Gary Barnett: The Oklahoma State game was a big win for us. Being on the road and going into a pretty hostile environment is always a good test for your team.
The week before, being in Miami really set us up for it, prepared us well for it. Guys went down and took care of business. It was just the way you'd want a team to play.
Our defense was relentless. But I think we reached a point in there where we weren't getting challenged. And I think as we graded the film (we saw) guys' intensity fell off a little bit. We need to get ourselves back where we can maintain that for 30 minutes.
Offensively, I think we settled down in the second half. I was impressed with a number of guys. I thought our offensive line did a really good job in that game. We had two tackles go out at one time. Dave Borbely said he went over every single scenario except losing two tackles on the same play. That's why we called time out. We had to figure out what the heck we were going to do.
Fortunately, we were only out for a play with one guy.
We should be a little healthier this week. Coming home, it's Homecoming, a 5 o'clock game, television, an opponent like A&M, hopefully a sell out – it should be a great atmosphere.
It's a great opportunity for our team. That's the way they're looking at it. We've been looking forward to this game for a long time. It's not a vengeance deal, we just went down there last year and played well and let it slip away at the last minute. It bothered us all year.
It was one of those games that could have gone the other way for us. Now, we're basically the same team that went down there last year. But I think we're much better on defense than we were a year ago. It's a good set up for us. It's the third out of four in a row that we know are going to be real challenging. So to get Texas A&M here is a big thing.
I like having it in front of our crowd, I like having it at 5 o'clock.
Reggie McNeal is obviously our biggest challenge. That and their defense. They're doing a lot more option with him than they've done before. He's a senior quarterback. We're going to get a string of running quarterbacks that are very effective between McNeal, Vince Young and Brad Smith and the kid at Iowa State. It's just who we're going to play now.
Fortunately, it's much of the system that w e saw last week, so there's some carry over, and it's much of the system we'll see next week (vs. Texas). We hit a string of three or four games where everybody is sort of doing the same things.
The challenge is to minimize McNeal. He's thrown for over 300 yards every game except this last one. Baylor did a nice job of defending him.
The Baylor game (for the Aggies) is a lot like our CSU game. You know you're going to get their best shot, and it's always going to be a heckuva game. Baylor blew it is what happened.
We also know A&M is going to rebound for this game. That wasn't typical for them. They've taken care of business a lot better than that.
Defensively is a real challenge for us. They're very talented. We moved the ball on them fairly well last year bet we shot ourselves in the foot a couple of times – a couple of dropped passes and a fumble. Those sort of things kept us from winning that game.
I think we're starting to get a feel for ourselves, especially in the offensive line and the running back position. I think we've got to be more consistent, especially in the throwing game. That's the challenge for us this week is to become more consistent on offense, especially in the passing game.
I thought our special teams did a good job on Saturday. We're going to face a good challenge with A&M. They're one of the better special teams teams that we've seen so far.
Q: Can you talk about how you did defensively against Reggie McNeal last year?
GB: I thought we did a good job with McNeal. But we let that last drive occur. It was 2:03 left and we scored. We kicked it off and I think they had to go 85 yards. We didn't put a lot of pressure on him. They made some plays, converted a fourth down, I think. They got down and we forced them to kick a field goal.
But he's the key to their offense, he and Courtney Lewis. We've got to find a way to keep him from making big plays on us. If we can reduce his throwing on us, I think we can help ourselves a lot. Our secondary is much improved over a year ago. I like where we are.
Q: Does he look any different this year?
GB: He's like a redshirt senior this year. He should be right in the flow, and that's pretty much where he is. I heard Dennis (Franchione) say the game's slowed down for him, and I think that's what happens to seniors. The way they handle everything – the game slows down and they're sort of in control. That's the way he is.
Q: You mentioned Baylor played well against them. What did they do?
GB: Baylor just played pretty good defense, then they dinked ‘em around on offense. They run that spread offense, and they broke a long run early in the game that set them up for their first score.
Baylor didn't do anything that was obvious. They just played them pretty tough.
Q: Is this your best barometer game so far this season?
