Oct. 14, 2009
Opening statement: Bill Little made me aware this week that the game was moved to Dallas in 1929 and this is the latest in the season the game has been played since 1931, so it is a little bit unique, but it looks like the weather is going to be great, everybody seems to be really excited about it, the kids have had a great week of practice and they’re doing well. I know that they’re looking forward to this, it’s the game you look forward to all year, sometimes it makes it a little bit tougher up until this point to get what you need to, but this game will be a great measuring stick for us. A lot of people have talked to us about being No. 2 or being No. 3 and we’ll know more about who we are when we walk out of this game on Saturday afternoon, so that’s fun for us too, because at midseason, when we’ve said it’s time for the real polls to step up, everybody needs to understand how good they are, and we need this game for that measuring stick.
There were some talks about Colt [McCoy] being hurt yesterday. If he got hurt, it was in the dressing room after practice because he practiced great and he was running at the end of practice like he always does. In fact, Tre’ Newton and Vondrell [McGee] are still day-to-day, but they’re working to try to get well and really and truly, the Texas-OU game makes everybody healthy because everybody wants to play. We talked last week about some offensive lineman that were dinged up and had sore ankles or sore knees, those guys are competing hard to be 100 percent, so this is a game that gets you well fast and guys will play even if they are a little bit dinged up, but Colt’s 100 percent and playing great and excited about this game. He wouldn’t miss this game even if he was limping, he’s not, and in truth most kids limp a little bit this time of year. Practice is hard, games are hard, it’s a tough deal and they’re moving forward.
On running backs Vondrell McGee and Tre’ Newton: They’re working their way back in and today will be a big day to see. This will be the last day of pads, it will be a big day to see how they will be going into Thursday, and then by Friday night, we should know whether they’ll play or not. Tre’ and Vondrell have gotten the large majority of the snaps (this season). I think it’s interesting that most of the snaps right now are being given to Fozzy [Whittaker] and Cody [Johnson] and they haven’t played as much this year so far, so hopefully if the other two are well it will have us four backs ready to play. Cody did play last year and scored. He was the short-yardage, goal line back last year.
On preparing for trick plays: You try to get ready for fakes every week and some coaches have more of a tendency to fake than others. Oklahoma’s had a tendency to fake so you really look at those very closely and try to make sure that you’re on top of it. Last week, we felt like Colorado probably had a lot of trick plays, so we spent 10-15 minutes a day just looking at stuff they might run. I don’t think they ran one on kicking teams or the other, I don’t think there was one all night so we just missed the call, but it is something that you look at all the time.
On staying with the ‘hot’ running back: We’re not sure, we’ll discuss it on Thursday morning, and we’ll talk about it in the morning. Sometimes we even wait until game time to see how the guys are running in pregame before we go in there and decide, but Fozzy looks good in practice and he’s doing well. What we thought is we’ve got four backs who have done well and none of them have separated from the other one, so it really doesn’t matter right now which one starts until somebody steps up and shows the ability to do what Chris Ogbonnaya did in this game last year because he made some plays on his own and he and some big runs. You’re not going to consistently run the ball on Oklahoma, what you’ve got to do is make some runs, and to do that, somebody’s got to make somebody miss to get a big run.
On deciding which running back to stay with: It’s funny, people have asked about the running game all week. Obviously, I’ve been asking some questions about it too, so it’s fair, but in this setting, for a coach to come and tell everybody in America exactly what’s wrong and what we’re going to do to fix it is absurd. So when people say there is some coach speak, absolutely. If we didn’t have press conferences, that would be the only way not to have coach speak, because we’re not going to sit here and say, “We’re going to do this in this game. Bob [Stoops], Oklahoma defense, here’s what we’re going to do now so look at it very closely to see.” But very honestly, what you do is in a ballgame where we haven’t had a consistent runner that’s stayed healthy all year, you’d like to have the guy with the hot hand. Vondrell had it against UTEP in the first half and other than that, we have not had the consistency there. At one point, Tre’ got it, but we would like to have somebody step up and take over and no better week than this one, understanding that yards will be hard.
