Sept. 22, 2008
Opening statement: This team has done everything to this point that it could do and that we expected of them. They've played three teams that, in looking back, we're better than, and they've dominated all three. We still have some question marks on where we go from here and the competition picks up quickly, because Arkansas is a much better team than the score indicated last weekend because Alabama had four really long plays. We've already had the Arkansas press conference once, so I guess we can have it again and rewind, but I did want to go back over some things about the Rice game that were important.
Colt (McCoy)'s passing efficiency in the game was 260, it was absolutely amazing. We continue to talk about the strength of quarterbacks in the Big 12, six of the top 10 quarterbacks in Division 1-A passing efficiency are in the Big 12. Sam Bradford's number two, Colt's number three and Chase Daniel's number four in that group. Colt completed 13 straight passes, tying a school record that he already had. We had a 99-yard scoring drive in the game, that's the fifth one in our 11 years since we've been at Texas. It builds great confidence for your team when they can take it off the goal line and take what was a very positive play for Rice with them with the pooch punt punting it down to the 1-yard line and taking it 99 to the other end. Rice was converting 54.8 percent on third downs and we held them to 2-of-14, 14 percent, so we did much better with our third-down defense. We had seven sacks, which is a huge improvement from where we were. We didn't punt for the first time since 2003. You'd like to have it where your punter does not letter, if you could keep him from having enough snaps to earn a letter jacket, that'd be a good thing. Then you start looking at the goal line stand. It was phenomenal. It's one I have not seen before, the 11 snaps inside the 5-yard line and I think most of those inside the 2. The guys held them going down there and we actually held Rice to minus-one yard on eight plays, which is really, really difficult to do and should continue to let our confidence grow in the red zone with our defense. We're seeking our sixth 4-0 start in the last eight years, which is important to us.
Offensively, (we went) 3-for-3 in the red zone, had three drives of over 80 yards. We felt the most productive player was Colt McCoy, breaking Major Applewhite's record. There was a lot said about whether Major wanted him to or not, obviously he did. They had a lot of fun with that after the game. Major was the first to congratulate him on the sidelines. The Boss Hog Award for outstanding offensive line play went to Chris Hall and Michael Huey, the best play of the game went to Chris Ogbonnaya on his wheel route that was a touchdown catch from Colt, and top contributor was Jordan Shipley because he had probably his best game since he's been at The University of Texas. There were nine plays in the Q-package, and we felt like that the good was obvious with our offense, the concerns are ball security. We can't have two turnovers, and that's something that we've done very well in the first two ballgames and didn't do as well (against Rice).
We are in the top 11 in scoring offense and scoring defense, along with USC and Penn State, so there's only three of us that are in those two categories which are the two most important categories in the top 11 in the country. Defensively, we've talked about some of the things, but we held them to 10 points again, which is really important. You start looking at stopping the run; they had 20 yards rushing so that was 1.67 yards per attempt. We had seven sacks, 16 hits, 13 pressures and five batted passes, which means we're continuing to get more pressure on the quarterback, a lot of that up front from the front four. We did feel like we handled the no-huddle better. We were more organized and we had fewer mistakes and we're starting to see that each week now. The players of the game were Lamarr Houston and Brian Orakpo. They played really, really well. The Ball Hawks, meaning they got the ball back for us, were Sergio Kindle, who batted the ball on fourth down, Brian Orakpo batted the ball on fourth down and Roddrick Muckelroy caused a fumble. The Hard Hat Award, which is the big hit of the game was Roddrick Muckelroy again on their boundary with a little flat pass that the young man turned up, Rod knocked him over near their bench.
Concerns for our defense were obvious, they still had four explosive plays, we had 14, so it was a mismatch on explosives during the game, but they had one run and three passes that were explosives that we'd like to cut down and we still need to get turnovers outside of fourth down stops. We thought the fourth down stops were good, but we also feel like we can do a better job. We need to knock more balls loose.
Kicking game, we won all three phases. Justin Tucker is continuing to kick the ball in the end zone and help us with kickoff coverage. Hunter Lawrence is doing his job with the field goals. We didn't punt. We were really close on a punt return and a punt block. The blocking in the back they called on Malcolm Williams was really, really close and we have a big punt return there, and Malcolm was also the one that was close on the punt block. Our first kickoff return was really, really good, the other two weren't as good.
The biggest negative of the day was losing Blaine Irby. Blaine will be out for the year. He did dislocate his knee. Blaine is meeting with the doctors today, and he'll know more about where he goes from here with his treatment and with the operation. He's upbeat and at the same time disappointed, but one of the great rules for the NCAA that if he gets hurt in the first four ballgames at any time, and he has a redshirt year available, he can get his redshirt year back. This will count as his redshirt year. It will not count against his eligibility and that is the only positive you can come out of a serious injury. Someone asked if I thought it was a cheap shot or not; it was a legal hit. The young man just hit him low and it was very unfortunate. Blaine's tough, he's smart, he's a great player for us and he will be back and he'll be back full speed ahead and he'll do it with a good attitude. What we do at tight end? We don't know yet. We'll continue to coach the ones we've got. Ian Harris will be back on practice Tuesday so that will help us some, but we've just to move forward. We're continuing to discuss things like injuries today and what we do with personnel, so we're a little bit ahead of the game when we get to this press conference.
