Sept. 1, 2008
AMHERST, Mass. -
UMass football coach Don Brown and linebacker Josh Jennings both took part in Monday's weekly CAA teleconference. Jennings, this week's CAA Co-Defensive Player of the Week, and Coach Brown spoke on the team's performance against Albany and what they expect from Holy Cross.
On what Josh Jennings means to the defense:
Josh is an extremely active young man, he's moved from the outside to the middle, which carries a lot of responsibilities. He was in and out of the game also on Saturday due to the weather conditions and that kind of a scenario but he ended up with 13 tackles and a key interception late in the ballgame that was a critical play for us. We just see him improving at the middle linebacker spot and he's really quick twitch, plays with tremendous emotion and intensity and I don't think he's nearly as good as he's going to be capable of being down the road.
On what he saw from his team in week one:
Well one of the things I told the guys was somewhere along the line we're going to face adversity in the football game. Little did I know that we'd give up a 52-yard screen for a touchdown, not move the ball on offense in the first quarter, then drop a punt. Kind of a crazy play. I thought it was close to being kick catch interference. The thing ends up in the end zone for a safety so we're down nine to nothing before you can even blink. Second quarter I thought our offense responded extremely well with two scoring drives, a touchdown to Ian Jorgensen then we decided to go for it on fourth down and short in another opportunity and Liam got the ball to Tony Nelson of a little bit of a play action deal and kind of got the game back at 14-9 so I thought we settled in in the second quarter. In the third quarter Tony came out had a big run, 70-yard run. He had a 172 yards rushing on the day and put us up 21-9. I thought from there we didn't look back we did give up a late score late in the third with a touchdown drive from Albany to close it to five but then again I thought our offense responded going right back down the field and we got another score from Jeremy Horne. 28-16 and really after the first quarter it's 28-7 game pretty much so I was kind of happy with the way we handled adversity. There are a lot of things we need to improve upon. Just missed assignments lack of execution in some areas but outside of the one gap in the kicking game I thought our kicking game was fairly solid. Both kickers were impressive. Brett Arnold had a very solid day with an extremely solid net. He was 41 yards net punting which is a big improvement for him. [Armando] Cuko made good on all his extra points and was okay on the kick-off piece and I thought our cover teams were really good.
On if he'll preach that the biggest gains have to be made between weeks one and two:
I don't think you really have to preach it. The reality is that you don't get a heck of a lot of live action during the pre-season period especially with the limitations that we have on scholarships. The bottom line is you're trying, the old cliché, you want to go to war with all your soldiers so you try to keep your guys healthy during the pre-season period and you get your couple opportunities to scrimmage. Without a scrimmage you're going to have to find out where you are as a football team in game 1 and that's always a concern for where you are on both sides of the ball and in the kicking game. This film you can certainly learn a ton from. I don't think our guys were very excited about the way they performed on Saturday but at the same time that provides motivation and impetus moving forward and gives the coaches a chance to accentuate the positive and strengthen the weaknesses.
On the performances of the wide receivers:
Well I like the way Horne made some big plays. We anticipated he would and he had four catches for 37 yards and a big catch in the fourth quarter for a touchdown. Julian Talley, a redshirt freshmen receiver, got his feet wet and played significant minutes and had one catch for 20 yards. We're disappointed we didn't get the ball to Victor Cruz, we tried to on a couple occasions. We still got some work to do there but again we really feel confident about the way we're playing there. We feel good about the guys' attention to detail and feel that will just improve as we move forward. Ian Jorgensen, our tight end had two keys catches for seven yards, one for a touchdown in the red-zone. Again, 10-20 kind of modest to Liam in terms of the throwing yards at 92. We had a few deep opportunities that we just missed on. But again when you throw for three touchdowns and you rush for 220 we certainly won the game in the physical yards.
On Holy Cross and its quarterback, Dominic Randolph:
Yes Randolph's a very, very good player. He has back several receivers with the leaders being Jon Brock and Brett McDermott. Terrance Gass is a solid contributor from the tailback position. They have four or five starters back in the offensive line. They have a veteran unit back on defense. They've got some work to do in the secondary so we have to just see who some of those guys will be. They lost three legitimate players in the secondary from a year ago and they've turned the corner. They're a perennial favorite now in the Patriot League and have a chance for the NCAA playoffs and we had a heck of a game with them here in Amherst last year when we kind of outlasted them, 40-30.
On his and the team's performance against Albany:
I think we cam out a little sluggish at first defensively. They caught us off guard with the no huddle. It was a really hot game so I guess a lot of kids were cramping up throughout the game which kind of messed us up from the start. I think everyone played to their potential I would say. We had adversity, Coach Brown said we would have adversity all through the week in this game. We definitely had adversity the first drive when they came through and scored on the screen. I think we responded well and I think everyone stuck to their guns and everyone played like they should have.
On being starter and having learned from players like Jason Hatchell and Charles Walker:
Well I learned a lot, especially in practice. Every practice they came out, they were motivated. They wanted to practice. They wanted guys that just came along and wanted to play the game. They prepared every week and most of all they were smart players. They were always watching film and they always played physically they had traits that a lot of other players didn't. The one thing I learned from them was to always be persistent in running to the ball and your reads as a linebacker that's crucial as far as picking up calls and reading your keys. With them being gone I think we'll be fine at the linebacker. Everyone says our youth is the question mark but I think we'll be fine with me, George Byrd, Anthony Rouzier, in there and Andy Gomes at the SAM. I think we'll be good. We're looking forward to this week against Randolph at quarterback at Holy Cross. They have a good team there and I think I'm just looking forward to the challenge along with the team. We're taking this as a challenge.
On his journey before coming to UMass:
Yes, it's definitely a long journey. I just learned to stay persistent, not give up. I've been through a lot of obstacles in my life. With high school and me not getting into school at first with being eligible for a scholarship and stuff like that. I just kept at it and I had a lot of people around me who gave me support through the way and really helped me out. As far as junior college, that was a tough stop. I wasn't really planning on doing that but I had no other choice at the time so I took that and ran with that. It was a good experience, I learned a lot from it. I'm here at UMass now. I got hurt my first year as a sophomore and had to redshirt. I came back the following year which was last year and had a great season. This year I'm just looking for the challenge to be the starter and make the team as good as possible.
On if Coach Browns kind words about him motivate him:
JJ: Yes definitely because with Coach Brown, he always has high expectations for everyone who plays for him and he wants everyone to do well. He encourages us to keep on fighting and keep on plugging away at his program, at his defensive schemes and we'll get better. Me, I take my play very seriously. I don't think that I play as well as I am capable of playing this week. I definitely think I can play a lot better. Coach Brown is a tough guy to play under because he demands every day in and out that he gets the most out of you at practice and during the game. You will give the most that you have every day with him. He's a great coach and I love playing for him.
On what he expects from Holy Cross:
I haven't watched any tape yet but I'll be watching tape all through the week starting tomorrow and we'll get started with them tomorrow as far as preparation goes. I feel as though they have a great offense, they spread the ball around very well. They stay in the spread the whole game as I remember from last year. Everybody on the team, they all work in unison. The O-line seems to all work together very well. The quarterback as you know, he's a great leader. We're just hungry for the challenge. We're going to blitz and keep on blitzing and blitzing and blitzing.