On at what point a game plan changes during a game: One of the real fun things about coaching is trying to figure that out during the game. We can all sit here and say what we think we’re going to do, what we think is going to happen; the adjustments you make during a ballgame are the things that matter, because you never know in a game like this how it’s going to go. The other night, we had a pretty good thought we were going to win, so we didn’t panic, we didn’t have to do much different, and very honestly, in this game, OU holds thing for this game, we hold things for this game and you work on it year round. There are things that we haven’t seen that both teams will use on Saturday and then you have to figure out how to adjust to them. That’s one of the fun things about this game, we call it a bowl game, whatever you want to call it, a championship-type game at midseason and that’s the exciting part about it and how to handle it. I thought last year, the offensive staff did an amazing job of balancing the run with the pass and finding some new creases in the passing game to help us score 45 points.
On choosing which running back to start: Part of it is trust with Greg Davis and Major Applewhite in the passing game. If you’re not running it well, you’ll have to try to run it some because you can’t protect a team like Oklahoma if you don’t run it; you have to run it some. If they get to take off on you, you can’t block [Gerald] McCoy, [Auston] English, they’re really good players, [Jeremy] Beal, those guys can all rush the passer. What you have to do is you have to figure out how to protect first in this game and how to try to find a few yards in the running game to slow down the pass rush. That goes back to the trust from spring until fall to all week in practice to who you feel like gives you the best chance to make those plays. The other night, things weren’t going well so Major stayed with Vondrell because he thought he had the best feel of being the old guy around to handle all of the stuff that Colorado was bringing because they were bringing a whole lot of new things at him.
On having to adjust once the game has started: I have coached some games as a head coach where it looked like we didn’t practice. We looked so good in practice that week and when you show up and a different team shows up than I saw all week, I actually sit there talking to myself saying, “What happened? Where’d they go? Who is this bunch? Who are these guys?” Very honestly, that’s when your coaching ability comes through. If you can take something that’s not working and still win the game, figure out a way to take the bad and turn into at least average to good, that’s when you have a chance to really earn your money and earn your time as a coach. If it’s working really well and you blow the other team out; at UTEP, I could have not been there, everything we did worked and UTEP helped us. The other night, we had to look at it very closely, and people don’t count blocked punts as coaching. Duane Akina did a great job with that. That’s coaching. That was a way to score. Right now, you’re trying to win and move on. You don’t have to look pretty every week if you’re undefeated. You’ve got to win, then you try to move to the next week and you really start over each week.
On the last time seeing the defensive backs wide-eyed: I guess sit was [against Oklahoma]. Very honestly, we had some trouble at [Texas] Tech. I think the game last year with Oklahoma and the game with Tech really helped those guys grow up, and we’re getting more pass rush right now. We’re putting more pressure on quarterbacks than at any time I can remember. Even though our sacks may not look like it, we’re getting a lot of hits on the quarterback and a lot of pressures. The guys are getting more balls that aren’t thrown as well, they’re getting some tipped balls, they’re getting some balls that are lobbed because the guy’s getting hit when he throws them, and I do think that you go back and watch last year’s film, they just blistered us. Sam [Bradford] had a great day and had five touchdown passes, so that’s a real challenge for our guys this year.
On changing the game plan according to opponents injuries: What we do is look very closely at everybody on the other team and we try to see where the great players are and how do you manage them that can change the game. Then you try to see if there are guys that are good players, not great players, are there areas that you can attack, so you always look at the best pass rusher and the worst guy to take on the run on defense. You always look at the best cover corner and the worst, you always look at trying to match up the inside guys on a safety that might not be a great cover guy and the same thing on offense. You try to look at what their tendency to run at their best offensive lineman, who’s the guy they get the ball to the most, if you look at Saturday, there’s no question the two running backs are really good. As a group, they’ll be as good as we’ll play, so we’ve got to have a running back step up and try to match those two, and we did that last year, but they’re really good running backs. If you let Oklahoma run the ball, you lose the game. I mean you can’t. That’s where you start.
On Oklahoma’s 3-2 record: I think you take your Heisman Trophy player out of any team, you’re not as consistent or as confident without him in there. With him coming back, I think it changes everything, it really does. You lose another player or two, we’ve lost players, [but] none of them are as valuable as Colt McCoy and Sam Bradford in this game. Those two guys make this game an even game again, it makes it special. The other thing that this game reminds me of is it’s a little bit like two pro teams playing each other, not from a student-athlete standpoint, but the coaches have been around each other now starting the 12th year and starting the 11th year. So 11 years our two coaching staffs have worked against each other in this game, so that’s what pros do. They play each other two or three times and you get a pretty good feel of what the other team’s going to do and the unique thing about this game is the changes that are made that aren’t the regular Texas-OU things, that change the first quarter of the game, change the second quarter of the game and the adjustments you have to make to each other because you’re trying to do things differently and still do what you do best.
