Below are excerpts from OU head coach Bob Stoops' weekly press conference held Tuesday in Norman.
On Texas Tech
Stoops: Our last home game for our seniors and home game of the season. Our guys are continuing to focus on improving and getting better. There are still areas that we can do that by a longshot.
We've had good attitude practicing. We had a great practice yesterday and I feel as though we will make improvement here this week getting ready to play Tech, whose really playing well.
Mike (Leach) does a great job. Everybody knows and understands that. We all have great respect for him and the way they play at Tech, so we've got to make some strong improvement here this week to put ourself in position to win.
On if it's frustrating that they're slowly moving up in the polls and won't get a chance to play in a BCS game
Stoops: It's too early to say all that. There's still three weeks to play. All we focus on is what we can do something about, and that's this week.
I would say, no, it's been a very pleasing season in the way we've played here the last several weeks. Granted, we've had some hurdles and some issues to deal with that are well noted. But for as a team, we feel we're improving. We're making strides and getting better. Our guys are practicing well. It's been a really good attitude and fun group to coach that way.
Some of the external factors, I can't do anything about. Neither can the players so why waste time for me worrying about it. I can't do anything about it.
On the upside of the young offensive line
Stoops: Oh, huge. I've said that all along from the beginning of the year that this group had the potential to be much better than what we worked with last year, because of the ability and the size and the strength, and it's showing.
They're only going to continue to get better if they'll keep the work ethic that they've had. They still have a lot of improvement to go, but there's a lot of potential there with all of them.
On the young offensive linemen like Cory Bailey and Cory Brandon
Stoops: They're doing great. They look really good. Of course, Cory Brandon's been hurt, but before he got hurt he was doing a great job.
Trent Williams, along with the rest of our offensive line, and Brody Eldridge is playing exceptionally well. He had 10 knockdowns in 32 plays. That's pretty impressive at the tight end/fullback position. He was player of the game along with the offensive linemen.
On the improving play of Jacob Gutierrez
Stoops: Jacob's a good player. I wouldn't say he's improving, I've always thought he's a very good player. That's a compliment to him in that Jacob's a very good football player.
He's complementing Allen in a great way and contributed big-time in that game. Made some great runs. As we go, he'll get more and more carries and we anticipate Jacob being a strong factor for us. He's a good football player.
On if they were purposely rushing the football to run more clock and shorten the games on the last two weeks on the road
Stoops: No, we're not looking to play a short game. But if you're getting 10 and 8 and 10 and 12 (yards per carry), why do you stop? A lot of it has been just the success we've had with it.
On if they'll look to run the ball and shorten the game this week to keep the ball away from Tech's potent offense
Stoops: No, that's never been our style. To move the football, no matter who we're playing, is always what we want to do.
Are we doing it intentionally to keep anyone off (the field) or to use the clock? No, but to moving the chains against whoever you play is important.
On the play of Marcus Walker
Stoops: He's been excellent. He's been fantastic and really playing well. He had another great interception that led to game-winning field goal. I mean, that's what it ended up being.
His coverage has been excellent, support out of the secondary out of the run game's been really good. He's playing really well.
On if there was something he saw from Walker in practice before he decided to move Reggie Smith to safety
Stoops: He was making significant progress, yes. Last spring through two-a-days through all of it, yes.
On what was different about Saturday night to decide to go for it on fourth and short rather than punt like they have in previous situations
Stoops: I don't need to say it, do I? I mean, the game was on the line and we only needed three inches. So a lot of it was different.
Initially, your first thought's we'll punt, we've been playing good defense. And then I thought it's a one club wind. Into the wind, it's going to knock it down about 15 (yards). With the wind, it's going to give them about 15. You start calculating that up with a 40-yard punt and I thought, 'You know what, this isn't adding up.' We've got to make three inches. The game's over and take away all their opportunities.
Players always want to go for it, but you as a coach have to make the judgement on the risk-reward and what you feel you need to do. I just felt that with the momentum that they had at the time, it just didn't add up giving them another chance.
They (players) liked when I said that's what we're going to do. Initially, when I thought we'd punt it I could tell they were disappointed. They weren't saying anything to me, but I could just tell looking at them.
On the differences between the NFL and college rules, and the time A&M would've had left to score with the clock stopping after a first down
Stoops: I don't think there's any question the NFL game and the college game are different that way. The clock management, picking up a first down, they stop it to move the chains. There's an eternity sometimes with 1:20 or 1:30 or whatever.
