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Phillips & Taggert talk about Saturday's Matchup

UK Head Coach Joker Phillips & WKU Head Coach Willie Taggert talk about Saturday

Kentucky head coach Joker Phillips addresses reporters during SEC Media Days last month. Phillips, who is in his first year as UK’s coach, is among the growing ranks of black FBS head coaches.


THE MODERATOR: At this point we'll turn it over to Coach Phillips.
COACH PHILLIPS: Injury report. Melillo will be out. Tai Smith is questionable with a groin. Dakotah Tyler will be questionable. We'll try to get him to practice on Tuesday, see how he's doing. Jordan Aumiller has a sprained foot. His will be day to day.
A couple things that we knew that were obvious from watching the game, we needed to get corrected. Got to play smarter. No question about that. 11 penalties. Kentucky does not have 11 penalties for 90 yards. That's Kentucky beating Kentucky. That's one of the things we talk about, we don't feet ourselves.
Had five yard penalties. The ones that are discouraging, the false starts, procedures, delay of the game, trying to get into your victory formation, everybody is all excited, hugging, high fiving in the huddle, forget to get out of the huddle to get the victory. Those are discouraging.
Then the big penalty was the personal foul. Those are things that are unnecessary, not playing smart. We are not a team that's going to beat ourselves.
Offensively, got to score. Got down inside the five yard line. We had the false start. Little things that can't happen.
Then we can't get ourselves in long down situations. A lot of them weren't third and long, but we have to try to battle from first and 20 or first and 15. And those become really hard in trying to convert when you put yourself in long distance yardage.
Defensively we have to avoid big plays. Way too many big plays. Four plays for 134 yards that they had. Defensively our goal was to keep them snapping the ball, just keep them snapping the ball. Because the thing is, the longer the drive, the more chances you have.
That's us, too. We weren't mixing big plays. The longer the drive, the more chances you have of screwing up the drive. That 20 play drive they did have, that's us keeping them snapping the ball. There were four minus yard plays in that drive. They had a false start. But the problem is, we lined up off sides twice in that drive. Those are things that we got to get corrected. But also we also want to keep them snapping the ball on that 20 play drive, they only got a field goal. Keep them snapping the ball, we'll hold them to a field goal or the team screws it up enough that we make them punt.
On special teams, got to kick the ball better both on the kickoff and on the PAT field goals. We missed the PAT, missed the field goal. On the (long) kickoff return, we didn't kick the ball where we wanted it. Also got to tackle better. Those are things we have to do on the special forces.
We are into Western. Good football team. Really like their guys up front on both sides of the ball, on the offensive line, defensive line. Quarterback is a dynamic player. Running back that ran for 150 yards against a pretty good football team (Nebraska).
So they'll be heated, fired up, ready to play us. We cannot make our same mistakes that we had in this past game. We got to get those corrected and continue to play fast, start fast, but then finish stronger than we did. We didn't finish strong.
We came out. I'm not sure if we emphasized finishing as much as we did starting fast. Last year our biggest thing was starting fast. We emphasized starting fast more than we did finishing. We've got to emphasize a little bit more of making sure that we're finishing the games.

Q. How much do some of the things you mentioned, penalties, how much of that is being the first game?
COACH PHILLIPS: I hope a lot of it is. You had a lot of guys that hadn't played a lot of snaps. We had some mistakes that when one person says back up, we all supposed to back up six inches. Everybody is backing up six inches because you don't know who's off sides. We didn't get that communicated.
Those can't happen in crucial situations, which we had one on third down that we had (a chance) to get off the field. We had one on fourth down in that same drive, which they got the first down, but they took the penalty and got three extra yards. Those are things that can't happen.
I'm hoping it's from the first game. There were some veterans that made mistakes also, that's played a lot of football for us.

Q. Going into this week, do you point out to the players that Ole Miss lost their home opener, to keep your guys focused?
COACH PHILLIPS: Definitely, definitely. Yeah, we'll point out all the games across the country everybody expects you to win, so called expects you to win. If you don't play well, if we play like we did in the second and third third and fourth quarter, any given day, anybody can beat you.

