North Texas Head Coach Darrell Dickey talked to the Oklahoma media on Tuesday. Below is a complete transcript of his interview.
On playing Oklahoma
"It's a very, very difficult challenge for this school. It's quite possibly the most difficult challenge this football program has ever faced. This is also about the third year in a row I've said that. We came to Norman two years ago and had a number of young guys that played. And after the game we felt like we played pretty well for where we were at that time. We got beat 37-10. It could've been worse, and it possibly could've been closer, but it ended up being 37 to 10 and Coach Stoops was kind to us. After the game I was trying to find something positive and I told the players in the locker room that we will not play a football team that is the combination of that talented and that well-coached again.
"That statement has been true until now. They are even better than they were two years ago. I know they've lost a few outstanding players, but with the recruiting job they've done and bringing their players along, this is as good of team as we've faced since I've been here. And as good of a team as I've seen in a long time."
On his teams' mindset coming into the game
"We know we're going to one of the greatest places to play in college football. We're playing against one of the greatest teams we'll ever have a chance to play against. It's a great challenge, but it's also a fun opportunity to line up and play against the very best. We will have to have a great week of preparation and we'll have to play an unbelievable, relentless four quarters of football to even have a chance. And even with that, we'll also have to get a number of breaks for us to still be hanging around in the fourth quarter.
"We've been through some of these type of games before, not as stiff a challenge as this, but we've been in some of these types of games and I think our kids will handle the environment better. I hope so because our attention is going to have to be totally on the team on the other side of the field."
On his North Texas team
"We feel like we play pretty good defense here. We lost three starters off of a defensive team that played pretty good a year ago. The three starters we lost though were very valuable players and we've got some holes there that we've got to fill. We feel comfortable with the guys who are there, but we just lack experience."
"Offensively, we return two quarterbacks that in two separate years both led their teams to the conference championship. Our intention right now is to play both of them. They're dead even and very similar in styles and ability. (Running back) Patrick Cobbs from Tecumseh (Okla.) has been the backup to Kevin Galbreath from Edmond (Okla.) for two years. Patrick has performed quite well in the spring and during two-a-days. He is now the starter. We will rely heavily on him.
"The big question for us on offense is we've got to rebuild our offensive line. We feel like our talent is good there, but those guys have not played together a whole lot, so how quickly that group comes along will determine how much success we may have.
"At wide receiver we've got some guys that can make things happen. We've just got to be able to get the ball to them and try to be a little more balanced on offense this year than we have in the past. In the past, we've been a run-oriented offensive team. That's part of our philosophy, but we do feel like we've got to be a little more balanced.
"In the kicking game, we return both our top two returners and our kickers, but we lost some guys on our coverage units and protection units that were pretty solid for us from a year ago.
"We feel like we've got a pretty decent team. I hope they're still all with us after Saturday. Playing against these teams week after week in the past, we didn't come out of them too healthy. That's the key for us is to just come up there and play as well as we can and play lots of people. We're going to have to be very well-prepared. We're going to have to play with great intensity for four quarters or we could embarrassed.
On if this is his best team yet at North Texas
"Overall it is. The big question mark for us is our offensive line. We've got some talent there. We've got some guys who have played a little, but for what we do offensively that unit is going to have to carry a big share of the load and come together quickly."
On defensive tackle Brandon Kennedy
"Brandon is very deserving of all the recognition that he is getting. Brandon has played very good football here for three years. I think he was second in the nation in tackles for loss last year, and that's very unusual for a nose guard. Usually, it's the defensive ends that get in there.
"Brandon not only is an outstanding football player, he's probably as fine a person as I've worked with. He's always got a smile on his face and he's the first guy over there to cheer up a teammate if he's down and show the young guys how to do things.
"Everybody says he was too short to play, at least that's what they thought during recruiting. We're very happy that they thought that. Defensive line coaches across the country teach their linemen to stay low, and for Brandon he can't help but to stay low because of his height. So, it's actually an advantage."
On Oklahoma's defense
"I think the big key is Coach (Bob) Stoops. That's probably the area that improved the most in Oklahoma football once he took over. He's done an outstanding job coaching defenses wherever he's been as a coordinator and now as a head coach.
"First of all, their players are never out of position. Secondly, they run like the wind and they play hard on every snap from whistle to whistle. And that comes from the head coach. Sometimes you see a talented group of players, who if the play is away might take the play off and figure somebody else is going to make the play. But you've got 11 guys out there flying to the ball, and that's when you create turnovers. They score a lot of points on defense."
On how this period of the Stoops era stacks up against the previous eras
"The style is a tad bit different with the wishbone and the offenses they used to run in the past. But the trickle-down philosophy from the head coach, Coach Stoops is a lot like Coach Switzer in what their teams do. And when I say that I say that as a compliment to both of them. They know when gameday is around, and that's a big thing. I played at Kansas State and Oklahoma knew when gameday came around. You knew you had a football team that was in for a fistfight all day long no matter what style of offense they run. And that's the same thing I've seen what Coach Stoops has brought back. Obviously, they have great schemes and very talented players, but what they do now is you better come ready to play or you're going to get embarrassed."
On if he's named a starting quarterback
"Not at this moment. Obviously, we feel very good about both of them. They're both going to play in this game and they'll both play throughout the season. They have the respect of the entire coaching staff and team. The good thing about playing two quarterbacks is you hope they're similar in style so you don't have to run two different offenses. And fortunately for us, both of these kids are very similar in what their strengths and weaknesses are.
"We were watching film of Oklahoma's defense the other day and I said it's so even (quarterback race) we'll just flip a coin. So I flipped the coin and the quarterback that won (Scott Hall) deferred his option until later and let the other guy start."
On his three returning three starters in the secondary
"It's very good for us because that's an area with these new sophisticated offenses that you better know what you're doing back there or you'll give up a lot of big plays. We've got five kids who have a lot of playing experience and they know our defense inside-out. We're going to need those guys to play well, and especially with the type of offense Oklahoma's running."
Dickey has high praise for the Sooners
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