Mack Brown Monday press conference: Oct. 15
Opening Statement: It was a really good win for us on Saturday. Our guys needed to get back on track and we needed to play an entire football game and be more consistent in what we were doing. We got to play everybody, and the guys played well and accomplished the goals that we had. We gained three turnovers and lost none, which is something that we have been preaching, but for some reason had trouble gaining. We had 11 explosive plays and (Iowa State) had three, which was really, really exciting for us. We had a lot of big plays offensively and we held them to three points and kept their big plays to a minimum. And we won all three phases of the kicking game, even though it was about field position more than us accomplishing what we wanted to in the kicking game. We also had a defensive touchdown, and scoring on defense is something we’ve done, and I thought the guys played with a lot of energy and they had fun, which was good to see. (The mood) was better in the locker room than it has been in past weeks. When we’ve won the explosive plays and turnovers in a game, we’re 58-0, and when we’ve lost them, we’re 1-16. Usually those come with energy and excitement, and we felt like the players accomplished all those things up in Ames. It was good to accomplish all those things on the road too.
Offensively, we were really good on first downs. We were effective 62 percent of the time. We didn’t have a turnover offensively. We asked our team to start fast and finish fast and we felt like they did, even when our storm unit, which is our second unit, came in during the late third and fourth quarters they did well. We did put them in the third series of the game and we just had one first down and we’ve challenged them. It was an entire freshman and red-shirt freshman group, but if we’re going to put them in the game, we expect them to score just like the first unit, so we did challenge those guys. We’ll have to continue to decide each week about whether we’ll put them in because we hadn’t finished the last two games like we wanted to and we thought we needed to play more people early in the ballgame.
Colt (McCoy) played I think maybe the best game since he’s been here. If you look at his progress during and after Oklahoma last year, he got much better until he got hurt at Kansas State. And (continuing to improve) is something that we saw him do at Oklahoma (this year). He had the two touchdowns and really the interception wasn’t his, it went through somebody’s hands and was intercepted. Saturday, he was as good scrambling, eyes downfield and pulling people from Iowa State out of coverage and hitting (receivers) on the run and that’s what we’ll look forward to continuing to see from Colt in the future.
Chris Hall continues to amaze us. He played four of the five positions upfront and played really, really well. Again, Adam Ulatoski was the offensive lineman of the week, and he’s been amazing. He’s played with a dislocated elbow, he’s played with a hurt knee and he’s played with a lot of toughness.
The receivers blocked really well downfield. Quan (Cosby) had two great blocks on the touchdown run for Jamaal (Charles) and the touchdown run for Colt. So we feel like we’re making progress in the downfield blocking. We were really pleased with Jamaal and Jermichael (Finley) in that their attitudes in the dressing room was the same as if they had touched the ball every time even though they didn’t get as many touches, so we feel like we’re making progress on the team concept.
Defensively, we had the three takeaways, and the guys really worked hard at that last week. We always work at (creating turnovers), but even more so last week just to make an emphasis that we had to get that attitude turned back. We said we hope they come in bunches because they usually do, and we’re looking forward to that. We did score on defense, which was great. The defense forced a lot of short fields and gave the offense the chance to have good field position and score. Brandon Foster has now set a record (for defensive TDs in a season), and he’ll be in the record books at Texas for the rest of his life and that’s exciting for him because he’s come a long way.
We held Iowa State to 3.6 yards per pass attempt, which is really good when you look at their receiving corps and what Bret Meyer has been able to do as the leading passer in school history. (Iowa State) moved the ball the first two series, and I thought (Defensive Co-coordinator) Duane (Akina) and the defensive staff did a great job of making some adjustments. (Iowa State) came up with some new formations on us and outnumbered us a couple of times on the option, had a few runs and had a couple of trick plays. So in the first 27 plays, we gave up 145 yards and the last 11 drives we only gave up 83 yards, and I think it was 62 yards for the second half. So the guys played really, really well after the initial part, and I thought they played hard early, but Iowa State got us in a couple of tough formations and got after us. We were really, really pleased that when the attack defense, which is the second-team defense, came in the game, they kept (Iowa State) out of the end zone, as well. And that’s something that you always worry about, but we played them more than the first defense and I thought the 4th-and-2 stand at the end of the game was great.
We played everybody that traveled that could play. Derek Lokey played three positions; he played defensive end, he played defensive tackle and he also played fullback. Brian Orakpo was back more near himself. He made a couple of great plays on the quarterback and he made a super play knocking the pitch on the option out-of-bounds down around the goal line, and hopefully he continues to get better.
