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Tulsa Football Press Conference Transcript

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Oct. 1, 2013

TULSA HEAD COACH Bill Blankenship

Opening statement
"We're moving forward, getting ready for Rice. We think that's a big deal. It's not lost on us that this might be the last time we get to play (Rice) for a while. That's been a team that we've had a great running tradition with. This may be our last scheduled game for a while.

"Rice is a very well-coached team. Coach (David) Bailiff has done a great job with them. They are a veteran squad, coming off of a very good season a year ago and a bowl win. I think they are very good rushing the football. Defensively, they've got a good group of guys back. They play very well together. This probably goes without saying, but they are a very smart team. Rice will be a real challenge for us. Hopefully, we'll get back on track and play better this week."

On whether getting into conference play provides the opportunity for a fresh start and allows the team to forget the 1-3 start and focus on defending their title
"I think it's even more needed now. It's a (discussion) we would have even if we were 3-1 or 4-0. Whatever you have done to this point, you really have to put it behind you. You've got to take this (Rice) game as the first game that will help define what you're doing later in postseason play."

On any positives that were taken from the Iowa State loss
"There are a lot of positives. The unfortunate thing is they get outweighed when you turn the ball over and you give short fields and touchdowns. The whole point of growing your team is that positives have to outweigh negatives. To get where we need to be, we've got to be more consistent with the positives. I think we're blocking folks pretty well. There are times when we're throwing and catching. There are times when we're running. We're just not consistently taking care of the football. Defensively, we're still having a hard time getting off the field on some critical third- and fourth-down situations."

 

 

On Tulsa's run-game problems
"There are a few ideas about maybe why. A year ago, we were able to overcome the numbers disadvantage and still rush the football even when people were loading the box. We haven't been able to do that at this point. Typically and traditionally, you're going to struggle to run the football if people are going to load you up and you can't throw them out of that. One of the things we've got to improve on is throwing enough to stay balanced and keep (extra defenders) out of the box."

On the offensive line; why execution hasn't been at the 2012 level, and whether the tackles are not as physical or the rebuilt line has just not jelled yet
"It's just a maturation process. I go back to the first four games (of the 2012 season), and we had not yet become that smash, physical team that we became as it went on. We found that identity as we continued to play. We started adding a sixth offensive lineman because we didn't really have a tight end. And then we'd get to the goal line and go with a seventh offensive lineman. I don't have the magic formula for why it was great before, and it's not now, but we think we're moving in the right direction."

On linebacker Shawn Jackson, who followed a 15-tackle performance against OU with a 14-tackle performance against Iowa State
"He doesn't surprise me anymore. I'm still in awe of what he does. I think he plays at a very high level. He doesn't surprise me anymore because he just plays at that level all the time."

On Jackson's NFL viability
"I think it's really hard because most (scouts) will evaluate him by what he looks like and what he measures. I believe that if he got into camp and got an opportunity, that he would probably earn his way. He is a playmaking machine. There are a lot of really good college players who don't make it, but I do think that is Shawn were given the chance, he would."

On the 1-3 start of 2013 compared to the 1-3 start of 2011
"The difference is that (in 2011), we didn't really know what we had. We were a new coaching staff. We knew we'd played three Top 10 teams. We didn't really have a sense of what we could get our guys to believe and do. Their work ethic was really good. They continued to grind away. This group, there is really good leadership. We don't have a lot of seniors, but the guys we have who've been in the fire, they've been really good leaders for us."

On whether he sensed at the time that Tulsa's win over North Texas in 2011 would be the start of a seven-game win streak
"No. I think we knew we needed that win, but I don't think we felt like we had accomplished anything at that point. Once we got two or three or four in a row, then we felt like we had a shot to play for that conference championship game. You've got to be 1-0 this week before you give yourself a chance to be (2-0) and then to (3-0). You can't get caught up with looking too far ahead. I don't think Rice is the least bit intimidated by us."

On freshman walk-on Dalton Parks as the new punter
"Generally speaking, Dalton Parks was better in practice nearly every day. We were a little slow to (make a move) because we had a veteran punter (junior Cole Way) who had been doing it for two years. We made the very conscious decision that we needed to punt them both in the first game or two - let them both get some work. If Dalton continued to do better, then we would make that change if we needed to. His release time - his snap-to-kick time - is a little faster than Cole's. (Parks) has also been a little more consistent with hang time and distance. It's good to have Cole as a backup there. He has been very valuable to us as a kickoff guy, as well. I've been very pleased that Dalton has had as good a first four games as he has had."

