Below is a trascript of Fresno State Head Coach Pat Hills' teleconference with the Oklahoma media earlier this week.
On this weekend's game with top-ranked Oklahoma
"It's a great opportunity for us to be able to play the No. 1 team in the nation in Oklahoma. We think it's a great opportunity to play against a fine football team.
"In my time here this is the best football team we've played against so far, and we've played some good teams. But Oklahoma, I think, is the best team we will have played against since I've been here. It's going to be a great challenge.
Tennessee (24-6 loss) was a game that we got beat pretty badly. We've only had about six games since I've been here that we've lost by more than 14 points. So, we've always been competitive. But, by far, this one here is going to be the most challenging."
On their season up until this point
"This is a real young team. If you look at our roster, we're playing with an average age of redshirt freshmen and sophomores. Even though it's year seven of the program since we've been here, we're going through a real youth movement. In our opener at Tennessee we played well on defense, pretty good on special teams and didn't do much on offense against a very good Tennessee defense.
"We needed this game (win over Oregon State) this week. We've still got a lot of guys out. Everybody goes through those injury phases, but we gained a lot of confidence, played better on defense, probably the best defensive game (against Oregon State) since I've been here in seven years. The kicking game went well and the offense made some plays in the end. So, we did make some improvement, which really helped our confidence."
On playing a tough non-conference schedule (at Tennessee, Oregon State, at Oklahoma)
We play a very, very tough schedule. We haven't been soft in the preseason since I've been here. But that's part of the plan that we have as a coaching staff and a team — to play as many tough non-conference opponents as we can even though that means playing seven road games a year. We play seven road games a year, usually, and play as tough a slate as we can."
On what impresses him about Oklahoma
"I think you win championships on defense. I'm sitting here watching it (OU game tape) right now. I just think they have great defensive personnel and they're very well-coached. This team is very well-coached on the defensive side of the ball and on special teams. A lot of people don't put the time into special teams. Oklahoma obviously puts the time into special teams.
"Offensively, they have great skill athletes. I think they've got some receivers who are outstanding players. The guy who has really jumped off at me is No. 81 Brandon Jones. The quarterback's got a good touch, especially on the long ball. Where they make a lot of plays is on play-action deep balls.
"We had a couple wide open (deep routes) against Oregon State and missed two out of two. When you see Oklahoma, they hit them. That's the key, hitting big plays. And they do a very good job of that. The offensive line is a very experienced offensive line. They understand the system. They've got a lot of starters back.
"Coach Stoops do an outstanding job coaching them. Those things all put together is the reason they're No. 1 in the nation and why I say they're the best team we've played against since I've been here."
On Bob Stoops' fourth down fake punt call against Alabama
"I loved the way he called it. We try to do the same thing here. The momentum was definitely going towards Alabama. They've got great confidence in their players executing assignments. They made the call, which was the turning point of the game and then they went for the jugular on the next play and hit the post for the touchdown.
"They also hit what we call the ‘jailbreak screen' and then they come back with the fake off the same screen for a touchdown. They're very aggressive on play-calling in all phases. I think that is the personality of the coach and also the personality of the team."
On Fresno State's offensive weapons
"We lost our two all-conference guys (linemen) early in the year and our tight end. We've got some young guys playing better in there that I think got better against Oregon State last week. You never plan on injuries, but those things happen."
"We've got to get the ball to the skill people, and when we do they've got to make plays. Jeff Grady is our starting quarterback right now. Our returning starter from last year who had an outstanding year, Paul Pinegar, hasn't been able to play all year yet. So, Jeff has picked up the slack for us and done a good job. He did a great job in this last game. He drove our team to get us into field goal range on the last series of the game. It reminded me a lot of an NFL game. Great defense, and then you make a couple plays at the end, kick a field goal and get out of there with a win.
"I think we've got good skill people. We just have to get them in a position to make plays, and we haven't done that enough yet. Hopefully this week we can get them in that position."
On star receiver Bernard Berrien and his health
"I think he's an outstanding football player. He's fine with the knee injury. The problem last week is that he missed four days of practice with a stomach virus. He wasn't at full speed against Oregon State. So, hopefully with a full week of practice we'll get a full-speed Bernard Berrien because we're going to need him in Norman.
"He's an outstanding player. Probably as good a skill receiver as we've had here. We really haven't gotten him on track yet. Hopefully this week we can get the ball to him against a defense that's going to be a very challenging assignment."
On Fresno State's defense
The defense is playing well. We're young on the defensive side of the ball. Our secondary was a question mark going in because of youth, but they're stepping up and playing well. We've got seven turnovers and interceptions in two games. I think we have the type of secondary that can close quickly and tackle. We haven't played a lot of man here in my first six years, but we have the type of corners that can play man.
"We've got a good rotation of safeties. Our starting linebacker's out, but we've got a redshirt freshman who has stepped in and we haven't missed a beat there. He's playing very well, along with another redshirt freshmen, Manny Sanchez, at the weakside linebacker. And the defensive line, that's an area that I think we're getting better. We've got about eight kids rotating through on the defensive line.
"We just play very good team defense. We have no super stars. We don't have a guy in our defensive line that looks like Tommie Harris or Dan Cody. We're very quick on defense. The thing we do is play very, very hard. We don't have the big, physical looking guys. We have guys that play very hard on the defensive side of the ball. We've played well against Tennessee and we've played well against Oregon State."
Fresno State coach has high praise for the Sooners
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