Q. You mentioned some of the things you had problems with. Can you tell me what you saw that you liked?
COACH PHILLIPS: I really liked our effort. I like this football team's effort, their attitude, how excited they played. I really liked, I mentioned before, the offensive line. Offensive line did a really good job of capturing the line of scrimmage and getting up to the second level.
Another thing I like is Moncell Allen. I know you guys had him over here (for interviews). He did a really good job for us. He's now seen himself we've been trying to convince him, he's now convincing himself that he's a fullback now. I think that's a hardest thing for a guy going from a tailback to a fullback. Hey, I'm probably not going to get the ball one or two times this game. He's starting to convince himself.
I really liked fast how fast Danny Trevathan played. We have to get the rest of our linebackers playing as fast as he. He had three tackles for a loss. Seems like he was all over the place.
Randall Burden competed on the perimeter also. We did some really good things. We just got to finish putting people away.

Q. Does the success of John Conner in the NFL help to sell Moncell Allen on being a fullback?
COACH PHILLIPS: It's got to. Through training camp, “Hard Knocks” (TV show), they saw all the plays, run into people all day, doesn't touch the ball. They saw the praise that he was getting across the country on that. I think it helped us be able to sell Moncell. He's a guy that is big enough, plays special teams, catches the ball.
All the things that John has as far as special teams, catching the ball, athleticism for a big man, the thing he (Moncell) has to do is show everybody he can block, he can get the tough short yardage. He has to show people he can block. He got off to a good start in doing it.

Q. He wasn't really into it when he first heard about playing fullback?
COACH PHILLIPS: He was not. The thing that I talked to him about, I said, Do you want to be in this stance with your helmet in your hand or do you want to be in this stance (laughter). That's what I told him, you know. Two different stances he can be in.
Early on, he didn't buy into it. Once we started practicing, he did. Off season, he couldn't see himself as a fullback. But he's slowly coming around.
I mean, this helps, too. It helps that he had success. Everybody saw it. The world saw him. The world saw him mowing people down. I think that helps convince himself it's not a bad gig after all.
I don't worry about him getting shorter either. Usually fullbacks worry about hitting their head, going into the shoulder. He's already there. (laughter)

Q. Coach Brooks told us, “John Conner might be the first guy drafted. He's going to be good in the pros.” When you see that guy have the success he has, does it validate what you thought about him?
COACH PHILLIPS: It does. I was talking to one of the scouts. The reason that John Conner was rated as the No. 1 fullback coming out is because he knew what he was. The fullbacks across the country, they still got this tailback mentality. John Conner knew he was a fullback. We convinced Moncell he's a fullback. That will help us convince the next person they're a fullback. It helped us with (Greg) Meisner, that the position is not going to get much glory, but they are very valuable to us in this football team.

Q. (Question regarding Ryan Tydlacka's missed kicks.)
COACH PHILLIPS: Missed them. I tell you, he missed them. But he came back, made a big one for us. Somebody asked about the competition. Because we have a young kid behind that we think is a great talent, that competition has to be open at all times, not because Ryan missed two opportunities, it's just because we have a young kid behind him. Every day has got to be a competition. Any day now the light could go on with him.

Q. (question about Jordan Aumiller and his availability for this week.).
COACH PHILLIPS: I knew I was going to get the question, every week.
He got to keep making plays. He did a really good job for us. Throughout the game, he didn't miss any snaps, but felt a little soreness after the game. They looked at it, and it's a sprain.

Q. Coaches always want to keep improving. You mentioned a lot of things you need to do better. You get a win against a quality opponent on the road, yet there's all these things you can teach.
COACH PHILLIPS: Definitely, definitely. When you win, obviously that's important. But now we got a chance to teach because they are feeling good about themselves because we got the win.
A lot of times when you don't get the win, you're down, you have to try to correct some of these things the way you want to correct them. I think it gives us a chance. Just try to teach them that if we do the right thing, we don't have any of these mistakes, a lot of other people give them the game.
We want to put people away when we have the opportunity. As we go through this thing, too, we got to get experience with some other guys, too. We have to put people away so we can get other people in the game for us.

