See below for OU head coach Bob Stoops' on Saturday's showdown against Oregon. More quotes from Stoops' press conference will follow.
On Saturday's matchup against Oregon
Stoops: Looking forward to the big challenge this week with Oregon. We've had an exciting series here the last couple of years — meeting them here two years ago and last year in the bowl game. Very good, strong program. Great reputation. Coach (Mike) Bellotti does a fantastic job with his coaches.
It's been an exciting challenge the last couple of years and is again this year. We've been fortunate the last couple of times to win. We look at this as a total, separate issue that we've got to go there and win this year. We've got different teams, so it's a big challenge going up there. Our players understand that.
We're excited about it just because we know the challenge that it is, and know that we've got to improve this week in a lot of areas — our consistency — to put ourself in a position to win up there.
On Paul Thompson making his fourth start, first on the road, but his leadership and experience in the program still helping on the road
Stoops: I really do. Paul's been around here — this is his fifth year. So, he's been in a lot of stadiums. We're going to go on the road a lot this year. Every game isn't here at home.
We understand that we've got to go there and compete and play well, but it isn't like we haven't been in wild atmosphere's before. Virtually everywhere you go in the Big 12 it's that way and our guys are used to that.
On if he enjoys coaching in hostile road atmospheres
Stoops: You enjoy coaching in any atmosphere. To be honest with you, as coaches you don't pay much attention to it. You put the headphones on and you don't hear anybody but yourself. You're kinda in your own little world between the 100-yard field and the out-of-bounds lines. That's all you really pay attention to.
On what he's done to get his teams to play well on the road during his tenure
Stoops: It's keeping your focus and concentrating on what happens between the lines. That's what really matters. The 11 guys that are on the field are all that you have to compete with, so that's what we focus on.
On if this game is as big of a non-conference game as he's had, in the scope of this season
Stoops: Bigger than which other ones? Haven't they all been? We've gone to Alabama with an undefeated team. No, we've had a lot of big games like this.
On this being a big road test for a young team
Stoops: I don't know, it's the third game of the year. We've got a long season in front of us. You guys can label it how you want. Our seasons are always built progressing through the year trying to get better as we go, and that's what we're doing this year.
It's no different than any other. We've had a lot of big games non-confernce over the years and it's just like all of those.
On if Oregon is running the same types of schemes on offense and defense as they did last year
Stoops: They have some slight, different wrinkles. But for the most part it's the same stuff with some slight variations and different tendencies. But a lot of similarity.
And they have a lot of tendencies on us as well, so we both are very familiar with each other. I'm sure we'll make our adjustments and some changes to try and combat that as well.
On if this game feels like a conference game since they've played Oregon the last two years
Stoops: Yeah, somewhat.
On some of the offensive players wearing ear plugs at practice to prepare for the loud crowd noise at Autzen Stadium
Stoops: It's just a different way to make them focus on sounds and getting their calls and checks without having to blast music and irritate everyone. It's not different than that.
I remember when we were at Florida, coach Spurrier would just make Danny Weurffel whisper and everyone would have to listen for him without ear plugs. There are different ways that everyone does it to make sure you're communication in those atmospheres is what it needs to be.
On Oregon's offense
Stoops: They have a lot of skill. They have really some good wide receivers as well. They spread the ball around, give you all the shotgun formations there are, motion people back, run their option. Very similar to what we saw in the bowl game in the way they execute, what they like to do.
A year ago, Dixon still got most of the snaps. I know he rotated some with Grady Leaf, but he is staying in there all the time this year. Very similar in their offense and what they're trying to do.
We've got to be great defending the run game, all the shotgun stuff, get pressure to them, cover. All the things that you've got to do against a good team. They're very good at spreading the field and trying to give you a little bit of everything.
On what Oregon likes to do defensively
Stoops: Same as last year. They're an eight-man front for the most part whenever you're in run formations. They'll mix up their coverages — four-deep, reading your run support and throw in some man. They have a 4-2-5 structure in their secondary. Fundamentally, they play hard. They're good.
On Oregon quarterback Dennis Dixon's ability to run the option
Stoops: They run it. I thought they ran it good last year too, and they still run it good. He was our major focus a year ago as well.
On the high risk but also the high reward of playing a big game early on the road, and if that helps you the rest of the season
Stoops: Yeah, provided you win the rest of the season. But it prepares you for that, gives you confidence to do it again. Yes, it can benefit you. Definitely.
On if Oregon running back Jonathan Stewart is an elite running back when healthy
Stoops: Absolutely. Very good football player, strong runner. You can see his explosiveness. He's an excellent back.
