Oct. 21, 2009
Opening statement: The guys have done a good job moving forward after the Oklahoma win. Practice on Tuesday after the game is really difficult because you are emotionally drained and you’re sore. A lot of guys are so banged up that they just have to go out and work themselves through Tuesday, so we feel like today’s practice will be much better.
We shook up some things on offense. It is always more obvious on offense for some reason than it is on defense. You have an either-or and you start a different guy, nobody says much, but we are just trying to look for chemistry. I thought that John [Chiles], David [Snow] and James [Kirkendoll] all had maybe their best practice yesterday, so they went back to work, did a good job, and had a very positive attitude. All three of those guys will play a lot. We are just trying to look for the right chemistry in our passing game and the right chemistry up front. If something is not working the way that we want it to, then we are going to change it up. It doesn’t mean that a guy is not doing his job; it just may not be working overall.
We have won 76 percent of our road games since 1999 which is the highest percentage in the country. We feel like to do that you have to continue to run the ball well and stop the run. At [Texas] Tech last year when we lost, we did not run the ball well and really did not stop their running game as much as we would like.
You have to win the turnover battle and right now we are plus seven. It is important for us to get better. We still turned it over more offensively than we would like. Last year, the two teams that played for the National Championship were plus-23 and plus-22, so our obvious goal is to get it way up there in the next six ball games, and it is something that you have to do. When you have plays like Curtis Brown made on the kickoff coverage play with their return, we did not do a good job as a whole of covering that kick, but Curtis knocks the ball loose, gets on the ground, and forces a turnover. Also, Deon Beasley made a super play for us on the punt. That is a very controversial play during the ball game, and he knocks it loose. Both of those turnovers came in the kicking game, which we have not had as many of those as we would like.
We need to continue to win the kicking game. We said that we won all three phases last week. We have been inconsistent, but we have had some great plays in our kicking game. We want to continue to do that. You also have to have energy for each of the next six games like it is the first game of the year. You have to go back and play and be excited because there is not much room for error when you are talking about the top three, four, five teams with our system like it is now. We said that the regular season is very, very costly, so you have to make sure that you continue to win. Only seven undefeated teams left out of 120, and that is a very elite group to be in, but a very hard group to get to and stay in, and that is what our guys know.
I have been pleased and appreciated the respect that the other teams and coaches have shown Colt [McCoy] after ballgames. Ruffin McNeill, the defensive coordinator that has done such a good job at Tech, waited on Colt until after his interview after the Tech game to hug his neck and say congratulations. [Oklahoma DE] Auston English, [Oklahoma DT] Gerald McCoy, and [Oklahoma OL] Trent Williams all came up to him after his interview and stayed out on the field on Saturday. So the Texas-Oklahoma game has shown great respect in the past from a players and coaches standpoint. There is a lot of anger between the fans in some cases, but the coaches and players have handled it well. I think that everyone understands how good of a player Colt is when they play against him. He was on the ground 14 times in the first half and that was either running the ball or getting hit or a sack, and that is way too many. We have challenged our coaches and players around him offensively to protect him better. When he runs the ball, he is going to get on the ground some, but we do not need people hitting our quarterback five wins away from all-time winningest quarterback. He was on the ground way too much. He is tough. He had the sore thumb. He was sick, but he continued to play hard through it. I thought that he ran the ball really well. I would like to see him take care of it better on the goal line. They did a good job of stripping it from him.
In talking about turnovers, we continue to talk to our defense about stripping the ball better than we have been lately. We are not getting the strips that we did early. We are getting the interceptions, but fewer fumbles, but Colt is running it hard. After the pass interception that was not his fault, he ran over immediately instead of getting his head down and feeling sorry for himself. It might have saved the game with the tackle he made. He made a very aggressive tackle and was not worried about getting hurt. He was worried about making a play. Then when he got to the boundary, he patted Marquise [Goodwin] on the head and said, “Be a little flatter, come underneath, that’s what we have to do,” and then he went and talked to Greg Davis, so he is just handling everything very, very well. Those are things that a lot of people do not see from the stands. His (touchdown) pass to Marquise Goodwin was unbelievable. It was an outside blitz from Lewis. He came right at him. He knew he was going to get hit, and he actually took the ball and threw it under his arms to Marquise to make the play and took the hit for the touchdown. Then as I said on Monday, I think that his emotion at the end of the game shows what this game means to him. His evaluation is 6-0, and nobody over the last two years has been more valuable to their team than Colt McCoy. It is very important for us to send that message and the team knows that.