Q. (question about Randall Cobb leaving the game in the third quarter and the effect on the team in the second half)
COACH PHILLIPS: That has to do with not finishing, that one. I expect the other guy to step up. We just got to finish what we're doing. Third quarter was horrendous. We didn't play very good at all in the third quarter.
The fourth quarter, we moved the ball. Had a couple penalties that put us behind the count as far as calling plays. Defensively we gave up three points. That was on the personal foul. We don't get the personal foul, we don't give anything in the fourth quarter.
We just have to understand how to finish games.

Q. (question about WKU running back Bobby Rainey)
COACH PHILLIPS: Fast, really fast. Reminds you a little bit of Locke. He's shifty. He's a strong guy. He had a pretty good game against us when he was freshman. Made 90 yards, something like that. This guy's experienced obviously. But we just got to wrap him up. We can't let him get started because he's got that type of speed.

Q. (Question about both teams having many players from Kentucky.)
COACH PHILLIPS: It will be an exciting game for a lot of those guys. We tried to recruit a lot of those guys. Some grew up Kentucky fans. It will be a big game for them, a red letter game for them. So we've got to be prepared. Can't get caught up in the motions. We got to play our style of football.

Q. (Question regarding UK’s recruitment of Danny Trevathan)
COACH PHILLIPS: Yeah, he wasn't highly recruited. He's a guy we got to project. We did a good job of projecting Danny. He was 195 pounds (in high school). He's now 225 pounds. Athletic, can run. People coming in on him late even. He's in one of those small towns in Florida that we were able to identify early, committed, were able to hang on to him.

Q. How did you find him?
COACH PHILLIPS: Under a rock (laughter).
We got to turn over every stone to find kids, especially back then, especially back then. We just saw an undersized, 190 pound guy that could run well. He was in between a safety and a linebacker. We had to project that he would grow 15, 20 pounds, and play as a true freshman.
He wasn't one of those heavily recruited guys, but he was a guy, similar to Wesley Woodyard, that was in between. Has enough toughness, enough football smarts, enough love of the game to give himself, big enough to play.

Q. Guys like that slip between the cracks. Is it size, location?
COACH PHILLIPS: It's hard to say location now because of the Internet and guys like you guys who find them before we do sometimes. Size, guys in between a runningback or fullback, okay? A guy who is in between a linebacker and a safety, linebacker and defensive end. We have to project those guys.
Collins Ukwu, 190 pounds when we signed him, 205 when he gets here. Now 260. He was the type of guy a little bit undersized that we have to try to find.

Q. Why do a lot of players these years fit that profile?
COACH PHILLIPS: Well, a lot of them are doing that. They're starting to get long, lean athletes and put weight on them. Get fast guys. That's one of the categories that we will add. We don't care what size they are. Don't care if they're 5'4". If they can run, we need to get 'em. We need to have a category of those type of people also, recruit speed. Don't care how big they are. Recruit length, okay? We don't care how big he is at the time.
Just recruit some tall, lean guys that are athletic. We have those two categories that we have to recruit to project down the road. We're always going to try to recruit the speed guys that are big and fast, but you also have to recruit some speed guys, period.

Q. (question about dealing with the distractions of the first home game)
COACH PHILLIPS: Well, we have done a good job of making sure that our kids get everything out of the way by noon on Friday, tickets, all the requests that they will get. I really like the way this football team handled themselves once we got on the bus on Friday. I told them that. Everyone was focused. The meetings, everybody was in tune to them.
I expect them to do it at home, too. We'll travel the same way. We'll leave here the same time. We'll eat at the same time. So I expect them to react the same way we did when we was on the road.
That's really a home game. It's not real far from here. There's a lot of blue and white there, too.

Q. Do you know Willie Taggart at all?
COACH PHILLIPS: I've known Willie as long as I have Charlie probably. Watched him grow up as a player. Good guy. You know, I've seen him on the recruiting trail. He'll do a great job down there for those guys. He's really sharp.
Like I say, he's young. He's got a lot of experience in this game. He worked with (indiscernible), Harbaugh. He understands what it takes. He was the coordinator when they won the national championship offensively. He has a lot of systems offensively, ran the wishbone, been out in the west coast system. Really sharp guy.

