Oct. 5, 2009
Opening statement: We had a great bye week. It came at a good time for us, and the guys got a mental and physical break. Hopefully all of the guys will be ready to go this weekend. They took off Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. We had our practice at 6:00 this morning, some of the guys showed up at 5:30. We practiced for about an hour and a half. We had really good work in the stadium, it was dark like it is going to be Saturday night and there was a little drizzle so we got some rain work as well. It sets the tempo for the entire week, and now the guys have the rest of the day off to rest up for tomorrow's practice and get back in the classroom, so that will help them too.
Players and coaches watched a lot of games this weekend, so it was fun, but it was an eye opener. We told them to sit like coaches and watch games and see what you would do in that situation and see what actually happens. It was fun for me because I had guys texting me throughout the night, on Thursday night's game with Colorado and West Virginia, and Friday night and Saturday night. "What would we do here coach? Who do you think is going to win? How's this one going to come out?" So it was really fun to back away from it and just watch other teams play and kind of get a feel for where we really are.
We did a lot of tough studies over the last week to try to know more about ourselves, where we need to improve, and things that we've looked at, and we've said know more about our identity as we get ready to go into this weekend's game. We got a lot of work with our young guys. We stayed out there a long time after practice on Wednesday and Thursday, and really got a lot of individual work and fundamental stuff that the guys that aren't playing need, because they'll have bowl practice coming up soon and spring practice before you know it. And it was fun for them to get some attention.
Then our seven coaches had an outstanding week of recruiting. So they went out on Thursday night and got to see a lot of games. It is time to restart the season. We've got four really difficult conference games coming up - one at home, one at a neutral site and two on the road - and this is kind of the stretch last year that gave us some trouble. We played well the first game last year, the second game we played really well. Then we didn't play as well against Oklahoma State and didn't play well at all out at Tech. We need to go through this stretch with a strong mentality and then start over. You've got to have a lot of energy, and last year it kind of beat us down. It's very important and to know that three of those are road games, so we've been at home, we've been pretty comfortable. We've got one more at home. We've got three home games left on the year, but then we have to be good on the road and that's much more difficult.
Saturday night's game is at 6:15 and it will be on ESPN. When you look around and see all the upsets it shows you again what, I believe, is that you shouldn't have preseason polls. We're starting to find out who the best teams are now and the next couple of weeks. By the middle of October, you know who's for real and who is just pre-season hype. A lot of that is starting to happen now. When you look at where Houston was and UTEP last week; that is enough of a message to our coaches and players that you better go to work regardless of who you play every week because you are not sure who's out there.
Our players and coaches asked me last night if I would say something about breast cancer awareness month. I asked them how many families in that room have been affected by breast cancer and over two-thirds were. My mother's been affected by breast cancer and she is doing well, and my good friend Phil Mickleson's wife, Amy, within this year has been affected. It is an awful disease and we would like for everybody's thoughts and prayers to be with the people who are afflicted by that disease and their families, not only this month but year-round. The players have asked about doing something during the game since a lot of the pro teams did yesterday and that's something that The University is looking at right now to see if there is some way to bring more awareness, but I wanted to say that today just to make sure.
The Colorado game is important for us. We've got two players from the state of Colorado - Lamarr Houston and Nolan Brewster - and we've got four staff members. Kenny Boyd was the trainer at Colorado. (Wide receivers coach) Bobby Kennedy grew up in Boulder. You start looking at (Assisant AD/Strength and Conditioning) Jeff Madden and his years there when they won a national championship, but also Donnie Maib was on the staff with Jeff Madden when they were there. So (Colorado) coach (Dan) Hawkins will have them ready and they will be excited about here and this stadium will be rocking again this Saturday night.
On Colorado QB Cody Hawkins: Yes, we actually had Cody here at our camp. He came down and spent time with us. I think Major was coaching him at that time when he was a graduate assistant. Cody is a lot like Colt. He is tough, he's smart, he makes good decisions, and you're not going to rattle him. Every time he gets knocked down, he jumps up before they get off the field and he is a very good football player. They are throwing the ball more this year than they did last year, and he's throwing it at a very high rate.
On UTEP and Houston and whether or not it is more about being ready to play than how good you are: Dick Tomey made a statement to me when he coached here that I thought has been so true. It's not about the best program, and it's not about the best team, it's about the team that plays the best on that day. So when everybody walks out and says we beat them nine out of 10 it means absolutely nothing because the one that we played, we lost. And you don't get another nine out of 10 that year. Oh, we didn't play well that day, but you got beat, because it's your responsibility to play well each week. I think we're seeing that you better bring you're A-game each week. There are enough teams that are alike, and when you look at how bad (UTEP) played here and then how good they looked the other night. I talked to Mike Price on Monday and said, "I'll bet you, I don't know how it's going to come out, but I'll bet you. I left him a message yesterday, I didn't talk to him, but it is hard to play every week and Houston came off of a very emotional game with Oklahoma State and a very emotional game with Texas Tech, and looking at our film, there is no way that they are going to have respect for UTEP. And the players laughed at me when I walked into the meeting room last night. They said the poison cheese; "Coach, that poison cheese is out there and you can't eat it." And they can't. They've got to be smart. You can't listen to all that's around you and you just need to play your best every week, and that's hard to do. I used to think it was easy to do. I would say, "Why can't you play 12 times?" Not many people do it, and I don't know why, but it doesn't happen very often that you take you're A-game 12 times. You're going to have to win some games that you don't play well in.
