Tracking Mack: Sept. 29
Sept. 29, 2010
Opening Statement: Yesterday was a very difficult and stressful day. I do want to commend President [Bill] Powers and all the officers and security throughout our region. The sheriff’s office, the Austin P[olice] D[epartment] and the campus police because they did a tremendous job in a short period of time of getting the campus safe. I do feel like that after going through 9/11 on campus, our crisis management is so much better now than it was that many years ago, because immediately President Powers and his staff sent us text messages, emails about the sirens, about what was going on and they sent it to students throughout the campus. So we were able to talk to our players about what was going on through text messages and emails. We were able to send things to their parents. What we did first was secure the building because we didn’t know what was going on, and we closed the gate outside. We closed the doors. We got everyone away from the windows. We tried to close all the shades because no one really knew how big this was on campus or what was really going on. The second thing we tried to do was immediately get a hold of our family. Sally and my daughter work right next to where the incident occurred, and we were texting and calling her and didn’t get an answer. So as a parent, it scares you absolutely to death. Then we were trying to get a hold of all of our players. So we pulled out a class schedule to see which ones were in the area, but within an hour, George Wynn and our coaches did a great job of securing all the names and making sure that they could get a hold of their parents, because their parents were all calling us and asking if everybody was safe and OK. It was a very, very difficult time for everybody involved. When things were cleared, we were able to determine that we could practice again. We thought it would be better to practice indoors because of just the fear of some kids that some things might not be finished. So we did practice indoors. We had to try to work out ways for the kids to move around on campus just so they could eat before they practiced since there wasn’t class. We tried to get them over here as fast as we could and explain to them as much as we knew about what was going on. Then we talked to them briefly before practice. We had a good practice and then talked to them at length after practice and told them we were proud of them - for a number of them were in this building and couldn’t leave because there was a lockdown in this building as well. George Wynn did a tremendous job. I thought our coaches did a great job of trying to get a hold of as many people as they could as fast as they could and making sure that things were OK. The daughter was able to get back in touch with us probably within about 30 minutes and it seemed like a long 30 minutes. So as a parent, I can sure understand how people were scared and concerned.
Lastly, my thoughts and prayers go out to the parents of the young man. What an awful thing for the parents and the friends of Colton Tooley and his family. For a time, where you hear there’s an incident on campus and then all of a sudden you know it’s a family member, [that] has to be a very, very difficult thing. As lucky as we are that there were not lives that were lost, there was one lost and those family members are sitting there today without their son. So it has to be a very, very difficult time for them as well.
Weeks after losses for coaches are tough anyway and then you add the tragic distraction of yesterday - it was a long day and a tough day for us, but that’s what you do and that’s your job. We try to pick the guys back up and go back to work anyway. I think yesterday was a great reminder that football is not life and death. It’s very, very important at Texas. It’s very important to us, but obviously people’s lives are more important than some football game. So we were able to put things back in perspective a little bit as well. As coaches this week, we have to stand up and be strong. You’ve got a delicate balance, people are very critical of your players and your coaches after a loss, and then what you have to do is correct the things that were mistakes. And at the same time, knowing that your players are under a lot of scrutiny, your coaches are under a lot of scrutiny, you got to pull back together and make sure that you just get them corrected. You can’t do it with anger. You got to get things fixed but you got to try to rebuild your confidence, because you obviously had some players that were pressing and some players lost some of their confidence. So it’s a fine line this week. The older guys say you’d like to go back and scrimmage and get things fixed and the other guys say that when things are bad you simplify and you go back to work and you try to pick them back up and pull people together. When things are good, you work them even harder. We’ve had good, strong practices this week, but it’s the things that we’re trying to do is what’s best for the players to pick them up and move forward and get back on track and win on Saturday. To do that, like we said, you try to eliminate as many distractions as you can. There are a lot anyways and yesterday kind of added to it, but I think everybody handled it and handled it really well. I was proud of the staff and I was also proud of the players the way they stepped up and handled it.
You go back and look at the 13 games before [Oklahoma]. We’ve lost three of the 13 - all three of them have been in this stadium. Two of them to Kansas State. The first one, Kansas State was a lot better than we were, the second one we absolutely stunk and then Saturday we stunk. The other ten, some of them have been tough games. And we didn’t play very well so we have to continue to look at trying to prepare a team against a good football team the week before you play OU, because we didn’t do a very good job of that last week.