On the meaning of the term "preferred walk-on" as in the case of Parks
"We'll guarantee you a roster spot. We'll put you in the 105, (in) preseason camp, when you're limited to 105 players. That's a big deal because we have a lot of walk-on players in our program, so to give them a guaranteed spot is a big deal. For kickers and punters and specialists, it's really an opportunity to win a job. We make it clear - you earn the spot, and then we'll scholarship you. If Dalton continues to do what he's done - if he stays in good standing - then in January we'll put him on scholarship."

On the importance of having Thomas Roberson on the field, displayed when he caught six passes for 63 yards and two touchdowns after missing the first three games with an injury
"It's very obvious to everybody that Thomas is a difference-maker. We needed that spark, especially with Keyarris (Garrett) out. You've got Jordan (James) on one side of the field, and he can do what he does and does a great job with it, but we need someone to be a difference-maker on the other side. This allows us to have a really good combination again. We've got to get (Roberson) in shape. He's not in great condition, but he will play himself into that."

On Cody Green, who was lifted during the third period of the Iowa State game and returned to action in the fourth quarter
"People make so much about quarterback substitutions. It is true. I feel that way too about quarterback substitutions. But if you take the point guard out in basketball, and you sit him down and let him watch a while. That's not what we did, but I do think in some ways it did allow (Green) to refocus and say, `OK, I'd better get it together.' I thought he came back and played very well. Apart from the final interception, which I really believe he was trying to throw away, I thought he played really good. It's the same old thing. We're always looking for consistency. The thing that drives us crazy is inconsistency. If you're consistently bad or consistently good, that's easy. We can coach that. When you're inconsistent, those are the things that make it really tough."

On losing two fumbles on botched handoff exchanges involving Green and Ja'Terian Douglas against Iowa State
"Those are the things that you pull your hair out. That's a basic play - a staple of our offense. The zone-read play. We put two on the ground. There's just no excuse for it."

On Green's reaction to being replaced by Dane Evans
"He was disappointed. He wanted to keep playing."

On Rice's knack for playing close games
"This is a very good football team. Do the research. You put the film on against Texas A&M. You put the film on against Houston. You look back at what (Rice) did against us a year ago - against a really good defense. They know how to attack you. They are very well-coached. They know what they're about. They always come up with a new wrinkle that you haven't prepared for, and they cause you to have to do a good job of coaching and adjusting on the sideline."

Surveying Conference USA
"I noticed that Tulane had won three, I guess? The teams I'm most familiar with, I've continued to look at. Big win by East Carolina over North Carolina last week. I thought that was huge for (the Pirates)."

On East Carolina's Shane Carden and Marshall's Rakeem Cato, who lead C-USA in most passing categories
"We'll get them both, that's for sure. I watched (Marshall's) game against Virginia Tech, and I thought they had a real shot to win that game. I thought they were going to. We've got a very competitive league. That's not lost on me."

TULSA SENIOR OFFENSIVE LINEMAN Stetson Burnett

On the clean slate the team gets with the start of Conference USA play
"We've had kind of a rough start to the season. It seems like since I've been here there have been many times we started 1-3 and then just ran it through in conference. I think we're all kind of forward to start 0-0 again and kind of getting a new restart, and really showing how we play football. What we did the last four games isn't how we play."

On why the offensive line play began to click the way it did at this time last year, and what it will take to get to that same level this season
"A lot of people don't understand on the offensive line, you have to gel with the other people. You have to know their abilities and what kind of blocks they can make, if they can come down with you fast enough, or if you have to make a call to get them around. About four games into the season is when everybody starts clicking and we really get rolling."

On whether he prefers tackle or guard
"I guess I'm more comfortable with guard since I've played that since I've been here. But I've kind of gotten the hang of tackle now."

