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COACH MILES: Good afternoon. Just want to remind everybody that it's Columbus Day, that all those of you that know Italians and like Italians or that might venture onto a ship and travel to explore and find new lands, this is your day.
It's not St. Paddy's Day. That's a different day entirely.
Tiger Stadium was great. We enjoyed being there. It was back home in front of friends and family. We recognize that it was a little warm, and we recognize that health is a consideration for our fans and our people, and we want them to do the things that they need to do for themselves. We appreciate you when you come in, and we'll appreciate you when you return.
We welcome the 2003 National Championship team back to campus. I apologize, I had planned and really set a schedule to be at an outing just before 7:00, and what happened was en route to that event, we took attendance, and it sounded like the event was going to get started a little bit later, so I diverted and went to see the U‑High Cubs versus the Parkview Baptists, and it was a great game. But I just wanted everybody to know that I certainly ‑‑ we certainly enjoy that 2003 team. Every time we talk about our traditions, we talk about those teams that won a National Championship here.
I can tell you that Matt Mauck and that crew are just tremendous carriers of our history and our tradition, and we enjoyed them greatly and glad they were back, and I want them to come back many times.
The Florida game: It was two quality football teams competing like heck, and to me it was a big‑time game, a lot of fun. Offense moved the ball, ran it, threw it, had balance, not as many yards as we're used to and not as many points as we're used to. But when you play a great defense, you play a team that's very, very competitive, it's going to happen that way many times.
I can tell you that I felt like Zach played a pretty good game. It might not be his best game, certainly not statistically, but it was ‑‑ he did the things, managed the situations and allowed us to play well enough for us to win. In that kind of game, that's well enough.
It's interesting that fumble that we had just before we were on the 25‑yard line in position to score, certainly would have enjoyed that score in the final tally, those things happen. What happened is that ball got drenched the down before we got a 1st down, and we were in a hurry tempo, and that water was all surrounding that ball when it got to his hand. He tried to make a quick play, maybe didn't grip it as well as he should well have, and we end up with a turnover. Again, that's not something that we expect to happen on a regular basis but something that we worked on.
Jeremy Hill had a nice day, 121 yards rushing and 19 carries. Kenny Hilliard, again, contributed significantly. Terrence Magee, again, significantly. Terrence Magee got himself a nice 17‑yard reception and the key piece of the game, and kind of recalls his receiving days when he stepped out there and made that play.
The offense in my opinion did exactly what it needed to do: Controlled the game, moved the football, was smart with the ball and finished the game. In the back end of the game, the opponent trying to get the ball back, felt like the right strategy was employed, and we just kept it kind of how it's supposed to go.
The improvement was certainly made by the defense on the day, allowed just six points, 240 yards. Again, tremendous effort. Any time that you line up against a big, powerful offensive line and running backs that can run and a mobile quarterback, you have to control that line of scrimmage, and I think our guys did as strong a job as they well could have done, and I think the game plan was just right. They allowed a field goal on the first possession and then five straight punts. I thought Chief had a magnificent plan, did the things we needed to do to win. His postgame was kind of fun. He seldom is too excited ‑‑ don't get me wrong, he's a very passionate guy, he's got great want for the Tigers, but he generally is reserved in that postgame, and in the postgame locker room, he was quite enthusiastic.
Again, a very, very complete effort, offense and defense. Felt like the things we asked them to do on special teams went well. It was kind of a ‑‑ no big returns against us, no big returns for us, a couple of punts, nice field goal, in position to need the points and kicked the way we were supposed to. If we do those things, we'll be a pretty dominant team. Again, great effort, and enjoyed the improvement that was made.
The Ole Miss team, Hugh Freeze has done a really nice job. They've recruited well. Offensively they're averaging 30 points and 430 yards, a very balanced offense, 175 yards rushing and 250 or so passing, five players with 13 receptions, four players with 200 receiving yardage, two quarterbacks, Bo Wallace who is very mobile and can throw it well, nine touchdowns, only three interceptions, and Barry Brunetti, big strong guy that can also throw it and run it. So again, very quality two‑quarterback team.
A defense that's fast and big and looks like an SEC defense, linebackers, strong secondary, a lot of young players but guys that are getting better week after week. Any time you line up against the Ole Miss team, there's tradition and history, and it's just more important. It's a great game. Cannon's great run on Halloween, Odell's Beckham's fourth quarter punt return a year ago, just a number of exciting finishes to a long‑standing rivalry.
Like the position that our football team is in. We need to continue to improve. This will be a great challenge to us on the road again and play a style of football that we're becoming accustomed to. They're a real quality defense, an offense that can move the football, run and pass, quality special teams, and see how we match up.
Q. You talked about the physical win it was against Florida. How much does that go toward the team's overall confidence knowing they don't necessarily have to win in a shootout, they can play the low‑score traditional SEC football games, as well?
