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Sunday, December 28th, 2003

OLE MISS OFFENSVIE NEWS CONFERENCE

OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR JOHN LATINA

On is having three weeks to prepare for a bowl game an advantage:

“It’s how you go about preparing and how you go about doing this. That’s the concern of ours. Thanksgiving Day was the last time we played and playing January 2nd is a big time frame. Getting the speed of the game is really the critical thing and the best way to do that is play games. It’s hard to get that in practice. So that’s our concern. We think it is an advantage. It gives you a lot more time to prepare. It allows you to maybe think of some things they may do against you and still prepare for the unknown as well. I think it is an advantage. You just have to utilize it correctly.”

On if he feels this game will need to high scoring for Ole Miss to win:

“In every game we go into play, we want to go in and score a lot of points obviously. I think it’s dictated by the course of the game. If you jump up and get a lead, you may shift gears. If you’re behind, you shift gears. How your defense is playing dictates how we play sometimes too. So in the course of the game we have plans that allow us to do either one of those situations. We just have to see the course of the game.”

On Eli Manning:

“It’s an accent when you have a quarterback back there that’s a coach. He can literally check us in and out of plays at any time. He has total freedom to do that. He understands our system. He’s played in our system for a long time. Just to have a guy back there that understands the defensive structure and get us out of bad plays and put us in good plays. He’s done it all really in the last three years. He’s been great at that. That’s a great advantage we have.”

On Oklahoma State’s defense:

“(They’re) very similar to our defense in a lot of ways which is an advantage to us. It’s also an advantage to Oklahoma State too because they get the same advantage. The structure is very similar. They have some different blitzes and different stunts. The base structure is very similar. We’ve been very impressed with them on film. They have great defensive speed so we’ve been very impressed with that. We know it’s going to be an awful big challenge for us.”

“You see some things on tape you think you will be able to exploit but you just don’t know. But you really don’t know how they are going to play. They’ve had over a month to prepare for us too. Not knowing what they think our strengths are and how we do things, you don’t know how they are going to play us. We’re pretty generic in terms of what we do and how we approach these kinds of games. Whatever they are doing to stop us hopefully we’ll have the right answer. That’s the system. Hopefully our system will kick in and we’ll utilize our system to take advantage of whatever changes they may have.”

“They’re a good defense. They’re fast. They run to the football. I’ve known Bill Clay, their defensive coordinator, for a long time. He does an outstanding job. He’ll be prepared and he’ll be ready.”

“They do a lot of blitzing. They come after you. They take a lot of risks. What that does that forces you to really execute on offense. If you don’t really execute, your timing is not really good and if everybody is not on the same page, those kinds of defenses will really hurt you. That’s our concern.”

On Oklahoma State DE Greg Richmond:

“Richmond is an outstanding player. Anytime you get twelve and a half sacks in a season it is outstanding. He’s extremely fast; quick guy off the edge. He’s a guy we’re really going to have to play well against. He can create problems.”

On any difference in the running game with Tremaine Turner starting against Oklahoma State:

“We’ve played a host of running backs this year. It’s worked to our advantage, keeping them fresh (and) keeping them healthy as well as using each individual’s strong points. I think it’s been good and Tremaine has been an outstanding player for us.”

On establishing the run before the pass in the offensive game plan:

“We feel like that will be important in our game even though we have such a great quarterback like Eli (Manning) and a great receiver like Chris Collins. We really feel like you have to be a well-balanced offense to be really the kind of offense we want to be. That’s our emphasis and that’s what we strive to do each and every week. However, the course of the game may dictate that one way or another. How successful we are running the ball may dictate that over the course of the game. We’re not going to be hard headed where we are going to lose momentum or lose the opportunity to score by being hard headed and running the ball. We’re going to take what we get.”

QB ELI MANNING

On playing in the SBC Cotton Bowl:

“We’re real excited about the Cotton Bowl. We wanted to play in a New Year’s Day bowl earlier in the season and this is what we wanted. Obviously we would like to be in a BCS bowl and the SEC championship. We played our best. We played LSU about as good as anybody has all season and we lost to a team that’s in the national championship by three points. We had an outstanding season. Our players, our seniors stuck together; we had great leadership. We’re excited about the Cotton Bowl and we’re excited about the opportunity ahead of us.”

On making a name for himself in the shadows of his father (Archie) and brother (Peyton):

“I knew coming into Ole Miss and coming to college I’d be compared to Peyton with the last name Manning. It’s known through college football and associated with football so I knew there would be pressure. People would expect things of me that are really not fair. When I signed with Ole Miss, they were expecting me to bring back Ole Miss to the glory days and things like that. I tried not to think about that. That’s not my job. My job is to do the best I can, work hard and try to win games. That’s all I can expect from myself. Hopefully everybody else would expect that from me. I worked hard and tried to do the best I could.”

On Ole Miss’ season turning around with the Florida game:

“We were 2-2 going into Florida. We were still 1-0 in the SEC. We’d lost two games that weren’t in the SEC but we still had a shot at the SEC championship. We came into Florida and we were down at haftime. Then all of a sudden in the second half, we started running the ball real well. We rushed for over 200 yards that game. Our defense got three interceptions in the second half. Everything just seemed to turn around for us. We got some breaks and started making plays when we needed to. We go down there and score a last-minute touchdown to win the game. That’s just kind of the way our season went all year. We played every team close. When it came down to the fourth quarter, we were in every game. We had a shot to win; some we won and some we lost. That’s all you hope for to have a shot to win every game.”

