Opening Statement

“To recap Alabama, it certainly was not the outcome we were looking for. We dug ourselves a hole early with a 14-0 deficit and it is tough to get out of that. I thought there were some positives to take away from it. We answered back with a touchdown early in the first quarter. We moved the ball somewhat well between the 20's [yard lines], but we weren't able to punch it in at any other point during the game. I thought our defense in the second half, only giving up three points, was a positive. I thought our kids fought, thought they competed and thought they played hard. Credit goes to Alabama. Against a team of their caliber, we did not execute well enough to earn the right to win. We are going to take away the positives and move on from there.

"It was great to have Elgton Jenkins and Jeffery Simmons back to join us for a game. They lead us out on the Dawg Walk. To have two players of their caliber, both guys who did an awesome job at Mississippi State, be back around the program, I think was great for everyone to see. Dak [Prescott] had another huge day yesterday with over 400 yards passing [and] a big win. That was a positive. I thought the crowd was awesome at the end of the game. They stayed the whole time and provided us good energy and a good boost. I thought all those things were positive.

"Headed into Abilene Christian. They are an FCS program and I have been down that road. Coach [Adam Dorrel] has done a really nice job building that program. He has had a ton of success as a Division II coach. I think entering this job, he was the winningest active coach in the NCAA. Once again, I have been a part of that and played against [an FBS program]. In an FCS program, the kids look at this [game] with a chip on their shoulder and a chance to compete against players at the highest level. We were fortunate to get two upsets [at Fordham], one over Temple and one over Army. I know they are going to be fired up and know they are going to be excited. With a night game at home, we are going to have a huge Homecoming crowd. The fans are going to be into it. The fans are going to be excited. We are excited to come out. The last two games of the season are at home. The kids are very excited about it.”

Q: What is it like as a coach to take an FCS team into an FBS environment?

JM: "You kind of got into it with a very aggressive mindset and attitude. Anyone who puts on a helmet, or plays the game at this level, or any sport for that matter, wants to believe they can play at the highest level. Like I said, the kids enter the game with a chip on their shoulder. They go in with everything to gain and nothing to lose. We were 2-2 [in those games at Fordham]. We lost Cincinnati and lost to Army, then beat Temple and beat Army. It is just a game where the kids are excited about it and the coaching staff is excited about it. They have something to prove."

Q: Any update on Kylin Hill or Deddrick Thomas?

JM: "Kylin [Hill] is upper body. Deddrick [Thomas] is lower body. Both of those guys went through a little bit of practice yesterday. We anticipate them being ready to go on Tuesday for practice."

Q: Looking at the passing game, what did you see from the connection on the deep passing game?

JM: "It was kind of a validation of what I thought postgame without seeing the film. Some of it was protection, some of it was route [running] and some of it was their coverage. We took a number down the field and weren't able to connect on a lot of them. We hit the big one to Kylin [Hill]. They have two great long cover corners. They have a ferocious pass rush. They made it very difficult to push the ball down the field. You have to fit the ball into small windows. We had some that were just tipped off the hands or were just out of reach. I call it a combination of all those things."

Q: On the flip side of the first questions, how do you approach this game as the coach of the FBS program now?

JM: "I think it goes back to our 1-0 mindset and mentality. Regardless of the opponent, we are here competing against a standard and with a process rather than focusing on who you are playing. That was something we emphasized to the kids yesterday. Regardless of who you are playing, opponent one or opponent 12, FCS or FBS, we are going to approach it the same way. The process will determine the product on Saturday."

Q: After not clicking in the passing game versus Alabama, how much do you look at this week as an opportunity to get that part of the offense back going?

JM: "We need to get that back clicking. [We need to] get Osirus [Mitchell] going a little bit more, [along with] Deddrick [Thomas] [and] Stephen Guidry. [We need to] get the quarterbacks to [being] confident. This is a good opportunity run game and pass game wise to work on some of those things in a game setting and get those back to being effective, heading into the last week of the regular season."

Q: Is the pass game an area that you see an opportunity to get Kylin Hill more involved in the offense?

JM: "He had a decent number of receptions last year. He is probably down a little bit from a catch standpoint this year because of his attempts from a rushing standpoint are up. Like we talked about last week, from [Alabama's] coverage structure and how they play, there are very few one-on-one matchups where there is space and having a running back isolating on the linebacker was one where we wanted to take some shots. With Kylin [Hill] and a player of his ability, we certainly want to get him as many touches as we can whether it be by handoff or by throw. If there are instances in the game plan where we can get him out in space and get him the ball with receptions, anytime he has the ball in his hands it is a good thing.”

