"So as a staff we've got to make sure we're cleaner, our players have to cleaner. And it's a big game. It's a last home game for our seniors. This is my first recruiting class. I think they're leaving one of the most successful classes in school history. And their last opportunity in front of the fans; and the fans their last opportunity to come thank them and show their support to what these guys have meant to the program. And how they finish off their career the right way here at home."
Chad Bumphis is having a career season, how much has he grown and what is his legacy? "I mean he's grown an awful lot. He came in with a lot of expectations on him and he's lived up to a lot of those expectations. His legacy, I think he holds at least one school record, and probably is going to finish as one of the top receivers in school history. So I think he's going to leave a pretty good legacy on what he did during his career here."
How important was signing Bumphis to making a mark and keeping him in-state? "It was huge. It certainly helped me because he was the only guy in that recruiting class that I knew before I got here. That I had a relationship with before I got here. So think it was huge because he ended up helping be kind of a bridge to the other guys, all those guys that decided to stick together and play for their state school and represent the state of Mississippi. He's that bridge of telling guys hey, I've known Coach a little bit longer than everybody else, I think we can do some pretty good things here."
Now do you break down some of the struggles establishing the running game? "Get a big early lead and we'll run the ball a lot more!"
How concerning is it? "Not a ton. I mean, because you look throughout course of the game; you look at the last game and there are opportunities. When you fall behind…and we were moving the ball and we needed to move the ball continually. I think that score before half kind of forced our hand into throwing more a little bit more instead of staying a little more balanced. And every time we tried to get it back to balance we fell behind again. So it forced us to throw the ball a little bit more." "But I don't think we weren't running the ball; I don't think we had the opportunity to continue to stick with that, by making those mistakes and falling behind."
When you got here and recruited John Banks, is it a story that it's hard to find East Webster High School? "I don't know, but that's what they told me. Because I looked at our roster, and one of the first things I did was say who is going to come in and poach our guys? We got to John Banks and they said he's at East Webster High School, there's not like a lot of traffic going through East Webster High School to recruit him, he's pretty solidly committed."
"We drive out there to East Webster High School. I've seen us with some GPSs with some of my new coaches and we end up in the middle of the field when you type in an address. GPS doesn't always hold true in Mississippi! With John, it was one of those they said nobody's really ever even been through to come look on him once he committed to Mississippi State. I think we were his only scholarship offer, I think he had junior colleges looking at him but we were his only scholarship offer. It held true."
When recruiting Banks was he the kind of player you watch the tape and saw wow? "Well, no. You pop the tape in and say, OK, what is he? A really good athlete, he played every position out there on the field. And a lot of things, one of the hardest things is when you're looking at small-school guys is you're evaluating that player's talent. A lot of players you can look at the talent around him and say, OK, well look, he's running away from all these guys, and he's running away from a guy that's committed to Auburn. So OK, he's pretty fast. There weren't many guys John was playing that were going on to play college football, so you're kind of evaluating him on his own abilities really with nobody to judge around him on where he is. When we saw him, we thought he'd be something. We didn't know if he'd be a DB or a receiver or what he would grow into when we signed him, but we knew he was a good football player."
Is Nick Griffin getting his confidence back after the start last week? "He came in, and finding out the day of the game that you're going to go start on the road at LSU for your first start is probably a pretty big deal. Really not even finding out officially until I'd say an hour before kickoff. I think he handled that very, very well, and he played hard. He did some good things. He graded a champion in the game and did his job. That was a real positive and something that will be a real positive to build on in the future."
What have you seen from Corey Broomfield coaching him? "Corey's a guy that's believed in our program right from when we got here, has done a good job, takes care of his business in the classroom, takes care of his business on the field, maximizes his potential. He's not the biggest guy, he's not the fastest guy or the strongest guy, but he plays very smart and he maximizes his potential out there on the field."
After playing almost three full games is Tobias Smith holding up? "Tobias is still on his Jimmy Buffett schedule: Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. He'll rest today, practice tomorrow, rest Wednesday, practice Thursday, rest Friday, play Saturday. That's it. Injury department, we've got guys that are banged up. The only one that is questionable this week is Ferlando Bohanna with a groin strain. With anything that's muscular, he's day to day. So we've got to see how that holds true, how that comes out. We expect LaDarius Perkins to play, but again it's a muscular thing, so the trainers expect him to be good to go to play and be out on the practice field by Wednesday. With those things, there's not an exact calendar on it."
Were there different defensive things you did in the secondary against LSU? "What we tried to do in matchups is having the ability to move John Banks around is really what it was. I think a lot of teams were trying to just stay away from John and isolate John on one part of the field, and then just go completely away from that. So we tried to move, like let Corey play some corner in nickel situations and have the ability to move John Banks around some. To do that, you put Jay Hughes on the field. I thought Jay played pretty well during the course of the game. It was more of those flexibility things that we wanted to maybe put John in position to make more plays."