Offensively, and going back and looking at it, we’ve got to do a better job on third downs and fourth downs. We’ve normally done that well, and in the first four ballgames we’ve not done what we need to do in those areas. We need to do a better job in the red zone. I remember when I first got here, Red McCombs called me and he owned the Minnesota Vikings and he called [former Vikings coach] Dennis Green and said, “Get rid of your kicker.” Dennis said, “We’ve got the best kicker in the NFL, Red, why do you want to get rid of your kicker?” [Red] said, “We’d like to score more touchdowns, you’re kicking too many field goals.” And that’s kind of the way I feel. We need to score. We’re tired of field goals. We’ve been scoring a lot of points around here so we’ve got to stop being inconsistent and do a better job of taking care of the football and try to score touchdowns in the red zone and not field goals.
On defense, we’ve got to force more turnovers. We have to do a better job of stopping the run because until you stop the run you can’t force turnovers. When you stop the run in college football you can start putting pressure on the quarterback. Get some tipped balls. Knock some balls loose, and we didn’t do a very good job of stopping the run at all last week. And OU will line up and try to run the ball against us, I’m sure, because they’re watching that film and that will be something that excites them. We’ve got to do a better job of red-zone defense. We’re having too many people score when they’re down there.
Kicking game is to create field position points and gain momentum and we’ve done some great things in our kicking game this year, but it’s been very inconsistent. So we’ve got to go back and have more consistency across the board.
You work on the OU game year round and you have a plan year round and you think, most of our coaches have worked against their coaches for 12 years. So going in this game, like Greg Davis and [OU defensive coordinator] Brent Venables have had 11 game plans against each other. So they have a good idea going in to this week what they’re going to do, but then you have to adjust to your players and who’s playing well and what you’re doing and who’s healthy and the things that you need to do to fix it. Yesterday, you look at some different things that you’ve been planning on. Today, this morning, you throw some of those things out and you go back and practice this afternoon and really work on your game plan and then tomorrow you try to review it and get ready to play.
You start looking at what they’re doing offensively. [Ryan] Broyles has had a number of consecutive 100-yard plus games, so he’s become one of the best receivers in the country. We knew that when he was a freshman. It’s very, very difficult to handle him unless you try to double him up - and no better than we stopped the run last week - it’s difficult to start doubling people because you’ve got to hold up against the run inside. DeMarco Murray seems like he’s been there forever. I remember him getting a 70-yard run against us for a touchdown to beat us a few years ago, and he’s their second-leading receiver. They’re doing a lot of things that Texas Tech did with Mike Leach. They’re throwing some kind of bootleg, waggle, screen, bubble screen. They’re throwing those things 22 to 24, 26 times a game. They’re getting the ball in Ryan’s hands and DeMarco’s hands a lot, and they’re making you tackle them in space.
You look at them defensively, we have to be prepared for the blitz. Last year they were blitzing very little coming into our game and they blitzed the entire first half. So you feel like they’ll probably come back and blitz our young quarterback. This one usually comes down to who takes care of the ball better and who kicks the ball better anyways. So we’ve got to go back and make sure that we’re making fewer mistakes.
On CB Aaron Williams’ ability to cover elite receivers: A.J. is a great player. He’s got a tremendous knack for blitzing, [and] knocking balls loose. He did it in this game last year, and he’s got tremendous hands so he can intercept the ball. He had a great game in this game last year, and he looks forward to it. Heroes are made in this game from both teams, and he’s a guy right now that you would circle from last year’s game that made a huge impact. Guys get excited about this game. When you see guys in this game, everybody says, “Will he be able to handle the pressure, will he able to step up?” The guys like this game. It’s a fun game for them. It’s one of the main reasons they come to Texas or go to OU in my estimation, and he’s one of the guys that’s really embraced it, and he can’t wait for Saturday.
On Williams giving the defense more flexibility: He does, but again, Ryan’s a really good player, and we’ve got to make sure that we stop the run. That’s the difficulty when you’ve got DeMarco Murray in the backfield.
