PROVO -- BYU head coach Gary Crowton addressed media about the upcoming Mississippi State game, again, on Wednesday at the Tucanos BYU Coaches Luncheon. Earlier in the season, the BYU-Mississippi State game was postponed in the wake of the September 11 terrorist attacks. Following are excerpts from his opening statement and the question and answer session in preparation for Saturday's game at 7 p.m. (CST).
"It's kind of interesting being here after a bye week. We really don't have a game to talk about. We're looking forward to going down to Starkville. We've prepared once for this game, the September 15th game. Now we have a chance to go down there and play. It's kind of a different situation. Instead of going down there in the heat and playing in the humidity, it's going to be that cold, humid cold, it's different. I know from living in the South for a couple of years. They're playing good football right now. They've made a quarterback change and that's made a big difference, especially watching that Ole Miss game. That quarterback came in and gave them a new dimension. He was a very accurate passer in that game. They scored a lot more points, I think the most they've scored all season. They're very confident, but we're pretty healthy now. Jernaro (Gilford) was on crutches last week, he is off crutches and is practicing a little bit. Hopefully he'll get stronger as the week goes on and I think he'll be 100 percent when we start. I won't know that though until the end of the week, maybe I'm just being hopeful. I think he'll be in good shape there. I feel like the Thanksgiving weekend was very good for us to kind of heal up."
Q: You've talked about ho you've prepared for this game once, is that of any benefit?
A: When we prepared for them before they had only played one game, Memphis, and they won that game. So then we were going mostly off last year. They're playing a little bit different. There are a lot of similarities though. What we did is we looked at our game plan that we did earlier. Then we went back and we redid a game plan because we had some time and also because of the games that they played. We got a chance to really look at it a second time. It gives us some familiarity with them being able to look at them twice. There are two different game plans, probably a lot of carry-over, but two different game plans.
Q: Even though you're playing a team that is 3-7, do you get the impression that a win down there could do a lot for your national respect?
A: They are 3-7, but they are a very good team. They're playing very good competition and they're playing very close games that they've lost. I think they're a better team than they were in those games just because the new quarterback gives them an added dimension in the passing game. He's not as good of a runner as the other quarterback, who was outstanding as a runner from the quarterback spot. Either they've opened it up with this other guy or they've evolved in the direction where they are throwing the ball to the outside. Regardless of what their record is, they're a very good football team. I think people that watched them play Ole Miss recognize that they are a very good football team. I think around the country they do because they were picked to win their division and they were ranked after two or three losses earlier in the year. I think it can help us because from a perception standpoint, they are a very good football team.
Q: Can it help you as much as it might have helped you earlier in the season?
A: Earlier in the season where they were ranked, you win and then all of a sudden, people move you up higher faster. That might have helped us just because of the fact at that time if we would have won that game, beating a ranked team would have given us a big win. We wouldn't have had to come from so far back to get up to where we are at. We came from nowhere to being up where we're at now, which I think is a good accomplishment. Then again, we didn't play the game. Because we didn't play the game, you don't know who would have won. I'm a firm believer on you can say all you want about who is the better team, until each team plays, you don't know who is the best team. That's why I think we need a playoff system.
Q: What is your primary motivation this week?
A: I think the players love playing and the coaches like coaching and we've got another game to go play. I'm excited to play it. I want the players to concentrate on Mississippi State. I don't want them thinking about the BCS and the national rankings and all that kind of stuff because they're not playing against that opponent. They're playing against the guy that lines up in front of them and it is the Mississippi State players and that's where we are trying to focus.
Q: Do you feel like you are becoming a spokesman for the pro-playoff system?
A: I do, I kind of feel that way. Even before the season, I was not a fan of the system. I've been in I-AA and I liked the system. You had a chance. You got in the playoffs and you won, you kept playing. You lost and you were done and went home. I like that. I just remember being at Louisiana Tech. La. Tech is 9-2 and they can't get into a bowl game. I remember watching Marshall go undefeated. That's it, they don't give them very much credit. I remember watching Tulane go undefeated. There are a lot of good Cinderella teams out there that it didn't help their program as much because they didn't get any recognition to move forward and push for national prominence. I just feel like if you play and win your conference, you should have a chance to keep playing until you lose just like any other sport.
