Below are excperts from OU head coach Bob Stoops' weekly press conference held today in Norman.
On playing A&M
Stoops: Another big challenge that we're excited about and fired up about — to have the opportunity to go down there and compete. We're just focusing on making the improvement we feel we can make here this week.
On the factors that make it difficult and unique to play in College Station
Stoops: Same as a lot of places — the energy they create and the noise. But that isn't unlike any other place that holds whatever it is — 80,000 people. We're in that environment a lot, so do you guys want to rehash that like we did last week or just move on?
On if the cadets on the sideline at A&M impress him
Stoops: No, we don't pay attention to any of that.
On the fans in College Station knowing how to do certain things (crowd noise) to affect a game
Stoops: If they start playing, then I'll start answering. I haven't seen them out there, so...
On them struggling at A&M as much as they have at any other road venue
Stoops: I don't know, what's our record there? Hey, it's not easy to go to Nebraska, it's not easy to go to Oklahoma State, it's not easy to go to Missouri. We had a tough time at Missouri three years ago, right?
It's not the easiest thing to go on the road. All those places, you can make them what you want. I think it's fair to say it's not easy to come here for other teams. It's not easy to go anywhere. You guys all love to compare them. When you've got good stands and they're packed, it's tough. I'm sure it isn't easy to go down to Austin for some people.
I know our record here is pretty decent. It can't be real easy to come in here, so who is it easy to go (play on the road)? What I'm saying is I don't look at it that way, and we don't as a team.
Look at our history at Nebraska since I've been here. It hasn't been the easiest. We've won some, we haven't. Like I said, at Missouri we fought tooth and nail three years ago, and we went up there this time and played better.
You can look at it however you want. That's just how it is.
On A&M's rushing attack giving them a different look than they've seen the last few games
Stoops: Oh, yeah. Missouri, they didn't stick with it very long. That's why I always say it's different what teams and people really emphasize.
They give you multiple sets. They're going to run the option in a lot of different ways. It's like playing Air Force. You've got a triple option and you've got to be able to cancel gaps and all the different options.
You've got to be able to read them out and be really disciplined at it. They're much different in the way they're running it option-wise, than any of these other teams.
On A&M offensively and defensively
Stoops: Really solid watching them. Offensively, very complicated in that you've got to be very disciplined and recognize formations — the different ways they're running the option and or trying to create holes and trying to create space.
They make you really work to cancel all those gaps. That's what they want to do first and foremost, is run the football. That's the deal with them offensively, and then not allowing them to get anything cheap behind you. You've got to be disciplined in all those areas, like you would any time you're playing a triple option team.
Defensively, very sound structure-wise in what they're doing. Very solid base structure, mostly zone coverages and 4-2-5. Basic four-man front that you see from a lot of people. Physical up front, big guys. They're playing well.
Very solid football team.
On the difficulty of preparing for a big running back like A&M's Javorski Lane
Stoops: You've got to get people to him and you've got to figure out where to hit him when he comes through there. Make sure you're locking up.
The biggest thing I think is hitting him early and trying to not let him get started — that you're in gaps and you cancel gaps where he's trying to get the ball.
On A&M quarterback Stephen McGee
Stoops: Solid, good quarterback. An athletic guy that can make plays running around. Smart with what he does with the football. He does a really good job for them.
On what A&M has done offensively to be good at converting third downs
Stoops: I think you convert a lot more third downs when they're short-yardage, and they've had a lot more short-yardage than a lot of people have.
On A&M figuring how to win before they've figured out how to play well from start to finish
Stoops: Well, they've won. You can label it however you want. We're going to look at it at each segment of the game on how we can play and how we feel the best way is to attack them, defend them or work the ball on them.
That's our deal — to get ourself in position to play as well as we can in the areas we feel we can. What they do, that isn't anything I can deal with. We're going to do the best we can in our areas.
On why the defense is playing better now than earlier in the year
Stoops: It was playing good earlier in the year. We weren't as consistent, and I've said that all along.
A great example is Oregon. The opening play of the game they get a play that goes to the four-yard line, they score. Then with 14,13 minutes to go in the fourth quarter we're winning 20-13. That's three quarters of football we hold them to two field goals. And they're a team that's scored a lot of points on a lot of teams.
What I said early that no one wanted to listen to, was a lot of parts of what we were doing was still really good, but we gave up some plays. I guess, we haven't given up those kind of big plays (lately).
