Sept. 8, 2008
Opening statement: We've been fortunate that we've had two really good tests for us to start the season and they have been two good passing teams. They were very different, one was at home in our renovated stadium, which was fun, but this was a great trip for us from the standpoint that it was the first time a lot of these guys have traveled. It was a late night game, so that was different for them, sitting around all day, but that was something they had to manage. We got behind early and we had adversity. It was an in-state school, and there is a certain amount of pressure when you play in-state schools that haven't beaten you before, that you have to handle well. It was a good challenge. We also thought that it was a really good learning experience. It wasn't a thing of beauty, but we know this team is a work-in-progress and we have a lot to do. We can come back now and continue to work on it and it's a whole lot easier to improve things when you win. I think this team is kind of growing up right in front of our eyes.
The kicking game was really good. John Gold had two punts inside the 20-yard line and one was at the eight-yard line. Justin Tucker had five touchbacks on kickoffs and Quan [Cosby] had a 16-yard punt return, a 60-yard field goal return and we also had two blocked punts. So, we felt like we didn't have a chance to return but one kickoff, and we didn't do it very well. It was one that was deep in the end zone and their kicker's leg was as good as I've ever seen. It was just phenomenal. He was just short on that 65-yard field goal, but it was good that our coaches took advantage of it. Duane Akina is the best at what he does in the country. That's now 51 blocked kicks, and he also did a great job on the field goal return. Aaron Williams was the young man that blocked both of the kicks, and he got his hands on both of them. We think he is a guy who can continue to do that better.
Defensively, we felt like our second-half shutout was great and we forced another turnover. We held them to 4.7 yards per attempt in the passing game, so a lot of their passes were short passes and we were able to come up and tackle them. We also got a lot of pressure on the quarterback. We had two sacks, 10 hits on the quarterback and 19 pressures. At the same time, we felt good about the two-out-of-four in the end zone.
The most productive player defensively was Roddrick Muckelroy. He just had an outstanding game. He had 14 tackles and picked up the fumble and ran it back for a touchdown. That made him also part of the "Ball Hawk Award." Sam Acho knocked the ball loose and Roddrick picked it up and ran it back for the touchdown. The "Hard Hat Award" went to Sergio Kindle this week because he had a great hit on the quarterback.
Concerns defensively, we need to force more turnovers. We didn't stop the run and start the game like we wanted to out in El Paso. And again, in the last drive of the half, we had a chance to stop them there, we had three timeouts and a chance to go up 35-6, and the game would have been over at halftime instead of having some excitement in the third quarter.
Offensively, we had three 80-yard touchdown drives, which is really hard to do, especially when they blitz 79 percent of the time. We didn't have an offensive penalty, and that is an amazing stat because very seldom does that happen, especially with as much movement as there is up front. We had four touchdown passes, so we had good protection, and we've had good ball security. We scored four-out-of-five times in the red zone and the disappointment was the turnover.
The "Boss Hog Award," which is the offensive lineman of the week, went again to Adam Ulatoski. The most productive player offensively was Colt McCoy. He is really playing well and he is showing great leadership. The interception was not his fault, so really, he's played without a turnover from his spot, and at the same time, he's been really competitive and a great leader. The great play of the game went to Quan [Cosby]. The catch that he made was an amazing catch and really helped us get things going early in the ball game. Fozzy [Whittaker] got the "Supporting Actor Award."
We've talked about Colt McCoy being good with his feet. I've gone back and asked for some stats and 10 times did Vince Young rush for over 100 yards. Six out of his last 14 starts he was the leading rusher on our team, so we do not mind Colt making yards with his feet. We think it's a good thing.
Concerns, we didn't want turnovers and we had one. We need to finish runs better. There were a lot of runs where we were close and our offensive linemen didn't quite finish or the back didn't kick through. We also would like John Chiles and the second team to play more.
Lamarr Houston will play this weekend. I've talked to other guys who have been in similar situations, I've talked to parents and players, and I've talked to Lamarr at length. We take what he did very seriously. There's no question about that. He will have a long and hard disciplinary action off the field, but he will play this weekend. He is really remorseful about what he did. He was a young guy that worked with Mothers Against Drunk Driving in high school, so he is very aware of the seriousness and the concerns of drinking and driving.
For the retired jerseys, Bobby Layne will have a family member here and hopefully Tommy Nobis will be here on Saturday for the retirement ceremonies. It will be a big game against Arkansas and it should be fun. It should be another really good test for us defensively because we got another pro-passing attack basically. You take Coach Petrino, Coach Price and Coach Schnellenberger and you've got three of the best at what they do with quarterbacks in the passing game. Those guys will continue to test us before we get into conference play.
