"Welcome everybody. To recap last week's game, we played, I think, a real good start to the season and really was pleased with the effort our team showed throughout the game. It was a hot day. We were able to overcome the heat, particularly in the second half, when a team, I think, Utah, the heat was getting to them in the second half and we got a chance to finish the game off the way we were able to and capable of. So I was really pleased with our overall effort. The team played very hard in all three phases. Offensively, it was good to see Ben Olson get off to a great start and have a strong finish. It was good to see, we gave him good protection. Guys made some plays down the field and got some points on the board for us. The first half, we would have loved to score some more touchdowns, or at least two more. There were some other opportunities, but I thought we made the adjustments correctly in the second half, and put some points on the board to take control of the football game.
"Defensively, we had a solid performance. Guys played really, really hard, ran to the football. We did some gang-tackling. I thought our tackling improved, definitely, from what we've been in the past. It was a great first showing of our capabilities defensively. We still have a lot to improve upon on that side of the ball, as well as offensively, as we know, but the effort, I thought, from start to finish was really, really strong. You can tell this is a great attitude that's among that defensive side. To shut down any offense from not converting any third downs tells you something about the potential our defense can be. I'm very pleased about that, being 0 for 11 for an offense to convert on third down. That's a very impressive statistic and definitely something we're going to keep building with as we move forward in the season.
"Special teams was solid. There was only one blemish I saw there, where at the beginning of the game, we had 12 men on the field. They had an unusual punt formation that, from a coaching staff, we did not get communicated properly, in terms of what personnel we wanted in the game. We wanted to put in our own punt-block personnel rather than our base defense. So we ended up having one more guy than we were supposed to be played with out there. And it did extend a drive for them. It gave them a first down, but we still pushed them back and they ended up not getting points out of that issue. But I was really pleased with how our special teams played. We covered very, very well. The coverage teams did a good job of containing No. 32. The gunners got down there and made those tackles. Our kickoff coverage team, we kept them less than 20 yards a return, other than the reverse, which was a specialty play against us. That was really the only issue that we went through with our special teams.
"Overall, it was a very good, strong performance. There are a lot of areas we can improve with. We are glad to be in a position we're at right now. We're 1-0, with a chance to get to 2-0 this week, with a week of improvement and stressing the issues that plagued us in this past game and making sure those issues aren't showing up in this next game against the Rice Owls.
"As for Rice, this is a new coach in his first year. They lost a very close football game last week. They were leading most of the game and couldn't quite close them out, but you can tell this team that's playing now is really inspired. They're really flying around on defense. Coach Graham has really got them playing hard on defense, and on offense, they really have some weapons that you really have to pay attention to. They have a really good tailback that can run and has very good speed. They have a quarterback that has some experience and is very mobile, throws the ball well on the move. And it looks like it's a program that's really starting to blossom with their first-year coach. So this is a week we have to make sure we're improving on the issues we need to improve with, and move forward and to have a great game this coming week in showing that improvement."
With John Hale coming back, what's the situation at linebacker?
"Hale will be back this week and he will play some SAM linebacker. Aaron Whittington is the starter at SAM. Hale will be ready to backup as he gets back in the fold."
What did you learn about your
"This team is a very close team, a very together, confident football team. We believe in our abilities, both as coaches and players, and we have great potential. And we know that. So we're working hard together just on getting better week to week. This is going to be a big week for us to show a great amount of improvement from some of the issues that plagued us last week. So, what I learned from them is they are fighters. They will compete, and they'll compete for 60 minutes. And I had no doubt about that from the very beginning, but it was nice to see, and with a hot Rose Bowl, those guys competing from start to finish."
What is your biggest concern?
"We had some balls on the ground.
That really concerned me. In the game, we had five balls on the ground, and we
were fortunate to recover them all, and that's not good. Usually, that does not
happen. That's something we will address this week. And I mentioned it in the
press conference after the game. Those are some of the things that stuck out.