COACH MILES: Well, I don't think there's ever been any question that we can be that kind of team. For me it just appeared that we did the things that we were supposed to do in our assignments, kind of held up our end of the bargain in terms of each player, and then allowed many to make plays as opposed to loose and contained and some of the things that kind of bought an opportunity for our opponents.
Yeah, I think our team recognizes they can play in that kind of game. I don't think there's any question that that was what they were looking for, too, to be honest.
Q. This is the second, maybe third time this season you'll face a two‑quarterback team. Traditionally coaches try to stick with one guy. Why is it working for some teams, and is it an advantage for them?
COACH MILES: Well, it's certainly their call, not my call, and it's one where you can see where a guy has a different style and different strengths, and you bring that guy in to do the things that he can do for his team, and then you don't unseat the starter, if you will, and he comes back in and he does the things that he's supposed to do, and if somebody gets nicked it's a nice ‑‑ two quarterbacks are ready to go onto the field comfortably, and they understand the game plan. Yeah, I understand two‑quarterback systems.
Q. Ole Miss has a lot of injuries coming out of the game against A & M. How do you approach a team where they're going to say half their defensive starters are questionable, so how do you approach that in your preparation?
COACH MILES: Yeah, we're preparing for their best effort. We see on film that they're very talented and capable. We would expect that those guys that are capable and able, certainly it's their training staff that has to certify they're ready to play and those things, but I'm certain that if they're ‑‑ when given the green light that they'll be capable.
Q. The fact that you go from playing a spread team to a hurry‑up team to a team that wants to play a power game and back again, does this league do you think more than some others require you to be ready for different kinds of styles?
COACH MILES: Yeah, I think this is college football. I think that this league is ‑‑ I think what the coordinators, offensive, defensive, special teams, in this league really do is set up a system that benefits their personnel, and in this instance you're playing a team that uses two quarterbacks pretty often. We're a team that has the ability to throw it well, and we're going to hand the ball to our tailbacks. So there will be some diversity in this league. I think that's college football.
I think you look around and you see the Tim Tebow style of spread was much different than a lot of the spreads that are being run because of Tim Tebow, and I think that that's kind of a quick glimpse, if you will, of college football.
Q. Can you talk about Anthony Jennings' small role, but he was in there for a few important plays? And what does it do for his confidence moving forward perhaps into next year, and why is it important to get those reps now?
COACH MILES: Yeah, well, he's a guy that needs to develop and spend some time on the field, and in times when it's important, not just run the clock out. We're developing him. We're looking at really a number of those guys that need snaps, and hopefully we'll get those chances today. We'll have a young guys' workout, if you will, at the end of practice.
Q. Just an injury update on Jordan Allen, and also, we talked to the guys defensively after the game, and they talked about really trusting the coaching and doing what you had asked. Do you feel that comfort is there or is that still something that's coming?
COACH MILES: Well, Jordan Allen, first of all, seems to be a small tweak in his ankle, and he'll be fine. We might tape him up and let him run today, but certainly he'll be ready for the game.
I think that any time that you've been a real quality player, high school or college, many times you feel like it's a play that you need to make and that you're going to try to get there, but your responsibility is outside or your responsibility is to fill across the shoulder of the blocker, and there's a responsibility that sometimes it's not your play, but it forces the opponent into what is your teammate's play. And I think that's a very important philosophy on defense, for that matter offense, as well, that in fact you understand that you make a play when your teammate makes the play that you forced.
So we don't want to try to do too much. We play within the scheme. There will be a lot of big plays for everybody.
Q. Would you talk a little bit in detail about how well the offensive line played? That was a pretty good defense, and they seemed to open holes when they needed to and the pass protection was good with those guys.
COACH MILES: Well, I think the line is developing. I think they're coming. I think they're a big, strong, physical group. I think they're going to be ‑‑ at the end of the season I think they'll be a very fine offensive line. They had a nice day against a very quality defensive line at Florida, and I'm really pleased with their effort and energy and who they are.
I thought they gave great protection for the most part to Zach. Felt like there was running room in the running game, and I felt that they had great energy and enthusiasm for play. We're pleased with the development thus far, but then again, there's a new challenge. It's all about next week, and I think our guys know that.
Q. You had Loston and Corey Thompson out there. Is that kind of the future at safety this year, and was Ronald Martin available?
COACH MILES: Ronald Martin really was not available, but he'll be available as we go forward. I think you can see that he can step in and do some good things for us, as well.
But I liked Corey Thompson and Craig Loston. I think that's two quality safeties and guys that give us opportunities how to go back there. We like that tandem, but we're not saying that there might not be another contributor there.
Q. On the other side of the ball, how do you think your offensive line has progressed from the first couple SEC games to this weekend?
COACH MILES: Well, I felt like it's progressed very nicely to this point. Again, I think we're physical and I think we come off the football. I think we understand the technique, and it's all about repetition, it's all about doing it again and again, and it's all about being relied upon to do that week after week.
I think if they maintain that consistency and that consistent improvement, I think you'll find that the offensive line at the end of this year can be a very, very dominant group.
