Sept. 24, 2012
Opening statement: It was a fun weekend to sit back and get to watch a lot of college football. You can see why fans and players and coaches like it so much, because it's so unpredictable. You never know what's going to happen. About the time we think we all know who is the best team, they don't show up, some key player gets hurt, turnovers happen, kicking game mistakes. It's so unpredictable. It’s fun to watch.
Also had a couple great days in recruiting this weekend. You have evaluations. You only have a certain number. Some coaches might go out on Saturday. Some have saved the visit to a campus of a young man for a specific game. But it was good for the coaches to get out.
Also enjoyed just watching [former Longhorn/Kansas City Chiefs RB] Jamaal Charles go off yesterday. What a great day for him. Talking about records near [former Browns RB] Jim Brown when he was back with Cleveland. So proud that he's well and proud he's back on track. Got home late last night in time to watch [former Longhorn/Baltimore Ravens PK] Justin [Tucker] make another last-second kick. Down the middle with [Texas] A&M [last season], so proud that he kicked it through.
We had some success at Ole Miss, especially on offense. It's the most [offensive yardage] we've had in quite a while around here. Last year I thought we didn't handle success very well. You go back to the Kansas game, the Texas Tech game, [then] we go lay an egg up at Missouri. Didn't play well. Had some injured players, but I didn't think we played like we should. Then you go back and beat [Texas] A&M in a classic game. Then come back and do not play well at Baylor. One of the question marks with this year's team, they've made progress each week: Can they continue to build on that progress and get better even with people bragging on them? Around here it's usually really high or really low, you don't get anything in the middle.
It's been tough on our offense for a couple years. Now they're getting bragged on. They need to show they can respond to that in a positive way and bring energy and passion into Stillwater [Oklahoma] on Saturday night. I think the fact we played in the same environment over in Oxford [Mississippi] will help us in Stillwater, because [the team has] already been on the road. It's still a young team, but they've seen the kind of crowd they're going to see this weekend.
[Junior PK] Anthony Fera, [junior LB] Jordan Hicks and [sophomore RB] Joe Bergeron didn't do anything last week, didn't practice. We will watch them and see how they're going to do. Anthony Fera has been punting because that doesn't hurt him with his pull. But [senior P] Alex King has done a great job punting for us, so we don't need [Fera] there, but we need him in the field goal area. [Freshman PK] Nick Rose will continue to kick off. All three guys have a chance through the weekend, but we'll have to watch them through the week, see how they do.
Start of conference play, competition picks up. Oklahoma State will be the best team we’ve played to this point. Stakes are higher. Every week is like a playoff because we don't have a conference championship game. You can't afford to lose during the year and have that chance to win at the end. Also it's a different situation for the players. You can only take 70 on this trip. We were able to take 76 or something to Oxford last week. So there will be some hard decisions at the end of the week of who to leave at home, who to take.
Seven of the Big 12 schools are ranked in the polls. That's more than any other conference. We knew our conference was going to be good. I think every team is just so improved. Nine-of-the-ten schools have received votes for the Top 25. Our Big 12 non-conference record was 25-3. That's the best in the nation. The Big 12 as a group leads the nation in offensive yards per game - 503 yards a game as an average; 41.5 points per game; 6.8 yards per play. Most offensive plays - 74 [plays per game]. Fewest punts - 3.2 per game. And with those most plays of anybody in the country, on average, 74 [plays per game], fewest turnovers per game with 1.47. Our league is as strong as we thought it was, and now it will be fun to watch people start playing each other. There will be some great head-to-head matchups here as we head down the stretch.
The American Football Coaches Association every year picks a charity they want to help. It's always about young people - usually about young men. This year is the Fifth Annual Coach to Cure [Muscular Dystrophy] MD effort. All the coaches will be wearing a patch for Coach to Cure MD, to bring awareness and funding to muscular dystrophy research. They have to find a cure. It is a disease that affects young men and women, but especially young men. And the life expectancy is in the late teens to early 20s. In the generation of muscles for young people, an awful disease, a crippling disease. Go to the AFCA website for more information if you'd like to give. It's something that could affect us all. Sally [Brown] and I have been very involved and know a lot of the families that are affected. What an awful thing for your child to be sick and nothing to do about it at this point because there is no cure.
Oklahoma State is 20-5 since 2009. Best record of any Big 12 team. Sixty-six of their players are from Texas, if you can imagine. This is going to be like playing an in-state school. Offense is No. 6, averaging over 300 yards rushing [per game]. Passing offense, they are No. 2. Total offense they are No. 1, averaging 686 yards per game. Scoring offense, averaging 62 points a game. They have not allowed a sack.
