RONALD ROBERTS: We have been joined by our coaches. We’ll have comments from each coach and then open it up to questions from the media.
First we’ll hear from Mississippi State Coach Moorhead.
JOE MOORHEAD: Want to thank the bowl representatives for an unbelievable experience. Had an opportunity throughout my career to be at the Rose Bowl, Fiesta Bowl, a bunch of other ones. The entire experience, everything that Opryland has offered.
The setup of the day where you get football in the morning, you get time to prepare, then there’s a good balance of events and free time for the players and the coaches. The city of Nashville has been unbelievable. Is just been a great bowl experience for the team.
Excited to build off the momentum of our Egg Bowl win, winning three of our last four, signing a great recruitment class in early December. Obviously playing a great team, a very well-coached team, very talented. Excited to get to tomorrow and play the game.
RONALD ROBERTS: Now we’ll have a few words from University of Louisville head coach Scott Satterfield.
SCOTT SATTERFIELD: I just reiterate the same thing. We’re honored to be here. Man, what a great experience for our football team and our players, our fans. We’re only two and a half hours away, so they’re excited about it, as well.
Opportunity to play post-season, number one, is obviously a reward for our football team doing some good things throughout the season. For us, coming into the season, probably wasn’t many people who even thought we were going to be in the post-season. What we were able to accomplish this year with our staff and players, really excited about that.
Heard great things about this bowl. It’s all been true. We’ve had a great experience this week, all the events. Everybody has been so hospitable. It’s been an awesome experience for all our guys.
Looking forward to playing a football game now. Many days here, so this morning I was thinking about what day is it. As football coaches you try to figure out Friday, Saturday. Today is a Friday for us. We’re excited about that, getting ready to play a football game.
We know we’re going against a great football team here. Coach Moorhead has done a great job with that program. Excited to get going. Appreciate everybody.
RONALD ROBERTS: We’ll open it up for questions.
Q. Coach Satterfield, a couple weeks ago you mentioned you wanted these guys to have fun. They’ve had fun here in Nashville. Have you talked to them at all about balancing that with knowing when you step on the football field you have to be pretty focused on what’s going on?
SCOTT SATTERFIELD: You certainly have to be focused. We talked about that. I also want them to enjoy the whole experience here. Particularly I think the first couple of days you’re a little bit more relaxed, let them enjoy a little bit more their free time there.
When it’s time to meet, when it’s time to practice, you have to focus. We talked about that in Louisville before we came down. These guys have done a good job with that.
Then as you get closer to the game, you certainly dial back more of the free time, and more of the focus time has to come into play. Our guys have done a good job with that.
Hopefully today will be more like getting back to a normal, during the season, like a Friday-type day. Then obviously tomorrow is a normal game day. But our guys have enjoyed. They’ve handled it well. It’s been a good week.
Q. Joe, what would it mean for you guys to get a win in this bowl game? Your second straight winning season. What would that do for momentum going into the off-season?
JOE MOORHEAD: I think it would be huge. As Coach Satterfield alluded to earlier, the reward of winning six games or more in the regular season, having an opportunity to play in the post-season, not only is it valuable for the opportunity to end your season and the senior season with a win, but the developmental aspect of it.
The entire bowl experience, getting our young guys a bunch of reps, getting them developed, that is invaluable. Then coming here, getting prepared for the game.
Like I mentioned earlier, with the positive momentum, all the good things we have going, want to have the opportunity to finish it, send these seniors off in the right way. It would mean a ton to me, a lot to the team and the program as well.
Q. Scott, your early success as a head coach in bowl games, can you pinpoint why that may be?
SCOTT SATTERFIELD: I think we had some good teams (laughter).
Obviously you can’t pinpoint one thing or two things maybe. I think a combination of good teams, matchups. The guys, obviously you have to be focused on what they’re trying to do.
There’s several ways to handle a bowl prep. As you look back, from the end of the season to the time you play your bowl game, there’s a lot of different ways you can do it. You can go full pads, really get after your guys. Maybe with the young guys, that type of thing, you can be a little bit not as many reps with the older guys. There’s a lot of different ways to do it.
The way we’ve chosen to do it, we’re a little bit lighter, not as much tackling, that type of thing throughout there. We try to make the practices fun and enjoyable. When teams that get to the game that are excited about it, want to play, want to be there, I think usually end up playing pretty well.
