Sept. 23, 2009
Opening Statement: This week the coaches are partnering with Muscular Dystrophy across the country to try and cure Duchenne. We are reaching out from the American Football Coaches Association to try to bring more attention to this awful disease, which affects young people starting at the age of six. It is a very, very difficult disease. Coaches cannot raise money, but what we can do is bring awareness to the disease and hope that people will look it up on the Internet and will follow it more and be passionate enough about it that they help to improve the research and help families that are stricken. The reason the coaches have joined in a partnership with MS across the country is that this disease weakens the muscle structure of children, and who better than college football coaches who work with men who have strong muscles every day to try to reach out and help with this awful disease. We ask that you look into it, and if you feel passionate about it, please reach out and try to help.
To the game, you start looking around the scope of college football last week and it scares you to death. What we are seeing is that you better be ready to play, and if you are, and your attitude is good and your toughness is good, then you have a better chance to take care of the football, and you have a better chance to stop the big plays, make the big plays, and win in the kicking game. Those teams that go out there and are not on their game, with the parity in college football, have the chance to lose each week. It is not about schemes if you are not ready to play. If you are ready to play, you have to have great schemes, but schemes do not matter if you do not have the attitude each week that you have to be consistently good and then become great.
Since we are playing a team from the state of Texas – 74 players on their team from the state of Texas, 17 starters that will be coming back and playing in front of their families – we know that we will get the same type of effort from them as we did last year when we played UTEP in El Paso. They outgained us, they had the ball more than we did, and they played with a passion. We take games very seriously in-state. We are 30-1 at home in in-state contests, and we are 45-6 overall. The stadium last weekend was really good. It was exciting. We were the most watched game in college football on Saturday, and we had over six million people watch the ballgame on Saturday night. We need the same type of attitude and excitement with the fans coming in here for this weekend’s game.
Our offense has to be more consistent. We have a lot of new pieces and a lot of different pieces in our offense that we have to try to tie together. You have to figure out where exactly John Chiles fits, whether it is the Wild Horn or whether it is his place in the receiving game. He is getting better, but even on the comeback route that Colt [McCoy] threw a little high to him, their timing is not as good as Quan [Cosby]’s timing at this time last year. We have to continue to get that better.
We have actually already played three running backs and four if you count D.J. [Monroe], and we would have played Fozzy [Whittaker] if he had been ready. When you are talking about committee, you are really talking about a couple, but we have been all over with running back, and we need to tie it down. Fozzy is practicing this week, so hopefully he will get some time. We have to watch Vondrell [McGee] up until game time and see how his ankle is doing. Right now Tre’ [Newton] would start if he continues the same way that he has practiced so far, and then you still have to figure out where D.J. gets in there. We need more consistency in our running game. We think we can get that, but we need to settle down and figure out who they are, and even with Dan Buckner and John Chiles, we have new all over the place on offense.
As you look at Colt [McCoy]’s stats, they are not as good in the first half, but his stats in the second half of the ballgame the first three weeks are better than they were at any time last year. He is completing over 78 percent with four touchdowns. It is not a question of Colt not starting well. We as an offense have not started well. Very honestly, our defense is supposed to go out and stop them, but the three points that Tech got in the first half were on the first drive. We want to stop the first drive because we defer to get the ball, and we want to score first. Our numbers have been very good when we have scored first in a ballgame.
The defense played very well throughout the night Saturday. We had more inconsistency in the second half, but overall we played really well. Their challenge will be that now that people have been talking good about them all week, will they go out with the same attitude and play with the same passion this week after people have bragged on them some? The University of Texas-El Paso had 412 yards against them last year.
The kicking game is something that we feel like can be very productive. We have done some great things in the kicking game. We did not have the mistakes in the kicking game the other night that we have had, even though we can do better than we did on kickoff coverage. We feel like each week now we have a chance to score on the punt team, whether it is blocking a punt or returning it. We are pleased with what Justin Tucker is doing with his rugby kicks both ways, and we also feel like our kickoff return team has the chance to score every time. We want to be very aggressive in our kicking game and try to get more points.
I am also personally excited that George Strait will be our honorary captain this week. George will come out on the field before the game, and I think that will be fun for a lot of our fans. I want to challenge our fans to all be in their seats when the game starts so we can thank George for all of the wonderful times he has given all of us in the state of Texas.
On fixing the slow starts: We think the slow starts are because of individuals, and if enough individuals mess something up early in a game, it makes the team start slow. So, if you had a holding penalty, you’ve got to pay more attention to detail and just do your job, not worry about scoring early, but do your job and then if everybody is doing their job, they score. We feel like everybody is trying to do too much. We also feel like we will get more consistency in our running game when we have fewer backs playing, and we have to separate those guys and get it down to a couple that are playing and we’re going to have to watch, but we feel like we have to do that. We also [are trying to figure out] where the Wild Horn fits. We’ve been working on it for three weeks. We’ve put it in for three plays now, two plays were very successful, we thought the third one should have been and we dropped the snap, but how many plays do you use it? When do you use it and where does D.J. Monroe fit since he’s not an every-down back? Offensively, when we get more settled, I think the players will be more settled. But our challenge to them will be to just do your job, quit worrying about the offense being inconsistent, you be consistent and then it will help. The quarterback gets blamed for it, but it’s all over the map.