We've been more consistent, but we were still playing pretty decent then. I think people have seen Washington has scored and move the ball on a lot of teams. So to think they're going to come in here and we're going to shut them out, I don't know that that was fair. But everyone wanted to say that back then.
Lately, we're making improvement. We haven't given up the one or two plays that, in those other games, that led to some points. But even in those games, we weren't far off.
On how well the tight ends and receivers are blocking
Stoops: They're blocking really well. Tight ends — you can't run the football without those guys. Those three guys are really good football players — Joe Jon Finley, Brody Eldridge and Jermaine Gresham.
They give you great versatility in formations, they can all run and catch the football, and they're really good players. They're giving us a lot of flexibility and doing a really good job, and our wide receivers are blocking well.
On people saying Paul Thompson has exceeded the expectations, and what were his expectations for him this year
Stoops: He has not exceeded ours at all. I think people are seeing what we felt all along what his potential was.
I think it's fair to say that Kevin Wilson and our entire offensive staff, and Josh Heupel, have really worked with him to really play to his strengths and to really give us a good mix and blend in what we're asking to do and how we're moving the ball.
But Paul, all along, has been a very capable quarterback. I don't blow smoke when I don't believe something. I've said all along Paul's a talented guy. He has ability, he can throw the football better than anyone's ever given him credit for. And he can throw the football better than he can run the football, regardless of what anybody wants to think.
He's a bright guy, he's a competitive guy, he's a worker. So he had all the intangibles to do what he is doing.
On if Thompson got a decent chance last year to be the quarterback
Stoops: Oh, c'mon! Yeah, he did. We've been through all that. Now everybody wants to go back.
You know what? If I had known what I know now, that would have been an easy decision. I didn't know that guy (Rhett Bomar) was going to do what he did.
That's foolish to even think like that — for me, anyway. Anybody else, have at it. But that doesn't make sense to us in our situation and what we had to go by.
On if the pro scouts he talks to are looking at Thompson as a quarterback
Stoops: Sure. I saw Seneca Wallace chunking it downfield for someone (Seattle) the other day, but that's not a fair comparison. I think Paul is more of a passer than maybe he (Wallace) was even. Paul, no question, will have people look at him.
On if there was any consideration of moving Allen Patrick back to defense following his move to running back
Stoops: When switched we thought he looked so good doing it that we thought that it would be best just to keep them there.
Watching his tape in junior college and high school, you've seen him on kickoff coverage. He'd tear you up as a safety. But when you watch his high school tape running the football, you're like, 'Wow, this guy can run.'
He was a two-time high school player of the year down there. That says a lot. South Carolina has a lot of good athletes.
On the saying that teams improve the most between their first and second game, and if Patrick had similar improvement between his first and second start
Stoops: I think playing last year helped him. Those experiences still stay with him. I think in the second game, I think he just had more endurance having gone through it the week before.
He handled it much better the other day. This time, he was a little more conditioned for it. And I think, naturally, the more you do it he's seeing his holes well and hitting them well. I think, naturally, the more you do anything the more comfortable you come with it.
On if he's impressed that Patrick has stepped in and carried the ball 70 times and done what he's done
Stoops: He's been a stud, no question, but he's like that. He's a tough guy that loves the game, so I can't say that it's surprising to us at all. But we appreciate him, no question.
I think, as we go, Jacob (Gutierrez) has a chance to contribute more, and Chris (Brown) as well as we go. Jacob, even the other day, has 40 yards for the limited carries he had. He's a spark as well when he's in there.
On who's graded out the best on the offensive line
Stoops: Probably Chris Messner, but they're all playing well. Trent Williams was recognized as having an excellent game the other day. He gets out there for his first start and did a heck of a job.
He has a real calmness about him, but as you look at him he's ready for the moment. He's ready to play. He's got a lot to him. He's got that natural strength that sometimes kids need time to develop in the weight room. He has that natural strength to him and base that give him an advantage.
But Chris has played well. Messner's been solid all year. Those guys inside are playing well. They're all playing well together.
On the depth of the defensive line
Stoops: You know, they are doing really well. A guy that should be recognized and I should have given a game ball immediately after the game — sometimes you don't realize until you watch tape — but Alonzo Dotson makes the first three plays on the goal line.
All three of them in a row are Alonzo. The first run, the second pass he's forcing the throw-away. And then the third run he gets down, cuts through the pull blocker. He makes three great, great plays.
