On Washington State game
As you break it down, our defense played really well. We gave up three big plays, which, of course, is what we keep working on. Every defense keeps working on getting rid of those big plays. One of them was a bust, one of them was a great play by a receiver — we actually knocked the ball away and it fell back into his hands — and the other was a trick play that got us.
The rest of the game we played really well, but we've got to keep working. Usually, that's (lack of) experience, giving up those big plays.
We are running to the ball and tackling really well. We're a much better tackling team than we were a year ago. We're older, but we're also still really young. If you look at the personnel that are playing for us, it's incredible to see the number of sophomores playing on this team.
I thought the difference in the game Saturday was special teams. The defenses played pretty well, and I thought both offenses were sloppy. But special teams for us came up big in the game.
I felt really fortunate to be able to punt the ball and be able to cover as well as we did, even though I think we gave up a 29-yard run. But that team traditionally brings a lot of pressure and creates a lot of problems for you in the punt game, and I though we did a really good job with that. We worked hard at it, and the kids have a really good attitude about it.
In the kickoff return team, we had a 61-yard kickoff return, which really allowed us to put three points to the board and put the game at an eight-point difference.
Two long field goals again, two blocked punts. I was really pleased with the effort and the attention to detail, and the work our special teams coaches did in that game. A year ago we had been outclassed and beaten in special teams handily in the game against Washington State. So to do it against them was good for us.
Offensively, as you know, we're struggling. I don't think there's any one think you can put your finger on. In the passing game we're not accurate. First down really hurt us Saturday. We were good on first down against CSU, but we were awful on first down Saturday. We had a number of penalties on first down that hurt us. Noise was a bit of an issue. But I think the number of checks that we employed in that game trying to be perfect — we saw what they did to us a year ago and if we did not want to put our players in that position. If we could control them we were going to. But I think we tried to control them too much.
It felt as though we were never the same after Bobby's long run was brought back. We've got to fight through that. We can't be affected that way. So we've got to mature in the mental aspect of it. We're all sure that we will.
Looking Ahead to North Texas
Going into this game, we feel like we've got to loosen up Joel a little bit, we've got to take a little pressure off, not try to be so perfect, just do our thing. I think we're all convinced that we can be a good offense, but since the second quarter of the CSU game, we haven't been a good offense. That's just flat out, the truth.
This week brings a very sobering look by our offense at everything that's going on. We certainly have their attention. We will be better. I know we will be better with our offense going into this game.
This is an interesting game; it's sort of a matchup like we had last week. Their offense is struggling without Patrick Cobbs. The strength of their defense is their front four. They've got a player who was the defensive player of the year in that league, Adrian Awasom. I can see why, he's a great player.
Their front four is really sturdy. We're going to have to block them, we're going to have to pass protect, be really careful on the edge. New linebackers, an experienced secondary.
We still have to play the game. This team is picked to win the Sun Belt Conference again. Their M.O. has been to play tough teams in the preseason and then they win all their conference games. I think they get toughened up in their preseason, and then everybody they play in their conference is easier than who they played in their non-conference. They seem to zip right through it.
Probably the thing that jumps out the most as you watch them is how well coached they are. Coach Dickey and their staff does a really, really good job. They're never out of position when they're running the ball. They do all the things they're supposed to do.
We've got to be careful. This is a dangerous game for us. Dangerous from the standpoint that we've had two really emotional games that were hard to win. We hung in there and we won them. Human nature says I need a rest. I need to not have a game like that. What happens is you're not ready.
I don't look for that to happen with our offense. I think our offense is sufficiently embarrassed by what happened to us last week. But defensively, especially with young guys we as a coaching staff has to do a good job of making sure we're hitting on all cylinders.
One of our goals is to respect our opponents at all times. And we do respect this opponent. But if we go out and play our game the way we can, this is a game we should win. We know that. But you've still got to go do it, and you've got to practice the right way. These players have had the right attitude in practice. We've had good practices every day since camp opened. Today will be our tough practice, today and tomorrow, then we'll lighten up a little bit.
Question: Did you think North Texas was flat in its loss to Florida Atlantic?
GB: You can't tell the emotion of it (from film). They've had a great winning streak at home, and sometimes you think you can just turn it on when you're at home. They may have fallen in to that.
I thought Florida Atlantic was a pretty athletic team and did a good job with them defensively.
Q: What did Texas do in that its 65-0 win over UNT?
GB: Just ran right over them. They had their way with them. Texas came out throwing a little bit, but when they decided just to run the football, Vincent Young and the two running backs just manhandled them.
Q: Will what happened with Nebraska, Missouri and Kansas State add motivation for your team?
GB: I think that that adds to it a little bit. But we have our own experience with Baylor last year to draw upon. That one's much closer and more real to us.
The Kansas State game, I don't think anybody should be really surprised with that game. Fresno State's really a team with good players. And Kansas State's M.O. is to grow up in those non-conference games and get a lot of confidence. And then they're ready to go when they reach the Big 12. Normally the teams they're playing are not as good as Fresno.
The other game, Nebraska, I don't think anybody can look at Southern Miss and not say that's a great program through the years. They've beaten all the top teams. That one wasn't a surprise to me.
Q: When you look at Troy beating Missouri, is that a signal of the parity in college football, with the limited scholarships.
GB: I think there's a lot of factors. Academic admissions factor in. It's a combination of those things.
Q: What's the biggest difference in your defense from last year?
