MOBILE, Ala. – University of South Alabama football head coach Kane Wommack, offensive coordinator Major Applewhite, defensive coordinator Corey Batoon, along with offensive lineman Hadon Merchant, running back Kareem Walker, linebacker Jamal Brooks and safety Yam Banks met with the media Monday to recap the Bowling Green game and preview Saturday’s game versus Alcorn State.

Head coach Kane Wommack
– On preparing for Alcorn State:
“Anybody can beat anybody on any given week, if a player or a coach doesn’t understand that then they are not living in the reality of college football. We are very inwardly focused regardless of who we play, I think that behooves us when we do play an [NCAA] FCS opponent because it is just about us. [Assistant head coach] Matt Shadeed brought it up t the guys during the workout today, our opponent is nameless and faceless; you are competing against you and you. Certainly, we have to be indicators of opponent recognition — I’m not trying to discredit any opponent we play — but the focus has to be on us, especially in year of a program in the early part of a season.”

– On the difference running the ball late in the fourth quarter at Bowling Green:
“I was impressed with Bowling Green’s front, I’ve thought the last two weeks that both Southern Miss and Bowling Green had some pretty skilled players up there with some real size. They had come out in some different looks against Tennessee that they were in a year ago, we weren’t exactly sure what we were going to get out of them because some of the things Tennessee does offensively is like playing a triple-option team. It took us a little bit to adjust, we did have a couple of nice, efficient runs in the first half. But running the football is very similar to a boxing match, it’s body blows. You’re not always going to get that uppercut in the first round, sometimes you need three or four rounds to be able to do it. Obviously, we were able to put them away in the fourth quarter.”

– On Terrion Avery:
“I was just so pleased with our backs being more decisive this week, both guys were able to stick their foot in the ground. What was awesome about Terrion is just goes to work every single day, he just does his job over and over and over again, and when it mattered most being able to trust that he was doing his job effectively and he started to hit some things. That third-and-four run when we were backed up early on in that drive, he made contact with the first defender two yards in front of the first down marker and it was just sheer will that got him the first down in that situation; we likely would’ve had to go for it on fourth-and-two in a backed-up situation. It’s awesome to see guys who work their tail off and do things the right way show up on game day.”

– On what he wants to see on Saturday:
“Things that are executed well in practice need to show up on Saturday. We actually had a great week of practice, but there were some things like the play-action pass on third-and-one that they got us on, we had worked through that exact scenario twice and two of our best players who had nailed it in practice did not execute it on game day. Trust your technique and what we’ve asked you to do schematically, and the things that we work on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday need to show up at a very high level on Saturday.”

– On the big plays given up in the passing game last week:
“I thought that we were very inconsistent in where we put our eyes. We’re a vision defense, we can fix a lot of things because we are a vision-oriented defense and we can see where they are trying to go with the ball, but I though Scott Loeffler had a great plan with some crossing routes and working a post route and having a tight end come on an underneath route; they’re trick plays, they’re creative, but if our eyes are in the right place we’re executing at a high level. This defense is really built to limit the opponent’s big plays and yet at the same time create enough negatives. We’re creating negatives and we’re stopping the run, but it’s very uncharacteristic of our defense — particularly in the backfield — and the discipline our guys have played with to this point. We have to get that corrected in a hurry.”

Offensive coordinator Major Applewhite
– On the offense after watching film from Saturday’s win:
“The first thing I saw is the guys continue to believe in themselves. It was frustrating at times not being able to put together drives – just having some inconsistency. And understanding that we are a play here or there away from putting it together, and that was more or less the frustrating part. We had seen ourselves put together some drives, but we have to execute some details better in the passing game. I thought we did a great job of establishing the run late in the game. We were running the ball well early, got aggressive on some first and second downs and hung our hat on the run game late in the game and guys moved the ball right down the field.”

– On the run game:
“I thought we executed well. There are some things we have to tidy up. We talked about the details in the passing game earlier, but there are still some things we can do. There are some runs in there that are going for four or five (yards), and an assignment here or there and it turns into an explosive run. There’s details across the board even after week two that we have to improve upon.”

