Tracking Mack: Sept. 15
Sept. 15, 2010
Opening Statement: We had a great practice yesterday and you could tell the guys were more focused than the earlier practices. It’s obvious that they’re excited to head back to Lubbock on Friday afternoon. We’ve played in Lubbock six times since we’ve been here. We’ve won two of the last three. We ended up winning in  35-31, we won in  51-21 and then in , in going back and really studying it - we got outplayed and we got outcoached. They were more physical than we were. We thought they played with more energy than we did. They outrushed us 105-80. They threw for 474 yards to our 294. They had 579 yards total offense to our 374. They won the turnover battle 2-1, and they won the time of possession 37 minutes to 23 and we still could have won the game. What our guys can get out of that is if we’ll just play well, we’ll be fine. We don’t need to worry about where we’re playing . We don’t need to worry about who we’re playing. We need to play better and that is very, very important to us.
Coach [Darrell] Royal once said that football doesn’t build character - it reveals it and that happens in a game like this. Football doesn’t build character - it reveals it and that’s very obvious in a situation like this. We haven’t been pressed a lot in the first two ballgames, and we feel like we will be pressed in this ballgame because it’s going to be a tight game and it will be a few plays that make the difference.
There was a lot of criticism for Blake Gideon, Earl Thomas and Curtis Brown leaving there two years ago. I’m very, very proud of those three young men that they took that adversity, turned it into a positive and now one of them is a first-round draft choice, and the other two are great college football players that will have a chance to play in the NFL in their future.
Tommy Tuberville and I spent nine days together overseas in the Middle East supporting the troops two years ago. I got to spend a lot of good time with Tommy and you have to give Tommy credit, he took two trips overseas and he really wants to give back to our troops. It’s something that he’s very, very passionate about. He even went the year he was leaving Auburn. He thought about going back this year but he couldn’t because it was his first year at a new job. He’s done a tremendous job at Ole Miss and Auburn. He’s a winner. He’s a proven winner. He knows how to coach. He’s been on the big stage. He knows how to win big games. He’s a guy that will take [a] chance to change momentum, so you may see an onside kick to start the game. If you don’t, you will at some point during the game. You’ll see fake punts. You’ll see him going for fourth downs. So he’s a guy that will pull out all the stops and do everything that he needs to do to try and win the game.
We’ll go back and continue to preach ball security in practice today. We’ll preach forcing turnovers because on the road turnovers are so key to winning the ballgame. We beat them once and lost four turnovers, but it doesn’t happen much when you’re on the road. You have to really protect the ball, and you have to get turnovers. [Special Assistant] Bill Little told me today that YAC - yards after contact - came from here many years ago. That is what we have to continue to do - to get more yards after contact to get explosive [plays]. We do not feel like we have gotten the amount of explosives that we want out of the first two games. Obviously you have to stop the run, and their run is running plays along with the flairs, screens and those types of things. Then you’ve got to be able to put pressure on the quarterback and get some sacks because you can’t let [Texas] Tech stand back there and throw like they did in  for 474 yards.
As far as the Heisman Trophy and Vince [Young] are concerned, the Heisman took a long time to decide what to do in this situation with Reggie [Bush] and working with Reggie. I would expect they’ll do the same thing in trying to figure out what they do to either vacate it or give it to someone else. Vince, I think, has been in a very difficult spot throughout this process because he likes Reggie. He did not want to talk about someone else’s award, but at the same time, the Heisman Trophy at Texas has always been a team award. It was with Ricky [Williams]. We put it on all the rings of the kids that year, and I talked with Vince and told him that it would be very important for the University of Texas football program if the Heisman was brought back here. Not for you [Vince], but for the university. I’d like for you to stand up and say you want it because I think it would be important to bring it back here. More than anything else, he’s talking about the team. He’s listening to me, and he’s trying to help the athletic department more than him[self] individually.
Vondrell McGee’s appeal was denied. He will not play this year. It’s disappointing - he’s done a great job for us in his time at Texas, and he’s helped us win a lot of ballgames. He only needs nine more hours to graduate, and he will work really hard in the classroom to make sure that he graduates in December.
