Tulane's Curtis Johnson eager to bounce back at UTSA - FOX 8 WVUE New Orleans News, Weather, Sports

Tulane's Curtis Johnson eager to bounce back at UTSA

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New Orleans, La. - Tulane's four-game win streak came to a crashing halt Saturday with a 34-17 loss to Florida Atlantic but coach Curtis Johnson is encouraging his team to bounce back this week at UT-San Antonio.

The following are CJ's comments to the media, as transcribed by Tulane Sports Information:

"This was a tough game for us (UTSA) and FAU was a tough loss. We were in a situation where we had the two quarterbacks playing. Devin (Powell) only played 16 plays. Nick (Montana) played 44 plays. They didn't play well enough to win. Nick is coming back from some injuries, and Devon just didn't play as well as he has been playing. I thought the defense played outstanding. We had to make them blitz to create something down the stretch after we suffered four turnovers in a row. I thought the special teams played well. Offensively, we didn't play as well as we should have. They dared us to throw, and we couldn't make our completions."

"One other note, we had a situation at the game with (special teams and linebackers) coach Barry Lamb and a medical condition. He is going to take a leave of absence, indefinitely. I don't know how long it will be. But he is on medical leave. I know he was dehydrated during the game, but there are several other things that are going to get checked out. There might be something that is going around."

On playing both quarterbacks against FAU…

"If we ran a two-quarterback system where both of the quarterbacks ran the same amount of plays (we would not have had a problem). Nick practiced most of the plays, and that is what we are going to have him do again this week. Devin only practiced a quarter of the plays all week long, whereas Nick had practiced all of the plays. I don't know if Nick is fully, 100 percent and ready to roll. He probably should have been out for another week, but he was eager and raring to go. We just have to look at it again. We started the game out with Nick for a couple of series, and then we put in Devin for a little bit. With two hits (to Nick), we would have been playing with Devin one way or the other."

On how the time will be split with the quarterbacks during practice this week…

"It will be the same as last week. I think Nick ran about 70 percent of the time (with the first team) and Devin ran about 30 percent of the time. That's probably what it was during the game, too."

On the game plan for quarterback during the game against UTSA…

"I just want (watch) Nick's shoulder. If he is going good, we are definitely going to give him the first two series and give Devin the third series and then take it from there."

On coach Barry Lamb's medical leave of absence…

"I don't want to elaborate on the medical condition of a coach. Really and truly, I don't know all the ins and outs about it. I just know that we miss him, and the players miss him already. He didn't look good coming back, so we are just praying for him and wishing for the best."

On who will fill in for Lamb during his absence…

"What we have done is divvied it up a bit. We have kind of activated Doug Lichtenberger to help us with the special teams. You have to kind of have a Mariano Rivera. He just retired for the Yankees, but we have one now. (Doug) has done this before. He will be fantastic for us. Our kids love him."

On changing the rhythm of the quarterback based on the play during the game…

"We probably won't mess up the rhythm, especially with this game. I was really afraid last week because I didn't know if Nick was truly back yet. He didn't play as well as he has played in the past. But if he is rolling, and doing what he has to do, then we are going to play him. But again, he is just two hits away from being out again."

On whether or not the FAU loss surprised him and how his team responded…

"I don't think the team read the press clippings. I'm sure they did. Defensively, we came out in the first half with a score of 17-7, and they couldn't move the ball. They had that one drive. Our running backs were running hard, and the offensive line was blocking pretty good. We were playing our typical field-position game. We didn't want to have to leave the game in the hands of the quarterbacks even though some of the receivers made some good catches. I was pleased at halftime. Truly, I thought we would go out, stop them in the first drive, go down the field and score and put them to sleep. I thought we did play well, but then after that we had a meltdown. When you throw four straight interceptions in four straight possessions, it's just hard to come back from that."

On his relationship with UTSA head coach Larry Coker…

"Well, Larry is a great friend of mine. We worked together, as I was hired a year after he got to Miami (FL). He was the offensive coordinator and I was the receivers coach. Then he took over as the head coach. Larry is truly a mentor to me. We still talk, although we haven't talked in a while. He is a great man. He is a better person than he is anything else. If you ever sit down with him, he is a really, really good, smart guy. He is a good football coach, and he has his team playing really well. We hung out together at the (Conference USA) media day. We were inseparable there. I loved working for him."

On the success Coker has had at UTSA…

"There is no indication he is slowing down one bit. He is always joking, and he recently told me how old he was and I didn't believe him. He is just a very, very conscientious guy. He's been at a lot of places like Arizona State, Ohio State, Oklahoma. He is a phenomenal coach."

On whether or not the Tulane players know that their goals are still attainable…

"They were real down when they came in Sunday. I asked them all if they played golf. Some of them raised their hands, some of them didn't. I told them that (the FAU game) was our mulligan. We had our mulligan game. It's over now. We are still where we want to be. We are the only team that can still control its own destiny. We have to go out and win this one, win the next one, win the next one, win the next one and then win a bowl game. But, it's easier said than done."

On how they've managed to win without controlling the time of possession during games…

"We are winning these games one way: defense. Our best players are on defense. We recruited that way when I got here. That's been my philosophy. We are winning on special teams. We are not turning the ball over. That was our formula. But when you begin to turn the ball over, that's what bites us."