Q. What do you get out of playing them?
COACH PHILLIPS: The benefits? It's another in state recruiting team that we'll deal with. Two in state teams. I think it helps us, no question about that. We get to play them in an NFL stadium, too (in 2011 and 2013). That's a benefit also. Last year when we played in Cincinnati, played in an NFL stadium. Next year we'll be playing in an NFL stadium. I think that's attractive to the recruits.

Q. You watched him grow up as a player, now you're coaching against him.
COACH PHILLIPS: I know. I know (laughter). That means I'm old (laughter).
What is he, 35, 34? He's been in this business a long time, though, it seems. He started there right after he got out of college. He's been around. He's been around the block, no question about that. He coached a guy second in the Heisman last year also. He does a really good job for those guys. You watch them on film. A well prepared football team. He'll be great.

Q. (on the importance of the WKU game)
COACH PHILLIPS: Like I say, last week, great season. Still have a good season. Same thing for us: to have a great season, we got to beat Western, okay? Still have a good season. It's important to beat these guys to have a great season.

Q. (question about wide receiver Matt Roark).
COACH PHILLIPS: He did. You guys saw him. I saw the special teams effort he gave. Two of his big catches were scrambles. He did a really good job of uncovering. Mike hit him, made a play. Might have been a later series that again, Mike hit him, made a play to about the two yard line. Made some big plays for us.
I think all three of his catches were first downs. Also caught another one on third down. Caught a little pass right over the tight end and had a chance to run it for a little yardage. It was good.
We need a fourth receiver, no question. Need a fourth and fifth guy. He was able to step up. La'Rod King is our third. We have the other two, Matthews and Cobb. But we need a fourth guy to step up. Matt did a good job for us in uncovering, catching the ball and making plays for us.

Q. (Question regarding Coach Lou Holtz prediction of a Louisville victory.)
COACH PHILLIPS: Actually, I didn't hear him pick it. I talked to Skip on Thursday. He said that Dr. Lou picked Charlie. I expected that, though. Charlie was with him longer than myself, so... Charlie is a second son, so... (laughter)

Q. What do you think about Luke McDermott?
COACH PHILLIPS: I'm so proud of Luke. I'm proud of Coach Turner, too. He's the guy who said with McDermott, (when I asked) Are you sure? (Turner replied) Yeah, I'm sure.
Luke bounced around, gets himself off the ground. But he finishes, makes plays. He is probably as sore as Locke and (indiscernible) today because he gets beat up in there. But he's always battling.
I'm happy he made plays for us.

Q. (question about other players pulling for McDermott.)
COACH PHILLIPS: Definitely. I mean, he's the thing, blue collar guy. He packs his lunch pail. Lunch pail weighs about 40, 50 pounds, because he eats that much. Comes to work, knows what he's supposed to do. Stays extra. He's one of the guys up front that hasn't missed a practice. He has not missed a practice. And that's hard to do. That's really hard to do.
We were just trying to get the soreness out (on Sunday). I went over to him and said, Get out of there, go over there and do some sit ups. The guy is beat up, dragging his leg, doing everything he's supposed to do. He doesn't want to be out, not one play.

Q. (question about using McDermott as a recruiting point for walk-ons.)
COACH PHILLIPS: John Connor is another one. Definitely. Goes from being a walk on, to a fifth or six round draft pick. Same with Luke. Luke beat out a lot of guys, four or five star guys. Well, not five star. We don't get those. (laughter from audience)
Thank you, guys

Head Coach Willie Taggert

Overall impressions after the Nebraska game:

“I truly believe we’re going to have a pretty good football team. We did some really good things offensively, and we were able to move the ball when we wanted to. We started the game off a little slow, partly because the environment got to us. Our guys had to settle down a little bit, and once we did that both sides of the ball showed flashes of what we could be.”

On Nebraska’s quick start to the game:

“We wanted to make them earn everything they got. We didn’t do that. It kind of messed up our game plan when we let them get ahead by 21 points really quickly. That took away from some of the things we wanted to do offensively, so that got us off-schedule. We have to learn to start off fast and finish fast. We will. That usually happens in the first game.”

On the overall discipline of the offense:

“I thought we were pretty disciplined. I was really excited about our offense not having a lot of false starts, especially in that environment. That was one thing I was concerned about. Being the first game of the season and how loud it was there, we didn’t have a lot of false starts. That stuck out to me. We also didn’t have a lot of negative yards. We had three, and one was a kneel-down. That was important, especially against that defense.”