Q: You talked early in the season about games where there is a chance for true freshmen to play, are you looking at this game as one of those?

JM: “We held them after practice yesterday and talked about how all the ones who are eligible are activated and certainly the ones that we want to maintain their redshirt, we want to see those guys. The ones who have games available, if the game situation dictates, particularly on special teams, we are going to try to get those guys some game experience.”

Q: How do you approach the injuries from a coaching standpoint? How cautious will you be? Also, who do you see filling in for C.J. Morgan?

JM: “You can go down the list. We went over the list this morning. Fletcher Adams is out for the year with a lower body. Allen Love is out for the year with a lower body. C.J. Morgan is now unfortunately out for the year with a lower body. [Maurice] Smitherman is out for the year with a lower body, and the same for Cameron Young. So, I think in game 11 of the season, which has been very physical against our rigorous schedule and going into the end of the season with 10 guys who are already out and compounding now with the injuries throughout the season, I think we have to do a really good job on two fronts this week. One, how we control the physicality in practice and making sure we get to the game with the available bodies and seeing how the course of the game plays out. If there is a situation where maybe you can get in some of the reserves or some of the younger guys in those latter stages of the game that would be a positive. We are certainly not counting on that but if the situation warrants or dictate, then you would love for that to happen.”

Q: Who will fill in for C.J. Morgan?

JM: “Right now, Marcus Murphy plays that position. Then you have Shawn Preston [Jr.] and Collin Duncan who are the guys that play that position, as well.”

Q: You mentioned getting things tuned up for the last week of the season earlier, are the staff thoughts already looking ahead to the last week of the season?

JM: “No, we need to be focused on the task at hand. Certainly, everyone knows what is looming on the back end of this: a huge game, a huge rivalry game. Our focus will turn to that the second the clock ticks zero against Abilene Christian. Right now, all of the focus and attention of the players and staff are on doing what is necessary to get win No. 5 and beat Abilene Christian. When the clock hits zero, it will be full speed ahead to the last game.”

Q: Can you talk about the job that Andrew Breiner has done this year with the quarterbacks?

JM: “I would say it's a little bit of a unique situation where you have an older guy coming in but is your first year coaching him. Obviously, I had coached Tommy [Stevens] for two years. Then you have a mid-year true freshman. One guy is playing really well to start the season and gets injured, then you probably get the young guy in there a little bit before he is ready, but he is the next best available option. I think Garrett [Shrader] came in there and performed very admirably under the circumstances and then having him go down a little bit but get Tommy healthy. Even though they possess similar skill sets, each kid is coached differently. I think he has done a nice job of balancing of what Tommy does well and what Garrett does well, and kind of formulating the coaching off of who is available and who is in the game. It is certainly not an easy task to go into almost every week not being sure who the starter is going to be based on health and balancing your game plan and coaching off of that.”

Q: How much to you think momentum can carry from one game to the next?

JM: “You do not want to count on it, but I think it is natural. In particularly with young kids there is always going to be a residual effect one way or another that carries into the next game. I think that is why as a coaching staff you have to do a good job, particularly on Sunday, getting them in the team meeting and just having a very frank and candid conversation on what we did well, what we did poorly, what we need to work on, making the corrections on the practice field and then moving on from it. Coming out of the Arkansas game there was excitement and momentum coming off of a win and anytime you lose that is something you have to battle and get your kids to forget about it. You do not want to bank on it but anytime you can head into a pivotal week carrying some positive momentum is a good thing.”

Q: Does the short week change your preparations this week?

JM: “There will not be much rest or sleep on Saturday. So, the game will end 9:30-10:00 [in the evening] and I want the coaches to spend a little bit of time grading the tape, so the kids have them available to them on Sunday. The game will end, we will go home, take a nap and come in first thing in the morning and talk a little bit about Abilene Christian and have the grade sheets ready for the kids to watch. We will immediately go into game planning for Ole Miss throughout the day. We will have a team meeting with the kids. They will watch the tape on their own while we continue to game plan. We will practice Sunday, which is what we did last year. Essentially, Monday turns into a Tuesday. Tuesday turns into kind of a hybrid Wednesday/Thursday. Wednesday turns into kind of a hybrid Thursday/Friday. It is just making sure we get all of our game planning done in the appropriate fashion, and also making sure that in that short week we are getting all the situations in practice that we need to.”

logan.lowery@journalinc.com

Twitter: @loganlowery

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