Joker Phillips Press Conference Coverage

Oct. 31, 2011

Head Coach Joker Phillips

COACH PHILLIPS: Injury report, D.J. Warren came out of this game okay. Mister Cobble is better this week than he was last week. Raymond Sanders will practice tomorrow. Donte Rumph had a bruised knee and will practice on Wednesday. CoShik Williams had a mid foot sprain and should be okay and we'll look at him tomorrow. We probably won't practice him until Wednesday. And then Morgan Newton, the doctor checked him out yesterday and today, should be fine. We just thought he couldn't protect himself (during the game Saturday after being injured). Didn't have a lot of swelling, but we'll check it out tomorrow and see how he does.

And with the quarterback situation, we will compete with those two guys this week, see which guy gives us the best chance to win this game. Both will get reps with the ones and the twos and we'll find out which one and decide which one we feel like gives us the best chance to win versus Ole Miss.

And leading to Ole Miss, good football team. You know, statistically we're about the same. They have inserted a quarterback in (Randall) Mackey and is beginning to move the ball, score points. Had some really good showings the last four weeks since he's been inserted. They've averaged about 330 yards since he has been inserted. He's a dual-threat quarterback.

They have some home run ability with him, with one of their backs, (Brandon) Bolden and with one of their receivers, (Jeff) Scott, and he's a big-time returner also. So they got some home run ability. They're averaging 27 yards punt return, which is huge. I'm not sure we've had 27 yards total all year. So they do have a big-time returner there. They've returned three (for a touchdown). One was called back, returned three for a touchdown. So they have some ability to hit some home runs out of the receiver position. Now they just added the quarterback. He has the ability also to hit some home runs and also tailback.

Defensively their linebacker (Mike Marry) is one of the top tacklers in the league, and you'll see two No. 3s. One is Scott on offense, who I just talked about as a receiver, and then another one, No. 3, which is the secondary guy, Charles Sawyer. He's a guy that is one of the leading pass defenders in our league. So don't be confused when you see both of those guys. One has dreads, one doesn't. That's how we recognize him. Any questions?

Q. Re: getting back the team’s emotion

COACH PHILLIPS: Well, you just do. You know, you're in this game to play. We still got a chance to have a special season. Still got a chance to reach some of our goals. And you just do. You have to get up every week. Everybody's in this game to play, and when you come to play, you have to play with emotions. No if, ands or buts about it. You have to bring the emotions with you when you're playing this game of football.

Q. re: keeping the team’s morale up

COACH PHILLIPS: Our guys have shown up every week and went about their business the right way. This is an important week because it gets tougher and tougher every week. You know, some of your goals start slipping away from you every week now. So we have to continue to keep 'em going, but thus far it has not been very tough.

Q. re: main factor in QB competition

COACH PHILLIPS: Who can get us in the end zone, who we feel can get us in the end zone, who is better prepared to execute the game plan that we put in.

Q. re: If Maxwell Smith is expected to know more of the playbook

COACH PHILLIPS: Yes. The thing we have to do is make sure he's able to protect himself. With Morgan being gimpy, and if he's the guy, if Max is the guy, with Morgan being gimpy, you have to worry about him going down also. So therefore he has to understand how to protect himself, within the protections, understand when to run the ball and get up underneath tacklers, all those things, when to throw the ball away, all those things that he needs to know this week. And it starts with the protection, him protecting himself. That's the thing that we have to get him up to speed, because last week he took some unnecessary shots that he didn't have to take if he changed the protection from one side to the other.

Q. re: Smith’s work ethic remaining strong

COACH PHILLIPS: Yeah. Obviously when you're not expected to be the No. 1 guy all the time, sometimes you don't always keep that same intensity up. But he's definitely a guy that spends a lot of time. You know, we give him DVDs. He takes them home, studies them. So he's not always over at our place as much as he was this summer, but he doesn't have that type of time. He's got school work and all those other things. And he's an excellent student also.

So he does a lot of it away from our place, but the intensity level is not as intense as it was in the summer because it's just human nature. He hasn't been a starter, and I think that'll change here this week, because a lot of times when you don't play, you think you know more than you really know. And then once you get out there you realize that you don't know as much as you thought you knew. And it's easy to sit in the film room and say I should (call) this protection or this protection and then you get on the field, and his first snap was one of those similar snaps that he didn't know what was going on. It just came in front of him, he just got in the fetal position and went down.

