MOBILE, Ala. – University of South Alabama football head coach Kane Wommack, offensive coordinator Major Applewhite, defensive coordinator Corey Batoon, along with offensive lineman James Jackson and linebacker A.J. DeShazor met with the media Monday to recap the Louisiana game and preview Saturday’s game versus Texas State.

Head coach Kane Wommack
– Opening statement:
“I am very pleased with where we are as a program to this point, I was probably more excited coming out of that [Louisiana] game than I was the first three games which we won because we played our best football in the last 40 minutes of that game; that was exciting to see.  You do so much in year one of a program trying to build offense, defense and special teams — Major [Applewhite], Corey [Batoon], Jamael Lett and all the things they have to do individually in those units to get going — but start building yourself as a team.  Obviously, we’ve done those things to this point, but we are growing as a team together and complimenting one another.  When you think about the fake punt, we ran the ball to get ourselves into a ‘go’ scenario there from an analytics standpoint so that we could fake a punt.  We’re playing complimentary football getting three-and-outs, using the one takeaway in the game and going down to score, you can see each group — coaches, players, adjustments, which we are doing at a very high level right now — starting to mesh.  It’s exciting to see.”

– On Texas State:
“They have been a bit inconsistent on film, part of that is in large part because of the lack of depth that they’ve had on their roster through Covid, but they really do some impressive things when you watch them.  They had a nice overtime win against FIU and they hung right there with Baylor, who I think is a top-25 program.  You see some things the last couple of weeks with some of the issues that they had in depth with Incarnate Word and Eastern Michigan.  The thing to me that stands out is the quarterback and his ability to extend plays with his feet, that always creates a special challenge for us defensively in how you have to navigate and cover longer than what you would normally.  He’s a gunslinger, you can tell the guy loves the game of football; he runs around and has energy and throws the ball downfield.  It doesn’t always work well for him at times, but he has really hit some big plays on people — that’s something to be aware of.  Defensively I think they are still finding their identity.  They’ve done a couple of different things, you see them in a one-high look, in quarters and in that three-safety defense.  Regardless of what they come out in we have to be focused on our ability to just execute what we do, and have good answers for the different looks that they present for us.”

– On Texas State coming off a bye week:
“I think if you are hitting on all cylinders a bye week is an advantage to you, and if you also have injuries a bye week can be an advantage to you.  Obviously, we got some offensive linemen back this past week, but you also saw how we operated in the first quarter against Louisiana and we probably didn’t handle our bye week very well.  It’s hard at the front end of a season when you are not hitting on all cylinders yet, you need those constant games to be able to operate, learn from it and operate again, that’s why we practiced on a Saturday on our bye week, just so we would have a feel for doing the same thing over and over again Saturday after Saturday.  It can be good, it can be a challenge, we’ll see how they respond to it coming out of their bye week.”

– On doing something different to change the team’s slow starts:
“I think we have to, right?  You have to look at where you are deficient and what we can do to improve that, from a play-calling standpoint what are we calling early on in the game, how do we keep ourselves out of negative plays to open up drives — strangely, that’s been part of our issue — and to be honest with you some of it is just staying the course with a young football team in a first year of a program.  These guys have run these plays in practice and in scrimmages but there is nothing like game day, game day is always different.  Just getting a feel for how we operate at a high level in those 12 opportunities — now eight left — that we are guaranteed, I hope that as we move forward as a program so will the level of execution early in games.”

– On being good situationally on defense:
“I think it’s because of the way we teach our defense, first and foremost, in three ways.  We teach them the concept of what we are trying to get accomplished, you are never going to learn this is your job as the ‘Mike’ linebacker in this defense, you are going to understand here is the concept of Cover 1, here’s the concept of Cover 3 and here’s how you fit as the ‘Mike’ linebacker in that concept, and here are the things teams are going to try and attack in that concept.  Then we teach situational philosophy and how that concept is applied in third down, in the red zone, here’s how we do it in first and second down, two minute when they need a field goal versus two minute when they need a touchdown.  We are very specific in how we play situational defense, and once we get to the season now it becomes about offensive recognition.  So you understand the concepts and the situational philosophy of how we apply those concepts, and the offensive recognition so we can become an anticipation defense as opposed to a reactionary defense.  That to me is why we’ve been able to operate at a high level situationally.”

