Nov. 2, 2009
Opening statement: The guys played really hard on Saturday night. It's fun when they play with enthusiasm and embrace the environment on the road. I'm amazed at how well these guys play on the road and it is exciting to watch them. Defense forcing turnovers took Oklahoma State out of the game, and I was really proud of the offense, they are coming on and playing better each week. I thought the plays right before the half were key. They moved the ball in the first half, but Oklahoma State took it the length of the field and scored, the offense took it right back down and had a drive like we've seen Colt do so many times right before the half. Then coming back and getting the field goal early in the second half really took them out of the ball game.
Earl Thomas is a guy that is playing as well as any defensive back in the country. You have got to think that the Thorpe people are really taking a look at him and I do feel like, the way Colt has been playing the last two weeks, is right back in the middle of the Heisman race. People have asked about numbers, Colt being three wins away from being the winningest quarterback in college football history is special, and that is something that we hope he gets.
The thing about this team right now is that they are playing well in all three phases. They are number one in the country in scoring differential, meaning that the defense is holding people to very few points, and the offense is the leading offense scoring points in the country, and our kicking game continues to be really good. I was so pleased that our kicking game held (Oklahoma State returner) Perrish Cox inside the 20-yard line a number of times and that's really hard to do. Also, Hunter Lawrence is stepping up and continues to be accurate. He is leading the Big 12 in scoring, and he is also the leading kicker in the nation in scoring.
We came out pretty healthy on Saturday. Aaron Williams will be day to day. We hope that he will be back by Saturday. The guys that will be out by Saturday continue to be Mason Walters and Calvin Howell, and we can't talk about their injuries until we see that they will be ready to play. Some people have talked about whether they might try to get a medical hardship for the year or not, obviously that is something you can't consider until they get well.
Things that we can improve; we felt like the only turnover we had was the turnover on the punt return. It's good to be aggressive, but it's important to be smart and not too aggressive in that area. Kickoff return, we only had one for the night and it got out to the 30 and we would like to get back to the 40 and have a chance to score on another kickoff return here at the end of the year. Punting was inconsistent. We had some great ones, but we also gave up a 15-yard punt return. And we felt like the pass rush in the first half was not what we wanted. They came back the second half, started getting hits on the quarterback, and forced the interceptions more in the second half than in the first, because even one time on a third-and-12, Zac Robinson was able to scramble and make a first down and that's because we didn't have proper lane integrity with our defense. We need to continue to strip balls. We haven't done that much lately, Sam Acho did that on Saturday and we need to continue to force fumbles and not just try to get interceptions.
On offense we felt like they are getting better, but we want more consistent runs. The goal is 60 percent. We were 58 percent. They were 60 percent by the (first team) over three quarters with their success rate. The seniors have two home games left. These guys have won 21 out of the last 22 games. We want our fans to come early, and if they want to be number one in the country, then they need to be the number one fans in the country on Saturday. We have an early start. The game is really important to us and it has gotten some national attention. It is also Veterans Day and we need to come and give honor to those that have worked so hard to help our country stay free.
You look at Central Florida. All we have to do is look back to 2007. They kicked on onside kick late in the game, we won, 35-32. Their seniors were on that team as sophomores a couple years ago so they will be coming here with a lot of confidence because they know they played us that well at that time. George O'Leary is a great football coach. He is a guy that will try to slow the game down. They will try to run the ball. They will try to hit some deep play action passes. They will do a good job in the kicking game. They are number nine in the country in run defense and number eight in the country with 27 sacks. They bunch to stop the run and put a lot of pressure on the quarterback. They have lost three games, but Miami was a tight game until the fourth quarter. Miami ended up beating them, 27-7. Their other two losses were by seven points and by five points. Last night they looked like they were out of the game and came back and won. That's how George does it. They will play a four-man front on defense, will blitz only about 16 percent of the time. They are not a big risk-taking team, but they are a team that you better be ready to play.
On starting on a "new" season: It is. We had basically the out of conference games (as the first season). This would have been in that group at the first of the year with the first four games of the season, Tech replaced Central Florida early, then we came back with a stretch of Colorado, Oklahoma, at Missouri, at Oklahoma State. So, three basic games on the road and we want to come back and have a great start. The last four games are in the state of Texas and we want to finish right. This is the first game of the last stretch. Our guys have done everything they are supposed to do at this point, now we just need to finish.