On whether there is fatigue from the defense…

"Injuries are a big part, too. Losing (DT Chris) Davenport was big because he is just so big and he consumes everybody. It's just so hard to get around him. Losing him probably was the (biggest loss). We had (LB) Zach (Davis) out for a couple of games, (LB) Dominique (Robertson) missed a game. Injuries for the long haul is the thing that kills us. But the formula is going to be the same for the rest of the year. We don't have dominating players (on offense). We have a young offensive line. The quarterbacks are new, and are back-and-forth right now. I don't expect us to go out and score 30-35 points. We just have to play close to the vest and our defense will win it for us."

On current injury status…

"Davenport, (CB Taurean) Nixon had a little something going on, (center) Zach (Morgan) didn't do much today, but he did do individuals. With Davenport, being a fifth-year senior, he thinks he has this whole thing figured out. He'll take a day or two off and say he is better. You think you are better because you didn't do anything all week. (Tight end Matt) Marfisi had surgery on his hand, but he will be ready to play. No one is really out."

On not having Chris Davenport against FAU…

"He's so big and dominant. If you would have told me before the season, I would have thought that he would have to be an offensive lineman to help us. All of a sudden, he's been playing really well. You can't block him. So not having him, it impacted what we do. I thought (FAU's) center was real good. (Davenport) did run today, so hopefully he will be back."

On the offensive play calling…

"I thought the play calling was conservative. Here is what I would say: sometimes you just have to take some shots. I thought the play calling was exactly what we needed. If you think about it, the first interception was a play we run all of the time. The ball was just a little bit late. If we throw it on time, we make the play. The second interception was just read the wrong way. The third one, the receiver just dropped it, and the last one was just a bad read. So the play calling is what we needed. We want to run. We just have to get our timing down, and have the quarterbacks throw the ball on time and have the receivers run the right route and have the line block. We are capable of it, as we have done it for several weeks. I think we will get back to doing that."

On whether FAU defended against our quarterbacks to make them throw differently…

"Absolutely. If you watch the tape, you see that (FAU) did not back up. They just stopped right there. We tried to get it downfield and it just wasn't on time. But I think our guys will get the ball downfield this week. They will make the throws this week. We may have brought (Nick) back a week too early, but the kid was eager to go. That's why I'm keeping Powell right there."

On whether he would have sat Nick Montana another week in hindsight…

"I don't think so. He brings things to the table, and didn't make many mental mistakes. We had the short passing game in effect. In retrospect, if there is one thing I would have demanded him to do, it would have been to take more deep shots."

On the few deep balls Nick Montana did throw against FAU…

"(The one to WR Ryan Grant) was a little late and underthrown. That was a scheduled and scripted throw. It wasn't that bad. Grant should have come up with that one, being the player he is. It was still a little behind him and a little late, and (Grant) did get drilled. I think as the game wore on, I think (Nick's) timing got worse."

On whether his timing got worse because of his injury or his first interception…

"More than the interceptions, I think (Nick's performance) was the by-product of not being in midseason flow. He makes those kinds of throws every week. It's why he we have won six games. He just couldn't come back in the second half and get it done."

On the confidence levels of the quarterbacks…

"They would tell you that (there is no confidence issue). I don't really know. If Nick was healthy and played throughout the week, we wouldn't be having this conversation. But now, the question is, where does the rehab stop, and the football begins so he can get back to being his old self. He just has to continue to practice. He looked better today (in practice) than he did last week."

On running back Lazedrick Thompson…

"He did earn more carries, but he hurt his knee the other day. He did something to the cartilage. He had surgery and he is out for the rest of the year."

On the team's urgency to win in order to keep their bowl-hopes alive…

"I don't think our team believes that being bowl-eligible is the goal in mind. The goal is to win the conference championship. I think right now, coming off a loss, we should be the most urgent team. They practiced with a sense of urgency today. We've always practiced well, but it was a little more physical today. The defense dominated when they had to and the offense dominated when they had to. You just see the intensity level pick up. There wasn't a lot of chatter or messing around at practice."

On whether the loss to FAU will help the team refocus…

"I hope so. You never know. Like a mulligan, you get another shot, but if you hit it in the same place, then there is no use for the mulligan. But, I thought today's practice, they were much more focused."

On the offensive line shuffling…

"Zach (Morgan) is a little bit hurt. Mike (Henry) is a little bit down. You have to mix your combinations, so if someone else went down, you would have to move (Nathan) Shienle to center, putting Colton Hanson in the game. You have to start preparing for those things. Zach was out for most of the game. He had a little bit of a hip issue, but he is fine."

On sitting down the administration on his future here…

"I'd love to be here as long as I can. I'm from here. My wife is from here. Everybody is here. I think they are trying to plan a surprise party for me today, because today is my birthday. There is always something going on. I'm perfectly happy here. I know the coaches are recruiting well, and doing a great job. I'm home. I'm never going to miss a Mardi Gras again. I just love being here, so I would love to stay here if they would have me."

On his assistant's pay…

"It's huge to me. I love those assistants. I've known them all (from before I was here). I just don't want to come back from a recruiting trip and six of them are gone because they got better jobs. I really want those guys to be taken care of before me."

On it being his birthday…

"The team sang happy birthday to me, but a lot of the guys were off-key, so I might have to have them do it again."

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