bleedCrimson.net: It looked like your team wasn’t intimidated by the atmosphere at LSU and being able to force four turnovers in the first quarter against a Top 25 team has to be something that you’re proud of.
Doug Martin: Yeah, you know defensively we’ve been able to cause turnovers all year long. The frustrating thing right now is getting us to play four quarters of defense. As you mentioned, the first quarter, four turnovers and I think we held them to 23 yards of offense. But we didn’t sustain it. Obviously offensively we need to take advantage of those turnovers too. It was a learning experience for our young players to go down there and play in an atmosphere like that and get that experience and help us down the road.
bc.net: What was your overall assessment of the team’s offense. For a lot of the game it tough going but you had a couple decent drives and the touchdown run by Andrew Allen was a highlight. You finished the night doing better on offense than Sam Houston State and UL Monroe, something we talked about last week in terms of measuring yourselves against similar type teams.
DM: Right, we competed well at times. I thought we got a little bit overwhelmed by their defense up front. Their defensive line was tough for us to block with the exception of Ume, our center, who really had a good night, blocked really well. We struggled with that. The discouraging thing is still the turnovers. We’ve got to find a way to limit the turnovers and that wasn’t LSU, that was just us making mistakes. If we can limit that, we can be a good offensive team.
bc.net: How do you think the pass defense faired? That was something we talked about last week with the defense obviously not having been tested to agains the level of LSU athletes. On one of the touchdown throws it looked like the defense had good coverage, it was just a good throw and an even better catch by the LSU player.
DM: I think we held in there pretty well as far as throwing the ball. Again, the Achilles heel of stopping the run is going to be something we’ve got to solve. Georgia Southern is leading the nation rushing the ball, it’s going to be real paramount this weekend but I thought as far as playing a balanced offense, we played against the pass pretty well.
bc.net: Who were a few players that you thought that really stood out in their play? You mentioned Ume, who are a couple others?
DM: I thought Andrew Allen went in and did a nice job, was not overwhelmed and that gives us a lot of confidence to use him maybe in some other roles. Teldrick Morgan played another good game like he has been all along. I thought defensively Dalton Herrington and JB Copeland along with Derek Ibekwe, those three freshmen linebackers continue to make tremendous progress. I think those guys can be real special. Kawe Johnson had a good game too, he caused a turnover.
bc.net: What was the defense able to do to force those four turnovers in the first quarter?
DM: Well we were bringing a lot more pressure than what we had in the previous games. We were trying to get our defense to move forward so we really put in some different blitzes that we were going to force our defense to use and learn and I thought those got home. We were able to rattle the quarterback a little bit, we got a sack early on that rattled him a little and we were running to the football and hitting hard. The fumble that Kawe Johnson caused, he put a helmet on the ball and that’s how you get those things.
bc.net: Looking ahead to Georgia Southern, they’re a team that has played well in their transition up to FBS and could quite easily be 5-0 at this point. When you look at their team and what they do, how much of it is different from what they were doing last year to this year under first year head coach Willie Fritz who was at Sam Houston State?
DM: The offense is a lot different. They were about like Cal Poly before, they were strictly a double slot wishbone team. Now they’re much more like UNM. It’s all out of the shotgun, they’re trying to throw the ball a little bit, they’re a power downhill running team. They still have some option in their offense but they’ve done a nice of using the talent that they had. They’ve got a lot of good players there, they’ve got a lot of speed. This may be the fastest football team that we’ll have played besides LSU.
bc.net: What are some things that you’ve seen from Georgia Southern defensively that you think you might be able to exploit a little bit with your speed at wide receiver?
DM: The passing game, they’ve given up some plays in the passing game. We throw the ball well, we’ve got receivers that can make plays. That’s a place we feel comfortable with the match ups. We have to be able to run the ball. We won’t get overwhelmed by their size but their team speed is really good. That’s one of the things we’ll have to deal with.
bc.net: After the end of non-conference play, what is your assessment of the team and where are they in relation to where you’d hope they would be?
DM: I think kicking game wise we’ve been very good, probably a little bit better than what I’d hoped we’d be. Coverage team wise I know we’re much better that we were last year. Defensively, we’re a little disappointed with where we are at this point as far as stopping the run. We’re still not effective enough at slowing people down and getting off the field but we are causing turnovers which is a real positive. I think offensively the only negative thing I see in our offense right now is the turnovers. We’re throwing the ball well, we’re running the ball well and we’ve got good balance but we’ve got to learn to take care of the football. I think really the turnover margin will dictate this game.
bc.net: What are some things you’re trying to implement to try to get the players to hold on to the ball better?
DM: Well it’s a hard thing to coach. You do all the drills you can in practice about taking care of the football and ball security and we do a great job of taking care of the ball in practice but it’s got to translate into the field. Eventually if it’s one player that’s doing it over and over and over you’ve got to find someone else to play but our problem right now is it’s several different players, it’s not just one guy. We’ve got to continue to stress that as a coaching staff that we’ve got to take care of the ball and defensively have to keep doing what we’ve been doing because we’ve caused 12 turnovers through five games.
bc.net: As far as personnel goes, how’s the health of Larry Rose and Thomas McGwire?
DM: Thomas is full speed and should be fine and should go this week. Larry looked great yesterday in practice, the best I’ve seen him look in the last two weeks, we’ll see how he looks today in practice but I fully expect him to be back to his old self. We’ve got Jerrel Brown back as well, he’s been out the last two weeks with a shoulder injury. Alex Trujillo, defensive lineman who missed the last game is also back. I think we’re in pretty good shape.
bc.net: As you look into the full conference schedule, how much different is it preparing than it was last year when you weren’t in a conference?
DM: I think there’s a lot of new teams we’re not familiar with so that’s a little bit different but it is real comfortable because we fit real well with the Sun Belt. I think we’re on a level playing field with hose guys. I think talent-wise we can match up with most teams in the Sun Belt. This one is going to be the toughest one to match up with talent-wise. I think the rest of it we’re in pretty good shape and have a chance to win a lot of games.