On the offensive identity: I think right now we’re still trying to figure out what to do more than anything else and that sounds stupid for me to say, but it’s factual. What we’re going to do is go into the ballgame with a plan and then if somebody gets hot, we’ll stick with it and use that plan. D.J. [Monroe] was not in those plans until last week, so that’s changed things for us. So it’s not what we were thinking about coming into the season. We were thinking about Cody [Johnson] and there’s about 70 pounds difference - I don’t know how many - there’s a lot of pounds difference in those two. So we’ve just got to right now try to figure out each week what advantages we have against the other team and try to utilize those and do the best we can. We’d still like to be what we wanted to be going into the year, and we’d like to be balanced and right now we’re not doing that well. So we’ve got to go back and try to win the game now, understanding that there’s a time where we’d like to get where we want to get, and right now we’re not close to where we want to be.
On simplifying the offense: When you move a back in the week before a game, you have to simplify for him because he’s been there before - he played there as a freshman some - but retention’s not good from a full year of being a wide receiver. But at the same time, when you get in trouble some, you do have to simplify. But it’s hard to simplify against a talented team like OU because you have to put in enough stuff to be able to attack different areas.
On WR Mike Davis’ health: He’s questionable for the game, so it would stay like it was Monday.
On Oklahoma’s defense: They’ve got two of the best defensive ends in the country, and we knew Jeremy Beal from last year and [Frank] Alexander’s playing great. So they’re putting a lot of pressure [on the QB]. They’ve had some injuries inside on defense and their safeties are older and they’re both seniors and have been around with [Jonathan] Nelson and [Quinton] Carter and they’re really good, but they’ve got some youth outside and I think it’s a defense that played really well against Florida State, and that’s the way you’d expect them to play against us. They dominated the game, and the game was over in the first quarter and hopefully we’ll play with the intensity we played with at [Texas] Tech.
On QB Garrett Gilbert having tough skin: We told him when he came here that we talked to he and his parents before they came and said that the quarterback position at Texas is a lot like the head coaching position. It’s one of the most celebrated, and therefore, most scrutinized positions in the country. When things are good you probably get bragged on more than you should, and when things are bad people are going to act like it’s really bad. So I think he understood that and understands that. I haven’t talked to him at all because I don’t think any of it really bothers him, and I don’t think he’s a young man that sits and reads. He’s spent his time focusing on Oklahoma, and he wants to win. I’m sure he had scrutiny in his early years at Lake Travis and he listened to his dad, watched his dad. His dad got scrutiny and whoever was playing ahead of his dad sometimes got scrutiny so he understand this. He’s a big guy with big shoulders. As quiet sometimes as Garrett seems, he’s really strong. He’s got strong faith, in fact, I got an email from one of the ministers from his church. We got back from Lubbock at 3:30 in the morning and he was at early church service. So he’s a guy that has strong faith and he believes in himself and his family and he believes in coach Davis and the offense, and he’ll just keep getting better. I think he’s really excited about this game because he knows this is one game that people will talk about throughout his career and then when he’s finished.
On Gilbert being a mobile quarterback: We’ve been averaging about four sacks in the last three games against Oklahoma where they get four sacks on us, so we haven’t done a very good job of protecting even though we’ve won the majority of those games. I’ve been impressed. Garrett’s really strong and he had two sacks I think last week and one of them, we just didn’t block. It was a snap-count issue. I can’t even remember the other one vividly right now. He can run. He’s not as quick as Colt [McCoy]. Nobody’s as quick as Vince [Young], but at the same time he’s an effective runner and he’s doing better. I think we’re seeing him start to attack the line of scrimmage with his eyes downfield like Colt and like Vince did where he has a chance to throw the ball, where they have to stay back or he can run and pick up the first down if not. I think we’ll see that he’s a strong runner. He’s an effective runner. He will not be just a runner like Colt was some and Vince was a lot, but I also feel like he’ll keep improving in that area.