Q. Coach Moorhead, there have been reports about a fight between Garrett Schrader and Willie Gay. Could you address that for people? That’s been a big talk amongst the fan base. Can you talk about whether that happened and how you address that with the team?
JOE MOORHEAD: To me, it was a team issue that we handled internally. It’s been resolved. Garrett is here on-site, he was at practice yesterday, is in good spirits. More than anything, we want our focus to be like we mentioned earlier, on these seniors, on this team, on this game.
It’s a team matter. It was handled. Garrett is here, he’s at practice. Just saw him up in the hall eating a bag of licorice. Things are going good.
Q. A lot of people have obviously had strong opinions about what happened or what they think happened. Willie, I guess he’s had a rough year being suspended for eight games. People see him as the guy who knocked the starting quarterback out of this big bowl game. What would you say to people who have developed a perception of Willie based on those two things? What would you say to defend Willie?
JOE MOORHEAD: I don’t think I need to. Like I said, we’ve addressed it, it’s a team matter. It’s been handled internally. Willie and Garrett have talked to each other. Like I said, we’ve addressed it. We moved on from it. Want our focus to be on this team, this game, this great opportunity in front of us.
Q. Scott, several of your guys talked about just the three weeks of bowl prep time being a really big bonding time for the team. They hung out as position groups, as a big group. How valuable has this been beyond whatever happens in the game tomorrow going forward?
SCOTT SATTERFIELD: Yeah, I think that’s part of what we’re trying to do here since we got here last December as a staff. Really trying to create consistency, create trust and a bond, the chemistry between the team when we started out last January. Kind of just worked through all that. Ended up winning some games this year to be able to play at the bowl season.
For some schools, they’re done. Not any students there on campus. It’s just your team. The time everyone spent together has been awesome creating that bond.
We have 27 seniors. Those guys will be gone after this. But these young guys, the ones that have experienced this, we want them to hopefully enjoy it, I think they have. We did a lot of things together as a team.
Something that inspires you to work harder in the off-season next year so they can get back here, get back to another bowl game, have another successful season. It’s been great the bonding we have, not only the players, but also the coaches with the players.
Q. Scott, what is your quarterback play? You played two in a lot of games this year. Towards the end of the season it was mostly Micale.
SCOTT SATTERFIELD: Cunningham is going to play, start. Evan will be ready to go if he needs to play. We’ve kind of been doing that all year.
I said this beginning of last year, the season, I don’t really care who the quarterback is. Whoever is playing, I want them to be able to move the football.
We’re now at a point where both guys are healthy. That the middle of the season where Cunningham got dinged up, Evan was dinged up, we had to play both. Now Cunningham is healthy. He’s ready to go, so he’ll play. We’ll see how it goes.
Q. Earlier in the year you talked a lot about when you got here, you wanted to build the culture. You mentioned the bonding these guys have had. How much does that help even though it’s 12 and a half months into your time here?
SCOTT SATTERFIELD: I think it helps. All the time you spend with your teammates obviously helps. You’re creating memories, that bond. You’re creating something that will last for the rest of these guys’ lives. I think the things that we’re doing together, it makes it stronger.
When you do face adversity, you’re not going to fold, you’re going to continue to fight, you’re going to push through. We all know you’re going to face adversity, no question about that in life, but particularly on the football field, when you’re out there playing.
You really feel good about your brothers beside you, you’ll put everything on the line for them. That’s part of creating that bond.
Q. There have been a number of your colleagues who have said that the Playoff diminishes the value of the bowl games. Outside the Playoff, do you feel like bowl week is more important?
SCOTT SATTERFIELD: I don’t think it’s more important. I think every time we step on the field to compete, we’re trying to win. That’s important. If you’re not trying to do that, then why are you even playing the game?
We want to go out and win. I know coach wants to go out and win with his team. That’s the competitor in you. The way we run our program, everything we do is competitive. We want to win everything we’re doing. When you’re on the field and playing, yeah, you want to go out there and win the football game. This will be no different.
Obviously there’s a lot of buildup when you make a bowl game, you have those three or four weeks to get ready for the game. All the things we just talked about, the bonding, the extra practices for the young guys, all those things are important, very important.
At the end of the day when you get ready to play the football game, you want to win. There’s no question about it. Otherwise nobody would be in this sport, I don’t think. I think these guys, they go out and want to play, win the game.