I also think fourth and really short in the NFL is harder to pick up because of the great d-lineman that are out there. And I'm not saying A&M has really good d-lineman, but I think the mismatch in that league, d-lineman to o-lineman, sometimes is pretty big. So to me it's a lot more difficult there than it is maybe in college.
On if he considered the backlash from the fans and media he might take while he's on the sidelines considering whether to go for it in that situation
Stoops: That's always there. Just like it's there when we do the onside kick. Everybody knows what you ought to do after the deal, but you're the one that has to win.
We want to do our best to coach to win, and sometimes doing that you have to take some risks. If you went through and looked at fourth and three inches across the country, I bet the success rate is pretty decent.
Sometimes you go with the percentages or you trust the way you've been working the ball all day that it's going to work. And if it doesn't, you know that's coming. But that's OK. I'd rather coach to win than worry about being criticized. Everybody has their opinion on what you ought to do, but they're not the one's doing it.
I can write opinions on what you guys write a lot. Just because it's an opinion doesn't mean it's correct.
On the running game
Stoops: Our running game has been outstanding. I think Kenny (Mossman) calculated it up if our starting running back, had it be one guy through the whole time, he would've gained around 1,500 yards already. That's pretty significant. Any time you can do that it's a strong part of the game. It sets up opportunities to win. I believe it also sets up the passing game.
We weren't as successful (passing) last week as we want to be or need to be. I think that's rare. I think we got caught in the game and at the way it was going. We felt we could win it this way, why take a chance? We're going to still throw the football more than we did the other day.
On the offense failing to score a touchdown after Marcus Walker's interception
Stoops: They stopped us. We were running the same things we had been running all day and they held us, although we had a dropped pass in the end zone that's a touchdown. So what do you say about it? You've got to catch the football.
Though it wasn't the easiest, it was catchable. So you don't make that play, you kick a field goal. You can break it down it all you want — sometimes you catch it and you've got a touchdown. You drop it, you're kicking a field goal. And that's what they did.
On A&M not running the ball on 3rd and goal from the 2-yard line
Stoops: We were looking for it. Sometimes it sounds like two yards is easy to get, it's not always real easy to get. Sometimes they feel offensively that you're hunkered down in there ready to stop that, and you have opportunities to sneak behind people. It happens everyday on short-yardage and someone is open in the flat. Fortunately, our guys read it great and picked it up and covered it.
I don't second-guess that. I think it's unfair to second-guess coach Franchione on that. I see that happen in college football and the NFL all the time, where two yards isn't always easy slamming it in there and sometimes you can sneak right by people and have a guy wide open in the end zone.
You guys see it every weekend, so it's another one of those calls in hindsight it's easy to say you should've done this. Again, you guys aren't the ones making the calls.
On if it's tough for him to personally get over the fact that they've lost a game because of the officials' calls
Stoops: Again, it's just something I can't do anything about. I'm pretty efficient with my brain power or my emotions, that I use it all on what I can do something about. I can't concern myself with what isn't.
I think it goes back to that's the issue in the college game right now — is scheduling. If you just look at the polls right now it's all slotted by wins and losses. You guys all talk about scheduling all the time and it does matter to you, but it doesn't.
In the end, everything is slotted by wins and losses. End of story. I knew when it happened that that's how it was going to be. So in the end, you are not given any credit for playing a tough schedule or winning in a tight game.
Had they decided that we had the ball or they hit it too early and we win by six at Oregon, that's a big deal. But the fact that they didn't and we weren't good enough to stop them an extra series. That's where, anymore, the need for a playoff shows up in those areas. Why should we play Miami next year? Why should they come here to play?
In the end, just play four really easy non-conference games. There isn't nothing sure, but make sure that you've got your four wins and then you navigate your conference and set yourself up. That's basically what you're rewarded for.
Across the country, I think you'll see less and less tougher games. That whole deal with us and Oregon is gone. They're going to slot everybody by wins and losses. That's just how it goes.
On OU already being at a disadvantage having already scheduled tough opponents, while other school's don't
Stoops: Well, our fans aren't. They get some exciting games. You get great exposure the week of the game. Everybody pats you on the back that week and you better win.
On the fans turning on him if they lose
Stoops: Yes (laughs). But they had some excitement getting ready for it though didn't they? They had some good tailgating and lot of excitement talking about it.
And I want to make it perfectly clear I'm with Joe (Castiglione). Joe and I have set up the schedule. Joe has always confered with with on what I want to do, so don't ever misrepresent or mistake that Joe and I are at odds. That's not the case at all.