On what shows up on film when they look at Rice
"I guess this isn't the same Rice team, where back in my younger years, we would chalk it down as a win no matter what. Give these guys credit, they've worked hard, they've been a lot better. They're a hard-nosed defense. Like Coach (Denver) Johnson and I were talking about, they have a lot of `St. John's' Kids that maybe don't have the greatest athletic ability, but they just play hard every play and they don't give up."

On whether he ever glances at the league as a whole, or just see the one game ahead of them
"That's what I try to do. I just try to focus on the next game. You can't really look at the big picture until you get to the end of the season anyway. I just try to focus one game at a time. To tell you the truth, I can't even tell you who we play next week. I have no idea, because the most important game is this one."

On whether he has noticed Rice's ability to hang around and score points in the fourth quarter
"Just go watch last year's film. Look at the run they gave us. Like I said, they're just a really improved football team and you have to give them a lot of credit."

On where he was and when Ja'Terian Douglas broke his 75-yard run to set up the game-winning touchdown against Rice last season
"I remember pulling around, seeing that safety come running down - and it wasn't very fair to him, he was about 120 - so I kind of had the leverage on him. I hit him, kind of rolled, and I look up and I just see JT become Superman out of nowhere, breaking tackles left and right. I just remember seeing ... I don't think I've ever seen the offensive line run so fast in my life. I mean they were scooting. The whole crowd was going nuts. I can remember it like it was yesterday. It just kept increasing, and then he got caught at the last one or two yards."

On whether he was trailing the play thinking nobody hold
"That's what I was thinking. Nobody hold or get a block in the back. Everybody played smart and it helped us win the game."

On being on the cover of the Homecoming edition of the Alumni Magazine with Goldie
"I figured they'd pick someone a lot better looking, maybe with some more muscles. I guess I won that battle."

On what the team has been talking about since last Thursday to try to improve things on offense
"On the offensive line we have a motto where we `farm our own land.' We can only control what we can control. But at the same time, we'll never say, `You need to do this better.' Or, `You did this wrong.' Instead, we'll try to encourage, because we don't know the ins and outs of every position. We don't know what they have to read. So, really we just try to encourage. `Come on guys, let's do a little better,' if we're in practice and we drop a ball. We will never point fingers at anybody or put the blame on anybody. If anything, we'll always put the blame on ourselves for not getting something done."

On whether that has been a team-wide thing to not point fingers
"I think so. We're all brothers out here. There has never been a time where we've told someone, if you had done this, we would've won. That's just not how we do things here. If you go back and watch film, there are probably plays where I could've done something better, or maybe I gave up a pressure and we had a wide receiver wide open but Cody (Green) couldn't get him the ball because he was hurried."

TULSA JUNIOR LINEBACKER Mitchell Osborne

On the clean slate the team gets with the start of Conference USA play
"These first four games were kind of like a preseason for us. The real season is this conference time. Once we get through that, we're looking forward to getting to the conference championship, but right now, we have to take it one game at a time."

On what it will take from the defense to defend Rice's running game
"Right now, we just have to be able to stop them on third downs and not give up those big plays. With the new guys in there, we've been a lot better with the run. But right now we just need to get our fits better and play what they give us."

On the frustration of giving up long third down conversions and not being able to get of the field
"It's been very frustrating. We do well on first down and second down. When third down comes around, 3rd and 9, we give it up. It's very frustrating for us and I know it's frustrating for the offense, because they're not out there doing what they do. We just need to assess that and get in practice and work better in practice on stopping big plays, playing tighter in coverage and fitting our gaps better."

On what shows up on film when they look at Rice
"They're very physical in the run game. They did the same thing last year when they got in the wildcat package, is they would just pound it for five yards a carry. We just need to be physical also, and get out there and just go head-to-head."

On whether he has noticed Rice's ability to hang around and score points in the fourth quarter
"That's the one thing we were missing this year, these first four games, is we haven't been able to finish. Like last week in the last 20 seconds we gave up a touchdown and we couldn't close it off in the fourth quarter. We couldn't allow the offense to make a comeback."

On where he was and when Ja'Terian Douglas broke his 75-yard run to set up the game-winning touchdown against Rice last season
"I was on the sidelines toward the offensive end trying to get everybody up and going, because I knew if we didn't get a first down or anything close, then we were done. I was young, but I was still trying to help people out, help the guys that play get up. When he broke all of his tackles, the sideline went nuts. It was incredible."