Head Coach Rickey Bustle and Tackles & Tight Ends Coach Troy Wingerter spoke to the Quarterback Club Monday about the come-from-behind win over Arkansas State, the Homecoming game against FIU this week, and recruiting.

John Claude Arceneaux with the Louisiana Alumni Association spoke briefly about the scheduled events for Homecoming Week. See the Alumni website for a complete schedule.

Head Football Coach Rickey Bustle.

I want to thank everyone who came out to support us, and the new people who showed up today and everyone.

It was a heckuva football game. The defense played the best 4 quarters since I've been coaching here. The defensive team had a strong plan, but we haven't always executed well. The kids executed this time. Before the game, I felt like if we picked up in all other areas, we could win, and we did. A lot of people left before we came back in the 4th quarter, but the kids turned it around.

Brad McGuire made some mistakes, things he can learn from. The interception was a big one, but Brad grew up a lot in that game. There are a lot of quarterbacks who could not have come back from that.

I knew what I wanted to tell him after he threw it. But I thought it wasn't the right time. [Laughter]

So I told him we would have another chance to get back in the game. Of course, I didn't know how the heck we would do that, but we did.

Every day I talk with Brad, and give him something to think about. We talked about this game, and I explained he had absolutely no pressure on him. I told him he could throw 5 touchdowns and run for two hundred yards, and it wouldn't matter.

Mike was still going to start next game.

He said he knew that.

Mike is very probable for this weekend. He practiced some last night. I'm not big on open dates, but our two this year were perfect. We needed the one after USM to regroup. This one is helping Mike, and our linemen.

The crowd was great, it was a loud crowd, and I think it caused ASU some motion penalties. That's what I talk to the other coaches about at the the Conference meetings, this is a tough, tough place to play. When the crowd is yelling, and the students are hoopin' and hollerin', it's a hard place to play.

I told the team that I didn't want to lose anything this week. Normally on Sunday we work out in short pants, but last night we worked in short pants and shoulder pads. The kids practiced well.

Q: I saw Mike talking with Brad a lot. Has he been working with him?

Yes. Mike has been talking with him, and working with him. He did a great job of getting Brad ready.

Q: How did Brad do on the zone read?

We left several good plays on the field, but you can't practice that stuff enough. You run it against the scout teams, but it's not as fast as in a game situation. It's something you have to get a feel for. Brad being able to see that in a game situation was worth a lot.

Q: I have never seen our special teams play like they're playing right now.

They have been very solid. Somebody asked me the other day about blocking kicks, but special teams is about managing the game, about containing, tackling, covering the kick return. Those things can break down on you, and cost you big.

Q: ASU had several short punts.

Derreck Smith got free on a punt the other night, and the guy shanked some after that. You're not only trying to block kicks, but also to force bad kicks. When you make people change their protection, or the punter rushes, you make things happen.

Q: What happened with the recalled flag at the end of the game?

The guy behind the play thought it was a face mask on them. But the other refs talked to him about it, he changed his mind.

Q: Have there been any pro scouts at practice?

We have been seeing quite a few, probably more the past couple of weeks. We have somebody out there just about every Tuesday or Wednesday. They evaluate them, send in a report, and somebody higher comes out to take a look.

About FIU, a couple of things we told our kids last night. This is not the same team we've played before, and we've struggled against them every year. If you forget all of the out-of-conference games, they're averaging 32 points a game. In the take-away column they're +3, we're -5. They are also 2nd in the league in penalties. They are doing the things that help you win.

 

Tackles & Tight Ends Coach Troy Wingerter spoke next.

Coach did a good job of letting you know FIU is pretty good. They are, they're very good. They are not the team we've played in the past.

Usually when we look at film, we start off thinking they're great, and as the week goes on and we start analyzing, we become more confident. In this case, we have become more worried as the week went on.

They've got some good players. They have a linebacker, Scott Bryant, #44, his nickname is Buzzsaw Bryant, he's a tenacious kid. He's very fast, very scrappy. He's a hard-nosed player.

Jarvis Penerton is one of their defensive ends, he's tough. They've changed their front, they're a lot leaner and faster up front.

They like to play two guys off the edge, they blitz about 40% of the time. That's what they do, they feel they'll have a size match problem at some schools, but not with us.

Offensively... I compare the teams we play with my players each week. I asked them what kind of offense FIU runs, and Luke Aubrey said, "McDonald's. They're McDonald's, we're McDonald's."

T.Y. Hilton is their Jason Chery, he's very fast, he's a very good return guy. Their tailback is back, Julian Reams. They also hang their hat on receiver Eric Kirchenberg. Watching them is like looking into a mirror.

If you look at what they did versus Troy, they played very well. They're disciplined on offense, they're not going to make mistakes.

Bottom line for us, is it doesn't matter what they do. I don't mean that in a cocky way, it just matters what we do. We learned that after USM, and we've done it ever since. We don't worry about what they do, we worry about what we do.

