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Bill Blankenship talks about Saturday's road game at Oklahoma.
Bill Blankenship talks about Saturday's road game at Oklahoma.
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Sept. 10, 2013

Tulsa, Oklahoma - Tulsa Head Coach Bill Blankenship:

Opening Statement on the Colorado State Win: "Certainly a great win for our team and our program. As I shared with the players, don't confuse a great win with a great performance. It was not a great game. It was a great win. Game balls went to: Trey Watts, Cody Green and Stetson Burnett on offense. Bradley White and Michael Mudoh on defense. Carl Salazar on special teams."

On the OU run game: "I think they have three really good running backs. I think the key to everything is 33 (fullback Trey Millard). He can do a little bit of everything. Great blocker. He can catch the ball. Every formation - when they're really serious about running the football - they're going to kind of work their way to him. I think they've done a really good job (with) what we'd call a 30 package - a three-back package. Being creative with it. Not being predictable. They've done a very good job in the first two games of being able to dominate at the line of scrimmage."

Is the intimidation potential no longer a concern for Tulsa? "It's one to say it. We'll see on Saturday. I would like to think so. We've got a lot of new faces, and hopefully they'll follow the lead of our veteran players. We've been to Arkansas (most recently in 2008 and 2012). We've been to Notre Dame (in 2010). We've been to Oklahoma (most recently in 2009 and 2011). Most of our players don't see (an OU road game) as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. They just think it's a great opportunity to play a first-class program, (in a game) that could give us notoriety."



At Notre Dame in 2010, did you go into the game hoping to win or feel legitimate confidence? "I remember the bus pulling up, and we were getting off - and you couldn't hardly get off the bus because of the statue of Knute Rockne. You knew you were at a little different place. I think what happened there was that as the week went on, we tried to believe the film and not the (Fighting Irish) logo. That's the thing that's important. We have to (face) the (OU) players who are there. If we have to play the tradition and the stadium and Bud Wilkinson and Bob Stoops and all those who came before, we're not going to win."

If TU coaches asked their players to believe the film before the Notre Dame game, are you asking them to do the same as you prepare for OU? "I've never asked our kids to play in a game that I didn't think we could win. Ever. I'm not going to. They ought to make me get off the bus and go play, if I don't think we have a chance to win. As we watch the film, you look for ways to find an edge. You look at personnel. I've coached at a place (Union High School) where we had the logo on our side. I know sometimes that personnel is not the issue. Sometimes, (confidence) is the issue. That's all I ask (TU players) to do - play the people that come out of that (Sooner) locker room. Don't play the tradition of the last 100 years."

Several players from the 2010 Notre Dame team now are on NFL rosters. It was an eight-win Notre Dame team. It wasn't as if TU beat a 3-9 Notre Dame team. In 2012, Notre Dame played for the national title. Did that add even more value to your 2010 victory? "It does to us. Every time that you get those opportunities, that's what you're playing for. I'm a firm believer that on a case-by-case basis, the gap is not as big as used to be. I don't mean (Tulsa and OU). I mean nationally. There's a closer parity than there's ever been in terms of the talent. But I do think the issues you deal with are resources, opportunity, development and recruiting. The thing that hasn't changed is that there's talent and depth at Oklahoma than there is at Tulsa. That hasn't changed. We know we're dealing with that, but I do think that the gap has closed."

It's the third consecutive season, that TU loses a premier receiver - Damaris Johnson in 2011, Bryan Burnham in 2012, Keyarris Garrett last week: "We're learning to deal with it by experience, I guess. Every good team that I've been a part of has to have a next-man-up attitude at every position. Unfortunately, in those cases, the No. 1 receiver has been a guy who went down early in the season."

What is Keyarris Garrett's big-picture prognosis? "(TU sophomore receiver) Conner Floyd had the same injury as a senior in high school. As I understand it, he had the same surgical procedure. He's been quite a bit of an encouragement to Keyarris because he missed the last part of his senior year, but he was ready to play when he came here as a freshman. I would expect that we would see that from Keyarris."

Will Keyarris Garrett be ready to practice in the spring? "I don't know. No one has told me that, but everything I've been led to believe (indicates) that he should be able to play next year."

What is Keyarris Garrett's demeanor? "When we went by (the hospital), he seemed to be really in a good place. He had a big box of Cane's chicken when I went by and a big smile on his face. He texted me on Sunday afternoon, right before I was meeting with the team, and said, `Coach, I'm going to be back. I'm going to work hard.' He's saying all the right things."