On the dynamics of the Oklahoma game changing without a conference championship: I don’t know. I think that’s why DeLoss [Dodds] and Butch Worley and I have talked about a national game because we’d like for it to replace whatever the conference championship game was going to be. Whether that’s smart or not, I don’t know. Some of the teams haven’t played anyone yet, and we’re still bragging on them. Somebody that’s gotten beat by a real good team, we want to throw them out. If Virginia Tech hadn’t played Boise [State], they’d probably be number four in the country. You have to look at it and see what’s best. What’s fair and what’s best right now may be different, but I do think this game’s not going to change. It’s a national game now and it’s a game that everybody talks about. It’s so unique that people call me and say, “Why is it so special, I want to come see it but tell me why.” And they don’t even know why until they get there. Some of my friends from the southeast have seem the Georgia-Florida, [game] and I have not. So even they say, “Is it like Georgia-Florida?” I can’t tell them it is other than a neutral site, because I haven’t been there. And I know somebody’s said I doubt it will ever be a night game because it’s too dangerous for everybody. I asked a person and they said Georgia-Florida was a night game one time and it was really bad, so they’ll never do it again. So I do think that there’s probably a lot of similarities between the two.
On whether it would be easier to overcome a loss without the conference championship game: I think so because you play everybody. I haven’t put much thought into, but I think that would be easier.
On getting LB Jordan Hicks more playing time: He is not playing as much as I would like to see him. We have been in too many tight games. He is playing all special teams just about, and he is doing really well. But in the first few games we were nickel and dime I thought. We didn’t blow the teams out like we normally do. If you look at Case McCoy, he is not getting to play. Jordan Hicks isn’t getting to play as much. We really have five linebackers and that worries me right now. We haven’t been able to play our youth on the offensive line. We were talking today about how Trey Hopkins and Garrett Porter both need to play more. It would help depth next year.
On the sacrifice of the staff yesterday and what it cost: There was just a wear and tear of emotion. It is easier to sit and talk about things today than it was yesterday - when we didn’t know details about the shooter. After 9/11 and Virginia Tech, our imaginations can run away pretty easily. When you have the possibility of things like that it scares you to death. So at 8:15 [a.m.] when we got the first word until about 1:00 [p.m.] when it was clear, we were just pretty concerned with making sure everybody was safe. After that everybody was spent, but I think everybody did a great job of getting their heads back and we realized that it is OU week and we have a lot of work to do. I am glad everybody is safe. I hate that the young man is gone. But we had to get back to some normalcy. Not to say that it didn’t affect us. There was a thought of whether we should have practice or not. But we actually decided that it would be better to get the kids busy and get them back out there, [rather] than have them scattered and all over the place. You worry about the kids who were around it and what they thought yesterday afternoon. We felt like the right thing to do was get back to work.
On practice yesterday: We practiced at the same time. It was 3:30. We didn’t have classes so we tried to get the kids to eat and get everyone together to talk at the same time. We wanted to make sure they were all ok, and at the same time tell them that if they ever feel down or depressed, to come talk to us. Depression is a tough thing if that was involved. This age group is very susceptible to being down. This is tough week for kids and football. They are down. They get criticized. We want them to feel free to come and talk to us so we can let them know that we are ok. We aren’t as good right now as we wanted to be, but that is part of the challenge of being a college football team. We’ve been spoiled, and now we have to work our way out.
On whether any of the players witnessed any of yesterday’s ordeal: I don’t think so. We didn’t ask. One of the young men was moved from his dorm room because they said he was too close. So it must have been right outside of that area, but he was ok. It seemed like the kids that were in class were not close enough to be affected.
On WR Darius White being ready to play in a game like Oklahoma: I don’t know. He is a little bit behind. He didn’t have a quarterback his senior year [in high school] and he ended up returning kicks more and not catching the ball as much. We are trying to get him there.
On the concern of facing the up-tempo OU offense after the defense was tired after the UCLA game: We go up-tempo every single day of practice. What upset me is that we shouldn’t have been worn down on defense that second half. I think everybody is looking for stuff, but we just need to play better. There are certain things we can’t tell you because it is embarrassing for a young person, and they are not pro football players so we are not going to do that. The offense put the defense in tough situations with the turnovers, and I think the defense got discouraged. The offense played better the second half, but for the defense it is hard playing from behind. Fans aren’t very forgiving and that doesn’t help. That happens everywhere, not just our place. Honestly, if you don’t turn it over five times the game is a lot closer. I think everybody remembers the negative when you lose. But it is my job to assess our game on a practical level and try and fix the things that we know need to be fixed. Injuries have nothing to do with it, either. People get injured and that is part of the game. You have to be able to play with that. Kids know what goes wrong and they will try and do better.
