JAGUAR FOOTBALL RECAPS TROY; PREVIEWS APPALACHIAN STATE

MOBILE, Ala. – University of South Alabama football head coach Kane Wommack, offensive coordinator Major Applewhite, defensive coordinator Corey Batoon, along with tight end Lincoln Sefcik and defensive lineman Wy’Kevious Thomas met with the media Monday to recap the Troy game and preview Saturday’s game versus Appalachian State

Head coach Kane Wommack
– On Jake Bentley’s status:
“After the hit obviously, we had an examination of him then and had another one on Sunday, he is feeling the same things with a little bit of looseness in the knee.  The MRI is being done today, we’ll get the feedback of exactly what we are seeing there, but I don’t anticipate for him to play this week.  Jake is a fighter, he truly is one of the grittier people that I’ve ever been around.  He’s a guy’s guy, he’s a quarterback who wants to do everything right.  He’s seen a little bit of everything and taken it on the chin, he’s seen the highest of the highs and the lowest of the lows.  And he’s also dealt with injury before and he knows how to navigate that.  He’s very optimistic about being able to come back in probably a shorter amount of time — this being his senior season probably plays into that as well — so I am optimistic about him, I just think that we’re going to have to give him a little rest here.”

– On Desmond Trotter:
“The very first play [against Troy on Saturday] obviously you see what he brings to the table from a running capability standpoint.  Dez has the ability to extend plays with his feet both in the passing game and being able to pull it down and run it.  He was able to convert some third downs and get us in fourth-and-manageable situations so we could go for it on fourth downs — which we did eight times in the game — and that is something we need to utilize moving forward.  He came in cold turkey the ninth game into the season, the biggest glaring situation was the ‘pick six’; he never should have gone there with the ball.  It was a wide-open play, we had actually hit them on the same route earlier, but they had a guy who came free right there at the end and you just have to know in that situation you can’t force it because that’s when really bad things happen.  He learned from it, I thought he really navigated things pretty well for the rest of the game.”

– On responding to adversity in the Troy game:
“The first thing I told the players today in the meeting room was that we are a team right now of peaks and valleys.  The peaks are ok, but you have to make sure the valleys have a limit.  Right now, in every game that we’ve fallen short we have had too great a valley when you think about the beginning of the Louisiana game or the second quarter of the Troy game or the fourth quarter of the Texas State game.  We’ve had a series of plays — particularly on defense — that we have let someone else dictate the tempo of how the game is played, I thought we played reactionary in all of those games in those moments.  On the flip side, in just about every single one of those games we had a dominant performance — particularly on defense — the rest of those games, and that is something we have to be able to clean up.  We have to play more consistent when somebody gets a little momentum going, when they get a ‘pick six’ or the outside run game going against us like they did on Saturday, we have to be able to push through those lulls and not let those things overwhelm us — which ultimately they did as the game went on.”

– On what he sees from Appalachian State:
“Consistency.  I have a tremendous amount of respect for Shawn Clark, a guy with an O-line background who played there and coached there as an assistant; he understands what App State football is, and I think he is very dedicated to their consistency.  You look and almost everybody who contributes to their offense in a skill position is a senior.  They have a graduate transfer at quarterback who is operating at a high level as well right now.  They are just consistent.  If you look at their program compared to ours, from a talent perspective I’m not sure there’s much of a match-up issue there.  The issue is the consistency, their players who are on the field in critical moments know what to do and are executing it at a high level; that’s the benefit of being a program that’s done the same thing year after year, coach after coach because their defense and offense really schematically haven’t changed even when they’ve changed coaching staffs and coordinators.  That’s what we’ve got to be able to grow to, we’re in year one of our offensive and defensive system and yet at the same time we’re going to have to go execute at a pretty high level and narrow our margin of execution against a team like that.”

Offensive coordinator Major Applewhite
– On what the offense had to different under quarterback Desmond Trotter:
“It was more about rep count, just reflecting back on the week of the things he had gotten a lot of reps at and just wanting to put him in the best position possible. There wasn’t a lot of thought in terms of can’t execute or do this, it was just going back on the reps and talking to him on the headset series-to-series about what he was comfortable with and had good reps at. He’s been great in meetings and at practice. There was no hitting of the panic button. He prepared himself and was ready to go in.”

– On his performance:
“I was proud of the way he played, especially coming back out after the pick-six – being able to lead the team on a drive going into the half. He settled in and was able to come back out and lead a couple of touchdown drives being down 17 (points) to get us back into the ballgame. He settled into the game and I was pleased with the way he finished. We’re obviously not pleased with the result, but I saw a lot of promising things from the way he played, competed, finished the game and helped the offense get back in the ballgame.”

– On moving forward with Trotter:
“He has a lot of experience; he has played and started in a lot of ballgames, and it isn’t his first time out there. There are no uncertainties in terms of what it is like to be the starter. He understands what it’s like to prepare, and seeing Dez week-to-week in that preparation where he goes mentally in the film room, his responses and what he does on the field with his reps – I have all the confidence in the world in him. We just have to start getting ready for App State and focusing on what they do.”