Again, we thought the game was a great setup for us to learn from. We'll play Colorado on the road but we might play them at night. It will be a different time zone and it will be late if we do, so at least we've done that now and the guys have answered that question. In the last six years, we've got the second-best road record in the BCS as compared to the University of Southern California. So our guys have done well on the road. They like the road. They like the challenge and they like that adversity. It's something that I'm really proud of, the way they responded to the adversity. That wasn't even the same El Paso team that showed up at Buffalo. It was amazing. If you watched the Buffalo film, you would be in shock. I told Coach Price after the game, "If your guys continue to play like this, they'll have a chance to win their league, and they would already be 1-1 and not 0-2." It's just amazing that we excite people and get them going. In fact, Spike Dykes used to tell me, "If you have a sick team, play Texas, and you'll get well." Only Spike came up with that.
On who will get the majority of the carries this week: We will continue to look at that because Chris [Ogbonnaya] and Vondrell [McGee] did a good job. Vondrell tweaked his knee during the Florida Atlantic game when they bent it up under him, so he was a little bit limited, but he's a tough young man to even have played on Saturday night. So with both of them having tweaked knees, you're not sure how much of a load anybody can carry right now. Chris Ogbonnaya is the guy who has the most experience and he's the leader in that young group. There's no question that we want to continue to improve on our running game, and we'll just have to look at what fits best. Right now, I don't think any of the three are ready to just stand up and take it over.
On Dan Buckner and Brandon Collins: We feel excited about our young receiver core. James Kirkendoll didn't play as much as we wanted, but those two did. And of course, you add Malcolm [Williams] to that as a really young player as well. Brandon gives us great speed and that was obvious when he caught a couple of the short passes. He can do something with the ball and he can make people miss him afterwards. Dan gives you the tremendous height and that's why we had him in at the goal line. We were trying to get the fade up in the corner, and we would have kicked the field goal and gone up 31-13 even if we didn't get it. But we got jammed and probably should have just thrown the ball away. But we feel like this is a team that we should see the improvement in front of our eyes. And guys like those two are guys that should be much better this week, and the experiences they get will have a faster learning curve to improve than some of the older guys. Jordan [Shipley] and Quan know what to do. They are going to do it every time. They are who they are, they're going to play hard every week and they are going to catch the balls. These young guys have great role models in those two and hopefully they will learn from that.
On the concerns after the UTEP game: Concerns are concerns and college football is an imperfect sport and I think that's why people like it. They see a bunch of kids and a bunch of coaches make mistakes and everybody sitting in the stands can evaluate it. That's going to happen every week. So what you do is that you come back in on Sunday and you look at what you messed up and try to fix it. You see what was done well and you try to move forward with it and play that guy more or get the ball to him more. We thought that it would be an ugly game going in because of the 79 percent blitz. So we do want our offensive linemen to finish blocks more. We had some holes and they didn't quite finish. We're not going to get people to sit and play us with their base defense. We're so big up front that everybody is going to move and everybody is going to blitz, and that has happened to us for two weeks. We also want backs to run through more tackles, so those were the concerns with the running game. Other than that, we thought offensively that the protection was good. Colt's playing really well, and we did what we needed to do. If we hold them going into the half or score instead of throwing the interception, it gets in the 50s pretty fast. We just have to finish the game. Defensively, we didn't start the game like we wanted to. We were playing more zone early to try to help, because we thought they would try to do double passes and try to do some crazy things to pick on our young defensive backs early. So, we played more zone coverage and we didn't adjust to the running game up front as much as we needed to, so we felt like that was something we needed to improve on. Also, when we allowed them to score right before the half, it concerned us going into halftime. Momentum going into halftime is extremely key. We had three timeouts, so we were in a great spot there. If we hold them, get a three-and-out and get the punt, we had three timeouts and it could have been 35-6 at halftime instead of 28-13
On not letting the players underestimate Arkansas: Our guys, I'm sure, underestimated El Paso. They were in the dressing room at halftime saying, "Coach, where did these guys come from? They're not even the same team." I do think that our younger guys learned and that the older guys know. Arkansas has had two really good, tough wins because those kids were under pressure with a new coach late in the game, and they came back and won twice. I would think that Coach Petrino would say that his players have learned a bunch and they are pulling together closer because they've had these tight games in the end that they've been winning. They're gaining confidence, so they're in a great place to come in here as well and I think it will be a great match up.
On the consistency of Quan Cosby: Quan is so consistent. He's smart, he's nice and he's a husband with two children, so he's mature. In fact, Jordan said that next year, he'll be the old man because he can't even be the old man now and he's been here for five years. Quan has learned so much. He was mature coming out of Mart [Texas] but he learned so much in pro baseball. He's been a great settling effect and a great leader on our football team. Every time I see him walk by the young receivers, he says, "That's stupid, don't do that and grow up." I'm thinking, here's a father that's sitting here telling these children in the same room that they need to wake up, grow up and mature.