On what the offense does best: I’d say we throw best, and we are still inconsistent there. But we haven’t had many sacks. Garrett is about 60-something percent [completion rate]. We had nine explosive plays and they only had seven. That’s what we want. We are doing things reasonably well, but it doesn’t look like that right now because we don’t score. We aren’t finishing.
On any new punt returners: Well, we are probably looking at Aaron [Williams] this week - and not just because Curtis [Brown] had a tough time because Aaron did too - but because Curtis needs to get his confidence back.
On the similarities between this year’s offense versus last year’s offense: I don’t know enough about what they went through. There is no doubt that we would have rather had Tray Allen healthy and he is still in a boot, and Luke [Poehlmann] is still out. So what is happening is that we are having to force young guys in there that we weren’t sure if they would be ready. That is not something that we usually have to do here.
On D.J. Monroe being more comfortable with the offense: The ball security is better. The mesh in the handoffs are better. He is running better routes. He is just much more comfortable. There is no doubt that his size is unique for a running back, but he fits that position much better than he does wide receiver.
On how much momentum really matters: You would like to have momentum all the time, and that is really the thing about it. I do think that our program and our coaches bounce back well. In a place like this there is so much pressure. I remember when I was at LSU they said that if you lose to Florida, the fans are so hard on you that you may lose the rest of them. And Florida was the same way, so the team that won that game back in the 80s, one came out of it and the other went under. UCLA - we would have rather won. Coaches learn that not everything works all the time. Momentum sometimes can be a bad thing when you are too cool, or when you act like you are above the situation. But we got hit right in the face, and we did not respond to it as a group and so we need to fight to get that momentum back.
On needing momentum to succeed against Oklahoma: Coming into this game with confidence is very important. Somebody asked me about Garrett Monday, because this is his first Texas OU game. I do think that because he played at Tech, and he played at the National Championship will help him this week. Because those environments will be no different than this one. When I was at OU in ’84, I remember that they used to drive the buses right through the middle of the fair. And I remember that there were literally fans shaking the bus. Coach [Barry] Switzer looked at me, and I remember him telling me, “Now you get it, don’t you?” Now we come in the back way. There are some scenes back there too, though. I used to look straight ahead and not look, but now you kind of get entertained by the signs you see, and I also am including hand signs. You get a lot of different stuff when you are coming in the stadium. I remember at the emergency room they used to keep score of how many Texas and OU fans they used to get in at night.
On coaching around Darrell Royal and Barry Switzer: I never had the privilege of coaching for coach Royal, but I have been lucky enough to have been around him so much. Coach Royal was hard and tough. Both of them believed in running the football. Both of them believed that you take deep shots for passes for touchdowns. You don’t waste time on quick outs. Coach Switzer never liked pass [drills]. He thought it was like two hand touch. He always asked, “When is this going to be over so we can go get physical?” I don’t think coach Royal had much pass [drills]. Both of them had a great confidence about themselves, and both of them thought they were going to win and were great leaders and had tremendous staffs. Coach Switzer used to say, “Not everything can be important.” So people used to wonder why they had music boxes and such out on the field, and when asked why he didn’t use more traditional means of warming up, he would say, “Just let them get loose. If they need music to do so, why not let them?” Both of them knew how to win and both of them knew what was important to doing so. Coach Royal has been credited for saying, “Dance with the one that brought you.” Both of them give it to their best players and didn’t want to waste time. I also will always remember coach Switzer said, “You shouldn’t ever have a guy on the field who can’t score if he touches the ball.” It is hard to do, easy to say. But we have tried to do that ourselves.
On the bye week after this game: We always have tough off weeks, and we have so many young ones that we have to coach hard in the off week. We are playing two top ten teams on the off week both of them technically on the road. We will just have to go back to work and try to figure out each week now - what everyone can do and what they can do the best. Off weeks are tough weeks because you need to get things fixed.