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Monday Lunch with Mike Price

Price opened his first media luncheon with a thanks to the El Paso community.

“First of all, I’m going to start out by thanking the over 20,000 people that were here Saturday night. I really haven’t had a chance to do that officially. Wow, they were loud! I’m not kidding you. It felt like we had 40,000 in this stadium again. It sure was fun at halftime leaving our stadium and them chanting ‘UTEP! UTEP!’ The players heard it. The players noticed it. It was awesome. Thanks a lot to El Paso for being here and supporting your football team and football program and school.

Playing four quarters of quality football was a key in Price’s first game back.

“I was very pleased that we played four quarters. We played four quarters of hard-nosed football. We wanted to take care of the football offensively. We felt like we needed to do that to win, and we had zero turnovers. We tackled much better than we have in the past. We limited our missed tackles to just a few in this game. That was great.”

“They sure were right by recruiting [Terry Juniel]. He’s a quality punt returner and showed it on that punt return for a touchdown that they had the invisible penalty on.”

“I was proud to be a Miner on Saturday night. We did not win the game on the scoreboard, so that part we let slip through our fingers, but we’re proud of the way our players got ready for the game physically, but most importantly mentally and emotionally and they enthusiastically came to play. They played with their heart. So they were ready to play in the first half and second half and that says a lot about the character of this team. It was not an easy week for anybody in the program and they had adversity and they overcame it in a huge way. We need to continue to get better. This isn’t the end of the season. We have games left. But if we continue to play like this and get a little bit better every week, we’re going to get in that win column.”

Quardraiz Wadley’s status will be unknown until later this week.

“He’s going to be listed as OR [on the depth chart]. We won’t know his condition. I don’t know his condition right now. He’s going to have an x-ray, we need to analyze that and see how he’s doing.”

Eliminating penalties will be a main focus this week.

“I know we can eliminate four. We want to eliminate the penalties before the ball is snapped, and the penalties after the ball is blown dead. We had four penalties. I want that to be zero penalties. That’s our goal.

“What happened in-between the whistles and the snap, you can’t control as much. Is that pass interference or not pass interference? Man, we broke on the ball great. We broke on the ball really well, knocked passes down, got to their quarterback, moved him around, hit him legally. He was a tired kid, I think, after the game. I was standing next to the official on the sideline and I said ‘Man, was that a great break up or what?’ He said, ‘That was perfect pass defense.’ That’s how I look at penalties. Eliminate those four and I would say we had a good day penalty wise, but that really sticks in my craw.”

Price describes his feelings on being back in the Sun Bowl.

“It was great. I called my wife before the game and said ‘I’m never nervous. What am I anxious about?’ But that’s part of being a coach, I think, is that excitement of the game and seeing the kids being excited. It’s really fun. They were excited and they were ready to play and it was really fun to be on the sidelines with them.”

“I couldn’t help as much as I would’ve liked to have helped. I’ll gradually help a little bit more as the season goes on. But I thought the communication was really good. We got the plays in and out offensively and defensively and on time.”

“The players were ready to play, snapping the football. At one point in that game, when they were going no huddle, would be a time probably if I had to do it again to call timeout and stop the clock, get them over to the sideline and give them a rest, settle them down a little bit and go back in. But the other team is good, they’re on scholarship too, so 15 points, and we had that two-point play coached up. We had guys where they were supposed to be. One man comes free, has a shot at him, and [it was] one of our missed tackles. I was talking to their coach this morning and I said boy, it hurts to get beat by a trick play.’ I’m usually on the other end of that.”

Price likes what he saw and heard out of UTEP’s coordinators on Saturday.

“It was excellent. I was listening to [the calls]. Half the time I didn’t know what it was. You might’ve seen me lean over to one of the quarterbacks and say ‘What’s that play?’ Because the terminology is different from what it was when I was here, and you have to catch up with that.”

“And same with Tom. In blitz situation, we went to prevent, got out of that and threw a couple of blitzes in there and stopped them and changed it up rather than just playing that prevent defense. You’ve got to play a little bit of that. But I thought he did a real good job. He blitzed at times when we were supposed to and didn’t at other times. Everyone on that field played their hearts out, played as hard as they could.”

“And I thought Natty did the same thing, made some really good calls at appropriate times. I think it could be a really great match between the two of us because he’s going to do the conservative, right thing to do and I’m going to do the crazy thing sometimes. It’s a nice balance.”

Scoring points is an improvement mark Price hopes to erect this week.

“Number one, we’ve got to score more points. We can’t be shut out in the second half. We’ve got to eliminate those penalties that we talked about earlier. We need to continue to have the enthusiasm and spirit that we played with, and emotional intensity. And that’s about it. Make a couple of field goals. That would help.”

Zack Greenlee was surprisingly mobile in and out of the pocket Saturday.

“I guess that’s your guys’ opinion. You saw him play more than I did. You saw more practices than I did. He took care of the ball really well on Saturday night, didn’t he? If it wasn’t there he tucked it and ran with it, slid, protected the ball. He had one snap just a little fast and hit him here, and the back was a little off time and he fumbled and botched the play. Other than that, he threw it away when he had to. He threw a couple ones right in there that we need to catch. He was on rhythm, under control, I’m sure he was excited to be in the game. But that position, quarterback, you don’t see many guys hooting and hollering in there. They’re usually pretty calm, cool and collected, and he was. He was in rhythm. He’s got to play that way and he showed that he can do it.”

Price dismisses the player’s high energy due to the coaching change, giving full credit to the players.

“No, it’s not because of me. It’s because of these football players. It’s all about the football team. It’s not about me. I’m just the manager here. I’m managing the program and helping the guys out and helping them get better. We want these seniors to feel good about it and leave with a good feeling. I didn’t miss a tackle myself on Saturday night. I didn’t complete a pass either myself. It’s all about them. It’s all about the players. And that’s why I’m so glad the community supported them the way they did.”

Moving on to Southern Miss…..

“I don’t care who we’re playing. I told the team that before the game. What I care about is how you’re playing. It’s an exciting place to play. It’s a lot of fun down there.”

“The last time we played down there however, I think they had a huge rainstorm or something and lightning strike so the crowd wasn’t a factor. But they can be a factor and they’re right behind you. Our team will really enjoy playing in there.”

“They had a quarterback change at Southern Miss also. They went with #2, a good looking stop quarterback who played earlier in the season. He had the start against Kentucky. I don’t know if he got hurt or whatever. But they made a change. I think their backup, the guy that was a starter was injured a little bit. And this kid played well. He played really well. Offensively, I think it’s all about #2 and #26, who is their tailback.”

“They have an outstanding tall wide receiver who can really get hot if you allow him to get hot. He had four receptions, I think, last week. They do a lot of stuff on offense, a lot of different things, a lot of different formations. They’ll throw it all over the place and run it all over the place.”

“Defensively, man they are going to be hard to block everybody, because you never know where they’re going to be. They run the radar where they stand up, they run all kinds of different defenses. They are constantly blitzing and pressuring the quarterback. They can run to prevent reverses and outside plays and stuff like that. We have our work cut out for us offensively and defensively.”

“And they’ll try trick plays, they started the game last week with a trick play. They are well coached. Their head coach, boy he has worked his way up for that job. He came from Alcorn and that’s not an easy place to win and he won big there. And he coached with my son Eric at Memphis. He’s a quality coach and they’ve got a quality staff. It’s a good program and it’s a neat place to play. It’s a good, great experience for the players. And all they’ve got to do is come out with the same enthusiasm and the same attitude and just get a little bit better and change some of those things that we talked about, and we’ll have a chance.”