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Monday Lunch With Mike Price

NCAA Football: Louisiana Tech at Texas El Paso Ivan Pierre Aguirre-USA TODAY Sports

Price opens up the final presser of the season with a look back at last week...

“Well, looking back at the game, first of all, I want to thank the crowd that was here. It was a darn good crowd for a team that’s struggling like we are, and I thought the crowds was outstanding, and stayed after that six-minute barrage that we had in the second quarter and they still stuck around to finally see the offense comeback and have some more excitement back here in the Sun Bowl.”

I want to thank all those people that stayed whether it was 15,000 or 16,000, it doesn’t matter what it was, those are definitely our loyal fans. And I thought it was really neat how many parents we had come out for ‘Senior Day’. I think we had 65 friends, family and parents representing the 22 players that we had turn out end their career here. Which we would’ve liked to have turned out a lot better”.

“There was not quit on our team. I’m very happy about that and we looked at that – I looked at, it’s something I look for after the game and I didn’t see anyone quit. We didn’t play great; we had people in position to make tackles in the second half and just didn’t get it done there towards the end.”

“They ran the ball pretty good against us for the first time since I’ve been here anyway. We did run the ball well. I was glad to see that. Joshua Fields did a really nice job and I thought [Brian] Natkin did a great job in calling the plays; adjusting and finding out what they were doing and then adjusting our plays to it.”

“hen it was 28-0 at halftime, a guy like me would’ve just started throwing ball every down and he didn’t. He ran it when they were out covering the pass and threw it when they were covering the run. And that’s the basic thing you want to be able to do. Count the number of people inside the box and call a play accordingly. So, we did a good job of running the football in the second half when we were behind and then passing too. So, good combination. It’s the best offensive, obviously, production since I’ve been here that we had.”

“On defense, we didn’t do a good job on third-down situations, but we did get them to third downs in most of the situations. But didn’t stop them. I felt like we were there in position to do it but just missed tackles; and we [forced] a couple of turnovers.”

Price talks about the QB change from last week

“Actually, [Zack] Greenlee really got hurt. He got hit right in the back, in between his pads and rib pads, tail pads, right on the tailbone. That kid was white when I went out there on the field. I thought he was going to get sick to his stomach, he was in so much pain.”

“But he’s tough. He came back later on and said, ‘Coach, I can play, I can do it’. And then Ryan got hit pretty good later on. I thought I’d have to make the switch back to Zack or Mark [Torrez]. But, Ryan did a nice job, and stayed in the pocket better than he’s done before. And again, we protected well. We had planned on playing Ryan anyway, at some point during this last game. It just worked out the way it worked out and I’m glad it did, because he did a nice job for us.”

Josh Fields once again had a nice day running the rock....

“Joshua Fields did a great job running. I didn’t realize he was the only running back that played the whole game. He did a really good job. He’s really improved since I got here, I don’t know how he did at the beginning of the year.”

“But I know one thing, we are confident that he can pick up the right guy in protection. Although, he did have a couple mistakes Saturday, but we all made mistakes. He has been one of the smarter running backs we’ve had to pick out the guy they’re supposed to block when they blitzed. He’s a pretty darn good blocker, because he’s not real huge. And I’m pleased with him getting into the secondary and reading the hole and knowing where you’re supposed to go, number one, and secondly, reading where the hole is and changing your path. Breaking tackles and hanging onto the football – he didn’t do great on that one play.”

Price also touched on the play of Tyler Batson....

“A senior like Tyler Batson [very pleased to see him] play like he did on offense and make that catch and outrun everybody on the team. They made a mistake, we took advantage of it. Ryan sees the mistake, throws to Tyler and he takes it – boom and puts it in the house and outruns everybody on the field.”

Alvin Jones went out with a big game last week

Alvin Jones must’ve made 16 tackles, I’m not sure how many he had; the defensive coaches counted differently than upstairs. But he made a lot of tackles and he played his tail off. I was really glad to see that. And him finished on a strong note like that.”

Price gives his take on the message board talk that Kugler recruited way too many El Paso kids....

“Well, I don’t think you can have too many El Paso kids on the team. But they may not all have to be scholarship, full scholarship player. Because there’s four or five kids in town who can play about every year.”

“Getting those top four or five kids is the problem. San Diego State gets a kid or two from here; it used to be just Texas Tech. Or Texas will drop in here and get a good one. It’ll be cherry picked by all the bigger schools, like the big five schools. They’ll come in here and cherry pick like they always have.”