“Our running game really picked up that game. Everything just started working as a team. And that’s how we won every game. Every game we won was a team win. Everybody was pitching in and made plays; it wasn’t just one person. Our running game was doing well. Defense was getting turnovers. Just everything clicked and turned around. We were confident we could go and have a shot to win the SEC. Florida was a good team so we knew if we played that way all season, we would have a shot to do what we wanted to do.”

On the Oklahoma State defense:

“They’re good. They have a lot of good pass rushers that can get to the quarterback. Linebackers and cornerbacks that can get a lot of turnovers, take some chances and make big plays. They do some different zone blitzes we haven’t seen a whole lot of so we have to prepare for that; know what plays will work against that. They’ve got athletes. We’re going to have to play smart football especially with their powerful offense. You can’t give them a short field to play on. You can’t give them turnovers and give them easy opportunities to score points.”

WR CHRIS COLLINS

On working in the off-season to improve for this season:

“That’s the thing I mainly worked on, concentrated on in the off-season--getting yards after the catch. Anybody can catch a ball and go down but what you do after you catch the ball is what everybody is concerned about. I think I’ve gotten a lot of my yards after the catch this year so far. That’s my biggest accomplishment.”

On playing on special teams as well as being a starter on offense:

“Special teams is a big deal at Ole Miss because Coach always tells us it takes special people to play special teams. I wanted to be a part of that. I wanted to be a part of whatever I could be to make my team successful. If I had to play on special teams, I wanted to play on special teams. I never had that feeling I don’t want to play on special teams I just wanted to play on offense. It’s given me more exposure too. It’s really helping me out by playing special teams.”

On Ole Miss’ season:

“We had a great season. A lot of people didn’t think we would make it this far because of our first four games. It kind of brought us together stronger as a team. We kind of challenged ourselves and the coaches challenged us. Being a senior, it’s just a big accomplishment to be in my last college game in the Cotton Bowl.”

C JUSTIN SAWYER

On the attention on Eli Manning this year:

“A lot of expectations were riding on his shoulders especially when he first got there. I think Eli has handled it very well. He’s done a great job. Everywhere you go you got an eye on you. As far as everybody else, I don’t think we really think about it that much about the focus being on him and not us that much. I think he’s handling it very well because I would imagine it would get kind of hard at times. I think he’s a great guy.”

On the fan support from the Ole Miss faithful:

In Oxford, the fans keep up with the players. They do a good job of supporting us. I’m sure we will bring a lot (of fans) to the Cotton Bowl. I know a lot of people were trying to get tickets and couldn’t get any--not just one or two tickets, six to 12 tickets.”

On the Ole Miss offensive live:

“As an offensive line and all together (on offense), we had a pretty good year. Coach (David Cutcliffe) really stressed the fact that our running game gave us a two-dimensional go. People didn’t know quite what we were going to do at any given time. I think that contributed to our year.”

On the Ole Miss defense:

“They put up two shutouts this year, held Arkansas to 7 points and LSU to 17. They showed up and showed up big. Obviously, that helped us out too. That took the pressure off of trying to outscore opponents. We could just focus on what we had to do to get our job done. Obviously, as an offense you want to score every time you have the ball but it always doesn’t happen that way.”

RT CLIFF WOODRUFF

On the perception of how the game may play out:

“I honestly think it will be just like everybody thinks it will be. They’re going to get big plays; we’re going to make big plays. It’s going to be whoever gets to the ball at the end with the most big plays I think will probably win the game. It will be exciting. There will be all kind of drama. I’m just anxious to get playing.”

On playing in the SBC Cotton Bowl:

“This is really exciting. It’s what you have always wanted and the Cotton Bowl is one of the biggest ones. We’ve always thought about getting to a bowl game on the first (of January). Now we are on the second. We beat it by one day so that worked out well.”

On the long-term effects of this season on the Ole Miss program:

“I think we had a great season obviously. I think we were picked second to last in the SEC (Western Division) and ended up second. I think it was really a confidence builder and a program builder season. I think with what we did, we’ll end up with good recruits, we’ll have a great signing class and it’s going to be a great foundation for future 10-win seasons, nine-win seasons--something that hasn’t been done at Ole Miss much in the last 40 years.”

RB TREMAINE TURNER

On the similarities between Ole Miss and Oklahoma State:

“They run the same defense that we run. Of course we try to stay balanced. They like to run the ball; we like to run the ball. We like to be physical so you know they’re physical. We like to be physical on offense. That’s one of the things we strive to do (is) to be more physical. So, yes, the similarities are there.”

On the Ole Miss running game maturing over the season:

“In the beginning, we started out going with running back by committee. In the beginning it was kind of hard because we really didn’t believe that it would work. That’s one of the things we were lacking. So as the season went on we started believing more, getting more focused, helping each other out and just getting into this rhythm.”

On his role among the running backs:

“Being the senior, I’m the leader. A lot of the guys look up to me because I’ve been there the longest and I know a lot. The way I practice I think is what they admire most about me because I work hard all the time. That’s something I want to leave with them. That’s the only way the running game can be the best it can be.”

On ending his career at Ole Miss:

“I don’t know any other way that I would want to end my college career than playing in a January 1st bowl game. It’s something you dream about when you are a little kid. You would also get up and watch (the New Year’s Day games) on TV. You never imagine you would be there doing that. For me, just being here in a January bowl is what all college players should strive to play in.”
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