– On running the ball on third down:
“It’s more about what we wanted to do; when you use the analytics there is something called sequencing, which is you sequence yourself into a ‘go’ scenario on fourth down.  Both fake punts that we had, we ran the football to sequence ourselves into a fourth-down ‘go’ scenario.  Obviously one of those worked out for us and one didn’t, but that being said sometimes we are going to run the ball on third down to sequence ourselves into a ‘go’ scenario on fourth down.  Other times, it totally changes the way you have to defend situationally if there is the ability to run the football.  Typically, we look at it every single week what are their third-down windows?  Third-and-one to two more often than not they are going to run the ball, third-and-three to four it might be 50-50 but once you get to third-and-five plus you can expect it to be a heavy pass situation.  Well, if on third-and-seven once out of every four times your run the ball it drastically changes the way that we have to play defensively; it changes the way you personnel people on the field, who you bring out there, maybe we go for a tempo play right after we get a first down off a conversion.  I think the ability to run the football on third down presents a ton of challenges for defenses.”

Offensive coordinator Major Applewhite
– On difference between first 25 minutes and last 35 minutes of Louisiana game:
“We kind of got out of our own way. We had some lack of execution and some penalties that set us back in the first half. In the second half, we were clicking like a football team in all three phases. But specifically, on offense, the execution the first half – a penalty here or there – really set us back. And a lack of execution and not hitting some of our shots in the first half, but we got rolling in the second half and got better.”

– On ball security:
“That’s why we had a chance to win the game at the end. Our defense was timely, and I was very proud of our guys. We’re going to keep emphasizing that with our guys, because that is what gave us a chance to beat the best team on our side of the league – to play with no turnovers. Everybody saw when we started clicking offensively, defensively and special teams in the second half. We could be a really good football team. That is something we can take out of this as a positive; playing with no turnovers and our defense forcing a turnover on their (Louisiana) side of the field in the fourth quarter gave us another shot to go down there and win the game.”

– On Texas State’s defense:
“They had a different kind of scheme last year in terms of the way they have played their safeties this year. They played some of that and still have it in their system, but they have moved to more of a four-down front with a lot more man-to-man coverage. They have some great corners who have transferred in so they believe in those guys. I see those guys making plays and I see why they have done that. We have to be able to see what their personality is going to be that day and have a plan for both. The structure of their defense is not similar to Louisiana’s defense, but in terms of the way their corners play – talented, aggressive and putting hands on you. They (USA receivers) are going to get a lot of the same opportunities, so we have to do a great job like those guys did Saturday night.”

Defensive coordinator Corey Batoon
– On in-game changes he made versus Louisiana: 
“It wasn’t so much about changes, but more about settling down. There weren’t different calls, we just settled down and started seeing some of the run fits better. Obviously, we didn’t come out and play with the physicality that we wanted to, but I think once the players started getting settled down midway through the second quarter, we started seeing the fits much better and started getting more hats to the ball. We tackled better as the game went on. We didn’t tackle well early on, which I feel is more about what it was. We just settled down and saw what we were supposed to see, and got hats to where we needed to.”

– On the key to the defense being so good on third-down situations: 
“We spend a lot of time teaching the guys the game and understanding the [different] situations, and what teams like to do in those situations. We have a pretty good game plan and the kids go out and execute it. Those money downs [third downs] as we call them are critical. You win that down and you are able to get yourself off the field. I think the kids have really bought into what we’re about in that regard and they’re starting to see the fruits of their labor.”

– On what he’s seen on film from Texas State: 
“They’re pretty balanced. Looking at them from last year over the summer, [you could see] they were your typical ‘Air Raid’ [offense] throwing the ball all over the place. I think they have really good backs and they are really balanced this year because those guys are good players. The quarterback is dynamic running around with the ball. Having played Alcorn [State], Louisiana and now Texas State, we’ve played the same type of quarterback three games [in a row]. He is able to run around and extend plays. His last time out against Eastern Michigan, he threw a couple of really nice balls on the run once he got flushed. He does a nice job of staying composed and keeps his eyes down field. They had some Covid issues, but the bye week obviously helps them get some bodies back. I think they do a really good job on offense.”