On Vince Young originally being inclined to not accept the Heisman Trophy: I can’t speak for Vince. What I can say is that I was a huge part of the reason that he agreed that he would accept it because I asked him to in honor of the athletic department and the football team and all of his teammates, because we thought the Heisman Trophy next to the National Championship Trophy would be fitting. All of us thought that he had earned the right for the award at that time.
On if this could set a precedent for altering trophy and award outcomes: I don’t have anything to do with trophies, and I have not put one minute’s thought into any of it. What I’ve said from day one is what I believe. In most cases, when someone vacates a trophy, they give it to the other person - the runner-up. Even in golf, if somebody doesn’t sign their card properly, somebody else wins. My opinion at the time, when I was asked, was that I had no opinion whether Reggie should lose his Heisman or give it back. That’s not my place. I haven’t put one-minute’s thought into that. The part that I put into it is, people ask me if I thought the runner-up should get it. I think yes. They ask me if I thought Vince would want it. That’s not my place, that’s Vince’s place, but I thought for the university and the athletic program, and I thought for Vince down the road, it would be really important for him to take it.
On Vince acknowledging the Heisman Trophy as still being Reggie Bush’s award: I think what you have to do is ask Vince. You all have opinions of when somebody says something, what [does] it really mean? I think the person that says it is probably the only one that knows what it means. I’ll say one more time - I think Vince is trying to do what I asked him to do and accept the trophy on behalf of the University of Texas, if it’s offered. I called and I was adamant about it, and I said it’s great for this university; it’s great for the state of Texas. I think in the long run it’s great for you [Vince] and I would like for you to consider, if the opportunity is given to you, that you would accept it for the team. The national championship team and the athletic department. That was my place with him, and I still feel the same way. I know he’s in a tougher spot because he’s friends with Reggie and he’s got to play against him and if he’s out with him, that’s a very difficult thing. I think Vince has been adamant that he wanted him [Reggie] to keep it. His mother has been adamant that she wanted Reggie to keep it. Since that is not the case and Reggie has decided to give it back, now it’s a different ballgame that will only be decided by the Heisman Trust. My point today is that I wanted you all to understand why I thought Vince would accept it. I don’t know if he wanted it personally or not, but he would accept it because I asked him to for our program.
On when he spoke to Vince about accepting the Heisman Trophy: Probably a month ago. It was when I was asked before the season started. I haven’t talked to him the last day or two.
On feeling awkward about getting defensive coordinators from Tommy Tuberville’s staff: I didn’t because I liked Tommy, and we know the business and we’re friends enough. Steve Sloan was very, very close to Gene Chizik when I called the first time. Steve Sloan coached me at Florida State and when an opening came open, Steve was the first one to call and say, ‘I got your guy, he’s perfect and he’s great and you’ll like him,’ and all that. So I called Tommy, and as you would think, Tommy really likes Gene and didn’t want him to go, but that’s just part of the deal. Then the second time, Tommy kind of snickered. I think I left him a message this time and said, ‘Sorry, I’m calling back again,’ but most of our staff knew Will [Muschamp]. Probably five members of our staff either played with Will or coached Will at Georgia, so he was an obvious choice this time for us. Tommy, the second time, was really good. He just laughed and said, ‘Got it.’ Then what was really bad, if Will had left, I thought Paul Rhoads was a great defensive coordinator at Auburn. So, as I was looking at my list it was always going back to Auburn. I told Tommy it just means you’re hiring really, really good guys that all of us want to hire.