On him not being for playing an easier schedule in the past
Stoops: Well, a few years ago the schedule mattered more. They've taken that part out of it now.
On if he's lobbying for a playoff
Stoops: I don't know if I'm ready to go that far, but I see the need anymore for it. Let's face it, you take some people's schedules and compare them to others, and I'm not talking about us, I'm talking across the country. There's a lot of people that would love to play some of the schedules that some people have. In the end, that's just how it is.
On if he's backing away from his previous stance that the season is a 12-game playoff and every game matters
Stoops: They all matter, but I'm saying some have a harder road than others. I've heard Tommy Tubberville say the same thing at Auburn.
I'm not saying anything that I don't think is not obvious to everybody. That's just how it is. I don't know if it will change or not.
On the playing field not being even because some conferences play championship games while others don't
Stoops: Of course. The championship game's always really tough. Everybody's not on the same equal playing field, but everybody knows that.
On if he talks to other coaches who want the strength of schedule component back in the BCS
Stoops: I don't know. I don't know that I hear that an overwhelming amount.
On if he thinks they need to re-evaluate their scheduling
Stoops: I imagine we'll continue the way we are. But like everything, you're always evaluating where you're going with it. So we'll see.
On some people saying they've never seen him angrier in the locker room than after last year's game at Texas Tech
Stoops: Oh (pauses) ... It's pretty close or fair.
On if that loss hurts more than the Oregon loss
Stoops: I didn't, at the time after the game, know what I knew several hours later once we got home and got to see what was on TV. It would be pretty comparable at that time (smiles).
On Fox not having the goal line angle on the last play against Tech because the camera was focused on him, and if there was any talk in the coaches' meetings in the offseason about how the TV stations show the games
Stoops: That's out of our control as coaches. I know that, so...
On if he's getting the urge to lobby for OU's position in the BCS along with the other one loss teams
Stoops: No, because they'd tear me apart. You know what that would do.
On lobbying for position in the BCS 'is coaching to win', just like he said they coached to win when they went for it on fourth down against A&M
Stoops: Yeah, but again you know all the reasons why. No one's going to change their opinion. Why would I need to? Everyone knows what the situation is. Obviously, they don't care about it.
On Tech quarterback Graham Harrell's consistency helping their offense
Stoops: I would say overall everybody's more consistent. It isn't just one guy, it's everybody together being more consistent. He's playing really well, but the guys around him are playing really well too.
On Texas Tech's defense
Stoops: They're a basic 4-3 cover four team. A little bit of three-deep as well, so similar structure to what they've always done and what you see a fair amount of from everybody anymore.
On the play of the defensive tackles
Stoops: Really well. Steve Coleman and DeMarcus Granger, along with Birdine and Walker, were players of the game. Cory Bennett played well, Carl Pendleton played well.
They all played well last week, and they've been playing well. They had excellent games against Missouri and Colorado as well. So they've been doing a nice job.
On if DeMarcus Granger is a player who could become a special player in the future
Stoops: Sure. Everybody loves to label guys that already, but DeMarcus has a lot of potential. Will he reach it? That's up to him and us coaching him.
Those really special guys are guys that have that motor and are motivated in the offseason and work for it. We're hoping DeMarcus will work that way.
On what are his expectations for Chris Brown the rest of the season
Stoops: He's getting more and more (snaps) in practice and closer and closer. We anticipate playing him this week and the coming weeks.
On if he anticipated not having to play him the last two weeks on the road
Stoops: No, you manage the game as they come. You don't have a set number that they're going to get. You manage the game. And the way the game was, I'm not second-guessing the way we played it one bit.
On Texas Tech's running game
Stoops: It's still good. (Taurean) Henderson was so explosive, but if you're not aware of it or not focused on it, it will still hurt you. They still do a nice job with it.
I felt that was a factor last year, especially in the first half, that we allowed too many running yards. We need to do a better job taking care of the run game when you play them. We'll work it hard this week.
On Tech being known as finesse team, but the players saying they were one of the more physical teams they played last year
Stoops: They did a nice job up front. They ran the ball last year in the first half, but we did a really good job in the second half. But in the first half it hurt us, and we can't let that happen.
On the senior class
Stoops: It's been a good group. Those guys are all contributing in a lot of different ways. They've been good leaders for us here through this year, so I'm really proud of them. Though they're not a large group, they're a really quality, good group of guys.
On what the defensive staff has been doing to make sure they improve each week
Stoops: It's the defensive staff, but it's the players too. It's the preparation during the week. The manner in which we practiced — physical and being disciplined in what we're doing.
