On not looking past these next two games ahead to Kansas State
We don't focus on the other team, whether it be a game we're supposed to win or a game we're not supposed to win. We more or less just concentrate on us. These are some factors that have been very good with us. Let's improve it if we can but keep it where it is. Here's some areas that we're not doing good enough if we expect to beat a team we want to be. Let's get these corrected this week and we'll be better than we were a week ago. As much as anything it's focusing and concentrating on ourself to get better. And we've, for the most part, been able to do that and I believe we will this year too.
Our players are pretty level-headed. We're never too high or low. We've been pretty good about not riding a roller coaster, just being steady. I like our players demeanor, they're attitude.They've got a lot of pride and they want to play well regardless of who we're playing. To do that, they realize they've got to get prepared for it in areas that they haven't been as good as they need to be in these first two weeks. They're aware of it and they're pushing to make it better. And if that happens, we have a chance to be better this week than last week.
On what areas they are focusing to improve on during this week
You want to say everything because it's only two weeks into it. As well as we ran the ball the other night, Coach Mangino will watch the tape and say, we're not blocking as well as we can block. We're missing this guy, or we're overshooting this guy. Same thing throwing the ball. The first few series we didn't execute as well as we could, we had some drops. Kicking game, I still believe our coverage units will get better and need to. Defensively, we still have a few breakdowns here or there that don't show up to the common person that we see. There's a lot that when you're critical and watching tape that the players see too.
On last weeks defensive effort against Air Force and the flexbone
That's the first time in 70 games they've been held without a touchdown. It says a lot about the way we're playing defense.
On the overall play against Air Force
Offensively, I'm excited to see Quentin (Griffin) get loose and continue to establish and improve our running game. Hopefully, we can continue to do that as we go through the year. Compliment that with Nate Hybl throwing the football. He threw it down field exceptionally well.
If we catch the football in a couple of other instances we've got two more touchdowns, quite a bit more yards and big plays. Our receivers need to pick it up a little bit and execute a little better than they have. But still, we moved the football well with a good balance of the run and pass. I thought our o-line did a nice job creating holes, creating seams, coming off the ball and protecting Nate really well. I thought the protection was very good.
On the Sooners stellar special teams play
Really excited about the way that's coming through. We need to continue to improve in our coverage and some of our return game, which we're working hard on again this week to continue to upgrade it.
Our kickers and punters — Jeff Ferguson — had an exceptional day and was given a game ball. (Ferguson) averaged over 50 yards a punt, pulls down a punt that should have been blocked and gets it off. Just a great day. And Tim Duncan — his 47-yard field goal was in blades of grass where you can only see about half the football and he still puts it through.That was a big play early in the game. In fact, they're going to go out and represent our team as our team captains this week versus North Texas. I'll probably send Frank Romero as a body guard for them as they go out for the coin toss, but they've earned that. They've been great.
On playing North Texas
Looking forward to playing North Texas this week, and being back at home. I really feel that our crowd is taking more of an active role in the games in being louder and trying to be more of an influence on the other football team, which we appreciate as a team and hopefully they'll continue that.
So, we're excited to be back here in our home stadium playing North Texas and more than anything concentrating this week of improving. We need to get better in every part of the game. We're working hard on that this week to make sure we do that.
On the evolution of the running game in the offense since his first year at Oklahoma
It's steadily improved. When we started here we felt first and foremost that we needed to be able to throw the football. We probably didn't have the personnel to beat everybody up and just run it. We wanted to make sure that we could throw the football, and felt that would be the quickest way for us to score points, move the football and win. For the most part, these two years that's been the case, but never, ever, as a head coach did I not want to have a good running game. We always had felt from day one until now that part of our game was something that we would continually concentrate on and get better at as we win. We're always going to do that.
I do believe at being good at both — throwing and running — according to what defenses are trying to take away from you. That doesn't mean that we need to be 50-50. People want to get zeroed in on what your ratio is. That's not what's important to me. What's important to me and all of our coaches is that when we do run it, it's effective. We run it 10 times a game, those 10 times need to be effective for us. Last year that happened for us. You look at all our big games the only touchdown scored in the national championship game was a run by Quentin Griffin. You look at the two games against Kansas State, we broke good runs in both those games for touchdowns. You look at us in a comeback against A&M, Quentin breaks a long run for a touchdown.
I wasn't so concerned on the total number of yards or the number of times that we did it, as much as that it needs to be effective when we do it. We've evolved and certainly are a team that I hope when defenses defend us, they have to deal with the run game. They can't come out and just say, ‘We're do all these crazy coverages and all these crazy blitzes and ignore the run game.' That's what we hope we're getting to is that we hope our run game will be a major factor for us, as it was a year ago and maybe even more.
On Brandon Everage's ankle and being added to the list of nominees for the Jim Thorpe award along with Roy Williams and Derrick Strait
We didn't have him do a whole lot yesterday, but he could practice today. Whether we decide to practice or rest him or not, we'll just see how he feels. He'll be ready to play, really no different than he was going into the Air Force game.