Two of the fumbles were quarterback exchanges. What happened?
"The quarterback didn't receive the ball, so it's both the center and the quarterback. Those are issues we'll continue to work. Those are issues that plague you in any program. You have to continue to work on those things. As much as that's the start of every play, both of those guys take full responsibility for it. I don't think they finger point, "Hey, how come you didn't get the ball, or you didn't get the ball up?' It's more, let's get it accomplished, let's get it executed so we can operate our offense as well as we can."
What do you think about the running game?
"It didn't show up. Not in my opinion. We knew this was a very good defensive front, but we just did not execute as well as our capabilities. Now, I'm the head coach. I can be hard on them. I'm going to be hard on them about that. We have a great deal of expectations offensively, and part of it is having balance, and you have to create that balance, and you have to fix the issues that stuck out a little bit from the game. That's something we're going to work on, particularly this week, and get that back in the groove here, because we know what the potential of what our offensive run game can be, and we just have to emphasize it more."
What was your impression of the tackling and what was the YAC?
"We try to keep it in double digits, and we did. That's been one of our goals, is to keep that in double digits. We missed a few tackles, particularly outside. I think our corners tried to come in and force the run and we missed a couple of guys on the edge, but overall, it was a very solid performance tackling by our defense. There were four or five missed tackles, we calculated, and that's something we want to make sure it's less than that. The emphasis on that side of the ball, too, is getting them down when they receive the football, whether it's a pass or they break through the line of scrimmage, the first guy getting them down. That's important. The first guy getting them down so they don't get that extra yardage. There's always things to correct after the first game, but boy, I was really pleased with how hard they played. That was the biggest thing that overcame an issue of (missing) a bunch of tackles, which we didn't. I just felt that our team really ran to the football, and really tried to put some hits on some people, and that's something we haven't seen in a while."
Is it difficult to gauge how good the defense is when you're playing nickel and dime situations the whole time against that kind of offense, something you won't see throughout the conference?
"It seems like offenses are
changing more toward this style of offense. I don't know if that's totally the
truth, with whether we will see more of this type or less of this type of
offense. I know
Freshman like Chane
"Yeah, Verner was our defensive player of the game. He really did a nice job, and is just a young man beyond his years. That's what we call him. He's really bright. He really understands football, and has a high football IQ, and he made some great plays in the game. For a young freshman to do that, he kind of was playing more like a sophomore or junior than a freshman. So he's off to a tremendous start. Chane came in and did some nice things for us, too. He gives us the bigger back presence. We wanted to get him a few carries in the game. He had a pass catch for 10, 11 yards, too, so he has some versatility. He's everything we thought he would be for us as well. I really was pleased with both those guys. They did a nice job for us and they'll continue to get entrenched more with what we do offensively and defensively as the season moves forward."
Were you pleased with the tight end play?
"Yeah, that was very pleasing. It
was good to see
Did he makes plays like that in camp, with no one around him and going down the field?
"I wouldn't say that. He probably felt a little uncomfortable when he caught the one pass down the seam and nobody was around him. He's not used to that. He's had tighter coverage than what happened in the game, but you can tell when he caught it and was running, he was looking, where is everybody? He was double-clutching the ball. It's fun to see guys have that type of experience in a big game like that, his first start, and he makes a huge play down the middle of the field. It's an uneasy feeling, but I'm sure he felt great after he accomplished the play."
How much of the tight end's work was because Ben Olson found them?
"He made great reads. Ben. A couple of the plays you saw where the tight end got some plays down the field, they were blitzing and sometimes when you zone blitz, as we call it, they void certain areas of the field. They keep the over-the-top coverage but certain underneath coverages get voided, and Ben read it perfectly and threw the ball on time and hit them down the seam and away they went. So, it's the receivers understanding what the defense is doing, and it's also Ben reading exactly where the ball should be given in a particular scenario."