Mack Brown Monday press conference transcript: Oct. 18
Oct. 18, 2010
Opening statement: It was a fun win in Lincoln this weekend. Everybody involved with Texas Football needed some fun. It had been too long. When you have a couple of tough weekends then you have a week off, it’s not fun. We said before, it’s not like basketball or baseball where you get to go play again. You have to wait until you get there. I don’t think there’s any question that we’re all spoiled around here and losing stinks. It’s not fun. You need to get back and win if you’re going to be involved in college sports or high school sports or peewee sports or anything else.
I did think that not enough credit was given to Bo Pelini and the Nebraska team and staff. They’ve done a tremendous job. They are back in the national scene. They made that a huge game coming in - not us. Taylor Martinez is a great player. Our guys did a super job against him this weekend. I don’t want to walk away from that game without giving the Nebraska staff credit for being back in the national limelight, and what Taylor Martinez has done for that team so far has been unbelievable.
It’s obvious that our coaches and players got some things fixed over bye week. They worked really hard. One of the things we felt were getting messed up were things we messed up. Those are things we can fix. I was really proud of the way they played. They played hard. They also played with more discipline than we have been playing with. That was evident throughout the day.
In the kicking game, I thought it was one of the huge differences in the ballgame. We dominated on defense and we dominated in the kicking game. Offense managed the game really well. Kickoff coverage – they [Nebraska] started at an average of the 23-yard line. They averaged 16 yards a return. Two of them were touchbacks and we held them inside the 20 twice. That was a huge day, especially with field position considering the wind gusts. The wind was a big part of this game throughout. Our punt return team did a really good job. Curtis Brown had a 24-yard return that led to a field goal and Aaron Williams had a 17-yard return. Overall, the operation was good. It helped us with field position.
The punt team was one of the real bright spots of the game. We averaged 46 yards a punt. We had three punts inside the 20-yard line and two of those were downed inside the five with Malcolm Williams doing a tremendous job of downing those balls. It was in the third quarter where they had the wind. It took away their wind advantage, and I thought it made a huge difference in the game because of their poor field position. John Gold had a 54-yard punt and Justin Tucker had punts of 55 and 67 yards into the wind. He was actually running to his right like rugby and punting it across. The ball bounced and he got great rolls. It was something that we have not done before and something that really had an impact on the game. Like I said, all three of them did well. We punted Justin into the wind with the rugby punt and we punted John Gold with the wind, and his punt went out of bounds as well for no return. It was a great day for our punt team.
Kickoff return team just had two opportunities. The one that was out in the field we did not do well again. We stunk. We still have to look at that. The guys missed blocks up front. They did a tremendous job on the onside kick. The execution was good. Marquise Goodwin did a great job. He can jump, so he did a great job jumping up and getting that. When I asked Bobby Kennedy why he had him on the [onside kick return] team, he said he has good hands and he can obviously jump. That was the reason we put him out there.
Extra point and field goal team did a great job throughout the day. Justin [Tucker] made a 27 and a 28-yard field goal. It looked like we had a little trouble with our snaps. I think that’s something that we can correct. Cade McCrary did a great job of picking them up and putting them down. He and Justin have really good confidence in each other right now.
The one blunder was the pooch kick at the end of the game. You’re sitting there with three-plus minutes left in the game and you’ve got four or five decisions you can make. They’re my decisions. You can go for the first down. If you make it, the game is over. If the ball is tipped up, they run it back. Something like that happens like it did against Baylor in ’99, I think, when they were going in to score against UNLV and they ran it back for a touchdown. All those things can happen. It didn’t look like Nebraska was going to be able to score a touchdown. You can pooch punt with your field goal team, which we’ve been very successful [with], because Justin has the great touch. You can pooch punt with your regular offense. Garrett Gilbert has done well with that. Now you’re spreading people out. There’s a better chance of an all-out blitz and someone blocking the punt. You didn’t want it blocked. You can try to kick a 50-yard field goal. Sometimes the trajectory is a little lower. That could be returned for a touchdown. You can rocket punt with your regular team. Your regular punt team usually doesn’t punt from that far in. It’s tougher for them. Or you could fake the field goal.
