Sept. 16, 2009
Opening statement: A lot of excitement around the Big 12 opener, obviously earlier than we normally open so we’ve got to make sure that we’re prepared, clean up a lot of the little things that happened that weren’t good in the first two ballgames. Normally, we’ve got four weeks where you have a chance to correct a lot of things, but now the urgency is here because we’ve got to play better against a much better opponent in this ballgame than we did the first two.
You go back and look, this is our first real test, but it’s also Texas Tech’s first real test. We’ve both played teams in the first two ballgames that we were better than, both teams could win the game without showing their hand and their cards and showing everything they’ve got, I’m sure there will be new wrinkles by both teams on both sides of the ball and in special teams this weekend, but as we’ve said, we have to do a lot of things right.
It’s always been a special game for Colt [McCoy] because he grew up in west Texas and he’s a guy that has all of his friends going to Tech. He gets around them in the offseason, he gets a lot of ribbing from the Tech fans and Tech players, so I can always tell that this is a special week and special game for him and he’s really hyped.
Our home field, especially since we filled in the north end, having the Red McCombs Red Zone has become a really, really hard place to play and I expect our fans to be the best they’ve ever been on Saturday night. It is a difference in ballgames when they get as loud as they were against Missouri, as loud as they were against A&M. It is tough for the other team, especially teams that check a lot, so we do think that will be huge.
I’m really proud, as I know Texas fans are, of the way Earl Thomas and Blake Gideon have handled this week. It’s a very difficult thing for people to handle adverse things in their life, and especially if you’re 19, 20-years-old when you have to stand up and answer questions about one play when your body of work has been fantastic since you’ve been here and you’re only a freshman or a sophomore, and watching those guys this week and watching them answer questions to our media and our fans and stand up and say, “Sure it was tough, and I didn’t like it, and I haven’t forgotten it, but I’ve moved forward and I’m going to make another play at some point down the road to win a football game,” makes you feel great about what they mean at Texas and the type of young men that we have here in our program. I’m really, really proud of them the way they’ve handled it.
We still have no word on the three young men academically and we’ll get that to you when we do. All the young guys that are not on the injury list are practicing, so, we’ll have to wait until game time to see if some are ready to play, but everybody is practicing that is not on that list.
We’ve taken a tremendous amount of pride playing against the other in-state schools since we’ve been here. Our overall record is 44-6 against the other Texas schools, and at home, we’ve got a record of 29-1 against the Texas schools, so we’re very proud of that record because you’ve got to be the best in your state before you can start being the best nationally, and that’s something we take a tremendous amount of pride in and then looking forward to the game on Saturday.
On feeling comfortable with the depth despite having some players out: You always want more depth than you’ve got, but what you do is you deal with the kids that are playing, you deal with the known and you’ve got a 122 that are eligible, so you deal with that and you don’t whine about what you don’t have, you don’t make excuses for what you don’t have, you don’t make a timetable when it’s not your place too. You wait, you hear, when you hear, you answer and that’s it.
On the secondary being comparable to the 2005 secondary: The talent is, the experience is not at this point, so to compare them to that group would be unfair to them. They’re very talented and they’ve been fun to watch and this will be huge test. They’re playing against the No. 1 passing team in the country, so this will be a great test for them. If I was a defensive back this week, I’d love it, a pass-rusher, we got 18 hits on the quarterback at Wyoming, and we’re getting pressure back there. You’re not going to sack Tech very often. They’ve given up one sack in two weeks and that’s unusual, I think last year they had seven maybe for the whole year because they are so well trained to get rid of the ball, but I like the fact that our guys up front are putting pressure, and we’ve got to do that Saturday night, we cannot let Taylor Potts stand back there.
On not rushing the quarterback against an offense like Tech: You change up; you give them a lot of different looks. Pressures now are like sacks used to be, hits on the quarterback are like sacks used to be, because the rules were changed where the old sack days are over against really good teams and really good quarterbacks. Usually it happens when there is a twist up inside and a quarterback gets trapped and goes down, but most of the time, he’s going to get rid of the ball if it’s close and they know where that tackle box is now and the quarterback is so well protected by the officials, if they’ll sling it out of bounds and past the line of scrimmage, very seldom do you get grounding anymore and very seldom do you see a lot of sacks.
On seeing a change in running back Tre’ Newton: I really don’t see any change in him. He’s a very settled kid, and he’s been this way since he’s been here. He’s very smart, he makes great grades, he’s a guy that never says anything and he smiles. I think the players were kidding with him after the touchdown the other day, because he ran to the official and handed him the ball and they were making fun of him for not celebrating, and he said, “I’m supposed to give the ball to the official. That’s what I’m told.” He is very matter-of-fact, he does what he’s supposed to do and he is not a guy that tries to get the limelight. He just wants to play and wants to play well. He’s never asked to play. He’s never said “Why am I not getting better chances?” He’s just a guy that does what he’s supposed to every day. I think he’s 195 pounds, he’s bigger than people think he is and the things that he brings to the table is that he gets from here to there real fast, and he’s got very good vision, so he’s got great patience. I don’t know how fast he is if people just time him in the 40, but his football time’s really fast.