Recruiting-wise, we have been out on the road. The NCAA changed the rules, it makes it easer on us. We're focusing locally, try to focus in Louisiana, but our biggest issue is that we only have 15 scholarships. We don't lose a kid on the front line. We do lose the big guys though, Desormeaux, Fenroy, Chery, Smith.

Q: What is the success rate for recruits that we get on campus?

85%. If we get a kid on campus and offer him, 85% accept. The minute kids hit the campus, they feel the same thing that I felt back in 1987. They feel the warmth and the community. It's the reason so many of us want to live here, and that so many of us don't want to leave. It's a great place.

Also the esthetics of the coeds on campus doesn't hurt.

For the kids from the southeastern part of the state, they go "Ahhhh," because they've never heard about us before. But I saw that someone started a blog on NOLA.com about us, that's great, that's something we haven't seen before. So they're starting to hear about us.

Q: Are we going to avoid the JC route this year?

No, we'll take a couple, probably a receiver and a defensive tackle. The fact of the matter is, you try to avoid it. You won't see a bunch any more, the NCAA has changed that. For a non-qualifier to come in, they have to have two college Englishes and one college algebra. If you take a poll of our sophomores & juniors right now, maybe half of them have two Englishes.

Q: We have some strong local talent. What sort of competition do you see? Do the kids want to get away, do we go after them?

That's a great question, wish I had an answer. I talked to a coach at Memphis about this recently. Your local kids aren't always excited to play for you. I worry about that in this town. I'm not talking about recruiting against LSU, but against Oklahoma State, Arkansas, ASU, USM.

Q: What was the key to the defense last game?

Attitude. They're playing inspired football. They have a young group who have to play inspired football. The young guys don't know any speed other than full speed. I'm not saying the other guys didn't, but sometimes it helps to play scared.

Q: Some people say that when LSU is good, it's good for our recruiting.

Yep. I wish we had an early signing period. Big schools will come in, not necessarily LSU, and sign guys and then grey-shirt them. It would help us if the large schools had to commit early.

But they don't get all of the recruits. Recently we signed 3 kids out of Pensacola. They're great athletes, great kids, and you think, "Who missed this?" That's not to say the big schools are not already here. As heavily recruited as the Florida panhandle is, Louisiana is very well recruited.

Q: How are the recruits responding to our on-field success?

We get a lot more RSVPs. It's been great, beating those guys in Monroe as handily as we did. I have to follow the ULM guys recruiting in New Orleans. Putting 728 yards on them is priceless.

And seeing how we spread the ball around, kids are excited. It's definitely a year when we wish we had more scholarships.

Q: Even for kids with high ACTs, this doesn't feel like a college town.

In the Acadiana area, we have over a half-million people, that's a lot of people. We sell Lafayette as a large town with a small-town feel.

I've never had parents complain that this didn't feel like a college town. We push the University community, not the size. And we challenge the Miami kids to find something there, that you can't find here. And they can't.

Q: They have the Miami beach.

We have Holly Beach.

Q: We're hearing that ticket sales are brisk, that they sold out the tailgating in a matter of hours.

I was there the day the tailgating went on sale, and I was really excited.

I bought my own tickets, even though I get a ticket allotment. I felt like a hypocrite if I didn't.

The attendance has been great. When the 5K walked out after the pick, it crushed me, and I think the kids noticed, too.

Q: I know 5 people who left, and they're crushed.

Good.

Q: We heard that general admissions tickets sold out for FIU.

On things like that, I tell everyone the same thing. My guys line up on the right side of the line of scrimmage, or they line up on the left side of the line of scrimmage, and sometimes, both sides.

So I couldn't tell you.

Q: Coming off the field, the kids were smiling. They stayed up-beat. It was impressive, we haven't seen that in a while.

We have some great kids. Gerron Blount doesn't say 10 words. But after Brad threw the interception, Gerron walked over to him and said, "We're gonna get this, brah, we're gonna get this."

Q: I noticed one of the players carrying a sledge hammer?

That's for the best defensive player of the game.

It was Derreck Dean who carried it for the ASU game, I think. They carry it proudly. They also have a couple of hard hats for recognition. Special teams has a tool chest they carry.

I have to give props to Coach Jorge Muñoz. He came to us talking about team-building exercises. Everybody was hugging every night, it was a little touchy-feely for me. But it forced our kids to create accountability in themselves and each other.

One of the things Jorge pointed out is that there's not a lot of traditions here. The Cajun Walk is probably one of the few we have. So he challenged Gerald Broussard and me to come up with ideas.

Everywhere you go, people tap something when they go out to practice or play. So we have a box. We all put in cards, all of us, players, coaches and support staff. Everybody writes on their card who they are dedicating the season to, whomever means the most to them. So they put a piece of their soul in that box. Every day, they put their hand on that box. It's something that means the world to them.

That's why they smile. That's why they play hard.