Going back and looking at it, we took the most conservative approach. Probably the decision was okay, our execution was not. We should have had Justin kick it out of bounds. If he kicked it out of bounds at the 10-yard line or even the 20-yard line, we would’ve not gained much yardage but it still would’ve put them back. We got greedy and we tried to put them down at the one or two-yard line. Obviously we should have tackled him. We had guys there. We did not execute it well. We think in that position we still might do the same thing, but we would tell him to kick it out of bounds.
Things we need to improve – I laughed about it after the game, but it wasn’t funny. It was only funny because we won. We’ve got to improve the execution of that pooch punt if we continue to do it. We’ve got to get guys that can tackle. Their guy [Eric] Hagg did a great job of running back and making a play very much like Quan [Cosby] did a couple years ago against [Texas] El Paso. Usually the guys covering aren’t the best tacklers. We’ve got to continue to improve our kickoff return and continue to be creative with our punt team. We’ve got two outstanding punters. We’ve got two or three different ways we can punt now. Field position with punt returns is huge and stopping them from that [is huge].
Special teams players of the game – Justin Tucker, he continues to do a great job and Malcolm Williams. We’ve got to look at substituting Malcolm more. He’s back on every special team. He covers every punt. He’s covering kickoffs. He’s trying to block punts. He’s just done a tremendous job for us in that area.
I’m very proud of the players and the staff for handling substitution issues in the kicking game. We had so many people go down time and time again, and it was such a physical game. We had problems with that once with 12 on the field against UCLA. They managed that part of the game really well on Saturday. Sometimes it’s easier to do on the road than it is at home because you have a lot fewer players. At home you dress out 100-plus kids and on the road you can only dress 70. We’ve got to continue to address that. We did not have a penalty in the kicking game.
The defense had a great day. We talked about discipline with our eyes and our feet and our angles. We executed, and we tackled well. The run game - we’re supposed to hold the opponents to 3.3 [yards] or less per rush. They had 36 runs for 107 yards and that was 2.97 yards per carry. We tried to take away what they did best. We did not do that against UCLA. We allowed them to run the ball. You can’t let somebody beat you with what they do best. That’s what happened in that ballgame. Passing game - we want to hold opponents to 5.0 yards or less per attempt. They had 28 attempts for 94 yards. It was 3.35 yards per attempt. We were successful there. We need three turnovers per game. We got one turnover - recovered the fumble early in the game. We had one fourth down stop, which our defense counts as a turnover. We did not get that [turnover] goal.
Ball hawks – Eddie Jones caused a fumble. Keenan Robinson fell on it. Chykie Brown had a fourth down stop. We’re not supposed to give up any big plays. They did have a 20 and a 23-yard pass play. We put tremendous pressure on our secondary and linebackers in man-to-man coverage to try to stop Taylor Martinez. Taylor had 13 carries for 21 yards and had 1.6 yards per carry. They scheme out all of the pressure back on the secondary and a little bit on the linebackers. The secondary had the pressure during the game so we could use the other guys to stop. They were only successful on five-of-16 third down opportunities. They were only successful on eight-of-24 with first down efficiency. Nebraska was 0-for-2 in the red zone. The defense had seven three-and-outs, 21 hits on both quarterbacks, and we only missed three tackles for 21 yards. It’s totally opposite of what we did in the UCLA game.
I’m very proud of Jordan Hicks and Adrian Phillips. They both stepped up with some guys banged up and played well. In fact, Jordan played 40 plays, which is amazing for him to go in his first game where he played that much, and he played really well. The freshmen seem to be maturing.
Defensive player of the game was Kheeston Randall. He held down the middle. He played really well, and he is starting to dominate the middle, which is something we were concerned about in the preseason. The other guys, Alex Okafor, those guys are coming on and helping out as well. We feel better about our interior defensive line. Hard hat winner of the game for defense was Blake Gideon. Blake continues to be a guy that will hit you.
Things we must improve on defense – our man coverage. Since we’re putting tremendous pressure on those guys, we can’t leave guys wide open. It was a hard day to throw the ball. The wind was really tough. The ball was fluttering. Both teams had trouble with it. We dropped two touchdown passes. It was something that we’ve got to continue to work on and our pass rush. It’s hard when you’re rushing a passer like Taylor Martinez, and you know he can pull it down and run so quickly that you’ve got to stay in your lanes that it hurts your pass rush some. We’ve got to improve in that area.
