“Well, obviously we’re always pleased and happy to win, especially on the road in this league. Sometimes that can be a pretty difficult task, but we also like to look at ourselves and try to evaluate how we performed. Even though Texas A&M really played a good game, played hard, showed a lot of heart in the game, we played a pretty ordinary game for us. I don’t think we executed the way we’d like to with the consistency we’d like to in the game. I think that it’s something that as coaches we take responsibility for but also want to take responsibility for getting everybody to respond the right way so that we have a chance to improve, help our players be the best players that they can be.
“I’m very excited and pleased that Minkah was recognized as the SEC defensive player of the week.
“I think everybody will be fine this week. Trevon Diggs will come back and try to practice some today. Tony Brown will be day to day throughout the course of the week and we won’t be able to make a decision on him until sometime later in the week. We certainly look forward to getting back to Bryant-Denny Stadium. There’s a lot of tradition here when it comes to homecoming. I think it’s special, the kind of support and tradition that we have. It’s certainly something that we respect and really look forward to being a part of.
“Arkansas, I think, has got a really, really good team. I think they’ve got some players that can really make a difference in the game starting with the quarterback, who certainly played well against us last year, made some fabulous throws and really good plays. They’ve three running backs that have helped them be one of the most effective teams running the ball of anybody that we’ve played to this point. I think you can sit here and talk about what they have not done as a team or you can say they should have beaten Texas A&M and they’re very capable of scoring a lot of points and being a very good team. Their defense is a very sound and solid group that doesn’t make a lot of mistakes, and you’ve got to work hard to execute well to beat them. This is going to be a challenging team. It always has been for us and we’re certainly going to prepare that way.”
What kind of challenges do junior college players like Isaiah Buggs face coming here and how has he done?
“I think Isaiah has gotten better and better every week. He certainly probably played his best game in the last game. He’s a very instinctive player. He’s strong. He’s got athletic ability to finish on the quarterback. I think one of the things that we’ve really worked hard — and this has been a little bit of an issue and it was working well for us until we lost Da’Shawn Hand — is how we rotate the front guys to keep them fresh. Because when he gets a little bit tired, it affects him some as a player, which is not all his fault. I mean, we need to keep guys in the game that are fresh. He’s getting better at it, but I also think we need to help him a little bit by making sure that we’re rotating enough that he can stay fresh.”
Is a game like this where you’re challenged in the fourth quarter something you can build on?
“Well, I hope so. I hope people can look at this game and see how did they advance themselves in terms of the way they played? Is this a game that you would tell everybody, ‘Yeah, watch me in this game because I really played well?’ If you can’t say that, then you should take a real look in the mirror and say, what do I need to do to get better here? As coaches, we want to try to help these guys every way they can improve with the preparation, the right mind-set when you get to the game, understanding the challenges you have when you play on the road. Understand the things that you did well and the things that you did poorly and how it could have affected the outcome of the game. All those things to me are really, really important. How did we play? How much did it affect us making line calls or whatever because we had a lot of noise in the game. All these things are things we should learn from, grow from, be able to improve as a team.
“I do think sometimes when things don’t go well, people are a little more willing to respond. I’m hopeful that our team will respond well in this circumstance.
What goes into your decision to go for it or not on fourth down?
“Well, first of all, it’s situational relative to field position, down and distance, how we feel about our short yardage versus the other team’s short yardage defense. I think the situation in the game relative to what does a field goal do, how does it affect going for it? I think a lot of times, when it’s a short yardage situation, the percentages are a lot higher. When I say that, I’m talking about fourth and 1. I don’t usually answer hypothetical questions but if we’d have gotten it to fourth and 1 in the game, I think I would have gone for it and not kicked a field goal at the end of the game. So we’ve gone for it on fourth and 1 before so the other team didn’t get the ball back in two-minute and made it. When you make those decisions, you’ve got to have a lot of confidence in the players that they’re going to be able to execute and you’re going to get a first down. But at the same time, when you have fourth and 1 on the 27-yard line and you don’t kick a field goal, and you make it and then you go on down and end up kicking a field goal anyway, you actually took a chance for pretty much nothing except increasing the odds on making shorter field goal, which sometimes may not be worth it.
On the kickoff fumbled by A&M, what happened on that play and what should have gone better?
“Nothing should have gone better. The guys tried to recover it, he batted the ball. Everybody went for the ball and their guys got it. I think it was great effort on our guy’s part trying to knock the ball out and we had great effort trying to get to the ball. I’ve never coached a team that got 100 percent of the balls on the ground, so it doesn’t mean something went wrong just because you didn’t get it. I think Dylan Moses tried to recover it and he ended up knocking it toward the goal line which put it further away from all players and one of their players was closer to it than ours. Our guys did a great job of trying to get to it and they ended up getting the ball at the 1 yard line.”
