Information And Comments From WSSU's Football Press Conference (9/24/04)

Aug. 24, 2004

Winston-Salem State (0-0, 0-0 CIAA) -vs- Carson-Newman (0-0, 0-0 SAC)

Rams vs. Eagles...The matchup between the Rams and Eagles marks the very first college football game in the nation. The two teams have met in the final week of August for what will now be the last four consecutive seasons (2001-04). This game marks the fourth time that the Rams and Eagles have squared off with one another. Kick-off is slated for 6:00 pm at Burke-Tarr Stadium in Jefferson City, TN. Head Coach Kermit Blount gives his thoughts on Thursday's contest.

The Series...The Rams and Eagles have met three times prior to 2004's matchup. The Eagles currently own a 2-1 record versus WSSU, all-time. WSSU won the first meeting between the two teams in 2001 as they earned a 27-16 win at Bowman-Gray Stadium. However, the Eagles are currently sporting a two-game win streak against the Rams having won the 2002 matchup in Jefferson-City, TN by the score of 47-35 and also notched a win in last season's game as they escaped Winston-Salem, NC with a 21-14 win.

Fun Facts and Numbers...WSSU's Record versus the Eagles all time is 1-2-0...Largest WSSU win (11; 27-16 in 2001)...Largest Carson-Newman win (12; 47-35 in 2002)...Longest WSSU win streak (1; 2001)...Longest Carson-Newman win streak (2 from 2002-Present).

TV/Radio Coverage...This weekend's contest will be available to listeners in the greater Winston-Salem area on WSNC, FM 90.5 with George Croom, Al Roseboro and Sam Harley calling all the action as well as nationally on the internet at www.wssu.edu by clicking on the link: "Listen to WSNC." For those fans in the Jeffeson City, TN area, the game will be broadcast on the local Coca-Cola Eagle Network (WRJZ AM 620 and WMXK 94.1 FM). The Eagle pre-game show starts at 6:00 pm with Zeke Beam and Jim Vines, the "Voices Of the Eagles" calling all the action.

The Last Meeting...The last meeting between the two teams came last season in the 2003 season opener for both teams. The Eagles came into Winston-Salem and earned an all-important road win, emerging victorious by the score of 21-14. The Eagles led the contest at halftime by the score of 7-0 after a first-quarter 9-yard touchdown run by quarterback Shane Kelley. The Eagles tacked on two more touchdowns in the early-going of the second half to pull ahead 21-0 and look to be in complete control of the contest. However, Ram running back Martin Hicks recovered his own fumble at the Carson-Newman one-yard line and dove into the endzone for the score to cut the deficit to 15 points (after an Ashton Oakley PAT kick failed). Hicks then tallied his second touchdown of the game at the 6:06 mark of the second half and Brandon Free converted a two-point PAT from Josh McGee to cut the Eagle lead to seven points at 21-14. Unfortunately for the Rams and their fans, the Eagle offense ran the clock out and escaped Bowman-Gray Stadium with a 21-14 win. The Eagles' offense tallied 443 yards in the contest and the Rams were not far behind as they recorded 320 yards in total offense, with 189 yards coming on the ground and 131 yards earned in the air.

Quotes And Comments From WSSU Head Coach Kermit Blount:
(From Tuesday's Pre-Game Press Conference)

Coach, you are moving up to Division I, have you talked about that with your players?

Our players are very much aware of what we are trying to do, and what we are trying to accomplish here at WSSU...I think it is a great move for us, and I think that our players are up for the challenge...Certainly we have been in that arena playing one double-a teams, and playing some of the best teams in Division II, so I, and my players think we are ready for the move.

Does that put added pressure on your players and staff as far as now?

I don't think so...I think that I put more pressure on myself than anyone could put on me...I'm not ever concerned about pressure, because we are in it for a couple of reasons...not only just to win football games but to see student-athletes grow and mature into capable young men...so this is another phase of that maturation process, so certainly there is no pressure.

Did it change the way you recruited last year?

No, because at WSSU we are constantly trying to go out and get the best student-athlete that we can possibly get and find...it is certainly going to put a stipulation on the kind of guys, and quantity of guys that we can take, and we are going to have to step up and broaden our recruiting areas...the Florida and Georgia recruiting hotbeds are going to be of tremendous importance to us as we try to continue to improve...the team speed is going to be something that we watch as we play these future opponents...so we will have to adapt our tactics in recruiting.

Having been a few points away from the championship a few times and having committed a few costly turnovers, how much emphasis are you putting on protecting the football?

