Joker Phillips Monday Press Conference Coverage

Sept. 19, 2011

Head Coach Joker Phillips

COACH PHILLIPS: First our injury report. Billy Joe Murphy actually ran today. We'll try to find out tomorrow how he does with swelling. If he doesn't, we'll get him into some individual tomorrow. Then if he doesn't swell after, that we'll start getting him in some more of the practices.

Taiedo Smith, he ran Sunday, looked okay. We have to see how he does today, and then make a decision tomorrow whether or not he's capable of practicing.

Larry Warford is day-to-day with an ankle, but should be able to play on Saturday. He's day-to-day whether or not he'll practice. The reason we say day-to-day is because we don't want to reinjure him. We think he can go on Saturday, so that's the reason why he's day-to-day.

We have had a chance to watch the tape obviously a couple times. We've got to get better, especially offensively. We got to do a better job with our field position also. When you're struggling offensively, it's hard to go 80 yards because teams, all they want you to do is continue to snap the ball, which is our goal, keep offenses continuing to snap the ball.

We started on the 20 or less seven out of our 12 drives, and that’s hard, especially for an offense that's struggling. We got to do a better job at getting field position. A lot of that has to do with our kicking game and getting people stopped on defense.

On the other side, we talk about field position. 11 of the drives that Louisville had last week -- they only had one that started backed up. They had two on our side of the ball, which scored two out of three times. We had none on the other side of the ball. We got to do a better job in field position because it's hard when you're struggling offensively to drive the ball 80 yards.

Also I think our defense is playing really good, playing good defense. The thing that we can't do is we can't allow people to throw the ball over our head. Red zone defense teams have not scored a touchdown on us. They've been in the red zone five times against us, and we've allowed four field goals, so we have not given up a touchdown.

The thing we can't do is we can't allow the people to throw the ball over our heads. That's happened in a couple games.

We've got to do a better job as coaches. I've got to do a better job also. We have to give these guys a better plan and a better job of executing a plan that we give them.

We have a huge challenge. Florida is averaging 37 points a game, averaging 200 yards plus on both sides as far as running and passing. They are only allowing 8.7 (points) giving up, giving up 30 yards of rushing, which is what we ran for last week, 35 yards. That's a huge challenge.

Got great team speed in all phases. In the special forces, they have returned (a punt) for a touchdown, they've blocked two punts.

Huge challenge for us. We've got to play a clean, fast game with no mistakes, playing field position, taking our shots on offense, running the ball when they give it to us, making them snap the ball (when UK is) on defense to have an opportunity to win this game.

Any questions.

Q. re: Gene McCaskill

COACH PHILLIPS: Gene again is day-to-day also. The reason why they mention Gene is because we think he has a chance. He should practice tomorrow, so I didn't mention Gene. But he should be fine.

Q. Florida has always been known for great special teams. Any special emphasis on special teams this week?

COACH PHILLIPS: It's always a special emphasis. You don't want to get a punt blocked. The percentage goes up really high for a team that gets a punt block. Obviously last week we got a punt block. It didn't go backwards. Luckily it went forwards. Our defense was able to get them stopped.

We always have to put an emphasis on protecting our punter. That's one of our goals every week. There's three things I ask all three coordinators to give me what it's going to take to win every week; special forces, it's going to take protecting our punter and covering punts also.

This team is a great punt-block team. They've blocked two already this year. One of them they had 10 guys on the field, nine guys up, bad snap. We have to have the correct execution. They didn't have it. They blocked that one. They blocked one last week also.

We've got to protect our punter. That's a huge emphasis, not just this week, but every week.

Q. How concerned are you about the offensive line holding up?

COACH PHILLIPS: Well, I'm not concerned. I'm concerned about our overall offense. We've got to get going offensively. This is a similar deal to 2008, when we lost all the production. Our defense had to carry us for a few weeks. The difference is we're turning the ball over. That's the difference.

2008, we won our first three games. The way we won our first three games is not turning it over and creating turnovers. Right now we're even in the turnover margin. That's the huge difference. You can't turn the ball over when you're struggling offensively and put your defense in some tough situations. That's what we've done.

Q. You talk about clean and fast. Do you really think you have to play perfect against Florida?

COACH PHILLIPS: I don't think you have to play perfect. It's hard to go out and play perfect. If you ask Florida last week did they play perfect, no, they didn't play perfect, but they won the game.

I just think you have to take advantage of opportunities that are given to you. Can't have drops. Can't have turnovers. You can't have 14 minus-yard plays. You can allow a couple, but you can't allow 14 of them and have a chance to win.

I don't think you have to play perfect, but you have to play smart.

Q. Re: Florida’s transition to a new coach.

COACH PHILLIPS: They haven't changed. They're Florida. They have great athletes. They were in a transition last year, if you ask me, transition with the quarterback change. That was their transition. This quarterback has been the starter for two years. I don't consider it a transition.

