Sept. 15, 2008
General statement: First, we'd like to say our thoughts and prayers stay with the people in Houston and coast and surrounding areas with the effects of Hurricane Ike. We've learned in dealing with hurricanes in the past, you never say forget it and move on because the people that are affected so much can't forget it. They're dealing with it more today probably than they were this weekend because they know of all the things that happened. So what you try to do is move forward, and that's what we're doing with our players whose homes and families were affected. I'm sure all of the schools in Houston and the surrounding areas are doing the same because many of their games are cancelled not only last week, but this week. Now you're dealing with water and electricity issues, so you're dealing with so many different things that we do not want to slight the fact that people are still having a lot of trouble out there. Again, our thoughts and prayers are with them. Drew Kelson and Frank Okam came out to practice yesterday because they came in from Houston and they were talking about all the things that are happening. We hope everybody is safe, can rebuild and move forward.
What a great weekend for the Big 12. There are three teams in the top seven in the country from the Big 12, four in the top 10, five in the top 25 with Kansas still in there. It's a great time for the Big 12. I start looking at the offenses. I think four of the top 10 offenses - Missouri, Texas Tech, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State - are all in the top five. Missouri is averaging 597 yards a game, Texas Tech 584, Oklahoma 556 and they're scoring 54 points, Oklahoma State 546, it's hard to do that against air. These teams are just running up and down the field, it's just amazing what they've been able to do offensively. We're a combined 28-4 so far this season with eight undefeated teams in the Big 12 and that's a great start for what we're doing. You look up last weekend, there were a lot of upsets and that's going to start happening now throughout the year. So you have to be ready to play every week. Everybody is pretty good. You've got a few teams that are great, and then you've got a lot of teams that are real good and then you've got some that are good enough to beat you if you don't play well.
As Rice comes into town this weekend, they have a really explosive offense. They've got [Chase] Clement, [James] Casey and [Jarett] Dillard as three go-to guys on offense. They're talented, they can catch. You start looking at their stats, they've been phenomenal. They're averaging 40 points a game. They have the fewest penalties of any team in the country with two per game. Their third down efficiency is number nine in the country at about 55 percent. Their red-zone efficiency is really good. They've scored 13 out of the 15 times they've been in the red zone. You've really got to give these guys credit. They rank 20th nationally in the pass, so once again, we've got a team that throws it well, it will be a good test for our secondary and our defense. They're averaging 430 yards a game and, as we said, 40 points. Chase Clement is averaging 356 yards per game in total offense; he's sixth in the NCAA. James Casey, their big tight end, tailback, quarterback slash guy, an older guy that played baseball, he's averaging about 10 catches per game. Dillard and Clement have combined for 37 touchdown passes, that's third best in NCAA history. These guys will be ready to play; they'll be excited. They were 21-21 with Vanderbilt and they had a couple of kicking game mistakes that gave Vanderbilt easy scores in the second half. We know they'll be ready to play. They've been dealing with stuff in Houston as we've been dealing with our players. A lot of our players' homes were affected enough that it is bothersome and same for the Rice team. It's something that we've all got to deal with, and again, we can't forget the people in dire straits, but we can move forward and try to continue to reach out and help the people that need help. But we have to get ourselves ready to play.
On Rice head coach David Baliff: David is a really good football coach. He's a great friend of mine. I admire him. He's a man of great integrity. He's a great father and he did amazing things down at Texas State. He took them to the national semifinals one year and that's something that hasn't been done there in a long time. You can tell a huge difference in his Rice team from last year to this year. He's doing the same types of things at Rice that he did down at Texas State.
On putting the Houston area players' minds at ease: We are very honest, we're very direct with them. We say here is everything we know, then we bring them in individually, we sit down and talk to them and we talk to their parents. They want to know their parents are okay and that's fair. They want to know about their houses. I saw a couple of houses that were under water. They had pictures of them, people that had gotten back into the area had been able to show them. That's a devastating thing for young people, but we tell them at least everybody is safe in your family, so let's see what we can do to rebuild and move forward. The NCAA has done some really good things to try to help kids and families that are in dire need at this time. We're checking into what we can do to help. I know we've offered to help Rice. They can come over here and practice if it's tough for them. I think this is a time that is bigger than football. It's a time when you reach out and try to help, but you also know that the word 'family' is bigger now than ever before because you need, as a family, to reach out to the ones that are struggling and help their families get to Austin, let them stay with the kids, whatever we need to do to help the families.
On having a support group for the Houston area players affected by Hurricane Ike: It is nice that they have a support group and a family around them. That's why we all need to reach out and make sure that the families that don't have the same support are taken care of as well. It's a tough time. Sally and I lost a lot of the house one time, but it was a second house on the beach. We said this is ridiculous, sitting here talking about how spoiled you are when a lot of people are losing their roof, they're losing their food, they're losing their place to eat. It affects people's lives more than we can ever imagine. They don't have enough money to rebuild and that's where our government has to step in and help as well.