This is something that of course, we have to concern ourselves with...Pretty much all camp we have been concentrating on protecting the football...I have always felt that the team that turns it over less is the team that is going to win, and when I look back on the three ball games that we lost last season, I feel that we did turn the football over in those games, and that cost us the chance to win...and when I think back to the Carson-Newman game last season, I feel that our two turnovers in the red zone really cost us a chance to win that game...Fayetteville State, we turned it over a couple of times in the red zone and really shortened the field for their offense, and Virginia Union was the same way...we definitely need to play field position...especially against a team as good as Carson-Newman...they won't try to beat you with the big play, they will discipline you to death and wait for you to make a mistake, and then capitalize on it...they will run and dive, run and dive, hoping that they catch your linebackers trying to cheat...on offense, we have to take what they give us, and play clock control by running the ball and we must protect the football and play the clock to our advantage.

With as good as your offense is, do you worry about spreading it around? Offense that good can be your best friend and your worst enemy, does that concern you?

Nope. To me a good offense is a good thing. Certainly the guys know that there is only one football. We will do whatever works, and get the ball in the hands of guys that are producing for us. If the running game is working, then certainly, we will stick with it and run the football...If we have to throw it, and that is part of our game that night, then we will do that, and I don't think that any of the guys in this room would be at all upset if they didn't touch the ball, as long as we get the win.

Many of the preseason publications have WSSU ranked very high. How does that effect the team and you, is that a positive or a negative thing?

First of all, what you read, all the preseason stuff, that doesn't mean anything to me...I don't know whether big expectations come from inside the program or external forces, but I know that our guys and our staff, here at WSSU, we always have them...that is the tradition here at Winston, we win...and our fans, players, coaches and administrators expect it...We certainly feel very confident about what we are doing and I would really rather be around a group of confident guys,...and as I said in an interview over the summer,...everytime that we crank up after the break, I think that we have a great football team...I would never think any less.

How do you like how the guys have looked in practice?

Well, to be honest, we have had our good days, and we have had our bad days...that is to be expected...we have been going for right at about 19 to 20 straight days of working, and after a while you have to give these guys a break,...and that is where the guys get a little sluggish because of tired legs, and that is where, being a seasoned coach, you know you have to back up off of them and when to put the pedal down on them....this is game week right here...we actually started our game week on Saturday and it is a little awkward to play a game on Thursday, being out of our regular schedule, but at the same time, we have to be prepared for Thursday.

Is it a good thing, and exciting thing, to be the first game in the nation?

I guess...but its nothing we haven't done before...we did it two years ago when we went up to Carson-Newman, and we got off to a slow start and were sluggish, and lost that game...we don't expect to do that again.

Coach, your offense is well known, but talk about your defense. What is your focus on defense?

Defensively, with the experience our players and coaches have is really going to help us. Adding Linwood Ferguson to coach the secondary is going to help tremendously...I look around and though we lost a few guys, our defensive team speed is great, and the guys that we lost we were able to replace with seasoned transfer students...so I feel that we feel we are ready...our team speed on defense is going to be key...we are going to try to get at the football, and our other focus is going to be to make sure that we do not give up the big play. We can't do that against teams, and against a team as good as the Eagles, you definitely can't do it...we had a few situations last year where we gave up the big play, but that was in the early part of the season...I think we will be ok.

Why start out with such a tough opponent like the Eagles rather than a little patsy?

I think that if you don't start out tough, you send the wrong message to your team...You need a touch opponent like a Carson-Newman, or a Tusculum, or Fort Valley State to use as a measuring stick of your strengths and weaknesses, and we have all three of those opponents, back-to-back-to-back to start our season...Playing Carson-Newman is a great preparation game for us, because if we know anything about C-N it is that they are going to be a very sound football team...they will play good technique football, and that is where we have to get to to be a championship football team.

Do you even bring up the fact that since 1993 they are 50-2 at home? Do you use that as motivation at all?

No...It really doesn't matter...On any given Saturday, it doesn't matter...anybody can beat anybody, its all a matter of how well you prepare.

Is the offensive line a concern for you being young?

Not really. We have had some guys step up and play like veterans...Jerome Dunbar, Bennie Barbour...those type of guys...they are young, but are playing like juniors...it is the system that they are buying into, and it is producing results...We feel god about either one of those kids starting the ball game for us...Its all about them going out there and being aggressive and playing good assignment and technique football.

The chemistry between you and new Offensive Coordinator Dana Walker is good, you have know each other for a while. He has big shoes to fill, but will that chemistry help?

Sure it will. We are on the same page, and he fits well into the system, and is familiar with it. As far as big shoes to fill...sure...he does have big shoes to fill in taking over after Arrington Jones III...But AJ had big shoes to fill when he took over for me...not to pat myself on the back or anything...but seriously, we know he is a very capable coordinator and expect nothing but good things to continue to come from our offense...His style is almost exactly the same as ours, and we are doing almost 80% what we did last year and 20% what he has added, and we are confident that we can get it done on Thursday.