“The level of football generally speaking is getting much better. When I first came here a long time ago, I think we had 16 high schools that played football. We have 32 or 33 right now. So, football in El Paso has definitely gotten better. There’s always a spot for a young man to be on our team one way or another, whether it’s scholarship or financial aid.”

Price thinks Alan Luna has NFL potential....

“[Alan] Luna has been doing a great job all year and he’s really good because he can ‘Rugby Style’ punt and normal punt. He had a bad snap Saturday and picked it up and got it off. Since I’ve been here, the ball has only been touched once just by a finger. He gets the ball off really quick – under two seconds and getting out quick.”

Price revealed the message he will give the team this week.....

“For many of the players, this next game against UAB will be their last game they’ll ever play in their life. Knowing that, I think they would go out and play as hard as they possibly can. It’s not like any other sport. You don’t go to the ‘Football Country Club’ and go hit the old tackling dummy. When football is over, it’s over. It may remain for some of our kids, obviously. Three or four of our guys will get a chance to play. Like it said, this team will be the last time this team will be with this coaching staff. The rest of the players will not be with this coaching staff ever again.”

“And there probably won’t be the same team. We’ll have new guys coming in and new coaches coming in. So, this is really the last time that we’ll get together and that’s something we are going to talk about this week and stress. And with the Thanksgiving dinner on Thursday after practice and then going to Alabama for a tough game at UAB. So, a lot of times you remember that last thing you do. For the underclassmen, not only will they remember the last thing they do, they’re going to show the first thing the new coaching staff will look at is how did you play in that last game. So, the players still have something to prove. This victory will be like the Super Bowl. I’m sure victory in this game, our players will really need it and really want it and deserve it.”

Looking at UAB....

“The team we’re playing however, I’ve been looking at their statistics and they’re second, third, maybe fourth in the just about every stat in Conference USA. They’re really playing well. They’re second in the league, they’re going to a bowl game and they have tremendous football players.”

“They have two football players of their starting 22 who came to UAB as a freshman. One of them is a 25-year old leading tackler of their team. When they stopped football, he quit and went out and got a job. Now he came back when they started up football again. He’s their leading tackler. So, he’s a man, he’s 25, he plays like a man.”

“Then they have a freshman who they recruited, he’s 6-foot, 235 [pounds] and one of the best running backs in Conference USA. The rest are all players from other schools and transfers.”

“They have put together a wonderful football team that loves to play football. That is aggressive and that can run fast and will smack you. We’re in for a heck of a fight with this team. The coach there has done a great job, going out and getting junior college players and getting transfers from other schools. Like on the defense, they have six transfers from major colleges and from junior colleges in their starting lineup and the same thing with the offense. They come out and cherry picked from divisions where kids weren’t playing or thought they should be playing or didn’t work out academically and transferred in. And then they got them for a year, kind of tuning them up and getting them jazzed up physically and mentally for this season.”

“I can remember playing UAB when I first got here, and I bet you we could’ve counted the people at Legion Field that first night game we played down there. It was so quiet. The first game they had this year, I think it was 25,000 [fans]. And they’re drawing really well down there. So, it’s going to be a completely different environment. A very positive environment for their seniors last game.”

“Their coaching staff has done a wonderful job, corralling these really great athletes and then playing really well together as a team. They have played well and they’re really tough and really aggressive. And they play football the way football should be played. What I don’t want to do is make them mad.”

“But what I did find was a weakness in their statistics, it’s their punting game, they’re last in our conference in punting. And then Don Yanowsky, our special teams coach said, ‘Oh, that’s because the first three games they were in pro-style punt and had three punts blocked and now their average is poor on their net punting. But now they’re punting really well, it’s just because of a couple punts that were blocked at the beginning of the season’. I didn’t want to hear that, I thought I had found the missing link.”

Price talks about Will Hernandez and his future....

“Well, I think he’s got a great future. He’s already been selected to the East-West Shrine game and to the Senior Bowl – which are the two best bowl games you can go to. I don’t know if he’ll play in both of them but he’s been selected.”

“He’s on many All-American lists. I just put him on an All-American team the other day. So, he’s got great size. He’s different than I thought he was going to be. I didn’t know him until late. He’s a serious guy and serious about the game of football and what he needs to do to get better. He’s more mature than anyone else.”

“He knows there’s going to be an opportunity for him to have an occupation for the next eight to 10 years. He making all the right strives and moves to get there. So, he’s handled it very well. He doesn’t say much, he’s very quiet, but he’s a serious guy and will have a great career. I think Alvin Jones is going to get an opportunity and I think Alan Luna will have an opportunity with the way he’s punted and handled himself. But as far as Will, he’s physically better and a lot of guys and mentally ready.”