Mack Brown Monday press conference: Sept. 29
Sept. 29, 2008
Opening statement: It was a fun Saturday for Texas football. You go back to Texas-Arkansas being an old conference rivalry from the Southwest Conference and it was a lot of fun for many years. Then to be able to see Coach [Darrell] Royal and Coach Broyles walk out for the coin toss brought a lot of history back to Texas and Arkansas fans. It was fun to see. Then we had Tommy Nobis and Bobby Layne's jersey retirements at halftime. It was an outstanding win for us because our guys played so hard, excited and well. It just ended up being a great day for us.
You look at the defense, and they played well. There were seven sacks, 18 hits on the quarterback and 11 quarterback pressures. In fact, we are leading the nation right now with four sacks per game. We only gave up three explosive plays, but we'd like to still cut that down. We stopped them 11-out-of-13 times on third down, which was huge. We had two fourth-down stops, recovered a fumble that we knocked loose and we also intercepted a pass that Aaron Williams ran back for a touchdown. The most productive players of the game, defensively, were Brian Orakpo and Sergio Kindle for putting a lot of pressure on the quarterback and for playing well. There were five "Ball Hawks" this week. The "Ball Hawks," mean they took the ball away in some fashion, they intercepted a pass, knocked a fumble loose or recovered a fumble, were Brian Orakpo, Ben Alexander for recovering the fumble that Henry Melton knocked loose, Aaron Williams and his interception for a touchdown and Curtis Brown. Those guys were all involved with the "Ball Hawk Award" for this week. The big hit of the week was Brian Orakpo on their quarterback, Casey Dick, and knocking the ball loose down near the goal line where we got easy points.
Offensively, one of the great things we're doing is that we have really good ball security. Our first team offense has given up one fumble and only one interception after four games. The second team needs to do a better job, but we're taking care of the football probably better than ever before. We're scoring in the red zone. We were 6-for-6 in red zone scores and we had 10 explosive plays. I felt like the guys stayed out there and continued to move at a quick pace and put Arkansas in the heat and they actually wore them down throughout the game.
It is really sad news that we lost Luke Tiemann. It was on a kickoff and it was a non-contact injury, but he is out for the year and he will be operated on soon. So, we'll have to look at Chris Ogbonnaya or Antwan Cobb coming off of his knee operation and try to get him back involved. We did want to run some I-formation last week, but it didn't come up very much. But, we have to look at what we did.
Both the offense and the defense played really well in the last five minutes of the half. The defense created a turnover and the offense put some points on the board. They did the same in the first five minutes of the second half, and that is something we have emphasized throughout the year. We came out and the offense scored immediately, the defense had a three-and-out and then the offense scored again.
You start looking at the Big 12 right now and three of the top five teams in the country are from the Big 12. It is just phenomenal what we are seeing. Six teams are in the top 25, and we play five of those six with us being the other team. So we have a lot of fun ahead and it starts this week with Colorado.
Let me also touch on the kicking game, and we feel like we are improving each week there. The kickoff return was better again. John Gold had a 54-yard punt and Trevor Gerland had a 51-yard punt. So, both of those guys did a good job. Ryan Bailey and Hunter Lawrence did a good job with extra points and field goals, and Justin Tucker continues to kickoff well.
But, the non-conference games are over and it's an exciting time for us to go to Boulder [Colorado]. It is a night game and we do feel like the experience we had in El Paso will help us at night with a young team. Colorado has got a really good team and I'm sure they are disappointed with their game on Saturday. But when a northern team or a western team from a higher altitude goes to Jacksonville, Fla., in September and plays, it is going to be hot. So, I would think that was a huge disadvantage for them like it was for Arkansas. Our coaches who have coached up at Arkansas say that they are up on a hill, too. So you start coming down off of that mountain and come into the heat, and it turns out to be a great advantage for southern teams to have northern and western teams come south. So I'm sure that was a factor.