But I think it definitely helps that he got a chance to play. He got a chance to come back and watch the film and see the mistakes that he made, see how he can protect himself and how he can make it easier on himself. I think that definitely helps, because again, from the sideline you think you know more. All those guys that are backups think it's so easy. I'm going to do this, I'm going to do this. Once you get in the game, it comes real, real fast and becomes real difficult. And you realize quickly that I don't know as much as I thought I knew.

Q. re: if Smith sees the game slowing down

COACH PHILLIPS: Definitely. Definitely. After the first snap it definitely started to slow down, and it was a tough situation for a guy to go in. I think it might have been third down, and it was third and long. And again, that's a team that once they get you in the third and long there's a lot of (difficult defenses), and he saw some on his first snap of the game. And he just didn't know what was going on.

The good thing he protected the football, but like I say, after that it started slowing down for him. You know, on first and second down they didn't do as much. There was another snap in the game that kind of got him on third down. He didn't know whether to max protect it or try to get some guys out for him and we had to call time out.

That was another one. But after that, I think Coach (Randy) Sanders did a good job also on those third downs keeping enough blockers in for him. But when you do that, it's a guessing game because they could drop eight. They could drop eight and you'd only have three receivers out. But we guessed right a couple times and he was able to make a couple plays for us. And when you're keeping all those guys in you have enough protectors to protect him and he made a couple of plays with it.

Q. re: if UK has played more for possession on punt returns

COACH PHILLIPS: We've tried to return. We haven't held up (the opponent) as well as we could. Possession, that's our No. 1 goal at the end of the play, make sure we have possession of the football.

Randall’s (Burden) done a really good job of securing the football, but we haven't done a good job of getting him started at times also, but when we have blocked him, we haven't gotten many yards either. So we have to do a better job. That's one of the reasons why we're looking at Daylen Hall so much during the open week. And then you know, he goes down. He'll be healthy and back this week also. So we'll give him another opportunity.

Gene McCaskill is a guy who's done it for us before and he has only practiced one or two days a week. So we'll start working him back and feel like he's getting back to where he can go in there and help us some also.

But proud of the way Randall went in there and secured the football. That's one thing we were looking for when we first started looking for a returner. It's the thing that we harped on the most because possession of the ball is the most important thing.

Q. re: if he has seen the improvement he’d hoped for on defense

COACH PHILLIPS: We've seen some improvement. Again, it's hard to say how much because the number of snaps they've had to play, but last week, the disappointing thing is, we stopped our run, and that was the thing going into this game that you feared because this was a team that ran the ball so well against us in the past.

But we gave up some huge X plays in the pass game that was disappointing, and we were covering them. You know, we covered them really well. We just didn't make the play and that's the thing that's disappointing that we have to play the football better.

Q. Will you announce the starter or will you kind of string us along?

COACH PHILLIPS: We'll probably wait. We'll probably wait to decide who the starter is because I think we need time to digest all the things that we'll be looking for, so we'll probably wait till maybe Friday or even Saturday morning.

Q. Will the QBs split repetitions in practice?

COACH PHILLIPS: Yes. We'll give them both equal amount of reps.

Q. re: if Smith’s appearances vs. LSU and South Carolina helped him vs. Mississippi State

COACH PHILLIPS: You're right. He did not have a great introduction. I don't remember anybody calling for him either after those performances. Now they're calling for him, which is good. I'm proud of the way Max went in this game.

I think, like we just said, it (the game) slowed down for him a lot. The first three that he went in, I mean that was difficult situations to go in the game. He goes in at Florida late in the game, just try to finish the game. He goes in at LSU halftime, on the road, No. 1 team in the country, hostile environment, down 14, versus an unbelievable defense, NFL defense. That was a tough situation.

And he got inserted in the second half of the South Carolina game also, which is again a difficult situation, another hostile environment, probably even a faster defense than the one at LSU. And it was a tough deal. And then he goes into this game, with the game not out of hand, at home and does a good job for us. So proud of him. He'll get better. He'll only get better with experience and with time.

Q. re: Smith’s ability to throw the deep ball

COACH PHILLIPS: Yeah. I think it does. Like I say, we didn't have many opportunities. You know, we missed on the one post route in the end zone, kind of got away from him. And he tried to rush it. He saw it was open, which I like that his eyes were in the right place. He just kind of panicked and tried to get it to him as quickly as he possibly can and it kind of got away from him, but I do think he has the ability to throw deep on 'em.

Q. re: Smith’s numerous completions to Matt Roark

COACH PHILLIPS: He kept going to the guy that was his first read, and Roark was his first read.

I was just happy that his eyes were in the right place and he was seeing the field and he was getting the ball out of his hands, which matters. He completed some passes, and like I say, he got going. His confidence started to grow, and he could come over and talk to us about what was going on.

