JEFFERSON CITY, Tenn. -- Coming up on the final home game of the regular season, Carson-Newman football coach Mike Turner discusses senior day and what he expects from this weekend.
Opening Statement: Well we're excited about getting to play Lenoir-Rhyne and getting to play them at home. They're a great football team on all sides of it. Drew has come in and done a great job with the returning kids and the new kids he brought in. They're solid and sound with their execution. They're playing hard right now, they're playing with confidence, so that's the challenge we have; we have to match that. The intensity, the excitement, and get after it on Saturday.
Q1: Senior day, and potentially the final home game of the year for your crew, what has this senior class meant to you?
You know we've got sixteen guys that are seniors and gosh they've been very very important to our program. They've been very important as individuals. They've made contributions, many of them other than just being on the field and that type of thing. They've made contributions to our program. You know, when you get kids that are seniors that have been in there for four years, some of them five that were redshirts, that's a special attachment. That's a special part of your family that never goes away. So, I talked to our kids yesterday about this game. It's important, it's got value to us as a program, it's got value to them as an individual, but it's important and has value to these kids that are seniors because you're going to remember the last home game. You're going to remember your last snap. So, it's an important game.
Q2: You've played better at home this year than on the road. You've averaged 49 at home and 21 away from Mossy Creek. What do you owe that to?
I don't know, I think it's being comfortable where you're at, it's exciting being at home. It's part of a gameday routine, a gameday tradition. I think part of that is having crowds, you know family, those kind of things here. But that shouldn't matter either where you play. Gosh, you get to play football. It doesn't matter if you play away, at home, inside, outside, you just get to play football. And there needs to be that kind of genuine open-heart excitement there when you have a chance to play football.
Q3: LR scores a ton of points, they run up tempo, how do you slow down an offense that hasn't been held below thirty all year long?
Well like we said, they're very very sound in what they're doing, they're an up-tempo team like us, we want to get more snaps. They're success depends on how many snaps they get, same with us. Any team that plays with a tempo offense, you want more and more snaps. The more snaps you've got, the more chances you've got to gain yardage, to score touchdowns. They do a great job of changing formations, shifts, those kinds of things. Do the same things out of maybe three looks, so you've got to be sound in what you're doing. But there's a part of it that's about alertness. Sound in technique yes, but being alert where you are, alert to the change in formation, we've got to have people making calls and responding to calls to get us in the right place.
Q4: A week to iron out the special teams, you better do it in a hurry because the conference's best punt return man is back there in Kyle Dugger, not to mention a pretty good kickoff coverage unit. How much of an emphasis do you put on that after the week you had at Tusculum?
A lot. That was a special teams meltdown and we really thought we got it to the point of being decent and being solid in the execution part of it. You look at that Saturday and we had probably five guys in position to go ahead and just finish a tackle, and we didn't get it done. I don't mean five running to it there were five around the guy. The blocked punt, which there's no excuse for that, and then the snap over the head. Those kinds of mistakes are what wins or loses football games. To overcome those, which we can, and we certainly have in the past, to overcome those you've got to be playing at a high level of execution and a high level of want to. And unfortunately, we weren't there at that level on Saturday. We know this, Dugger back there is a great punt returner there's no question about it. He's a great free safety, he's one of the best football players in our league period. You better account for him every time he's on the football field. They're going to bring an enthusiasm with their kicking game, with their special teams that we have to match.
Q5: Obviously a lot of high expectations coming into this season, I'm sure it's not where you want to be right now. How do you turn that disappointment into motivation over the next two weeks?