Q: Do you enjoy the attention you are getting about all of this?
A: Not really. I'd rather just focus on Mississippi State. I want what is best for college football. I want that to continue to grow because it's a part of my profession. Coaches move around and you never know where you are going to end up. You want wants fair for the whole system and for everybody that plays college football. That's all I want. I've been in the BCS conferences before. I know how fun it is to go into those bowls. Players get national prominence and all that. I think it should be opened up for people who continue to win. I don't like being a spokesperson for it. I just wish it was in place and I could concentrate on our next opponent.
Q: Is this a rivalry game?
A: No. This is a big game. It's not a rivalry. The rivalry game for BYU is Utah. The rivalry game for Mississippi State is Ole Miss. But it's a big game and we like playing against each other because it's very competitive. I just know from the rivalry standpoint how it is. Rivalry, to me, is when two teams in close proximity play each other year in and year out and there are a lot of bragging rights with who wins and who doesn't. That to me is a rivalry. This is the second game that we are playing in this series, but it is not something that is always going to continue, like Utah would for example.
Q: Are you getting the impression from the players that there is any added incentive for them based on what happened in last year's game?
A: Well, they felt like they were as physical as Mississippi State was. Mississippi State is known for being a physical team and I think listening to Jackie Sherrill's comments that he thought we were a physical team. I think that's a very good thing. Our players like playing. They have to gear up, they have to get ready and I think they are doing a good job of that. If they continue to do so, then I think we will play well down there.
Q: Are you worried about traveling so much in the next couple of weeks? Have you ever had this big of a turnaround?
A: I have. Being at La. Tech, we were the road warrior-type team. I know how hard it is. I remember playing on the west coast and then coming back and then going out and playing on the east coast. It's not easy. I don't want to worry about that. Right now, we are going down there and we are playing Mississippi State. After this game, we've got to get rested and go out and play a real good Hawaii team at Hawaii. We can talk about that later. It's OK with me. That's just how it worked out and we'll do the best we can.
Q: Have you talked to Jason Scukanec today?
A: I have not. I will see him right before practice. Jason has bronchitis and he's been in bed. His leg is feeling good, but he's been a little bit sick. He still has some days to get better and I think he will. In the meantime, we've just moved forward. McCubbins is playing center. Isaac Herring and Keele are rotating at the guard and I feel comfortable with that alignment. But we hope that Scukanec can come back and we can have the depth that we have had. We would probably play all of them if that was the case.
Q: Because you are playing an SEC team, when the SEC is kind of where the BCS was born, do you feel like this is kind of a statement game for you guys?
A: I recognize the strength of the SEC. I know that they're a strong conference. There are a lot of good teams in there and they put a lot of money into their programs. I commend them for their strength. The statement that we want to make is we just want to go down there and beat Mississippi State. I don't want to get into playing against the whole SEC, because we're not. We're playing against Mississippi State. We've had a successful season regardless of what happens. We've won our conference and we've won 11 games and we're going to a bowl game. We recognize there has been a lot of success here. But, we feel like we want to go down there and play well and win this game. We just feel like we have more to do. I don't know if we are making a statement or not, but I think this is a big game for us. I felt like every one of the games have been. To me, I don't want it to be like a do-or-die situation, because we've had an outstanding season already. But I do want to win that game.
Q: Have you noticed much about Hawaii and how they've come on?
A: Yeah, I've been paying a little bit of attention. They're playing good. I don't want to talk too much about it because that game will come. But I know it's hard to go play there because it shortens your work week because of the travel. But again, that's the week after and we'll deal with that when we get there. Right now, going to Starkville is not easy either. The last non-conference team to win down there before this season was La. Tech. This year Troy State beat them in a really bad weather day. It's tough to win down there.
Q: Say you go undefeated and don't get into the BCS, how do you think it will affect college football as a result?
A: I don't know. Sooner or later, it is going to change. A lot of people believe that sooner or later it's going to change. I think it will. Hopefully ourselves and teams like Fresno State and whoever is winning can speed that up. Again, it's not my call. All I'm trying to do is do the best we can with what we have and then go from there. BYU's been there before.