Mack Brown Monday press conference transcript: Nov. 22
Nov. 22, 2010
Opening statement: It was great to get a win on Saturday afternoon. I thought the guys played great across the board. It should give us a lot of momentum and confidence going into Thursday night’s game with the Aggies. The defense played really well. We met our goal in the running game holding Florida Atlantic to 3.3 yards per carry. We created four turnovers the way we determine it – one fumble, two interceptions and had a fourth down stop. Just about all of the turnovers led to points. It was much better in that area. We told the guys that when you start getting turnovers they come in bunches. They started on Saturday. We’ve got to continue to force some turnovers on Thursday night.
We still had four balls on the ground. We only got one of them. It’s not that we aren’t trying. The ball is bouncing right back in their hands. We’ve got to continue to do a better job in that area when the ball is on the ground. Also, we played really well on first downs defensively. We were successful 17-of-28 first downs. We had eight three-and-outs, three sacks, nine quarterback hits, five quarterback pressures and we only missed two tackles for the game for six yards. We tackled much better in this game than the last couple of weeks.
We still need to improve the big-play defense. We gave up three big passes for 126 yards and the quarterback scramble for 29. We’re trying to limit the big plays, and we’re still giving up more than we want. We did finish the half well defensively. We did not start the third quarter well defensively. I think they scored in five plays in about two minutes. We need to finish the second quarter better and come out and play the start of the third quarter - the first five minutes - a lot better. Those are two key areas of the ballgame.
Sam Acho played as well as I’ve ever seen him play. He was the player of the game defensively. For you that are looking at awards, Sam even though our season hasn’t been what any of us wanted, Sam has played great every week. I hope everybody that has a vote will vote for him for All-American. He was a great leader in this ballgame as he has been all year. He’s never gotten his head down. He’s just an amazing young man capped off by the fact that he was chosen as one of 16 guys to go to New York as a scholar-athlete for the hall of fame [National Football Foundation]. He’s playing as well as anybody in the country. We hope he gets that credit.
Offensively, we had our best game. We won the turnover margin. We only had one turnover. Garrett [Gilbert] did fumble twice. The offense got on the second one. We lost the first one. We did have 10 explosive plays. They were 73 percent successful on first down efficiency. They had a great run-pass balance, which is what we’d like to have each week. We scored a touchdown just before the half and came back for a long drive and kicked a field goal to start the second half. We still need touchdowns in the red zone area. We had three touchdowns but still kicked two field goals. We feel like we’ve made some improvement in that area, but still the offense was disappointed with the two field goals. They need to score more touchdowns. We still have to do a better job with third down efficiency. The player of the game was Garrett Gilbert. He had by far his best game. We hope that we see the improvement continue through Thursday night.
We did some good things on special teams, but we’ve still got some things that we need to improve to be 100 percent. Punt team only had two punts, which is good. One was downed inside the 20 and the other was fair caught. There were no return yards against our punt team. Punt block and return team did a good job. We had a return for nine yards by Adrian Phillips, but we also had a block by [Aaron] Williams. I said after the game it’s the only time I’ve seen a blocked punt go 50-something yards. We must have batted it forward. That’s kind of the way the year has gone for us. The guys overcame it anyway.
Kheeston Randall has blocked a kick in each of the last three games on extra point and field goal. He’s done a tremendous job of getting a push inside. We’re really pleased with him on special teams. Extra point and field goals were 100 percent. They accounted for 15 points – six-of-six on extra points, three-of-three on field goals. Justin [Tucker] made the field goals from the 22, 43 and the 49-yard line. Kickoff coverage was not as good as usual. We did have three touchbacks but even on one of the touchbacks we had a penalty because one of our guys had his hands in the face of the blocker for Florida Atlantic. They did average 21 yards per return. They got it out between the 30 and 40 numerous times. We can’t have that this Thursday. Kickoff return was really close to breaking. We felt like it’s the best blocking we’ve had in a long time. We did okay with it. We averaged the 29-yard line for our field position, but we felt like there were opportunities that we didn’t take advantage of. We need to do a better job there, because A&M does a great job returning their kickoffs. They’ve had two kickoffs returned for touchdowns this year. Justin Tucker was the special teams player of the week.
We were excited to play so many guys. When you get to do that your team morale is better. It has been a tough year for a lot of the guys. We haven’t been up in ballgames and haven’t gotten to play as many in games like Michael Summerville, the young man who came in and kicked the last extra point. It may be the only opportunity to get in the ballgame at Texas. As he said with a smile walking off the field, “I am now in the record books.” And he will be in the record books for the rest of his life. His kids and his grandkids will sure enjoy that.