– On if the defense was too jacked up before the Louisiana game: 
“That’s a great question. I didn’t think so. I thought we had a really good warm up and a really good week of practice. Early on, we didn’t respond the way we needed to. The first play of the game for us was on the 13-yard line. You get hit in the face. The second series, we come out and just weren’t seeing some of the fits like we needed too. It’s just about the tempo of the back and being able to fit off each other and knowing where each guy was going to be. When you get one guy out of the fit against a good back, he can make you pay and that’s what [Louisiana] did early. Once we were able to settle down, tempo the ball and see the fits, we were a little bit firmer on some of those fits. That really helped us settle down and play the game the way that it’s supposed to be played. We helped them out with some calls in the second half, but for the most part it was the same offensive plays against the same fits that we weren’t getting early in the game. We started getting them in the second half when we needed too. Good job by the kids to adjust, but we have to start better because obviously that’s not who we are.”

Offensive lineman James Jackson
– On getting back out there after a close loss:
“I think we are pretty anxious coming after a loss, learning from the mistakes we made. We just want to get back on the field and fix the things.”

– On fixing mistakes in the game: 
“We started off pretty slow. As we got going, we started to click more.”

– On any adjustments getting some guys back along the offensive line: 
“There wasn’t a big difference. Throughout camp and throughout the year, we’ve rotated a lot of guys and a lot of guys have gotten reps with different people. The chemistry is growing along the offensive line.”

– On Texas State: 
“They’ve got a really good defense. They play very hard and they move a lot. So, we have to control that. But, they play really hard on defense.”

Linebacker A.J. DeShazor
– On building confidence defensively: 
“As a defense, we knew going into the Louisiana game that this was one of the better offensive lines and running offenses in the league. I feel like we were able to adjust throughout the game. They got off to a kind of quick start, especially with the opening kickoff. As the game went on, we rallied to the ball and started to communicate better on calls.”

– On the adjustments defensively after the first quarter: 
“We started getting the calls in earlier and was just making sure guys started seeing the slide fits with the tight ends. It starts with alignment and I think that was pretty big. We just needed to get guys aligned right and get guys in the right area on certain calls. That was the biggest takeaway.”

– On if Louisiana changed anything offensively: 
“A lot of the times they lined up in pistol, they ran a lot of stretch and down zone. Early on, [UL quarterback] Levi [Lewis] was doing some read-option and they stopped going to that. They started doing more play actions and rollouts with him. He’s a player that they give the keys to the offense to. He’s going to scramble and make plays with his legs and throw the ball. For the most part, we contained his speed. As a defense, we adjusted throughout the game.”

– On the mindset after the game: 
“We could just feel the emotion from the coaches, especially coach Wommack. Our team just really came together and just kept working. We put our heads down and listened to the calls. We didn’t go away from who we are. The biggest takeaway is that our guys bought in until the very end. We didn’t get the outcome we wanted but we got a lot of that game moving forward.”

– On getting back out there after the loss:
“We just want to go 1-0 against our next opponent. From there, we just want to keep finding ways to win games. We want to get better on offense, defense and special teams. Special teams are a big deal as well. We have to continue to get better on special teams and we are going to continue to work on and get better at. We have to make sure we don’t give up big, explosive plays that can change the momentum of the game.”

– On Texas State’s offensive style:
“They like to spread the ball, but at the same time they will bring in tight ends to run some down and split zone. They like those 10 pictures with just one running back in the backfield. Their quarterback likes to make plays with his legs as well. It’s another game where we have to make sure that our eyes are in the right place. If the quarterback scrambles out, we have to make sure we are sticking to our guys.”

– On putting the last game behind and focusing on the next game: 
“We started yesterday and made sure our guys started watching film. Coach Wommack gave us our game review. We wiped our hands clean and we move on to our next opponent. Texas State is our next opponent and we are looking to go 1-0.

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