Here's what Southern Miss head coach Todd Monken had to say during Monday's press conference:
“We got a chance yesterday to finish Mississippi State and take a look at that; the good and the bad and made the corrections that we felt were necessary. We went out last night and got about an hour’s worth of work in and now we are on to Austin Peay. I know (Austin Peay head coach) Kirby Cannon from a far from when he was at Northern Michigan and I have been at Grand Valley State previously and Eastern Michigan. He went with Dan Enos when he took over at Central Michigan. I know he is a guy that has been a defensive coach and has grinded his way up the profession to be the head coach. He has done a great job, which his job isn’t that much different than ours has been here in that he’s trying to build it, recruit better and coach better. You can see their improvement from last year. They’ve got more talent; they have played awfully hard; and we are excited to have the come into The Rock this week. We are excited to see the improvement that we can make from week one to week two. They will be an improved team and they are already. We have a lot of respect for them and I have a lot of respect for him as a head coach and what he has done in his career but we are just really excited to be back at home.”
How do you turn the page after all of the hype that was centered on the first game?
“It’s difficult with all of the buildup on the game and then the disappointment by some of the things that we did to not give us the best chance to win. Bottom line is, I think we have a more mature team than we have ever had. We will have to do a great job as a staff tomorrow to get them refocused in terms of still bringing the effort and toughness that we brought the other night but clean up the mistakes that hindered us from being at our best.”
After watching the film, what are some of the things that you did well Saturday night?
“I think it was obvious that our guys played hard from start to finish. I think our guys played physical. You could just feel that good energy. I could feel it on the sidelines and we had some young guys that stepped up and made some big plays.”
What are some areas that you are going to focus on this week to improve?
“We go into to office talking about where we have to improve on special teams and we did. There were a lot of things that we did better Saturday night, but there were two catastrophic mistakes when we gave up a kick return and we have the punt that I wouldn’t even call a block. We just kicked it into a hand. When you talk about how we have to kick it and cover better in those two areas where on punt we get a fumble that we score off of then we get an onside kick. It ended up being a wash but what could have been an unbelievable advantage for us ended up not being that way. We have to get that corrected to move forward and we will.”
What do you have to do to be successful against Austin Peay?
“Like a lot of teams now, they are spread. They are running some quarterback zone read stuff so they are athletic and defensively, they are going to try and put extra guys in the box. They are a four down front with aggressive safeties and linebackers so we are going to have to be able to run the football. We are going to have to be able to handle their guys up front and be able to handle their linebackers and safeties.”
Despite the loss, would you still say confidence is still high in the locker room?
“I think our guys’ confidence is high. I think they believe in themselves, which is a start. If you have enough guys that believe in themselves then you have team confidence. Then you have to go win. The more success you have on the field, the more they believe in themselves and there is more of a chance that you find a way to win. I think there is a confidence level there and there should be. We are a good football team.”
Now that you have played an in-state DI school home and away and now see what it’s like. What are the chances you keep playing the series?
“It’s a lot more fun playing them here. Let’s put it that way. I think it was great for both schools. I don’t see any reason why they have to go out of state to play somebody and I don’t know why we need to go out and play someone else in a home and home. It’s great for our players; It’s great for the state; and it’s great for our fan base. Even though it would be exciting if a Kentucky comes here, it won’t be the same. It was important for our campus and for our team. It showed where we have come in the past two years.”
What did you think of the new tight ends that came in and seemed to play very well?
“We had to move Ricky (Parks) to tight in a couple of weeks ago. He played tight end at Auburn so that was an easier transition and it is only going to get better. Ja’Shawn Washington did some good things and we are hopeful to have him this week. We will see where Taylor (Marini) is at as we keep going and also Julian (Allen). We are going to play with tight ends and be able to run the football then play off of that. That allows you to not turn it over as much. I can’t think of the last time we fumbled, but we will have to clean some stuff up with the wide receivers. We did a great job of our guys carrying the ball and not turning it over.”
What is your assessment on the offensive line after one game?
“We rotated eight guys in the game who all played and I think they all had moments. The biggest thing we have to do at all positions is not let the moment or game time stop us from doing things correct. Just little mistakes like false start penalties and a personal foul by Oliver (Bates). Those are little mistakes that just put you behind the eight ball and take you off the course to winning games. We have to clean that up and clean up thing technique wise. We have talented guys and guys that have played here. Other than Andrew Peterson everyone that played has been here and played.”
On the play of Kalan Reed…
“Kalan is a good player and he will continue to get better because he has gotten older and worked at it. We are better when he is on the field just like any good player that you have. He is capable of covering almost anybody in the country and that gives you a lot of comfort. He has a chance to make plays and we need him to stay healthy and have a great year.”
On making corrections and getting better…
“Everyone can say every week, ‘Man, if we can just eliminate these few things then we could’ve won.’ We said that a lot last season but we didn’t have over 400 yards of offense. We didn’t run the ball against a good team for over 100 yards and that showed we are better. Now early on it wasn’t that way. We threw for over 300 yards and it didn’t feel that hard. I have been places and times and said, ‘Wow that was really tough to get.’ It shows we have come a long way in a lot of areas talent wise, developing them and coaching and doing things better. We just have to continue down that path and not let the things that happened the other night restrict us from moving forward. We just have to learn from it and control things that we can control. There is nothing that it out of our control. We have good coaches; we have good players; we have developed them the right way; and we control them these next 11 weeks.”
What are they strengths of Austin Peay and what do y’all have to adjust to?
“Strength wise, I think they are in their second year of development so when you look at them it’s hard because they have changed over a lot like we have. They have a similar roster and but they have had some transfers come in. You look at their roster and think about who played last year and who is playing this year as you do every year. I know they play hard and they had every opportunity to win that game Saturday at their place against Mercer. Coach Cannon that has done a great job there. I just see a lot of improvement of both sides. They have some playmakers that we will have to keep in check and they are eager to prove that they have improved and to continue down the track with their new coaching staff.”