Preparation on a Short Week

The Cougars fly out to Forth Worth, Texas this week to face No. 24 TCU. The game is on Thursday, which means the Cougars have but a few days to prepare as they seek to defend their conference title and continue their quest for perfection.

The Cougars have a specific schedule they follow each week as they prepare for their upcoming game. However, that schedule is modified and condensed whenever a game falls on weeknight, like with this Thursday's game against TCU. According to Cougar cornerback Scott Johnson, Monday's practice was more like a typical Wednesday practice.

"There's not too much to it," said Johnson. "Obviously we miss a Monday and Tuesday's practice and everything just shifts down. Today was a Wednesday practice in terms of our preparation, so we have to treat it as if it was a Wednesday and have to try and be as prepared today as if we would be on a normal week."

Generally on Mondays, the Cougars take an inward look at themselves before turning their attention to their opponent's schemes and tendencies.

"On Mondays, we usually review what we did during the game before," said outside linebacker Grant Nelson. "We go over areas on where we feel we need to improve. But instead of going over that we skip that [on shorter weeks]. We hit a little bit of that during team meetings, but that was basically it."

Monday's practice was focused squarely on TCU.

"Practice is just a little bit longer, a little bit more extensive and a little bit more deeper into the team's strategy and offensive tendencies," said Johnson regarding practice during a short week. "So you just don't ease into it; you have jump right into it. TCU is a great team and the games have been a good contest over the past couple of years, so we have to be ready quickly for what they bring to the football field."

In order to be ready on a short week, the Cougar coaching staff asks the players to take more personal responsibility when it comes to their individual preparation.

"We have to focus more on our personal preparation," Johnson said. "We have to be prepared individually and collectively prior to meeting with our coaches. I think it comes by our personal preparation by spending time in the film room by ourselves or by watching the TCU DVD we got after the New Mexico game."

"The coaches told us right after the [New Mexico] game that we have to review [the DVDs] ourselves," said Nelson. "They wanted us to get our mind right for TCU and gave us film right then after the game. They wanted us to prepare ourselves first so we could be ready for team meetings, where we just focused on TCU on Monday."

Nelson talked about what the Cougars have observed about TCU so far.

"We've seen that they are a very athletic team," said Nelson. "They're not quite as physical as New Mexico, but they're fast. We got a chance to get a quick feel for TCU and what they'll bring to the field in our team meetings."

Monday's practice was fast paced as the Cougar defenders got a quick dose of what to expect from the Horned Frogs.

"We focused a lot on getting into the rhythm of their offense," said Johnson. "We went from getting a feel of New Mexico and learning what they did to jumping right in and getting a feel for what TCU does, which is a totally different type of team. We got a quick dose of seeing what their quarterback, receivers and running backs do, so we got a quick feel of the flow of the game and how TCU runs their offense. We also focused on what we like to do in terms of how we run things on defense."

"Instead of having a light practice today, which what we usually do on Mondays, we went right into it today with 16 periods," said Nelson. "I haven't seen everything yet, but we got a good look at what they do. They're a good option team where the quarterback reads the defensive ends to decide when to pull it or give it to the running backs. So we worked on a lot of things in regards to what they do offensively and got a good look at that today. We were all working hard and fast today and it will be like that tomorrow. Then we'll have a short practice before we leave on the plane on Wednesday."

Johnson said that it isn't necessarily a bad thing to have a short week between games.

"Our coaches have done a great job in helping to get us quickly prepared," said Johnson. "They help us to know what to expect in such a short time and do what they can to help us be as prepared as any in such a short time. I don't think it's a drag at all to play on a short week. What it does is it just accelerates everything. We just got finished with a game and now we're practicing as if it's already game time, and we're all ready to play right now. It's a good shakeup from the normal routine of preparation."

Helping the Cougar defense during this short week will be the fact that it focuses on position mastery more than adaptation and change.

"I think that by focusing on what you're doing - and by doing it well - is what makes good teams great, not by changing things up defensively week after week for a specific team," said Johnson. "It doesn't matter what they bring and, obviously, we're going to know what their tendencies are and we know what we do well. We can then better understand how to defend those tendencies with what we do well. Obviously, every offensive play is meant to score a touchdown and every defensive play is meant to stop it. It just comes down to who executes what better."

Nelson spoke with Total Blue Sports about what the Cougar defenders have learned about the TCU offense in a short amount of time.

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