Oct. 1, 2012
Opening statement: It was another big weekend for the Big 12 Conference. You start talking about NCAA stats - Big 12 has the top three teams, and four of the top eight, in total offense. You start looking at what this conference is producing across the country, it's a lot of points.
There are some good defenses that are having trouble. The top-three, and five of the top-11 teams in scoring defense. So it's a conference that we said we thought would be much better, and it is. Big 12 also has had a 26-3 non-conference record, which leads the nation, [that’s] 89.9% of non-conference wins. We have the fewest losses in the FBS conference. The league is stable and moving forward, but also is going to be very good in football, and that's what we thought.
As a team we've won 58 straight games when winning the turnover battle. When you start talking about differences other than the score, that shows the difference right there. You've got to win the turnover battle.
Right now we rank fifth nationally in time of possession. We've been able to keep the ball offensively 33:45 minutes per game. A big difference in the OSU game was when they reached the red zone five times, they came away with two field goals. We reached the red zone four times and came away with four touchdowns.
We're [30-8] in games decided by five points or less since 1998. So we've shown the ability to win close ball games. We are also 21-4 in games decided by three points or less. So we constantly talk to our players about winning close games, the last-minute drive or stop. That's something that I'm very, very proud of our program, guys and coaches, for doing. They've been able to manage late games very, very well.
We scored 152 points in the last three games, which is the most that we've scored [in a three-game stretch] since the final three games of 2005. Against Colorado, A&M, Kansas, we scored 176 points. So we're finally scoring points like other teams in this league, and that's something that's very important for us. Because you're not going to win games in this league unless you score points. Our offense is balanced right now. There are three teams in the top-10 in passing efficiency, and top-20 in rushing offense - that's us, Georgia, Florida State. We've been trying to get to a balance of both run and pass for the past few years. We're doing that after four weeks.
We've allowed the fewest number of tackles for loss in the country, with nine total. Only one of those plays has been by running backs or the offensive line. Our [running] backs are doing a good job of making sure we don't have negative plays. We're fourth in the FBS in offensive third-down efficiencies, converting 58.3%, which is phenomenal. That's 35-out-of-60 of [our] attempts. I think the reason we're doing that is we're keeping manageable third downs. We're not having the third-and-15s, third-and-16s. So we're doing a better job there.
[Sophomore QB] David Ash is one of only four quarterbacks in Texas history to throw for 300 yards in consecutive games. He also tied the UT record for the fastest to 1,000 yards passing, accomplishing that in four games. I think the other two were Major Applewhite and James Brown. [Senior QB] Geno Smith is No. 1 in passing efficiency at West Virginia with a rating of 208.4, and David Ash is No. 2 in passing efficiency with a rating of 184. So our fans have a real treat this weekend to see the two most efficient passers in the country coming into Austin.
The two turnovers given up by our team this year is the third-fewest nationally, and we've got to continue to do that. Protecting the ball has helped us so much.
Offensively, our most valuable offensive lineman was [senior OT] Luke Poehlmann. Luke is playing so well for us. He can play either guard, either tackle. He comes in on our power sets, just doing a phenomenal job, and is also becoming a tremendous leader.
Most valuable players on offense were Davis Ash and [sophomore WR] Jaxon Shipley. David's was obvious, and Jaxon had three touchdown catches and made a lot of blocks.
The things we did well on defense; we held them to two touchdowns in the red zone in five trips, including a key stop at the end of the game. But they had three field goals. I think the most important thing is that we told our defense, “If you can hold them to a field goal at the end, our offense is going to win the game.” They were able to do that. That was key, because we knew if they scored a touchdown, go for two [point conversion], it puts us in a tougher spot because then we're coming back and have [a much] more difficult deal. But very similar to last year, they stopped the two-point conversion earlier, then came back and held them to a field goal at the end. That's a five-point swing that allowed us to kick a field goal at the end of the game or go for the touchdown.
[The defense] also intercepted a ball [on] our end of the field. Our defense gave the offense a short field. The offense turned that into seven points. When Oklahoma State's defense intercepted David Ash, they took it down for a field goal, so we gained four points in that exchange. You have to get points off of your turnovers, or you have to keep the other team from getting points when they get a turnover or a short field. Our front-four played very physically and got a good push up front. We did have a good pass-rush. [Junior DE] Jackson Jeffcoat forced a fumble and [senior DE] Alex [Okafor] had a sack.