I can tell you at the first snap he didn't know what, and after that, he could tell you. He could spit out what was going on, and I think that was important. But Max has a lot of pride, like every quarterback that I've ever been around, and all he'll do is get better.

Q. re: Roark bouncing back after some struggles earlier in the season

COACH PHILLIPS: It says a lot about Matt. It also says a lot about Coach (Tee) Martin and his belief in Matt Roark and Coach (Greg) Nord that all these guys that said we're going to need Matt Roark before the season is over. And it says a lot about Matt Roark, because what he did, he did get yanked in a couple games, but you saw how he responded, and you always want to look how kids are going to respond, because you do things in this business to see how they're going to respond, too, sometimes. And Matt Roark went into special teams and he's on every special team. You very seldom see a wide receiver that's on every special team, and he's one of those guys that went about his business the way he normally does, with full-speed effort. He prepared himself doing special teams. Then he got the opportunity to go back in the game as a wide receiver and made a few plays for us. And like I say, it says a lot for him, for Coach Martin's belief in him and Coach Nord's belief in him also.

Q. re: players talking to their teammates

COACH PHILLIPS: You know, we had some guys this past week who step up and spoke. I'm not going to tell you all what was said. It was positive. And we had some other guys respond to that. So yeah, we do have those type of guys in the locker room.

Q. Who was the guy that started it?

COACH PHILLIPS: That's inhouse. But it was a guy on offense and a guy on defense stepped up and responded to it, in a positive way.

Q. re: Morgan Newton having to compete for his job after starting all season

COACH PHILLIPS: If you're any type of competitor, and I think Morgan is a big-time competitor, you want the competition. I can tell you this. When Max Smith was in the game on the sideline, I went over to try to find Morgan, and he's sitting beside Max and talking to him about here's what's going on.

So a guy who doesn't want the competition would have said, hey, you're on your own, big fellow. But Morgan was trying to help him, help this football team.

Q. re: decision to kick field goals or risk going for touchdowns

COACH PHILLIPS: It's very tempting. Very tempting. It is. But you know, a couple times, our defense had turned the ball over. And I just thought we needed to get something out of those turnovers. And the one time our offense had driven the ball down in the second half, and I really do think now it was a good decision because our offense did get going. They got some points. And they were responsible for those points.

Seems like the first six points, in their minds the defense was responsible for those points. Now this last drive they were responsible for those points and they felt like they could score some points, and we did. We ended up moving the ball a lot better. We only had three possessions in the second half (a field goal, a touchdown, and a drive to the MSU 8), which a lot of it had to do with us offensively. We ate up a lot of the clock, and it took us a while to get in the end zone, put together some drives. But they came back. And we would get 3, they would get 7. That makes it really difficult.

FastScripts by ASAP Sports

#48 Ridge Wilson, LB

On if the Mississippi State game is going to make it tougher to go to a bowl game…
“Every game is a must win game. Mississippi State and Ole Miss are in the same situation as we are in as far as the win column. Every game is a must win for us and if not, a bowl game and bowl experiences wouldn’t even be in the question. Next game really is going to be crucial.”

On the team’s confidence level…
“It is kind of hard to say. We haven’t had practice today but as I mentioned, we still have to keep pushing. It is kind of hard coming off multiple losses, but we have to keep pushing.”

#31 Mikie Benton, FS

On how they can stop big plays from happening…
“Being sound, assignment wise, alignment, and everything like that. Staying disciplined in our assignment and not trying to overdo our job, and mainly, do your job and just stay positive and focused.”

On what the team can do to keep the intensity in practice …
“Just having everybody having a sense of responsibility. For example, if I were to miss a tackle or pass break up, somebody would get on me saying ‘Hey Mikie, you can do better than that.’ It’s the same thing with me in the same situation with someone on the defensive line. Everybody needs to be able to pick everybody up.”

On getting prepared for Ole Miss…
“We haven’t watched too much film on them yet. We usually don’t start until Tuesday, but this is a great team. They played good against Arkansas and Arkansas is a very good team so it will be a very good match up. We just have to go in focused and be ready to play.”

# 3, Matt Roark, WR

On him playing well right now after a slow start to the season …
“I just tried not to get down on myself because I know that nothing good can come from that. I just stayed positive and kept working hard.”

On the connection between him and Maxwell Smith
“We have a great relationship and the extra work that we have had together has really helped our timing.”

On his outstanding game on Saturday …
“Yesterday was my birthday so I got a lot of phone calls. I have just been getting a lot of phone calls about my birthday and congratulations for the game I had. Other than that, it has just been regular days.”