First downs, they're No. 2 in the country. Third down efficiency they are 63 percent – No. 1 in the country. Red zone efficiency, they've scored every time they're in the red zone, so they're 100 percent. Defense, stats are skewed because they substitute a lot. They've been so far ahead. Their defense is in the top-40 in every category. No. 7 in tackles for loss. Kickoff returns, they're No. 28 in the country. Kickoff return, they're sixth - doing better than we are. Their punter and kicker was all-conference last year, [senior] Quinn Sharp. He has kicked 25-of-30 out of the back of the end zone.
If you remember last year, we end up returning a kickoff for a touchdown against them. They returned a kickoff against us. They have two quarterbacks, Wes Lunt, tall freshman from Illinois, that hurt his knee a couple weeks ago. His status is unknown for the weekend. They also have [redshirt freshman QB] J.W. Walsh, a guy we're familiar with that can run and pass. We will prepare for both of them.
Their two running backs had over 200 yards rushing together last year against us. That's one thing that they're doing. They're able to run the ball so much better than they were a few years ago. I think the spread offenses that are running the ball are giving us much more difficulty in stopping them than those that aren't. [Junior RB Joseph] Randle and [junior RB Jeremy] Smith are very good running backs. Smith had a 30- and 74-yard touchdown against us last year, 140 yards, seven carries. Bill Young is their offensive coordinator, been around a long time. A lot of their offense is back. They’re tough up front. They can always run. They are also by far the best secondary we've seen to this point. They may have one of the best secondaries in the country.
On needing to stay grounded after starting 3-0: Yes. Right now we need to win on the lines of scrimmage to do what we're doing. We've been able to do that for three straight weeks. We've had better personnel than the three teams we've played. Now the personnel gets very similar [to ours] this week. So we're going to have to block really good guys up front. We're going to have to take three seniors on the offensive line that average about 310 pounds. So it will be a great test for both of our lines of scrimmage in Stillwater this weekend.
On preparing for two quarterbacks: We knew that it was a real fight with the two quarterbacks before the season to see which one was going to start. So any time it's that close, what we would do is prepare for both of them anyway. [Freshman QB Wes] Lunt is not a runner. They're not going to run option with him. Probably not going to run quarterback draw. [Redshirt freshman QB] J.W. [Walsh] is a guy that can beat you with his feet or his arm. What you have to do is go in prepared to stop the run the best you can, then try to force them to throw the ball. Obviously that's more difficult with J.W. than it is with Wes.
On if preparing for two quarterbacks is easier than people think: No, it is more difficult because there will be some stunts you would use against a quarterback that's not very mobile that you can't use when you have an option quarterback in there. So it does change a lot of what you're doing. It's why we feel like with [sophomore QB] David [Ash] we're trying to get both [types of quarterback]. We're trying to get the thrower that can run because it's much more difficult.
On Oklahoma State’s personnel: Both of their coordinators are really good. When you go back and look at [offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach] Todd Monken, he came from the Jacksonville Jaguars. He was a guy we talked about as a staff that all of our coaches really, really respected. Bill Young is one of the best defensive coordinators in our game, and has been for many, many years. They have tremendous coaches. They're well coached. There's not much drop-off. I thought he would see more drop-off after they lost two draft choices on offense, and they're still leading the country in total offense. You have to give them a lot of credit. [Head coach] Mike [Gundy] has done a great job. Their players are as good as anybody in the country. They're that way each week.
On non-conference play versus conference play: The biggest thing, I think, is you can't have any misses. You have got to win them all if you want to be in the mix at the end. You start looking at our conference. We said right now, I think it's the best conference in the country. You got some great teams in the SEC, but top-to-bottom right now all of our teams are pretty good and you’ve got to be ready to play each week. I think it's what makes it more fun. A little different buzz at practice tomorrow than there was for the first three games.
On sophomore QB David Ash: It's really important for David to be consistent. That's all we need - manage the game. We've got good players. Get the ball where it needs to be. The best thing we've done offensively right now, is we're not turning the ball over. We had the one turnover, which was a bad snap. So our guys are protecting the ball. We're making yards after contact. David is throwing it to the right guys. Now we're getting more explosive plays like we needed. So that's the biggest thing. Don't change who you are. Let's keep getting better, keep growing as an offense. But let's don't go out there and act like we have to get 685 yards each week to win. Let's just get a enough yards to win.