Things we did poorly; we gave up two explosive touchdowns and had missed tackles by defensive backs on both. We had 12 missed tackles overall, on seven plays. Three of those missed tackles, again this week, equaled 109 yards of offense and two touchdowns.
You're seeing poor tackling across the country. It's concerning to all coaches. You're seeing more big plays on offense, and high scoring. We've all got to do a better job of trying to teach tackling.
I'm sure one of the reasons is the head-to-head [tackling] being called so much more now ,and guys are more cautious. We're seeing heads down, seeing guys lunge. We have to continue to do a better job. Last year we were young on the outside, older down the middle. You can cover up the outside stuff better. Now we're young down the middle. Young linebackers need to play better. We missed some tackles in the secondary. We've got to stop doing that. Overall, most of the secondary played better and the linebackers just struggled. A lot of new youth and we've got to play better at that position.
The thing that got me the worst, I thought, is our inability to stop the run. You got to take something away. Saturday night we made key stops, but we never took entire thing away. They rushed for 275 yards as an offense, then [were] able to throw for 300-something [yards]. You have to take something away. We didn't either way. That's something we have to try to do a better job of this weekend. We've got to be more physical, because that's the most physical Oklahoma State team I've seen. [Junior RB Joseph] Randle was a phenomenal runner on Saturday night. We didn't tackle him very well. We did a better job with him last year.
Ball hawks - guys that took a ball away. [Junior DE Jackson] Jeffcoat forced a fumble that we didn't get, so we have to get on that. That's another opportunity for us. [Senior S] Kenny Vaccaro had an interception that led us to points, and helped us win the game. We did not have a Hard Hat award for the night.
The most valuable player for the game was [sophomore CB] Quandre Diggs. He played great, but missed an opportunity for an interception, which stops them from getting three points. In this league it is about scoring points right now. You've got to take every opportunity you can to stop the other team from getting their points.
Our kickoff coverage; seven kickoffs, three-of-the-five were touchbacks that we tried to kick out. We had one sky kick. The kick was good. We missed tackles on it as well, because we missed too many tackles on the kickoff coverage team. There also was a squib kick that many thought hit the young man's hand, would have been out at the 17-yard line. They gave it to him at the 35 [yard line]. We didn't want to give [OSU junior CB] Justin Gilbert opportunities. He's the best in the country at returning kickoffs. He was a guy that really worried us, so we tried to change it up some.
If we could kick it out every time we would, but we weren't kicking it out every time. That was key for us. You start looking at the other side of that, but they averaged 31.7 yards on the [returns]. And we had one tackle inside the 20 [yard line], that was [freshman FB] Alex De La Torre, but we missed five tackles on kickoff coverage. We've got to continue to improve in that area as well.
We had four punts for 151 yards. Our net punt was 35.8 yard average, but we had three inside the 20 [yard line] so that skewed that average. We are still one of the best net-punt teams in the country.
We had two penalties because they were having trouble hearing early in the ballgame, and we just absolutely missed an opportunity, about five of us, to recover a fumble which would have been at the 10-yard line and again lead to points. We can't miss those opportunities.
Our kickoff rush, [there were] six touchbacks. I think [OSU PK/P Quinn Sharp] is the best kicker in the country when you look at what the guy has been able to accomplish as a kicker and punter. [Senior RB] D.J. Monroe returned one for 100 yards for a touchdown. That's three touchdowns off kickoffs [for him], which is the most in the history of Texas football. [Sophomore LB] Tevin Jackson, [senior RB] Jeremy Hills and [sophomore CB] Leroy Scott made great blocks on his return, and [Monroe] made two people miss. He has great explosion. So I'm really, really proud of D.J. But we did a better return of returning our kickoffs than they did. They missed some tackles on that one.
The punt-block returning, we call a posse. They were averaging 49 yards per punt. We held them to 36 yards per punt, 13 under the average. We had good pressure on the punter except where he dropped the snap. Again, a missed opportunity. If we were blocking that one, having the one coming off our right side, that would have been huge for field position and led to more points. Player of the week on special teams was D.J. Monroe.
West Virginia, an interesting stat; we played West Virginia in 1956. We played here in Austin in front of a crowd of 30,000. West Virginia won the game on Oct. 6, which is interesting as well. They won the game 7-6. They completed four-of-nine passes for 46 yards, to show you how football has changed over the years. West Virginia held Texas to two plays at the 1-foot line late in the game to secure the victory. It was decided by a missed extra point. So those things are different.