There’s times I think in bowl games maybe teams don’t want to be there. That’s kind of what I was talking about earlier as far as the teams that want to be there, that are excited about it, I think usually end up playing well, end up having a great experience.
JOE MOORHEAD: I think more than anything, maybe not like basketball or baseball where you can play a game, then you got another one coming around the bend in a couple days. Football is unique in the sense that you work almost an entire year for 12 opportunities. If you do well enough and win more than half of those opportunities, you’re rewarded with an opportunity to play another one.
The competitive aspect, developmental aspect, as coach mentioned, another time to be together with the team, another time to prepare, put a game plan together, for the kids to get on the field, compete their tails off, not everyone in the country is awarded that opportunity. There’s a bunch of teams sitting at home right now watching bowl games on TV, watching the Playoff, wishing they were having that opportunity.
Coach and I’s programs are very fortunate to have that. When you play 12, have an opportunity for the 13th one, you have to cherish it because not everybody has that opportunity.
Q. Joe, you said the focus is obviously all week on winning this football game. Given the incident that happened last week, it might be kind of hard to focus on doing that. My question is, what was the players’ reaction, the team reaction to what happened? How hard was it to galvanize the guys and defuse that situation?
JOE MOORHEAD: Honestly, like I talked about, it’s been addressed. We’ve kind of moved on from it. The key thing with the bowl, the teams that play well are generally able to eliminate or handle distractions and adversity. They’re able to prepare well, they’re able to play with physicality, able to execute.
When we got down to the site, the first couple days the kids have some more things going on, the big message was have your mind and your feet in the same place. If you’re in a position, have your mind and feet there. When you’re on the practice field, have your mind and feet there. If you’re at an event, be there. If you have free time, do that. I think our kids have done a good time partializing their focus.
When we’ve been in the meeting rooms, on the field, it’s been 100% football. It is a reward and you want them to enjoy themselves. In terms of that and distractions, since it happened, we’ve moved on, we’ve been fine.
Q. Scott, you mentioned having fun in a bowl game. Is that an opportunity to add wrinkles to an offense, game plan, do different things than what you’ve done? Have you been able to add some things in the last few weeks?
SCOTT SATTERFIELD: Not really. I mean, I’m not going to sit here and tell you what we’ve added right now.
JOE MOORHEAD: You’re not (laughter)?
SCOTT SATTERFIELD: No (laughter).
To me, the first two weeks of practice, we’re really just base football. Really didn’t work much on Mississippi State as far as just scheming, those type of things. We’re trying to just run our offense, our defense, our teams. As you get closer to it, obviously you start doing some game planning.
You are obviously going to have a few wrinkles here and there. Both teams are going to do that. It’s not something where you’re going to go in there, change everything you’re doing, all that. You’re going to be who you are.
We played 12 games at this point. There will be a few wrinkles off of what we’ve done all season, but not anything that is going to be over the top, I don’t think.
Q. Joe, how have you seen Nyeem and John take over the linebacker room, bridge the gap?
JOE MOORHEAD: This is a time of the year where those things are happening, coaches have opportunities, they decide to pursue them. We wish those guys well. As you talk about with the players, you’re going to have that next-man-in mentality.
Between John and Nyeem handling the room, the benefit of Nyeem, who I think is a great young coach who is going to have a very bright future in this profession, he’s played in this system with Coach Shoop at Penn State, has had a lot of success as the player, has been in that room. Really knows the ins and outs of the position, not just from a teaching standpoint. I thought it was a great opportunity for him to develop as a young coach, as well.
We really kind of haven’t missed a beat in the linebacker room.
Q. You talked about the importance of winning this game. The way the last game went, how important is it? Is there a higher importance on this game in terms of momentum this would give you guys going into the off-season?
SCOTT SATTERFIELD: Yeah, I mean, you certainly want to end on a high note. I think one of the things when you play a bowl game, I’ve always said you’re only as good as your last game. This is going to be our last game until the start of the season next year. You have these next six or seven months where whatever taste is in your mouth is kind of what you’re going to be thinking about the next six or seven months. You want to end on a good note and play well.
Certainly didn’t the last time out. That’s been a bad taste in our mouth the last month. So to be able to come out and play a lot better will be huge for us and important for us to be able to do that.