On whether it is the reason he preaches the standard: We felt like in preseason 2005 that we were second in the country and USC was number one and everybody said to us that if you don't win the National Championship or play USC in it you've had a bad year. So how can we get our players ready to play Louisiana-Lafayette in the season opener? So what we said was if you all want to win the National Championship, then you have to play like it every week. You have to play to the standard of the best team in the country. So we actually started taking our game, regardless of who it was against, and seeing how it fit against Southern Cal, and that's what we're trying to do now. We're trying to put enough pressure on our team that when they go out and beat a team 64-7 that there are still some things that we need to do better in order to win all of our games.
On Jordan Shipley: First, Jordan is a wonderful role model and story for everyone out there who is struggling right now, because here is guy that I thought might should have quit. I told Bo Scaife that he should have quit. I wasn't sure about Jordan. Here is a guy who loses two years, and he has a really bad hamstring, he has a banged up knee, nothing is happening good for him and he has had everything happen right for him in his life with sports. Now it's all down hill, and what he has done is kept coming and kept coming and when he got back, he didn't do great, he didn't have all his speed back. He has just done wonderfully. You have to give him credit for the attitude, his toughness, and his perseverance. Now he is one of the best players in the country.
On the mental strain of the season and breaking it into sections: The mental strain over the year, for me, gets long and hard. What I need is to do it for me. First, to start over from fresh and restart. How exciting, the first game of the year again. If it's that way for a 58-year-old it has to be that way for a young guy in the middle of mid-terms. He is fighting through stuff, he is going on the road three weeks after this one, which is a very tough stretch, and then you come back and start over again. So we try to divide things up just where it looks like this is fun and exciting to restart. People like "new," they like "fresh," they like "starts." We throw the stats out and start over. It also gives guys the chance, if they haven't done well, to get a new start.
On if he coaches his players for teams like they're the same, whether they're ranked high or not: Yes, and three of these four are ranked teams, and Missouri is undefeated, but none of that really matters. It's the fact that it's tougher to win on the road than at home. This team went on the road and had a slow start against Wyoming. So we have got to play well and increase that standard this weekend and get ready to play away from home for the next three weeks, because this is a comfortable place to play. We also want them to understand that whatever happened last year during the fourth game of that stretch we need to fix because this is pretty much the same stretch, and then we come back with Central Florida for an out-of-conference game and we'll start the season over there because that is a very different thing for us to do, to play an out-of-conference game this late in the season and then we have a tough stretch to finish.
On why the Big 12 Conference has changed so much this year: I don't think it has changed that much. To me, it is usually changed by its quarterbacks. Teams go as their quarterback goes. If you look at the best teams in the country, they have the best quarterbacks, and that's what happens. I go back to usually older quarterbacks are better than younger ones, but at the same time, Colt won 10 games as a freshman. If he hadn't gotten hurt he might have won 12. That's not always the case, but by in large, when your team has an experienced quarterback and some defense you're in pretty good shape.
On Rodney Stewart: Tough as nails, quick as can be, he has really good vision, but he's never down. He just keeps fighting, and we saw that last year. He is a guy that really concerns you. Colorado is not running the ball quite as well as they were last year and our concern is that they will come in and try to run the ball against us, and by running, handle our pass rush and give Cody time to throw. You have to stop the run. We stopped the run against UTEP and that gave us a chance to put pressure on the quarterback, but if you allow a team to run then you have got a chance to get beat.
On whether there were any texts from the players about the OU game last week: No there really wasn't. Our media and fans look ahead more than our players and you all don't have to play, but I think our players have been around long enough and they just look at Saturday again. You look at every game and about the time you go out there and stand around, I think Houston maybe had six turnovers and UTEP didn't turn it over. You have to be ready to play to take care of your business. And as much as we say it, really and truly you all don't have to believe it, our players have to understand that if you don't play well you can lose to anybody. It doesn't matter. Every year you can look up and find some reason that you better get yourself up and ready to play. Really and truly, we think we have a better idea of who we are right now. With the identity in place, this should be fun for us. This should be a great week for us. We only have three home games left, so what an awful thing for our guys not to be excited for this one. So we're pumped, we're excited. The guys were excited to see each other yesterday and they were excited to see each other at practice this morning.