JEFFERSON CITY, Tenn. -- Carson-Newman football head coach Mike Turner dives into the details of the Eagles upcoming home opener against last year's conference champion, Wingate University. Continuing to focus on making the most of first downs and avoiding penalties, Turner emphasises the importance of efficiency on both sides of the ball going into week three.
Opening Statement: It's going to be a great night number one because we get to play at home. It's going to be a very exciting thing for our kids, we need a home game, we're ready for that to happen. I think there's excitement about making this game an event, and hopefully thereafter every home game will be an event. People have helped all over campus, trying to make some special activities happen so we can have a great crowd for this game. But the most important thing about all of it is that it's the first conference game and we're playing the defending conference champions in Wingate University.
Q1: Shaw Crocker is one of the most efficient quarterbacks in the conference, what sticks out to you about what he's done in two games for the Bulldogs?
I think the production that he's had, #1. He's been very productive, I think they take care of the ball well which is something that sticks out as well. He's been efficient as a quarterback, you know they've had to replace those couple great running backs, but they still maintain their level of rushing the football. They're a formidable opponent, no doubt about it.
Q2: After West Florida you talked about winning first downs, against Virginia Union you had 30 first down plays and 15 of them you gained at least 4 yards. What is left to improve upon something like that?
We had 30 first down opportunities, we ought to be getting 20 to 25. I think we had a great opening drive, we came back and had another great drive going into the second series and had the holding call. Which I'm not going to get upset about a holding call because the kid had a great block going on. I think there's a point where you hold a block for so long and somebody's going to call something. It was just like in the Blind Side, this guy had him locked up and was taking him down the field. He probably got out of the frame of his body enough to call it, it was a good call, but I'll never get upset about aggressive penalties. That's part of the game. That one stalled us back, it shouldn't have, but it did. The third drive we did pick it up and get a score out of that one and we became much more effective at the last of the second quarter and then in the third and fourth quarters.
Q3: You only had nine possessions against Virginia Union, how do you get more plays and more chances to score?
Well you do what's going to help your kids get a chance to win. At that point right there, what we needed to do #1 was control the football. Make first downs, put points on the board, keep our defense off the field as much as we could. I do think those decisions right there made a difference in that ballgame. You'd like to have 3-play drives and score, so you can have more drives. That's how you get to be 85 to 90 snaps in a game there's no doubt. But in football there's places for those 12 and 14 play drives. Simply because of what we said there, keeping the defense off the field.
Q3: Are you pleased with the tempo, these two weeks, of the offense?
Not 100% pleased with that, no. We're still working in some young receivers, and some young backs. But we've made our minds to go in that direction, we think that's going to be our future. Those are the kids that make big plays and be game changers, so we're going to stay with that. The #1 thing you want to stay with is you want to win football games. Would you like to score more points, throw more, have more snaps oh absolutely no question about it. But you do whatever you can to give your kids a chance to win.
Q4: You mentioned that the offensive line was high in week one, do you think they improved upon their pad level in week two?
No question, that had to be done with people that size. You go back and look at the video and ask why they were high, and there's just no explanation. They're plenty good enough, big enough, strong enough and quick enough off the ball to take care of that. I thought we graded better in that position this game simply because they played better behind their pads. There's no secret about being an offensive lineman.
Q5: You mentioned the depth of the defensive line last week; how do you think that collective group performed last week?
Well I know they're not very happy about the number of missed tackles we had. That 250lb running back had something to do with that. But we still had too many arm tackles and that type of thing, so we had way too many missed tackles. I had kids that were in position to make plays, you know offense, defense or special teams, when you get in position it's your job as a player to make plays. And a guy making a play is often a guy filling a gap, where a linebacker can come over the top or something bounces outside. And I think up front a lot of the time we had right things where you make that big back bounce outside, and when he does that somebody better be filling that gap and making a tackle. We had some opportunities where that didn't happen, and that allowed them to keep drives alive. It's a pretty simple thing in football, on offense let's make plays on first downs to keep drives alive. On defense, it's still about first downs. Put those people in position where it's 2ndand 8, those kinds of things. At times we didn't get that done on defense.
Q6: The field goal unit has had some struggles in the beginning of the year. What, if anything, can you do in the next couple days to correct those?
