Mack Brown Monday press conference: Sept. 1
Sept. 1, 2008
Opening statement: First, I'd like to say that our thoughts and prayers are with the people on the Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas coasts fighting the hurricane. We know that in the last couple of years, we've had some real tragic moments. Our staff and our team would like to ask everybody to just take a moment and put those families in their prayers, because football is really important to us and it's an important game, but it's not as important as people's lives. And as it turns this way, we also want to keep our prayers for our player's families on the coast in the Houston and Galveston area, because you never know. I've lived in New Orleans and I've lived in Baton Rouge, and you never know when those things are going to hit.
We felt like we had a really good opener. It was interesting as we looked back to see if it was our best opener, and we had a 65-0 opener against North Texas, but they weren't as good of a team and they didn't throw the ball as well as Florida Atlantic. So, in looking back, we thought it was a great opener for us, because we won the game against a team that threw it really well and was good at quarterback and wide receiver. That was something that we needed, we needed an early test to try to gauge where our guys in the secondary were and how much improvement we had made against the pass.
It was good also because we had some adversity. Early in the game, we gave up too many third down explosive plays, and I thought our guys handled that adversity really well. They kept playing, they didn't get their heads down and they did not wilt and get frustrated. They just kept their heads up and kept playing. We did not have turnovers, we had very few penalties and we really forced four turnovers. We forced the fumble, we forced the interception, we blocked a punt, which was great because we did not block one last year, and at the same time we also had a fourth-down stop, which we call a turnover because it does change field position. All four of those turnovers led to points, so we got 28 points in those situations.
I thought the guys played for 60 minutes with energy and toughness, and that's something that was really important to us. We had a little lapse right before the half, which we didn't like. We gave up a quick touchdown and then had a three-and-out on offense, and that's something we can't do. But, we did feel like the second half was a really complete second half. The guys played hard, they played well and we were excited about it.
Eighteen guys played in their first ball game, so we've got a really young football team, but that bodes well for the future. It was funny, I asked the players yesterday about the comments from Coach Schnellenberger and what affected them the most, and they felt like the comments that came out of Florida Atlantic that bothered them the most, was that somebody said that better high school football was played in Florida than Texas. It wasn't about whether or not they were tough enough. So, they were defending the high school football programs in Texas, which is why high school football in this state is so important.
Most teams feel like you have the most improvement between week one and week two, and hopefully we see that. Defensively, the two most productive players were Rod Muckelroy and Roy Miller. The "Hard Hat Award," which is something Will Muschamp brought to us, went to Jared Norton when he was on the goal line, and where he knocked the receiver back into the end zone. The "Ball Hawk Awards," are something that Will also instituted here, and it goes to someone who changed the game with a forced fumble, an interception, a fourth-down play or something of that nature. Those went to Henry Melton, Sergio Kindle, Ben Wells, Ryan Palmer, Earl Thomas and Roy Miller. I was also very proud of Aaron Lewis. He played a lot at defensive end and tackle. With Lamarr [Houston] not playing in the ball game this week, Aaron will step into his position and play defensive tackle. What we always try to do when we have an incident with a young man, is that we try to do what's best for the team and do what's best for the young man to learn not to do it again when he is faced with another important decision. That's all you can do. You have 104 players who do it right, and one who did it wrong. What we will do, is that I will continue to look at that and then at the appropriate time, if there is any other disciplinary action, I will address it at that time. Our policy has been to treat each one of these individually, but at the same time, to make a decision if it was a distraction, or if he was out late with an incident with the police. And since that is the case, he won't play this week, and that decision has been made. And again, the concerns on defense were the explosives on third down and the easy touchdown right before the half.
Offensively, we were 8-of-8 in the red zone and we had no turnovers. So that was a great start for them. The offensively line played really well, and they gave up no sacks. But the "Boss Hog Award," which is an award that goes to the best offensive performance for a lineman, went to Adam Ulatoski. Colt [McCoy] and Vince [Young] are now the only two quarterbacks in Texas history to have more than once passed for over 200 yards and rushed for over 100 yards. So, that is really impressive and we were pleased that Colt took care of the ball and also he had over 100 yards rushing, because that really helps us with our offense. Blaine Irby had nine knockdowns along with his catches. The running backs played really well. They ran hard, but they also had good ball security. And obviously, John Chiles has improved his passing ability. In the kicking game, we did really well with our punt blocking and with the field goals and extra points. We did not do very well covering kickoffs or returning them, so that is a real issue for us.