The running game was what we wanted it to be when we needed it to be. We ran the ball really well in short-yardage and we ran it really well in goal line, and that’s what we’ve talked about since we’ve been here. We’ve said we’re getting out of the stat game and we’re getting into the only stat that really matters, which is winning and that is true. We felt like our short-yardage running and goal line was much better.
This week we go to Baylor. They threw for over 300 yards against us last year and they have incorporated an offense very much like Texas Tech’s. You go back to their Colorado game right after Colorado shut Oklahoma down and Baylor throws for over 400 yards. They scored 31 points against us last year, and this will be a great test for our secondary because they protect well and they throw the ball down the field.
On WRs Billy Pittman and Jordan Shipley: We thought Billy Pittman and Jordan (Shipley) played really, really well. Now Billy is well and has gotten back into the rhythm of playing and the same goes for Jordan, so we were pleased with both of them. Jordan has caught touchdown passes the last two weeks. We’re really, really happy to see Jordan healthy probably for the first time probably since he’s been here and to see Billy back healthy and playing.
On the wide receivers: We just need to continue to do what we did on Saturday because they played great. It’s the best timing we’ve had in the passing game in a long time and it’s what we’ve been looking for all year and now we just have to continue to do the same thing. What we said after the game is that this team cannot take a deep breath and relax and feel entitlement. They’ve got to get better. We’ve not been a great football team and we haven’t been consistent so we’ve got to improve each week. And really this part of the season is more about us than it is about who we’re playing because we’ve shown signs of being good and we put it all together Saturday but we’ve got to do it again this weekend.
On the team’s improvement in the last few weeks: Well we’ve put a lot of pressure on them to get better and correct the things that we need to correct. And even though there are a lot of seniors on this team, a lot of them haven’t played very much and they should improve and our team has basically improved throughout the year. The offensive line is healthier now than they’ve been throughout the year and they’re inexperienced. The secondary seems to be getting better each week and that’s a real key for us. Getting Rak [Brian Orakpo] back helps and it helps with leadership and it helps with the attitude.
On improvement since Kansas State: Well the fourth quarter against K-State was kind of a bottom-out for us. But lets look at it here, we were not playing well, period. We had some good plays and we had some good quarters but we hadn’t had a good game in our mind except maybe against Rice. But what we said after the Kansas State game was let’s start over, period. We went back and looked at individualism, you have to be team-oriented and unselfish and we had to look at who we are and what we’re doing. One of the things we’ve done around here is make really hard decisions when things aren’t going like we want them to, and there is a tremendous amount of pride in this team. We told the seniors that they’re going to be remembered for this season whether they like it or not, so they better finish it like they need to, and they’ve responded to that really well.
On CBs Brandon Foster and Ryan Palmer: They didn’t play very much (prior to this year) and some of that was because the five guys that are in the NFL now and some of that was also because of injuries. Ryan has overcome a knee operation and Brandon had a lot of pulled hamstrings through his time here. They were really good special teams players, and Ryan made some great plays out at Texas Tech last year when he was put in a nickel situation. Now it’s their time and we’ve got Ryan back next year and hopefully Brandon will get his chance to play in the NFL. Brandon has got a great knack of breaking on the ball. (Last week) we were really concerned about the height of the Iowa State receivers on our shorter corners and the guys really stood up and played well, so we’re really proud of them.
On the excitement and energy of the team: They’ve had it some. This team lives in the shadow of expectations from two years ago and last year, and when you don’t blow out a team here that you’re supposed to, around here they feel that. They feel like they have to win every game by a whole lot of points, and that’s not fair to them. There is more parity and this team is not as experienced and because of that, this team just needs to worry about winning, they don’t need to worry about any other expectations or anything except winning a game. We told them that if you look around the country we’re not good enough to win any game unless we play with energy, unless we play toughness and unless we play well. We can lose the rest of the games or we can win the rest of the games based on how we play. There were times around here that we were good enough to play bad and still win, but we can’t do that right now and this is a good time for them to realize that. I think the difference between early in the season and now is that they’ve looked around and seen all the things that we’ve seen, and they understand that there is more parity than we all thought there was and they understand that we’re not as experienced in key positions, so we have to play well. They also saw what we can do when we protect Colt (McCoy). Everybody gets on Colt, but it’s obvious that when he gets time to throw, he’s really good and really accurate. I thought Saturday and part of the game against Oklahoma are what we saw in two-a-days. He hardly missed a pass in two-a-days and we saw him every day. And I thought he would be that way every play (during the season), but then we didn’t protect him as well as we needed to. So hopefully now we are on track and he can continue to have the time he had on Saturday and boy was he good. He just didn’t miss.
