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September 3, 2014

Dave Clawson

COACH CLAWSON:  I thought last week's game for the first half, the game was playing out the way we needed it to.  We played very well on defense and did a good job on the kicking game, and at least held on to the ball on offense.
The second half our lack of offensive production really forced our defense to play a lot more plays and they start getting worn down.  It was certainly a disappointing loss but it's our first game here as a staff and we saw a lot of things on film that we know we need to work on and we know we need to improve, and we are looking forward to our home opener this week against Gardner‑Webb.

Q.  What areas of improvement are you looking for out of your offense this week and how much of that was really not too surprising to you considering it was the first game with a lot of new folks?
COACH CLAWSON:  Yeah, I think you certainly go into a season with concerns and places that you think you're relatively strong at.  I don't know if we were surprised.
I've said all along that we're right now ahead on defense right now.  We're more experienced there.  We returned a bunch of starters off a pretty good defense a year ago.  And offensively, we graduated a lot of players from an offense that wasn't very good a year ago.
So we're better on defense right now.  I was certainly‑‑ you know, we didn't play well up front on the offensive line, and a lot of it was not assignment mistakes.  We just flat‑out didn't block people and we're capable of playing better than that.
It was game one in a new offensive system, and at times we looked like it but we clearly need to get better up front and do a better job of blocking people and protecting our quarterback and getting the running game going a little bit so we don't become one‑dimensional.

Q.  I wanted to ask a follow‑up on the offensive line.  Was it just having some young guys out there, new blocking schemes you guys were using?  Can you pinpoint why things kind of broke down for you up front?
COACH CLAWSON:  Yeah, in a lot of cases, we just got beat.  We had a pretty simple game plan going in.  Just, again, we know we're young and it's a new offensive system.  Louisiana Monroe runs a 3‑3 stacked defense which is not normal.  I mean, we have certainly seen it before but it's one of those defenses you may see as a base one or two times a year, and they had a pretty extensive blitz package out of it.
So we tried to keep the schemes relatively simple so we could handle all the movement and all the blitz.  We lost a lot of one‑on‑one matchups.  Part of it was maybe just guys not playing as fast as they needed to and part of it was we technically did not use‑‑ it's like guys just went out there and played.  They didn't carry over some of the techniques and the teaching, and that's clearly an area that we need to get better and we are capable of playing better.
We certainly up front on offense did not play to our ability level, and we have to play much closer to that level this week and moving forward.

Q.  How do you then evaluate how Wolford did considering some of the issues up front, not giving him enough time to set and make some plays?
COACH CLAWSON:  Well, that's a great question.  I mean, because in a lot of cases, it's hard to evaluate him.  A lot of times he was running for his life.  You know, it was seven sacks for minus 55 yards, and there was countless other plays that pressure caused an early throw or caused him to leave the pocket.
You know, when he had time and a guy was open, he was efficient, and I thought he played with a lot of courage.  A lot of times when a young quarterback gets hit, you'll see his feet get shaky and bail early, and he didn't do that.  When he got pushed to the perimeter, I thought he made really good decisions in terms of, you know, when to throw it, when to run it and when to throw it away.
So again, was he perfect, no.  But I certainly thought considering his first game as a college starter that he handled himself with a lot of poise, a lot of courage and when we gave him time, he threw the ball accurately.

Q.  Watching the game it looked like the one area that really stood out was your secondary was very strong.  Can you evaluate that?  Was my impression correct?
COACH CLAWSON:  Yeah, like I said, if you follow us at all, I went into the season saying that has to be one of the strengths of our football team; that we ever our entire starting secondary returning with the exception of AJ Marshall who graduated.
But those four guys have played a lot of football here.  Kevin Johnson and Bud Noel at the corners are very good players.  Ryan Janvion started all last year.  Anthony Wooding played a lot of football, and then Thomas Brown also played his first extensive action of his career and he really did a nice job.  He's probably a guy we have to get in there more.
Yeah, we didn't give up any big plays in the pass game except one we cut a guy loose in man coverage and I thought our safeties were very active tackling the football; that when runs broke out, they got them on the ground.
I think overall our secondary and overall our defense played really well for three quarters.  The play count just got high on them.  In the second half, we lost the time of possession battle 21‑9, and I just think those guys got worn out.  They played too many snaps.
Part of it is we have to move the ball more on offense and convert first downs and at least try to flip the field and secondly our third down defense wasn't very good.  So a lot of those drives extended because we had opportunities to get off the field on third down and we didn't do that.

Q.  You had to make some changes on the defensive line.  Can you talk about how well they played or areas that they need to improve?
COACH CLAWSON:  Well, I don't think we won the battle up front.  But I think for the most part, our guys are in their correct gaps and played with the correct leverage and delivered the ball to the linebackers and the safeties and fortunately we got the ball on the ground.  We did not get a great forming (ph) on pass rush, but we got some pressure.
Overall, again, for the amount of new players that we have on the defensive front, I would certainly say that they played well.  I don't think they played great.  I don't think we were that disruptive.  We weren't getting a lot of penetration in the backfield.
But for the most part, we were assignment correct, and like I said played with the correct leverage.  And with a few exceptions that we lost contain once and allowed a play to bounce, our eyes and our hat were where they should be.

Q.  Just wanted to talk about that first game and now going up against Gardner‑Web, how coming in and this being your first season leading this team, a lot of things going on, how you can keep these guys level‑headed and how that leadership kind of works after losing that first game?
COACH CLAWSON:  Yeah, I think any time you lose a game, but especially the first game, it's a little bit of a letdown because you put so much work into that first game from preseason camp.
Most games you have about a week to prepare for.  A lot of times with that opener, you put a week and a half, two weeks into it.  But that's football.  The next game is upon us in a couple of days here and we've got to be ready to go and all that investment we made in the off‑season program and the summer and camp, we invested it for entire football season, not just one football game.
So we have some older guys on the team that care a lot, and it's important to them that we play well in our home opener.  So our response in practice has been good so far.  We had a good practice yesterday.  I expect to have another good one today.
It's a matter right now of us making incremental improvement.  We are not going to go from that performance to world beaters in one week.  We just have to make sure that we are continually improving as players in our program all together, and there's a lot of big games coming up, and this is the next one.  So we just have to make sure we're better this week than we were a week ago. 

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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