– On Trotter’s run ability:
“It helped us Saturday on a couple of third downs where there was some pressure, and he escaped and got us into some shorter fourth-down conversion situations. That is something that already showed up, some opportunities where we took a shot on first down where there was some early pressure and he was able to get out of the way and get us a 2nd-and-2, 2nd-and-3 or new set of downs. We will have things in the game plan that suit him, but I don’t see us all of a sudden getting under center and running triple option or anything like that. But he has done a great job preparing himself to be able to go into a ballgame.”

– On the offense last Saturday:
“I have been in some situations with some teams and units at 31-7 in a rivalry where it has gone the complete opposite way. Personally, and as a coach, I am proud of them for fighting back into it and putting themselves in a position where it is a one-possession game with three minutes to go and you have to go convert to go tie the ballgame. I’m very proud of them from that standpoint. Everybody continued to fight and believe in themselves, that was the first thing. Second thing was just the turnovers; we had 10 points in turnovers that we gave up and we lost by seven [points]. Those are some situations that we had mentioned. They [Troy] were third in the country in sacks, and we have to be conscientious of that. And we had some situations where that hurt us, and specifically on the pick-six. Those are game-changing plays, and when you start playing good opponents that are equally matched, it comes down to those two or three plays.”

Defensive coordinator Corey Batoon
– On what led to the issues defensively in the first half against Troy: 
“There were about 12 plays during the middle of the second quarter where I didn’t feel that we executed well at all. Its kind of goes back to some of the things that has haunted us in regards to the ULM game where we haven’t played consistent on the front side and then having bad angles on the backside that led to some explosive plays. There were some runs where we had a guy miss a tackle on the front side and didn’t have enough overlap on the backside. It comes down to fundamentals – winning your front side gap, making the tackles when you need to and then creating enough overlap on the backside for pursuit.

– On getting things worked out after halftime: 
“Like I said. There was a two series sequence where we didn’t play consistently. We made some adjustments and I think the kids understood what we were trying to get across, and we came out and executed for the remainder of the game against those same plays.

– On what challenges App State’s offense presents: 
“They are a very veteran group. You look at their roster and it’s laden with fifth- and sixth-year seniors. They have a transfer quarterback who’s played a lot of good football for them this year. It’s a veteran group. They are very consistent. I believe their execution rate is very high and they’ve been in the system for a while, which shows.”

– On what ILB Quinton Wilfawn has meant to the unit with Jamal Brooks out recently: 
“It’s been good. We got Jamal back last week, but [Quinton] has continued to be a consistent force in there for us. He does a great job communicating, he’s seen a lot of ball. Between series when we come to the sidelines to make adjustments, he’ able to articulate things he’s seeing and that really helps us in terms of making those adjustments.”

– On App State QB Chase Brice: 
“He hasn’t made a ton of mistakes this season. I think UL [Louisiana] is the one game where he made some mistakes when they pressed a little bit. UL did a good job of taking away the run game early and was able to put them in some long situations. They were behind a bunch in the game early, which took them out of their comfort zone of being balanced. They operate from a balanced mindset in regards to the run and the pass. They are as balanced of a team as we have faced in terms of their physicality, the explosion plays they are able to create in the passing game come off their ability to run the ball. Their quarterback does a great job of managing the game and takes it as it unfolds to him. I thought he played really well last week against Arkansas State and really hurt [ASU] them in the vertical passing game. All of those things though come off their dominant offensive line and their running backs, which are really good players.”

Junior tight end Lincoln Sefcik
– On how Jake Bentley’s injury affected the offense: 
“We had a timeout after that [play] and Dez [Desmond Trotter] was ready, so I don’t think we skipped a beat on that drive. I think it was smooth whenever Dez came in.” 

– On the confidence level during the game:
“I felt like we had confidence the whole time, we just had a couple mistakes. They [Troy] capitalized on those. We came back and scored it pretty easy [on the last drive of the first half], and then continued that into the second half.”

– On how the plays work with his play style: 
“I think it makes me a reliable target, when maybe they’re covering downfield and they put a lot of guys deep, and I’m sitting there in the flat, open.”

– On Appalachian State: 
“I just know they don’t make a lot of mistakes, so we’ll have to make some plays. I think it’s fun [to travel to Boone]. I heard it’s a pretty cool atmosphere up there, it’s going to be cold, it’s going to be fun to get a win.”

RS Freshman defensive lineman Wy’Kevious Thomas
– On the difference in the play of the defense between the first and second half Saturday against Troy: 
“During the first half we started out real slow, which is something we’ve done in the past that we have to continue to fix. We just have to get better at that and learn how to be consistent.”

– On looking ahead: 
“We continue to build [the program] on being consistent in practice and we hope it will show up in a game – that we put four quarters of consistent defense together.”

– On Appalachian State: 
“If we can control the running game with the stretch and inside zone, it will be a good game. With the fast stretch away – they run sideline to sideline – so we will have to be fundamentally sound in our gaps. Getting cut out – backside or frontside – is going to create creases in the defense, which we have to eliminate this Saturday.”

– On Appalachian State’s quarterback: 
“We have to get after him [Chase Brice]. This past week we didn’t have any sacks [against Troy] and we have to change that this week. We have to be able to apply pressure and make him feel uncomfortable in the pocket.”

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