It's amazing, Brandon is an excellent player. The offensive coordinator from Air Force specifically came into our locker room, found Brandon and got him out of the shower just to compliment him and tell him he hadn't seen a safety run the alley like that since he's been running the option, which says a lot.
On the emphasis and getting ball in the end zone on special teams and after turnovers
I can't say we're any different than probably any defensive coach. You want to get the most of it that you can once you get the ball in your possession. I think what's happened is that our players are looking for that and when we do have it they've done it enough times they get excited when we've got the ball. You see on Rocky Calmus' interception and Derrick Straits', guys do a great job peeling, finding blocks and take a lot of pride in getting it in the end zone, or or at least making sure we're in scoring position before we're tackled. It's fun to see how excited they are when they do have the ball. We have some guys that can run with the ball pretty well. Rocky, as a linebacker, it's amazing the way he runs with it.
On Corey Heinecke's fumble return for a touchdown
That's his third big play here. In the Independence Bowl, he intercepts it, brings it a long way back. Last year, he has another one of those where he brings it back a long ways, and finally got in in the end zone the other day. That was a great play by him. He's balancing himself on one hand, spins around, grabs the ball with one hand and takes off with it. Gayron Allen – I'm proud of him — he sprints past Corey and makes a block that gets him in the end zone.
On how the OU coaches teach the defense to field fumbles
It's a judgement call. If there's a crowd around we need to fall on it and get it. The first thing we need is to make sure we get possession of it, but if it's sitting out there in a situation where we can return it certainly we need to. That's something that hopefully they'll make a good judgement. If it's in the middle of the field around a lot of people you're not going to go anywhere with it anyway, let's make sure we get it.
On if Woolfolk will spend less time on defense with the emergence of Antonio Perkins
We'll continue to evaluate that.Antonio Perkins is coming on and playing very well. Had an interception the other day and should have had another one. Guarded well, came up and made some good tackles, continues to improve and gain experience. More than anything, we just want him to continue to gain experience being a redshirt freshman. Andre has the experience, has the feel and is very good as it as well. We'll continue to evaluate that but we're still going to work Andre right now on defense as well.
On Jeff Ferguson avoiding the blocked punt in the end zone
He just felt the opposite colored jersey coming into his vision, pulled it down and got it off. Exceptional play. And then his play in the Orange Bowl. I saw a guy last week, bad snap, ball was bouncing around at the 2-yard line and the guy kicks it through the end zone and they get the ball at the two. Well, Jeff picks it up and runs it in the endzone where he's not going to get a penalty and takes a safety. Very smart play. He's just a heads up player.
On having two true freshman playing defensive tackle
It's very rare, and they're both playing very good. Tommie Harris is really exceptional jumping the football. Dusty Dvoracek is as well. Same body types. Dusty is extremely strong and has that kind of power. They're playing well. I just don't want to focus on them. Kory Klein and Barry Holleyman are also playing well inside and helping us be a little more stout inside.
I think the most difficult place for a true freshman to play is offense or defensive line because of the strength, the power, the toughness and the competitiveness. It's gets pretty nasty in there every snap. They have to have a strong mental make up to do it.
On Nate Hybl improving from week one at distributing the ball to different receivers
We felt that he was a little impatient. Whether it be with his reads or with his protections. That's common for a guy who hadn't played for several years and Nate realized that watching the tape. Once you watch it and have been through it, he really relaxed the other day and started to execute like he's capable of and we've seen him do. You just need to get in there and gain experience. I believe as he goes this week that will continue to happen he'll improve even more this week.
On if Quentin Griffin is still not getting the attention he deserves nationally
Probably. If you look last year at the key plays he made in a lot of big football games you'd recognize it. So much of the time, I think people just focus on total yards and not touches and touchdowns and what he does for your offense. This year, we're hopeful he'll continue to play like he has. A lot of that depends on how people are going to play you. If people are going to stand in there and put nine guys and not let you run the football you've got to be able to throw it, and you're not going to have great running numbers. Sometimes we're that way defensively. Sometimes we don't care who it is back there, we're going to stand in there and should be able to stop the run, and you're just going to have to throw it. It just depends on how people play us too, on the number of yards he'll get or the number of carries he'll get. I think more and more people are recognizing him now.
On the defense and secondary getting credit as one of the best in the nation
Everyone always asks that, but they've been given credit. I think last year, everyone recognized by the end of the year how we played through the last half of the season, and that our defense was strong and a huge part of us winning a championship. This year, we've started off very well, and are executing very well and I believe without question we're further ahead than we were last year at this time as a defense. In fact, it's not even close.
On what makes OU's kicking game work
I think you have to give Tim and Jeff a lot of credit in developing themselves. They work hard individually. Those guys have worked very hard at it. I believe they're both much stronger then they were a year ago. They've both had better summers coming into this season, were more prepared, and are stronger with their legs. Coach Hayes, who works with the kickers and the special teams, has done a great job with his demeanor in handling them. Kickers/punters can be pretty fragile, mentally, and these guys aren't. They're just like coaching a linebacker. You can tell them whatever you want and they're fine with it. Which is good, because Coach Hayes does at times. I think a lot of it is they've worked hard for it and Coach Hayes has worked with them in a great way too.
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