GB: All the guys you're seeing play as sophomores, they played as freshmen last year. That's one huge issue. We're playing the run better than we did a year ago. I think the linebackers we're playing with are a year older, except Jordon. Scheme has something to do with it I think. It's a lot of things.
But we're a better tackling team than we were a year ago. That's what stands out to me more than anything. Last year even when we played good games we missed a lot of tackles. This year we're not missing many tackles, either because of emphasis or because guys are older.
Q: Where will you draw the line for Crosby kicking a field goal?
GB: First you've got to go with the situation. That's critical. But I would not be afraid to have Mason Crosby go out there with two seconds left on the clock before halftime and have him kick a 65-yard field goal, or a 70-yarder. I'd let him try it. It wouldn't bother me a bit to do that.
Play in and play out, Saturday was 52, CSU was 55. I think I'm really comfortable in that category. Beyond that I've got to think about it; it depends on who we're playing and the situation.
Q: What's the longest kick in practice?
GB: Oh, probably 75 or 80 yards. Usually you don't measure them, you just go, ‘Whoa!'
Q: Can you talk about the running game? It dropped off from what you did against CSU.
GB: It looked like we were going to get off to a great start in the running game. I want to give Washington State credit, because as this year goes on I think you're going to see that's a really good defense. But we really didn't do some things either. We did not block well in that game. We missed some checks, some audibles. We've got to take that on ourselves.
Q: Have you been in this situation before with a struggling offense, and what have you learned from those situations?
GB: Well, you learn that there's a real narrow gray area. One answer is you just keep working and you'll get better. That's sort of the pat answer.
The other answer is maybe you need to make some personnel changes. But when do you do ‘em and who do you do ‘em with? If there isn't anything that's glaring, who do you move?
What happens is that there's just a real narrow gray area which is where that decision has to go. You just have to feel it. We probably all hang on one of them longer than we should. Coaches probably hang with the work harder attitude longer than they should. And the general public usually wants you to go change the second baseman sooner than you should. The reality is it's something in between.
A year ago I knew that we were struggling in the offensive line. I knew where our problems were. There really wasn't much we could do. There wasn't anybody else we could put in there. It was just a matter of we had to somehow scheme our offense a certain way. And then when we lost Bobby, we lost the north-south running game. So we had to scheme our way through last year.
This year I look at it and I can't put my finger on what it is. We've just got to work it through because a year ago we were accurate at throwing the football. Right now we haven't been. I see us having the potential to protect everything, throw the ball accurately and have receivers get open and do something with the ball, and have a running game. Going through camp, I didn't see an area we knew we were deficient in. That's why it's a little bit hard for us to solve this puzzle.
Q: Has Hugh Charles moved up the depth chart?
GB: Hugh Charles has moved into a position where he's playing some special teams for us. He's finally healthy, he's had a hamstring strain through camp. He's finally running full speed. So now in practices I think we're starting to work him in to see what we can do with him. Both the freshmen have gotten themselves in a position where we feel very comfortable playing them, Byron Ellis and Hugh Charles.
Q: Is McKenzie Tilmon a redshirt possibility?
GB: McKenzie has not played. It's a redshirt possibility. We're going to have to wait and see on that. We'll have to wait and see after this game.
Q: Is moving Bernard Jackson to receiver a permanent thing?
GB: I think it is. It's permanent for this year. We want to get him on the field. We see that as the fastest and easiest way to do that. He should know the receiver routes. He's not going to know them all, but he's got idea, and he's a good athlete. I also could see him being a punt returner or a kickoff returner.
When he's in the game there's probably a lot of trick plays we can run (laughing). There's a lot of flexibility, a lot of things we can do. I want to make him the personal protector on the punt. Just for you, Neill (Woelk). (laughter). I actually do; I want to do that. But I'm going to hold off. If I could teach him to punt, we'd have everything we needed.
Torp, by the way, is doing a great job.
Q: How might the other freshmen wide receivers play into things?
GB: Reggie Joseph has definitely worked his way up the ladder. Patrick Williams has a cracked hand, so he's struggling catching the ball. But he's playing special teams, and will continue to play. But Reggie, he's going to see more and more opportunities.
Q: What's the status on J.J. Billingsley?
GB: He's got two problems. One, he's got to get that knee healthy, which he's doing. The other problem is Tyrone Henderson, who's playing pretty well. He's going to have to work himself back in there. We're just being very cautious with that and will give him another two weeks to get ready so that we know he'll be full speed by the conference season. He won't play this week.
Q: How much of a drop off is there from Bobby to the other running backs?
GB: I don't know yet because we haven't played them enough. Daniel's a short yardage guy, and he played well against CSU. We haven't gotten the ball to Lawrence in the backfield yet. Last week, our situation was such that we didn't play anybody else, so I don't know if we know that answer yet.
Q: Is Isaiah Crawford still in the mix there?
GB: Yeah, Isaiah's still in the mix. We have a number of guys still in the mix, but I think we're particularly excited about the two young guys we have.
Q: What do you do to control DE Adrian Awasom?
GB: You challenge your tackles, and maybe you keep your tight end in there and chip him with a back. He's a really good player. He's as good a player as we're going to see. You have to account for him.
Q: How does it feel to be 2-0 and not be 1-1 like some of the other Big 12 North teams?
GB: Very fortunate. We could be 0-2. We're very appreciative, but we also feel like we earned it.