STARKVILLE. Miss. — Fresh off the 44-34 win over defending national champion LSU Tigers, head football coach Mike Leach held his weekly press conference on Monday to preview this week’s home opener against Arkansas.
When the Bulldogs unveiled their first official depth chart last Monday, one thing that stood out was an “OR” between quarterbacks K.J. Costello and Will Rogers. Leach said Rogers “wasn’t available” last week and “we’re really hoping for the best this week.”
The Bulldog offense torched LSU for 632 yards of total offense, including an SEC record 623 yards passing from Costello. What can we expect from the Bulldog offense against an Arkansas defense that allowed 266 yards passing and 121 yards rushing from No. 4 Georgia last week?
Well, talking about the Razorback defense, Leach said, “I thought they were a pretty tenacious group, they moved around well and they were aggressive.” He went on to say, “They flat out took a half away from Georgia. I thought that was quite impressive. I thought that they played really hard. They’ve got some speed out there. It’s worked in the past in this conference, so I think it’ll be a good challenge.”
The Bulldog offense looked like they were clicking on all cylinders, but there is always room for improvement in Leach’s Air Raid offense.
“You are always working on something, you always keep progressing and you tell these guys, ‘Make the corrections we give you.’ We say, “Give us, give me something else to coach,” because if you’re coaching, if they don’t make the corrections, you’re coaching the same thing,” Leach said. “I think as far as knowing the plays, there’s a combination of knowing the plays, knowing the scheme, and then the other is becoming familiar with your personnel, which we’re still working on that.”
Costello, the SEC Offensive Player of the Week, was phenomenal, yes, but Leach says there are still things Costello will need to work on.
“I think [K.J.] needs to communicate better when he moves to the pocket and keep two hands on the football,” Leach said. “Some of the plays he can read and react better. I think he read the field pretty well and reacted pretty well, but then there’s always the handful of plays where we didn’t. We’ve got to refine that even more.”
The biggest thing to come out of the press conference had to do with face coverings. Leach was seen on CBS’ cameras a lot during the game, and almost every time, Leach had his COVID-19 protective face covering wrapped around his neck.
Alan Blinder, a reporter for the New York Times, asked Leach why that was.
“Well, I tried to remember the best I could,” Leach said. “Then I found myself talking all of the time. You know, because I’m calling the plays as well. I was in a constant state of talking. So me taking it down to talk, me lifting it up and it falling down on its own, me remembering to put it back up, I think there were a number of challenges there. But, you know, with a little practice maybe I’ll be better this week.”
Then Leach asked, “How’d you do with your face mask? Are you a pretty good face mask guy?”
Blinder responded, “I do my best.”
The back-and-forth dialogue between Leach and Blinder then continued.
Leach: “OK, so let me ask you. Let’s get a few pointers here. What do you do when it does the breathe in thing on the mouth – what kind of face mask do you got?”
Blinder: “I got one that I bought off Amazon that, you know, it goes around my ears and that kind of thing.”
Leach: ”So the ears, and then this right?”
Leach: “See, I’ve got that face sock thing. Which isn’t bad. It sits right on your neck instead of hangs from your ear. But do you ever find, pretty soon, those things will start to smell bad. Then all the sudden you’re going, ‘What’s that smell? What’s going on out there?’ There’s nothing going on out there. That’s your breath. So, I need to practice. I need to practice with it. What do you do when you’re talking? Do you have a trigger or something that reminds you to pull that thing back up because I found myself too preoccupied to do it then all the sudden I noticed it was around my neck there.”
Blinder: “Yeah, I think everyone is different. I was just curious what your thinking was. If it was some kind of statement, if it was happenstance?”
Leach: “I try to do my best with it, but once you’re 6 feet apart, I can’t help but wonder if some of this isn’t an homage to politicians. So. But you know, I do try to stay 6 feet apart in between times, too.”
To end the press conference, Leach talked about how he wasn’t too sure about the cardboard cutouts in the stands.
“I have to be honest, I haven’t quite gotten the hang of the cutout people in the stands,” Leach said. “I mean, that’s an episode of Twilight Zone. You guys are all probably too young for Twilight Zone. I mean the black and white Twilight Zone where Rod Serling would get on there with the really creepy voice and the suit. All of a sudden, is this real? Is it outer space? It was almost like haunted houses met science fiction, that show. Now all of a sudden, we have these people frozen in time sitting there in the stadium enthusiastic expressions on their face, but they can’t move.”
Leach then joked about how the cutouts were seated.
Leach asked, “Do the fake people have a lottery for where they sit?“ “Because I know this, some of those fake people have way better seats than the others. I want to be one of those fake people on the 50-yard line about row 12, but some of them are still up in the rafters. In this day in age, in these funny times, even a fake person can get screwed.”