Oct. 29, 2008
Opening statement: Saturday's game with Texas Tech is really special, because it's a national TV game. Like the game with Texas A&M, it gets exposure to high school football in this great state of Texas. It's always done on Thanksgiving or the day after for the A&M game, but this is one of the few times that this Tech game has been a national game. The other thing is that it is so much fun out there. I heard they already have students camped out. I remember the couple of times we've been out there, the students were out there on Thursday, and now I hear they've been out there since Tuesday already. They'll be pumped up and that's the atmosphere you want to play in as a college football player, for both teams. Both teams have a lot on the line, so it'll be fun to check it out and see how it's going.
Our theme of, "Take dead aim," was really important to us in 2005 and we felt like it fit that team. Right now, "Consistently good to be great," fits this team. We've been playing consistently good, and at the end here, we have to have some great moments. We just need to find a way to win, and we don't need style points. From this point to the end of the year, winning is what's really important, and our guys understand that and they will go through with it.
On the last time Colt McCoy played in Lubbock: I think the last time we were out there, Colt was trying too hard. This game is really important to him. He will have more family at this game than at the OU and A&M games, because he's a Jim Ned graduate from Tuscola out in west Texas. A lot of his friends are in school at Tech. So, this game to him is always one that he wants to play really well in. I thought at the beginning of the game two years ago, he was probably trying too hard. I think all I told him was to relax, settle down and start throwing the ball to us.
On Henry Melton's successful switch to defensive end: I'm so proud of Henry because he's been hurt, changed positions, been up and down and he had his little issue a couple of years ago. He's a guy that has come back and has continued to fight, compete, kept his mouth shut and has done everything right. I'm so proud of him. Not only is he becoming one of our better players, he was the player of the game last week, but I think he now has a potential NFL career ahead of him, and that's what he wanted the whole time.
On Melton's switch to defensive end: He changed willingly. He wanted to be a running back, he wanted to be Ricky Williams and I wanted him to be. We both worked at it really hard, and for whatever reason, it didn't work like we wanted it to. We started playing him at both the short-yardage back position and defensive end. We felt like that was best for him at that time in the transition. I remember we started working him at defensive end in bowl practice, and then we moved him full-time in the spring. He's really been a good player since he moved over there, and now, he's become a great player.
On why it is important to give younger players second chances: I think all of us deserve a second chance. We all make some poor decisions, and it's really important that they understand that if you make a poor decision, you're going to pay a penalty for it because we are all accountable. But, it doesn't mean that it should take the rest of your life away, especially for teenagers. I should know better at 57 years old, but I still make poor choices. Eighteen to 22 year olds that make poor decisions, in my estimation, should be punished and aware that it wasn't good, and they should think about the punishment the next time that something comes up. I also feel like we should all do what is best for them.
On if Texas Tech could be comfortable with what the Texas defense might do: Well Tech couldn't possibly feel comfortable with our defense, because we've had a different defensive coordinator every time we've played them. I don't even know who we are sometimes over there, because they've come in and out so quickly. But I do think that our three defensive guys here have coached a lot against Tech and have a pretty good feel of who they are and what they are. Will [Muschamp] grew up at Valdosta State where the Mike Leach offense kind of started. He also coached against Kentucky when he was at LSU, and had the one-year of experience in the NFL coaching against some of the best passers and passing games in the country. So, this will be exciting for us, and it will be a real challenge for our defense. They have come so far from having all of the questions about the young secondary during the first of the year to being a team that is now about to play the number one passing team in the country.
On what Major Applewhite has brought to the team: Major has brought so much to us. The public part that he has brought is that he played here and he has a real passion for The University of Texas. It's so easy for him to tell recruits and current players that he has done what they are doing. He went to Texas and he played for this staff. He knows exactly what it is like here, and he can tell recruits that and try to get them to come here. At the same time, he can walk over to Colt and put his arm around him and tell him, "I've experienced that pressure before," or, "Don't do this and that." That's where he has been able to help Colt so much. He has also helped us with the fact that we haven't had a fumble yet at the running back position. That's a phenomenal stat, not one fumble, and I don't want that to start that this weekend. He's obviously done a great job coaching the running backs. Everybody is blitzing us more than they have in the past, and we think that is to get to Colt, so he has done a great job with the protection schemes, which a quarterback would know. Lastly, I think he's been a real good help to Greg Davis. He played for Greg, and he and Greg grew up on the same offense. He, better than anybody else, can tell Greg, "Remember in '99, when we checked to this and it worked?" I think that's a help, because he was actually a guy on the field who Greg was signaling plays in to and he remembers changing certain plays for others. I think he's been a good sounding board for Greg to give some input to him.
