Bobby Johnson Weekly Press Conference
October 7, 2002

Opening Statement
"I think we had a good open week, we have gotten ready for the game and we are anxious to get back on the field and start playing. I think it is a very important football game for us, obviously after Middle Tennessee defeated Vanderbilt last year. I think our guys have a lot of respect for their program, and even though they have not won a game this year, they have played a very difficult schedule. We are not letting that fool us. We have seen a good team on film, and we'll have to prepare hard to have a chance to win. We are certainly trying to do that right now.

Q: What do you think is keeping MTSU from getting over the hump and getting their first victory?
A: "They have played Alabama, Tennessee and Kentucky, which are all very good teams. I think the last couple of weeks they have looked a little like us. Sometimes you didn't quite make the play, and other teams made great plays against you. They moved the ball last week in the second half, but just couldn't get points. We are certainly not looking at their record and saying 'there a bad football team, because they are not.'"

Q: Were you surprised to see how well MTSU played against Southeastern Conference teams, then would lose to Arkansas State?
A: "We were a little surprised, but Arkansas Sate is pretty good right now and playing a lot better than they have in a long time. You go to their place, and you have to play on the road as much as they have, it's kind of hard to be consistent. I see a much better team than their record. You see them on film, they are well coached with a great scheme. They spread you out on offense and they try to take advantage of things you try to do on defense. Defensively, they are very athletic and can run."

Q: Does MTSU have any similarities to teams you have played earlier in the season?
A: "South Carolina did some things very similar with a lot of quarterback draws and screens, which hurt us a little bit. I'm sure they are going to be looking at the South Carolina film. To tell you the truth, they run a very similar defense that South Carolina did. I am sure that is a key game for them to watch on film."

Q: Do you expect to see Dwone Hicks in the MTSU backfield?
A: "We are expecting him to play. He is a quality back, that is all you can say about him. He is the real deal. But RaShard Lee also is doing a fine job. They are moving the football, but they are just not getting it into the end zone."

Q: Can you assess Benji Walker since taking over at quarterback?
A: "Just like I said the whole time while the process was going on to decide (on a back-up quarterback), we had a tough choice because Benji is a quality quarterback. I think he has been great through the whole process. When he was second team, he prepared every week to try to get better, didn't pout and now he is going to have an opportunity to put all that to work and I think he will do a great job."

Q: How is Jay (Cutler) handling things?
A: "I think Jay is handling it the best he can. He is helping our defense get ready for this game and doing a good job."

Q: What is the timetable for Cutler's return?
A: "The way he is handling things, it will probably be fairly soon."

Q: What do you think about playing a nearby rival such as MTSU?
A: "I like it. They are going to bring a lot of people to our stadium. There is a lot of interest because they beat us last year. We read about them, they read about us. I think it is good."

Q: Can you assess the Commodores' performance at this point, nearly halfway through the season?
A: "We are not doing too good if you look at the record. We have improved a great deal since our first game. I think our guys are playing hard and doing what we ask them to do. Defensively, we are getting better. Remember, we played last week (vs. South Carolina) without three starters on defense. I think guys are starting to believe in our system and believe in what we asking them to do. They are doing their very best to execute it the way we ask them to do. As long as we do that, we are going to make progress and are going to live with the results. We play in a tough league. We are asking our guys to make plays against great playmakers."



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