We feel like there will be a lot of excitement this week being out in El Paso. It's like the TCU game from last year, because anytime you are playing another Texas school, you will have a lot of guys who know each other. They are talking about it being the best environment there in school history. I know all of the tickets are sold out already. It's 580 miles away, but it's in the same state, so that is a little bit unique. We've got to get our guys about going there. Mike Price is a really good friend and I've known him for a long time. They weren't pleased with their opener at Buffalo, so they'll be pumped and stirred up and ready to go. We've got to match the energy this weekend that we had last weekend.
On UTEP's offensive abilities: Mike has always done a great job of having a one-back system where they can run the zone plays, run draws and screens, but also throw the ball down field. They will continue to do that. Their punter averaged 48 yards a punt and they do a great job with their kicking game. I think it's the best they've had from seeing Mike's comments. Their defensive coordinator came from New Mexico and he's very multiple. So, they are going to line up and just blitz from everywhere and play man coverage. It caught them a couple of times last week against Buffalo, but they are going to be all over the place. So we're going to have to have a good week and try to figure out where they are and figure out how to block them.
On the young player's performances: One of the things we told the young secondary guys is that Dre' Bly made All-American for us as a freshman. He had 16 interceptions, and we told them not to use that as an excuse. You can play well when you are young. That goes especially for a guy like Blake [Gideon] who was here for spring practice. It's different than the old freshmen days four to five years ago, when a guy wouldn't get here until August, because that's a hard transition. But when you go through an off-season program, spring practice, summer work and then two-a-days, you are much more prepared to play as a freshman than any other time in the past. We were really proud of those guys. There were some mistakes early, and there was no question about that. We had some line up mistakes, and when you give up three long plays on third down when you were going to get off the field with a three-and-out, you just can't do that and continue to win. But I did think that they adjusted better in the third quarter and played a great second half.
On if being nervous affected the play of the young players: I think so. I think if they were honest, some of them probably hyperventilated and some were probably thinking what they were doing. And I do think that Rusty Smith and [Cortez] Gent were as advertised. They were really good players and their tight end could really run and catch. They threw the ball well. We did not have a sack, but we did have nine hits on the quarterback and 13 pressures, and they did not have a sack. It's hard to sack guys anymore, unless you are absolutely so much better than the other team that you just run by them and grab the quarterback before he can throw it. But we felt like we pressured enough as the game went on.
On watching the young safeties on film: I think the biggest thing is alignment and little-bitty things that make them more fundamentally sound. Sometimes, on our two-deep, they needed to have a different position and be more inside on the receiver, and they just got caught with angles. Like on their touchdown pass, we were just out-of-position. We put them in some tough situations because we wanted to see what they could do. We were manned-up and we just told them to go get it. I do feel like the front kept coming to help, but it was probably the biggest and fastest learning curve I've ever seen with young guys, and hopefully they will play better this week, but it really was what scared me about the game. We held them to 37 yards rushing, so we did not think they were going to be able to run the ball, but we knew that they could light us up if they got hot, and if we let their quarterback get hot. But, our guys did not do that.
On what he is going to tell the freshmen heading into this week: Well, we upped the standard for sure, and we're going to say that we got that one out of the way and we're not going to talk about being freshmen anymore. We're going to go play and you guys have to go play and do your part and be accountable. Nobody cares how old you are. Now you've got something on film and you need to be proud of it, but let's make sure it's better this week.
On helping the young players prepare for another team: Well, your older guys have to help you. We discussed that in the dressing room after the game. We didn't play as well at times as we needed to and we're not going to play Florida Atlantic every week. We'll play better teams than that. El Paso was probably looking forward to our game last week. They've been talking about this being the biggest game in school history for a year now. I'm sure they've been preparing for us and whatever mistakes they made. Their game was close in the fourth quarter, but they just gave up some big plays and had too many turnovers. They're talking about improving and I'm sure it'll be fun. It's going to be on national TV and it's going to be a packed house. It's what we like. We'll just need to get the guys stirred up. This team has practiced the way they play every day, so hopefully that's an attitude that they will continue to have and we won't have to discuss it every day. Last year's team, I never knew who was going to show up. This team has prepared like they will play hard each week, so hopefully they will. We're planning on getting back from El Paso around 4:30 or 5:30 in the morning, so it'll be a short week next week for Arkansas.