Will you continue this and did it work out? "To me, the breakdowns weren't a result of that stuff. The breakdowns, we had a guy get a wrong signal and blitz when he wasn't supposed to blitz, and we had another guy roll to the middle of the field when he was supposed to roll over to the top at the boundary. There are pretty significant mental breakdowns, but all of them have nothing to do with John or Corey moving around."
Is anything special planned to remember Nick Bell on Senior Day? "It'll be a great moment. I know for his Mom and recognizing him out there. It's something that I don't think any of our players will ever forget, anybody in our program will ever forget. Really the most difficult thing I've had to go through as the head coach. Wins and losses are wins and losses. We win a game, we've got to go play again next week. We lose a game, we've got to go play again next week. But that is probably the most significant thing that's happened in my coaching career. It'll be a great opportunity to thank Nick's mom, who's always with us, continues to support everything we've done, and say another good-bye to him on Saturday."
"Marketing has some things (planned) but we're going to announce his name before the game and have him come out."
What are some of the communications issues in the secondary? "It's about the repetition and doing it. Making guys talk in practice. To be honest with you, it comes down to your constant focus. It wasn't like we didn't run that defense again later in the game and run it well at other points in the game. It's that constant grind where the margin of error is so small. Everybody looking at that last game can point to the one thing that if they did, if they'd have changed that one thing during the course of the game, we probably win--we will that game. We have to execute at a higher level. There's times you can play poorly and some teams out there I guess that can make mistakes and they can just go win on talent alone to overcome those errors. When you're playing good teams, you can't make mistakes and recover right away."
When you look back at this recruiting from 4 years ago, what will you think? "As a head coach these are the guys that decided on day one they believe in what you're doing. That is always very, very important to you. These are the first guys that believed in what we were trying to do here. They'll leave as one of the most successful classes in school history. Not only did they believe but followed through on it as well."
You talked yesterday about Arkansas still having top-ten talent? "They're absolutely that way. They didn't trade away all those players midseason. They didn't pull a Red Sox and dump the roster after halfway through the season. They're all still there. They have a top pick in the NFL Draft at quarterback. As any team or any NFL team, you go get a primo guy at that spot then you better watch out. They have talented receivers around him and a good defense. They're battling through injuries and they're backed to the wall--they got to win out to go to a bowl game and so I imagine they'll come out fighting."
Have you ever lost more than three-straight games coaching or playing? "Oh, I'm sure. I coached at Columbia for a year. We actually went 3-7 that year. Maybe we get credit for 4-6. Oh, no, we get credit for 3-6 because Penn had some illegal players on their team. We lost three in a row while I've been here."
"I've been very fortunate to win a lot of games, playing and coaching. But I haven't had all 13-1 seasons."
Arkansas first-year or interim coaches have not beaten State? "Well, that's good news. It still does nothing for us on Saturday. All of those things, they all happen until it happens."
Is it a new challenge trying to get the team back up after three losses? "It's always different. Every situation is extremely unique. As you look at this team and you look, we're 7-3. Obviously it's very different than being 3-7 right now and trying to get the team up. So, if you disperse wins and losses throughout the year. I kind of always get back to the bigger picture of things a lot with the guys and on the team and bring down why each thing happened. If we had started 1-3 and won six in a row, or started 7-0 and lost three in a row, how does it all break down? I think none of that really has an effect."
"You've got to come out, you've got to play and you've got to execute on Saturday. If you don't do that, then there's not going to be a surprise with the outcome. There was no surprise on Saturday night. We played hard, we did a lot of good things, we moved the ball, we stopped them at times, we made critical errors. So there's no shock with what happened. If we score touchdowns on both of our fourth-quarter possessions in the red zone, we win 31-30. There's no shock. All we had to do was score in the red zone."
Were you worried when Tobias Smith went trucking after the interception? "He was never going to catch him. there would have been an unbelievable fluke, an act of God might have occurred, for that to happen! No, I like that effort. Our guys train year round for their 12, 13, 14 potential opportunities to play in a game and they want to make sure they take advantage of it."
But you weren't worried about his knee? "Oh, the knee is fine. He'll milk it. He knew he was going to get a day off today anyways."
What is happening at Ursinus College? "Pete Gallgher called me and told me they're the winningest class in school history. Yeah, this senior class. He said can you say something nice about them?"
What about your senior class? "We weren't very good. Oh, geez, I probably lost more than three in a row when I was in college. We weren't very good. We had a winning record my senior year. That might have been it."
The Egg Bowl is an evening game, do you like that? "I'll play them at 9 o'clock in the morning out in the parking lot. I'm good. Scheduling-wise for us, we stay here and drive up there. The early morning kick makes it, with travel logistics, a little bit tricky. That helps us with the travel part."
Ole Miss will be playing for a lot in that game? "So will we."
Will Ole Miss probably needing that for a bowl bid add some flavor? "Probably for them. It won't add anything more to me. It already is pretty important to us."
Who knows, maybe Ole Miss beats LSU first? "You never know. I mean, LSU, look at their last two weeks. In this league sometimes, it's not game one or the one game that gets you. It's the second, third, fourth game of being able to do it week after week after week. It doesn't happen like that in a lot of leagues."