Sept. 19, 2011
TULSA,Okla. - Tulsa head football coach Bill Blankenship held his weekly press conference and discussed last week's loss to Oklahoma State, while providing a preview of the trip to Boise State.
We've had a chance to go back over our film like we always do and try to evaluate, correct and see where we need to make any changes. We certainly found plenty of those in all categories.
There were some positives coming out of the game. It was very tough. You have to give a lot of credit to Oklahoma State and Coach Gundy. They have a fine football team. We got down early and had to play from behind and it made it a little tougher, but I'm very proud of our guys and the way they continued to battle.
I think some of the positives are we have over 400 yards of rushing before you figure the losses in. That's very significant when it comes to our offensive line and running backs and even the quarterbacks. I was very pleased that, after the first two games of not starting fast, we did start fast in this game and got things going early. That was a good thing.
Offensively, we were able to move the ball and generate first downs. I think we generated 27 first downs on the night. That's pretty strong.
Curnelius Arnick, again, led us. He had a very good game with 11 tackles. Interiorly, we played a little better. We gave up some things on defense to a very good offensive football team. When you are playing Oklahoma State, you really have to, in some ways, pick your poison. We wanted to do what we could to try to control, especially Justin Blackmon, and not give him the big plays. By doing that, you open up some other areas and they were able to run the ball on us more than we wanted them to be able to do. Again, you have to pick what you're going to do on that.
I was pleased, again, going back offensively, that we were able to generate some big plays. We had 10 runs of over 10 yards or more. That's kind of our threshold of how we mark our explosive plays and three passes of over 15 yards. We're trying to find the positives.
Negatives would be the six turnovers. You are not going to win very many games ever with six turnovers and certainly not against a very good football team. To have done what we did and have the six turnovers and lose your starting quarterback early in the game, I think there are some things we can build on.
CAN YOU GIVE AN UPDATE ON G.J. Kinne?
There's nothing much more than what we knew before. He is going to be day-to-day and I'm not just saying that. He was much better yesterday than he was on early Sunday morning when he left the field. It is my understanding that he will have an MRI done to just confirm what we expect the diagnosis to be and he has not had that done yet.
CAN YOU TALK ABOUT BOISE STATE?
They've done a great job of continuing the tradition. They look to be doing similar on offense and defense to what we've seen the last couple of times that we've played them. They are going to be very quarterback-oriented. Their quarterback is outstanding. Kellen Moore does a great job of managing the offense. When you watch them, there is going to be a lot of movements, shifts, motions, alignments to try to create mismatches. I think he does a great job of managing it. They have two receivers that have gotten the bulk of their catches. They are the wideouts and one of those guys is a freshman and he's been very impressive in the first two games.
Defensively, they like to give you a lot of multiple looks. They are a four-man front team that goes to a three-man front often. It is a very movement and blitz-oriented defense and generally play a lot of zone behind. They get a lot of pressure and really disrupted Georgia quite a bit. Toledo had some measure of success against them offensively, but also got behind early and was forced into playing a catch-up game. I think they are very solid. Special teams has been a real strength of that team for several years.
CAN YOU TALK ABOUT THE LATE KICKOFF ON SATURDAY? HOW DID YOU SURVIVE?
Bubba had met with me several times during the course of the evening trying to figure out where we would go. As I told him then ... this is one of those things way above what a head coach decides. I'll try to manage the game part of it. The administration has to figure out with the referees how we can do the actual event. Tell us when to be there and we'll be there. There came a point in time where we all thought they were going to call it. They had kept us informed and it did come out today that there was an agreement that if we can't take the field before midnight, we wouldn't play. Everyone kept hearing the 30 minute after the lightning delay ... we were within seven minutes of knowing that we were at the 11:30 deadline. When they started telling us you might get them ready, I don't think we were too sure at that time. You rode a real wave of emotion. I guess the best thing I can say about it is that it is an event that people will talk about for a long time.
DO YOU WISH YOU CANCELED IT NOW THAT YOUR QUARTERBACK GOT HURT?
I think if you get caught looking backwards, you spend a whole lot of time second-guessing everything that you do. It's football. I really regret it for him and for us. Again, I don't know how you second-guess that. We were scheduled to play the game and we played the game.
CAN YOU TALK ABOUT KALEN HENDERSON?
Kalen redshirted last year and was able to able to watch and learn. He's been a very active part of the competition for the second team spot last spring and again in the fall. He came into the fall and really did a great job of earning and winning that job as the true second-team quarterback. I think he was justifiably nervous and a little shaky - to say the least - in his debut. He'd gotten a few snaps at Tulane, but prior to that this is his first significant experience in college football. I was very proud that he settled down and began to manage the offense a little better. We didn't take care of the ball very well and that has to be an improvement. You try to look at the positives and he led our team to 27 points against a top-10 defense. I think we have something to build on. He's on a crash course now and he'll get better and more prepared for Boise State.
HOW DOES THE DEMEANOR OF YOUR OFFENSE CHANGE WITH HIM AT QUARTERBACK?
