Tracking Mack: Oct. 1
Oct. 1, 2008
Opening statement: We are really proud of Cedric Benson, that he's back with the Cincinnati Bengals and got a chance to restart his professional career. They are struggling a little bit at 0-4, so he'll have an opportunity to go in and play. Somebody said he was headed there today and would have a chance to play Sunday. Good for him. When I told the team yesterday, they were all very proud of him. It'll give him a chance for a new start.
The start of the Big 12 is always exciting because you have new goals after the non-conference schedule. Secondly, for us, it's even more exciting to go on the road because it's tougher to win on the road in the Big 12. We're playing a night game, which is always fun. For our guys, it'll be really cool compared to the 94 degrees they've had all week. And lastly, you cut your squad down. You only take 70 and everybody that gets on that plane understands they have a specific duty and there is a reason they were taken. So it pulls you a little closer together as you're going.
Also, when you go back and look at the four teams we've played, they've all thrown the ball well, but none of them have really attempted to run the ball against us. We thought Arkansas would, but we jumped out so quickly that they had to abandon their plan and did not have a chance to run the ball at us like we know we're going to get Saturday night. Colorado is one of the few teams, because they've incorporated some no huddle with it, that continues to shift and motion and give you a lot of different looks in the running game. So they'll give us some fits and we've got to do a great job of stepping up.
We only have two Colorado guys on our team right now and those are Lamarr Houston, from Colorado Springs, and Nolan Brewster, who is from Denver. They'll be going back to their home state. We have not played (Colorado) since either of those two guys has been here.
We think it's healthy that we'll see some adversity on the road for the first time. This will be a game that's going to be tight, it'll be tough. Usually on the road, you're behind and you have to fight through some things and come back. Winning on the road usually depends on a good run defense, running the football, winning the turnover battle and the kicking game. Unless you can do those things on the road, you usually have a difficult time. Obviously one of those we haven't done very well yet and that's been consistency with our running backs. That'll be a big key for us this weekend.
On Fozzy Whittaker: I really can't [tell you anything] because if you do, you get into injuries. Fozzy's been interesting. People have said, "Well he's practicing, why isn't he playing?" You have to be able to practice full speed. You have to be 100 percent. At that position, you're going to have a lot of interest. There are going to be a lot of mad people showing up, wanting to hit you. So the doctors and trainers have to make sure that he's 100 percent and he just hasn't been there yet. Every day we look at him. Every day we're all pulling for him. It's always the guy that's not playing that everybody is asking about. They don't ask about the ones playing. So we have to focus on the ones that are playing. You never plan on playing with a guy until he's 100 percent. If he's there, we'll deal with it and if he's not, it's not an issue.
On the role of the running back nationwide in today's game of spread offenses: We're seeing a trend where I think we're going to have to get away from just rushing yards. High schools usually take on the trends of colleges, and so many colleges right now have spread. So we're even looking at determining how our backs are doing based on the number of touches because a screen or a draw play, a shuffle pass, all those things now really need to start (factoring into) their production yards. We've never had as many passes to them before across the country. They used to be I-running backs and you'd pitch a sweep to them, those types of things. We do feel like we're seeing smaller running backs that can play because of what people are doing across the country. But we're seeing fewer rushing yards by and large with them unless they're still an option team or just a primarily running team. We're not seeing that as much across the country.
On forecasting the slow start to last year's conference season: The three games that I did not feel like we played with as high an energy as we needed to last year were Kansas State, Oklahoma State and [Texas] A&M, two of the three on the road. We thought we had great practices and the guys were focused, we didn't see anything (wrong). We showed up at the game and acted like a different bunch. This bunch has not done that yet. We've probably been too hard on last year's team. They really came back and had a super second half against TCU last year, then blew out Rice. There we were at 4-0, getting ready to play (Kansas State) and we stunk. We could go back and say it's mid-terms, allergies are bad, it's really hot in Austin, the altitude is high, (Colorado) beat Oklahoma last year this week, we lost to Kansas State, it's the week before OU - none of that really matters. People have talked about the two championship games; all those things are so far gone. What's really important is who plays the best on Saturday night and that's all it's about. It's not about the best program, the best team or who's mad, it's about who plays the best on Saturday night. That's what college football has become. If you look at last night's game with Middle Tennessee [State] and Florida Atlantic, Middle Tennessee actually beat Maryland and came within six inches of beating Kentucky. So who knows anymore? You have to take the names off the jersey of the opposing team and play your best every week to have a chance to win.
