Video: Willie Fritz, Tulane defensive players ahead of Cincinnati trip

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Willie Fritz Weekly News Conference – Cincinnati
Listed below is the complete transcript from Green Wave head coach Willie Fritz’s weekly press conference leading up to Tulane’s matchup at Cincinnati on Saturday.

Opening statement:
“Big win for us last Friday night. It seems like about a month ago, but a big win and I’m really happy for our guys. I thought they had a lot of enthusiasm and energy on the sideline. We started off well and we just kind of built on that against a good football team. We really played well in all three phases. We were able to run the ball effectively, offensively we threw the ball. We had too many drops – I think we had six drops in the game – but they weren’t having to defend the pass. We had some big plays throwing the ball. And then defensively, other than the first defensive play out of the box, we really played well. We had to defend 16 plays in the first half. I think it was 41 plays (between both teams), 16 plays (for Memphis) in the first half. Twenty-one minutes and nine minutes to 8:51 in time of possessing. When you have that, as long as you’re not letting them score quickly, you’re going to win every game you play. And then I thought we did a good job in the special teams. They had a dangerous return game that we really kept in check. We made them go a long field, we had a couple good returns, so we’re really pleased with all three phases. Like I always say, we’ve got to turn a page. We’ve got to move on to the next game. Cincinnati is undefeated, 5-0, playing at home. Probably going to have a huge crowd, 30,000-40,000 in their on-campus stadium. Offensively, they’re a big-time ball control (team), run the ball in-between the tackles, physical, huge team. Really big. Probably 6-4, 6-5, 300-320 on the offensive line and they’re really big on the defensive line as well. I think they’re No. 7 in the nation right now defensively, and they’re really solid in the kicking game as well. We’ve got to move on and put all our focus on Cincinnati to go up there and come away with a win.”

On QB Jonathan Banks’ health:
“Good, he just cramped up and unfortunately it was while we were out there on the field and we had to burn a timeout. I don’t know if he could have walked around with how he was feeling. I think we could have put him back in, but the game was in our favor at that point in time, so we went the rest of the way with Justin [McMillan.] And unfortunately for Jonathan Banks, he had the six drops with him throwing. Otherwise he probably had another 70-80 yards and had a heck of a night.”

On Banks running more Friday night vs. Memphis:
“He was just being decisive. He took off running three or four times, and one time I think it was second and 20 and he took off running and ended up getting 10-12 yards and put us in a manageable third-down situation. When he makes quick decisions, they’re good decisions for us. Sometimes it’s covered, and if you see an opening you take it. You’ve got to know the situation as well, if it’s the last play of the game or whatever the case may be. When he makes quick decisions, he makes good decisions.”

On whether Fritz discussed running more with Banks:
“You want to go and execute the play, but sometimes the protection breaks down, and going ahead and ad-libbing is a good deal if you do it quickly.”

On Patrick Johnson’s recent play:
“Well we’re playing him kind of as an outside linebacker/defensive end hybrid. He’s never really played that before. He played last year some. He’d been a hand-in-the-ground defensive end all his life. I think he’s really starting to understand the position. He’s a physical guy, he can jump off the ball on pass rush. We did a great job rushing the passer. When you get up by a few touchdowns, you can pin your ears back and know they’re going to be one dimensional. I think we had eight sacks. That’s pretty good. You don’t have eight sacks very often.” [Tulane had seven sacks]

On Cameron Sample’s performance:
“Yeah Cam did a good job. He got a couple sacks. The thing that’s good about Cam is he can play inside and he can play outside. He can play in the core and on the edge. He played a good ballgame again.”

On whether that performance exhibited the versatility in Sample that the staff had always seen:
“Yeah, he’s big enough now. When he first got here, we played him inside and he was really only about 260. Now he’s about 280, 285. He’s got really good lateral quickness. He’s able to play in the core and out on the edge, too.”

On whether Sample is healthier now than he has been:
“Yeah, you know, at the beginning of the season we always tell our guys right before the first practice, ‘This is going to be the last time you’re going to be 100 percent. The rest of the year you’re going to be banged up a little bit.’ He’s been banged up a little bit, but he’s been in pretty good shape.”

On whether the defense needed a performance like it had to help itself moving forward:
“Yeah, you know, I think so. We’ve had a tough schedule without a doubt. Like I’ve always told the guys, we’ve just got to lock in and move on to the next one. We came in on Monday, and I think they thought we were going to have a big party, and we just had the same meeting we always have. We’ve got to move on, we’ve got to prepare the same way every single week. I think if you sit around and pat yourself on the back too much, you forget about the task at hand. So, we’re onto Cincinnati, and it’s a good learning process, though. We do the same things the same way regardless of the outcome.”

On what Cincinnati has done well so far this season:
“No. 1, it’s the second year in their system. That’s helped them out tremendously. No. 2, they’ve got a bunch of really, really good players. They’ve been highly ranked in recruiting classes the last ump-teen years. I’ve recruited against them for a long time when I was at Georgia Southern and then here, and they’ve always done a good job of getting good football players. They have a wide area they recruit from. They do an excellent job of recruiting, getting quality guys. Big, tall, long guys. I thought they were an impressive group last year when we went out and played against them. They’re a talented bunch.”

On accommodating for schedule adjustments with Thursday/Friday games on different weeks:
“We gave our guys off on Saturday and Sunday and then we got after it again yesterday morning. I think sometimes, 20 years ago I would have tried to steal a practice and try to do something on Sunday. Sometimes you overwork them. Just getting off the feet, getting away from them for a while is good. So, we always have a plan ahead of time and stick to the plan. It’s was a good plan when you thought of it and weren’t under pressure, so it ought to be a good plan when the times comes.”

On what it takes to win on the road:
“We’ve got to play well. We’ve got to come out and play well regardless of – it’s what happened to the defense on Friday night. First play we gave up a 40-yard touchdown. That didn’t influence the next 15 plays they ran. We’ve got to keep playing ball and keep being mentally and physically tough. This will be the first time I’ve played in this stadium, but I’ve had some friends who have played up there and they said it’s a heck of an environment. That should motivate us to play well.”

On the offensive line’s performance against Memphis:
“We’ve just got to get bodies on bodies and stay away from minus plays. We didn’t have very many minus plays on first and second down Friday night. We’ve got to stay away from those. IF we can do that, we’ll play well offensively. If we start out with second-and-14, we didn’t get a body on a body, we allowed penetration and we weren’t firm in our pass protection.”

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