On the running game still being a work in progress: We're averaging 204 yards a game rushing, at most places that'd be okay. We would like to have two running backs each gain 200 yards every game and we're probably not going to get that, but yes, we feel like it's a work in progress because we've got four or five guys doing it now. John (Chiles) is rushing well, but the offense we're running with the one-back set, the quarterback's going to run the ball and he's going to make yards and those count. We do not walk in and say, 'Oh my gosh, we had a quarterback out-run our running backs.' What we look at is production, and we look at points and the guys are doing a good job with that. I felt like Vondrell (McGee) did some good things, we're pushing him so hard. We're trying to make everybody we've got Ricky Williams and Cedric Benson and Jamaal Charles, and that's probably unfair to them. It's like trying to make Colt (McCoy) into Vince (Young) the first year. He stepped up to do it because our expectations and our standards are set really high at every position. Jackie Sherrill even told me one time, after you've coached Roy Williams and after you've coached Ricky Williams, you'll never find other players you like because you're going to look for them again, and that's kind of what we do here. Colt has stepped up and made a name for himself now, so he's out of that shadow and he's headed forward. The running backs are still living in the shadows. I thought Cody Johnson did a good job when he was in there. He didn't come in until the third quarter, so it's more unfair to Vondrell. Fozzy (Whittaker) came in the third quarter (against UTEP) when people were beat down a little bit, and Vondrell's the one that starts and goes out there when everybody's excited and knocking him loose. We'll continue to work with Vondrell, we'll continue to work with Chris (Ogbonnaya), we'll continue to work with Cody (Johnson) and we'll see where Fozzy fits with his health.
On Colt McCoy: We've still got to find out exactly who we are against better competition. That'll happen this weekend and from now on. We've got nine straight games with teams that have really good players. He's done everything that he could possibly be asked to do from the bowl game against Arizona State until today. He's taking care of the ball better, he's running better, he's more confident, he's making better decisions, he's taking care of the ball in the passing game by throwing it to us and at the same time, he's got better ball security because the quarterback's usually your worst ball carrier on your team, and he's really taking care of the football. He's being a great leader. I watched him run yesterday in our practice, and he goes and runs with the offensive linemen. It's not because they're slower and he doesn't want to run as fast, he is out there jogging with them, he sits with them now in the meetings. When we have our team meetings, he's down front with them, so he's just a different person. He's a more confident person. It's a guy who is in charge and knows that he has made his place at Texas now. He's not trying to get in that group of quarterbacks, he is in that group of quarterbacks and in fact a record-breaker among that group now, so it's a totally different attitude I think with him and a healthy one for our team and for him.
On the positions the team is still working on: We used the Q-package nine plays, it was the first drive of the third quarter and it looked good. I think John (Chiles)'s fourth-and-one sweep with Colt (McCoy) split out was a good play, and there were a lot of good plays in that series and we'll continue to expand on it. We do feel like we are still, as a team, a work in progress. We're playing against three passing teams that do not run the ball very well, so if you look at the stats we're giving up more passing yards than you would want, we're stopping the run again, I think 66 yards a game. A lot of that's who we play, so that's why the stats are skewed early in the year. Arkansas is throwing it more than they're running it. They're averaging 277 yards passing a game. We've been ahead all three games so they're going to throw more. We've still given up three or four big plays, so we're looking for perfection and we've still got a ways to go. Obviously at tight end we've got question marks, there are still question marks about which of the running backs needs to be the guy in the game when the game's on the line. There are young receivers that are still competing to get the third, fourth and fifth spot, and at the same time, your young safeties are trying to find their place. We feel like our defensive coaches are getting a better feel of who we are and who those young guys are. They've seen about everything they can see in an early ballgame, and those running backs, now we're watching them and grading them. Those receivers know, tight ends know, we're watching and grading every practice and that hasn't changed, and it'll continue to be that way this week, so we actually won't know who will start at some of those positions until Saturday, and it'll be based on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday practice.
On what the staff plans to do with the tight end position: What we have to do is really evaluate all of that today. Blaine gave us the same things that David Thomas and Jermichael Finley give us. Right now, we don't have another guy that can do that. So do we move another guy to that position? Do we work some wide receivers inside in certain cases for certain plays? All of that's what we're discussing. We had about an hour and a half (discussion) on it this morning, just with personnel in general, and where we go from here and what we do. We tell our players each week let's start the season over. Let's don't talk about last week, let's figure out who we are and this is the first game of the season, and to do that we've got to look at what's available on the board and who you have to move and what you have to do. If you look at it, we've lost Jermichael Finley, who we planned on (being here), and then we've lost Josh Marshall and Blaine, and then Ian Harris got hurt, so we haven't had him back to practice. We've lost four tight ends, and that's a pretty big hit, but it's not an excuse. We've got to find somebody and go forward with it. We won't miss him as much in the running game because we've got some big guys that can block there, but we'll miss Blaine's speed and his ability to catch the ball deep.