Well that's hard, I'll be straight up honest with you, that's hard. But I do think this, we're here coaching these kids and we're trying to make a difference in their lives. We can't change as coaches. We've got to be the one shot in their life that they see is going to be positive for them, that's going to be an encourager, that's going to be a reinforcement person for them in their lives. I just want these kids to understand that we want them to be great. Great on the football field, great in the classroom, in their relationship with the Lord. You can't do that until you turn completely loose in each area right there. You've got to trust. And we're working to get there, I still think we can be a great football team before this is over with this year. And I think all the things we talked about making them great, yes it has to do with wins and losses, absolutely. But it also has to do with the end result of it. If we finish these last two weeks like we're supposed to that's a great football team. That's finishing things well. I want them to understand what it means to finish. We've let a couple games get away from us this year because we haven't finished well. To win in football, to win in championships, you've got to learn how to finish in your life, in your classroom. And you better learn how to finish in your relationships because there's a day when football for many of these kids will be over. And what do they have left? They have relationships that they made here and hopefully they have a degree from Carson-Newman that will sustain them. But I hope they've got a great relationship with the Lord.
Q6: Derrick Evans I'm sure hasn't had the season that he quite wanted to have, what do you want to see from him over these final two weeks to see him continue to improve?
Well we talked yesterday and Saturday after the game. Talked with several kids one on one in the office yesterday trying to figure out what exactly it is that happened. I do understand it totally, and they do too, they're quite honest and upfront about it. But I do want for Derrick to finish strong, I want him to come out of this one and say, "hey there's where I finished, this is where I'm going to get to." And he's had some things, a little nagging this or that that's slowed him down this year. And we've had the freshmen guys around him that are inside, which is going to be a big difference for him next year where those guys are veterans. So, he has a lot to finish strong for in this game. Gosh you're playing somebody that's playing at that level, we've got to match it. And Derrick is the kind of kid that can get that done. He had a great performance against them last year, he and I talked about that yesterday.
Q7: We talked about special teams, but in your conference losses this year your opponent has had an easy time running the football. Even the Catawba game, in overtime they were able to run the football against you. How much of an emphasis do you put on trying to stop the run this week?
Well last year I think that was the strength of our football team, our program, was our defense. And you've got to say that you've got a defensive front that that's their job, they've got to stop the front. And we weren't able to get that done a couple times this year, and you know we've got some kids that are playing with some nagging, not nagging, some major injuries where they're playing through them. But that's the part where you've got to rise above it. You can say "next man up" you can do that and put the next man in there but there's some of those kids that are looking at it like "hey this is my last game" or "this is my next to last game of my career possibly. So, I need to make sure I'm turning that thing loose right there and I can look back and say I've got no regrets about the way I played."
Q8: It's primarily your defense, where you have the seniors. There's a handful on offense but the majority are on the defensive side. How do you use that to motivate them to close the year strong?
Well I've talked to several of them about that. You're only guaranteed so many games, right now we're guaranteed two. We're hoping things fall in place to get more but right now we're guaranteed two. And you will remember certain things from your football career. You'll remember the last home game. There's no reason to hold anything back, to save anything, it needs to be a completely turn it loose, max out my effort so that I can look back and say hey I gave everything I had, and I have no regrets.
Q9: LR defensively, you kind of alluded to Dugger, but what difference maker is he at the back of their defense at that safety spot?
Well he's a big difference maker, when he shows up things happen. He's a difference maker and he roams that field pretty good and they put him in positions to make plays. But he's got a lot of people around him that are good football players. They're playing hard, they're playing physical right now, they're liking the way they play. That's the way we want us to be, liking the way we play. When you like the way you play, I don't think it gets down as much to wins and losses as long as you like the way you play. Our kids didn't necessarily like the way they played Saturday. So, here's a chance to come out, start today, everything's been put aside let's get on with it. And let's see what happens on Saturday.
Q10: Kind of a bizarre thing about their flex attack, the quarterback, negative yards rushing on the year but yet number one in the country for yards per completion. What's he doing to operate the offense well but not running the ball himself much?
Well it's more of the wing T sets and the jet sweeps and those kinds of things. They have some option in there, but they're trying to get you out-flanked, out of place on the counter type deals. But they're on the move and they're going fast with it and trying to go downhill against you as quick as they can.
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