"And they're more of a defensive team I guess, right? That's what they're always known for. So a great challenge on that side of the ball. They're deep, I mean they've got five-star players as backups, they've got five-star players sitting on the bench not getting tons of reps. They have talent at every position. Statistically you look at what they've been able to do, it's pretty impressive on the defensive side of the ball. I think they had the one game where Johnny Manziel put up a bunch of points, made a bunch of plays running around and improvised and put up a lot of yards. Despite that they still lead basically the nation, the conference and are rated top of the nation in just about every defensive category."
"But, a great challenge for us, I think they're averaging winning every game by 31 points so we'll have our hands full. A unique opportunity and we're going to enjoy that opportunity, and go out there and play with great effort for sixty minutes and see what we can do."
What is the difference planning for a Manziel and for a balanced offense? "Well, it's very different. You have to make sure everybody takes a lot of ice baths this week, where last week we had to stretch out an awful lot and hydrate, you were going to be running around all over the place. This week you'd better get in that ice bath and get your body healthy, because they're going to pound away at you."
"Not that they don't have the talent to spread it out and throw it any time they want, with all the great receivers they have and the great fifth-year senior quarterback, a guy that wins. But just within their style it's going to be a much more physical game. What you do is you look at film of the guys and you make corrections within the general part of our defense. Because a lot of stuff from last week won't really apply to this week. It's not we have to fix this, this week or we made this mistake and we're going to see it again this week. You're going to see a very different style. So a lot of it is much more in correcting some overall issues that we have. And just change the mindset for this style of offense you're going to play, and take our schemes and see how it applies to their team."
Talk about De'Runnya Wilson's emergence at receiver? "He's done a good job. He's a guy that in training camp we thought made some plays, continued to develop. And you look at he has some good matchups on (last) Saturday. I guess it's tough because I think a lot of people look at statistics and say ‘wow he had such a huge game, where's he been?' Sometimes it's the matchups and it's the looks you get, he had some matchups on Saturday and we took advantage of the matchups with him on Saturday. You don't always get that."
"But the great thing is you look at what he did when we had a good matchup, he went and made the play. And that's what we need to do. We are very young at the receiver position, there's not a senior in the room. I mean coming into this season, I forget by this point what the number was but t he total number for catches for all our receivers combined coming back was less than probably our third-leading receiver last year. So it was a such a young group, that it's great to see them develop. And develop as a whole. De'Runnya has done a good job of that, taking steps forward. But other guys have as well, too."
Has there been any discussion with Rick Ray of his playing basketball lately? "Not yet, because it's football season still. So when football ends and hopefully in January, sometime after we're done we'll make the transition with him getting ready to go into basketball and do that. But Rick and I have a real good relationship so it's let's make the best way that we can get transitions to work and make sure we're taking care of De'Runnya, (to) both of us is the most important thing. And how to get the transition to basketball."
When did you realize in training camp the potential for Dak Prescott to overtake Tyler Russell? "Well, I think during training camp we grade everything. And coming out of training camp there wasn't a huge separation in the grades. Which is what you want, that opportunity to have two quarterbacks ready to play. And as you can see from what we've had, you get into a game situation the other night (when) Dak gets banged-up. Tyler has played a bunch, he's into the flow of the game, he comes in and the second play bangs out a touchdown pass right there. He's ready to go at the drop of a hat. The same as Tyler starts the game for us, gets a bunch of reps; Dak comes in and the first play we score a touchdown. The guys are ready to go. When you can have that without a huge separation between the two, it's a pretty good safety net to have."
Is there an update on Prescott and Deontae Skinner? "Yeah, Deontae got a ‘stinger' that they saw some swelling on his spine and didn't discover it until midweek. So we didn't know until Wednesday afternoon right before practice that he wouldn't be able to play. So we had to make some adjustments, Christian Holmes had to go back to linebacker with Ferlando Bohanna already being out, Dee Arrington being out for the season, it was kind of a bigger safety that could fill into that spot. And Christian actually did a good job."
