Q&A W/ Cougars Coach Kevin Sumlin

Earlier this week, Houston coach Kevin Sumlin spoke with the media about the Cougars upcoming game with the Mustangs. Come inside to get the opposing coach's views on the game!

Opening Statement:

As you get to the midpoint of the season, hardly anyone is playing with the same group of 22 guys that you started the season with. If you are, then you're lucky. The biggest thing from last week was the number of contributors we had to win a conference game on the road. It shows that we're starting to build some depth even though there's a lot of youth in there. We're better for it.

Offensively, we had a new left side for the second week in a row. Those guys did a great job in pass protection and running the ball. Then there are guys we have just started taking for granted who continue to make plays for us.

Justin Johnson, who plays a number of positions for us including tight end, running back, receiver and special teams, had an excellent game along with Chris Wilson. LJ Castile had a great game, and AJ Dugat came in the game and helped us out. They gave us a boost, and that also helps create depth.

It seems like every Friday we have some sort of surprise. The week before it was Jacolby Ashworth, and this weekend it was Ameen Behbahani. Ameen had the flu and was admitted into the hospital actually. Tyrone Campbell and Phillip Steward started the game, and they're both true freshman. Rosiean Haynes started at safety. We had three new starters in there on defense, and those guys did a nice job. DeAnthony Sims played a bunch at defensive line, another true freshman. A lot of our freshman on the defensive line have played this year, and they will continue to play the rest of the year. It's good for us to go on the road and win a conference game because we need those young guys to step up. It's really speeding up their development, but they're talented enough and they're playing hard enough. We just have to keep them going in the right direction.

Our kicking situation really overshadowed a great special teams performance. We'll work on that this week and have an open competition for those that are here, just like any other position. The best guy by 6:30 p.m., Saturday will kick. Our kickoff coverage was as good as it has been all year. We had a 27-yard punt return. Jeremy Smith blocked a punt, and we netted 40 yards on two punts. The special teams game was excellent except for the field goals and PATs.


On moving up on the polls: It's good. It's the first time University of Houston has been ranked in the BCS polls. It's a big deal for our fans and programs, and it certainly helps with recruiting. As I've said before, I'm more interested to see where we are in a couple months in the polls than right now. We're in a good situation right now, and we need to continue to be successful.


On the second half: The first half was really strange. It was real quiet in the stadium; there wasn't much noise. Our fans were great. They were the loudest people in the place. We had to tell the PA announcer to stop talking the whole time, We had two penalties because of him, and I know they had a couple too. It was a mutual deal that Tulane and us had to tell him to shut up.

It seems like every time we have the ball and don't score then we have a problem. Well, they have coaches and players too. We'd love to score every time we have the ball but that doesn't happen. Fortunately we only gave up two field goals in the first half and one touchdown the entire game.

We were just a little bit off in the first half. We were pressing a little bit. When you're leading the country in offense and you're not scoring every time you have the ball or making the plays, sometimes the players start to feel like the fans and get frustrated. At halftime I basically said that it didn't look like we were having any fun. The guys looked a little tight. We came out in the second half a little early, didn't make a bunch of adjustments and things started to open up. Guys were flying around, smiling and having a good time and we played pretty well.


On SMU defense: They're fourth in the country in turnovers. They've forced 20. They're second in interceptions with 13. June Jones and their staff does a great job with them. I look at them similarly to us - you can see how they've improved since June Jones started there. They've lost two games in overtime this year, and they're 2-0 in conference play. They're beyond dangerous; they're a good football team. They play a 3-4 defense and are very aggressive on defense. They see from their offense as good as passing game as there is. They'll have a good scheme ready.

Offensively, Shawnbrey McNeil has really helped them. He's a real talented and fast player, great with the ball in his hands. Quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell is in year two of the system, so his understanding has improved. They have two real good receivers, and one of those guys is really special. Emmanual Sanders is the all-time leading receiver in the history of the school, and he's leading the country in punt returns. They have talent, a good scheme and are well coached. That's the reason why they're tied for first in the West. This team is drastically improved from the beginning of last year, and you could see that development as the season progressed. They were in a lot of tight battles, and you could look at our game against them last year where they had basically won the game, but something happened at the end.


On Case Keenum for the Heisman: His numbers speak for himself. For us to be successful and for us to accomplish what we want on offense, he has to play at a very high level. It takes a bunch of people for him to do that. Our offensive line, receivers and offensive staff have done a great job. The staff gets a great plan together, and our entire group understands it. Statistically and by how we've been playing, he is one of the better quarterbacks in the country. When it comes to national awards and recognition, I view those as team awards. In order to receive those awards, you have to have numbers, but you also have to have wins, and you win as a team. He deserves to be in the Heisman discussion. And if we continue to be successful and win, then those things are on the horizon.


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