On moving on from Arkansas to Rice: We started Rice Thursday morning early as coaches, we got them on the practice field and we talked only about Rice, then we gave them assignments for the weekend. We wanted them to watch Kansas-South Florida. We wanted them to see what that was like. We wanted to them to see Missouri and Oklahoma, any team that we were playing, we wanted them to look down the road a little bit here because it was an open date. They can see the standard we're going to have to play to because we've got some of the best teams in the country right now on our schedule. Number two and number five, we've got on our schedule in the next month.
On how the early off week has changed the schedule for the rest of the season: We had the first four games set as a season. Now we'll take the first two, they're gone and out of here, so we won't deal with them any more. We'll actually take Rice and Arkansas as the second phase of that season where it would have been a continuation of the first four because we had a natural break. Then we'll start Colorado, Oklahoma and Missouri as another section, then we'll go down to the open date we have before A&M. We're really divided into five areas now instead of four.
On why he wants players to watch other teams play on TV: We've always done it because we don't want them to think football all weekend on the open date, but we also don't want them to get too far away from it. We felt like because Kansas was a Friday night game, the only game on, it gave them a chance to see who Kansas was on the road against a good team, project the fact that we will be going to Lawrence to play later in the year and look at their personnel compared to ours, look at their schemes and see what they're doing, especially since we didn't play Kansas last year, we didn't play Colorado last year and we didn't play Missouri last year. These kids haven't played those teams unless they are four or five year guys. It's a good opportunity for them to start looking at a brief scouting report and looking at some personnel before we have to get ready on a Sunday.
On how Chase Clement has changed since the first time he played Texas as a true freshman: He's just more mature. He's stronger. He's about 207 pounds now. He's a great decision maker. Their offensive coordinator, Tom Herman, was a graduate assistant for us. Tom is a super coach and we knew that when he was here. They're just running up and down the field, they're really doing a great job of moving the ball. Jarett is the same way and big Casey is fun to watch. He's probably 230 [pounds] or something, he can run and he can catch it. He caught a fade against Memphis for a huge play at the end of the game; I think it was a touchdown. For a guy that's 6-4, 230, that's hard to do.
On working with Rice to make things easier for them: DeLoss [Dodds] will work with their athletic director because we don't know enough about Houston. DeLoss and The University of Texas, when it comes to reaching out, are the classiest people in the country. Anything we can do to help them, we will help.
On improving from the first few weeks of the season: We want our team to play up to a standard. We put our slogan on the bracelet this year, "Consistently good to be great." We've had some really good things happen in our first two weeks. We'd like to see them keep improving and they're going to have to with the difficulty of this schedule. We feel like maybe the break will help reenergize them and start over. We do want them to start the season over and treat Rice like it's the first game of the year.
On whether or not the bye week helped: We think it helped to have the bye week this weekend and we'd like to have it again in about four weeks. We'd like to have about three bye weeks this year. But since we don't have them, we just have to be who we are and go play. We kind of told this team, 'It is what it is, so don't worry about it. Don't worry about how old you are, don't worry about how hot it is, don't worry about what time you play, don't worry about open dates, don't worry about who you're playing. Just play the best you can play, grab and hang on.' The good thing is, what a great year for Texas fans to be able to watch some super teams on our schedule. This is going to be fun down the stretch, very difficult for us and we're not there yet. We said we're a work in progress and we have to get a lot better in a lot of areas, we don't have much time to do it, but that's fun. That's what coaching is about. That's what playing is about, and the Big 12 is so competitive right now it's fun for all of us. It'll be a great challenge for us.
On having a featured running back as opposed to a committee situation: I was watching (Southern California) and they had four really good ones step up. I thought they looked pretty good. I'm not worried about who does it. I just like to have yards. We don't care how we score. We don't care who does it. We like scoring a lot and that's what we want to do. I don't think any of that really matters. If you've got a great one, you're always concerned that you'll overuse him or he'll get hurt. If you've got four that can all play, they're very similar and it's hard to separate them because of each individual quality that they bring, it means that you're probably going to be healthier as a group. This bunch has really good chemistry. These guys can all play. So we really don't think it makes that much difference. Fozzy [Whittaker] got a lot of publicity out in El Paso and he did an outstanding job. We hope he'll be better now with the extra week to get away from his knee injury. We hope he can do some really good things. If Vondrell [McGee] and Chris [Ogbonnaya] had not been seen for the first week and they had done what Fozzy did, everyone would be excited about them. Sometimes the less you know, the better.