On having such good QB pressure going into conference play: We are pleased that they have had enough success with the quarterback sacks that they feel like now that it's a competition between them to see who can get there. And in so many cases, it's been hard for anybody to get to a quarterback anymore, so they settle for pressures and get discouraged. Our guys right now are trying to get sacks, and therefore they are getting pressures.
On if he feels as though other players aren't contributing enough and if Colt McCoy is doing too much in the offense: No, not at all. He's touching the ball as a runner only about eight times a game. And that's what your quarterback is going to do. Four of those were scrambles and I think we had two quarterback sneaks on Saturday, which are going to happen. He scrambles four or five times, and he runs maybe two or three options. So, we're not asking him to do a lot in the running game. He's doing it on his own because he is so confident and he is moving well. We're still running a lot of different running backs in there and we're still trying to figure out who is going to be in there at what time. Fozzy [Whittaker] has been out of that mix because of his injury, so we still don't know how soon he will be back. He obviously won't be back until he is back at full speed. If you look at what Quan [Cosby] is doing and what Colt is doing, there are a lot of guys who are involved with this offense right now. He's just the guy who touches the ball every time and he's playing at as high of a level as anyone in the country.
On if there is an urgency to get Fozzy Whittaker back now that Big 12 is starting: What we've done is play the guys who are the most productive every day in practice and the guys who are healthy. I see Cody Johnson getting so much better, and we thought that even though the numbers didn't look like it, Vondrell [McGee] played his best game on Saturday. Chris Ogbonnaya does exactly what we ask him to do. He's just got more experience so we've been playing the others more to get them experience. But he'll have to help out at fullback and H-back some. He's a brilliant young person and he can do anything for us. But, you're going to play the guys who have practiced the best and so far, that is what we've done.
On Colt McCoy completing 80 percent of his passes so far: It's funny when you're at 80 percent and you wonder what happened to the other 20. Very honestly, some of them have been dropped and he's thrown some away because he was smart and was making sure we didn't get a sack. He's played as near perfect as you can play and I'm very proud of him. I think out of the top five quarterbacks in passing efficiency, four of them are in the Big 12, which is again phenomenal and that's why our teams are all rated in the top five and the top 25 in the country.
On keeping the team focused the week before OU: We've won all of our Big 12 openers, except for last year. So we've won nine out of 10. And last year, very honestly, the team didn't play very well in the early part of the season. We were working on onside kicks more than anything else. I've talked a little bit to this team about last year's team, and it's a totally different team this year with a different mindset and a different attitude. They've been fun and competitive. We will coach them this week like they lost the game last weekend. It will be a different week. People have been very critical of this team coming into the season. They say we've been under the radar and we have question marks. Those question marks are still all there and the competition picks up this week. So what they have proven each week, is that they have dominated, not just beaten, the opponent each week, which is good. But now, we start with a higher level of competition with better caliber teams. It will be interesting to see where we go. They can't listen to how good people have talked about them this week anymore than they did about how poorly they talked in the preseason.
On Colorado being a good team that is out of the top 25: Colorado has only had one loss and they were down 24-0 to Oklahoma and upset them last year on this same weekend in Boulder. They are doing a good job. They have good players and they are well coached. I think it's a good test for us this weekend.