"Deontae has a MRI later today so we should know more, and if it's not clear today we'll do one later in the week to see if he's available for this game."
"Dak, the same way. He got a stinger, they said he'll be questionable this week but we'll probably know more Wednesday of his availability. He didn't practice yesterday, which at this point and time of year anybody that plays over 40-some snaps really gets minimal work on a Sunday. It wasn't like in or out, or this is the time; it's we'll check three different times today where he's at, where he's progresssing, we'll check tomorrow and hopefully he'll be able to practice Wednesday."
Can he do the non-contact things Russell did two weeks ago? "Talking to the trainers, it's an irritation when it's a nerve deal. So they want to try--it's my athletic training days!—to limit the amount of irritation or anything that it could have. Where, Tyler you put on the big protective boot and nothing was going to happen when he had the ankle sprain, he could go. The (September) concussion, that was Tyler just couldn't take any contact. Thinking out there on the field he was OK during that stuff to take reps, it was just he couldn't…not that guys are allowed near the quarterback at practice anyway, but it was stay extra-clear."
What is your review of what is happening at the end of first halves? "Unfortunately I guess every one is a different situation that's come in. And I think for us it's the mindset of our guys. You look at certain times during the game, we fell behind in that game but when the team got together the team talked; there was confidence. I think everybody on our sideline felt we were going to win that game, until time ran out. I mean they felt we were going to find a way to come back and find a way to make plays to win that game."
"To me it's got to get to that same mindset where we're going to find a way right now. When we get on that field that every one there believes we're making this stop in this situation right now. And it's really just that simple. The big play on that, they (Texas A&M) hit an out-and-up, and we jumped the out. I mean if he would have thrown the out it might have been a big play, could have had a pick-six and swung it the other way for us! But he threw the out-and-up."
"But those are things we have to do. And I think it becomes a confidence factor. If it's one specific, one exact thing we're doing…it isn't. I think it's just the mindset of our guys, of the belief that we are going to make this stop in this situation. That's the way it has to be."
How do you change that if it isn't mechanics? "You just have to talk about it. I mean, it's how you think, when you look at it and say this is what is going to happen. I'll be honest with you, earlier in the season we played LSU, we fell behind by a couple of scores in the fourth quarter. I think doubt crept in our guys' minds ‘I don't know, maybe we can't make a comeback'."
"We've erased that doubt, I think you saw that over the last several weeks with making stops in the fourth quarter on defense. And then ‘hey, we've fallen behind, that's OK'. We scored more points in the fourth quarter last week than we probably have in a couple of games prior to that. That don't worry about it, we can find a way to do it, even though we haven't been doing it. I think it's that team belief the direction we're headed as a team and the improvements you see with a lot of young players for us allows us to be able to do that. Allows those guys to think hey, you know what, if there's a complete focus on doing this, everybody gets together, we're going to find a way to make it happen. Not that we haven't focused on any of it before, but I think that jumps into our guys' minds. That ‘hey, we can make it happen, we can find a way to get the job done."
Was punting the role Devon Bell was signed for? "Well, I mean originally when we recruited him as a punt-kickoff guy. And he did a really good job as a true freshman kicking field goals and kind of won that job. I think the process of winning that job (he) really took a step back as a punter, where he's kind of gotten into taking that step forward again as a punter. We chart everything throughout the week, all that stuff to see who has been. And when he started punting for us, in the weeks of practice he kind of had surpassed Baker (Swedenburg) all week in statistical numbers. So we decided to make that decision. And his ability in the pooch-punts and pinning them inside the ten, that was something we saw earlier and something we wanted to utilize him in that role. It's something he just has a really good knack for. So that was something we were going to plan on using him all along in. And then just the rest of it he's kind of really picked up his game."
How frustrating are special teams issues, is that on you more than anything? "Well, I'll be honest, everything is on me in this program, so I'm frustrating with just about everything that happens, good and bad. The frustration for me, and I look at it with our team, is putting the complete game together when you have a lot of young guys. We've had some really good special teams games during the season; Saturday certainly wasn't one of them. And there's other games where we've had some great defensive efforts, and then we've had some poor defensive efforts. We've had some really good offensive efforts and some poorer offensive efforts."
