lot of work on that and there are some trends that you see. There are some trends schematically and some trends personnel-wise. It is just addressing it, coaching a little bit better. That is where it starts, coaching these guys a little bit better when the ball breaks on what to do and where to fit. It is being conscious of maybe where we get a little stressed schematically and then making sure we don't do too much so we don't make mistakes. Most of those plays generally start with a little bit of an alignment error, then it is not playing the blocks very well from a toughness standpoint and then the ball breaks and not being able to get the guy down in space. There were some trends and of all the things I guess we said we had to stop during this open date it is these long runs over 30 yards, really over 15 yards. But we've had some really long ones, more than you want in a career."

(On how close the defense is to where they want it to be)
"We certainly don't have a defense that is a three-and-out, stone you all the time, and we didn't really expect that right away. If you just look at our last game, the first quarter it is like, `What are we doing?' The second quarter we really played well and the fourth quarter we played well, but the third quarter we played terrible. It's not like they are just kind of grinding on you for four straight quarters, so we show a lot times that when we play it right and do it right, we perform well. That is what we are trying to build on. There are some encouraging signs. We are probably a little better than what the stats are reflecting, but the stats are who you are. We can't deny it and you can't get them back. That's just how it is."

(On Mississippi State)
"They exercise a lot of patience in their game and we need to do the same thing. Their defense is built around four senior, really good players. One up front, one at linebacker and two at the perimeter, and that experience shows up. They are good players and they form the nucleus of their defense. Then they have a back who if you go out there and reach at him, fly or jump at him and don't bring your hat and feet to the party, he is going to make you hurt. He broke a lot of tackles against Auburn and had some big plays."

(On whether the team is improved after the off week)
"It's hard to say if it helped until you go see them next week."

(On making changes with the defense starters)
"We haven't really made a decision on [starters for the] Mississippi State game. There may be a guy or two that will play a lot more or maybe start. I wasn't ready to just start making changes, but we are going to keep evaluating."

(On Mississippi State's cornerbacks)
"They are both extremely talented, they are long. These guys are NFL guys. They are legitimate, dang-good football players [who are] incredibly instinctive, long and athletic. Their scheme helps them play a lot of zone so they can just prey on a quarterback breaking down and they make the play. There are not that many big-time corners out there who have the size, the athleticism and the instincts and these guys have it. They are good. You don't that many interceptions by luck, you just don't."

(On playing in Starkville)
"Of course, the cowbells make it a little different. The 55,000 plus the cowbells. They are all rowdy, they all are. The home-field advantage usually occurs when the home team is playing really well and the visiting team is a little bit on its heels. You saw it in some of these games on Saturday. When you go out there and you play well, it diminishes the value of the home-field advantage. We've seen it in our stadium. When we are playing well and the other team is on its heels a little bit, the home-field advantage is huge, but if the home team is not playing well or the other team is really playing well, it's not as big a deal. Probably the most important thing is having a good, veteran squad who can manage it and we should be ok on that. We were in a pretty hostile environment two weeks ago and we maintained our poise for four quarters. We struggled early and that is why we have to do a better job of being ready early."

(On Ja'Wuan James)
"He probably played his best game last week. It's only a matter of time, so what he has to do is start stacking that kind of play on top of each other week after week. He obviously has a lot of potential and I think his decision to play with a little more physicality and consistency is up to him. When he does it, he is a good football player."

(On why James played better against Georgia)
"A little more strain, a little more focus and discipline on the details of playing that position. It is hard to mentally strain for 85 snaps, it is hard to do and he is working his way into that kind of stamina."

(On if the Georgia game was the offensive line's best performance in his tenure)
"I think that is fair to say, against a quality opponent. They were really consistent in their play. You look at the sacks and the negative yardage plays and they really didn't exist."

(On the difference in the offensive line this year)
"I think it is everything. It is experience and with experience is the physical maturity, the emotional maturity, all the things I talked about a year ago that we weren't quite there on. Physically we are able to maintain that kind of hitting for 85 snaps, we aren't breaking as the game goes. Emotionally, we are able to maintain our focus and discipline through 85 snaps. It's just like if you get in a fight and you are swinging early, you are hitting, but as the hits keep coming, your hands start dropping. Guys who have been training and are experienced and are physically mature, have a better ability to sustain it. It's just how it is."

(On LaDarrell McNeil)
"He is going to play a lot. There is a good chance he is going to start. We'll see how he does this week. He is a good football player and he just has to get in there. He closes to the ball probably better than any of them back there so he is going to have plenty of opportunity to prove he can or can't do it."

(On Zach Rogers)
"He is doing what you hope a senior would do with his kind of speed and intangibles. He is just a great presence in the receiver room from a maturity standpoint. He knows all the positions so he can spare any guy out there and then his speed allows him to go generate some big plays when they are focused on the other two guys. We need him to keep doing it because it is pretty evident teams are saying we have to make sure those two don't beat us, so let the other guys beat us."

(On Dan Mullen having success at Mississippi State in his fourth year)
"Every situation is unique. He had a good year his second year. I think Sylvester [Croom] did a good job getting some players in and then Dan now has his team how he wants it to look. Every program is unique. Everybody wants a timeframe on everything and every program is unique. I don't know any other way to say it, but sooner is always better than later. That is for sure."

(On special teams)
"Knock on wood, we've been covering kicks pretty good. Knock on wood, I'm not going to say anything else. The specialists are doing better, they really are. They aren't where they need to be or what they can be, but they are doing better. We are pretty solid on our return units, but we feel like we have left some yards out there and can do a little bit better. We are showing a little improvement in all those areas and this team is pretty good on [special] teams."

(On the kicking situation)
"We are going to kick [Michael] Palardy. He had a good day today."





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