Those guys are all playing well and spelling each other. DeMarcus Granger had another really good game inside. He and Carl Pendleton and Steven Coleman. Outside, all those d-ends played in a solid and good way.
I should mention the guys who for us were players of the game — Lendy Holmes and Marcus Walker were outstanding. Lendy Holmes has four breakups, one on fourth down, an interception and a fumble recovery. That' a pretty special day out there at corner. Lewis Baker outside as well.
And then Allen Patrick and Joe Jon Finely. Joe Jon had 16 or 17 knockdowns outside of his touchdown catch.
On what they had seen from Quentin Chaney to put him in a situation to play more
Stoops: Just more and more consistency and catching the ball, working to get open, effort and all of that. He just needs to continue to improve and show the consistency needed to step up and make plays.
On if the fact that Chaney has now had success in a game will help him step up his level of play even more[/b]
Stoops: Hopefully it does because we've always seen a lot of potential and talent in Quentin. But he needs to keep working and be productive and consistent on the field. He's getting better at it.
On why Thompson was used more in the running game against Missouri than in previous games
Stoops: Sometimes we don't feel the opportunity is there as well. Sometimes, as you saw the other night, he got drilled and we're not excited about that. Sometimes when he ran it, he only got a couple of yards and still got hit.
So that's not the deal for us. We're not going to go running him and get him smacked around. That's just not what we like to do.
It's not like we've had trouble running it other ways, right? We've been able to run the football and he's been able to play-action and get plays. So there's no magic to the quarterback run game.
Again, I feel he's a better thrower than he is a runner. We'll pick and choose and be spotty. We're not going to run him 10 times a game. That's just not what we want to do.
On his perception of how the defense has been playing the run the last few games
Stoops: Oh, it's pretty obvious, isn't it? We've been outstanding playing the run.
On what has enabled Lendy Holmes to make his rapid advancement at cornerback
Stoops: Just time on the field. He's more and more sure and the experience of playing gives you that. He's more confident making plays.
He's a naturally confident guy. He's a lot like a Derrick Strait, where he's just a gamer. He's like that.
And he has a lot of natural ability. When he was at receiver we'd run a reverse pass to the right and he's throw a bomb to the other receiver right-handed. Then we'd run it to the left a few plays later, and he'd throw a left-handed a bomb downfield. A perfect spiral right to the guy.
I'm like, how do you do that? How do you know when you're going to shoot a 3-pointer and which hand you're going to shoot with, and he really could tell you. He'll make eight with his left and and he'll make eight with his right. It's odd, but he's a talented kid, a talented guy.
On his teams getting better throughout the season
Stoops: We're just constantly paying attention to how we're practicing. You learn from past games what are the areas that we were solid in. Where did we make mistakes that really hurt ourself? And then our effort on the practice field and our preparation is a factor as well.
We're still a young team. We were a really young team a year ago. We should get better as we go the more experience we have on the practice field and in games. So I've been just really pleased with the attitude and the way we've worked.
On ABC TV analyst Bob Davie doing some recruiting for him during the game...
Stoops: I was on ... (the field). What did he say, anyway?
On Davie saying why wouldn't a young quarterback want to come to Oklahoma with their young offensive line playing so well...
Stoops: Young group of receivers, young group of tight ends who are really good, running backs all back. Boy, I agree with you totally (smiles). I just thought I'd get that in there since some people are covering it.
On how difficult it's been to recruit a quarterback now that they've suddenly had to jump in on them late and not had the time of building the relationships with them that other schools have
Stoops: You deal with it. It was a situation (dismissing Bomar) that had to happen in my eyes. That was the only right thing to do, so now we work to develop the guys we have and to recruit the best guys we can.
It's real simple to us. It's just matter of fact. That's what you do.
On his message to the quarterbacks they're recruiting
Stoops: It's not hard to see. You give them a depth chart and then turn on the tape and let's watch these guys play a little bit.
In the end, I think it's fair to say you come in and you don't have to be John Elway. You just have to carry your load. There's a lot of guys around here that are that are going to help you and help you look good.
On how Adrian Peterson is doing
Stoops: He's doing good. He's looking forward to it healing, and there's nothing he can do about it. Just let it heal. But he seems to be in great spirits. There's a lot to Adrian, so he's fine. He's just anxious to get it healed.
On if Peterson's recovery is still on the same timetable
Stoops: (Nods). As far as I know.
On Peterson shoving the Missouri player on the sidelines
Stoops: I didn't know he did. It doesn't surprise me though. Hopefully he won't get a personal foul.
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