After watching the film of the game, did you gain any kind of new perspective on the team's performance, on defense and offense?
"I was pleasantly surprised, actually. Given what Rice did, we played really well on defense. A couple of plays I'd like to take back, like in terms of that long pass play and that long run. But our defense is off to a good start. I'm impressed with how hard they're playing. We didn't get as many third-and-outs as we did against Utah, but we still had a good ratio. There were a lot of positives, and it was a total defensive effort. We're a little bit hard on ourselves, which is good, right after the game. But when we came back and watched the game we were pleased.
"Offensively, we made some critical mistakes, and we had some stalled drives, but we moved the ball very well. The run game was unbelievable, what we were able to accomplish from week one to week two. What hurt us were critical times when drives were moving and we didn't handle the ball well. It's an important game for Ben (Olson), coming off what he did the first week. Everyone thought he'd have a similar game, but things didn't go down that way. We had missed assignments (in pass protection), with guys running free and able to be disruptive. Our third down conversion was actually pretty good and it seemed like it could have been flawless, but it didn't work out that way. This was the disappointment, to move the ball so well and not get touchdowns. The offense obviously moved the ball well if we only had one punt in the game. So, there were a lot of positives, if you came back and watched the game. We didn't put points on the board; we got field goals instead of touchdowns. The turnovers hurt us and we didn't do things the way UCLA is capable of. It was a good game for us to watch. Just like I said at the press conference after the game, there were many positives, but many miscues, and that overshadowed what this team can do. The balls on the ground, and the punt returns, we have to get to work on the finer points of those. Those are the issues we have to spend a lot of time on to get ourselves ready for Washington."
What are some of specific things you saw in the film?
"There were a lot I just laid out there. Our defense played well. Offensively, we just didn't get points on the board. We had field goals instead of touchdowns. I thought Chris Markey ran the ball as hard as he's done since he's been here. Our interior OL played well. I think when we were going into a scoring situation we just didn't execute as well as we're capable of. We just couldn't put it in the endzone. Rice, also is a good football team. They're better than last year's team, and they played harder, and with a good attitude. Everyone think it's the same team as last year and it wasn't even close to that. So, there is a lot for us to work with, to get better, for improvement. We need to execute better. And we're just going to trudge through getting better week after week, and paying closer attention to critical things. Defensively, we'll put them to work on tackling on the perimeter, but our defensive effort was good. On offense, we just have to go out there and perform with consistency."
Who will be the punt returners?
"The same usual suspects will be back there. We're going to get them coached up, and put them in more live situations. I think they all catch the ball well. The next step is putting them under pressure, distracting them, and we're going to spend more time doing that."
So, all the same guys will be involved? Will Dennis Keyes be used more?
"Keyes is used on our safe punts, just like we did with Jarrad Page last year. He's instructed to fair catch it every time, because we're in our regular defense. We don't have punt returners in with our regular defense, so we tell him to fair catch the ball."
Is there one point that is the most important that you need to improve with this team?
"If it were one point, I'd say the quarterback fumbling. We just can't have that occur on a consistent basis. And now that it's occurred we have to get it fixed. It's not just him (Olson), but we have to put an effort in to improve all the skill guys, to put them through more ball security drills. That's what we're going to do this week. It's disappointing it happened, and now we have to pay special attention to it."
Was it the pressure on him or was it Ben that caused the fumbles?
"It was probably both. It's his first time, and he had people around him applying pressure. So I think it's one of those growth experiences he's going to go through. These are the kinds of things we have to continue to work on. It was really the first time he had the experience of a pocket breaking down and he was running. So we'll get back to ball security issues, things we haven't spent a lot of time with him on yet."
How are the injured? How's Aleksey Lanis?
There has been some talk that the OL was confused in pass protection. Will you look at that this week? Has there been some confusion in knowing what the other team is going to do?
"The beginning of the season is always different than the rest of the season. You just don't have as much past history. You're watching films from last year. The second game you might have one under your belt. But Rice played Houston, and Houston didn't do anything that resembled a traditional offense. So, it's hard to determine everything. This was a defense that we thought presented a lot of problems. It wasn't a customary defense that we'll see most of the season. It was also a new coach, and in that situation you never know what he'll put together. So, there are a number of factors. There's the type of defense, there's the coach, and what I know of Coach Graham, he'll be able to adjust and make calls as the game evolves. Just like they did with their offense, looking to the sideline once they've lined up for every play, they did that with their defense, too. When they saw us lined up, then they'd make the call before we snapped the ball. You don't see that much. We tried to do the best we could, but they did that pretty well. But there were a lot more positives. The negatives seem like big issues, but it was our first-time quarterback under some pressure, and there were some mistakes made. But look at the progress and the improvement, and what we were able to do, and that outweighs the other issues. It was much easier to prepare for Rice a year ago, with Coach Hatfield, then with a new coach and a new staff. It's not easy. When you begin a season with a new staff and a new OC like we did, this happens, like it does across the board with any team."
Will you get the injured guys back?