Oct. 19, 2009
AMHERST, Mass. -
The Colonial Athletic Association held its weekly football teleconference on Monday and usual UMass head coach Kevin Morris fielded answers from the media. Following the Minutemen's thrilling Homecoming win over #4 New Hampshire and heading into this Saturday's game at #1 Richmond, Coach Morris had plenty to talk about.
Below is the full transcript of Coach Morris' portion of the teleconference.
On Saturday's 23-17 win over #4 New Hampshire:
It certainly was a great game. The UNH-UMass game is a rivalry game and in these last bunch of years it has really been a classic and this one was more of the same. I think for us personally what we've seen all year long is that our kids do play for 60 minutes and they play hard and we've been trying to get better week-to-week in terms of our execution. Because in this league, if you have too many lapses you're going to end up losing the ball game. So we're going to continue to work on that. But we did fight for the full 60 minutes and it took all the way down to three seconds left in the very last play with Toman and the ball in his hands and that was not an easy three seconds but we were fortunate to come out on top of a great football game.
On Armando Cuko's play this season and the decision to kick the 41-yard field goal late in the game:
Yes, Armando, he's been on fire I guess you could say. He's really been kicking the ball well and not only on field goals, his kickoffs have gotten better and better. He had a really strong day on kickoff for us and with Kackert back there deep you really have to be concerned about that. He did a good job of putting the ball deep into the corners and giving our cover team a chance to get there and pin them in pretty good. Cuko has really done a great job with the field goals all year long and also now on the kickoffs he's also becoming better and better, as I mentioned. In terms of that last minute decision with about 1:26 left, it ended up being a fourth and four. If we get the first down, then we can run the clock out and the game's over. But if we don't get it, then they only need a field goal to tie. So we decided `Hey let's just kick the field goal, Armando's doing well so let's go ahead and kick it through and then make them earn it with a touchdown to get back in the game and try to win it.' So we tried to make them drive the whole length of the field, the full 80 as opposed to just driving it 50 and kicking a field goal to tie and put it into overtime. We thought we could rely on Armando and he certainly came through again.
On if his confidence in Cuko has increased over the course of the season:
Not necessarily. He's the kicker. Each week he says `Hey I think I can get this one, this way, in the wind or with the wind.' And from there I say `All right, we'll put that in the game plan and pregame to go with that mentality.' I always think when we send the field goal team out they are going to be successful. So the confidence has always been there. It hasn't been a problem.
On if he'll treat this week's road trip differently than the Delaware week:
Well, not much. We deliver week-to-week it's pretty clear about how we want to go about our business in terms of practice and preparation and right into the game and how we want to perform in the game. We stubbed our toe against Delaware, I guess you can say that, but you know Delaware's a pretty good football team. They are a good team. We didn't play well, certainly, at times but they also forced those issues. So week-to-week we're going to come out with the same mentality of practice hard and play hard and play physical for sixty minutes. We're really trying to focus on our ball control and maintaining our execution daily in practice.
On if he made any changes to the secondary between Delaware and UNH:
No. Again, week to week. That Delaware kid had a real nice night against us and he put the ball right on the money. We weren't able to get pressure on him and get him rattled enough. So that's obviously going to be our source of concern going into this week against Richmond. We have to keep him off his game, Ward will light you up if you don't. So you know our game plan is going to be `Hey let's keep him off balance,' and we tried to do that to Toman last week and not let him sit in there and pick you apart. That's really what's going to help our secondary on the back end.
On how he plans to contain Richmond's running game:
Oh, we've got a lot of plans. We've got to go out there and execute them and make sure we get those plans done. We better be able to stop the run. You have to stop the run in our league, particularly against Richmond. The reason they win their football games is because they do so well running the football and with Ward doing a great job protecting the ball and putting the ball on the money in the pass situations. They don't turn the ball over. They don't make a lot of mistakes. So in the end you have got to play a really strong game. We have to be physical and that's going to be the key, being physical up front. We've got our four senior D-linemen to really try to obviously put a hold on them again, to really kind of handle them up front, slow that running game down, and force them to be more one dimensional.
On Eric Ward being a passing and running threat, and if he will have someone "spy" him:
If you spy him, then you're not giving any credit to Grayson, Gray, and Mitchell at the wide receiver spots, not to mention the tight end, Bischoff. He's a real quality player also. They have a lot of weapons is the bottom line on offense. They're very sound at what they do. They're going to run you into play-action. If Ward decides to tuck and run, then he's a big time issue for you. So the answer is we have to try and keep them off balance. We can't give them the same look play in and play out otherwise they're going to take advantage of it. I think it really comes down to the run game and that we just can't let them dominate the line of scrimmage because then they're going to have their way with you.
On the play of CAA Offensive Player of the Week Jonathan Hernandez:
Jon's been that guy for us all year. He really stepped up in the Stony Brook game. He had 140 yards on 29 carries. He again had 29 carries this week for another good game and really in the forth quarter, where I'd give him the rock and he did a great job getting positive yards for us every time we gave him the football. John's got that kind of ability. He's just a tough, hard-nosed, blue collar kid. He's got some quicks, and he had that big touchdown run for us which he delivered right into the end zone and that was a huge boost for us at that point in time in the game to really get us in the situation where we could try go ahead and win it outright. John's the kind of guy that doesn't say a lot. They asked him, at the end of the day. You know he won the Bill Knight Award for MVP and one of the reporters asked him how it felt to be MVP and he said, `Oh it's a team award.' That's just the kind of kid he is. We're very excited to have him. You know, at this point in time, we need John to do all those things. I just didn't think he would have this many touches, but with Tony being banged up, John's had to step up and he's done a great job.
On Tony Nelson and Jeromy Miles' statuses for this weekend:
Yes, I think both guys are going to be all set. Miles, I could have played in the second half, according to him. But in this day and age, with any kind of head issue at all they want to sit you immediately. But he felt great during the game and after the game. I don't think he's had too many of those post-head-shot symptoms. According to the athletic trainers, they're going to do the regular protocol, take all the precautions, and make sure he's good to go, but we think he's going to be fine. Tony, the same, he's just still trying to get the kinks out of that leg and we think he's going to be full go.
On the play of Eric Dickson on defense:
Eric's game is speed and he did a great job this past weekend. He had a large number of tackles and was in on a lot of plays and he can pressure the quarterback as well. So when he's in open space running around, that's his strength. That's what he's doing a great job of and he's also very physical. What he brings to our defense is his ability to have that senior leadership, he's been around the block. He knows how we do things here at UMass. He knows what it takes to win. So he does all those things in terms of preparation. Then on the field, it was his game stats-wise to get in on a lot of plays and make a lot of plays for us and we certainly needed that against that offense.