Thursday night’s game is really special. Like the OU game it’s really special. This one is more about high school football in the state of Texas and the great traditions of The University of Texas and the Texas A&M Aggies. It will be a fun challenge. A&M is playing really well right now. They’re playing so much better on defense. They’re playing harder. A lot of the same guys, but they’re really showing quickness. They’ve done a great job in playing good defense across the front.
You start looking at them. Von Miller is as good of a pass rusher as there is in America. We did a pretty good job with him last year, but he’s got nine-and-a-half sacks, I think. He’s been an amazing player this year with them moving him around. You start looking at Michael Hodges. He’s been the team leader. They’re a 58 percent blitz team. They’re bringing a lot of people. They’re moving a lot of people around. They try to stop the run and make you throw the ball. The line up like we do, very similar on defense with a 3-4, but then they blitz a lot and bring the extra guy about 27 percent of the time to try to get a four-man rush on you.
Offensively, they’re moving the ball really well. You start looking at Cyrus Gray. He’s gained 100 yards the last number of weeks. Also, [Ryan] Tannehill is taking care of the ball. He’s moving it around. They’re running up and down the field on people. They had some trouble Saturday night with Nebraska’s defense. That pass defense is really difficult to throw against. Very few people do complete passes. They’re taking care of the ball so much better than they were early in the year. They’re playing with a tremendous amount of confidence.
It will be Senior Day on Thursday. Our five-year seniors are 50-14 with four bowl games, two of them BCS games. One that they won against Ohio State and one that they lost against Alabama. Our four-year seniors are 40-11. They’ve been to BCS games the last two years. We’re proud of our seniors. This year hasn’t been an easy one for them. They’ve hung in there and kept the kids fighting. They haven’t given up, and I think we’ll see a great effort out of them Thursday night.
On if he likes the role of underdog: No. It means you have underachieved. It is what it is. A&M is playing well. They struggled at the first of the year. They’ve turned it around and are playing well. We have not played well. Hopefully [Thursday] afternoon will be a game that we can get more confidence from and get some momentum going into the game. We’ll need our crowd Thursday night. A&M is playing really well with a lot of confidence. We’re down to where we have to win the game or it’s the seniors’ last game of their careers. We’re going to play hard, and we’re going to play well.
On the team’s running game: Greg [Davis] will be here in a minute, but we’re especially happy with Cody [Johnson]. To get 127 yards and 89 in the first half - we were told walking out onto the field before the game that Fozzy [Whittaker] couldn’t play. That’s a shocker, because we thought he was going to play. D.J. [Monroe] got those touches in the running game and did a great job with it. I was really proud of him. He protected the ball. Most of his yards were outside, but he made some really good yards on the sweep. Cody made the tough yards. We were proud. One of the things we haven’t done well in the last couple of years is grind the ball in the fourth quarter. Cody was able to go out there and line up and grind the ball. Then Ryan Roberson came in and finished it off. We were able to control the clock in the first quarter and the fourth quarter. I thought those were keys to the game. They had really good ball security. That’s so key. Of all of the things that have happened to us this year negatively, we have done a horrible job of turnover ratio. If you don’t win turnover ratio – we ‘ve talked about turnover ratio and explosive plays since we’ve been here. If you go back and look at last year we were great. This year we’re awful at turnover ratio. If we want to win on Thursday night we’ve got to knock some balls loose and protect the ball.
On A&M’s blitzes: It is a concern, because you are not sure if Kyle Hix will play and for how long. You are still starting three redshirt-freshman types in there, but most of their blitzes are what we do. These guys have seen it all fall, so we feel like that is an advantage for us and for A&M. Offensively, we are seeing two very similar schemes defensively. Most of their blitz is just bringing a fourth guy. It is a three-man line with a fourth guy blitz. It is not like they are bringing three or four. They do that some, but 27% of that 58% is just a fourth down guy. So that is not as complicated as when they start bringing both backers.
On A&M QB Ryan Tannehill: He is a coach’s son, so he knows how to manage games. He is very unselfish. He is not forcing turnovers. He is not forcing the ball. He can run with his feet. He can make plays, and he is a very accurate passer. So he has done a tremendous job for them.
