Nov. 11, 2009
Opening statement: I want to wish everyone a happy Veterans Day. We had the appreciation day last weekend, and obviously we do not have a home game this weekend, so that is why we did it a week early, but today they unveiled the statue of a doughboy out in front of the stadium. It is a wonderful looking statue in honor of some great people who represented our military and tried to keep up safe for many, many years. We would like to encourage everyone to come out and get a look at it as soon as they can.
We have a special guest traveling with us this weekend, who is a war hero. We had him coming as an honorary captain for the Tech game, and he had a personal matter he had to deal with. He has agreed to come to the game this weekend and travel with the team on Friday, be on the sidelines, and be an honorary coach with us. His name is Lt. Col. Gadsden. He is a 1989 West Point graduate. He was a three-year starter at linebacker there, and he lost both of his legs in Iraq when an IED blew up when he was out on patrol. He gave us this wonderful quote, which we have used with the guys, especially when they get hurt or things are not going well. It goes, “We do not get to pick our circumstances. It is our obligation to be the best no matter what you are asked to do.” He is a great role model for us, a great American, and a great hero, so we are glad that he is traveling with us.
We are starting to work the young ones after practice a little bit, obviously within the 20-hour rule. This time of the year, we start working them a little extra, so that they can get some more individual attention. Redshirt year is a long year for them, and we are at the point now where kids would be redshirted if they have not played to this point. We keep them out there and work them against each other, mostly in fundamentals and individual drills. It is fun to watch them because they will get some individual attention during bowl practice. We try to scrimmage them about every day at the end or do an inside drill or something. It is fun for us to watch those guys as they get ready to prepare for spring practice, which will be here really soon.
There were some comments that were attributed to me that were taken out of context by ESPN yesterday. To ESPN’s credit, after they realized that what they attributed was not what I said or what I meant, I appreciate them cleaning that up. I have full respect for the non-BCS schools and think that they should be BCS schools, instead of the way that it was presented. Schools, especially like TCU and Boise State, who are having wonderful years, I would not want to take anything away from them at all.
Baylor is a much improved defensive football team. They are strong down the middle. You look at the big guys up front. [LB Joe] Pawelek is a young man who has started against us for four years now, and he and FS Jordan Lake are really good football players, and they both have started ever since they went to Baylor. They have been there a long time and are very good football players. They definitely make you play in space on offense. The ability to make the big play with both [IR Kendall] Wright and [WR David] Gettis is very dangerous. Missouri missed 18 tackles for over 200 yards after contact, and most of it was those two guys because they do a good job getting the ball in their hands. They will run screens and get it to them behind the line of scrimmage, but they can also beat you deep, so they will make us play in space. We will have to be a very, very good tackling team on Saturday against really good football players. [QB Nick] Florence is a very accurate quarterback. He is smart. He is playing older than his age and his experience, so we are going to have to confuse him, get after him, and try to get him to get the ball out of his hands a little early. He is playing really well.
The kicking game is always the key to winning a road game, and they are taking about eight to 18 mph winds, so we do feel like that will be a factor. We will have to look very carefully about how you take the ball, when you take the ball, and do you take the wind the second half. There was a pretty good breeze in the upper part of the stadium during the game Saturday against Central Florida, and they took the ball in the third quarter, and it did lead to a couple 50 and 70 yard punts. It is something that we will have to study and make sure that we utilize it to our benefit the best we can on Saturday.
Also, we only have three regular season games left with our seniors. We have some great seniors who have brought a lot of wonderful moments to Texas football fans, and if you are sitting around wondering whether or not to go to Waco on Saturday for the game, we need you there. We would love to have you. We encourage everyone to come, we need your help, and we are excited about the game.
I thought that practice was really good yesterday because I thought that the guys were upbeat and up tempo. You can tell that it is back to a Big 12 conference game. You can tell that it is a Big 12 South conference game. You can also tell that they have more respect for Baylor right now than they have the last couple of years because of the way they have played the last couple of weeks.
On whether the BCS should go to 120 teams: It gets much bigger than a statement I can make, but obviously a lot of it is determined by money and by the conferences by money, but I just think that in a sport like football, we are all supposed to be equal and we are sitting in a position where the money is not distributed equally in our conference or across the country. I really wish that we were all named the same thing. I do not think that it is good that every time we talk about ‘this team,’ it sounds like it is two different conferences, like this team from outside this can get into this. Really and truly, I do think that it is demeaning for the other schools, and I would like to see the BCS consider, distribute the money anyway you want to, but give credibility to every kid and every coach and every athletic administration across the country that are trying to win all of their games.
On redshirt players playing: Usually we try to get through midseason and now the season is longer, you hope you’re playing 14 games, so you’re in a position where seven is usually the cutoff but we’ve hung in there pretty well with injuries. We’re okay with our depth and unless it was just something very, very unusual, we would try not to play guys in then end here that haven’t played to this point.
