Below are excerpts from OU defensive coordinator Brent Venables' meeting with the media on Tuesday.
On the defense gearing up for another big game
Venables: They understand the key elements of this game and how to approach it. A lot of guys are excited and have an opportunity to be on this platform to play well, to match up bone on bone, to match up with the defending national champions. It's a great opportunity, a great challenge, and I think the guys that are going to get on that bus are relishing to tee off and to play.
On the need for the entire defense to play physical, not just the defensive line
Venables: It's backers every bit as much as safeties or corners in support, corners in getting physical with receivers. It's DB's on the perimeter getting off the blocks in the run game.
They utilize sideline to sideline in how they attack you, whether it's running or throwing. Everybody across the board's got to be physical — shedding blocks, tackling, getting through gaps, being down hill, playing with great fundamentals and technique with great power and great strength, and going up and competing for balls.
They're strong. Most of their receivers are big, physical guys. They attack the football and we've got to match that intensity and then some.
On him being intense when he played and trying to translate that emotion to his players
Venables: I think emotion and intensity is a great equalizer, whether you match up talent-wise or not. That's always been our M.O. But it gets you juiced up to have an opportunity like we do on Saturday.
These are the ones you really get excited for and you live for. Hopefully you've got the right guys that are living and breathing it and sleeping it. They're in the commode, they're thinking about it. They're with their lady, they're thinking about it. They're sleeping, they're dreaming about it. I think that's what we have in our locker room.
Obviously, as coaches and players, we feed off of one another so it obviously excites you. Again, it's a tremendous opportunity for us.
On Texas leading the nation in rushing
Venables: And they've been leading the nation about every year that we've gone into this game, so we recognize the challenge. It's (stopping the run) what's going to be the key element in this game for us to have a chance to win.
On their goal every game being to stop the run, but it being different this week against a team like Texas
Venables: The challenge is different. No question. This series — who wins the line of scrimmage on both sides is gonna win the game. And along with that come the turnovers.
Turnovers is always a huge indicator on who's going to win and lose. But those are the two biggest areas — coming up with turnovers on defense and stopping the run.
On Texas' success in the running game out of a shotgun set
Venables: What they do is they really stress you. They force you to play certain coverageâ€™s to stop their run, and when you do they attack the perimeter with very good skill. A lot of people try to do it, but their skill isn't as good so they can't out-run you. Even if they have leverage, you can soak it up. They present some different elements in that regard.
They take a lot of pressure off their quarterback by a lot of quick passes as well to loosen you up inside. Inside-out is how they attack you. They attack you that way in run game and then they attack you that way with the pass game by throwing and attacking you on the perimeter to widen you out to loosen you up inside.
They're very, very efficient. And then the guys that they're getting the balls to in those situations are very explosive, whether it's the back on the pitch or it's the wide receiver on the screen play. They're just very explosive players across the board from sideline to sideline.
On the difference in Texas running back Selvin Young after he lost 25 pounds from last season
Venables: More explosion. Better short-area quickness, ability to cut and get back down hill in a hurry. The quick cuts and the burst. Getting up field probably is the biggest thing, but a better lower body strength breaking through tackles that maybe in the past he's gotten caught up on.
And then they're utilizing the backs really, really well out of the backfield. Obviously, for the reasons you would expect, they like their matchup. Most of the time it's going to be with a backer out there with 8, 10, 12 yards of space. They make a guy miss and it's to the second level.
On how he sees OU's defense matching up with Texas' offensive line
Venables: It will be a great matchup and it will be a great test and challenge for us. We'll need to play better than we've played all year and better than we played at any time last year.
I think that we're ready for it and are capable of doing it, and the guys are excited about having the opportunity to do it.
On the need for the linebackers to play well against a rushing team like Texas
Venables: We were fairly consistent at stopping the run against them last year, and the linebackers weren't a big reason for that. We need to play a lot better than we played last year.
We played flat too much and we weren't as physical as we needed to be. We'll need to be better than we have in some time on Saturday. And our guys sitting in that meeting with me every day, they understand what's expected and what's needed from them.
On Bob Stoops saying that 'it's not even' close that the offense was better than they were last year, and if that same term applies to the defense
Venables: You can't say that. And as much as anything, because of what we've done to ourself at times. We were young last year and there were some growing pains early, but we played more consistently.
There were some areas that we were struggling in, but the area we weren't struggling was run defense. And that's an area that obviously is a concern through the first three games in particular. We recognize that we weren't challenged like we will be this week. We didn't have any of the run game issues through the first four games last year, so it's a big-time challenge. If we can get that shored up, we feel like we can be ahead of the curve.
Because of that, we can't say that we're so much further ahead than we were last year. But we have the opportunity to be every bit as good and then some if we can play with more consistency, play with more technique, gap control, and just improve from where we were a week and a half ago.
And there's not a better opportunity and platform to do it than now. Now is as good a time as any to come around and start playing like we're capable of playing.
On the football experts saying that this matchup is difficult for OU's defensive interior against Texas' defensive interior
Venables: I think that's their strength. That's an area that we've got to be better on Saturday than we have been.
On if there is an answer to fix that problem
Venables: Yeah, it starts with better technique, fundamentals that the guys are capable of doing it. It takes no talent or ability to play with that every snap.
That comes with linebackers and safeties — they've got to be better than what they've been too to help them and to allow them to be physical too and now stretch them out.
If you're flat and your soft and you're not down hill or not square, and if you're not making tackles when you have the opportunity, then none of it's any good. So we need to be better in the other areas to help them be better as well.
You've seen guys do it enough, at times, to believe that now it's time to quit farting around — to play like we can, to quick thinking and to be aggressive and be physical, again, to match up with the defending national champions. And again, the strength of their team is their offensive line. It's a great challenge, a great opportunity — one that's gotta get you excited.
On the importance of the defensive ends this week to contain the run game as well as put pressure on the quarterback
Venables: You hit it on the head. They attack you on the perimeter with a lot of their run game. They're (defensive ends) going to be a huge part of defending that. Along with that, I haven't felt that the linebackers have played like we can. And again, I'm talking about playing that way every down.
When you've got the capable players that we have at defensive end and linebacker you expect to get their best every snap, and we'll need that. But they'll have a huge role. You're right, we've got to be able to create pressure with our four-man front because they're too good in the back end skill to leave them out on an island and blitzkrieg them.
The quarterbacks' making too many good decisions. He understands the offense and has a really good feel. (McCoy) is well ahead of the learning curve for a young player, let alone for an older player to this point. You can't rattle him. The blitzes have really been ineffective. Again, a lot of that's because of a good offensive line, good skills. It's good schemes and good decision-making by the quarterback.
Everybody needs to bring their A game. Again, there's not a better opportunity, better time, to do it than this week. I think our guys have that type of mental approach too. They recognize their backs are against the wall; there's a lot of doubters.
Hopefully they've got an edge on their shoulder. We're the underdog. Typically, we've performed and responded well in this situation and this atmosphere and would like to believe that this year won't be any different.
On of there's any concern about Reggie Smith's health
Venables: It's a tremendous opportunity
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