Right now you go to [WVU senior QB] Geno Smith - 20 touchdowns, no interceptions. He's completing 83.4% of his passes. Wide receivers [Senior WR] Tavon Austin, [redshirt junior WR] Stedman Bailey and [redshirt senior WR] J.D. Woods have 19 touchdown catches. Unbelievable what they've been able to do. Veteran offensive line, three seniors up front, nine seniors on offense. They're leading the country in about every offensive category.
They're solid on defense, holding people to 121 yards rushing per game, so they're 38th. They've done a great job with tackles for loss and pressures. They have 13 sacks this year, 34 tackles for loss.
A freshman, [LB] Isaiah Bruce, leads the team with 43 tackles, [senior LB] Terence Garvin leads the team with four sacks and six tackles for loss. Another linebacker, [senior Josh] Francis, has 6.5 tackles for loss.
They're big up front on both sides of the ball. Should be a great match up between two top teams. Should be a rowdy crowd Saturday night. I think it will be much like the '08 crowd with Missouri. When you have a top team coming in here, we have as good fans as anybody. It should be fun for everybody.
On West Virginia’s offensive personnel: They are definitely a deep team. [Geno Smith is] so accurate. He seems smart. He's composed. He has all the pressure of trying to win the Heisman, handle all the stuff. He seems to handle it with poise and grace all the time. But, boy is he good. Those guys can fly. Two of them are 5'10". They are not tall guys. They have nine years and two years into this offense. They know what they are doing. Tavon Austin is 5'9", 171. Stedman Bailey is 5'10", 171. J.D. Woods is the bigger one, 6'1", 190. But all three can just fly. What do you do? You blitz them, one-on-one, try to play zone. They can run the ball. Big tailback this week, [Shawne] Alston. He's a 236-pound senior that can really run. You start talking about them - how do you take anything away because they're so good?
On missed tackles: We talked about it a long time last night, trying to figure out what to do, because it's obviously not good. ou don't like it. We're seeing people not wrap-up. We're seeing people grab and not tackle, grab cloth. Like I said, I think some kids have gotten so tentative because we're showing film every week of guys that are suspended for a big hit. The biggest thing we talked about yesterday is we have a four-game history now on guys that are missing tackles. We're going to have to look at somebody else. I mean, that's just what we're doing. We don't know about the injured players. You have [RB] Malcolm Brown, [LB] Jordan Hicks, [DT] Brandon Moore, [PK]Anthony Fera, all of which we'll have to watch this week. We don't know. We'll know more by Friday. We're trying to be fair and upfront. But I was excited [RB] Johnathan Gray came in for Malcolm Brown and did a tremendous job late in the ballgame. I think he obviously has earned the right to play early in a ballgame. We missed Brandon Moore, but the defensive front played well. They played well. You can't tell when they're that porous in the running game. We missed Jordan Hicks, would like to have him back, and Anthony Fera.
On QB David Ash being a player who can thrive under pressure: I think so. To be 'the' guy in everybody's mind, you have to win a close game on the road in a fourth-quarter drive. He didn't panic on fourth-and-six. His demeanor was no different than it was after he completed the fourth-and-six. He is methodical about his work, and he didn't lose his composure or poise at all. That has to be a huge case of earning confidence with the other kids for him. He proved something that's very, very difficult to do. When you've done that around here, guys respect you, and fans. I think everybody is buying in that he's playing really well.
On if there is a noticable difference in Ash’s in-game demeanor: Yes. He has even said the game was moving so fast. We talked to some of the linebackers Sunday. They said, “Coach, it's moving fast.” What he's done is the game slowed down for him now. [Co-offensive coordinator] Bryan Harsin has done a tremendous job with him. You have to give a lot of credit to [OSU QB] J.W. Walsh. You can see how hard it is to recruit here. You take one, but you have Michael [Brewer] out at Tech that we'll see before he gets through his career. You have J.W. Walsh, David Ash, and those are the three guys that year you were looking at. All three of them are good. You got to hope the one you take is good, because the ones you're going to play against will be good. David Ash is really playing well, and I hope we'll see the same thing Saturday.