I don't think the physical structure will change much. I don't think you will see different plays being run. What you will see is a little less reliance on the quarterback's ability to change things at the line and to rely on the three years of experience that (G.J.) has. He doesn't have what G.J. has. He has a lot of talent and a lot of ability, but in terms of how we'll approach it, I don't think you will see much difference. You just may not see him controlling those decisions quite as much as I allowed G.J. to do.
WHAT KIND OF DISCUSSIONS WILL YOU HAVE WITH HIM BEFORE HE PLAYS A TOP 10 TEAM ON THE ROAD TO SETTLE HIM DOWN?
You've already done that. You basically did that last Saturday night/Sunday morning. You faced a top 10 team, you faced a lot of adversity. You didn't even have the chance to know you were going to do it. This is going to be a whole lot better because you are going to be a whole lot more prepared and this team believes in you.
WHO IS THE BACKUP QUARTERBACK?
We'll continue to look at that. We've been trying to redshirt Joseph Calcagni. To this point, Stephen Rouse has been the third-team quarterback. But Stephen and Joe will both travel to Boise and they will be working all week to figure out who exactly is the next man up.
DO YOU HAVE A PREFERENCE IN WHO BECOMES THE BACKUP?
No. It's not a problem to me as long as they're the backup.
THE OU BOARD OF REGENTS AND TEXAS BOARD OF REGENTS ARE MEETING TO TALK ABOUT REALIGNMENT. IT COULD CHANGE THE LANDSCAPE OF COLLEGE FOOTBALL. HOW MUCH HAVE YOU TALKED ABOUT IT?
People are very interested in it. We spent about four minutes on it today. We have no control. There is so much talk that's been going on for a long time that we think it's really a distraction for us to get into all (of that). (Athletic Director) Bubba (Cunningham) has come in and kept us updated to everything he knows. He has been very diligent to do that and we appreciate that. It gives us peace. That's kind of where he is. He's on top of that. We have quite a bit on our plate as we get ready for Boise State. It was a little snippet of conversation today and we didn't spend a lot of time on it.
CAN YOU TALK ABOUT Ja'Terian Douglas' PLAY THE OTHER NIGHT AND LOOKING BACK AT HIS TIME AT TU?
Ja'Terian, I think, surprised a lot of people that haven't seen him but he didn't surprise anyone on this coaching staff. We've been talking about him for a full year about being our home-run hitter. He has the kind of speed that, when he gets in the open, there are very few people in the country that are going to catch him. He could play at the highest level and will continue to do that. The best thing we are getting from JT is he is becoming more of a complete running back. As a true freshman a year ago, that's the way it is. It's a progression of learning of how to do your pass protection and block and know all the parts of the offense. It's tough. I would say he's closer to the 80 percent mark now in knowing and being able to execute most of our offense. He'll continue to get a lot of work and I just think the explosiveness he brings to the table is really exciting.
HE'S A MATTER-OF-FACT GUY WHEN YOU TALK TO HIM. THERE'S NO HIGH OR LOW TO HIM.
JT, what you see is what you get. He's not flamboyant. But if you get him to relax and talk, he will have a good time with you. He's pretty serious about what he is here to do. He's trying to go to school and do a good job there. He's really a very confident young man but doesn't wear it on his sleeve.
CAN YOU TALK ABOUT Curnelius Arnick AND WHAT HE IS BRINGING TO THE DEFENSE?
He's been the real central point of the defensive unit that I think is continuing to grow and play well. Because of his stability and constant leadership, I think we have a chance to continue to move into the right direction. We're facing some really good offenses right now and Curnelius continues to play well. We have other guys around him playing well. We didn't play nearly to the level that we expected to Saturday. But again I'm pleased with what he is doing and the tackles that he is making.
IS HE A GUY THAT RAISES THE LEVEL OF PLAY AROUND HIM?
He has been. He's a guy that his leadership role has continued to develop. I don't think it's a role that he is entirely comfortable with. It is something that, in some ways, has been thrust on him as a returning middle linebacker that directs the traffic and does all that. I think he's embracing the role very well.
CAN YOU TALK ABOUT WHAT BOISE HAS ACCOMPLISHED OVER THE PAST DECADE TO ESTABLISH THEMSELVES?
As I see it, they have made a commitment a long time ago and said this is where we are going and do what it takes to get there. The community jumped in and said we'll create a bowl game. I don't know how many communities do that. They made that a very successful event. They've created an identity that they continue to develop. Trust me, their coaching staff, I believe, is one of the best in the country. They continue to get an awful lot out of their players. They are very sound and creative with what they do. They always look for the opportunity to play the big boys. They are clearly on the national stage and have become kind of a fixture there. Those are the kind of things that we are looking to mimic. People get concerned about the size of your stadium. I looked up Boise State and it's 33,000. Is that a limiting factor? Apparently not. It matters what we do in that stadium and who comes to watch it.