On getting explosive plays out of the running game: What we want to do is score. We're throwing the ball as good as anybody in the country. I think Colt's third in the country in passing efficiency, and we're rushing for 204 yards. We count it with quarterbacks being in explosive plays, too. I really don't understand if it's an explosive play, why it has to be a certain guy. That confuses me with people who are asking questions.
On manufacturing explosive plays: We've probably thrown it more than we've run it. Cody (Johnson) had really good production Saturday night. It didn't look like it as much because he had four plays on the goal line, which cuts your yards per carry down. That's why you have to be careful with stats. I thought Vondrell (McGee) was hurt at El Paso to a degree, and I was really proud of him that he played and fought through it, and we pulled him most of the second half, and the other night he carried the ball seven times I think, so unless you get a back that carries it 25 times a game, most likely unless it's like Jamaal (Charles), Jamaal could make a 75-yard run, we're not going to be that, that's not our personality. We may have some 12-yard runs, some 15-yard runs. We're more in the Cedric Benson-back situation where we're going to make our eight, 10, 12, 15 yard runs. We're not going to be Jamaal Charles. We're not going to see that 98-yarder, I don't think. I just don't see that happening for us. We're concerned about first downs and touchdowns. We're not concerned about (long runs) because that's not who we are, it's not our personality. Jordan (Shipley) made more explosive plays Saturday night, and that was important to us. We've lost Blaine (Irby) in our explosive plays. Chris Ogbonnaya's making really good explosive plays in the passing game, and that's important for us. What we've got to do is make explosive plays in some other way if we're not getting them. Usually you get them on option, usually you get them on a play that bounces out, I think the longest one's probably 16, 17 yards Saturday night. Defenses are going to get faster. I don't see us getting more explosive plays out of the running backs. We can't quit. We can't shut it down. It is what it is. We are what we are, so we've got to take what we've got, refine it and try to figure out who can get some explosives and try to get the ball in their hands.
On the Big 12: It's by far our best year, no question. Kansas had the close, near miss down at South Florida, which was a tough road game for them in a lot of humidity. They'd probably be a top 10 team, because they were (ranked) 12th, if they hadn't had the near miss. They're all really, really good and we get to play them all, which is exciting. It's great for this part of the country. It says to people who formed the Big 12 - it worked. I think we've got some great football games coming up. We've got to make sure that our focus is this weekend and that we continue to get better because we're not ready to do what we need to do yet. We've got a lot of work to do and that's why we've got to get better each week.
On the team's progress at this point in the season: I would think that we're pleased with most of the things we've got, and they all need work. To be honest, we're a lot further along than we were three weeks ago, but we're still the team that everybody said was under the radar and they didn't know if they were really good and they had all these question marks, questions about running backs, questions about tight ends, questions about receivers, questions about safeties. We haven't changed anything, we've just answered the bell three times. Each week we'll know a little bit more about who we are. I don't know if we're any good or not. We're better than the three we've played. (The players) are playing really hard, you've got to like the attitude of the team. Are we as good as we've been? I don't know. Those are still question marks that are out there. I think we'll get more answered this weekend than people think we are. When a team gets beat like Arkansas did, and basically because of four big plays, 21 points off turnovers and two long runs, they're going to be really mad. We're going to see the best Arkansas shot of the year, and that will be really great for our team. We need to see that.
On if he thought Colt McCoy would become the player he is out of high school: We did really did, with the only question mark being would he be able to transition from what he did in high school to this level of football because he was from a smaller school. You can't answer that, you don't know if he'll stay healthy, you don't know if he can handle this stage and he's done that, he's more than done it. How many people could follow what Vince Young did their first year and produce like he did? How many people could be under the scrutiny last year that he was under, winning 10 games? You'd have thought he didn't win any. You would've thought he was the worst quarterback in the country with some of the comments, and it did not bother him at all, in fact it motivated him. He's got the mentality it takes to be a great quarterback here, we just need to keep him doing what he's doing and keep improving.
On Jordan Shipley: We're looking for explosives any way we can get them. You lose Limas (Sweed), you lose Jamaal (Charles) and you lose Jermichael Finley, two of those three were supposed to be back; that's a lot of your speed. What you've got to do as we play against faster teams with better defensive backs, we've got to figure out how to create them. We just lost the tight end, we're not getting them out of the running back spot, the quarterback spot is getting them, and you're looking for them at receiver. He's one of the keys to us because he's one of the fastest players on our team. He and Malcolm Williams both have great speed so we need to get some deep balls to him. I was glad to see him not only make some plays with some underneath balls deep, because those count as explosives, but also the flea flicker was maybe the most wide open play I've ever seen. In fact, I think they had 11 guys within five yards of the line of scrimmage when the ball was thrown so that's not only a good call by our offensive coaches, but those don't work unless you have super execution. He and Colt and Chris Ogbonnaya have been around a long time, so they sold it perfectly, and then he had another double-move for a touchdown, which was an explosive and then he had another explosive on a ball he caught across the middle and made a super move down the middle. He's one of the keys for us to make more explosive plays.