Our team message is find a way to win. Just keep winning. It does not matter who does it. It does not matter who looks good. Don’t you be the weak link in the chain. You step up and you do your part.
It may be cold and it will be colder than some of the games that we have had here, although it will not be much different from the Colorado game earlier this year because we had a cold spell for that night. It will be in the 50s and upper 40s, and we have told our guys that you get evaluated on how you play in the cold by the NFL scouts. If any of you want to play – you look at New England, Chicago, Green Bay, New York – there are a lot of places that you are going to have to play that are colder than the Big 12 if you are going to continue to play in the NFL. I think that our guys have responded to that pretty well.
As far as Missouri is concerned, [head coach] Gary Pinkel has done a great job. I did not say a lot about them on Monday because we ran out of time. I think that they are the eighth-winningest program in college football over the past three years, so the kids on this team know how to win and will be excited about us coming. They were 4-0 overall with a 12-0 lead against Nebraska in the fourth quarter and their quarterback gets hurt, Nebraska makes a couple of plays, and then [quarterback] Blaine Gabbert’s ankle was a little sore last week, so it limited what they were able to do. They are talking about him being 100 percent. It is also Missouri’s homecoming and a sellout.
Thirty-three Texans are on the Missouri roster. All those guys want to show the people in Texas that they are great players. Twelve of them are starters or part-time starters. The game is really split national TV. Eighty-one percent will be watching us on ABC and the other 19 percent will be watching on ESPN2, so it will be another great chance for our guys to showcase who they are once again.
On playing through the post-OU game stretch: We always check it every year, and I am always surprised and pleased that we are 11-0 after the Oklahoma game. I always say how hard it is, and our guys have always played well, and about half have been home and half on the road, so there is really nothing there to show you that they haven’t played well. In fact, some of the home ones have been as close as the away games. In looking at this one, I think with last year’s circumstances in this stretch, our players understand what they have to do to be successful. We do not have to tell them that Missouri is going to play well. In fact, we tell them to prepare for them to play the best they are going to play and prepare for calls to be tougher on the road for you than they are at home. Prepare for the ball to bounce wrong. You prepare for everything that could happen wrong, and you still have to figure out how to win the game. I think that is who this team is.
On Marquise Goodwin’s development: You never know about freshmen, but I’m not surprised, he’s matured. I do think the fact that he’s competed internationally has really helped him. When Greg Davis asked him “Are you scared of big crowds?” he said, “I’ve jumped in front of more than 70,000 people all over the world, so no.” And usually freshmen have never been on a plane when they travel and he’s traveled everywhere. Someone asked him after the game the other night, I didn’t think about it, but they said, “Were you nervous about the tunnel and the crowd and all of that?” And he said, “No, I had to think about what I was doing.” Those guys have to be so focused on what they’re doing in track that they don’t look around.
On the rush defense being recognized in the Big 12: I think it’s more legitimate right now. I think if you look at the end of the next two weeks in our league, number one, if you look at Missouri, you have to look at screens, shuffle passes, those types of things and count them as runs even though it won’t look like that on the stats. Oklahoma State rushed for I think 204 yards against us last year so they really ran up and down the field against us, so, the next two weeks as we get ready to start the final surge, I think again we felt like Oklahoma would be a huge test for us in the running game and we handled that well, so we just need to keep watching us and make sure. Our defense has been bragged on so much the last two weeks, we’ve got to make sure this week that they’re still in tune and they don’t start believing all that stuff and back off. We have to keep improving.
On Missouri: What we will do this week is the films that we’re showing are the Nebraska film, because Missouri played lights out and it was horrible weather and that defense played great against Nebraska and the offense played as well as you can play in that rain. They were up and down the field and had some turnovers until Blaine hurt his ankle. Then you look at the Illinois film, the first game of the year, and I know Illinois hasn’t had the year they wanted, but when you start looking at that game, that’s a rival game and the way they played in those two games, they were all over the place and really excited, and that’s the emotion we’ll see on Saturday night.
On Colt McCoy: He’s doing well. In fact, I was pleased with the way he threw yesterday. He’s a tough sucker, as nice as he is and polite as he is and young as he still looks, he’s tough, he competes and he wouldn’t stay out if we tried to make him right now. Nobody even mentioned to me last week that he was sick. I didn’t realize it until I sat and listened to him in postgame, I mean he sounded horrible. I guess he got sick on Friday or Saturday morning, I don’t know, I was surprised.