We still had three defensive penalties. Two of them were killers. We’ve got to get rid of the two. The other one, I’m not going to talk about it. There were three that came up. It’s much improved but we can still get rid of the penalties on defense. We need to force more turnovers. There were four other balls on the ground that we had a chance to get that we didn’t get. If you get those four, it changes the game completely.
Offensively – it was our best outing as far as managing the game for the year. We won the turnover margin. We didn’t have a turnover. It was really physical game, and I was proud that our guys stepped up and played physical. We tied Nebraska with explosive plays. Our third down efficiency was better, but it was still one short of what we need. But there was only one time where we were third and eight. We made that on a quarterback scramble. All the others were seven or less, so the offense managed the downs better. We didn’t give up a sack and we only had one play with a loss, which was really good. I liked our time management before the half with a 17-3 lead into a huge wind. Our guys were able to take the lead into halftime without punting, and we were able to get the ball coming up in the second half. I also liked our four-minute offense at the end of the game. It was the best [where] we’ve taken the ball and driven, killed the clock and finished the game with a kneel. When you can do that, it is really good because it means you did something right at the end of the game, obviously, where you can get the ball back and kill the clock.
Tre’ Newton and Cody Johnson looked really good. They were powerful. Offensive line played its best game. We only had one penalty on offense, and it was an offensive lineman. But that is an area we needed to improve and we have.
Offensive player of the game was Garrett Gilbert. He showed tremendous leadership. He managed the game really well. His 11 carries for 71 yards made a huge difference in the outcome of the game. And he didn’t have a turnover. Most productive offensive lineman was Michael Huey. Our guys laughed when they showed Ndamukong Suh at one point on the big screen, saying they’re glad he’s in Detroit. But Michael came back after a tough Big 12 Championship game with Suh, and played his heart out, played really well, and we’re proud of him.
The big hit on offense was given to Cody Johnson for his fourth quarter runs and controlling the clock. That is what we’ve wanted him to do, and we haven’t been in a position to do that as of late. The biggest contributors were the offensive line, the tight ends and the running backs for staying on the field and rushing for over 200 yards.
Things we need to improve upon – we still have to improve on touchdowns in the red zone. We had two touchdowns and two field goals. James [Kirkendoll] had nearly a great catch, [and] then we drop another one. So we have to be more productive there. And believe it or not, I didn’t think I’d be sitting here saying this, but we need to be more balanced. We need to throw it better. We ran it better in this game, but we did not throw the ball well. That is something we have got to do. We missed some opportunities that we thought were there. And Nebraska plays great pass defense. We’ve got to continue to improve on our third-down efficiency. But that is an area that we can get better on.
Injuries – there are a lot of banged up guys in the game. But right now we feel like everybody has a chance to play on Saturday. We’ll know more tomorrow and we’ll know more Wednesday, but right now none of the injuries should keep them from playing at some point.
Iowa State - where Paul Rhoads is doing a great job. He was a defensive coordinator for Tommy Tuberville at Auburn. And before that, Pittsburgh. Bobby Elliott, their secondary coach, and I coached together at Iowa State. Wally Burnham, their defensive coordinator, came from South Florida where he did a tremendous job as a defensive coordinator. And Tom Herman, their offensive coordinator, was a graduate assistant for us. So their run game is going to be zone-reads, counters, traps, draws, [and] quarterback draws similar to ours. Their pass concepts will be very similar to ours.
Defensively, they are a four-man front. They are a bend-don’t-break defense, only blitzing 13% of the time. But they love to move their guys around up front. Our biggest deal is we’ve shown that we can come back after a poor performance. Now we need to show we can be mature enough to start where we are now and move forward after a good performance. We’ve also got to put ourselves in a position where we start the season over. This is the midpoint of the season. We have six more games – five of them at home. A lot of teams in the Big 12 are playing well. There is going to be some great matchups and huge challenges as we finish the season. It looks to be a more balanced league than normal, so it should be a lot of fun to watch the outcomes at the finish.