SOME OF YOUR STARTERS ON OFFENSE ARE GUYS THAT DIDN'T START LAST YEAR? HOW DOES THAT HELP KALEN HENDERSON, WHO WORKED WITH THE SECOND TEAM?
I hope it will help. I just know from the experience of being a really old quarterback that there is no short cut to taking snaps with live bullets firing. He and I talked about it after the game and he smiled and admitted ... I know, he didn't see anything those first few plays. He didn't have any idea if they were in three-deep, two-deep, no-deep, 12-deep. Because all you do the first few times you are out there, you are just trying to get the snap, hand it off. Now, once it begins, you start pouring that into their experience. The eyes open up, the brain slows down and you begin to see things and operate. He has plenty of ability and plays smart. There is just no shortcut for experience. What he got the other night is invaluable in him becoming the kind of quarterback that he wants to be.
Bryan Burnham IS HAVING A GOOD START.
Bryan is playing very well and is very productive when given the opportunity. He had two catches that were slightly out of the end zone and could have been difference plays. We have to execute better and keep him inbounds. He's making plays when he gets the opportunities and that's what we talk to all our players about. You have no control of what opportunities you get. What you have control over is what you do with those opportunities. Bryan is a perfect example of a guy that has taken advantage of the opportunities to make plays. Now we want to give him more opportunities and that's the nature of football.
THERE WAS A CHANCE FOR A LOSS OF CONFIDENCE WITH A TOUGH MONTH. HAVE YOU SEEN THAT?
You certainly had the opportunity to lose confidence. We're 1-2. We've lost to two top 10 teams. The scores haven't been pretty. But I love the way our guys have competed and I continue to pull out and show them and talk about where we've competed. I don't think - and there may be other people with a different viewpoint - but I don't think last Saturday's game against Oklahoma State even resembled the one we played a year ago. I don't think they looked the same. If you look at the score, it may look the same. I don't know. I know as a team, I don't see us losing confidence. I see us losing opportunities and we missed an opportunity again. For that, we take responsibility. But we look forward to what we have in the future.
IS PREPARING FOR BOISE STATE LIKE PREPARING FOR OKLAHOMA STATE, WHERE YOU PICK YOUR POISON?
You know it's a little early for that right now. I haven't seen where they have as many weapons as Oklahoma State, but again it's early and I haven't seen all the film. They do have a running back that has taken over (Doug Martin) and really is very good. The quarterback is the key. They've got really good receivers, but I think they have an exceptional guy pulling the trigger and leading the offense. That's probably our biggest concern. In some ways, that's what defense is about. You try to figure out percentages. They are really strong running and throwing the ball.
WHEN YOU TOOK OVER THE PROGRAM, YOU KNOW YOU ARE GOING TO PLAY THREE TOP 10 TEAMS IN FIRST FOUR GAMES. THEN YOU LOSE Damaris Johnson, John Flanders AND GJ KINNE. HOW DO YOU REMAIN OPTIMISTIC?
What's the alternative? You want to look good in pads? We believe in it enough to put it in our team room. No excuses, no explanations. High expectations, perfect execution. We accomplish those things, we're going to be a great program. You can't choose for your philosophy works part of the time. It either works or it doesn't work. You cannot focus on why you can't do that. When you do that, you immediately limit yourself.
YOU HAVE A LOT OF GUYS OUT WITH INJURIES. CAN YOU TALK ABOUT DEALING WITH THOSE INJURIES AND THE BACKUP SITUATION?
There's always a reason that a guy is at the top of the depth chart. He is usually the best player. When they aren't there, you aren't playing your best players. That is the magic and what makes football - and probably any team sport - special. Especially football. Over the years, over and over again, there are guys laboring in the shadows that are working their tail off and they just need an opportunity and sometimes the Bryan Burnhams show up. Sometimes the Milton Howells show up. All of the sudden, to me, is one of the great reasons to coach and play this game.
ARE YOU AMAZED WITH THE PEOPLE THAT STAYED AT THE GAME?
You go back to the comment about optimism or negativism. That's how it was with the fans. It was either the worst experience of their life or something they will talk about for the rest of their lives. It was a `I was there' kind of thing. I was glad I had an office and locker room to wait in. It looked like we had a big crowd at the Reynolds Center. That was nice.
THERE WERE 100's OF PEOPLE THAT HEARD THERE WAS FREE FOOTBALL?
You kind of wonder about people that are up at 2 a.m. thinking they can get something free.
NBC SPORTS IS REPORTING THAT G.J. HAS A GRADE II MCL SPRAIN AND IS OUT FOR TWO WEEKS.
What I can tell you is that I've been told that his mother posted it on her Facebook account. That's what I've been told. My trainer and our doctor have not told us the definitive diagnosis. They believe he had an MCL injury. I could tell you that our trainer felt much more positive about it Sunday afternoon than he did Saturday night/Sunday morning.
I can assure you that G.J. has said to me that we're not saving him for anything. It's his senior year. If he can play this week, he's going to play this week.