Defensively, they've always been really good. They've always had great personnel. They've always had great personnel on offense as well. The special teams coordinator is the same as last year. Same philosophy. I think last year was the transition period. They got great players and a quarterback that's playing good for them also.

Q. What do you know about Charlie Weis and how his offenses play?

COACH PHILLIPS: You know, Coach Minter's worked for Charlie at Notre Dame, so they know each other. It will be a really good matchup between those two guys knowing each other.

I mean, Charlie likes to run the football. Also off the runs, he'll have a play-action off all the runs he has. He'll have a screen off of every run that he has. We just got to make sure that we recognize the things that they're trying to do, attack blockers, get off blockers, make plays.

Q. You mentioned their speed. How can speed impact a game and how much of a concern is that?

COACH PHILLIPS: Well, I mean, all of us in here have heard the term 'speed kills.' I know that's one of the clichés. Which one is overrated? It's not overrated this week. They got the type of speed that can hurt you.

They have probably the fastest guy in the world. They got probably the second fastest guy in the world. Urban (Meyer) built this team. He said he wanted to be the fastest team in the country and they probably are.

We've got to make sure when we get an opportunity to get our hands on them, we've got to wrap them up and get a chance to tackle them, we have to gang tackle, get off blocks and get to those fast guys also.

Q. With all the waiting that EJ Fields has had, what has been his attitude?

COACH PHILLIPS: His attitude has been great. We never questioned his attitude, his want to play. He was suspended earlier in the season, so he didn't get a lot of reps. Why give a guy reps that's not going to play for you in the opening games? He got some reps in the second week that he took advantage of. Didn't get an opportunity because we thought he was still behind.

Got an opportunity (in the Louisville game). He was going to be our first guy to go in the game at the receiver position. He went in, took advantage of the opportunity that was given to him, did what receivers are supposed to do, which is catch the football.

Like I say, he made some big plays for us, one on the scramble that Newton threw out of the end zone. That could have easily gone the other way. He steps in front of the defender, comes back to it, makes the play. Those things give receivers a chance. He got a chance to play and took advantage of it. He'll get even more of an opportunity this week.

Q. EJ said it was easier on the field?

COACH PHILLIPS: And it should be. That says something about the way we practice, our practices. We try to turn the heat up on practice so it becomes easy. The game should be easier than practice.

Q. Compared to last year, how much is Trey Burton showing up on film?

COACH PHILLIPS: He showed up a lot last year, he had six touchdowns against us. They don't actually do as much (of those plays) this year. They're more of a conventional offense. They're not as much gun, read, option, those things. They're not doing those things they did with him last year. They're getting the balls in the hands of some of those world-class sprinters we were talking about.

Q. Running the ball about 70% of the time on first down. On those plays, 1.2 yards per carry. Is 70% running on first down predictable at all?

COACH PHILLIPS: I'll tell you, in the first game, first half we threw the ball five times on first down. Getting really, really far behind the count, behind the sticks. That was a game that we saw that our defense was playing outstanding. It was, Hey, just don't screw it up, give our defense a chance to win this game.

Same with the second game, similar to the first game. Our defense was playing good after the first three series. It was, Hey, let's just move the sticks, don't turn the ball over, take shots when you get an opportunity, and we should win the game. Those things happen.

We've got to throw the ball first down. We've got to mix it up. We can't be predictable. Those first two games, that's the reason why the percentage is so high because of the first two games.

Q. Talk about speeding up the tempo.

COACH PHILLIPS: We've got to play faster. Looked like we played a little faster when we went into a two-minute mode. Not sure we'll go that fast, but we'll try to do some no-huddling. If you can remember, when we were a big no-huddle team, we'd burn up the clock. Our time of possession was a lot more than the opponents had.

I think because at times you take your time, you get up there, see what's going on, then there's time you have to play faster in the two-minute mode.

We got to mix it up in the type of tempos we do play because I think it does give us an advantage. Obviously it did last Saturday. We got to try to find a tempo that fits us.

Q. Do you talk to the players about the streak?

COACH PHILLIPS: No, that was the past. That's the past. We don't talk about the past. We talk about the present. The present, this team is the team that has to play Florida, not those last teams that played them.

Q. (continued thoughts on team’s current situation)

COACH PHILLIPS: We've been here before, battled our way out of it. We'll continue to battle our way out of this. We're 2-1. We're not 0-3. Yeah, we could be 0-3. We also could be sitting here at 3-0 also.

As bad as we played the other night, we got a chance to have the ball first and goal inside the 10 yard line and win this game or take it into overtime, and see what happens.

We're 2-1. Let's see how we do the rest of these games.