On how you keep the intensity against Iowa State: I think the biggest question you have is not about Iowa State, it is about the players. We played with that intensity at [Texas] Tech. We didn’t start for whatever reason - maybe we were uptight at Oklahoma - but we didn’t have it the first time. Then we came back and finished that half and it looked like we continued our second half improvement at Nebraska. Now the question will be will they sit around and feel too good about themselves and not play, and that is the trouble with a team that needs to grow in their maturity. We thought they grew really well over the last three weeks. Now we have to see if they’ll continue to do that the rest of the season starting this weekend.
On the personality of this team: I was thinking about that after the game and one of the things you find out - and we thought we found it out against Tech - you need to win a game that is a real tough game and a close game on the road against a team to build your chemistry and give you back the swagger and confidence that you can [have]. And all that happened. Everything was against these kids going into this game. I thought they trusted the coaches. There was a very good plan on both sides of the ball and the kicking game. And it all worked because of their energy, and they made it work. Garrett [Gilbert] is a huge part of that hustle. He’s on the sideline, and for the first time I’ve seen, he’s high-fiving people, talking to them, pushing them, and I really felt like he grew up Saturday. We thought he could run the ball, but he ran the ball better than I thought. He looked fast some, and he’s big and powerful. He ran over some people, made first downs and really managed the game. I thought it was interesting, just a little note at the end of the game when the official threw the flag, when they had too many on the field, he knew the game was over. And that’s really good for a young quarterback; he was totally into the game all day. His numbers were not good in the passing game, but he didn’t take chances. We threw the ball deep a lot. And we tried to get some deep balls. He had two deep balls that may have been completions, but were pass interferences against them [Nebraska]. He threw a couple balls away. He had one to Fozzy [Whittaker] that just killed him when they had a blitz. He nearly got it to him, which would have been a huge explosive play. But I think he will learn more from this game than anybody. And it also shows if we can be more balanced with the ball, it helps him. It takes a lot of pressure off him.
On the passing game difficulties: I think Nebraska makes it really hard on the passing game. They’ve got those linebackers that can cover your guys. They are as fast as your guys, and they cover you all over the field. We tried to do more misdirection stuff. We tried to get a lot of double moves and things against them. We just could not get the passing game going. But we did spread the ball out to run it inside, and that is something the guys did a good job of. I thought it was good to see both Tre’ and Cody do well. They ran with power. Tre’ ran with more power than I’ve seen him, so that hip pointer is gone and Fozzy is playing really hard for us. He got dinged a little with the shoulder. That is why he didn’t play as much in the second half.
On the team dedicating the gameball: They dedicated it to Sally [Brown]. It was an emotional day for Sally and I. Thursday, she lost her brother. Her brother had been sick and we moved him here about two months ago, and I had to leave the office at about three o’clock because he was not doing well. He passed at about four, then I had to run back to practice. Football is a huge part of [our] lives, and she wanted to come to the game, but she had to do the funeral arrangements. She’s very emotional, and I knew this was going to be a tough emotion game anyway. So I suggested that she stay home. Saturday morning, she thought about seeing if anybody was going to the game and she could hop on a plane and come over there. And the win really helped her, as well as the gameball. The kids really love her and she loves them, and that will help her as well. And it was her birthday. It was just a hard two or three days for her in general. And winning does help. But knowing the kids love you and that they care about you, and during such a special moment for them that they would think about you, is just very special.
On the team handling the Nebraska crowd: I thought the kids did an amazing job. Our kids like that environment. They like going on the road to a huge stadium where everybody hates them. One even told me, it is unusual to go somewhere where a whole state hates you. I think our guys respond really well in that situation. They never panic, and this is the first time we had some answers. Against UCLA and at Oklahoma, we didn’t have answers. And if we did answer more, we had our chances to beat Oklahoma. The teams are more alike this year. If Oklahoma is the number one team in the country, and we had our chances - it makes you mad at us. You can’t look back, and there is nothing you can do but improve.
On Iowa State’s performance this year: They played so good against Texas Tech. It is just unbelievable. Then they had two tough weeks. They started out great against Utah, then it just flipped on them. So that is something we’ll have to look at this week. They played two top 10 [teams] in a row like we have. But I’m not sure where they lost some confidence. We will tell the players tomorrow about the time someone tells you that you can’t do something. Like we were told going into Nebraska. Every player on that team gets motivated and tries to prove everybody wrong and come back and play really hard, and we’ll get their best shot this weekend.