JOKER PHILLIPS: I’ve got here another Kentucky boy (Hunter Jarvis) able to live out his dream with the Dream Factory. His dream was to be assistant coach at University of Kentucky, and today, or this weekend, he was able to be assistant coach, and he’s 1 and 0, got a game ball, did a really good job in the special teams call‑outs and alerts.
When we were on the bus, I told Coach Nolan Jones, our director of ops, I said, we win this game, I want him to be at the press conference. As a matter of fact, if we lose this game, he can do the press conference. (Laughter.)
But our injury report: Gabe Correll, pulled hip flexor and missed the second half. Martavius Neloms had a stinger and was able to go back in the game. Pancho Thomas had a hamstring. He was able to go back in the game, also.
We made some improvements. We’ve still got a lot of things that we need to work on to continue to improve on. Again, we took care of the football offensively. We got ourselves off the field defensively when we needed to. We gave up a couple big plays on defense. We’ve got to continue to make them just snap the football and not give up big plays and gave up way too many big plays on defense.
But special forces, our punter, our freshman punter, continues to be outstanding. We’re protecting the punter well, but we did give up a big return on our kick cover.
Again, a lot of improvement, but there still needs to be more improvement the next week. Again, things that we tried to emphasize, we did do, and it seems like a dam; as soon as you plug one hole, another one happens or something else comes up.
Again, we’ve got some things we need to improve, and we’ll get them improved this week because we’ve got another tough opponent, Western Kentucky, coming in here, that’s a really, really physical football team. Their plan to win is similar to ours and most teams that we’ll play, which is to run the football and to stop the run. They do a really good job at both.
Q. Can you talk about Maxwell Smith at this point?
JOKER PHILLIPS: Continues to play well. Again, I said this, when we had him the five days we did for the Bowl prep two years ago, we came off the field after one of the scrimmages, and he scrimmaged one time, we said that this guy would be great in this type of offense. We really started to try to transition to it then, and we were right. He’s comfortable; he sees the field. He’s very accurate.
And we felt like we were starting to get some of those, the receivers that could do some of the things that we wanted to do offensively.
Really proud of Aaron Boyd. Aaron Boyd continues to get himself better, continues to understand how you are supposed to go about your business and being a big‑time wide receiver. Again, he has really good ball skills.
I got real excited about the block, any of the catches, because those are the things that if you are a big wide receiver that might not run 4.4 or 4.5, you have to be a physical wide receiver, and Aaron is now trying to be physical, and I appreciate that. He’s a guy that’s trying to do the things that we ask him to do to get himself on the field.
Q. Did you see the improvements from your defense you wanted to tonight?
JOKER PHILLIPS: You know, we did get lined up. A lot better at getting lined up. Again, we still can’t give up the big plays. We had 80 plays. We’ve got to get ourselves ‑‑ we can’t allow people to have 80 plays. A lot of it, we scored pretty quick when we did score and put them back on the field, but they’ve got to get themselves off the field, also.
Saw some improvement. With who we have left on our schedule, we’ve got to improve a lot more.
Q. There are some young guys that you’ve kind of talked up. How relieved were you to see that play from them?
JOKER PHILLIPS: I’m really pleased that ‑‑ at that point we were really just wanting to go in the game ‑‑ back in the game and just run the ball, run the ball. But some of our runs called for us to throw quick screens out there, and we flipped a screen after we’d get five, and it’s one of the things that Coach (Pat) Washington has brought to us is team four, go get the team four yards. Well, some of those four yards turned into ‑‑ how long was that? 56 yards. And that’s the thing that (DeMarcus) Sweat brings us.
Did you guys see who made the block? Morgan Newton. We’ll continue to try to expand on his role at that position. Again, he’s too good of an athlete to be on the sidelines, so we’ll have to try to continue to expand on his role as an H‑back, as a wildcat guy, all those type of things that we can do to get him on the field, also.
Q. Before that (DeMarcus) Sweat touchdown, all of the other ones were scored by veterans. Did you feel they had to step up their game a little bit?
JOKER PHILLIPS: Competition is what makes people go. We’re in this business because we want to compete, and again, those older guys feel the young guys on their heels, therefore they have to step up and make plays for us, and they are. They did today. Raymond (Sanders), he did a really good job. So did John‑John (Jonathan George). John‑John got an opportunity to play with CoShik (Williams) being out and did a good job for us tonight.
Q. Second and third quarter when all those big plays started to happen, there seemed to be a lot of excitement with your guys. Is that something that they needed?
JOKER PHILLIPS: No doubt. You know, as hard as they work, you need to see some successful things happen, and they did tonight. And what happens is everybody wants to be a part of it. It’s just a funny thing. Once someone ‑‑ everybody that was out there was proud of Aaron Boyd and yelling and rooting for Aaron Boyd, but they also wanted to get involved, also.
I think hopefully this will be something that we can feed off from because there was things that we’ve talked about. There was some big plays. We ran the ball efficient, and we protected the football, and then we got ourselves off the field when we needed.