On how to match-up with West Virginia’s offense: We were disappointed as a defense overall Saturday night, obviously. We were proud of the things we did. That's what you have to do against a offense like West Virginia. You're not going to take them away, stop them. What you have to do is stop them at the opportunities you take. This isn't going to be a shutdown game. The guy just scored 70 points. I mean, unbelievable. It's just amazing. They're a lot like the Oklahoma State offense last year that scored 76, I think, before they came in here the week before the game with Kansas, that they beat them so badly. But they can score so fast. What happens is you're never up far enough that they can't come back, and if they're really up on you, they can score fast. So we had big time of possession advantage the other night. We had 80 plays to 68 plays. Some of that is because they scored so fast. Some of that is not a good sign.
On West Virginia’s weaknesses: I don't think any. Like I said, nine seniors that know what they're doing. They're very confident. All of a sudden you bring a conference champion from the Big East in here to the Big 12, they're a contender nationally. We made our league tougher. Both the teams we brought in are undefeated.
On WR Mike Davis: I thought there's three things with Mike that really have impressed me. Number one is blocking downfield. He's tougher, but he's really being a team guy right now. All three of those receivers, that's one of the things this offense gives you opportunities to do, different guys show up. Last year he dropped a ball in a game. Last year he would have had a tendency to be down on himself, not have the confidence to come back. To have the confidence to come back and make a play against one of the best corners in the country I think says the world about him. What a catch. Gosh, what a catch. Just an unbelievable play.
On RB/WR D.J. Monroe: D.J. has been a fan favorite for a long time. I've answered more questions about D.J. than [ever] this year. Nobody is asking anymore because he's playing well. He's improved on and off the field. He's matured, grown up, become a team leader. He's stronger than ever before. The two tackles he broke on the kickoff return were a lot like the examples of him running in the plays because he's not being tackled very much. He had a sweep into the boundary where he made seven yards, a real physical run in the game as well. But he's such a team guy. He's really helping the young guys that were high school stars that are having to fight their way on the field to find a place. He's helping them understand [saying] “I've been here five years, it took me five years to find a place, so y'all need to work hard, earn your right, but be patient.” He's totally about winning right now. It's so much fun for me to see him. He'll graduate in December. Everything in his life is really good right now. I'm so proud for him and proud of him, and he's really helping our football team. What a great run that was. I didn't realize we returned kickoffs for touchdowns two years now against Oklahoma State. Thank goodness they didn't on us.
On winning more games at home: I really don't look back. I sure haven't looked much the last two years. I do remember asking Roy Williams, the receiver, one year when we had a recruit come in and say, “What do the guys do at a ballgame after they lose?” I asked Roy. He said, “Coach, I've never lost a home game. It hit me then.” Guys are getting the home thing back. The crowd is back into it. I'm so proud of our crowd for two years. We haven't been great, and our crowd has been unbelievable to hang in there with us. Who shows up with over 100,000 people for a 5-7 team? That just doesn't happen. Texas fans take a lot of hits. Our fans have been great. I get very few bad emails. It's amazing how many folks are wanting this young team to get back on track. The fact that we're only playing four, five seniors is really going to be a step forward for the future. I thought Saturday night's win was like some of the old teams on the road when they won. So we're getting some of who we are back, and that's fun.
On the top two quarterbacks in the country playing against each other: I wouldn't have thought that either. That's [Associate Athletics Director for Media Relations (Football)] John Bianco this morning, early. It is fun to see the two most efficient passing quarterbacks in the country in Austin, Texas this weekend. This is a great matchup, one that our fans will really look forward to.
On former women’s basketball coach Jody Conradt getting a statue erected at the Erwin Center: Number one, Jody Conradt is a legend around here. It's unbelievable what she's done for our program. She's just really special. Whatever recognitions she gets, statue or whatever, she deserves. She was at the game and in the dressing room Saturday night. She's been so supportive of me and our football program. I love Jody Conradt. Sally and I just love her to death. I think Vince [Young] and [Bo Scaife] are going to come by for practice and hopefully stay for the game. Vince is doing a lot better. He's communicating better. I told him we need to get him back, get him on the practice field. He was pretty good against Oklahoma State. He could have helped us last weekend as well.
On if a few defensive stops to win is the new mentality: It is. I think what we've got to do, Texas has been a defensive school and a school that's run the ball for years. Right now the world is changing out there. We still have to have stops, force turnovers. We're not seeing the dominant defensive performances that we've seen even three years ago. Defenses have to catch up because offenses are ruling the roost now. Everybody is going no-huddle, speeding up the game. Defenses get tired. You don't have as much depth. People get hurt, worn out. When you're tired, some of those missed tackles will really affect you.