On the learning experience from last year's games against Kansas State, Oklahoma State and Texas A&M: We learned that you'd better not sit around and think (the players) going to play good just because you practiced well. We went back to work and for whatever reason, they played better against Arizona State.
On how they are preparing for Colorado: What we're trying to do is improve on the things that we need to from the first four weeks that we haven't done as well as we need to, and build on this team. We've got probably the hardest schedule we've ever had so what we're working is we have got to continue to get better and we've got to play with high energy. So we're coaching them as hard as we can every play and not talking about all the negative things that may happen, but the positive things that they're doing and trying to correct the others.
On Colorado's greatest strength: Running the ball. When you look at what [Colorado RB Rodney] Stewart has been able to do, he's averaging 87 yards a game. Darrell Scott is getting some touches, as well. So they're rushing for over 125 yards a game. You go on the road and you're sitting there in a ballgame like Oregon State-(Southern Cal) the other night, SC didn't get as many touches. With the new 40-second clock, they're running the ball and all of a sudden you look up, a couple plays go against you, you're down 21-0 and the game is over. The 40-second clock doesn't affect you if you're throwing it or if you're high-tempo. If the other team is running it, slowing the clock down and taking the full 40 seconds, all of a sudden the game goes really quickly. So I'm really not sure yet that we're as good against the run as we need to be because we haven't been tested and I think we'll know that leaving Boulder on Saturday night.
On the tough aspects of playing in Colorado: We like playing there. They're excited to see us. It's a fun game. I think the other two games were in the afternoon, so our guys, because of their El Paso experience, are excited about the night game. We think it's fun. You love to go play where the crowd is loud and full, you love sellouts, you love TV, you love the build-up of the game, and you know it's going to be a tough game with both teams excited. That's a fun thing for kids and coaches and that's why you coach. If you go somewhere and nobody cares, it's a hot afternoon and everybody is miserable and watching the clock, the game is not exciting and you're trying to get home fast, it's a long day. This one will not be that way. This will be fun and exciting.
On not looking ahead on the schedule: Everybody on this team is different. Everybody has a different personality. The team depends on how the whole plays. It's not about the best players, it's about who plays the best together. Some guys will not look past anybody. Roy Miller is looking at whipping somebody in front of him in practice today. It's not a question, he doesn't know who we play yet next week and may not know who we play Saturday. Some of them may start looking beyond, and that's really dangerous. So what we try to do is both. We say on Sunday, don't hear anything except Colorado. Then we put up the upsets of last week. We did mention last year's Oklahoma game [versus Colorado]. At that point we mentioned last year's Kansas State game. You don't want to work so hard to convince your team they can be upset because you end up talking about all the negatives, so after Sunday we were done with that.
On the no huddle offense: We really like it. As long as you can make sure you're attempting enough runs, then you're okay. In our mind, you can't get too pass-happy. You have to be careful. It's so much and so easy that when your passing game is not working like it has the first four weeks, we've still got to be able to win and that's something that concerns us. So we're continuing to try to get better with our backs, being physical and understanding that it's unfair to put pressure on Colt [McCoy] to complete 80 percent every week. At the same time, we'd like to John Chiles in the game more. We need him to continue to get better and we need our second-team offense to play more because depth is one real key advantage we have in the league over a few teams, and it's something that we need to utilize here at the end.
On how the no huddle in practice improves the defense: (It does help), especially with conditioning. So much of the time when you're playing spread offenses and then no-huddle offenses, your big guys will give out because they're rushing the passer and they're so up-tempo. You'll notice now, when most people are calling a play or acting like it, they'll look to the sideline, they'll wait and then they may have a long count. So those big defensive linemen are staying in their stance for a long time and they give out. You have to have enough of them, and if you don't, you absolutely give out and can't rush the passer. In that case, you get into trouble in the fourth quarter.
On Colorado: We've beaten the teams we were supposed, like we were supposed to, but we still haven't been tested by a really good football team that's going to be physical. I think Colorado will be both of those. We will absolutely get Colorado's best shot. They were not happy with the way they played last week in the second half against Florida State and they'll be excited. It's a great opportunity for them after their win against West Virginia to come back and show that they're the same team against us.