I think more importantly, that’s probably more important, honestly than winning the game. We want to win the game, no question about it. But you want to play well. You want to lay it all out there, play well. You don’t want to have many mental errors. We’ll see what happens as far as winning and losing goes.
But you want to play well. I think for us, we need to be able to go out and do that because it does, it carries that momentum throughout the whole off-season. We start school January 6th, we’re going to be right back here to Louisville in a week. This is certainly going to be right in your mind of how you played at the end of this game.
Q. Scott, can you play the guitar or do you have any musical talent?
SCOTT SATTERFIELD: No and no (laughter). My son, who is with me, he’s a senior in high school, he picked it up about two and a half years ago. I should have brought him. He can play, good on the guitar.
Q. Joe, three defensive players earlier in the week banged up. How are they?
JOE MOORHEAD: In addition to Brian Cole not playing in the game, you hope you had that month to kind of get some guys healed up and get them ready to play. I’d say at this point Jaden is probably doubtful. Jaquarius and Erroll are probable.
Q. What is your health situation with your team, Scott? Without a lot of depth to start the season, how much did that factor into especially defense late?
SCOTT SATTERFIELD: Yeah, you know, at the start of the year, not much depth to begin with. I think for the most part this year we’ve stayed fairly healthy. Yeast got hurt second to last game. He’s out. He’s still out. But other than that, I mean, all our guys are playing and healthy.
I think you get to the end of the season, obviously there’s going to be a lot of nicks, bruises, that type of thing. This is enabling our guys to get rid of all that and feel good again about your bodies.
I think predominantly most all our guys, except for Yeast, is valuable and will play.
Q. Scott, the tackling from the last game, how much did you go live during the bowl practice? Have you ever found a good mix of live and not live in a bowl practice?
SCOTT SATTERFIELD: Yeah, I think really for the young guys, you can tackle a little bit more during bowl prep. I don’t want to tackle the older guys, the guys that have been playing all year. They’ve already had those opportunities. Again, you get the bruises and nicks, you don’t want to have in injuries throughout bowl prep.
Young guys were able to tackle a little bit more. With the older guys, you’re doing tackling, utilizing all the different things that we have to tackle with, the dummies and all those type of things. You’re working on fundamentals with tackling. So we certainly did at every practice. We can’t get enough of that. We certainly have to get a lot better at tackling.
But I think as far as the live tackling goes, really just with the young guys.
Q. Obviously Brian Colt is a guy that played a ton of snaps this year. How do you address nickel, who is going to slide into that spot? How have you prepared for that?
JOE MOORHEAD: Yeah, I mean, certainly less than ideal. We respect Brian’s decision. Fred Peters is a guy that played a lot in our nickel and dime situations on third down. Junior college guy who has some game experience coming in. From the start, we’ll roll with him. He’s had a good bowl prep season and we expect him to go out and play well.
Q. (No microphone.)
SCOTT SATTERFIELD: Adonis Boone will start right there. The NC State game, basically the same lineup we had in that game. We really didn’t change much game planning anything different than what we did. You go back to NC State week, basically the same type of game plan there that we’ve done this week.
You got to play the guys that are going to be here to be able to play. You got to roll with what you got. Obviously Becton was a great player for us, a big presence in what we tried to do offensively.
The rest of the guys will have to raise their game a little bit more and try to compensate for him not being there. We feel like we got some good play-makers to get the ball to. Up front, those guys have gelled great over the last three weeks. Feel like we’ll be in good shape.
Q. Joe, Tommy came here from Penn State obviously with the hopes that he’d have a really big year in his first year as a college starter. Injuries, whatnot have probably prohibited that from happening. Given he has this one final chance to make a statement, what do you think it would mean to him to have a big game, for you to win that game?
JOE MOORHEAD: It’s kind of gone full circle for Tommy this year. Started off the season on fire, got injured, came back, maybe wasn’t as effective, got injured again. Garrett was playing well.
I think it means a lot to Tommy as a player, considering how his career has gone. I know it means a lot to his family for him to come out and play well in his last game before he has an opportunity to play at the next level.
It would mean a lot to me personally, the time at Penn State, now here as Mississippi State, for him to come out in his last game was a college eligible player, his last game at Mississippi State, to play well, kind of put a closure on a real nice football career. It would mean a lot to him personally, it would mean a lot to me, certainly mean a lot to the team, as well.
RONALD ROBERTS: Thank you, gentlemen.
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