Filling the void at receiver: "You'll see Jordan James play a big role. Derek Patterson. Keevan Lucas. Josh Atkinson. I think you may see some play from Conner Floyd. We're going to look at some other guys this week."

Can any one guy emerge as a 65-catch receiver? "I really don't have any idea. I would be thrilled if we had four 40-reception guys. That's harder to cover than one guy who gets 65."

Will the tight ends be more involved? "It may force us to play more with the tight end. We had already been using Trey (tailback Trey Watts) more as a receiver. We'll continue to use that package. We've got some ideas, but we've got to practice them to see how they work out."

After having lost 20 seniors from the 2012 team and a lot playing special teams, TU is now forced to use inexperienced guys on special teams: "It is part of what we're seeing, and it's something that's driving us crazy. When you have nine new starters on defense, you're trying to take guys off (of special-teams units). Michael Mudoh had been on every special team (and now starts at strong safety). Bradley White had been on every special team (and now starts at free safety). I think that's where the youthfulness has begun to show itself on special teams a little more. You've got inexperienced players (on punt and kickoff units). We're going to have a little bit of a learning curve with those guys."

More on the OU defense: "Defensively, they're really fast. They've certainly changed their scheme in the sense of putting speed on the field with the odd-man front defense. There seems to be a premium on speed. They've done a better job in the first two games of tackling and surrounding the ball. You don't see a whole lot of flaws."

More on the OU offense: "This is not a Landry Jones team. This is not throwing the ball 60 times or 50 or whatever. You see a strong emphasis on tempo at times - trying to go fast, even though there's a lot of run game involved. The quarterback runs obviously have become a big part of the offense. So I think there are some certain similarities to what you've seen in the past, but there's a different personality."

What about facing Blake Bell at QB for Oklahoma? "We're not going to change. Their offense is what it is, whether it`s Bell or (Trevor) Knight or (Kendal) Thompson. I'm amazed, honestly, for a (Sooner) program that couldn't tell anybody who the quarterback was going to be (in August), that they have announced who the quarterback is going to be (on Saturday). Pardon me if I don't really buy into that a whole lot. We'll just see who shows up out there, and we've got to play them."

On OU receiver Jalen Saunders: "He's about as good as we've seen. That guy can really take the top off of the coverage. Incredibly fast. He's good on special teams, as well. He's not the only one, but he's special. He can separate and get deep in a hurry."

Has TU closed the gap on OU? "We'll see. We'd like to think so. That's exactly why we want to play them. These are the games where you measure yourself."

TU has limited opposing QBs to a 42 percent completion rate, what could be contributing to this? "We haven't gotten a lot of sacks (two through two games), but we've had a little pressure, I think. Certainly not at the standards we have. You've seen two teams (Bowling Green and Colorado State) that were trying to run the football. Their (specialty) is not throwing it around at 60 percent."

Colorado State got about 140 of its total yards after Hurricane defenders failed on tackle attempts: "That's not acceptable."

As you prepare to face OU, you are rotating three freshmen at defensive tackle. Even at the high school level, has any of your teams ever been that young as such an important position? "No, not on the interior. I was part of a team (at TU) that had to start two freshmen on the offensive line at Oklahoma. That's not good. To date, we're pleased with the progress (of the freshman defensive tackles). They're certainly not dominating, but they've not been a liability yet."

Is Trey Watts the best gamer you've ever coached? "If he's not the best, he's as good as anyone I've coached when it comes to turning the lights on. (After the Colorado State game), he said he was too tired to take it to overtime. He had just been throwing up a couple of times on the sideline, late in the game. You're a little worried. I think he was in on 74 offensive plays, and that doesn't count the special-teams plays that he was a part of. He made the play of the game to get us into field goal range. His competitive nature is just unbelievable. He could overcome being worn down and dehydrated to be able to find enough in him to get back out and compete."

Did you enjoy the Union-Jenks games when you coached in them? "Oh, yeah. The reason you love coaching and what we do is for these kinds of games. Like going to Oklahoma. That kind of a deal is what the Union and Jenks deal was for us. You knew the match-up was going to be a great one. You knew the environment was going to be special. You didn't really look forward to all the distractions that came with it, but you looked forward to Friday night."

On the offensive line through two games, the starters were Stafford at left tackle, J. Alexander at left guard, Moyer at center, Burnett at right guard, Walton at right tackle. During the fourth quarter last week, redshirt freshman Dylan Foxworth played center, with Moyer sliding to right guard and Burnett to right tackle. That combination of guys was very effective. What is the plan this week? "Stetson Burnett is really the key to our offensive line and how that all fits. We're trying to decide if we need him inside or outside. I honestly think you'll see him play both positions."