On how well he knows Oregon Alum and Nike founder Phil Knight
Stoops: I know Phil fairly well from our Nike involvement and being on trips with him. I think he's a wonderful guy, a family guy. He's been great to not just Oklahoma, but to so many universities and what they do.
I know for us it has been a strong relationship and a great relationship. I really like Phil Knight the times I've been around him — as a person, as a man. His wife is a wonderful lady and I always enjoy the opportunity be around him.
In visiting up there when I was speaking one time, he was great. Very gracious to come to lunch with me and spent time with him on the trip. I sought him out out here after we played him to wish him the best.
On if there are any surprises and disappointments through the first two games
Stoops: I want to see more consistency. Again, I say this a lot every year — I'm never surprised. We're with our guys every day. We know what they're capable of. And I'm not much on singling out any one individual if we're disappointed in them. I just believe they're college guys, we deal with them individually and they know what needs to be better.
I'm not just much on calling them out publically, so if there are any disappointments I wouldn't just throw them out there. But again, surprise-wise we're with these guys so much it's hard to surprise us.
On the perception among the fans that the defense is 'discombobulated'
Stoops: Well, it depends on what discombobulated means.
On how the defense has played compared to the preseason expectations
Stoops: Well, that's publicity. I'm not much on publicity, I'm not much on what perceptions are. I believe we're capable of playing better and we're going to keep working on that.
There were a lot of parts to the game the other night where we really did (play better). The defense was part of building that lead — 37-13. There's a lot of parts of that were good. Is it consistent enough? No. And we're going to keep pushing for that.
On him saying that they knew what they had before the season started, and if he saw the inconsistencies of the defense during two-a-days
Stoops: Nothing much matters other than games. In practice, you're working for improvement. You think you see it, but until things are live and at game speed...I said we have the potential to be very good, we'll see if we can be. And we're still working towards that.
On how he feels about the teams strength having not been dominant up front on either side of the ball in the first two games
Stoops: I don't feel much different than we have maybe last year or any other year. We haven't been dominant in a lot of seasons. All that matters is what you do this week, and that's what we're focused on.
It's fair to say early on in the season, no matter who you're playing, everybody's playing different people and different levels of competition. So until you get into conference play and get along down the road, that's when you start determining who's doing what.
We're going to keep pushing to improve. That's all we can do and that's all we're focused on.
On the other college coaches complaints on the new clock rules
Stoops: I think everyone's seeing that. I'm just basing it on last week's game, I'm not calling anyone out, it just seemed to me that the game was every bit as long — three and a half hours is what we've been used to — but we have fewer plays on the field.
How that's happening? I don't know. But I don't know if that's the case across the country. I think it's fair to say that most coaches aren't pleased with it or aren't liking it. It will be interesting what the fans are thinking of it too.
On if Thompson's performance is on his radar of things he worries about
Stoops: I felt all along that he would do well and was confident he would provided the players around him played well. So, it's still that way.
On if they've used the fullback less this year without J.D. Runnels
Stoops: Not really. It's probably pretty close to the same. Matt Clapp did an excellent job in our first game and was a little bit sore with his ankle so we held him (out) and used Brody Eldridge in there in that fullback position, and Joe Jon (Finley) a little in the last game. So we've had a guy in those positions probably the same amount.
On the injury situation with Clapp and offensive lineman Brian Simmons
Stoops: They're very probable, likely, however you want to put it. Brian's practicing full-go and Matt's getting more (reps) as the week goes on.
On if Simmons will get into the rotation on the offensive line against Oregon
Stoops: We'll see if he's ready for that or not. We're trying to give him more snaps as we go through the week to see.
On if he's concerned with penalties as they prepare for their first road game
Stoops: It's a concern at home as well. To me, it's one thing when you're playing and you get an interference or holding and you feel that you're doing it the right way. Those are judgement calls by the official.
But pre-snap penalties shouldn't happen. We had five procedures, one offsides and an illegal formation kicking the ball, so those can be avoided. We're working hard on it and it gets down to focus and concentration before the snaps.
On if Lendy Holmes will start at cornerback
Stoops: He'll likely start if he continues to have a good practice week, but the competition is still ongoing. D.J. (Wolfe) is still going to have his opportunities and Marcus Walker has gotten better and better.
We've got confidence in Marcus that he's all the way back and has looked good as well. We'll keep those guys going and see where it leads.