"It is putting everything together as a team and playing at a very, very high level. And in this league, the type of schedules we play and type of schedule we're playing this year, you have to be on you're A-game. A B just won't cut it. I mean a B will get you things around your neck on graduation day in college, but a B in the SEC football field is getting you a loss, which is a failure. It's an A or an F in the SEC, is kind of how you play. And that's us as a team, an entire team."
"So, obviously frustrating, because they were all things that we can control. And give their kids credit, when they had opportunities to make plays they made some plays. We did some decent things in the return game, some punt returns. And had a couple of silly penalties. We did some good things in the kick game, I mean we pinned them inside the 15 I think on two punts. We had them inside the ten on a kickoff, or inside the 20 definitely on two to three kickoffs, and then you give up the big one. So there's the positive/negatives. It's putting the whole game together to me, which is very, very frustrating for our guys. Because you have to be on it for the entire sixty minutes."
You basically shut down Jadeveon Clowney, and barring one catch you did Mike Evans, how are you taking away the other team's best player, barring Manziel obviously? "In both games I don't think we completely took them out games. But what we wanted to do, our focus was not how do we take guys of of a game completely. Our focus is more on how we limit what they do. Because if your plan is take this guy completely out of a game, and they're great players…Mike Evans still jumps up and makes a spectacular catch, there's not much you can do about it. And Clowney like we told our guys—I guess I lied when I said he's going to get his sack and he didn't. But it is where you put the focus on. We have a plan to help contain what they're going to do. Our focus is not to completely stop them, just to contain them. When you do that the guys can play with a little more confidence. Because when the guy does make a big play they're not like ‘oh our plan was to make nothing happen'. Our plan was to contain it as best we could."
"And it's hard for me to go yell at our defense because our goal against Texas A&M was to stop the run. We did, we held them under 100 yards rushing which hasn't happened very much for them since Johnny Manziel has been there. So within our plan, they made a lot of plays. We looked at I think 50% of their third downs occurred after he started scrambling outside of the offense. 25% of their pass offense, 30% of their rushing yards were scrambles. Two of their touchdowns were scrambles and extended plays. If you look at that, 25 to 305 of their offense was improvised outside of their offense. And that's something we knew going into what happened we just have to be ready for, not let it affect the entire game. But obviously it ended up being a big part."
You used Chris Jones at end, tackle, and last week over the ball, he seems to be impacting offenses? "The thing I'm really proud of with Chris, that he's understanding as a freshman, is the making the plays. Which is him doing his job. He doesn't have to get a sack for him to help be responsible for a sack. He doesn't need to be the one to make the tackle to result in a tackle. And there's some maturity in understanding that, because guys want to make plays. But I do appreciate the fact he is very conscientious in fundamentals and trying to do it the right way. Now, he wants to make plays; but understanding that sometimes his job is to get double-teamed and somebody else makes the play. An I appreciate the fact that for a freshman I think he's really bought into that and really understands that. And it's allowed us to give him flexibility, because he's not just trying to go out and do his own thing. He's trying to do his job within the scheme."
With Russell in the offense gets yards but isn't getting the points, is there something you've noticed? "Well, I think in one part of it when you get down in the red zone, when you shrink the field like that, there's more players in the box, the quarterback run game becomes a little more valuable for you. and the threat of quarterback run becomes more valuable for you, especially in red zone situations. Because they don't need a guy in the middle of the field, there's no middle of the field for the guy to cover."
"I think there's that aspect of it. And you look, Tyler has done a decent job running the ball at times this year. He's a very different style runner but a capable runner in doing things. So part of it is probably is our fault. Of when we get down in the red zone stick with it. Tyler can run it, too. He's fast in the open field, but the great thing with Tyler, he does have that toughness. He's not a guy who is going to shy away from contact. He is a tough, tough kid. So for us I think we've got to do a better job of utilizing him in that role and not kind of maybe protect or not put him in that situation. Because it's stuff that he can still do."