On facing a less experienced line: They’re running the ball well and the thing I like about our defense right now is we are a very aggressive man-blitzing defense from all over the place. That’s who we are and the way Will [Muschamp) and Duane’s attitudes are. I like their high-risk attitude. If they blitz and somebody throws a touchdown pass over their head, they’ll say, “I hate that, let’s go back and do it again.” That’s just who they are and that’s who we are and that’s what we’re going to do and our guys have really good confidence in that right now, so that’s who we are. They hurt us with screens last year, so those are things that really hurt the blitz, so we have to look at the things that hurt our defense every week and try to figure out how we can play those plays better and still not change our personality.
On what kind of scoring game it will be: I don’t have any idea, I didn’t think we’d see (a high-scoring game) last year and very honestly, both offenses were good, but I didn’t think we’d see that. This year, I think both defense are better than they were last year. OU’s got nine starters back, but I really feel like both defenses are better. I know ours is better than it was last year and I think theirs is better.
On Oklahoma DT Gerald McCoy: Gerald is as good as anybody we’ve seen since we’ve been here. He’s a guy that just takes games over and it’s harder in pass protection to double team him because when they start bringing extra guys, he mans up, so you’ve got to grab and hang on. He’s really a good football player and plays hard, a very confident player.
On being the home team: We are the home team and I think it’s important to say that I really wish we would change the recruiting of this game for the home team because the NCAA says that only the home team can give tickets to recruits. You can’t give any tickets to high school coaches this week, but only the home team can give tickets to recruits, so that means that kids that committed to OU early don’t get tickets to this game and I really wish the NCAA would look at these neutral site games, and you can have a home team for jersey color or something, but that’s the only advantage you have other than giving recruits tickets. Each recruit can get three tickets within the NCAA rules, but I really wish they would divide the tickets up and every year let both staffs have a certain number of tickets so both groups of kids with all these early commitments now would have a chance to see this game.
On this game influencing recruiting: I don’t think this game makes any difference in recruiting. Some kids after this game choose one team or another, they were probably going there anyway and it was just an excuse. If they were going to the other school and their school didn’t win, they usually wait three weeks to commit and make it look like it didn’t matter. I think most of the kids know where they’re going to go and they want to see their team that they want to go to fight hard and compete, and they want to be around this game, but just about every recruit that we can get a ticket to comes to this game. It’s a long way from Houston and San Antonio and south Texas, so they have to make an effort and some of our kids play on Saturday in high school, so it makes it more difficult but especially the area kids, all of those will be there. We cannot speak to them before the game, during the game or after the game, so it’s a very difficult thing because they can be on the sideline before the game, and if they want to come over and talk to you, you have to tell them. We’ve e-mailed them all and tried to call their high school coaches and tried to tell them that it’s not being rude, but we’ve actually had kids get mad at us after this ballgame because we didn’t speak to them when it was against NCAA rules. It’s hard to get that word out, so I do think there’s a better way to do this with the neutral site game than we are doing now.
On the walk down the tunnel: It’s a great walk, but I think again it’s because of the game. If we played a different team and we played in the Cotton Bowl, it’s not the same walk. When you’re walking down that tunnel, you just think of all the history of the game and you think about coach Switzer and coach Wilkinson and coach Royal and all the people that have been at these two schools and all the great players that have walked down there and when you hear Keith Moreland say, “I’ve been in the World Series and walking down that ramp was more exciting and important to me than being in the World Series,” you know it’s really important to a lot of people. I think since I’ve been on both sides of it, I probably have a different perspective because I really think about trying to win the game. I like big-time football, I like big-time games and I like the atmosphere and I think it’s fun. It’s fun to stand out there before the game and see people and enjoy it. It’s unique, it’s different, and there would be some advantages to both schools probably if they moved it home and home, but this one is very unique and I’ve never been to Georgia-Florida, but it must be similar.