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Tulsa vs. North Texas Postgame Quotes

Nov. 30, 2013

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TULSA HEAD COACH Bill Blankenship
Opening Statement: "Early on our defense gave us a chance to get in it and then they just wore down as time went on. Really, publically, say thank you to an incredible bunch of guys that played their last game. Words don't do it justice, but our program is incredibly blessed with the legacy of the guys that were in here playing their last game. If you think about these players being a part of a win at Notre Dame, three Bowls, Conference Championship, Liberty Bowl Championship, I'm telling you, those guys were all big parts of it. Again, I just say thank you."

Q. With today's performance, was it that much more of a downer? " Yeah, gosh, just no way did they deserve to go out like that. I mean, we just could not I don't know, and it was just really not a very good performance whatsoever."

Q. When you look at the season as a whole, is it fair to say that quarterback play affected every aspect? "No, I don't think it's fair to say that. I think that's easy for you to say. We did not get consistent play, the play we needed. But again, you know, people don't want hard answers. They want easy answers. The easy answers are that it's the quarterback. The hard answer is we had trouble at receiver. We had trouble in protection. We had all kinds of issue that is went along as we went. Generally speaking, we protected well most of the year, but we had we're playing with some guys that were not our best players at receiver and when you do that, you have a hard time separating and getting open and that makes it even worse for the quarterback. Our quarterback didn't play as well as we needed him to throughout most of the year, and ultimately, all of that stuff falls on me."

Q. Heading into the game, we asked you about the emotions. Did you feel like the team came out where it needed to be emotionally? "Gosh, I thought so when we left the hotel. I thought so when we left the locker room. But we didn't look like we did. And in my career years of coaching, it's one of those things, and I probably told you this before. When I try to guess, you know, where we are emotionally, it's about 50/50. You know, I know that they cared. I know they wanted to, but we didn't execute like we were at a high emotional level. I mean, early on, we dropped a few passes. We fit, missed some assignments on defense that created big plays. You know, we had a breakdown in our kicking game, which was something that, honestly, I mean, we put a lot of effort into this week."

Q. Going into 2014 now, what has to change in your opinion? "Well, shoot, there's a lot that needs to change. We need to know how to finish drives and finish everything we're doing. Defensively, we're growing. Nowhere near are we as physical as we need to be. We had virtually no offense today, I mean. Against they are a good defense. And again, I don't want to not take give credit to North Texas; that's a very good defense. We knew it coming in. But we just had no answers. We've got to be able to do a better job of throwing and catching the ball to make our run game be able to be sufficient."

Q. You talked before, but now that the season is finally over, just talk about Trey and Shawn, their legacy. "They are the kind of guys that's a pretty big statement. Those guys, I don't think, come along very often. And they, if you think about Shaun as certainly a low profile recruit at the time, you know, we had high hopes for him, but I think he has far exceeded everything we had hoped for; maybe not what he had hoped for, but what we had hoped for. Trey Watts, literally, a legit walk on guy that we just hoped could get in the program and see what he could do, and red shirts and a year later, he's starting in the opening game at East Carolina; and four years later, whatever he's done at this point with his numbers."

Q. Does that make it satisfying for you as a coach? "It's very satisfying for me to celebrate with those guys. It's very disappointing, because they are such legacy guys that this is not the kind of season they should have to go out on."

Q. What were your emotions like when you went out and saw Jake and Trey and everyone getting emotional after playing their last game out there? "Well, I can't put that in words. Unless you've actually been there, you don't it's easy to think you know what those guys feel. But, man, there's a lot of work goes into getting an opportunity to Division I level. There's a lot of work to get to play and then to go through it. You know, Stetson and Jake both were playing hurt. You can probably go down J.J. played hurt. You know, if people had any idea what Shawn was dealing with medically, they'd even be more amazed. But the guys are warriors. They just don't give up."

Q. Now that your season is at an end, hasn't Cole Way dealt with something all year long? "Yeah, I think Cole had I don't know what all he's dealt with. He had a knee that he had to have operated on at the beginning or going into this season, and I think he's had some other issues. But again, guys, I mean, the stinking medical chart is two and a half pages long. But I've said it before, they don't give us any bonus points because guys are hurt. So we can't dwell on that."

Q. What did you tell them in the locker room? "I told the seniors that how bad I felt, that this was the season they went out on. But yet, if I had to do if I had to go through this adversity with anybody, I mean, I would choose those guys."

Q. Starting with Bowling Green, going all the way back, that game got a way from you because of a lot of different issues and that seemed to be kind of what happened with the whole season. "I think you're exactly right. I think it's very much a theme of the year. You know, you can go through, a very youthful defense; a fairly impotent offense, for what we have been used to; turnovers, you know, mistakes. What we're describing are how you wind up with three wins. I mean, that's why those things are not acceptable."

