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Kiffin Press Conference

Ole Miss head football coach Lane Kiffin met with the media Monday to recap the 37-20 victory at No. 22 Tulane and to preview this weekend’s home contest against Georgia Tech. Kickoff is set for 6:30 p.m. CT at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium and on SEC Network. A transcript can be found below.
 
Opening Statement
“Really proud about how the game ended. You’ve heard it, that’s a top-25 opponent. We all have injuries and things happen. I know they played without their quarterback, but they’ve still got a lot of good players in order to win the Cotton Bowl and be a top-25 team. So to go there and play and end the game on a 30-3 run says a lot about our players. Started slow obviously, maybe our players took them for granted. I do worry sometimes whenever you go out for warm-ups and see that the star quarterback’s not playing, sometimes you have a let down because you think things are gonna be easy. Maybe that happened. Very proud of how they finished. Defensively, we played awesome in the second half. Outscored them (as a team) 7-3. Made some significant special teams plays. I was very concerned in-game about our inability on third down to convert. Also concerned about our inability to run the ball, thought it was very unusual. (Tulane) did a great job, they played really hard, extremely hard, and we did not adjust very well and match their intensity in my opinion up front. But, got out of there with a win and now we gotta get ready to come back home. We restarted the home winning streak, had one that was pretty long for a while here, one of the longest in the country. We screwed that up, so now this year we’ve restarted one. It’s good to be back home, hopefully our crowd will come out and give us a home field advantage. On that, I thought that our crowd was phenomenal there. For them to show up for a road game like that and to stay. At the end of the game into the fourth quarter, it looked like late in the fourth quarter, that the whole stands were Ole Miss, so that was cool to see. I know the Grove is awesome they say, but it’d be nice if our fans could stay till the end of our home games like that too. It was cool to see, really energetic. Kind of reminded me of the Egg Bowl two years ago at Mississippi State, the end of that game.”
 
On if he’s spoken with Matt Corral:
“I don’t think that’s really my spot to comment on, especially publicly like that. Appreciate the concern, but it’s really not my spot.”
 
On Georgia Tech head coach Brent Key, who Kiffin coached with at Alabama:
“He did a really good job. I’ve actually tried to hire him before at one point. Really good line coach, really good teacher, good recruiter, and he’s doing a good job there.”
 
On if he’s concerned with the run game this year:
“Yeah, I’m highly concerned. It’s very unusual for us, not just here really but anywhere. This job, Alabama, FAU, I don’t remember ever having the inability to run the ball. Like I said, they did a great job, but obviously it has a lot to do with us. That’s everybody. That’s perimeter blocking, that’s linemen execution, running back footwork, it’s everything. Running the ball is not like throwing. Sometimes in throwing, I could be a good quarterback, I could take the snap, (the receiver) could run a quick route, and we can not block anybody and we can move the ball. Runnings not like that, it takes everybody to have a really good running game. We definitely look to improve there. That’s a major issue and one that I don’t think anybody would’ve guessed.”
 
On if last year’s team would have been able to pull out a victory against Tulane, as Jaxson Dart said postgame:
“Yeah he probably got that from me, I said that in the locker room. I obviously don’t have the analytics to prove that, but I did feel a difference. That may not have happened a year ago, but I just felt during the game if the offense was struggling then the defense’s attitude after a turnover or a big stop was ‘We’ve got you guys, we’ve got your back.’ We challenge ourselves before the game, we try to match what the other team supposedly does really well. Everybody said how hard Mercer played, so we told them let’s play harder. So with these guys, the big thing was that Tulane does a great job playing as a team. Unselfish, really played well as a team in order to beat USC. Remember that team, this time a year ago went up and beat Kansas State. Two years ago, went to Oklahoma and took them to the last play. I thought it was cool that (we) did play as a team, and came together in the second half, go on a 30-3 run. I certainly don’t know if that would’ve happened a year ago.”
 
On Dayton Wade’s performance after Tre Harris went down:
“It was huge. We weren’t really moving the ball very well. There was a feeling, when Tre went out, that something changed. I wouldn’t have thought we’d have that big of an offensive drop-off, but for whatever reason we did. Basically, we’d scored every single offensive possession that he’d been in the game this year. We punted one time last week, but he was already out of the game at that point. He goes out and all of a sudden we can’t move the ball. There was that feeling, and D Wade did a good job stepping up. Now we need other guys to be able to do that too.”
 
On his concern with the injuries to receivers:
“Yeah, I think that game got challenging. You think about it, you’re playing without a tight end (Caden Prieskorn) that had come in through training camp and stuff as arguably one of your most important players on your entire team. Everything he did was impactful, especially in the run game, he was huge in the run game. And then Tre (Harris), who had five touchdowns through a game and one drive, goes out. So you know, guys are gonna have to step up.”
 