– On two-minute offense:
“It was instrumental in terms of just putting points on the board and cutting the deficit at halftime. And at the end of the game, we get a takeaway from the defense to set us up in great field position. But those are the things you have to do; you have to finish both halves, it creates momentum and changes the complexion of the game.”

– On the win:
“That’s the ultimate goal – to win the football game. There’s not going to be a perfect game. There’s things to learn from this one, and there will be things to learn from the next one. You can sometimes be a little ungrateful, and you look across college football and you see some teams that are much better than their opponents going down to the wire. You just have to be very careful about being ungrateful. So we’re very grateful to win the game, but also grateful for the opportunity to go out and make some corrections and get some things fixed.”

– On Alcorn State:
“They have a tradition of having a great defense. They gave up 23 and 10 this year in terms of point totals. We’ll have our work cut out for us. They play an aggressive style, the secondary is very athletic and they have guys inside at the linebacker spot and the defensive line can create a pass rush, so they’ll be quite a challenge.”

Defensive coordinator Corey Batoon
– On what stood out to him on film from the Bowling Green game: 
“I thought we played hard. The kids came out with the right attitude and I thought we handled adversity well early; they didn’t blink. We got some three-and-outs to start the game and had some good momentum. We were able to play a lot of guys, which is really good. The effort was there. Obviously, the execution needs to be picked up. We had too many explosive plays, with seven in the game. That’s got to come way down. The thing that I liked about it was our effort and physicality.”

– On not allowing back-to-back explosive plays: 
“They had the one roll-out, throw-back play that they hit us on. They then tried to comeback with a double pass and Keith [Gallmon] made a great play where he read the play and was able to make a huge interception in the end zone. That interception was a big momentum changer. They had a lot of momentum at the time and we were able to get the ball back to our offense.”

– On getting the turnover on Bowling Green’s last possession: 
“We felt like they were going to be fairly conservative and we knew we had our time outs. It was a matter of keeping the ball inside and in front and using our time outs. Obviously, we made a great play on the ball. It was a huge momentum play for us.”

– On what he’s seen on film of Alcorn State: 
“They’re athletic. I really like their quarterback, Felix Harper. He’s the returning [Southwestern Athletic Conference] player of the year from 2019. They didn’t play last season due to Covid. He’s a dynamic guy who extends plays. He’s got a very good sense of the pocket on when it’s collapsing and when he’s got time. He’s pretty natural back there. I like their running backs. Niko Duffey’s a good football player. They also have a good stable of receivers with Manny Jones in the slot. He’s got really good explosive, long speed. Juan Anthony Jr. along with [LeCharles] Pringle are really good football players. [Tim] McNair [Jr.] has also played a lot of snaps for them.”

Offensive lineman Hadon Merchant
– On the depth of the offensive line: 
“It was an unfortunate circumstance with Trey [Simpson] before the game. It didn’t necessarily throw us off but it was something we thought about. Kent Foster stepped in big and played a really good game. I thought it was a really good win on the road against a quality opponent.”

– On starting 2-0: 
“It’s been a long time coming, to start off 2-0 against two quality football teams. From what Coach Wommack said the past couple weeks; hard work plus consistency equals complacency and hard work plus an urgent mindset equals growth. We’re growing as a team, we’re not where we need to be yet, but we’re making strides every day to get a little bit better and I think that’s truly paying off.”

– On improving the offensive production so far: 
“From this year compared to the past couple of seasons, it’s awesome to see on the sideline, a slow start of course, but in previous years the sideline would be hectic and from personal experience, even myself, it would be frantic. It comes from what coach has told us about a neutral mindset and not letting anything get too big for us. Really focusing on getting better next series and having a neutral mindset, not letting anything throw you for a loop and we just know the game will come to us eventually if we just keep chipping away.”