On if the rivalry gives them enough motivation: I’m proud that the guys played hard last Saturday. That is something that has changed since earlier in the year. When we played an emotional game, we came back with someone that didn’t get the same publicity nationally and haven’t played well. So, I wasn’t sure if they had learned from that, but they did. They played really hard. Even when the opponent was the lesser opponent. That was something I wanted to see, but they didn’t care who they were playing. This one will be easy from a motivational standpoint. They know all the players. [Freshman QB] Connor Wood’s brother even works there, so there will be a lot of talk during the week between the two teams, but there is great respect in this game. It has not been a mouthy game. It has not been a push-and-shove game. It has been a game about high school football in the state of Texas and this great rivalry for many years. I fully expect it to be that way. Coach [Mike] Sherman has done a tremendous job with his team, and I think both will come out with a lot of respect.
On if he’ll be watching other games to see if teams become bowl-eligible: No, I will worry about us. If we are bowl-eligible, I will be happy because we get another game. That is what I want for these seniors.
On if 5-7 teams deserve to go to a bowl: I have never been in a position to think about that, so I hope on Thursday night at 11, I am not thinking about that.
On what games they will look at to prepare for the Aggies: You look at the Tannehill-run offense, because it has changed some. You put most of your eggs in that basket, even though you do look at A&M year-round. Our coaches were in the office until two [a.m.] Saturday night, breaking down everything they could get. On Sunday, we had the Nebraska video that we spent time with. When you look at the chronological sense of the game, this is Wednesday. So we met with the guys this morning at six. They ate breakfast at about 5:15. We met with them from six until seven. We will practice with them from 4:30 to 6:00 because they have labs all day, then the guys have classes starting at six o’clock, so we will let them out at about 5:30 or 5:40 to get to class. This will be Wednesday’s practice. Tomorrow becomes Thursday, and then Wednesday becomes Friday when you count Thursday as a Saturday game. So you are trying to get back to as much as a normal routine as you can, but these short weeks are very different when you look at preparation.
On how to move forward from here with Saturday’s win as an example: I think they can take the good plays they have made over the stretch here that has not been good, and understand we didn’t make enough together to win. But on Saturday they played as a team. They played together. They took care of the ball. They forced turnovers. The turnovers were either for scores, or in a position where the defense got the ball where the offense could score more easily. So the field position was better. And we what we tried to do was that take the video and show them that this is what we need to do to win, regardless of who it is. This is the winning combination. And not making some plays on both sides of the ball or giving up the big play or turning the ball over or not getting things in the kicking game that we need to be successful. We really felt like because there was a lot of youth on this team, they will come out of this game with a lot more confidence. We practiced yesterday, the day after the game, which we have never done, at a high-speed tempo, which is what we did last night. And the guys came out and were really excited about the game.
On what the team has seen from A&M: Because there are so many of them, they took what they saw to their coaches, and talked to them about what they saw. And I’m sure they’ll talk to you about that today when they come up. But it was unique that we walk off the field and get dressed and go immediately to watch the game. Some of them, especially the lineman, probably got there at halftime because they were going to eat.
On the Aggies not being as strong offensively Saturday night: I think more than ever in my career, this year, you can not tell what is going to happen on Saturday. You are not seeing some teams get better. They play awful one week then play great the next week. It is like they come out as different teams. It is one of the great things for a fan, because you don’t know what will happen in a football game. You just grab on and hold on. You handle it as it happens.
On the four-day turnaround: We felt like you never know as a team. Offensively, we played as well as we have all year, but A&M wasn’t as good on defense last year as they are this year. Defensively, we weren’t as satisfied with the way we played in this game last year, but A&M was much better offensively then they were defensively. So I think we need to build on the four-day week we had last year offensively, and hopefully they can come in with this game with the same confidence that they walked out with after Saturday afternoon. And defensively, we think we learned a few things from last year that will help us in the shorter week.
On if he reached out to former UT QB Vince Young: Yes, I always text him. I haven’t had a chance yet this week. We haven’t been able to hook up. I was standing at practice last night trying to say, “I think this is Tuesday or is it Wednesday?” I’m not sure where we are. I think what happens in modern-day, you really want to know the circumstances in everything that happens, and it is very difficult to make decisions about who is right and who is wrong even if you have all of those facts. And I know around here, there are so many rumors and so many things that people said happened that didn’t happen and wasn’t even true. Until I talk to Vince I won’t make any decisions on if I feel like he was right or wrong. I haven’t seen anything other than I know that it didn’t seem good at the end of the game. But other than that, I haven’t seen any reports.