Q. You played a lot of young guys on defense. Can that help build some confidence?
JOKER PHILLIPS: Definitely can. Khalid Henderson played a lot of snaps and actually played when the game was still on the line, he and Pancho Thomas and Fred Taylor played, and then J.D. Harmon. J.D. Harmon made a few plays for us, also, on the perimeter, on defense, and Daron Blaylock. I always have to pause because it might be Zack (Blaylock) and it might be Shawn (Blaylock), but this one was Daron. Daron got a lot of snaps late in the game. That will only help us down the road.
The thing I don’t want ‑‑ one thing I don’t want is to force us to be a little bit more simple by saying, hey, these guys are going to play. I think it forces us to be a little bit more simple in terms of our adjustments, and then the other thing is with where we are in our depth, I don’t want us to be three weeks from now and those guys getting their first snap because someone has gone down. I just think it’s time for them to play, it’s time for them to continue to get snaps and get confidence, there they go, instead of trying to put them in there when we have to, okay, when we have to.
I just think it was the right thing to do, and we’ll continue to play them. They’re only going to get more and more comfortable with the amount of snaps that they get.
Q. Would you have envisioned being this clean as far as penalties?
JOKER PHILLIPS: You know, we’ve never been a real bad penalty team. Last year was a little bit different. But we’ve never been. But I think this definitely helps you get enough guys on the field. You’re able to see things because you’ve got a lot more time. You know, the snap count is usually on the ball, okay, because the receivers are not ‑‑ there really isn’t snap count, there’s a quarterback raising his arm up and the ball snaps, so it makes those guys concentrate on just the ball and not listening for a snap count. Those things have helped.
One thing I did fear when we went to this is that the offensive linemen being in a two‑point stance you wouldn’t be able to be as physical. Those guys are playing physical up front. I like what we’re doing offensively.
Again, we’ve got to continue to improve. We missed the deep ball ‑‑ one of the things we talk about is taking shots, and we missed one to La’Rod (King) that in big games you can’t miss those throws. We’ve got to connect on those.
Q. How much has Pat Washington played a role in Aaron’s development?
JOKER PHILLIPS: A lot. I mean, he has a lot. But Aaron has had three coaches since he’s been here, also. He’s had myself, Coach (Tee) Martin and then Pat Washington. But I think a lot of it has to do with Aaron deciding, hey, this is my last one, I’m going to do what I have to do and work my tail off. Again, the thing that a big guy that doesn’t run as well as the other guys, you have to be a physical guy. I’m talking about you have to be physical when someone comes up in your face to try to press you, and I think Aaron has bought into that. He’s worked his tail off, and I’m just excited that he’s now starting to make plays for us. I mean, it’s ‑‑ he called 11 passes tonight if you saw that. It’s great. It was great. No wonder the guys wanted to give him the game ball.
We can’t give him the game ball. My man has got the game ball.
Q. What was the importance of the safety?
JOKER PHILLIPS: It was good. For us to score ‑‑ that’s one of our goals each week is to score on defense, and one of our goals on special forces is to create or set up a score. I think it’s big when you can reach another one of your goals on defense.
Q. They kind of gassed you guys right up the gut 146 yards and 15 carries at the start. Again, you talked about last week, a lot of people look at what happened last week and blame the defensive line. What did you see there on the field?
JOKER PHILLIPS: Well, a combination, and again, I like to see it on the video before I make any type of judgments, but right now I would say it’s the whole defense because they got past the D‑line, they got past the linebackers, and they also split the safety. I’d like to hold judgment until I see it.
Q. Is Morgan (Newton) still your backup quarterback?
JOKER PHILLIPS: He is, but we’re going to try to get the young kid in some and try to get him some reps, also, but Morgan, if something ‑‑ if we have an emergency, yes. But with this offense, the thing that happens is the quarterback is able to get the ball out of his hands because he shouldn’t take the type of hits that you take in some other offenses because he ought to be able to get the ball out of his hands quickly. We’ve been in the gun a lot more than we’ve ever been, and I think this is where this kid feels more comfortable at.
But Morgan will be our backup guy that will play all over the place. He will play some wildcat, he will play some H‑back for us. He’s just too good of an athlete to be on the sideline.
Q. On the play of Dyshawn Mobley …
JOKER PHILLIPS: Little, yeah. The thing on the goal line, when we were in our power play, it’s not a cut‑back. It’s not a cut‑back, and maybe last year he probably could cut back and he meets the backside linebacker in the hole and he probably puts the backside linebacker’s back of his head on the goal post. You can’t do it at this level. If he stayed front side, maybe it would have been a different story. Somebody might have been tackling with a body on him. It’s a little bit different.
Again, but every snap that he gets, he’s only going to get better. You guys got a chance to see some of the way he runs, which is physical, behind his pads. We’ve got to continue to get him snaps, and he will. It’s a long season still.
Q. Barring injury, the plan is to play him before Patrick Towles?
JOKER PHILLIPS: Again, we talked to Pat this past week, and yeah, we’d like to, but you can’t say that today because, again, anything can happen. So I won’t say anything like that. But yes, we are red shirting Patrick Towles, but we’ll continue to travel him and work him, and he’ll be ready in case of an emergency.
Q. The attendance, is it as simple as just winning?
JOKER PHILLIPS: Yeah, we’ve got to put a better product on the field than we have, than we have in the past, and they’ll come. I appreciate the ones who came tonight, gave our kids a lot of energy. We expect them to be back here next week.