Coach Hopson Media Conference (OCt. 9)

Oct. 9, 2017

HATTIESBURG, Miss. -

Southern Miss football coach Jay Hopson held his weekly news conference Monday at the Duff Athletic Center as the Golden Eagles get ready for their homecoming contest this week against UTEP.

The game takes place Saturday, Oct. 14, in a 6 p.m., contest at Carlisle-Faulkner Field at M.M. Roberts Stadium.

Here are some of things Hopson said during his news conference: 

Opening statement: 
"It was an exciting game. Good win. I thought we played hard. Offensively, We did a good job. Had some good explosive plays. I felt like Ito (Smith) played his normal, great game. I feel like out wide at receiver, we had some great plays. Keon (Howard) did a good job of directing the offense. We knew both sides of the ball were good. Guys like Curtis Mikell with that pick and Cornell's play were just huge difference-maker plays for us. For the most part, we played hard and gave ourselves a chance to win and found a way at the end to win the ball game."  

On Keon Howards's performance: 
"He played well. He ran the offense well. He threw the ball extremely well. Had a couple of really nice passes and put it right in the bread basket. He made plays. I was very pleased with his performance." 

On Kwadra and Keon at QB:
"We're waiting to see (with Kwadra). You know how it is with injuries. We're just trying to wait and see. Kwadra can play, but is he going to be at 100 (percent). I don't know yet. So we're just watching. We'll go out here and just watch the first couple of days this week. Certainly, we're blessed to have two young men playing well at that position. We just have to see how it looks on the practice field. That's all you can go bye."  

On when Keon knew he'd be starting:
"I think we told him on Friday. Just watching them both on the practice field, we felt like he was a little healthier and more solid. It's just one of those deals where you take it and watch them go through and see how they handle things. We'll watch it and see. We'll go with our gut."  

On Keon finding the open man:
"He did. I thought a couple times when there was tight coverage, he made really good throws. He put it in there. I thought he did a good job of reading. I feel like he managed the game real well. He graded out real well. He played a really good game. Coach (Shannon) Dawson and I both thought he would have a really big game and he did. He's a humble guy and he knows that's just one game. We're pleased with the way he came out and performed." 

On having Drake Dorbeck back from injury: 
"It's big. What a game he played. Drake played an outstanding game. When you go without a 6-foot-6 guy that is athletic as Drake is, it's never good. Drake played tough and physical. He's one of those guys that's in the mention of player of the week. He played really good." 

On getting the ball to Ito Smith
"Ito is Ito. We can say the same thing and it would be like rewinding the tape. Ito's a football player. He's a guy who made another big play, but he's been doing that for three years. Again, he's a football player. Ito's a humble guy, too and he deserves everything he gets. He goes to work and, one thing that helps is we have other guys, too. We have Quez (Watkins), Korey (Robertson) and Allenzae (Staggers) and other guys, too that can make explosive plays and that certainly helps."  

On keeping the team focused on UTEP:
"Well it's conference play and it's Conference USA and one of the things I've learned over the years is you have to be ready to play every week. They played Western Kentucky 15-14. If that doesn't get your attention, nothing will. We know we have a good football team coming to town and we have to be prepared. We have to have a great week of practice. They have our utmost respect. We understand we have another tough Conference USA game and we have to get ready. " 

On an early fumble by Allenzae Staggers that was reviewed:
“That was my question. Once the whistle is blown can they end the play dead there? They said up top they ruled it a continuous motion. Therefore that was the ruling on the field. Certainly we’ll respect that. Again, just got to hold onto the football.”

On taking away the ground game against UTSA and moving forward:
“You just want to play well. Offensively you want to score one more point and, defensively, you want to hold them by one. When you sit in this chair, you don’t care if it’s 98-97 or 2-0. At the end of the day, you just want to pick up the W. The bottom line, defensively we did some good things. We knew they were a good football team. We had some big plays that were game changer plays. We knew it’d be a tough game. Their quarterback is a good player and we knew their receivers are talented and would make a few plays, but for the most part we played a pretty good game. The end of that fourth quarter probably wasn’t one of our better quarters, but I thought for three quarters we played really solid.” 

On Curtis Mikell’s interception:
“That was a big play. We actually took the opening drive of the second half and went down and we missed the field goal. They took the opening drive of the second half and they put it down to our side of the field. The play by Curtis was huge. It gave us the ball back on the plus side with a chance to make a play and we did make a play. Keon [Howard] and Korey [Robertson] made a big play there. That was a big boost. I felt like our third quarter and early fourth this game was exactly opposite of what our third and fourth was a week ago. It seemed like we made some big plays and got a nice run. It’s good to make those plays and gave us a little cushion.  

On Paxton Schrimsher’s play:
“Paxton is a guy that can play inside or outside and we’re fortunate to have that ability with him. With [Sherrod] Ruff we thought it was time to move Paxton back in and he’s such a team player, unselfish guy. Whatever the team needs he goes in there. To me, he played lights out inside. He’s a football player. He can do it all. It’s important to have those swing guys that you can move in or out. He’s played both for us over the years so we have that ability there. That helps.“

On playing UTEP:
“It’s Conference USA. They’re a good football team. They played well last week. We understand that we’re going to work. That’s our challenge this week. We want to get better each week and our guys understand the challenge we have for the next seven weeks.” 

On Sherrod Ruff’s availability for this Saturday:
“Don’t know yet. We’re still watching.” 

On Jeremy Sangster’s play:
“Jeremy is a football player too. He’s made plays and he’s a smart football player. He’s a guy that studies the game well, does the little things right and is a very instinctive player.” 

On if there are changes preparing for UTEP defensively:
“There’s always a little something, but not really. At the end of the day there’s always subtle changes each game week. That’s one thing you see from each team, there’s always a little something different. We’re six to seven weeks into the season. You’re not going to see with anybody you play a tremendous amount. We’re preparing for seeing changes." 

On UTEP’s strengths:

“Their quarterback and their running backs. They run the ball well and their quarterback does a good job running their offense. They give you a lot of different personnel groupings. They’re very multiple on offensive. They make you work. Defensively they play hard. If you watch the Western Kentucky game from last week, they did a good job playing sound football. They made Western Kentucky work for everything. They have our utmost respect. We know we have to be ready.”

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