On who will start at safety
Stoops: J.C. (Jason Carter) is still in there but Keenan Clayton also is working for more time. Again, those guys have to keep competing and they have to make plays to stay on the field.
On if people are purposely not throwing at Reggie Smith
Stoops: No, I think some of it's the nature of the position. In college football, the short corner is attacked more than the wider corner, I believe, because of the wide field, longer throws, more dangerous throws, those kind of things.
The boundary guy is more involved, just kinda like Roy Williams in that nickel position. He's closer to the line of scrimmage, closer to the action. It's the same thing with the short corner. He's just involved more.
On dropping in the polls each week despite winning. And if he looks at the Oregon game as a chance to get more national recognition
Stoops: I don't care about that. I look at it as a chance to win — to be 3-0. Again, you look at college football and across the country, just like last year, some people play (Divsion 1) AA's or nobody and you want to get a guaranteed four wins. Other people go on the road to UCLA or wherever else. You get an 'atta boy and no one cares. In the end, they count up victories.
To me, it's about winning. That's what matters to me. Talk shows and what everyone wants to write, it doesn't matter. The bottom line you've got to play well and win.
On if he'd prefer an easier schedule
Stoops: No, I think our schedule's challenging. It prepares you for the league, but again if you want to look at perception or what people want to write about you, it doesn't much matter right now. It matters how you end up and how you compete in the conference.
On if that means that he doesn't care if his players are bothered by the drop in the polls after a win
Stoops: Bothered by what? They're not giving out any trophies this week.
On Paul Thompson mentioning that he felt they haven't been getting respect in the polls
Stoops: Well, fine. I don't get it. I don't get what you guys are asking me. You're asking me about where we're at in the polls and again, they're not giving out trophies...
On if they players use the polls as motivation
Stoops: Whatever they want. That's great. But again, when we were No. 1 or No. 2 and we're fighting our butt off we don't care about they say. We just want to play. Well, why is it different now?
We want to play hard, we want to play well, we want to get better. In the end, if it's the last week of the year maybe it matters. Right now it doesn't matter. Everybody's got a chance to keep working through the year and we'll see where everybody goes.
On him believing in the philosophy that if you win all of your games the polls take care of themselves
Stoops: I've more than seen that, yeah.
On Auburn winning all their games and not making the BCS title game three years ago
Stoops: Whatever. I'm not getting into that debate. Well, then make strength of schedule matter more.
On if he would like strength of schedule more of a factor in the BCS polls
Stoops: Absolutely. Again, we've done an about face and now it doesn't matter. At the end of the year everyone counts up losses and then they swap you. How many teams that really played a great schedule might have one less loss than somebody else or more than somebody else, but they're going to be behind them (in the polls)? It's just like Penn State this week goes on the road to play No. 2 Notre Dame and they drop out.
On being the only Big 12 team that's not playing a 1-AA school this year and if they'll change their philosophy because of that
Stoops: I'm not going to be critical of anyone, because I understand the difficulties of scheduling. I'm not pointing out anybody because we may, in future schedules, have to.
Sometimes there's nothing else left. We've been in danger of that. So, I'm not critical. I'm just saying that I think some people's philosophies are different. It's obvious. But I also understand that sometimes it's unavoidable in certain situations.
On the criticism last week of Kevin Wilson on Adrian Peterson...
Stoops: That was blown out of proportion by the media, by you guys. He said he could play better. He didn't say he played poorly. He says he can do better.
It's like Tiger Woods, who wins all of the time and then he comes in second in one and he knows he can be better. That's the bottom line. You guys made more of that than they way he said it. Headlines made more of it than the way he said it.
On if Adrian took the challenge...
Stoops: He took coaching. And what was said here was said to him after the game and Monday in our meetings. He understood it and he said to me he knew he could be better.
He understands coaching. He's a bright guy and he knows you guys exaggerate a lot about what's said about him or what he does.
On if he's decided on the amount of carries Peterson's going to have a game or will it vary
Stoops: I think it's going to vary depending on the pace of the game and what we're able to get him. What did he have — 32 last week? The first week he had 22. Anyway, somewhere in there.
I think depending on the pace of the offense, the fact that we can take care of the football it gives you more possession time and gives you more opportunities with him, and depending on how people are trying to defend you.
I think, again, we saw a lot of nice openings and where Paul went with the football and big plays because of how they're defending him. I keep saying sometimes he's as valuable without the ball as he is with it.
Stoops: Yes. There's blame to be had there, but elsewhere as well. It's not all their fault, I promise you.
On how the linebackers have played
Stoops: OK, but I think they're capable of more.
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