On the evolution of the Oklahoma State offense over the years: The biggest thing is, for a year or so they didn't run the ball very much. [Head Coach] Mike [Gundy] was going to run the ball. You can tell he's had a tremendous influence on this offense, because they've gone the spread concept that [former OSU offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach and current WVU head coach] Dana Holgorsen was running when he brought it from Houston to Oklahoma State. But Dana is even running it more watching him more at West Virginia. I think all the spread guys now understand that balance is a key, and it's making them so much more difficult to defend.
On the linebacker corps: Where we were last week - holding Jordan out, [sophomore RB] Joe Bergeron out, we felt like the whole week should be spent on trying to figure out who goes in if Jordan doesn't go in. [Defensive coordinator/linebackers coach] Manny [Diaz] and I talked about it this morning. There will be competition again this week if Jordan is not in there. Right now [Diaz] thinks they're all about alike. So he's trying to get someone out of that freshmen, sophomore group to stand out. Jump up and play. If you ask him today, I think he'll tell you it's just one of a group. They're young, so making good plays, but they're not playing consistently well. So we have to get better across the board at linebacker.
On the pattern of exciting finishes to Texas-Oklahoma State games: They really have. I liked all of them until the last two years. There were a lot of gray hairs, though, you're right. We were talking about [former RB] Jamaal [Charles] this morning, the 35-14 comeback up there a few years ago. The reason this game has been so emotional for both teams is they have 66 guys from Texas, and those guys want to play against their state school and beat the state school. That's why I think it's been such an emotional game. We've been behind so much. That's one of the things we've got to try to do now is not go up there and get behind like we do every time we play them.
On where co-offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Bryan Harsin gets his positive attitude from: I don't know. His dad is a drag racer, they've been around sports their whole life. He's a great father. But he's a guy that grew up in the Boise [State] system. I think probably Boise won so much, and continues to win so much. He was there under [former Boise State head coach] Dan Hawkins. He was there with [current Boise State head coach] Chris Petersen. So he didn't see many losses when you start looking at his years as a player. He was not a star player. He was a backup quarterback. He isn't egotistical. He understands the role he plays. Then he coached tight ends, so he's tough. He's had a great background that gives him an opportunity to come in here and be successful.
On if No. 12 in the AP Poll is the right spot for Texas right now: I would really rather not have us have polls until the middle of October. A team gets beat, we throw them all the way out now. This team is going to win the national championship. They got beat, they're 42nd. Why don't we wait and let everybody play some good teams before we start deciding who the best teams are? Other than for y'all to have something to talk about, I think it's a waste of time. I'll talk to you about polls in three weeks, I told our players.
On breaking up the season into different sections: We try to divide it up. It's a long season for them. The NFL season is 24 games, but ours is hopefully 13. That's a long time for college guys who have girlfriend issues, parent issues, money issues, class, tests. They're overwhelmed. They get tired mentally. So we've always tried to break it up to give them a refreshed new goal. Instead of saying that we've gotten weeks left with nine games, maybe they have three weeks left and we restart. That's what we did. We started with the non-conference games. That was our season. Now we can say throw out all the stats, everything you've done that you've done well, the things you need to fix, we'll change some of those, but let's restart, start over. It's like another first game.
On if they break up the season to prevent the team from getting overwhelmed about stretches of competition: What we do is try to say is after this game we will stop. Usually Oklahoma is an emotional game for us. That's usually a game we stop and start over, regardless of how it fits into the schedule. I think, again, play shouldn't be overwhelming. It should be exciting. We’ve got a challenge. We’ve got a challenge here to get back in the mix. Here, a lot of teams wish they were 3-0. We are. That exciting challenge is ahead. I'm ready for us to play and see how good we are against a really good team from Oklahoma State.
On the defense’s progress during the bye week: Our defense was not very happy leaving Oxford. I think, again, as you go back and look at it, give Ole Miss credit. They scored 38 [points] Saturday against Tulane. They’ve got play-makers. We've been able to go back and look at every missed tackle, every big play, and say, “Why?” Oklahoma State had the two long runs that killed us. Oklahoma State had a week before this game last year that killed us. They had a third-and-24 they made. We've got to do a better job of getting off the field on the third downs, but we also have to do a better job on the big plays. We've taken all of those out, looked at all the big plays we should have done differently. Was it the coverage, call, the angle, where are they better than us in that situation? We've done the same thing with every tackle. Last week we kind of tried to relive the tackling and drills and say, “Here is what happened to you in the game. You’ve got to keep your pads down. Stay inside out. You overran it. You got your head down.” Whatever it was, we tried to go back and look at everything that has gotten off track on defense to see how we fix it.
