Conference USA Coach's Call For Tuesday

Conference USA held the normal coaches call on Tuesday this week due to the Labor Day holiday. The league had a tough opening weekend, as only one league team won on Saturday or Sunday out-of-conference, after starting Thursday with wins by Tulsa and UTEP. UCF beat a I-AA team, while Marshall, Southern Miss, SMU and UAB lost to nationally-ranked teams. Houston beat Rice in the only league game.

Conference USA announced the players of the week prior to the weekly conference call. C-USA named Kevin Kolb, the quarterback at Houston, as the Offensive Player of the Week for a 22-of-35 effort for 233 yards and three touchdowns in a one-point win over Rice. Quinton Demps, a defensive back at UTEP, had two interceptions that set up scores in the Miners win over San Diego State, was the Defensive Player of the Week. Marquay Love, a defensive tackle at UH, blocked his sixth career kick when his block of a Rice extra-point that was the difference in the win over the Owls and collected the Special Teams Player of the Week.

Here are the coaches, starting with Marshall's head coach Mark Snyder. Coaches Chris Scelfo of Tulane and new Rice head coach Todd Graham were unavaialable as they were already at practice on Tuesday.

Mark Snyder, Marshall – The Herd lost at in-state rival WVU, up to No. 5 in the Coaches Poll but down to No. 6 in the AP, by 42-10. Marshall is in Huntington for their home opener this week with I-AA Hofstra and currently Herd season tickets are just about 200 from topping a new season ticket sold record. Marshall sold 13,818 in 2000, one year after going 13-0 and finishing No. 10 in the nation. "West Virginia is a good football team. We did some good things and bad thing, but I don't know defensively if fundamentals are where we need to be. Some young kids stepped up and did some good things for us. "Our quarterback (Bernard Morris) played well, our running backs (Ahmad Bradshaw) was just a shoe string from breaking big one. Two runs where he came out of the ‘back door,' they just tripped him up. This week's opponent was in the Top 25 in I-AA in the pre-season. "Hofstra has always come in here and played well. They will not be afraid to come in here." Hofstra lost here in 1995 by 30-28, then 45-21 in 2003. Their offensive philosophy has not changed. "They just love to throw it." The Pride's Steve Shaine Smith was the Atlantic 10 Offensive Player of the Week with 12 passes for 195 yards and one touchdown, after only catching one pass all of last year. "Their wide receiver had a pretty good coming out party. They just threw it up to him. They have a good kicker, so they will be good on special teams. They stayed with what they were doing at Hofstra (under former head coach Joe Gardi), but (new head coach Dave Cohen) is a defensive guy. We have got to prepare for everything on Saturday. Snyder was concerned most about fundamentals on defense last week. "I don't think I de-emphasized missed tackles. I didn't know we had 30, until we looked at the film. Steve Slaton is a great back, Pat White, Owen Schmitt are great players. We have got to get back on track this week."

Skip Holtz, East Carolina - The Pirates lost to Navy 28-23 in the opener at Annapolis. "We didn't really give up a lot of big plays. We put together some pretty good long distance drives." Holtz thinks that UAB will present some of the same challenges at the Naval Academy did. "UAB really impressed on film. Navy had about 35 seniors and UAB has like 28 seniors, 16-18 who start. Everyone thought with (former Blazer quarterback Darryl) Hackney gone, but he is the about the only one gone. UAB is very experienced, very big. I am very impressed by their quarterback, with way he ran offense against Oklahoma. Their front seven is the nucleus that makes defense goes. They pick their battles in secondary, do some things very, very well. Look at film, you can't tell who the number five team is."

George O'Leary, UCF - The Golden Knights, defending East Division champs, started off with a 35-16 win over I-AA Villanova. "I thought the passing game a little more in sync than usually at that time. We have got to make more plays late in the game." O'Leary is very aware of the challenge of facing the in-state rivals in No. 7 Florida Gators this week for the Knights. "I think they have a lot of outstanding athletes that make plays. They find a way to get the ball to playmakers. Whatever ranking they have, they earned. They are a very sound football team when you watch tape. I think Urban has done a good job of getting the right people in the right places."

Jeff Bower, Southern Miss: The Golden Eagles took a 7-0 lead before No. 7 Florida reeled off 34 unanswered points in the win by the Gators. Bower found some bright spots in the loss. "Our running back played well, we wanted to get him in early. It didn't phase him as a true freshman. 14-7 game late in third quarter, busted coverage, they get a touchdown. We turn it right over and in five plays, it's 27-7." This week, USM's home opener is with I-AA Southeast Louisiana, but Bower saw the three I-AA upsets on Saturday. "Colorado and Duke got beat by I-AA opponents. Most everyone is doing it (playing I-AA teams), with the 12 game schedule. They are a real quality opponent, it's a regional game and a game we should win. We got all week to improve and get the win on Saturday." Southern Miss is struggling with illness, as nearly 20 players are sick with strep. "We have 18 on list (with strep). A handful will not practice. Got no idea how long this goes. Jeremy did some good things, occasionally used his athletic ability to avoid sacks. Steven Reed came in last series and took us downfield, I thought it was good to get them both in game."

