JEFFERSON CITY, Tenn. -- Carson-Newman football caoch Mike Turner breaks down the final week at UNC Pembroke.
Opening Statement:Well anytime you go to Pembroke from here that's a long way, brother, that's a five and half hour trip. We've made some long trips this year as a football team so that shouldn't be that big of a burden. We'll go part of the way over there and have our work out there and end up going close to Pembroke and having dinner and put them in the hotel. This is an opportunity for us cause it's the next game, it's an opportunity for our kids to finish strong, it's an opportunity to send our seniors out with a win, and that's the main thing we're looking at. It does two parts as far as being important; it's important to finish strong as far as this 2018 campaign goes, it's important for our seniors to go out for their last game, but it's also about building for the off-season.
Q1: You talk about finishing, much of October you did that. But the past two weeks in the second half, 1.7-yards per carry, what has it been about the second half these past two weeks where you struggled to run the football?
Well that's totally against the grain for what we are and what we stand for, a lot of the things Saturday got down to fumbles. But it's the same word, it's execution, it's focus, it's urgency, finish things you know, and get them done right. That's where we've struggled at times and that's where we've got to overcome it. You go back, you look at video, you talk to kids as a group, talk to them individually, they have the same frustrations that I have about finishing things. It's showed that we're capable of beating anybody we've played, and it's got down to just making sure we finish on all sides of the football; offense, defense and the kicking game.
Q2: Temoris Coats, his final game as an Eagle, he's put together an All-American caliber campaign. Just needs one tackle for loss to set the single season school record, what's he meant to this football team his senior year?
What a great kid. It's been unique to see Sha'heem graduate that did that and then Temo steps right in there to fill those shoes. There's a lot of people that thought that he had limitations and that he couldn't be the same kind of player, but he's proven to be what kind of dynamic player he is. He's a leader on the field, but he's a play maker. He's a guy that's a warrior, he's going to get it done regardless, regardless, regardless. For this football team to be what we want them to be and what they want to get to, then they've got to perform regardless, regardless, regardless and get the same idea.
Q3: How special is it that guys like him, like Mario Mezier, have some of their best games here in the final stretch run of their senior season?
Well I think it's great for those two kids. It's unique that Mario was the guy we featured on the TV show and then he has that kind of game on Saturday. So maybe we need to start drawing out different people to feature on the TV show and making it into a feature show *laughs*. That would be fine with me if we're going to get that kind of performance on Saturdays. Mario has been a steady player, gosh what he did Saturday with the interception and whatever five pass break-ups he had, those are the kind of plays that rally ten other defensive guys. Those are plays that stop drives, that get three and outs, and on defense any time you get a three and out that's a big deal.
Q4: Pembroke's been throwing the ball fairly well, 224-yards per game through the air. What's successful about what they do offensively?
They have multiple schemes that they use. You can't lock it down and say, "this is what we have to stop", they've got a lot in their bag to go to. They've got athletes at places there that make big plays, and their quarterback has played steady for them and has been very productive. It'll require our defensive kids to be on the top of their game. It'll be on our defensive kids to play like that and we've got to finish strong.
Q5: Speaking to that, Mars Hill, where Craig Rucker was the focal point and other teams had focal points, doesn't feel like UNCP has one guy that necessarily carries the load. What kind of dynamic does that provide for your defense?
Well you know you watch the running back find a crack then boom he's at the 1-yard line. You watch the guy be productive in the routes, it's the patterns and they spread it out. I think in their scheme they provide the quarterback to get the ball out of his hands early. A chance to run the routes at a depth to where he doesn't have to sit back and hold it very long.
Q6: Tyler Hinton is averaging about two tackles for loss this season, 16thin the country, what kind of a situation does he present for your offense?
Well I think in our offense we've got to have a tempo mentality. And we need to play at a rate we want to play at, we didn't get anywhere close to the snaps we wanted to get Saturday. Most of that has to do with turning the ball over, if you don't have the football you don't get snaps. But we have to come into this plan and do what we do best. It's not a time to start pulling things out of the bag, it's a time to reload, it's a time to make sure fundamentally and technique wise we're sound in what we're executing and then go after it.
Q7: We talk about ball security, it had been so good up until this week, do you provide any emphasis on ball security this week in practice?
Oh yeah quite a bit, you saw those fumbles and it happened and you would think that's a freak thing. But it's totally about concentration, taking care of the football, and getting another hand on it before impact, which is a basic fundamental of a ball carrier. Somebody asked about the ball being slick, well no it wasn't slick when we were throwing it up and down the field and making a fourth down call and throwing a swing pattern. So, it wasn't about the ball at all, it's about security and us taking care of the football.
Q8: You mentioned building towards 2019, what do you need to see from this group on Saturday to show you that the last two weeks were kind of a microcosm and not a bigger story for this season?
I don't think the last two weeks were the bigger part of this story, I think the story is the whole journey. And the journey sad enough is going to end on this Saturday. We started that journey in Pensacola, FL, we played hard and didn't win but we sure had a chance to be in that situation. And we're going to finish it at Pembroke this Saturday and I think we want to finish that journey on a positive note. I think we want to show that we've got people that are play-makers, that we have depth in certain positions. We're going to graduate some people where it'll be critical on who we recruit to come in and fill those shoes and fill positions of competition. We had a little Monday Bowl yesterday of some kids that had not been playing and we saw some kids that we've recruited to come play that it looks like by the spring they'll be ready to become players and compete at positions. But I do want these kids to finish this journey the right way, and I do want them to go out of here with a win. And with a win, but to feel good about their performances individually and as a unit and about how this team played in their last game.
Q9: What does Antonio Wimbush need to do to put a cherry on top of his redshirt junior season?
I think just be him. I think we had some guys that got into a pressing situation Saturday, and that may have been part of that turnover deal. We made some mistakes about trying to press when we didn't have to press, I mean we were in control and fighting our fannies off to stay in control of the football game. You want kids to perform at a great level and a high level, but you also want them to know that there's a peace about it. Because if I'm doing what I'm told to do, exactly when I'm supposed to be doing it, and doing it at the highest level I can do it at, then that's a success. We'll be a good football team at that. Wimbo just needs to be Wimbo, be that factor on the field that when he touches the football it could go the distance.
Q10: What's the biggest difference between last year and this year?
I think the finishing part of it, I think not being able to rally at the time you needed to rally as a player. And those kids understand that, they know exactly where that comes from. The biggest difference between last year and this year is the amount of sleep I've had, it hasn't been any more or any less than it was last year. But we're not going to change the way we do things, we're going to do things the right way. We're going to do things to honor the Lord in this program, we're going to play hard and we're going to get after people. That's what this is about, that's our goal every week. There's a great deal that goes with high expectations. If you get picked to win the conference or if you expect to get into the playoffs you've got to learn to live up to those expectations. But you've also got to say "man that's great that I'm here, I'm supposed to be here. And if I'm like that then that's the way I'm supposed to play."
Q11: Going back to the seniors, Jordan Pryce has kind of been a mainstay, what has he meant to the team this season and in his career?
Well Jordan has been a solid player for us. He's a guy that's grown so much as a man, he's grown so much learning what it is to be a teammate, and I think learning to appreciate the game more. I think this has been a year that he's appreciated being a football player more than ever. I'm so excited for him, that's a young man that's going to graduate before too long with an MBA degree. That's a kid that came and has overcome and that's a great way to go out.
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