On WKU’s ability to stay away from long-yardage situations on offense:

“Going into that game, we knew we needed to stay on schedule. Especially against a team like Nebraska. Guys had to go out and execute their plays. If you get into the second-and-long and third-and-long situations against Nebraska, that’s what they feed on. There aren’t too many good plays you can call in that situation to get us out of that. It was important for us to stay away from those, and we talked about from day one being hungry for one yard and being excited about getting one or two yards.”

On how the team can get better against Kentucky:

“I think we can all learn a lot from that game. Coaches included. Watching film is going to be great for the players. There are a lot of things that we can learn from.”

On Bobby Rainey’s 30 carries against Nebraska:

“Bobby doesn’t need 30 carries. Some other guys are going to step up and help us out. It wasn’t the game plan we had in mind, but we got down by 21 points early. We wanted to grind some clock and keep our defense off the field. Bobby was playing well, and he wanted to keep playing.”

On the performance of quarterback Kawaun Jakes:

“I thought Kawaun was very confident in the game plan, I thought he was very poised in the pocket and I thought he controlled our offense like we wanted him to. If our receivers catch some of those balls his stats would be even better, but overall I thought he ran our offense like we needed him to. I thought he played well.”

On Kawaun Jakes’ leadership:

“He was great on the sideline and he didn’t get rattled. He got hit pretty hard a couple of times, and I was impressed to see him get up. That spoke volumes about him. Not once did he complain to anyone else. He was great on the sideline, and he was great after the game. He was talking to the whole team about things we need to do better. When I left after talking to the team, I heard him talking about how everybody needed to be in watching film.”

On Kawaun Jakes’ ability to lead the offense:

“Bobby [Rainey] is going to do a lot for us, but Kawaun [Jakes] has to run the show. He has to take us to the promised land. He has to do all of the little things in order to get us there. He has to be that leader and make sure that everyone else is accountable for their jobs and what they are doing. He’s getting a grasp for that now, and he’s starting to understand the bigger picture.”

Overall thoughts on the upcoming game against Kentucky:

“I know that they are pretty fast, and they can run the ball. We’re going to have to be on our “A-game” again against an SEC opponent. We have to be able to tackle better, first and foremost, and offensively we have to continue to build on the success we had in the Nebraska game.”

On the bragging rights up-for-grabs in the Commonwealth this weekend:

“We want to be known as one of the top teams in the state. It’s a great opportunity for us to get to play Kentucky. That’s all you can ask for – an opportunity. Like I tell our players, every time you get an opportunity you have to take advantage of it. A lot of our players have their former teammates playing at Kentucky. You have that excitement and added energy playing an in-state team.”

Junior Running Back Bobby Rainey

Overall impressions of the offense after the game against Nebraska:

“The offense knows what we are capable of doing. We went up against the number-eight team in the country and we were able to move the ball. We feel like we can move the ball against anybody.”

On carrying the ball 30 times on Saturday:

“I felt like I was back in high school. That’s the same mentality I have when I had 30 carries per game in high school. I just have to keep pushing.”

On the depth at the running back position:

“It’s always great to have someone else come in and help carry the load. That means there are more threats on the team. As long as we are moving the ball and making plays, it doesn’t matter.”

Senior Linebacker Thomas Majors

Overall impressions of the Nebraska game after watching film:

“The biggest thing we came away with was the tackling. We did a poor job of tackling as a defense. I feel like we were in the right positions for the most part and people were in the right spots, but it was just poor tackling. If it wasn’t for the poor tackling, the score wouldn’t have been as bad as it was.”

On what the defense needs to work on this week:

“We need to focus on tackling and get people on the field who want to tackle. Tackling is basically a pride thing. You can’t be on that field if you don’t want to tackle. That’s our job. At the end of the day, you want to get the ball carrier on the ground.”

On the opportunities that lie ahead against Kentucky:

“It’s going to be a great opportunity to prove ourselves and get noticed as a great football team in Kentucky. To be named as one of the top schools in Kentucky would be big, so we have to come out and get ready to play ball. But it’s just another team we have to come out and prepare for. We have to try to pull out this win at the end of the day.”

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