On the difference between Taylor Potts and Graham Harrell: Just experience. You know we’ve had trouble keeping younger quarterbacks. They all want to play, so they transfer. At Texas Tech, they’ve been able to keep them, so a lot of guys, Graham was different because he played his whole time there, but most of their guys come on for a year, two years and that’s what Taylor Potts has done and I think it’s one of the reasons they’ve been able to be really consistent with the same offense. They have not had to change. We’ve had to tweak our offense and feature whoever is the quarterback or the tailback or the receiver. They do the same stuff and they really haven’t changed it, and I think that’s a credit to them that Taylor would be patient enough to wait his turn, and now he’s got his turn and he’ll reap those benefits.
On Texas Tech’s balanced receivers and not being able to focus on one guy: They’re well taught. Their running game, other than last year when they had 105 rushing yards against us, but they use screens and spreading the ball out on short passes (as runs). I think seven guys have caught a bunch of passes, so even with Michael Crabtree last year, you had a guy you knew you had to try to keep it out of his hands, and they did an outstanding job of getting it to him behind the line. He’s so big and strong, it was hard to tackle him, but now they’re really spreading the ball around everywhere, so that’s a test for our defense. [Louisiana-Monroe] was a running offense that threw some, but they were play action and sprint and quick game. Wyoming was a multiple-set but they didn’t have time to get the ball off, so they had to get it out fast. This will be the first time that our defense will have been tested by a really good offensive football team, so they’re excited because they got a lot of credit last week, and very honestly, we could man-up on Wyoming and get to them and make them throw it before they were open, so the comparisons to last week and this week, you can’t even go there in watching the film.
On if they might expect a different offensive approach from Texas Tech: They’ll do different things against us like we will do different things against them that we didn’t have to do in the first two ballgames. We said Colt didn’t run a time in the first game and he ran some in the second half, but not many, two or three times against Wyoming. Coming into this ballgame, you have to pull out the stops and your game plan becomes different and theirs will do the same. Like I said, I think we had 80 yards rushing last year and they had 105, so they outrushed us and really you can’t look at conventional stats with them and not as much us anymore. Everybody is always concerned when they’re asking questions about the running game, about stats and 1,000-yard rushers and all those because those were standards that we set 10 years ago. Those have changed and now their running game can be, “How many screens do they hit to the backs, their receivers? How many five-yard passes do they have?” Because a 5-yard pass to them is a run. That’s why it’s different. It may be the quick screen to John Chiles the other day which was a run in our mind, because we throw it to him, he gets it behind the line of scrimmage and then what he makes, it should be a secure play instead of a pass, it shouldn’t be a ball that’s batted down, it shouldn’t be one that we can’t get to him.
On Texas Tech’s defense: They’re much better. Two years ago, we moved it at will here. We scored 59 points and had a bunch of time. They scored a lot of points late in the game, but last year, we didn’t consistently move it, and that’s what we’re looking at. Our guys will look at that film and see that we didn’t think we played as tough as they did last year, and that’s something that’s really important for us this year, we need to be a tough football team and as we get into our Big 12 play, we need to be physical. We’re still trying to find out some things in the running game as we changed running backs each week, and we do know now that Cody Johnson is basically a short-yardage and goal line guy, and we feel like he’s really good at it. We’ve got Vondrell McGee who’s got the tweaked ankle, but he’s practicing and doing well. Tre’ Newton is coming on and D.J. Monroe can do some things for us, he did more in the first game than he did last week, but there’s still times you’d like to get the ball in his hands in space. You’re still looking at Fozzy [Whittaker] to see not only if he’s well, but when does he get enough work that he’s a viable candidate to get back in there and play, and right now, you’re trying to figure out what is the mix of substitutions with those guys because we’re averaging nearly 200 yards rushing in the first two ballgames and we’d like to continue to do that, but we’re not going to be obsessed with it.
On Texas Tech being underrated: They had seven touchdown passes last week and that’s nearly unheard of. They’ve got team speed and they’ve always had speed. Tech gets the credit for coaching on offense, I’ve never felt like their kids get credit for being really good players because they don’t get the publicity that we do. The other thing I don’t think they get credit for is their defense; their defensive coaches are really good.
On Texas Tech head coach Mike Leach: I’ve known Mike now for 10 years and he’s done a great job and he’s always nice to me and he’s always very professional with me and he understands we’re excited about this game and that this is the only one we’re worried about on our schedule right now. We actually divide the season up and this is the last game in the first phase of the season, so our guys have nothing on their minds except playing well Saturday night.