JEFFERSON CITY, Tenn. -- Carson-Newman head football coach Mike Turner comments on the lively crowd that welcomed football back to Mossy Creek and their expectations for the road trip to Newberry for week four.
Opening Statement: Any time you go to Newberry you know you're in for a challenge and a dog fight, that's the way it's going to be. It's never changed in all the years we've gone to play at Newberry. Coach Todd Knight and his staff does a great job, gosh I was just looking at their roster and they're predominantly South Carolina and some Georgia kids. They play great high school football in the state of South Carolina, they've got players in good positions and I know they'll be excited about playing at home, especially in a conference game.
Q1: Very talented team as usual from Todd Knight…
Oh absolutely, and you know the last game was moved up two, two and half days something like that. You've got kids worrying about parents and leaving school after that school closing. You can't take that one into the equation when you take where they've lined up against Western Carolina, Florida Tech and you know the competition that's there. You know how well they played so that's what you go by.
Q2: Defensively is where they stand out. Headlined by Jemarcus Henderson who had more tackles for loss than any other player in NCAA DII, what's it take to get the run game going against a pretty formidable front?
Well they are a great front four, and the two linebackers sitting there with them. They're going to play the six-man box with the two strong safety types sitting in the alley, it's what they have done. I wouldn't imagine they'd do much different than that, they've felt like they've been very successful. They're a very talented group, we've got to do what we do best, we need to execute better than we did last year. We were in the position to win the game last year and did not. We also know what kind of atmosphere and what it'll be when you go down there to play. Our kids simply just have to line up, execute and take care of the football. If we get turnovers from our defense and we don't turn it over on offense those are pleasant Saturdays.
Q3: Normally this is one of the longer road trips of the year, here this feels like a short jaunt compared to the first two weeks. How well prepared do you think your team is?
Well gosh this will be like going to grandmother's house for Thanksgiving, I mean this is not a long trip by any means. We'll leave Friday afternoon after the walk thru, stay in Clinton and then it's a short drive into Newberry on Saturday morning. So, this will be a little more pleasant of a trip, timewise a whole lot more pleasant.
Q4: Toot Johnson had his coming out party on Saturday against the Bulldogs. You talked on the coaches show about working him in earlier… what do you have to say about your freshman?
Well it's just exciting to watch Toot get the football. Naturally we've got to work him in earlier and get him more reps this week in practice. I think he's a very exciting young man, we knew that when we recruited him. What kind of talent he is, what kind of person he is. Now that you're coming into the fourth game of the season, a lot of things are settling down for kids learning and repetition wise where things are getting more automatic and that's what you want to have. We've got a lot less thinking going on right now, if you've got athletes, the worst thing you can make them do is make them think too much. So, we want to get that out of it and just let it be a reaction game.
Q5: From a defensive standpoint you've got a lot of playmakers back there, what can you say about what you've seen from your defensive crew, especially this past weekend in forcing three turnovers?
Oh, it was great to see. Totally pretty much shut down the run, which made Wingate be pretty much one dimensional and that's what you want out of any defense if you take away one part of their game. I think our kids really flew after the football, they pursued the football, they made things happen when they got there, and it has an effect on a team. There wasn't any letting up by them by any means, so I was very excited and very happy for them. That's as high as they've graded out in a long time as a total team and that was great to see. Now the big thing this week is, hey, get better. You know what I mean? We're right into the thrust of playing in the South Atlantic Conference and there's not a game that doesn't count. So, you've got to keep your focus about you and that's the hardest thing in today's world. Everybody knows that, it's about working to keep your focus. You've got to just snap yourself around, you've got to have other people that will help grab you by the seat of the pants and remind you what you're supposed to be doing. And keep yourself focused with your eyes on the Lord, keep yourself focused about your teammates. Kids say "I've got your back" well that's what united means, that's what united is. So that's what we're looking for.
Q6: On the other side of the coin, those three turnovers didn't amount to any points. How do you change that going into this week?
You just come in there and be a whole lot more efficient. By not accounting anything else, we left 21, 28 points out there. Everybody knows that. I hope we're getting closer to having that complete game, again, it's the fourth game of the season and I'd like for those complete games to start building up.
Q7: Mentioning the complete game aspect of it, we talked about the penalties the other night. Is there anything you can now do as a coaching staff to ensure that they play a complete game, or is that on the players' shoulders at this point?
We talked about this Monday as a staff, we're going to do some things where we can help them be in a position where we can coach better. And see if we can't set up some things in team time and in drills to try to help alleviate some of that. Some of it's being just a little bit quicker with your feet and your hands to avoid some of those penalties. That's the part of it we've got to coach better. And we will be starting today, putting them in situations that will help be reminders.
