JEFFERSON CITY, Tenn. -- Carson-Newman football head coach Mike Turner chats about week nine as the Eagles prepare to take a short road trip into rival territory to face Tusculum University.
Opening Statement: Well it is a rivalry, it's unique to have two universities this close together that know this much about each other. It's great for the fans and the alums, great for the two communities, they're a very sound football team and a very dangerous team. They can run the football, they can throw the football, and they've been playing great defense so they're a complete football team. We'll have to play our best, take care of the football, not give them anything easy and make them work for it. It should be a heck of a game.
Q1: You talk about their defense, it's certainly one of the best in the SAC and the region, what makes them so good on that side of the football?
They've got people that can run to the ball. They're a moving defense, they're very active. Second level, third level, they're a very good pass defense so they're a very solid defense.
Q2: You look at Antonio Wimbush, the past three weeks he's averaging 15.2 yards a carry. Certainly, that has something to do with the offensive line as well, but how about the job of your junior running back and those five guys up front?
Well they're getting to be what you'd hope they would be from the very get go. They're growing up, they're maturing, and they're playing with more confidence. They're also seeing why you've got to play at a certain tempo, why you've got to get your job done regardless. That's what an offensive lineman is. He's what of the few people where they don't know their number, they don't have an award for them, you just go get your job done. That's what these guys have been doing the last few weeks. And it's been great to see Antonio and the other running backs and the quarterbacks react to that, those are team builders.
Q3: What's the biggest difference from these past four weeks compared to the first four weeks of the season?
I think tempo, I think maturity, I think getting your back to the wall. You know you get your back to the wall and two things happen; you cow down, or you come out swinging. I think these kids are kids that are going to fight and come up swinging. They know they're in a situation that they control their own destiny. So, line up and play, play with excitement and have fun, have a good time.
Q4: You've done a pretty good job of keeping your eyes on the task at hand and not looking forward, how have you done that?
I think the main thing is we understand that we've got to take care of us. It's not about somebody else, it's Carson-Newman vs Carson-Newman. And that's not a cliché, that is a truth. Most of the time on offense or defense we've been our own worst enemy. So, if we can take care of that, restrict penalties and eliminate penalties, which we did a great job last week for the most part, take care of the football, we only had the one turnover and turned the ball over on defense which it was great to see that, then we're a good football team.
Q5: Region rankings came out yesterday, LR's 3rdand that's your next opponent. How do you make sure your team focuses on this game knowing that there will be a big one next week?
Well this is the most important game, this is the next game. If you're going to control your own destiny, you're not looking down the road three or four weeks you better be looking at what's right in front of you today. And today starts at practice, how you practice today is going to tell a whole lot about how you're going to play on Saturday. We had our coaches meeting this morning and kids coming in this afternoon and we talked about making sure we've got the right focus, that we're perfectly clear about assignments and what we're trying to get done offensively and defensively and get that honed in starting today. Today's Tuesday and you say "well you don't play till Saturday" but you better get laser focused today so that you can execute well on Saturday.
Q6: Desmond Fairell was an impact player when he walked on campus, but how have you seen him grow and become one of the biggest playmakers on this roster?
I think his maturity, his confidence he has in his play, I think he's seeing how he effects other people around him, how he can make other people better. He can keep other people on top of their game and that's a valuable asset to your football program.
Q7: You talked about the offensive line, but specifically Phillip McDowell, how has he taken this offensive line and captained ship for the rest of the group?
Well he's matured as a kid, gosh when you bring in guys that are freshmen out of high school and say "hey, you're a starter" you have to be very careful because they're going to make a lot of mistakes as a freshman. And you don't want those mistakes to keep those kids from ever coming back and being aggressive again because they're worried about making a mistake. So, we've made sure we didn't coach them that way. We made sure that they knew if they made a mistake, we could coach it and fix it as long as you're going full speed and you're not backing off. And he and Jordan Seal and those other kids have responded to that and they're growing up which is fun to see. They've got a long way to go baby, but they are growing up and getting better.
Q8: Tusculum plays two different quarterbacks, neither one has been highly efficient, how does that impact you guys getting prepared for them?
Well I think the number one thing Tusculum wants to do is run the football. And I think it's regardless of who the quarterback is, you've got to make sure you're sound and hopefully stopping the run. And like any defense you're trying to make them one dimensional as fast as you can and that'll be the key to it.
Q9: On special teams, it looked like everything had been going pretty well, you had a kick return for a touchdown on Saturday. How has the unit improved from the beginning of the year where it seemed every time they trotted out there, there was some kind of an issue?
Well I think they've gotten a lot better, gotten a lot more confident. We had some major break downs to give up a kickoff return on Saturday and that's not acceptable. When you go score a touchdown and everybody's celebrating and then seconds later, they've taken it 90+ yards down the field, that's a big downer for your whole football team. We've all got to play our part, there's the offense, the defense and the special teams. And you know, they've responded well. They've come back and made us more solid in the kicking game, and now we've just got to make sure we're back to covering it and getting it inside the 25-yard line.
Q10: You talk about their running game, Lor'renzo Pratt, Jordon Shippy, Maxwell Joseph, Gomillion, what's the distinguishing factor among their four running backs?
Well they're going to get touches, and it's the formations they use, they're trying to get you outflanked at times. You know they're going to use two, three, tight ends in there and those kinds of things so you've got to be in position first, you've got to make sure you're lined up correctly. And you can't let somebody spiel you out of your gap. And that's what they're counting on, they're going to get downhill fast on you and you've got to make sure you're gap responsible.
Q11: Ivan Hogans has turned in a nice year at linebacker as just a sophomore, what's he doing to lead their defense?
Well he's very mobile, he gets down the line of scrimmage and they've lined him up in different places also on that defense. And their defense is unique in that they can put people in different places and still be very very effective. So that group is playing well, and they've got team speed on defense, and that's what a great defense is made up of.
Q12: You limited Virginia-Lynchburg to under 200 total yards in offense and did it without Brian Bembry and Montel Presley on the D-line to give them a break. How nice was it to still perform with Javon Barnes and Kenneth Spiller in there?
It was great to give them a break, it was great to see the other kids respond to that and step up to it. I think it was maybe a little eerie out there for a while in the first half, maybe some people looking around for them and they weren't there. But I think we got it settled down, we got things back to where it's supposed to be, and gosh when you hold somebody to, what, 52 yards in the second half? And shut them out, I think that's a great execution by our defense.
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