On what the defense can do to force more turnovers: I don’t know. We did the same thing three years ago that we did last year. Three years ago we forced very few - last year we were forcing them all over the place. This year we’re not and we’ve done the same drills. Everything’s exactly the same. So I just think it’s on the guys to knock a ball loose, strip a ball and I don’t think you can be more conscious of it than we are. You can see, we are also disturbed that we have had 75 and 73 plays in the first two games. We’d like to have more offensive plays than that going no huddle. One of the problems has been that the other team’s been able to keep the ball. Rice would snap the ball with about three seconds left on the 40-second clock and Wyoming did the same. So we haven’t been on the field as much offensively and that’s been bothersome to us. We need to try and get on the field more, and we’re doing a good job right now of protecting the ball but we’ve got to do a better job of making sure that we can get some balls on the ground. When you have three fourth-down stops - they’re considered turnovers by our staff and by myself - but you may keep them from scoring which is obvious, but you’re losing a huge amount of field position. We need some turnovers, and we need them on the other end so we can have some short fields offensively.
On treating the next four games like its own season: We are. This is a tough run. This run’s very similar to what we had in , and this is the first of that group. The difference is we do have an open date after Oklahoma. Out-of-conference games are kind of out of the way now. We’ll stick UCLA in the middle of this tough stretch for us, but we’ll have four really tough games here in a row and then we’ll start over. We’ll just restart.
On learning anything from the tough four-game stretch in 2008: I don’t think so. I go back and I think about it - I thought we were tired when we we’re out at Tech and didn’t play well. We played hard. They fought their guts out to come back and do everything they could do to give us a chance to win, but I really don’t know. I think our conference doesn’t get the credit it deserves, and that stretch of games was very tough and this stretch of games will be really tough. Regardless of what UCLA does this weekend, I think when they beat us 66-3 they were coming in here 0-3. So I do study my history.
On RB Vondrell McGee’s NCAA appeal being denied: He is disappointed that he is not getting to play. He will make it work for him. Vondrell is a tough young man. He was embarrassed with his slip-up in the spring, and he texted a lot of kids this summer and I would see it on my phone. He would text and say to stay in and do things right. He has been a great young man for us. The one public slip-up is the only thing that he has ever had [being] even close to bad, and I am really disappointed for him that he is not going to get to finish right.
On the situation at running back, given McGee’s situation: That is the other thing that we have to look at now. We just found out, so we have to look at that. Jeremy [Hills] will travel for sure this weekend. You may not have to play him if the three [others] stay healthy, but right now late in ballgames, we have had to have the three guys in there regardless, and if one of them gets hurt then you have to look at Jeremy or Traylon [Shead]. One of the two to see which one would step up. We have not made a decision yet, but right now Jeremy would go first before Traylon, but he will not play Saturday night unless something happens to one of the other three.
On former NFL player Jim Jeffcoat during the recruiting process of his son DE Jackson Jeffcoat: Jim was very, very easy to work with in recruiting. He was very upfront with us the entire time. It is unusual for us to have a young man commit as late as he did, and Jim continued to tell us that because he is living in Houston and coaching at the University of Houston, and mom and the kids were still in Dallas, that their process would probably take longer because Jim does not get to go on the [recruiting] trips with them. He even had a trip here on his open date and something happened that he could not come. It just changed [it] and made it a little bit longer, but Jim was great. I am sure [defensive ends coach] Oscar [Giles] is talking to Jim throughout the week about Jackson and what he is doing. Jackson is very bright. He is very driven. [Their] daughter is at OU playing basketball, and the son is here playing football. They are both very driven and good students, and it is such a compliment to that family that they kept their kids so grounded.
On playing DE Jackson Jeffcoat: I think that we have thrown him in like we have the other freshman. He has just played well. He and WR Mike Davis have played more than anyone else, and both of them have jumped in full speed.
On whether Jim Jeffcoat asked different questions or had a different approach to recruiting than other fathers: Jim wanted to talk to Will [Muschamp] at length about schemes because he is a defensive coach himself, and he wanted to talk to Oscar [Giles] because he was going to be coaching his son daily. Those were the two most important things for Jim. For Mom, the most important things were academics, the city, [and] that things were run well and right. So Jim had the football, and Mom had the [other] stuff. She had all the character and the academics. It was not important for them to have their kids go to the same school. They said that these young people have worked really hard to get to make the decision they want, so it would be wrong of us to say that you have to go where your sister is, [just] so it is easier for us to come and watch you.