How has Josh Frazier progressed this season and during his career?
“I think Josh is playing the best football he’s played since he’s been here. I think he’s in better shape. Josh is really a run stopping nose guard type guy for us who plays a lot more when we play against regular teams, which these guys are in regular a lot, which means we play regular. We play some in nickel. We don’t play him a lot in pass rush situations. When he’s gone in there he’s done a good job for us. He’s someone you can count on to do exactly what you expect to get from him. He’s done a good job from that standpoint.”
How do you expect Robert Foster to respond after a challenging sequence in the second half?
“Well, we’re always hopeful that players can focus on the next play. I know that was what I was trying to do when I went to talk to him when he came off the field. I just said ‘Hey, you’ve got to focus on the next play. Don’t worry about that, don’t get frustrated with that, just focus on the next play.’ He actually had three not-so-good plays in a row. But no player wants to not play well. He doesn’t want to line up in the wrong formation. He doesn’t want to drop a pass. He doesn’t want to fumble the ball. He’s as frustrated about that as anybody, but I think he has to overcome his frustrations and overcome the adversity of those circumstances and situations and focus on what he needs to do better. That’s what we’ll encourage him to do and hopefully that’s the way he’ll respond.”
What have you seen from Damien Harris, his ability to break away from tackles?
“First of all, Damien has played really well for us this year. I think he’s played really well for us in the past when he’s been healthy. He’s been able to stay healthy so far this year. Makes good cuts, good decisions, runs the plays the way they’re designed to be run. He has good burst and acceleration when there is an opening and he’s made more explosive runs for us than anybody on our team but I still feel that in the long run, the way he’s playing, the way we’re using the backs is probably the best thing for our team. Maybe one of the reasons he is healthy and he’s staying healthy and able to do what he’s doing is that we’re playing more guys at the position and he doesn’t have to play as many plays. I’d rather see him do that over the long haul of the season rather than start running him 30 times in a game and all of a sudden, he’s not able to run at all. I do, in all honesty, when we’re standing on the sidelines, and we have somebody that’s hot that’s running well and making yards, we’ll play that guy a little more. But still, we’re not going to try and kill the guy or wear him out.”
LaBryan Ray, how’s his progress been?
“I think that it was our plan to probably redshirt LaBryan, not thinking that he would play that much. We actually tried to play him at outside linebacker when we had all the guys get injured and we lost the backers but now that we’ve moved him back to defensive end and we’ve lost a player there, we felt like he was going to have more opportunity to play and we needed to play him and it would actually enhance his development to play because we felt like he was a very instinctive, good, play-hard kind of guy. He is all that, and he is smart. He is able to go in there and execute and play and react the way we’d like for him to. He’s developed nicely and we’re going to continue to play him.”
When guys get in a fight in practice, how do you handle that?
“First of all, what I try to get the players to understand is that respect for the other players on your team is a big part of being able to trust the other players on your team. So to respect the other guy’s effort and what he’s trying to do to get better, which will really, in essence, help you get better, if he’s competing well against you, should not be something that should create a negative circumstance or a negative situation that would cause people to make emotional decisions. We try to use it as a learning opportunity because I usually take both guys out of practice when they do that. I say, ‘You guys would be kicked out of the game or get a 15-yard penalty, one or the other. These are the kinds of choices and decisions when you make them emotionally that usually are the things that you’re sorry for, that you wish you didn’t do, that have negative consequences for you and the team. I want you to play with a lot of toughness, I want you to be aggressive, I want you to be relentless in how you compete but making emotional decisions that get you penalties are not the way to show your toughness and doesn’t really help our team in any way.'”
The three freshman WRs, how would you assess their play in the first 6 games?
“I think they’re getting opportunities on the field. They’re playing almost as much as the other guys. We think it’s important that all these guys play well and we’re going to continue to work with those guys and hope they progress and hope their experience and knowledge that they gain and the plays they play help them play with more consistency and work with them on the things that they need to improve on so that they can be as productive performers as possible. We think all of those guys can contribute to our team. That’s why we used them from day one. I’ve been pleased with their performance and production. We’ll continue to use them in the future.”
In the context of developing and growing a team, do you need games like the one you had this Saturday?
“Look, as a coach, you always want to see your team play well. I think we got punched in the nose a little bit, especially when we fumbled the ball and they scored a touchdown and the crowd got into the game and they got the momentum of the game. I think it’s important that your team learns how to respond to that. I guess we could debate as to whether we responded very well to that or not. In my opinion, not as well as we need to. So there’s definitely an opportunity to learn something from that experience and that’s what we’ll try to take from this.”