On the Wild Horn: We don’t change up any personnel, D.J. would be in the game, or we’d hope he would be in the game. One of the things we feel like that’s so much better that we’ve learned from last year is that if we can be quick tempo with that personnel and not substitute, then the defense will not have time to substitute because if you substitute, the official stands over the ball and the defense has a chance to match what you’re doing. If you do not substitute, you’ve got the 40-second clock and normally a defensive coordinator has to make the call so you could actually have a defensive coordinator make a call, you could change your formation and he’s got to make another call, which gets very difficult for a defense, so we do feel like that it’s much more of an advantage for us and it’s because we’ve worked against people using it and in talking to our defensive staff, we feel like it’s much more successful for us when we can keep the same people on the field.
On playing with fewer running backs: We’re trying to get people healthy and we’re trying to get the ones that are healthiest and the ones that are playing the best in the game. It’s hard to play four backs, and right now we’ve played four with Fozzy getting well and that’s a tough thing to do, so we’ve got to start narrowing it down. We’ve got to get a better identity in our running game and we feel like part of the running back situation will do that.
On fewer backs getting more carries: I’d rather have two guys getting a lot of carries, and I’m not counting short-yardage and goal line, not counting the four-minute drill at the end of the game, but we’re counting in the every-down situation.
On keeping running backs fresh and allowing them to get in a rhythm: People have played with three. You can do that and keep the hot hand in the game. Normally when people use running back by committee, what they do is keep the hot hand in the game, and that’s what we did with Tre’ the other night. He started the second half, did really well and we let him have it.
On getting freshman quarterback Garrett Gilbert in the game early: We feel like right now that we’re not going to put Garrett in early in the game. That’s what we’ve done because we’re starting slow and we don’t want to put more pressure on him, so we need to get what we’re doing worked out. In certain games we’ve played the second-team offense the third series of each game, and right now we’re not playing well enough with the first team to start looking at the second team, and we’ve challenged the second-team players to play better in practice so we can gain more depth. That’s something we’ve got to do both sides of the ball. If you don’t earn the right in practice, you don’t get in the game and we’re playing a lot more people on defense right now than we are offense and the offense has been out there too much, so we need to get more people in the game on offense.
On how much the staff knows about the run defense: Very little and it scares us to death. UTEP ran the ball really well last week. They’ve had the back gain over 100 yards twice, gaining 84 yards and he’s a young guy from Copperas Cove. Donald [Buckram] scored two of their four running touchdowns on Saturday night, so they’ll come in here and try to run the ball we think because we’ve done a good job of getting pressure on the passers, and the way to keep that from happening is change your protections and run the ball. We’re expecting them to line up and run the ball against us. Louisiana-Monroe had a couple of runs that were big runs and that was it, there was only one run the other night that was significant and we feel like that will be a challenge here on Saturday.
On what UTEP did well last year against Texas: I thought they played better than we did and played more physical than we did. I thought our guys were surprised. You sit there and watch them against Buffalo in the opener and they did not play well, and then they had a week off and then our guys are standing there thinking, “We’re pretty cool, we’re going to go out there and whip ‘em,” and they jumped right after us. They got after us and we expect the same thing on Saturday, and I think that’s what you’d expect, especially with an in-state game.
On trying to keep the team healthy from sickness: That all comes from our medical staff and they’re taking every precaution that you could possibly take because with the swine flu and the spring and the concerns across not only the country, but the world about sickness. People are looking at it much more closely now than ever before. The flu used to be something that you got over and moved on, and now I think they’re looking at it as a much more serious situation right now, and our guys, we’ve all had flu shots. They’re encouraging us to wash our hand every time you walk by a place that you can wash your hands and making sure the guys are careful with each other, not using the same towels or not drinking after each other out of a water bottle, which kids do sometimes, and they’re asking them to do things abnormal. It was staph infection a few years ago. The staph infection was really bad across the country and it seems like flu is the problem this year for all of us.
On the team getting flu shots: I’m sure what we can’t do is force anybody to take a shot, what we can do is make it available for everybody. As of Monday, I haven’t asked, but over 90 percent of our team had their flu shots. I don’t know if all of them took it or not. I think they were all planning on taking them, but I just haven’t heard. Right now, we’re doing better than we did last week, so we’re pretty lucky right now we think.
On anyone missing practice: No, Jared [Norton] is out. Mason Walters will not play. I think we said that Monday. If we didn’t, he will not play and right now everybody else, as of right now, will be ready to play on Saturday we think. The trouble with Wednesday is that could change, but going into practice today, that’s what we’ve got.