Q. I mean, there's a limit to endurance, whether it's teams or people or whatever do you feel like today maybe they were tired, psychologically, physically or however you want to term it? Maybe they had reached their limit? "Well, I didn't think that, but I thought there came a point in the game where, again, physically, we were just having North Texas was imposing their will on us, and I think that was it, yeah. I mean, I think that at that point, at some point, you know, there was just nothing to hang your hopes on, and you know, you just easily let it get away."

Q. So you just go into the spring, you're not that far off from the start of spring, with a totally clean slate at quarterback and start from scratch and see what you've got? "No, I think we can legitimately say that when you have the kind of season we had, you know, it's a clean slate across the board. There's a lot of guys that played by virtue of people being injured. There are a lot of guys that got a lot of playing time that will benefit them, but ultimately, this is a competition and we're going to always compete to see who is the best at those positions. Yeah, it will be a clean slate there. Honestly, it will be a clean slate, because this was not an acceptable outcome."

Q. Could you hear expressions on the sideline of determinations to get Trey a hundred yards? "I didn't hear anything different. I don't know, what did he wind up with? I just knew he wanted it was not about the stats. We went into the game, our offensive line was determined to try to get him whatever it took to get him over the top for a career. What I thought you saw at the end was we had a conversation with the seniors and said, look, we are kind of look, at this point, let's leave it up to you. If you want to fin on the field or you want us to go ahead and take you out. Literally there wasn't any kind of psychological ploy. It was, I have great respect for those players, and how do you want to end it, and they wanted to finish on the field. And I think that was important for all of them."

Q. Is this the kind of a situation where you need to start making progression tomorrow; do you need to take a break from all of this to clear your mind? Because you've never really been through something like this as a coach. Do you need a break or do you need to get going tomorrow morning? "What you have to do, first of all; we've got to keep recruiting, because ultimately the answers are in recruiting. And then we have to evaluate everything we've been a part of, and as I've mentioned to those of you that's been an ongoing process. But we are going to look at it all and do what's best for our program and do what's best for the players we have. But unfortunately, recruiting doesn't slow down. Tomorrow, I believe, is December 1, and the contact period begins. So we'll be hitting the road tomorrow afternoon and, you know, we've got to go we've got players identified. We've got to go try to battle for them."

Q. Is there one positive of not getting the ball the correct time, is it a more complete focus on recruiting? "You know, one of the things that we've tried to look at is I don't know that there's a whole lot of positives to be honest with you with not playing in a Bowl. I would always trade any of the hard negatives for any potential positive of not playing. But what we've tried to do is we're trying to study some programs that have been in similar situations; you know, Missouri, Houston. There's several out there that if you look just a year ago, they didn't make a Bowl game and then they flip it around and they are playing really well. So we are trying to visit with those folks that we have contacts with and try to figure out how to take advantage of the time we have."

Q. There's always the pressure of being a head coach of a Division I football program, but with the season that happens, do you feel any particular pressure now to get it done? "Yeah. But not really any more than I just I think that, again, we probably have a hard time expressing how much pressure you have internally to begin with. You know, anything outside pales in comparison to the expectations I have of myself and so how does that all weigh into it? I can tell you this, 3 9 is totally unacceptable. You know, I think we have got some you know, you can certainly find excuses, but why. I mean, that's just not what we're about."

Q. Is that what fortifies your intensity to get it fixed, knowing that in sports, it may take you years to build something, but it can just go away overnight. "Success is a fragile thing in programs and you have to be careful about that. And so that's certainly one of the things that we would like to believe and we're going to find out the spring and next fall. But we like to believe that we've built a base here. We were able to redshirt the bulk of two our first two classes. We didn't get to redshirt as many this year. We're going to be better from a physical standpoint. But again, we've got big shoes to fill. I mean, the guys you all mentioned earlier, those are big time players, and so do we have those in our program that will step in and become those players? Fortunately most of the guys we talked about were not those kind of players as freshmen. Some of them were not that kind of player as a sophomore but they became that. So hopefully we have got those guys here and we're going out and recruiting the other ones we don't have."

On the importance of ending the season as C-USA tackles leader... "I might feel different in a couple of days or weeks, but as of now it isn't important. As of now, it is about this team, and I obviously didn't do enough to help us win games. As of now, my personal accomplishments don't mean a thing to me."

On the experience of playing with seniors like Shawn Jackson... "Playing behind Shawn Jackson has been incredible. I have learned so much from him. He has done a lot for this program. He has made a lot of plays throughout his career on the field. Shawn doesn't say much, but his plays speak enough. Each year, each game, you put a lot of expectations on Shawn and he never fails to meet them. He has been a great player, and it has been great playing with him and behind him. I will always remember Shawn no matter what."

On what was said to the seniors after the game... "It is always emotional playing your last game. It is always emotional suiting up for your university for the last time. We didn't get them the win the way that they wanted. I know that they were hurting. I was just there to be that person that lets them know that all their work was not in vain. Not once did they hang their heads. Not once did they give up. Not once did they stop leading this team. I just wanted to let each senior know that we still love them all."

