Can you talk about your defense bouncing back in the game? Are you starting to see leadership on that defensive side of the ball coming from players more than coaches or is it still coach driven at this point?
WILSON: In general, I think we're getting better leadership on the field and the defense is picking up. Still got a long way to go. And we've got to learn, like last week we came off a bad week and had a good week. We've got to come off a better week, and see if we can have a better week coming off a good week instead of going up and down because if you're going up and down, you're staying the same. We have to build this thing right, put together back to back good weeks of prep and keep pressing the season forward.
Talking about familiarity with Missouri's staff from your time at Oklahoma and like you said, your time at Miami?
WILSON: It goes back to one guy, one of my best guys just passed away, Mike Dunbar who was with Coach Pinkel as the coordinator up there. Just lost a fight with cancer. Just passed on Friday. We were talking about him on Friday. He was Coach Pinkel's offensive coordinator. Shoot, when I was a young coach, Phil Parker, the defensive coordinator at Iowa now, me and him would ride around spring recruiting and going to schools together. A lot of respect for those guys. First year I was at Miami it was Coach Saban at Toledo, and next year Coach Pinkel came in, and they were one of the quality teams in the league. We recruited against each other. Played against them. Their coaches have changed some, but the core is the same. It starts with Coach Pinkel who is a class act, great coach, proven winner, very, very consistent in what he's done. I know their program is bouncing back from what was a disappointing year by their standards and what he's created. At the same time each year, things change. They've got a new offensive coordinator, Josh Henson who coached at Oklahoma State and was very good friends with Coach Mallory. Josh from Oklahoma State, he's calling plays, so maybe it's a little different, maybe certain things he likes. Each year you're going to have certain things you do. When Aldon Smith was playing it was a different dynamic at D end. They have other D ends, each year is different. They always adjust their personnel. But they're well coached and they'll be well coached and play well in all three phases. They're not going to lose the game. You have to beat a team like Missouri. They're not going to play sloppy. They're not going to turn it over. They're plus four in turnover ratio. Their kicking is outstanding. They have good balance on O, good defense, solid football team. You've got to beat a team like that. They're not going to lose the game. You have to play well to beat teams like this.
Is the defense maybe more well equipped? You talked about having a mix of experienced guys and young guys and a lot of freshmen have played. But maybe is it more well equipped than in the last two years to improve as the season has gone on as opposed to playing a lot of young guys and them physically wearing down during the course of the season?
WILSON: Those are things when you talk about we kind of looked at some ways in how we practiced as far as wearing down. Because if you go through I think we've been a team that we've found in developing our team we practice very, very hard to tell you the truth. Sometimes during the year there is some wear and tear on your body. We're a little more physically mature, skill mature without becoming a soft team. We're trying to be smart in our approach to practice. I know in their injury situation last year, I think Coach Pinkel actually went this year and did not have one two a day during the practice format because he's trying to do some things to keep his team fresh. We're still young, those young guys need work. We've got to practice them hard. There is a fine line of overpracticing, overprepping, overcoaching, but we've got to keep developing these guys. I do think there is a lot of growth, because, one, I think we have good buy in. I think they're listening and they see where they need to improve, and I think they get it. It's not personal when they realize, hey, I'm not making a poor angle, I just busted this play. I should have recognized this sooner. I should have made this adjustment. Good teams get it adjusted on Saturday. Bad teams come in on Sunday and run the remote back a bunch of times and get it right. Good teams do it during the game. Young guys, that's hard. It was hard that first game. This past game we made some adjustments a little bit better. The other reason why I think you're making a valid point is there is a lot of youth over there and you do think they're going to improve just because of playing experience. The more Allen and Latham and T.J. Simmons and those guys play and Marcus Oliver, the better they'll get because they are young.
The issue that you had in the punting this past week, was that a matter of scheme, execution on mixing the two? What was it?
WILSON: On the assignments they came into an attack, a blocked look, we were counting on our spread and trying to down it. I don't think we prepared our guys properly and we didn't execute it right. The second one, we had a guy get beat in his protection. It's something that we work on daily. But it needs to be better. Bottom line, those people need to do their jobs or we've got to look at new people or new schemes. Because you can't because if they get their hand on the second one, it's not a roughing call. It was potentially two blocked punts, so we need to clean that up.
Should defenses on teams that run no huddle maybe have their performance evaluated differently? I've seen this. The team that's run no huddle, they run a lot of plays and sometimes they're done playing a lot. It inevitably makes the defense on the field more and they're facing a lot of plays too. So it may be skewed. If they had the defenses in effect, really it may be considered that they're playing with the offense that you run so many plays that it is effective?