On whether preparation is different for Texas Tech this year: I do not think so. We were very cautious in the first game, and Garrett [Gilbert] got off to a good start. I thought that he played really well the other night, so we think that he is prepared for this now. We have to come out full speed ahead and use our offense like we have. What you do in games that you have a good chance to win - or what we do - is we have everything available, but we do not use it, and you consciously talk about it during the game. They’ll ask if I want to use something, and I’ll say to hold it because we are going to win this one so let’s make sure that we hold it for next week. You prepare things that you work on each week, but if you do not use them, you just move them forward to next week. If you use one as a trick play or something, you probably put it on the shelf for a couple of weeks and then bring it back out. This is a game where we will have to use everything.
On getting off to a slow start in the past two games: The two teams that we played slowed the game down, and they did not turn the ball over very much. The two turnovers we got from Rice both led to points—one was scooped up and run back for a touchdown and the other resulted in a field goal. So that was 10 points. Wyoming made no mistakes, and we did not force any. We really only had a few sacks, and we missed a bunch of tackles that kept drives going. We had some penalties that kept drives going. We felt like the nature of the offenses trying to slow the game down has probably hurt us some in the first quarter, and again, Wyoming was different than they were last year. They were not as much like Missouri. They had more quicks. They had more options. The quarterback ran it more last year. Also, we were definitely more conservative at Rice. We had opportunities to score more points in the first quarter against Wyoming and just did not execute like we should have. So part of it is on us. We have challenged the defense. They need to get off the field faster and need to force more turnovers, especially on their end. We need to stay on the field longer and convert third downs. We were 3 [for]8 in third downs the other night in the first half, which is unacceptable, and then we came back and ended up 7[for]14. So we were much better the second half.
On using the finish of the 2008 Texas Tech game as motivation: That Sunday we walked in and talked about the whole game. You are No. 1 in the country, and you lose a lot when you walk out of there with a loss - and it was a loss in the last three seconds. I told the team, ‘It was a whole lot more than one play. We got whipped throughout the night, and I am proud of you that you came back and played your guts out and got yourself back in a position where you could have won the game, but let’s not act like it was one play. That might of helped us, but what about the intercept for a touchdown? What about the safety? What about the fumble? What about the missed tackles? Let’s go back and look at the whole body of work and make sure everyone understands that it is not about the guys that did not make the tackle at the end or the guy that may not have intercepted the pass at the end. We all have a place.’ In fact, I think I asked them to raise their hand if they played perfect or raise [their] hand if [they had] played great, and there were not any hands raised in the room. At that time, we said that we did not ever want to hear it mentioned again about the last play of the game or about the interception, because if you are going to talk about those then we have to bring out everyone’s mistakes - including mine - throughout the game. It really wasn’t mentioned past then. I remember last year it was mentioned some when all three guys got interceptions against Oklahoma State, but those guys have used it to move forward. They’re strong-willed guys. I am sure they will be a little extra motivated walking into the stadium out there, but they have earned the right to be called great players at Texas. I think that that one is way beyond them. What I am proud of - I wish Earl [Thomas] was with us obviously - but I am proud that all three took a very, very difficult situation - even a public situation - and turned it into a motivator to move forward instead of being depressed and embarrassed. Did they like it? No. Do they wish it had not happened? Of course they wish it had not happened, but it did. I heard Blake [Gideon] say Monday that in your life, you have to take things like this, learn from them, and move forward and make sure it does not happen again. And that is what he did.
On the difficulty of playing on the road in the Big 12: We have had trouble in Manhattan [Kansas]. We have had trouble in Lubbock. We won in Stillwater, but I think that it is a very difficult place to play. I am not sure what our record is over at A&M, but it is a very difficult place to play. Baylor is getting better, so it is getting more difficult. We have just been able to take more people to Baylor because it is so close. But I really think that with most of the teams in your league that it is going to be difficult to play on the road. Colorado has upset a bunch of people up there. Kansas just upset Georgia Tech. Most of the upsets are at your place when the best team is on the road. Nebraska is obviously a hard place to play. All of our games up there have been last second games. We have never won a game with more than a minute left.