On the play where Colt McCoy scrambled out, spun and hit Nate Jones for a TD: He’s really getting a presence about where that line of scrimmage is, and we’ve talked a lot about Vince (Young’s) plays. When Vince got really good, he could threaten the run and when he came out of the secondary he would throw the ball downfield and Colt is getting that feel now. The defensive back thought he was down and he left Nate. And the amazing thing to me wasn’t that he got out of the tackle, it was how quickly he looked up and was aware of where his receivers were. He found Nate, had a quick release and got rid of the ball and got hit. He has a great feel of where people are if we’ll just give him time.
On QB Colt McCoy’s ability to ad-lib plays: I’m really impressed. It’s what we saw Vince (Young) do. I think it’s maturity, experience and more strength. He probably couldn’t have pulled out of that tackle where he threw the ball to Nate last year because he would have been sacked and come down easy. And we were really impressed by his run on the option. He’s just getting stronger and getting mentally stronger. You’re never sure how much the injury at Kansas State and against Texas A&M stuck in his mind early in the year, and now it looks to me like he’s relaxed and moving forward and playing with the aggressiveness that he did this time last year.
On the game “slowing down” for a player: It’s something we all talk about, but it’s real. They used to talk about Michael Jordan and the great players that the game really slows down for and obviously Vince (Young) was that way and if you look at Chris Simms it got that way for him. It happened for Colt (McCoy) after Oklahoma last year and then after he got hurt it probably speeded up a little bit just because things around him and nervousness and not being sure of his shoulder. Even the first half against Iowa, (in the Alamo Bowl) he didn’t play like we knew he could play, and he came back and did a good job the second half. And I think we’re seeing that now again, we’re seeing him with confidence and we’re seeing him in total control of the game. And him standing up in the dressing room at Oklahoma after the game and addressing the team with confidence showed leadership, and it was the first time I’ve ever seen him do that in that setting and he was really aggressive with them. I thought he had fun Saturday (at Iowa State), but he was aggressive again with the entire game. The first play of the game (was impressive) because a lot of players don’t find a guy wide-open when they’re scrambling, they just run. Now he is looking downfield as he moves forward, so he has the ability to pump it and run or he has the ability to throw it deep, and that just gives you an extra running back in the backfield when he’s got the ability to scramble.
On worrying about becoming complacent against Baylor after the win at Iowa State: Well (the game) won’t be easy, especially after Baylor had a tough game at Kansas. I mean Baylor wasn’t happy with their game and they’re going to come back. They’ve played better at home than they have on the road; they gave Colorado a great game at home and they’ve won two games at home. So I’ve told our guys to expect every game to be really close, expect us to get the bad breaks in every game and have the officials’ calls to be against us and expect to be behind. We were behind 10-0 in this game last year and (Baylor) scored on the first play of the game on an isolation deep-post on a very veteran secondary. Again, our team is not one that can ever expect to walk out there and roll the helmets out and win. We have to play with energy, we have to play well, we have to have fun and we have to keep playing because anything can happen and we’ve seen that.
On Baylor QB Blake Szymanski: He’s going up the charts for them. They’re running an offense similar to Texas Tech’s offense and he’s been very accurate with 15 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. He’s a guy that can put it on you if you’re not ready to go, so we’ve got to continue to bring pressure. It’s such a different offense than we’ve seen and we’ll see it again versus Texas Tech in a few weeks. They spread them out so much, and the defensive coaches have a real challenge because you have to change the things you’re doing and you have to look at nickel and dime as compared to a very physical up-inside running game. It will be a fun week for our secondary and defense, but it will be a challenging week for our coaches and the guys. And for our bunch to have given up 31 points against them last year, it should be exciting for us to have the challenge to play better against that offense than we did last year. It will be exciting for the defense because the front guys love to rush the passer and Baylor is going to throw it a bunch. The linebackers love to drop and hit people and get their hands on balls, and what could be better for the guys in the secondary than having a bunch of balls dropped in their area- that’s what they want. So we have to continue to try and force the turnovers, and I think the guys really take a challenge when somebody is going to throw it most of the time and they just like it because it’s different.