It translates on the field. As much you practice and you get them prepared, they ultimately have to make the plays when they get opportunities when they get on the field. And fortunately for the last many, many weeks, we've been making them. Guys are in position and disciplined to cancel gaps they're supposed to.
We're just playing with more consistency and discipline and guys, when they have opportunities to make plays, are making them.
On Tech only scoring six points twice this season, and if other coaching staffs figuring out how to slow down their offense or is it them having a new quarterback
Stoops: I imagine it's a little bit of everything. Just because you've done it before doesn't mean you always will. They still have had their share of people that they have put up big numbers on.
You have to play well against them. As much as anything, it kinda gets back to kinda like the triple option. This is a different way, but they're going to have people spread out. We gotta be disciplined to recognize routes, cover them, make plays when they throw the ball and be able to break on it. If he (quarterback) pulls it down, be able to close on him.
We've got to blitz and be able to get to him before somebody can work open, because you're missing some people in your coverage. It gets down to who's going to execute. Mike doesn't make any secret about what he does. It isn't like he's trying to fool anybody. He's always prided himself on executing, and they execute well. You have to execute with them defensively to stop them.
On what one or two things happened with the secondary to turn the light on
Stoops: I think, overall, they've played well throughout the year. We were a little inconsistent and gave up a few plays early, but outside of that they have played well. They've been pretty good for the most part.
I just think as much as anything, we're still a fairly young group that the more they play the better they're getting. I guess I would attribute it to their repetitions and experience that they're just continuing to make improvement.
On if he's taken more of a role working with the secondary
Stoops: Well, I've always been involved. I've always (worked) with coach (Bobby Jack) Wright. Working with four and five guys in the secondary to go through a tape and correct five guys takes a long time.
Last year, this year, depending on the number of plays or how much time, I'll take the corners. Or at practice, I'll take the safeties and he takes the corners. That's always been the case.
On him not wanting to take the credit for the defensive improvement
Stoops: No, coach Wright and coach Venables, all those guys have done a really good job. And like I said, I felt early on we were in position on some plays. What we were doing was there, but we were just a little inconsistent on how we played some things early and gave up a few plays.
Again, other people have some good players and good coaches too. That's the game. They're going to make some good plays too.
On Lendy Holmes' effort running down A&M running back Michael Goodson and saving a touchdown
Stoops: That should happen. That shouldn't be...
On Holmes looking like a sprinter
Stoops: Lendy's like that too. I promise you if you told him out here today to go run that same angle, he wouldn't run near as fast. That's just kinda how he is. He's as fast as he needs to be. He's one of those kinda guys, he's just a ballplayer. He plays at a different level maybe than he would test.
On you know when Bob Stoops is calling for a playoff system...
Stoops: I didn't call for a playoff system, so don't go putting in the (paper) that I'm complaining about the system. I brought up some issues that are worth discussion, so don't even go there.
On if he's in favor of a playoff
Stoops: No, I'm not in favor of a playoff. I might be by the end of the year, I don't know (laughs). All I said is it's worth discussing. I gave some people coffee talk. I didn't sit and complain about the system and I want this, that and the other. So don't go exaggerating what I said.
On if he decides he's for a playoff system at the end of the year, has he drawn up how he'd like to see it happen
Stoops: No, I'm not near as smart enough to do that.
On him being against a playoff system in the past
Stoops: Uh...yeah. That's right, but you see more and more some of the valid reasons why maybe it would be good. I'm not saying I'm for it, I'm on the fence right now. You guys have to do some more convincing for me.
On if he's for or against conference championship games
Stoops: I'm all for it, but everybody ought to have to play one.
On not ever conference playing one now, so is he still for it
Stoops: Geez, Al (laughs at reporter who asked the question). I'm for it since we've got one. It's not going to change, so...
On if he'd rank this season as one of the more rewarding he's had with what they've overcome
Stoops: You know, I don't rank my years. I have a hard time comparing things or ranking anything.
I've been very fortunate. There's no question. I felt fortunate last year the way everything ended up. People don't get it sometimes, but that's our job — to fight your way through the year.
And if you're working with good, young people that are fun to see everyday — they've got good attitudes — you're going to have better teams and guys that struggle, but they're your guys and you enjoy it. That's part of the game.
I like what I do. I like going to practice, I like the fact that Saturday everything's on the line. The fact is there's another side to it. You're not always going to win. So for me, it's always enjoyable.
These guys have worked through a lot this year and they're doing well. We've still got a long way to go. All I'm thinking about is this week.
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