On going on the road for the first time this season: Well, 18 of those guys have never made a road trip, but we've done well on the road. We were concerned about the hurricane coming into Houston and what that would mean to our planes, because some of them come out of Houston. But we really feel like the concern for us is playing that late. That game will start at 9:15 p.m. here, so it's a long day for young players. You have all day to sit and watch other games, and you don't want to be drained emotionally all day. So, we're really looking at any team changes we might need to make. I go back to Stanford a few years ago, where the game was over at 1:15 (a.m.), and we didn't play well. I just thought we looked drained. I remember the guys talking about how it was taking forever. But, I think they are fully aware of that and that game will be like that. We'll just have to make sure that they're ready to play at 9:15 and not 3:15.
On the running game on film: It was acceptable that Colt led the team in rushing because they were dropping so many people. They had a bunch in the box and then they would drop them out to try to keep us from passing. I thought it was a great message that Colt was able to run out of the pocket and throw downfield to make some huge plays. But he was also able to run, get yards and on most of those, he was able to get out-of-bounds, even though he got hit twice out-of-bounds. But we need him to be a runner. And, after people see this film, we feel like it will open up some other things in the running game.
On Colt's ability to extend plays by scrambling: They really have come together with the scramble drill. I thought when Vince got really good, he would start toward the line of scrimmage, the defense would all come up and stop him, and he would throw it over their heads. But if they stayed back, he would run by them. That's just about what Colt did the other night. To me, it's like having another running back in the backfield. It's like having an extra threat back there instead of having a quarterback that just stands back there and cannot make some plays with his feet. So, I thought it was a huge benefit for us the other night.
On the importance of handing out awards: Well, in front of your team, you want them all to be accountable. It's a real thin line of balance there, because you talk constantly about team and playing together as one, and then you start singling out a guy. So, we do feel like it's easy to single out a guy that has the biggest hit. There were a lot of big hits during the game. Blake Gideon was in that group. But, really, you want to reward production and you want them all to want to be that guy. But at the same time, you don't want to just single out an individual player, you want to single out groups. It's hard to say who's the player of the game. Because when you pick a player of the game, and if it was a quarterback or running back, which it usually is, that means a lot of offensive linemen played well to get him there. If it's a linebacker, that means a lot of guys up front did well. So, we have a productive system and it's very easy to see who was most productive just based on what we feel like is important.
On Blake Gideon: Blake is a very savvy player. He's been in a lot of gyms his whole life and he's been in a lot of film rooms. The play where he ran by three offensive linemen that were there to block him was a play that shows the reason that he is playing. He felt the play, he saw the play and then had enough athletic ability to run by the guys and make the big hit. And if a guy doesn't have instincts, he could stand back there and get lost with all of the fakes and receivers to the right and just lose sight of the receiver he was going back to. But he's tough and he's a guy that's really savvy on the field, and a lot of credit needs to go back to his dad for all of those days they spent in the film room.
On the depth chart: One thing we learned last year is that we are just going to go day-to-day, and that's why the depth chart is hard for us. There were a lot of conversations last week with either's and or's. We didn't know how some guys were going to play. We just knew how they would practice. So, we thought we would keep that competition going. The guys know that whatever is released today, is about today, period. It's not about tomorrow, and we'll change them out on the field if we need to. We still feel like one of the best assets we have is our depth, and that's what we've got to keep alive with them. We've got to make sure that we can play at least two at every position, and the other night, we played a lot of guys. But on a hot day, you're going to need those guys, especially with the big guys who are rushing the passer. That's where big guys get tired faster than the thinner guys because they are carrying more weight, obviously, and the thin guys can run forever. But we feel like depth is a key for us.
On relying on team leaders to keep the focus when there are distractions off the field: Well, you rely on them to help keep the guys out of trouble, because that is really important. They are brothers and that is part of their family atmosphere. But at the same time, when it does happen, you want to help the young man. Lamarr Houston has never done anything wrong to my estimation. He's made every meeting and he's sitting in chapel every Friday night and sometimes I'm sitting there talking to him. When I got the call on Sunday morning, I thought, "You know, what a tough deal for him." He's a great kid, and not just a good kid. He walked in and asked if he could apologize to the whole team because he was just crushed, and I let him. It was a tough moment for him. It's about guys taking care of each other, it's about growing up and it's about learning. When I was 19, I made some poor decisions too, and they are more public now than they were then. And for all of us who sit there and talk about how we can't believe somebody would do something that stupid, most of us have probably done it. I think that's where we all need to be really careful when we start pointing fingers at a 19-year-old that made a poor decision. There'll be some other poor decisions made by 19-year-olds or 57-year-olds.