On if he is concerned that the team has not been in a close game yet: That's really a good question because last year we were in all close games and I don't think that was healthy. We've been tested more than this, but good for this team. The 2005 team wasn't tested very much and they played really well. What this team seems to be doing is they enjoy playing and they enjoy each other. They've got outstanding chemistry and they are having fun during the games, and that's how Saturday was. The other thing that has been impressive about this team is that they have been playing 60 minutes. The second-team offense did not play as well in the late third and fourth quarters as we wanted them to, but Arkansas had good, experienced players in the field. Our second and third defense hung in there and kept them out of the end zone, so we're really proud. We told the guys yesterday that things are going to pick up now. They are going to be tighter games and there will be more pressure. But, it's how you respond to that pressure that is going to dictate what type of season we will have,
On Colorado's offense: When you look at Colorado, they have the coach's son at quarterback. Cody Hawkins is a guy who does what he's supposed to do with the ball. He's averaging over 200 yards a game throwing and he's thrown for nine touchdowns. He's a guy who can make plays with his feet and he's very competitive. They've got a group of really good running backs. We know if Darrell Scott is not getting the ball every time, that [Rodney] Stewart must be really good, because we know how good Darrell is. Josh Smith is one of the better receivers in the country and he's also done a super job with the return game. So they've got a lot of skill and they are playing really hard on defense. The last two times we were in Boulder, the altitude did not bother us at all, so we do not think that will be an issue. We will actually take those two games as an example for the kids. Getting off a plane and playing is not going to be a problem with the altitude, because we're not going for a vacation.
On the first out state of Texas road game: Our guys are excited because that means it's the first cool road game. We told them that it would be cooler out in El Paso, but it was hot. They thought we all had lied to them going out there. So, we check the weather of the site we're going to play at during game time, and it looks like for our fans and our players, it will be about 70 degrees when it starts and in the 60's during the game. So the big boys are pumped and they think it's finally a game where we can get out of this Austin heat.
On if they have instilled silent counts and things to prevent crowd noise: Most of ours are silent now because we are doing so much checking from the sideline now. Crowd noise doesn't bother us. It was good that we had it out in El Paso because it was loud. We thought that we might have the Colorado game at night, so we felt like it was good to have a night game, on the road, with a noisy bunch in El Paso. We think that will help us on Saturday night. Our guys like that. Our road record is probably as good as our home record, and one of the things the guys like is the excitement of going into somebody else's place with all of the fans against them. This one is on national TV and that is fun too.
On what changed from being mediocre last year to dominating this year: Well, at times last year, we played really well. We had a streak of six straight wins where we were back in the mix, and we had a chance, at one time, to get right back into the mix. We didn't play well at A&M for three quarters and I've had to answer to that for two years. We need to answer, but we haven't for those two. I think sometimes you feel like things are going to happen without making them happen. We all went back to work for the Arizona State game, and the way we played in that game is the way that these kids have gone through spring practice, two-a-days and now. The addition of Ken Rucker moving to high school relations has really helped us because he's around the kids all of the time. Also, the addition of Will [Muschamp] and Major [Applewhite] has been well documented, but they are great coaches who bring a lot of energy and passion. It's been fun to have them here and it's been fun for the kids to be around them.
On the big questions that have been answered before conference play: The defense is better at this stage than we thought they might be. The secondary seems to be growing up in front of our eyes each week and Sergio's move to rushing the passer has been a success, because he and Brian Orakpo are putting a lot of pressure on opposing quarterbacks. So, our pass rush is much better than we thought. We're also tackling better. There were only six missed tackles in that ball game, and we're developing a lot of depth on defense. Nobody played more than 41 plays on defense, which is really good for this weekend. That's like only having half-a-game. So, it helps you with this stretch that we have coming down the road. Offensively, Colt has been out of sight. We saw him do this as a freshman, and we didn't think much about it, because he had so many good players around him. He has come back and answered the bell, but now, he has to continue to do it. Younger receivers are stepping up now and they are starting to be able to play and make a difference. We have a number of running backs to choose from, and like I said, Fozzy hasn't really played. Cody Johnson has also come out of nowhere to get in the mix some. The offensive line is playing like we thought they would. John Gold is a more consistent punter than we knew outside of practice. Hunter Lawrence has also stepped up and done a good job in the field goal game. So, a lot of those things are question marks that have been answered. Blaine Irby hurts us, but the guys are still working to overcome that, and that is just part of it. Luke Tiemann is on all of the special teams and we were looking on using some more of the I-formation, so that hurts us now. But what you do as coaches is change and be flexible enough with your philosophy and system that if something comes up, you can take it away and put somebody else in.