– On the last offensive drive in the game: 
“We had a good game plan going in with running the ball and they threw a couple things at us, an assignment here and an assignment there, we kept doing what we did all game and at the end everything went right for us. With Terrion [Avery] and Kareem [Walker] running the football we have a pretty dynamic backfield, those guys can really carry the ball and when we’re blocking, we’re blocking. It felt good to have the last touchdown of the game for us be a touchdown run and we take pride in that.”

Running back Kareem Walker
– On the win:
“I think it was really important for us to go through a roller coaster battle within a game. Those moments build or break teams. I would say we did a good job at keeping things positive the whole time although we didn’t play how we would like to. It was never a doubt in the offense or defense’s mind that we would win that game.”

– On playing again:4
“I try not to think about my past and not playing. I go into the game plan of whatever Coach Applewhite and Coach Kane [Wommack] have planned for us and try to execute my job at a high level. I try not to think about the past because it isn’t good to think about the past so I try to just stay level headed now with the game plans we have now.”

– On the running game: 
“The difference is just the offensive line and the running backs are starting to click together really well. The running backs are starting to hit the holes and be decisive. Myself and Terrion [Avery] did a good job of trying to see the fronts and stunts the defense gives us and communicate that with each other on the side lines and just try to guard them and play ball.” 

– On improvements for Alcorn: 
“I would say as a whole we always could get better, you always miss some holes regardless if you rush for 200 yards or 20 yards. Just, again, being more decisive and picking up huge chunks of line.”

Linebacker Jamal Brooks
– On the play of the defense thus far: 
“It’s great coaching and we have great buy-in from the team. Me personally, at the linebacker position, and in our room with Coach [Will] Windham, we talk about one thing that sticks out on film consistently is playing behind those animals up front on the defensive line. When you have a defensive line that gets that type of push and creates that havoc in the backfield, it’s easy to play my position. It’s easy for myself, AJ [DeShazor], Q [Quinton Wilfawn] and Shawn [Jennings] to run through and make plays when we’re playing behind guys like our defensive line.”

– On not giving up after a big play: 
“We practice those types of situations before the game. Coach Wommack always talks about how adversity is going to show up and it’s not about how or when it hits, it’s about how you respond. I think as a unit we kept going to work, we don’t care about the situation, just go to work, do your job, on to the next play.”

– On the depth of the unit: 
“Sometimes it doesn’t even feel like there’s a one or two, it’s just guys rotating and making plays. In the linebacker room, we are capable of rotating at all times, and that’s something I haven’t been able to say out of all my years of playing in college. As a unit it keeps us fresh and it makes you value each snap that much more. Shawn and [Wilfawn] made the plays, they were hungry for those snaps and they made it worth it.”

– On having an off week coming up following the Alcorn State game: 
“We have an off week? I’m only looking forward to this week coming up and my opponent. They have a pretty athletic offense so we have our work cut out for us. I honestly didn’t know we had an off week so here we go, let’s get to work.”

– On playing a FCS school: 
“It doesn’t matter what name is on the front of the jersey, you put the ball down and play football. The game is played between the white lines so it doesn’t matter who it is you’re facing. We’re going to prepare the same way we know how to prepare and we’re going to do our job.”

Safety Yam Banks
– On his performance: 
“First I have to be physical because I wasn’t as physical as last week. They said it was going to be big game for me and I was going to have a lot of tackles because they like a lot of motion so I just played as physical as I could and just made some tackles. This week I’ve got to play the same way.” 

– On being 2-0: 
“It feels good to me because I’m a freshman so you know it feels the same to me. I just go out there and play as hard as I can.” 

– On giving up two touchdowns in two games: 
“We’ve got a pretty good defense so we try to not let the team score at all so I feel like as long as we keep that up we can keep doing what we’re doing and let the offense just score the ball and we will stop the other team.”

– On giving up big plays: 
“Like he said in practice we worked on it [keeping eyes in the right place] we had to bring it to the game but as you can see we didn’t. He was just saying we have to have better eyes. They had like seven big plays for 250 yards in the passing game because they couldn’t run the ball so in the back end as long as we do our job they wouldn’t score at all.”

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