On having non-conference games in the middle of conference schedule: It is unusual and I will talk to some guys around the country that have done it. I know Florida has done it every year. It doesn't matter though, this is not about the Big 12 this week, it is not about the Big 12 South, but it is about national implications and we are in the mix nationally, and if you want to stay there you need to play well.
On the theme here on out: Our theme now will be to play to the standard of the best team in the country. We want to be the best in the country and we can improve in so many areas, and we are good right now, but we can get better. The other thing that we have challenged our guys with is if you are going to be a great team that goes undefeated, you have to be excited to play every week, and that's hard to do. A lot of people can't do that, but that's part of the magic of being a great team. You have to be able to get rid of Oklahoma State today, and you have to be able to get ready for Central Florida. If you can't do that then you are not one of the best teams in the country. So that's our challenge to our fans, coaches, to me, and to the players. Let's get rid of what we've done so far. Let's sincerely restart the season. Let's not talk about it, let's do it, and let's make this the most important game of the year because it is.
On the team leading the nation in scoring: You look at what we've scored, four or five kicking touchdowns, we've scored on defense, and we're getting better on offense. I do think that when you start looking at the team that is involved, this is the best time for us, since I've been here, that all three phases are working for us. That's why our offense is a little behind. We want them to catch up and I think we are seeing that happen. They were really good on third downs yesterday, they protected the ball, the defense is playing at a high level, the kicking game is playing at a high level, but we do want our kicking game to get better as well.
On comparing this team to the 2005 team: When you're sitting here at 8-0, what you want is for them to finish right. I don't think you can compare them at this point, and this hasn't had but one close game. The 2005 team had one close game and that was at Ohio State. It was on the road. Other than that, we've been in pretty good shape every week. The 2005 team finished well. I was thinking about that team the other day when we were at Stillwater. That team was down 28-9 in Stillwater to a 4-7 team and made it 28-12 at halftime, came back and blew it open 47-28 in the second half. So far this team hasn't done that and that's why this team has learned from some of the things over the last few years that we've had.
On continuing to play well: We did not play well at Central Florida in '07. It's important that we continue to play well. The message from the players was that way last night. I asked them who are we, where are we going and what are we doing, and each one of them said we've got to keep playing. You look around every Saturday and there's somebody that's really disappointed that decided they weren't going to have to play very hard and all of a sudden they lose their dreams. What we've got is a goal to win the Big 12 South, a goal to win the Big 12 Championship, a dream to win the National Championship. You've got to take care of your goals before you can get to your dreams.
On non-offensive scores: It's unusual to have a defense that scores like our defense is scoring. It's fun. It's exciting. Especially when you can get somebody one-dimensional. When Oklahoma State got behind they had to start throwing it and that's not who they are, they would rather run the ball and have play-action. They're not a drop back passing team. The other thing that happens in this situation, your defensive backs get so much credit because we can play man coverage, and they should, but until the quarterback gets rattled and starts throwing balls that you can intercept, you have nothing. So much of this credit should be going to Lamarr Houston and Ben Alexander and Sam Acho and you start looking at Sergio (Kindle) for putting pressure on those quarterbacks because we've had pressure each week on the quarterback and that gives us a chance for interceptions. We're getting quite a bit of pressure now without having to blitz much, and that's a positive as well.
We've sent a message right now to teams that we can score in all three phases and that's something that I think would make people more conservative. What Central Florida will do is they will try to run the ball and hit some play action passes like they did last night and try to throw it deep some, but they'll try to keep the ball. That's what we knew Oklahoma State was going to try to do. We had only one drive the first quarter. That's why turnovers are so key to us, and when our offense gets on the field they need to score like they did the other night.
On playing well the last two weeks on the road: I thought after Oklahoma our guys said, "We're getting better here. We're pretty good." Just watching them on the last two weeks on the road, I think they've had a blast. They walked into Missouri and played really well and they walked into Stillwater on Saturday night and played really well. They didn't look uptight to me; they looked excited. They were having fun with each other. That was the largest crowd in the history of Oklahoma State football. I think they take it as a compliment and a challenge. They love to go on the road and I like that about them.
On UCF playing on Sunday night: It is unusual. Their stats weren't in today. We don't have their depth chart. We don't have a media guide. It kind of slows things down for us this week but we had a pretty good scouting report last night and that's the way they win. They looked like they were in trouble, but they hang in there. George (O'Leary) has been around a long time. He was a defensive coordinator in the NFL at a lot of different places. That's the way they're going to beat you so you can't let them hang around.