On Christian Scott possibly being eligible for a bowl game: We’re looking at that right now because if he gets his academic stuff in order, he and Brandon [Collins] both, Brandon could go to the bowl and would not play because this is a redshirt year for Brandon, but since Christian has already redshirted, if he does his work and is eligible and they release him, then he could play. They haven’t told us that he would play, but we’ve appealed to try to see if they would allow him to play if he is in good standing at the end of the semester. That hasn’t come up, I don’t think, in the past and you thought it would, but it seems like it’s a unique one for the NCAA, but they’re looking at it right now. Duane [Akina] works him with the regular guys and then he goes to the scouts when we start working against the Baylor team. Very honestly, if he was eligible to play in the bowl game, it would probably be mostly special teams, but it gives him something to look forward to and a goal.
On playing conference games such as Texas Tech early: I thought it was good. If we were playing a conference game last week it probably would have been more energy, but we got national exposure early in the year, it broke up your conference schedule a little bit, it’s tougher on the emotions, a little tougher on the fans, but I thought from a scheduling standpoint it was really smart for both schools. It gave us an opportunity to at least get back out of conference and play somebody different. What I have been told is that they’re looking at the change next year, but it has not been finalized from our standpoint at all.
On the most pleasant surprise from this year’s team: I would say that they just continue to play and they really don’t seem to be fazed by much. Usually you’re really worried about the BCS standings. I think they’ve been through this enough now and last year probably really helped them understand, so they don’t talk about that much. This bunch has not been involved with a conference championship, they don’t talk about that a lot, it’s more like they just go back to work, they enjoy each other, they like playing and they take great pride in what they’re doing. It has not been an emotional bunch from, “What about this coach, and what about this?” It just hasn’t been that kind of team and that’s good. They’ve played pretty much this way (steady) all the time and they haven’t been a group like the ’07 group that I never who was going to show up.
On competing for the top spot and if it is easier to not be ranked No. 1: I do think it’s easier if it works out. The  thing worked perfectly for us because as much as you could run under the radar for No. 2 all year, I think we popped into No. 1 with the BCS one week and it was because of scheduling, and then [USC] jumped us the next week. That’s why I really think if you’re in the mix, where you are in the BCS doesn’t matter if you have a chance by winning to get where you want to in the end, because nobody remembers who was rated in the BCS and nobody remembers ratings in preseason, early season or even at this point except if you win the rest of the games. What we will do is we will take the last three games of the  season, the last three of the , ,  and our five-year seniors watch the  team. They didn’t get to play because they were redshirted, but we will show them how some teams have finished better than others and that to be a championship team, you’ve got to finish strong. You just can’t get here and be proud of yourself. They didn’t realize they had never won nine straight games, so they were proud of that on Sunday. I didn’t realize that, but it makes sense, it’s hard to do that. They’re very proud of winning nine and obviously we’ve had eight years of 10 wins, so if they can do their job this weekend and win, that puts them in another category of nine straight years of 10-plus wins and lets them have short goals as they look towards the maximum goal.
On players mentioning last year’s finish: They do not mention last year, I do. What I mentioned is the feeling that afternoon when Fox announced that you were 0.128 away. The feeling you had when I walked in that room was one of the worst days of my sport life, because I had to face (the team) and tell (them), “You were short, and I want you to remember how you felt, and now you can take care of that, you can do something about it.” The day that I walked into that room, we were hoping and wishing that somebody else took care of it for us, so that’s been part of the motivation for this team, is do not allow somebody else to get involved with your destiny. You control it as long as you play well and over and over. People have told them they control it and we’ll show quotes where people have said, “If you win, you will continue to play at the highest level,” and that’s what we’re trying to do. Last year was a 12-1 team; it was a Fiesta Bowl championship team that beat Ohio State, they’re [No. 3] in the country, you don’t want to act like last year was a bad year and it was much higher than the expectations of that team going in, so you have to balance it by making them feel proud of last year and trying to build on the way they finished after [Texas] Tech last year, as compared to the way we finished in ‘06 or ‘07, because if they’ll just finish like they did last year, then we’re where we need to be.
On similarities between the 2004 and 2008 teams’ finish: I do feel like there’s a great correlation between ‘04 and ‘08 in that they knew how good they became, they knew they got in the mix, they kind of smelled it and felt it, and a lot of those guys came back for the next year and we felt like the whole goal of last year’s team was to be exactly where we are right now. The whole goal of leaving the Rose Bowl in 2005 after the ‘04 game was to play [USC] for the national championship the next year and that’s why we took the “Take Dead Aim” theme, so there is a huge correlation with an older team coming back that fell a little short of all that they wanted to accomplish. So they feel proud, but they understand in spring practice they’re not working just to get better, they’re working for a higher goal.
On Tre’ Newton and the running backs: I can’t talk about concussions and I can’t talk about injuries in that light with an individual, but when they release it I can tell you that. We do feel like he’s 100 percent ready to go and we’d like to see Cody [Johnson] get more carries than he’s been getting. We’d like to see him get 15 carries a game and it would be better for us. Tre’ and Fozzy [Whittaker] are still competing for those other carries, but we feel like Tre’ is back now where he can be in the mix again and he had a really good practice yesterday, he’s got great vision, he made some good cuts, so we’re hoping we get to see him. Some people ask, “Why did we say Cody was going to start Saturday and then started Fozzy?” It was totally the play call, some of them have specific plays that they’re involved with, so Cody was the starter, Fozzy ran out there first because we we’re running a speed sweep and that’s Fozzy’s play, so that’s why that happened and that’s why we don’t talk a lot about starting other than Monday.