I expected the defense to be better. I had seen the work that new coordinator Bill Young and defensive assistants Joe DeForest, Glenn Spencer, and Jason Jones, along with graduate assistants like Vinson Reynolds and Nathan Burton, had done. It was back to basics, fundamentals, and simplifying the defense to make it fun to fly around and hit people again.
What can you say, it paid off.
"He knows that we have a ways to go on the defensive side of the ball here and I think our players understand that," said Mike Gundy of Bill Young and the progression of the defense. "Our players played very well Saturday, but this will be a different challenge for them this week because of the style of play.
"I think there is some relief with Coach Young after last game, but that's human nature with all of us. I know that he had a lot invested in this because he's the new guy on the block and we haven't played very well on defense here in a long time.
"And so when you have a new guy come in all of a sudden people think, wow you're going to fix all the problems instantly. I think that he has corrected some mistakes and I think that he's pulled the players together and they're playing together. But we have a long way to go. It's a long season," Gundy added.
It is a long season, but it started off in the Georgia game as if it might be longer. The Bulldogs took the opening kickoff and proceeded to drive 80 yards in 10 plays and give the majority of fans in Boone Pickens Stadium a flashback to defensive performances of the past several seasons. It's a good thing that Young and the defensive players didn't feel that way.
"Coach Young has really taught us to just stay focused and stay in line," said defensive tackle Shane Jarka. "‘It's going to be OK. We're going to rally back together and we're going to keep pushing. They are a good team. They are going to make plays.' He said that all week. So did Coach Gundy.
"He was like, ‘They're a good team. They are going to make plays. All you've got to do is just rally back together and you'll become confident again. Just make the plays that you need to.'"
It worked as the advice and some big hits, solid coverage, and better pressure on the passer than a year ago resulted in only three more points the rest of the game out of Georgia. By the end of the game Young was being hailed as the MVP, the guru of defense, and in some corners of the Cowboy community, a savior.
"There is way too much being made of that point," said Young. "It is almost a disservice to our other coaches and players because they are working way too hard. Sometimes you get too much of the credit and, obviously, that is the case here."
Besides, there is a lot of football left, as Gundy said, and this week a completely different offense to solve in the Houston Cougars and 2008 total offense leader, Cougar quarterback Case Keenum.
"He's a great athlete there's no doubt," said defensive end Jeremiah Price. "He can throw the ball, he can run it. They're going to be very good, so we're just going to try to make plays."
Young said, "They have a great sceme and they spread you all over the football field vertically and horizontally. All you have to do is get a little out of position and they can hit a big one on you and make you look bad. You have to tackle well or it can be six. We'll have to be right on and have to have a great plan."
"He's (Keenum) a fast guy. I haven't played too many quarterbacks that fast, except for maybe Colt McCoy and a couple other guys that actually get outside the pocket and move and make you actually work to get to him," added Price. "He's a great guy so we're going to try to contain him with the ends and get pressure with the defensive tackles."
In summation, the Cowboys defense may match up better with Houston. Georgia was less exotic but more powerful up front. The Cowboys have speed, but you can expect to see Houston gain yards. They do on everybody. The bottom line will be what they post on the scoreboard. Speed is Houston's weapon, speed is what the Cowboys will bring to stop the Cougars.
"No question and we feel we're a very athletic defense especially on the back end," said Young. "I know I was impressed with the way Donald Booker chased the ball sideline to sideline."
GP: So how long did you celebrate after the game?
Bill Young: All night long, we always do that. I woke up in my recliner at 1:30 in the morning. so it was until 1:30 anyway.
GP: What did you do on Saturday night?
Shane Jarka: I just went home. I really did. My family was in town and my mom, you know my mom, she was super excited and she just wanted to spend time with me and she was happy because my little brother he can't play anymore because he had that neck injury. I think it was more of a game that (pause) I was celebrating with my family. It was a game for me and my brother since he can't play anymore that is maybe why I played so good because I was playing for the both of us. For myself, my brother, and my family I have to play well because they want to see something.
"There's no secret that Oklahoma State is a real player here in Houston in recruiting," said Sumlin on Tuesday morning. "There were 101 Division I scholarships signed 60 miles (radius) from this campus, so within an hour's drive. Fifty-one stayed in state and 50 went out of state, so that is more than a whole football team that signed.
"Obviously, exposure and winning games has a lot to do with it. With us coming up there and playing one of the top teams in the country, it does a lot for either program just to have it. Obviously, the winner of the game it helps you a lot. There a lot of people down here in Houston recruiting and we are just trying to find 25 people that can play for us."
Mike Gundy and his staff have learned to love getting into Houston and finding players that have contributed to the Cowboys from H-town.
"All of our games are big now. We've had players in the past and that are currently on our team from Houston that contribute to us having a lot of success. It will always be important when we play teams from the state of Texas that we perform well. We've had a great recruiting season up until now. We don't have a lot of scholarships left, which is a good thing. It is very important that we continue to play well and develop and build this program to where we want it to be," Gundy said.
I asked and was told that Richetti did practice well in camp but tapered off. Junior college transfer Darius Hart climbed past him on the depth chart, but I was told to look for Richetti to see action as soon as Saturday against Houston. I hope so, Jones is a good Cowboy. I'd like to see him make some plays.