On Isaac Ukwu’s performance:
“(He was) a very late addition, and he’s done a really good job. That’s our challenge to our guys these days. Sometimes when you go places in the portal world, it’s not the exact thing you wanted it to be. Every single one of these guys isn’t gonna go out there and start and play every play and be the featured player. I continue to try to spotlight these guys to the rest of the team that just seize their opportunity, whether that’s 10 plays or 70 plays.”
 
On what he saw on film from the offensive line:
“Tulane did a lot of movement up-front, we didn’t handle it very well. (They) created negative plays, and we didn’t finish things. They came off blocks and made plays, or we didn’t turn back when we should’ve. They were very aggressive in what they did defensively after that first series.”
 
On his decision to kick a 56 yard field goal while up by a touchdown in the fourth quarter:
“He had the range, and we actually took the wind at halftime so that if we did have a late field goal we’d have the wind, and there was a very big difference. In warmups he was actually taking kicks further than that and making them in that direction, so when it came up it was a chance to basically end the game most likely. So you’ve got a chance to end the game there, and he’d been making those. So yes, they could get the ball right there, but if you go for it and don’t get it, they still get the ball right there. Actually, analytics say you should not punt no matter what right there. You have the likelihood of a touchback which would make it a 19 or 17 or whatever yard net punt. When you have the chance to end the game, either kick the field goal and go up two scores, or keep the ball, you go for it. Had he not had that range we actually would’ve gone for it on fourth down and not punted. Punting would not have made sense right there, even though traditionally over the years as fans and media that’s what you would probably expect there.”
 
On if opponents are focusing more on stopping the run this year:
“Yeah, I think for sure that’s happening. Anytime you have a running back that has 1700 yards and leads the SEC in rushing touchdowns, people are gonna scheme all offseason to stop the running game. I think in the first game we threw for more yards than any other game in the history of the school. We believe in running the ball here from a philosophy standpoint. I actually think in that game, you’re struggling with running so much and having success throwing it, a lot of people would not run it near as much as we did. They’d just say it’s one of those games where they’re loading the box and we’re gonna go out and throw it 60 times. That’s just not what we believe in doing.”
 
On Caden Davis’ impact on kickoffs:
“The touchbacks are huge, so is the placement. We placed a kick deep right, which is hard to do for a kicker, and we got them at the 10-yard line. (Ladarius) Tennison made a huge play there to pin them deep. So, yeah Caden’s done a great job.”
 
On if he spoke with Kyirin Heath about his false start before the 56 yard field goal:
“Oh yeah. We don’t overlook things just because you win. That was a big part of the meeting this morning. You can’t overlook just because you win, because when you lose, then those things get magnified and you say ‘Hey, tight end is supposed to be on the ball over there, and because he’s moving late we get a penalty.’ I mean, let’s say we make that sneak, but now we get pushed back and miss the field goal and lose the game. So yes, we magnify those things and I believe it’s something you have to do, or else it’s very overlooked when you’re winning games.”
 
On why he believes in committing to running the ball:
“Whether it’s right or wrong, I look at things in a big picture of a whole season. I think once you go that route and commit to saying, ‘We’re gonna throw when you load the box no matter what,’ I think you can get off balance, your quarterback takes more hits. You may have more yards, but your RPOs don’t work nearly as well. It keeps more balance in the locker room of where the ball goes too. It’d be very challenging for a running back to have 1700 yards and come back and only get four carries a game or something.”
 
On if the team will overlook Georgia Tech after beating them 42-0 last year:
“I don’t think so. I think that normally, like you said, that would be a major issue, but like you said half the guys weren’t here. I mean look at our starting defense. I think nowadays the year before doesn’t mean hardly anything, and especially in this case.”
 
On his first impressions of Georgia Tech:
“I think (QB Haynes King) is playing well, I think they run a good offense that presents some challenges. They look better on defense too, so they really do look like they’re playing better than they were a year ago.”
 
On Deantre Prince’s performance:
“Yeah, I thought Prince played really well. Had some injuries just a week and a half, two weeks ago, leading into the first game so he wasn’t really at full strength, so I thought he made some good plays. Really good to see.”
 
On what it will take to have a similar result this weekend to last year’s game vs Georgia Tech:
“We’ve gotta win the game. I think a similar result to 50 to nothing or whatever it was, I mean, I have high expectations, but that’s a little unrealistic. We’ve got to go win the game. These guys are playing good, we have a lot of stuff to work on, and a lot of challenges. Like I said, I hope we have a really cool environment. I hope the fans come out. I really commend the student section for our last game, I think they said that’s the highest number of students we’ve had at a game, including Alabama a year ago. I commend them, especially the freshman class. That’s really cool, hopefully the rest of our fans can show up too.”


Courtesy of Ole Miss

Adam Brown
Adam Brown
Sports Editor

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