Art Briles, Houston: The Cougars went 1-0 in Conference USA with a 31-30 win over its cross-town and West Division rival Rice. "It was an amazing win, biggest comeback in UH history on road. Our guys showed guts and pulled it out, great win for us." His quarterback, Kevin Kolb, was everything a Heisman Trophy candidate should be, according to Briles. "Kolb had two touchdown passes in fourth quarter, a good turnout for him. Kevin is very smart, very instinctive. He will continue to improve as season goes along. We have some new personnel he is working with. He has certain plays in certain situations he is comfortable with. You have a good quarterback when you have a confident quarterback. He is big, he is strong and he is mobile. He is definitely not a system guy." Houston can go to 2-0 in the league against the Tulane this week, who is opening this week. "I think you look at it two different ways. They have us on film, and obviously we don't have that. As far as correcting from that week to this week, might be a little advantage for us. It is a huge opportunity if we are 2-0 in league. We have to take advantage of it. We have been preparing for these two games the whole summer."

Phil Bennett, SMU – SMU dropped a 35-3 game to No. 24 Texas Tech. "I thought our kids played hard. We weren't pleased, as we had a lot of unforced errors. We took ourselves out of scoring position with an errant snap, then a fumble near the goal line." There were also mistakes on defense in the opener for the Ponies, but certainly some bright spots as well. "I'm disappointed with the way we were tackling, we were reaching too much. But we averaged 40 yards per kick in the game and we had a 54-yard punt return. There were some things we can build on." SMU now turns its attention to North Texas, a close rival who were man-handled by Texas in the opener. "This is a big game, close to a sellout for the Metroplex rivalry. Both of us fighting and scratching for respect, should be a great game." Bennett has been a friend of Mean Green head coach Darryl Dickey, and his family, for many years. "I love him, I love Tory and I love Meredith. There are about five guys you'll have carry your casket and he's one of them. I love his whole family."

Watson Brown, UAB – The Blazers nearly pulled one of the biggest upsets of the year in a 24-17 loss to No. 10 (USA Today) Oklahoma. "We were disappointed in the locker room. We played very well, played tough but at Oklahoma, you have got to play great. Late in the game, we had a chance to win and that's what we wanted. We learned a lot from it and will gain from it, but we still come back 0-1 and have to prepare for a East Carolina team that beat us last year. "The Pirates are very good, they beat us last year. They are very experienced on both sides of ball in backfield, and that's where you want to be experienced. They lost to a very good Navy team on Saturday."

Steve Kragthorpe, Tulsa – Tulsa started the defense of its Conference USA title in 2005 with a win over I-AA Stephen F. Austin. "We were pretty much error few, not too many offensive penalties. We didn't turn the ball over, pretty crisp, pretty efficient. It will be a homecoming of sorts for Kragthorpe this weekend in Provo, Utah at BYU. "I spent ten seasons there when my dad was asst. coach. It's very loud, hard place to play. BYU very talented team, played very well versus Arizona. They are very explosive. They have a one-two punch at running back, a one-two punch at tight end. I think people didn't see on TV how explosive the Arizona defense is, I don't think it was just the BYU offense not playing well."

Mike Price, UTEP - The Miners held on for a 34-27 win on Thursday against a team in San Diego State that rallied from 21 down to make the game close. "A great team victory. It was a hard fought win, had down and let them back in game. I think that helped the character of our team. We were mad, but not too much, and stayed the course and won the game." This week, UTEP will take a step up to take on nationally-ranked Texas Tech. "Texas Tech is one of the best passing teams in country. Offensively, they have a great scheme and well, well coached. On defense, (they) have really improved that defense. Their defense is underrated. I felt like the defense didn't have players, but now they have players. They all run to ball, fundamentally sound. It's a real plus for their team and will keep them in the Top 25 because of their defense. They have young quarterback, but he is doing what he is coached to do. I am glad we have them in El Paso."

Tommy West – The Tigers dropped a three-point loss to Mississippi in Oxford on Sunday, 28-25, in a nationally-televised game. "I thought we played really well on offense. Our quarterback ran the offense very well. Our running back did some good things without the ball. They gave us a chance to win. We tackled very poorly defensively." West and Memphis will meet a school where West coached against the Thundering Herd in Chattanooga, this the third straight year for the Tigers and the Mocs to meet on the field. "Chattanooga played very well late last year. They have everything to win and nothing to lose." West coached Dallas star Terrell Owens while at then UTC, and remembers every detail of coaching on of the NFL's most controversial stars. "I kind of saw it all. I thought he was a good kid, but he was his own worst enemy. We had to let him go the last game that year. I wouldn't think to give Coach (Bill) Parcells advice," said West of the head coach of the Cowboys."


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