On the fumble returned 97 yards for a touchdown... "It all started with Mitchell Osborne. He hustled. That is what we emphasize every day in practice. Mitch did that, and if it wasn't for him I wouldn't have gotten that fumble. When I saw it come out, I knew it was my opportunity to give this offense, defense and the entire team some energy. I picked it up, had some great blockers and we finished."

On the feeling of returning the fumble for a touchdown... "At first, it was tiring. Like I said, I was just trying to get my team uplifted. This season hasn't been going right. I just took the opportunity to make it right."

On playing his last game at The University of Tulsa... "There are a lot of emotions out there. It was my last game, the seniors' last game, the last game of the season. There was already emotion surrounding that, but the fact that we had to end it with a loss added some extra emotion. The biggest thing, like I told everyone that came up to me after the game, was to realize that this doesn't define us as a team. Who we are as a Tulsa team hasn't changed, and the young guys are going to have to use this to remember the tough times and build off of it."

On the emotions that are felt while walking off the field one last time... "It is hard. Five years of your life are crammed into one final moment. You pass over everything that you experienced at this university with football, and it is hard. All you think about is the good moments you have had with this team, the locker rooms that you've shared. You remember the lifelong relationships that you build with coaches and teammates. That is the kind of stuff that you think about. We wanted something better for ourselves, our coaches and our program, but it didn't happen that way. We can either hang our heads or we can realize that this is an opportunity to get better. Anybody that really cares about this program at all will realize that it is an opportunity."

Opening statement... "It was a great win for us. We beat a good program. Bill Blankenship has built a really good program and I know his record is not what he wants this year, but they took Marshall to the wire and they just got through beating Louisiana Tech on the road last week. I told the team this week, `Don't look back. Just keeping looking ahead with confidence and belief and hope, and trust that we are going to get what we want. It's all out there. We hit a bump on the road last week. Great determination by this team today. I was really proud of all my coaches and players. It's hard to win on the road and it's hard to win in Conference USA no matter where you are playing. Great win for us. When you say three road wins in a row, that's hard to get anywhere. You win six of your last seven games. 8-4 is the best in 29 years and just a tremendous finish to the regular season. We put ourselves into position to go try for our ninth win in a bowl game, wherever we are, we honored to be selected to go."

Complete performance in the game... "A huge play by their defense early. Tulsa did a great job. They forced six turnovers against Marshall and they have the ability to force turnovers. They did a great job in that play. In the end, the only touchdown we gave up all game, our guys gave up on a fumble."

On Derek Thompson... "He's been a model of consistency throughout his career, but especially this year, especially his senior year. When someone say you're consistent and you're productive and you play the game the way you're suppose to play, that's pretty strong words and that's exactly how I feel about DT. I'm really happy for him and all the seniors. They've got something real special that they've accomplished already and they get a chance to go for more. This is my 21st bowl game and I have a lot of experience. They've earned this thing. I've been to bowl games as a loser and it's no fun to lose that last game. So, we'll catch our breath, we'll celebrate for 24 hours and get some rest and we'll start practicing later in the week. These guys deserve some rest."

On Brandin Byrd... "He's consistent and tough. He's productive and he's got as much character as anybody in this program. You want to go and hug him when you see him because that's how much of a respected player he is. I love him and I'm really glad that I got a chance to coach him. As I told this team many times, it doesn't matter - I brought you in whether you are a walk-on or a scholarship player, you're white or black, you come from a big family or a small family, you come from lots of money or come from no money, you're part of the Mean Green football family. There's a lot of meaning behind that. When we pull together and put our hands together and say `Mean Green Family' there's a lot of meaning behind it."

On the defense... "We gave up three points on defense. What a day. Those defensive players did a great job.

On the win... "It's a very proud tradition. They're still a good football team. There's a lot of pride in that locker room and after last week, we've had to re-group. We've had to reach down deep and find that emotion that we had. We came out with a statement today being able to run the ball. The defense basically shut them out. A team victory, there's not one guy that did everything, it was a great all-around effort in all three phases."

On moving up the list... "Absolutely. Anytime you move past one of the UNT greats, that's a great feeling to be in that kind of company. I couldn't do it without the guys that helped me throughout the years. It's a pretty special honor for me, but my focus right now is on the next opponent, who ever it might be. The record speaks for itself."

On momentum... "We had that bad taste in our mouths. We knew it was going to be a month before our next game. We didn't want to be limping into the postseason. We wanted to make sure that we finish our last regular season game on a high note and I think we've made a pretty good statement today."

On running back Brandin Byrd... "Every time you hand the ball off, you know good things are going to happen. He ran hard and he's the most unselfish player I've ever been around. He just does his job and he gets back up and gets back in the huddle and he's ready for the next play. He doesn't complain about not getting enough carries. He just does his job. He's the best pass protector. He's a very solid runner and you saw today when our offensive line does what they need to do, which they did all year, he can break one. It was a big day for him and it was a special moment for him and it was a great way to send our seniors out of the regular season."