Q. Coming into the year Ole Miss, their coaching staff had spoken about Bo Wallace kind of cleaning up his turnovers and his decision making. He only has three interceptions coming into this game. How have you seen him improve over last year in taking care of the football?
COACH MILES: Well, I think with age he's developing very well. He's always had kind of a really live arm, and he makes ‑‑ I think he always makes really good decisions. Just with a little bit more age you make those decisions more comfortably, and it comes out of your hand in a right fashion. I think you're seeing that with Bo Wallace.
Q. Kendall Beckwith, we saw him play some at linebacker and this past weekend he lined up at defensive end and did a good job. Is there any preference where he's going to be or ‑‑
COACH MILES: We'd like to get Kendall Beckwith on the field. We just feel like there's a number of places that he can play a lot of football, and we're getting some good linebacker play, and we think he'd be a great linebacker. We're getting some good defensive end play, and we think that he can be a very, very talented defensive end. We'd just like to get him to the field at the spot that would benefit us all.
Q. I think you guys had 21 different defensive line combinations. You got Christian and Quentin Thomas in for 15 or 16 snaps, been that way the past week, obviously. Is that optimal or is that more than usual?
COACH MILES: To me, I've got to be real honest with you, we like those interior defensive linemen to be able to step forward and take some snaps. I think Christian LaCouture is getting better and better, and I think that'll continue. I think Quentin Thomas is the same style of guy. The good news is we'll stay fresh there and we'll move some big, strong men in there and give them reps, and when we get to the game we ought to be in good shape.
Q. What's been the mental approach from the team after the loss from Georgia bouncing back, two good wins against Mississippi State and Florida? Just about the approach of the team.
COACH MILES: Yeah, I think there's a quality personality on our football team. I think they understand what they need to do to have success. I think there's some veterans that understand it very, very well and lead. I think there's some quality young men, the underclassmen who are watching the lead. But yet also they're playing big roles this season and they understand it. That's one of the reasons they came here; they expect to redirect and win.
I think it's been a quality approach. Again, I think the personality of our football team is one where they're ambitious, they're looking to the future, and this week it's all about Ole Miss.
Q. You lightly referenced attendance at the game at the start of this. Could you talk about if you care, why you care, and why that affects your team?
COACH MILES: I didn't get the first part of that question.
Q. Game attendance, you lightly referenced it.
COACH MILES: Yeah, we go into Tiger Stadium and have never been disappointed, period. It's as live a venue as there is, and we're happy about it. But it did appear that some of our faithful stayed out of the heat and kind of stayed in the air‑conditioning at the beginning of the game.
The only thing I would say is I'm with them. If it's hot for them, then they need to stay in the air‑conditioning. But only if it has to do with health, okay. It's hot out there for us, too. Let's come on out and let's make some noise. But again, I thought the venue, I thought the stadium was very live.
Q. Does Tahj Jones have a chance to return any time soon, and Ronald Martin had some kind of family issue?
COACH MILES: No, Tahj is a healing guy. He had a very, very minor setback. We're going to try him again this week. We're hopeful that he can be ready this week.And Ronald Martin came back for the Mississippi State game, got a little nicked, and we decided to hold him for this game.
Q. Colby Delahoussaye, you never know how a guy is going to react coming into the season. Having never kicked before, he's been excellent. Talk about your confidence in him. And then Jamie Keehn, he had a couple of bad punts, he punted well, had another one, was kind of off this week. Your willingness to stay with him as a punter? I know you have a couple other options.
COACH MILES: Well, Delahoussaye continues to work hard. He's a guy that understands the process. The process is you go to the practice range and you hit that putt and you hit that putt and you hit that putt, and then you get that 7‑iron and you hit that ball and you hit that ball, and it's just how he approaches it, and he works at it in a very defined fashion throughout a game week. You seldom see him make the same mistake. That's why he's playing well. That's why he's kicking well.
I think the same is true about Jamie Keehn. I think that sometimes when you get that big, booming leg that you many times over‑stride and your leg swing doesn't need to be too much because you've got a big leg, and all you have to do is instead of hitting that big‑head driver, you might want to just take that small wood out and take a nice, easy swing, and you'd be surprised how well it'll go. That's Jamie. You see that he's very, very talented, and we have confidence in him. We think that he's the guy.
Q. Magee, can he pass?
COACH MILES: Magee?
Q. Wasn't he a high school quarterback?
COACH MILES: Yes, absolutely.
Q. Okay, well? I thought that was a good call, not a ‑‑ when you throw the ball, the throwback? Maybe if you put him out there it would make a difference because they wouldn't know that the quarterback ‑‑
COACH MILES: No. 14, Magee, right?
Q. Yeah, throw it down the field.
COACH MILES: Okay, down the field. (Writing on note pad.) To anybody, just anybody?
Q. As a play.
COACH MILES: Oh, you want to throw it to Zach and then throw it back? Hang on a second. I got that one now.