Q8: You used the passing game more frequently on Saturday, did you see some growth not only from Derrick Evans but from blocking and the receiving core on Saturday?
Oh absolutely, the protection was much better. We made some mistakes that made the protection not look like it was there, we've got to be more efficient in that area. It's a team game, eleven people especially in the option attack where it takes precision. This guy's got to do exactly what he's going to do so the protection will be right, quarterback getting rid of the football on time, but I was very pleased with how we came along. It's maturing right now, those younger guys that we're putting into the game. You know we had some balls on the finger tips that I hope we can get in the palms of the hands this week.
Q9: The kicking game, you made a switch there, still had a field goal blocked and one that could've been blocked if he does put it down the center. Is there anything else that the coaching staff can do there to ensure that you clean up the field goal unit?
*Laughs* Yeah, pray. We'll continue to work to try to fix that. You've got some young guys in there and you want to make sure that you're reassuring. But I think we'll get more solid in that part of it. The part about the kickoff team, boy they did a great job last week of reading the return and being effective. We made tackles inside the 25-yard line, that's a great plus. Punting the football, we want more yardage, but we had the zero returns against us and that got us beat before. Right now, it's just a matter of keep coming with the kickers, keep grooming the football, kicking it on time, that's a good sign. We just need to get it up a little faster, and you always can do a better job of protection.
Q10: Is there any part of you as a coach that you can take solace in the fact that you are 2-1 and potentially could be 3-0 despite the fact that you've had some sloppy quarters and not just sloppy plays here and there?
Sure, absolutely, and what you have to do in those situations is it's not about me as a coach, I've broke enough huddles. It's about those kids, making sure that they understand, believe and trust. They are playing together and excited, yeah, they make plenty of mistakes, but I'll tell you I want them to play at the kind of tempo and get after it. They're having fun, we've just got to keep eliminating some mistakes and some of that's sloppiness. We took care of a big part of it, the ball didn't touch the ground the other night, we took care of the football. We're still a work in progress but we're a growing deal. It's not a go back and redo this again, it's just keep getting better and keep fine tuning.
Q11: Last year you were 81stin kickoff return yardage allowed, this year you're 15th. Obviously, there's a new special teams coordinator in Antonio Goss, but why else has your kick coverage been so effective?
Well I think part of what coach Goss is doing has a big effect on that. He's a former NFL payer that was a special teams captain. But I think Patterson is doing a great job of getting the ball deep enough, high enough, those kinds of things and putting it in the right areas. In this day and time in the kickoff deal it's very important where you place it. And you can build your coverage about how you place it. It's a combination but I think a lot of it has to do with that.
Q12: Are you surprised with the rule change this year that there haven't been more fair catches inside the 25 to put it at the 25?
Yeah, I think so, because I really have seen that many people sky kick it, and that's what that's about. You kick a line drive down there, why would you fair catch it when you've got a chance to beat the coverage down the field and get a running start? I think the safety part of that, what they're trying to do, I think it'll be a whole lot safer when they go ahead and back it up five more yards and then kick it off. If you've got a person that can kick it into the end zone, then that's more power to you. But I think if you see more sky kicks you'll see people with a fair catch.
Q13: Newberry offensively, Markell Castle had a hundred yards and a game winning touchdown against you a year ago. What makes him tick as a wideout?
His experience, his talent, he's a very very talented young man. And they're going to work to get him the football, he's going to get opportunities. Any receiver, any running back, if the purpose of that game plan is specifically to get you the ball, like we did a year ago with our receiver, we were going to give him the football. He's proven what kind of talent he is so they're going to take care of him.
Q14: Your own wide receiver catches his first touchdown pass, Romain Kelley, how do you like the progression of that group?
I like that progression a lot. They're coming on more and more where things are automatic to them and reactionary instead of thinking about it, and then being delayed a count. So, we expect them to get better every week.
Q15: How much did the crowd Saturday mean to you and to this team?
I took one look when we came on the field and I was so excited for Carson-Newman and very proud of all the people that helped from last spring and through the summer in getting all that organized. To look at the crowd, and think that we've got four more home games well why not have it that way all the time? I think people went away with a great appreciation for Carson-Newman University after that game. Parents, friends, alums, former players, community folks, so that's what we need to work as a university. We need to rally, kids I've seen on campus since the ballgame, talking to them and those kinds of things, I'm very very proud of this university.
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