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September 10, 2014

Al Golden

AL GOLDEN:  We're back home this weekend for Arkansas State, an aggressive team, a three‑time champion with an excellent host of veterans back.  Very aggressive in all three phases.  On offense, the quarterback is a playmaker and a guy that can beat you in a number of ways.  They're an operation that has been over 30 points a game.  I would say that's what they like to go for.  I mean, 26 of the last 36 games it's been over 30 points.
Excellent kicking game, give you some exotics, very aggressive.  And on defense, sound, excellent safety play.  All the safeties are vets.  48, Lee, inside is as tough as advertised, and I've been very impressed with their inside guys, 92 and 77, Blackmon.  They're a defensive group that can get after you, they can play man‑to‑man, they can press and get up in your face, and they're obviously No.3 in the countries in turnovers and No.6 in sacks.  Going to be a great test for us at 3:30 Saturday.

Q.  Can you talk a little bit about Thurston Armbrister's play and how he's helped improve your defense?
AL GOLDEN:  Yeah, I think that's a great analysis, okay.  We thought if Thurston can improve like he has, and I mean size, strength, conditioning, his mental toughness, his ability to execute, even exceeded what we had laid out for him because now he's turning into a pass rusher, as well.  He's in the 240s now and he was a young man that was always in the 20s.  He's made a commitment to his weight.  He's made some sacrifices, and he is one of the reasons why we're playing better.  I think Thurston and the whole defense knows that at this level and with our schedule, they're just going to keep coming like waves, and here's another one with Knighten and Gordon and McKissic and Griswold and this group coming down here this weekend, we've got to be ready to go.

Q.  Two questions real quick:  First on Stacy, I know you said you're hoping to decide tomorrow.  Is the evaluation process different in a non‑conference week versus a conference week as far as how much you can really push a kid?
AL GOLDEN:  No.  No, that's immaterial right now.  It's really about the kid's health, and we arrive at that conclusion from a medical standpoint, of course the young man and the trainer.  As a head coach I'm really not part of that equation.  He has not been available to us yet.  We've got a long time to go before kickoff.  Stacy is in great shape.  He's really well conditioned, so that will be something that we'll have to decide here in the next three days.  We still have three days before we kick.
But no, our mindset is no different, and as you look at this team and as you watch them on tape, you would understand why.  It's a veteran team.  It's an aggressive team, and it's a team that has won a lot of games here the last four or five years.

Q.  There was a story this summer out of Jonesboro that this game has been used as a recruiting tool at Arkansas State, too, kind of the proverbial come here, and by the way, we have a chance to go play Miami in a couple of years.  Do you bring that up to your kids at all, just a reminder that it's not just in conference, you guys are still kind of maybe a big red circle game for other teams, as well?
AL GOLDEN:  Well, you know, I know obviously you can feel that as a coach and a player here.  I don't think there's any question about that when we travel and those types of things, and that's great.  That's why you come to Miami.  That's part of our tradition.  But as part of our preparation, that has nothing to do with it.  It's really going to be about us getting better this week, us executing, us eliminating the little things and then going out and doing all the little things, being more precise in the pass game, being better on 3rd down, in both areas tackling well, and then being able to respond and negate a lot of the exotics and shots that they'll take in all three phases.

Q.  I wanted to ask about the fact that I know it's a veteran team, but they've got a first‑year coach, but it's a guy you're probably familiar with.  Has he incorporated anything at all of what he did at North Carolina to what they're doing now at Arkansas State?
AL GOLDEN:  Oh, sure.  You can see it, and really all three phases, you just see a little bit more of his personal thumbprint, if you will.  I'm sure he's evaluated his personnel and what they do best, and he's taken them down the course of action and path that he believes is going to give them the most success.
There's definitely some things that we'll see carry forward, but this is definitely Coach Anderson's team, and they're going in a different direction than North Carolina in terms of his personality and what he wants to accomplish.  You definitely do see some residual for sure.

Q.  I just wonder, you got two game tapes from them this year to evaluate, but also, have you looked at the North Carolina stuff, and does that help in preparation, the fact you've played against his offense for two years?
AL GOLDEN:  Yeah, I don't know.  Again, like I said, I see them going down a little bit different path now, so anything that we called against them in the past is really irrelevant.  His personnel is different here, and I know he likes Knighten at quarterback and what that young man can do with the ball in his hands both in play action and running it.  I know they like Gordon and McKissic.  McKissic is as productive as anybody.  They're one of the best scoring teams in the country over the last couple years.
All that is present, and it's a great challenge for us, and just excited to keep preparing here and get ready to go on Saturday.

Q.  As you said a couple times, Arkansas State is a team that should not be overlooked.  How are you keeping your guys focused on this Arkansas State game with the Nebraska game coming up next week?
AL GOLDEN:  Well, again, this season for us is all about one mission at a time, so nobody is mentioning the other team that you just mentioned, so that's number one.
Number two, all you've got to do is turn on the tape.  I mean, that's all you've got to do.  Whether it's the veterans that they have on the back end in Girley, Brown, Humes, Hunter, Hayes, Tryon, all those guys, veterans, they play with poise.  Like I've said before, I like the strength of the guys inside.  I think they play strong and play with good pad level.  Stone as their bandit, he's very active.  I know he's had a sack and a couple TFLs and a bunch of tackles, and I think they're strong up the middle, both at safety and in both concept and in personnel with the safeties, and then Lee at middle linebacker.  I think all we've got to do is turn on the tape.
They've got a great kicking game.  The punter is top 15 in net, and the kicker is having a heck of a year and they've got a great returner in McKissic.  That's enough.  That's all we need to see, and that's where our focus is right now in terms of preparing and getting ourselves ready to go.

Q.  Because you played an FCS team last week, what are you still looking to learn about your team as you go into this particular game?
AL GOLDEN:  Well, I think we learned a lot about our team after two weeks, so we identified some things internally that we need to identify, work on, and clinic them and quality control them, in addition to getting ready for Arkansas State, we've got to get some things right, and obviously two weeks gives us 130 plays or so to evaluate, maybe more, in all three phases.
We still have a lot to improve, there's no question about it.  We're still improving, we're still working on some things, and even though we're doing with practice today, we've still got a long way to go before kick.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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