GB: Probably so, I guess. We don't think if it in those terms. But if you're on the outside, you probably could say that.
Q: Trying to judge where your program is, is it a game …
GB: Well, let's judge our team. Let's judge this team so far this year. Both teams are pretty similar. We've pretty much played the same way with everybody, I think.
Q: How much more option are they running, and are they doing that to take advantage of McNeal's abilities?
GB: They'll have to answer that one as far as if that's the reason they're going it, but they are running a lot more option. A lot more than they did a year ago. They're putting him on the run.
He's their best player. His carries have gone up. They're reading the triple option. That's what that shotgun stuff is doing. It's just the old triple option. And they're reading it from back there rather than at the line of scrimmage.
Q: Will Darian Hagan be your scout team quarterback this week?
GB: (laughs) No, probably Bernard Jackson again. Hagan would get hurt. He was hurt in half the games he played here
Q: You used two guys on punt returns against Oklahoma State. Will you continue to do that?
GB: No. That was a one-game arrangement, just because of what they did and where their punter had kicked the ball. He was only averaging 36 yards a kick, and he was line-driving some kicks. We didn't want the ball to hit the ground. We wanted to put our most sure-handed catcher (Stephone Robinson) up. He ended up kicking the ball pretty well. Reggie Joseph ended up catching one, and he fumbled another. Stephone made a big play on that (recovering the muffed punt). That was a key play in that game.
Q: The stats suggest Texas A&M is struggling on defense. You don't see it that way?
GB: When I watch them, they sure look athletic and they sure run to the ball. They've got all three linebackers back, two of the four guys up front back. Statistically, Johnny Jolly's got three sacks. They're right up there in the sack category.
Q: Alonzo Barrett got the start Saturday. How did he look on film?
GB: Alonzo played pretty well. He's got to be more consistent, which is typical of a young guy, but he's very active. He's always going to be around the ball. For example, on that interception for a touchdown, he made a great block. He went the wrong way, and he should've contained the play in the first place. But he turned it over just like that – he went from defense to offense, and he executed the block that really sprung Marcus Burton on the touchdown.
He plays hard and he's very aggressive and athletic.
Q: Is Hugh Charles more and more of a threat every game to pop that long one?
GB: If you're going to play man to man and leave the middle open, that would be like playing Darren Sproles that way. Because if he gets a crease, no one's going to catch him in the middle.
Q: Is that who he reminds you of a little bit, Sproles?
GB: Yeah, I think so. He's fast. He just shot through there (on the 74-yard touchdown run). Lawrence Vickers threw a great block on that play. And Hugh was just this far away from two others in that game. The more he sees it and does it, the more he'll be a threat each time.
Every time we give him the ball, I think he may take it all the way.
Q: Any update on injuries?
GB: We've got some little things, a finger here or a foot sprain there. Terry Washington is the only one. Yesterday we weren't sure, today he looked a lot better. I would say he's questionable. Everybody else is probable.
Q: As far as Tyler Polumbus goes, do you think he'll get back into the starting lineup?
GB: I don't know. The high ankle sprain is one of those things. We'll have to see. Gary Moore played really well. If Polumbus can't go we'll just stay with the rotation we had and play those two guys.
Q: If Terry can't play, who do you line up with Stephone at kick return?
GB: I don't know. Pick one. Actually, I don't know if we'll do Stephone at kick return because he's got a hamstring issue. We've got a couple guys. We can put Gerett Burl back there, Vance Washington. Oh, I know who it'll be —Bernard Jackson.
Q: Is Marcus Burton going to see the field more?
GB: Marcus Burton had a great couple plays. He had a sack, a tackle for a loss and an interception for a touchdown. And he didn't grade out well enough to be in the Victory Club because he made so many other mistakes. Because he's so young. He made some great plays because he just ran to the football.
If there's a lesson there, if you just run to the football, good things are going to happen to you. Then once you learn what to do, you might be really, really good. That's where Marcus is. But we are going to play him more. We're going to play him more on special teams and take advantage of his speed. But he's shown he can make plays. As a coach, that's what you're looking for.