Head Coach Bobby Johnson Press Conference
September 16, 2002

Opening Statement
"I think it's obvious that we are not good enough to spot teams easy touchdowns, especially in the SEC. I was proud of our guys for fighting back in the first half. I thought we did good things offensively, and if we could begin to tackle a little bit better we would be in pretty good shape on defense."

Q: Do you feel better about defense in general heading into the Ole Miss game?
A: "We have a long way to go. We got in position to score most of the time, but we just couldn't make some plays. We are probably going to be overmatched in a lot of situations all year long, but we are going to have to concentrate on technique. The thing about Mississippi is that they are going to try to run the football on us. If they feel like they can run it, they are going to make us stop the run. I think that makes Eli Manning that much more dangerous if you have to get up there and stop the run, he can hurt you with the big plays."

"Hopefully we can get them in some third and longs to try to make sure they are throwing those easy play-action passes. I think Auburn did a very good job of that against us the other day. We've got to see if we can come up with a little better plan than that. Not many people have gotten him (Manning) out of his rhythm yet."

Q: Will tackling be an area you will work on at practice this week?
A: "You are risking an injury every time you do a tackling drill. When you get in a game and there are guys as good as (Carnell) Williams, you can replicate that at practice in a tackling drill. I think it was our guys being over-anxious. Hopefully we can get them to stay on their feet and lock-up a little bit better."

Q: Were the turnovers by Jay Cutler due to a lack of experience?
A: "The two interceptions were the bad decisions, but the two fumbles are going to happen when you play against great players. We can control those decisions where you just throw a jump ball up one time and throw it in the wrong direction on the other."

"It was a little inexperience and maybe a little overconfidence in his arm. You figure the first one when he threw the interception off his back foot, and threw the second one when the guy had great position on Dan (Stricker) and he probably should have thrown it in the ground or thrown it away. This isn't pitch-and-catch, you have to have a target."

Q: Can you discuss the situation at the strong-side linebacker position?
A: "We are trying to get people in there when we can. Moses (Osemwegie) was hurt, and I thought he did a courageous thing by going out there and playing under the circumstances. He had a big sack and caused a fumble. We had two sacks and lost two fumbles for touchdowns, and we had two sacks against them and they fumbled twice and fell right on top of the ball.

"We are trying to keep those guys fresh. Eric (Byrum) has done some things, and (Brandon) Walthour is probably a little more athletic than when Moses is in there. We can probably get those two guys to be pretty athletic at linebacker because Hunter (Hillenmeyer) has been playing very well in the middle."

Q: Can you discuss what you have seen so far on Ole Miss' defense?
A: "They can run on defense. They're not the biggest guys in the world, but they get to the ball in a hurry. I can't compare them to last year, but if they can run around and get to the football like they have been doing, I think they are going to be pretty good on defense."

Q: Has it been frustrating for you and your staff to have to deal with the mistakes the team has made so far?
A: "We have to got to be patient. Some of these guys are just playing their third game with our staff and their career. It is a learning experience for every one of them as far as what we expect from them."

Q: Can you discuss the team's maturation process since the Georgia Tech game?
A: "I hope that is a good sign. I think it is a sign that we learned something from the Georgia Tech game. Some things are going to happen during the game that are bad no matter how well you play. I was proud of the way our guys came back and battled and got back into the game. We missed a couple easy chances to get into the endzone. Hopefully we will start making those plays, which will give us more confidence. Confidence is a real big thing in football."

Q: Do you see any changes in the line-up due to certain player performances?
A: "It's hard to make those kind of changes because you don't know what the second-team guys would have done in that situation, so it is mainly based on practice. So far, I don't think anyone in practice has demonstrated they should be moving up on anybody right now, but that certainly can change. We certainly are going to play the best prepared player and that really means who practices the best."

Q: From what you have been able to see of Eli Manning, how would you describe his quarterback ability?
A: "He's got a great arm and a great release. He knows where he wants to go with the football, he gets it out pretty quickly and he makes good decisions. When you don't give the ball to the other team and you depend on your players to make good plays, you have a chance to win. He is a smart player."

Q: Can you discuss the performance of wide receiver Brandon Smith?
A: "We need to be able to get it to somebody besides depending on Dan Stricker all the time. Brandon stepped up and made some outstanding catches. We know he has some great hands, but he's got to start learning the position on a consistent basis. He certainly has the last two games. We're very pleased, and we will look to see if we can get it to him a little bit more. He has made great strides."



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