bleedCrimson.net will be conducting weekly interviews with Coach Mumme throughout the 2008 season. This week we talked with Coach about the team's loss UNM, Chase's performance against the rivals, Coach explains Chase's injury during the game, and we look ahead to the game against Alcorn State.
bleedCrimson.net: Talk a little bit about the game overall.
Hal Mumme: I was proud of the way our guys came out. We started out great and I think we played hard through the whole game. We had some unfortunate things happen. The biggest unfortunate thing that happened defensively was D-Rich (Derrick Richardson) getting hurt. Michael Zant came in and played pretty well but we couldn't replace D-Rich's experience. The thing that D-Rich does, the reason he leads the nation in tackling when we've only played three games and everyone else has played four or five, is because he recognizes things so fast and he just gets there. He makes the tackle at the line of scrimmage or for a one yard game. Michael's making them for five yard gains or eight yard gains. And Michael will get like that eventually, he's a good tackler and a good player but D-Rich is a senior and Michael's a freshman. That's probably the number one thing that hurt our defense because we weren't playing well on the d-line and we've really gotta work on that this week. We're going to kind of open that up to some competition. D-Rich had been covering up for our mistakes there.
Offensively we didn't play well in the O-line. After the first two touchdowns they pretty much committed seven guys to the pass and we didn't run the ball well. We didn't run block well enough. So, we're going to do the same thing there. We're going to have some more competition at right tackle, left tackle and running back. I think running back, we've got some good players but we've got to make a decision. This was our third game, we're still kind of learning about these guys. We need to get to the point where we've got some consistency, like we do with our receivers.
Kicker, I thought kicking game was bad on kickoff coverage. I thought our kickers kicked the ball well. We had a guy on the long return got out of his lane, got blocked and knocked three of our guys down because he went the wrong on a lane. Then they had another one that wasn't quite as long a return, it was a good return. It shouldn't have been, we just missed a tackle.
Kyle Hughes actually made the tackle on the long one which I thought was terrific. He had a bad punt that cost us early in the game. Of course he missed the short field goal but he made the long one. He made the hard one, missed the short one. You know, he's a freshman and he's learning how to play and it was a huge game. I like the way Jordan Davenport kicked the ball. He did the last two or three kickoffs.
bc.net: He had the one that went through the uprights.
HM: Yeah, he boomed it. I'm kind of glad of that because he needed to get over his jitters. We've been trying to do that with him for a couple of games now. He went in there and got over his jitters. So that'll help Kyle and take some of the pressure of him, not having to do everything.
bc.net: Talk about the first play that you scored a touchdown on with A.J. Harris. How similar was that to a play you called for Chris Williams back against Utah State in I believe 2006?
HM: Pretty similar. Just a vertical on a flat rout to hold the coverage and their safety didn't get off the hash and Chase did a nice job hitting him. I thought A.J., the thing he did well, a lot of guys when they get shoved out of bounds, they just quit on the play. A.J. kept fighting through it and got back in. The refereee made a great call, sometimes they miss that, he threw his hat where he got forced out. He came back in, caught the ball and beat their safety. That score kind of set up the next score. They weren't worried about A.J. on the first play, then they got to worrying about him and they gave up the post to Marcus [Anderson] on the next one.
bc.net: Talk a little bit about the defense. They've been playing pretty well considering the amount of time they've spent on the field the last couple of games.
HM: Well, part of that is their own doing. You've gotta get off the field. You can't give up a ten play drive for 80 yards and a 13 or 14 play drive for 58 yards. When you get them to third down you've gotta stop them. This game they didn't do that, against UTEP they did. Again, I think some of that comes back to D-Rich. You can't underplay losing the leading tackler in the nation. Hopefully he'll be back for Nevada. I'm hoping that Michael Zant, he's got a little bit of game experience, will play a little bit better this week.
bc.net: Talk a little bit about Davon House, he picked up the team's first interception of the season. And the team is only -2 in turnover margin.
HM: We're getting better at it and hopefully that'll continue and we'll get a few more of them.
bc.net: Chase finishes up his career with 2,596 yards, 23 touchdown passes. Talk about him and his play and what it is about his play that enables him to play so well in the big games.
HM: I just think he's a great player. He's going to play at the next level. Unfortunately he's had to be the guy that broke the ceiling around here in terms of ability around him. Certainly this is our best group so far. But the first time we had to play those guys we just barely had enough guys at every position to get them all on the field. We're a a lot better at some positions. We should be tremendously better. Our season kinda started because of the hurricane, started out backwards. It really, to have the first game to be able to get some of the stuff and solve some of the stuff, we had to solve it in a game at Nebraska and then two huge rivalry games. So it's been a little bit difficult and Chase has suffered from that a little bit. I think he'll be a lot better the rest of the season.
He had a terrific game. The interception was my fault. He actually had a hurt arm in the second quarter. He couldn't throw the ball in any of the third quarter. That's why we just sat on the lead. He couldn't throw it. I called one pass play, I knew I shouldn't have called it and I did anyway and they picked him off. He just couldn't gun th eball. What he had was late in the second half he hit his elbow on the top of a helmet. Basically it was the same as if you hit your funny bone with a hammer. And the trainer said it'd be fine, it'd just take a while to calm down. Well we went in at halftime, we didn't know if it'd calm down, it did somewhat. He came back out and warming up to play in the second half he literally had tears running down his eyes trying to warm up. I almost benched him, Chase wouldn't have allowed me to bench him but I almost did to just wait for it to calm down.
So we took the wind in the 4th quarter and we told them what we were gonna do, we're going to run the ball, buy Chase some time.
Our defense made a great stand on the first drive after they had the long kickoff return we actually sacked them and threw them back a couple times and kept them from scoring. Then they punted it dead on the two yard line. We were about half a step from breaking that thing, a long ways. But we didn't get it done so we had to punt out of there and they got a field goal out of that.
Then the next series I thought well maybe he's calmed down enough and I tried to throw a playaction pass and I shouldn't have called it. He just didn't have anything on the ball and couldn't get it there. They picked that off and got a field goal off of that. The defense did two great things right there to hold them to field goals. Then we kind of got the third quarter over with. It got better for him, he still wasn't 100% for the rest of the game. But he threw pretty well, it got better and he's doing fine now. If you've ever hit your funny bone, if you can imagine someone hitting it with a hammer, that's basically what it was.
bc.net: Talk a little bit about this week's game. With the season starting two weeks later for you because of the hurricane, will you be looking for the improvements this week that you would have been looking for if this were your third game?
HM: Yeah. It is what it is and we've just got to make the best of it. I'm glad we're playing rather than having an open date, I think it would have been bad if we hadn't been able to find someone.
bc.net: How's the team doing on the injury front?
HM: Well we lose Derrick Richardson. Kyle Smith is still out at left tackle. The backup guys are just gonna have to step up and play better this week.
bc.net: What are some things that you'll be looking to work on in this game on Saturday?
HM: We want to get better in the D-line, we want to run the ball better and we want to get better on the o-line. If we can do those three things we ought to be in pretty good shape going into conference play.