WILSON: You could take all the stats and skew them. Like we didn't have a sack going into last week, but I was concerned our protection broke down a lot in the game before. The last game we had four sacks. We had to get our protection better. But, I could say, hey, we don't have a sack. We have this great protection, when really it wasn't that good. You can always skew the stats. Physically you're good enough and you can overwhelm and do some things, then you can keep the defense off the field. There is actually a point where I actually felt maybe we should go to the triple option, but would that be best for long term recruiting or fan base? But as we built a team, what do we need to do? We kind of thought about it, went around and thought maybe we just need to be a little more unique on offense, and not try to be an offensive stat person, but we need to be a team that scores points. We'll play Big Ten teams and the team this week. If you go down to the 1-yard line, no score, it's going to haunt you. Can you say, well, you scored so many points, you should have won? You've got to score one more than they do. We say sometimes someone got it wrong. If we can't score, the defense has got to shut them out. If they score 50, we've got to score 51. Just on our skill set right now we've got to win a little bit more into the spread to fit the personnel that were here. The tempo I think just gives us an advantage to get match ups where one increases our point production. The key thing I don't like is we've got to keep our turnovers down. We've had some more turnovers now, and we've had more turnovers with the non players. Fumbled snaps, kick return turnovers. We talk a lot about not turning the football over, because if you play fast and throw it away or play fast and go three and out, you're in trouble. I don't know. The bottom line is the one stat is we are 2-1, and that is the stat that matters. We're 2-1. No matter all those numbers you want to skew. Well, this is good, this is bad. Collective is the team, O, D and kicking. We're 2-1. That's why I thought the other day when the offense got rolling, it helped the defense.
You talk a lot about offense and defense being complementary, you don't really sort of isolate on one side of the ball. We need to keep things worked together, and that's what some of the stats are maybe thinking. The offense and defense have to work together. So don't look at the defensive statistics in isolation?
WILSON: But we've got to find some defensive stops which the other day we did. Maybe their stats weren't great, but to get some third down stops, scoring zone stops, and to have sudden change stops where we turned it over but they didn't get significant points out of it. That's where they have 400 yards of offense. They have over 400 yards and didn't get a touchdown. You know, we had what? What did we have? Six touchdowns and 600 yards, so for every 100 yards. The real deal is to me scoring points, scoring touchdowns, conversions. The defense can get off the field if it makes a third down stop. The key thing is if you go fast offensively, it means you don't want to turn it over, you don't want to go with the three and outs. Missouri is outstanding. Three games into our season I think we're fourth in the conference in third down defense, and we're first in third down offense. We're playing a team that's much like us. They've always been if you pull up Missouri stats, and I know because I was in that league, they're probably in the last 10 years over 50 percent on third down during that run. They've always been a great third down team. It's getting stops, getting turnovers or vice versa. You don't get it stopped. From there, a lot of people say that the wishbone was a very risky offense because you pitch it so much. Navy didn't have a turnover, so it's executing. Whether you're going fast or not, spread or not, to me it just comes down to execution. That was my concern from last game. Both sides were kicking, and we've got to execute better. We have a lot to work on.
Can you talk about the production you are getting out there in the running game in general, in particular the way Stephen (Houston) has responded to the competition he's getting?
WILSON: Again, he still can play better though and same with Tevin (Coleman). I think those guys are going to get some nicks as you go through the years you need more than one. You need to keep them fresh. Part of our tempo. We're playing fast. Sometimes you need to sub a guy in because those guys are in space. They do a lot of running. We don't do a lot, where we try to stretch the field, not just down the field, but horizontally. You ought to one day pull up a game tape and see how many times they run a swing route, which is basically a 30 yard spread. They might get the ball, they might not. But we're trying to stretch them this way and this way to make holes in the seams and the defense. It's a taxing position. There is a lot of wear and tear. And we need D'Angelo (Robertss) and Laray (Smith) to come along because I think you need more than two. Stephen has done well, Tevin has done well, but our running game still has to be better. We had nine negative rushing plays the other day, nine times and that's way too many. That gets you to too many 3rd and longs that we were really very fortunate to get last week.
Were you happy with how hard they're hitting the holes though?
WILSON: Yeah, I think so. We talked a little bit about that. And we're trying to be perfect but we missed a boatload of blocks. But run fast, come off the ball and be decisive. Good things happened. Sometimes it wasn't clean or perfect or ideal. You can be so robotical as a runner or as a blocker that you miss things. You've got to go from A to B as fast as you can. Good Lord gave it to you, you run off the ball as fast as you can, and you run. You run off the ball and you run. You don't do a lot of dancing. It's one cut and you press it. We still can get better there. Yeah, it's going to be a fight for us every week, because if that running game gets going, we're a much better offense. The same thing this week in defending Missouri. They're really good in the running game, 265 yards a game. If that thing gets going, they're very difficult to defend because now they can pick and choose and keep you off balance.
I guess you guys did a lot of one on one on the outside in this last game.