Q. re: effect of Raymond Sanders’ absence

COACH PHILLIPS: It doesn't matter if you're not blocking people, getting hat on hat. Doesn't matter if you have 14 minus-yard plays. Doesn't matter who's in there. I got a chance to meet Gale Sayers. It would be hard for him, even, if we're not blocking people, getting a hat on a hat.

I think the backs that played the other day competed their tails off. CoShik (Williams) got an opportunity, another guy that took advantage of it. There will be opportunities for other guys that haven't had opportunities. All that does is build up confidence in each position. I think we got even more confidence in the running back position. We got more guys that can make plays for us.

We miss Raymond. We'd like to have him back. He's done for two or three weeks. We'll see what happens when he comes back.

Q. Question regarding the offensive line.

COACH PHILLIPS: I don't know. It's the million-dollar question. We got to get them better. We got to get them playing better, us as coaches. That's our job. We're not giving up on those guys. Those guys play a lot of ball around here and have had a lot of success around here.

We're struggling right now. It's not just the offensive line. It's the offense in general. It's not just the offensive line. It's a team thing. That part of the team is struggling right now.

Like I say, we don't turn the ball over, we don't look as bad. You're not sitting here talking about how bad our running game is because I think we have more opportunities. You have more opportunities to run the ball when you turn the ball over. You have more opportunities to score. We just haven't had enough snaps to be able to run the ball.

Q. On third-and-longs, you’ve had 22 plays. What is the thinking on running (some of those plays)?

COACH PHILLIPS: A lot of times on third-and-long, they drop eight guys. You're throwing into some tough coverages. When we drop eight, that's where we got a lot of our interceptions. We're one of the top teams in the conference in turnovers because we getting people in third-and-long and they're trying to drop back and throw the ball. Every zone is covered underneath. You got three deep behind it. I think it becomes really tough.

We've tried to run the ball (on some plays). In the past we have converted on third-and-long by running the ball.

Q. How does the Florida defense compare to what you've faced so far?

COACH PHILLIPS: They're better. You can look at the statistics and see. We talked about the team speed. They're definitely better. So, again, we've got to play cleaner than we've played to have an opportunity to beat these guys.

Q. When you look at the quarterback sacks the other night, what was it?

COACH PHILLIPS: It was a combination. We've got to get the ball out of our hands. We've got to protect better. We had to sight adjust a couple times that we missed that we can't block a couple guys.

Morgan, for the most part, protected himself and knew we had enough guys to block the guys we have.

Again, got to win one-on-one battles. A few times we didn't win one-on-one battles and a few times he hung onto the ball too long. That amounted to a lot of the minus-yard plays. Six of the minus-yard plays were on sacks.

Q. Re: players being angry about the loss

COACH PHILLIPS: This is definitely an emotional game. You have to wear your emotions on your sleeves. We want our guys playing angry. That's the way this game is meant to be played.

Q. As a coach, how aware are you about the way fans feel about things?

COACH PHILLIPS: I feel the same way. You know, I feel the same way as everybody. Hey, understand this: I care about this program more than anybody in here. There's not one person in here that cares more about it than me.

I'm angry. I'm angry. I've been a part of an 0-10-1 season. Battled ourselves to get to a 9-3 season. As a coach I've been in a 1-10 season. Battled ourselves to where we won eight, nine games. I'm angry also. I'm not satisfied with what we're doing here, I'm not. It starts with me. We'll get it corrected.

Q. On fans judging the program, you're only three games into your second year as the head coach.

COACH PHILLIPS: I think it's fair given today's society because this is a society that, what do you call it, microwave society. I think it's fair. I know what I signed up for, I really do. I'm not one that takes this position for granted. I understand what I signed up for. I understand the concerns that everybody has. I have the same concerns. We're trying to get them fixed.

Again, I care about this program, this football program, as much as anybody that's out there.

Q. I think you said one of the words of advice Rich Brooks gave you was turn the noise down.

COACH PHILLIPS: Yeah. Listen to it means you don't react to it. People say, ‘We want to do this.’ You don't react to it. You stay with your plans. There's nothing wrong when you hear it, but just don't react to it. That's what 'Don't listen to the noise' means.

I watched that old guy go through the same thing, how he handled it and reacted to it. We're trying to do it the same way. We're battling our tails off, continuing to recruit as hard as we possibly can.

Q. What is your reaction if players tweet things to fans?

COACH PHILLIPS: I think it's unnecessary. I think we got great fans, we do. We got great fans. We feel their concerns. We got the same concerns that we're trying to get fixed. I don't think that's necessary.

Our fans did a really good job last week. We expect them to do a good job this week also.

Q. Did Coach Brooks react to whatever he heard behind closed doors?

COACH PHILLIPS: No. He never came in, throwing stuff, telling me to do this, telling Coach Brown to do that. No, he didn't. We went about business as usual.

There's some things that he would come in and say he wanted, but it wasn't because of a reaction to something he heard. I'll do the same.

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