On dealing with the flu: We’ve been lucky because I know it’s a real problem across the country. I talk to my brother each week at Tennessee Tech, they’ve had 15 guys with the flu at one time or another, so it’s out there. We’ve been lucky and hopefully our guys are doing a real good job. I think they’ve put masks on them and make sure they wash their hands a whole lot and they are taking it very, very seriously. They’re not just acting like a bunch of young guys who need to wash. The ones that are sick have had masks on at practice and in meetings and when Dustin Earnest got sick, he had a mask on and we thought Dustin would play [against UTEP] and he got up Saturday morning and was worse, but he was a lot better Friday morning and Friday night, and when I ate breakfast at 10:30 a.m., I was told he was going to play. By the afternoon, he was back in bed, so it just changes so fast it’s hard to monitor.
On the chance of this game being similar to last year’s game: No, I think they understand that now. This year’s team, most of these games, other than UTEP, have all been pretty close and been fights and I think that’s helped us. It’s settled them down a little bit and they understand that they’re not just going to go out and score the 50 points like they did last year every week. They also understand the concept of playing on the road. They like it, it’s a challenge, but they know it’s harder, things are just tougher on the road and they understand that and appreciate it. They don’t take much for granted on the road. Sometimes I think we take for granted sometimes at home.
On getting respect after the Oklahoma game: I think it’s changed a little bit this week. I think people are starting to understand the Oklahoma and the Texas’ defenses are really good defenses. But to people’s credit, what they’ve seen in the Big 12 the last couple of years, it’s just people running up and down the field and scoring 50 points a game. That’s not the case as much this year, and I do think that people are starting to get it, I think our defense is finally getting the credit they deserve and sometimes when I go back and look at the last few years here, we haven’t gotten the credit until the Oklahoma game. When all the questions that are not answered in pregame are answered during that ballgame, people start looking at us as a serious contender after the game and that’s kind of what’s happened since we’ve been here and we understand that. What we’ve also learned is that none of that matters in preseason. It’s all chatter. It’s all talk. None of it matters in the out-of-conference schedule; you just need to win. Really in the BCS you’d like to be in the upper part, but the BCS has changed so much, the Heisman race changes so much, this is our third Heisman race since we’ve been here and I absolutely know that it takes a Heisman moment for somebody to win and everybody has to be in the mix, but Ricky [Williams] was out of it three times and in it once, so it’s part of the deal. It’s a long, hard process for the year and the Heisman.
On the wide receivers: As of right now, what we would have is Marquise and Jordan [Shipley] would start at the flanker and the Sub B slot, Malcolm [Willaims] would start at X [receiver].
On Sam Bradford returning to school: I think that whatever he, number one, wanted to do and whatever he and his family decided to do is the right thing to do and you can’t change, you can’t look back because at the time they made the decision – that’s what we tell our kids, I’m not just talking about Sam – what we tell our kids is when you decide and make a decision, you go for it. At the time you made that decision with the information you had available, you made the right decision for you. Who knows, that because it hasn’t worked short term, he’ll be an All-Pro player, he’ll be a great player before it’s over. If he decided to still play this year or next year, he’ll continue to be in the Heisman race because he is who he is. I’ve watched Colt, I’ve watched Sam, and I think when kids like that make decisions to go, they don’t look back. Everybody else second guesses it, but they don’t because they had the information. People say coaches force them to play and all that. I’ve been doing this 36 years, and you’re not going to force a kid to play unless he wants to, so I don’t think that’s true at all. You’re not going to make parents do something they don’t want to do. You’re not going to make kids do what you want to do and coaches that have been around as long as Bob [Stoops] and I know that if you forced one to come back, he’d be miserable and he wouldn’t be good, and if that’s the case, Sam would have said that. I don’t believe any coach has had anything to do with any of those decisions in the end. I think kids want to. I actually thought that I had something to do with Ricky Williams staying when I first got here. Ricky wanted to end better, he didn’t want to end 4-7 and all he wanted to do was make sure that I was going to be honest and we were going to have a team that was disciplined and we would have a chance to win and that we believed in running the ball. As I looked back, all he had is a set of questions he needed answered. It had nothing to do with me. It had to do with what he thought he wanted this program to be like.
On the Wild Horn: We ran it all last week with Colt, so what we’ve got to do is since it’s in now and we’ve been running it, we’ve worked on it all year and we wanted to hold it until that game with Colt, but we just have to make a decision. If we feel like it’s a situation where we don’t want Colt running those plays, then we will let John (Chiles) run them, but they’re in. It’s not a separate offense like it was last year. It’s very different.