Well we're starting on that right away. We had one young man that was very excited after we went those few snaps and scored a touchdown, ran off the field and left us one short. And I'm looking at it thinking we've overloaded one side and I'm getting ready to call timeout and the ball was snapped. But we didn't get it blocked from that side, we got it blocked because a guy came straight up in the top. And the same way with the second one, the extra point that was blocked. So, we've got to make sure that the protection is there, we've got to get the ball up higher and faster, so we have work started getting that one done.
Q7: There's overall some execution situations over the first two weeks, penalties, missed assignments, do you do anything to kind of control their discipline and correct some of those issues?
Well we had, after the West Florida game, a community run. And then we had individuals, and this morning we had an individual there early for a "fix-it" and we'll address those today as far as a community run. Aggressive penalties are part of the game of football, I can live with those. But the penalties that aren't very smart, the pre-snap penalty on offense and the pre-snap penalty on defense. We had three on offense and four on defense. You know, that's a hard count on defense and they're geeked up and ready to go, but that's called discipline you have to handle that part. That's also what happens when you get a little tired, a little weak and you're not quite as focused as you need to be. Those on offense, there are no excuses. We'll play people that on the other side of the ball are hollering, jumping, moving and all that but that doesn't matter. You've got to be disciplined and strong-willed enough to overcome that. So, we're working through those situations. We've eliminated some this week, but the great thing we eliminated was major penalties which was fantastic.
Q8: In the backfield towards the crunch time of the game, you have Sherron Jackson and Toot Johnson out there, did you feel like you learned a lot about those two guys moving forward that you can really trust them?
I think so. And when it comes crunch time you've got to have backs in there that #1 are fresh. You see what a guy like Wimbush did when he was fresh, so you want to keep those fresh legs. And we're still looking to find the right combination of the first, second and third groups because you would like in this offense to keep three groups running that you can send them in there and you don't back up any. To get a guy, Toot Johnson, for his second college game, get him in the game and be able to do that, it's a great growing up opportunity for him. He had some success, but at least he was under fire. It's not like going through a team time where you can maybe make a mistake, he had to be on task and he was.
Q9: BJ Muckelvene, their All-American return man, All-Conference receiver, what do you need to do to keep the ball out of his hands?
Well we need to get him graduated. But hey, he makes plays. He is going to be in a situation where he makes plays, you've just got to limit big plays. I think that's a key on defense is to make people earn what they get, make them work their way through that. Be smart in the kicking game. You're trying to keep the ball out of his hands obviously, he is a play maker for them. You've got to be aware he's on the field but have that philosophy.
Q10: At WR they're about as loaded as anybody, just how talented are they with their pass catchers?
I think they're very explosive, that's what scares you. They're going to throw the ball to help move the chains, but if you miss a tackle you've given up a touchdown. They're using part of their pass package like we would in our offense using the pitch. To move the chains, get first downs, but they're very effective in what they do. It's like in our game last year, it's a back and forth kind of football game. Both teams made some big plays, but both teams made some plays that just kept moving first downs to get you in scoring position. We definitely have to be on task with our kicking game, no question. They got us in a bind last year with them, it was a three-point game and they had a punt return for a touchdown. So, we have to be better in all aspects. But we're working some guys right now, some receivers, that hope one day soon will be those kinds of guys. That you can just know to give the football and let them make plays.
Q11: Defensively they've held you under 300 yards rushing the last two years. What about their defensive line has proved to be problematic?
I think they've had a great scheme against what they think to play the option is, it's not been anything radical we haven't seen many times. We've got to be efficient, it goes back to first down, so that we can dictate some things on second down. If you're going to be an option offense the #1 thing you've got to do is be patient with it. We saw that Saturday in the game about how to approach it. But they've got good players, they returned I think four or five starters, they have three or four backups that are now starters. They're a solid defense.
Q12: Derrick Evans had his struggles in week one, how do you think he accounted for himself in week two at Virginia Union?
I think he played better, I think some of the things we did allowed him to play better. I think you go back and look at that first game, you've got kids that are a little over excited, which causes you to make some of those mistakes. I don't think it was anything physical, sometimes a QB or any other player can be trying to make too much out of a situation, and that doesn't make it better. We want him to play within his own frame, play his game, play exactly what we're asking him to do and that's in any position. Just do your job, every time the ball is snapped, and we'll be okay.
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