On not having an offensive penalty in three different games: Our offense has been so consistent this year. The long drives are phenomenal, and the fact that we are rarely turning the ball over is the reason we are where we are today offensively. Also, the fact that we've been getting third-down conversions at such a high rate, 11-out-of-14 last week, all goes back to taking care of the ball and not having offensive penalties. Those are phenomenal things, and it just shows the discipline of this offense.
On Colt McCoy playing against other Heisman candidates every weekend: We are very fortunate at Texas that if you play well, you have a chance to win the Heisman, and you do it on the field. Our media relations office does a great job with publicity. But at the same time, our program has been on national TV more than anybody else has ever been. This year, we've had three [ESPN College] GameDays come out in four weeks, which gives us a lot of good exposure. Secondly, I think the fans have another real treat. They had a treat with Chase Daniel, Sam Bradford and Zac Robinson. Now, we're going against Graham Harrell, who is in the top five in passing efficiency, and it should be a real show.
On the difference in the Texas Tech team this year: There have been years where Tech might not have been as deep. So, injuries have killed them or they give out some. Also, they have been so good on offense every year that they weren't as good on defense. This year, they've got the whole package. They are playing really well on defense. I think one of the most significant changes is that they have gotten 20 sacks. They've only given up three sacks and they've gained 20. Their two defensive ends are really good football players. Williams and Dixon are quick, they can beat offensive tackles and they can really make good plays. The other thing they have improved is their turnover ratio. Graham has really taken care of the football. They are plus-nine on turnover ratio, and we are only plus-three. So, they are doing a really good job in some other areas than they have in the past.
On why he thinks that up-and-coming schools tend to have explosive offenses but not great defenses: I do think that depth is the key. Defensive tackles are so hard to find and they have gotten some now. If you get two of them and one of them gets hurt, or something happens to him, you realize that you really need four of them. A lot of the schools can't recruit enough depth to have two-deep on both sides of the ball, and it gets them in trouble during this time of the year. We've gotten banged up in this stretch that we have been through. We were talking this morning, and I can't imagine some of the schools that are a little bit smaller who don't have enough depth to fill special teams and go two-deep on defense. We're really fortunate, and I do feel like one of the reasons that we've been successful year-in-and-year-out is our depth.
On if Graham Harrell is different from the past Tech QBs: I think Graham is probably the best QB they have had, but every one of them have been really good. Kliff Kingsbury was one that I remember that we recruited and was so competitive. That's the way Graham is. They really haven't had a guy like [Michael] Crabtree either. So when you throw that screen, he goes 90 yards and that helps those stats. I've told Colt sometimes, that if he throws one behind the line and the guy goes 90 yards, you ought to go hug him, because that makes you look good. Graham has bought into Mike Leach's system, he knows exactly what to do and he does it at the highest level. To think that they have only given up three sacks all year is a credit to their offensive line. It's a credit to their system, but it's also a credit to Graham, because on blitzes, he's getting the ball out of his hands. And obviously, he has thrown the ball away some if people are getting close to him.
On how high of a priority it is to make Graham Harrell uncomfortable in pocket: They've got a lot of different players, and we feel like you have to stop their running game first and you have to work on their screens, because they will beat you to death if they can stay balanced. But at the same time, you can't allow Crabtree to make as many plays as he can, because he is a great player. You have to try to slow him down a little bit. But, none of it works unless you can make the quarterback uncomfortable. Every week, that's what you try to do. You're not going to sack him and you're not going to hit him much, because he is so deep and he gets the ball out of his hands. But at the same time, you need to make him move around and at least be a little hesitant with his decisions.
On the great match-ups that will be on display this weekend: There are a lot of good match-ups in this game. People talk about Michael Crabtree all the time, but Eric Morris is a really good receiver. Their running backs are as good as they've been since we've seen a Mike Leach team. I think this is his best offensive line. Those guys are big, and they are talented and good enough that they all have nicknames, so that's impressive if you know someone by their nickname. I think there's a lot of great match ups out there.