On Oklahoma State’s loss to Arizona: You try to look at every ballgame. The Savannah State game is no good, because it was 84-0. It was so weird, so hard to study that one. You look at the ballgame with Arizona, what you find is it was a very close ballgame, then Oklahoma State turned the ball over. Turnovers on the road, it's hard to overcome that.
On being prepared for coaching changes throughout a season: Yes. Completely. In fact, you look at [Oklahoma State defensive coordinator] Bill [Young] being out. Thank goodness he's okay. You look at [Nebraska head coach] Bo Pelini going to the hospital the other day. We actually in our staff meeting last Thursday, we said, “We have to have a plan for our coach to be sick or coach have personal issues and have to miss a game because it definitely affects you.” It's not like a bowl game where a coach may leave. It affects you in a short period of time. We’ve got to have somebody ready to call plays. If [offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach] Bryan [Harsin] can't call them, who is going to call the defense? Who is in charge of each special teams? We spend a lot of time talking about that. If you lose the guy who has done it on a yearly basis like Bill Young, it really affects you no matter who else is in there because the other guy is not comfortable calling them like Bill would be.
On if the team is where he wanted them to be at this point in the season: No. I wish nobody scored, and I wish we scored 66 points every week. I thought we played okay the first two weeks. I thought we did some really positive and good things that should give us a view of who we want to be in the future, at Ole Miss. That's why I'm so excited about this weekend - to see if that's for real. Can we line up and be physical each week? Will David progress? Will we make some big plays and make some tackles, do a better job tackling? We had five sacks against Ole Miss, so I like our pass-rush. Some of those we didn't have extra guys coming. We're making progress there. Can we stop the run like we need to and not give up the big plays? And our kicking game has been good. But you talk about it – Oklahoma State has the best kicker/punter in the country in [senior] Quinn Sharp. So we have our hands full there.
On if schools and the NCAA need to review rushing the field: Yes. I don't know what came up this weekend to affect it. But the question is, Does the NCAA in my estimation need to revisit people charging the field? It's so dangerous. [Mack’s wife] Sally [Brown] has been knocked down before on the field. I had my knee replacement. Up at Kansas State I got trampled. Lucky to have some people around to hold me up. Somebody could have fallen onto my knee and ruined it. We've had fans spit on our players leaving the field, push our players, after an upset like that. I think Texas does it right. I think the fact that we keep people off the field is safer for those people, and it's also safer for the players and the coaches. I know a coach got fired at Marshall a couple years ago because he swung back. You're tired. You're frustrated. Obviously they're out there because you just lost a close game. Then somebody pushes you. Nobody ever gets the fan that pushes; it's always the player that pushes back. I really hope all of us will continue to look at it. I know it's fun. I know it's exciting. But when you lose a student, you lose a fan, you lose a player, somebody gets sued over it. I think the downside is much more prevalent than the emotions that come out of it. Have your fun after the game, but not on the field.
On if there is anything anyone can do to prevent fans from rushing the field: I think right now it goes completely to the conference office, or to the university. The University of Texas does not let anybody on the field. We always feel like we're going to win anyway. But very honestly, I feel comfortable on our field after the game. You want to find a couple of kids that played really well against you and congratulate them. You can't do that in a mob. You want to be respectful to the other coach, and that can be really sensitive depending on the way the game ended. In some cases, like at Texas Tech that year , I didn't even see [head coach] Mike Leach. I couldn't find him. Then you say you got your rear-end kicked, you got to walk over there and tell the guy congratulations. You can't find him. There's a perception you didn't want to find him. I don't see anything good about it. We go back to a couple of instances where I think we've even lost some kids across the country. But I think it's one of those things that is just about to happen, and I really would like to see everybody stand up and stop it before we lose somebody else.
On senior WR Marquise Goodwin: He's always been competitive. He's such a positive guy. I texted him minutes after he didn't accomplish what he wanted to in London. He texted me right back. He said, “Coach, I'm disappointed. I messed it up.” He's more positive than I am. I mean, I really learned from him. You lose in the Olympics, that's your whole life, it's what you've done. He said, “Yeah, I'm trying to get home. I want to get started with this football team.” Then to see how he blocked against New Mexico was amazing. That's why I was glad he got some touches and had some publicity about what he accomplished at Ole Miss. Amazing guy. Never made [less than] an A or B. He is a guy that could be headed to New York for the National Scholarship Hall of Fame. He's that type of student with his success. He's really a breath of fresh air for us. I've never heard him say a negative thing about anything or anybody. He's real positive.