WILSON: Well, again, because can you stop the run as far as putting the right numbers in the box. Because if you put in those players and that's mathematically how most people in college play the game. You mathematically put more people up there. Doesn't mean you have to stand at the line. But you're leveraging corners, backers, and safeties where they have leverage to beat a perimeter block or be an extra hat. Basically the word is called outgapping you. They're putting more people in the gaps than you've got. Having said that, you're one on one outside. If that is the case and you need to do that, you're going to be out there one on one with the receivers first. That's just every week, every game. Some teams are going to play soft umbrella then you've got to get the run game going. This week as the run game got going, hey, they want to load up, they got one on one. We made some one on one plays. Now if they softened up and played the softened coverage, then the running game came back. Again, it was a compliment of each other. For Coach Mallory and his guys, it will be a challenge because, again, they're a very, very good running team. The teams that play really good run defense don't always do it just because of a good D line. They do it with structure. Where your eyes are and your eye discipline and where your reads are to cheat the scheme and get extra hats in the box to stop the run. Then you've got to make the tackles.
In terms of a simplistic question, but how did Nate grade out? I know it was his first career start, but not the first time he's gotten a lot of snaps in his career. What kind of game do you think he had after some time to evaluate?
WILSON: It was good. To sit here and say what his stat rate was, Coach Johns, we gave him a winning performance. We gave Cody the player of the game for offense, but we gave him a winning grade. He had to make some awkward plays. Protection broke down on him. He communicated well. Again, we had no serious issues with the ball, where he went with the ball. Few things we need to clean up that we've talked about, but he had a very solid game. But he had surrounding parts there too. The line blocked well enough, except for a couple protection issues. Run game was good, but he made some good shots and had he some players make some good plays for him.
Can you talk about what you've seen from Nick Mangieri lately? What's impressed you from preseason on?
WILSON: Stronger, more mature, year and a half or two in the program now. He's just physically better in what he's doing. I think he's a very skilled kid. Very athletic family. His brother played at Nebraska. He's got a couple younger brothers that are going to be really good athletes. A great baseball player. He's getting his hands on those balls because he's got a nice knack. He's still young. We didn't red shirt him, so he's a true sophomore. He's got a lot of growth potential. He's stronger, practices hard, has good energy. He's a long way from being an upper level D end, but he's off to a good start in his career.
When you have decisions to do an on side kick at the start of the second half, is there more of a plan going into a game of what you want to do or is that more of a feel thing?
WILSON: To me it's feel. We're flipping back and forth between O and D. We're thinking this. What do you think? Then execute the fourth down situation. The first one was probably too long. But we put our big guys out for what we saw and we kind of got stuffed on the first one. We ended up being fourth, almost two, 1 and a half. Tried to pass on third downs there and kind of missed the shot. Probably should have managed the first one better. The fumbled snap, we've got to get that one in. That is a concern. Right before the half, shoot, we've kind of battled and it's 21-10. I didn't want to go down there. We just kind of held them there. I didn't want them going in with any momentum. There's 50 seconds and you say a quick strike. But we had some protection issues. You don't want to go into the half with funky momentum. There is calculated risk. I think there was one two years ago. I don't think we got good coverage, but we're playing a game and our opponent jumped off sides on a two point play. We put our big guys in with a no play call. If we saw something we liked then we were running the play, if not, we're going to take a five yard delay of game penalty. At the time it was said that's going to be greedy. And I said, no, it's going to be wide open or we're going to back it up to kick the extra point from the six and a half. It was a three yard risk of kicking, and we walked in on the two point play. At the time, the people covering the game weren't even talking about the penalty on the defensive guys. There were some things wrong. The way Bowling Green lined up, we had three guys outside the in man on the front line. We just missed the kick. Didn't miss the kick. We needed to go catch the ball. Our receiver kind of waited for it to come. We told the guys at halftime, hey, it's there. We're going to go do it. If it don't work, don't worry about it. Because you have to have enough courage to do what you think is right. If it fails, we'll stop them and we'll run to score. You sit there and talk about O and D. Hey, fourth down, what do you think? You want me to punt it or go for it? If you can get it, go for it. We're always going back and forth, because we're collectively a team. It's quick decisions. We're not sitting there. We've got our third and long calls, red zone calls. But you're kind of picking. We've got our fourth down calls, here's what we want to. Unfortunately, we haven't executed two fourth and shorts in our first two games, which we need to work on. But the real deal is it's not a gamble as much as this is what you think is going to work, and your players need to go execute it. And you know what? Sometimes they don't. It's nothing against them when they don't. You're sitting there looking at here's what you do, you go do it. Sometimes you pull it off. It's not being foolish. But I think we're a team and for us to do well, we've got to be as smart as we are aggressive. We can't sit and wait and hope. It's like Tiger Woods. He's not hoping the guy misses the putt. He walks up, he's going to make it. I'm going to make it. Hey, that onside kick there, we're going to go for it, we're going to make it. Sometimes there's a lipout, but there are as many lip ins as lipouts. There are as many good bounces as there are bad bounces. We're not going to be stupid. We're going to be aggressive in what we're doing, but there are also calculations. We're talking about no huddle tempo. We're trying to work offense, defense collectively to put it together.
Follow Terry Hutchens at Twitter.com/Foxsportshutch