Stoops:"We are a couple of plays away."

The Cats are just a few plays from being 3-1. A missed field goal and a late fumble cost the Wildcats a couple of wins, but the improvement has been apparent. The team takes their next step in their rebuilding as they go on their first road trip under Mike Stoops. Stoops discussed the bye week, UCLA and the close losses in his weekly press conference.

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On the bye week:

Mike Stoops: "I think the bye week came at a great time for us. It was pretty emotional stressful moth of September with all the close calls. It just wears on you as a team. It seems like every play the game hangs in the balance. That's how it was during the whole month of September. I thought it was draining on the staff and the players."

On UCLA:

Stoops: "They are probably similar to us in a lot of ways. They like to run the football, they emphasize the run and they are very good at running the football. It seems to be their strength is their offensive line. Maurice drew is a tremendous player. He doe a lot of good things. They do a good job making creases. He seems to find the hole very well. We will have to play great run defense this weekend to be successful.

"Olson is throwing the ball well. I thought he threw the ball as well as he has all year against San Diego State. He is accurate and has a great arm. He is a very gifted player. We will have to be good in the run game and the pass. They are very balanced, more balanced than our offense at this point."

On the Bruin defense: Stoops: "On the flip side their defense is giving up over 5 yards a carry. That is obviously we have to look at and keep emphasizing our ability to run the football. If they are going to put guys up on the line of scrimmage like everybody else has this year than we have to have the ability to throw the football down the field. That is something I personally and offensively we have let people get away with it not being sound against the pass. At this level you can't let people do the things they are able to do and play their safeties that low and not have the ability to throw the football over the top of them. Those are things we have emphasized over the past week of practice."

How would you say Kris Heavner has played so far?

Stoops: "I would say average. You see some good things that he does. Mechanically he can get a lot better. His fundamentals seem to break down in games.

"The thing I have been the most impressed with offensively is we got down in the Wisconsin game and got back from the 20 to their 25, at Washington State--throws a perfect ball.

‘We have shown the capabilities and our character has come through late in the games. Kris has been a big part of that. He has it in him, but with Kris it gets down to fundamentals. He is young in this system and he will continue to get better. He has to see things and experience them, but he has to react to things quicker and more soundly to be effective.

A lot of success hinge on your quarterback play, that is the nature of the position. Kris has bounced back and played pretty well at times. We have to do a better job of putting him in better situations for success. That is our responsibility as a staff as well. It is receivers, protection and schemes, it all goes hand in hand."

On Heavner's lack of mobility:

Stoops: "I don't think that is his strong suit, his mobility. He has to do a better job of finding windows to throw through. I would hope he would do a better job of stepping up in the pocket and finding the holes to throw to. Sometimes there are not many windows to throw through and you have to feel pressure and step around it and step up. I don't think he will ever be a guy that will ever flush out of the pocket and make plays, but that comes with playing and having vision down the field when plays break down and finding an open receiver. I'm sure he will continue to get better at that as well."

Who is the back-up quarterback right now?

Stoops: "We are playing both of them. I don't know what will happen right now if something happened to Kris early. We are working them both. Richard (Kovalcheck) has shown good improvement, he just has not played at this level and Nic (Costa) has played and more experience. We are working them both. We can do some different things with Nic offensively that could create some run game with our quarterback. It is tough to say at this point. They are both splitting reps with twos."

On the defensive line:

Stoops: "I think they have all played consistently well when you look at the amount of snaps that we have taken. Probably 90 percent, 85 that is an extraordinary amount but it has hurt us at times late in the games. That is our responsibility to get more depth and develop depth, and their quality drops off. That is not fair to them. Any great player quality of play drops off in the third and fourth quarter if they are playing that amount of snaps. We have to do a better job of keeping our d-line and our starters fresh."

On playing on the road for the first time:

Stoops: "It's different setting, a regular season game. It is different. We will go in with the4 same mindset that we will have a great opportunity to win. I think these teams match up very well against each other. I think it has a chance to be an exciting game. Both teams are comparable. The record is flip flopped for ours but what we have to look at is the combination of the three teams we have lost o is 12-1.

"We are a couple of plays away from being lot better than we are. I believe we are every bit as talented as UCLA. If we don't turn the ball over and play smart and good defense than we will have a great opportunity to win.

"I think on the road you have to play much better defense. You can't turn the ball over. That is what gets the crowd going, big plays and turnovers. Those things are paramount on the road that you can't do. You can't put yourself in bad situations. Those are things we emphasize, our toughness has to be stronger on the road. I have never played at the Rose Bowl against UCLA in a regular season game I don't know what the atmosphere will be like, but I imagine it will get loud. If we do the things we are capable of doing than hopefully the crowd won't be a big factor."

On reports from Washington and San Diego State players that UCLA commits a lot of illegal chop blocks:

Stoops: "I asked Berle about it and he said Washington never said anything to the pac-10 officials about it. There are chop blocks all across the line of scrimmage. I called him last week about it and they said nobody reported that.

"There is a lot of it going on. That has been a point of emphasis. It was concerning to me that was jeopardizing some of the defensive lineman's health by cutting and rolling up on their legs. That is something you try to bring to their attention. I am sure they are not doing it purposely. If there are three different coaches concerned about it then there is something there. Coaches don't bring things up just to bring them up."

On UCLA's tough running game:

Stoops: "They do a good job of zone blocking. It is the best zone blocking team we will see. They do a good job of stretching and trying to create a scheme. And he is very good runner, his balance and acceleration and strength. He is a really, really good player."


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