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Blankenship Press Conference Transcript

Shawn Jackson has been the leader of the Tulsa defense.

Shawn Jackson has been the leader of the Tulsa defense.
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Oct. 9, 2013

Tulsa, Oklahoma -

TULSA HEAD COACH Bill Blankenship

Opening Statement: "We are certainly trying to bounce back after a tough loss. Losses are always tough, but overtime losses are especially gut wrenching because they can be very sudden. It was a tough locker room and tough day on Sunday. We were able to watch the film. Certainly, we had a lot of corrections to make, but we saw a lot of encouragement to come off the film, some things we can build on. We feel that there are a lot of parts moving in the right direction. I was very encouraged by the way we finished. We were able to put that game to bed on Sunday afternoon and move on towards UTEP, which is the next healthy thing to do. I think our guys have responded. I expect to have a spirited workout today."

What did you tell the team after this loss? "We talked about defining moments. I talked about how proud I was about the finish we had to the game. Talked about there's really nothing you can put your arm around and say this is going to make it feel better. We're going to be tested over the next week to see how we're going to respond. Adversity always brings that out in people. You find out who you are and what you're about. I think I know this team pretty well and I think we're pretty gritty, so we'll see."

What will it take to bounce back? "Keep moving in the right direction. There's no shortcut to this game. You just keep doing the things that are important to do. We were a better team. It's hard to say that because most of the time you measure them in W's and L's. It didn't feel like it when we got off the field. But we evaluated the film and we were a better team after the game then we were before that game. The tough part is the emotions. If we can survive the emotional part of that, then we can continue to build on that, and hopefully take a step to move in the right direction. We have to put the shovel down and quit digging. The hole is deep, and you have to quit digging before you can climb out. That's the first thing, but you have to have your mind right, and if we can have our mind right this week this is another opportunity to move in the right direction in the win-loss column."



How do you get your guys from pressing to hard? "That's a great question. I think that's where we already are. Sometimes when things don't come easy you tend to press. You say that to shooters in basketball, pitchers in baseball, quarterbacks, kickers, punters in football. Some times the harder you try, that fine motor skill gets a little less smooth. We're going to try not to focus on that as much, but do what we're trained to do. Get to your fundamentals and continue to get better. I think it is good to look back and see the good things that you did. The competitive mind tends to focus on the negative. We remember a whole lot more the things that didn't turn out well, then we do of the things we might have done well. So you need to go back and review both of those."

What are the things specifically can you build on from the last game? "Defensively, we adjusted well. They threw some wrinkles at us early on. We adjusted well. We played hard. I thought we began to play with more energy. We had tackles for loss and sacks. Offensively, we ran the ball much better. We were on the targets with our offensive line. We played well offensively in the last six minutes of the game to give us a chance to win the game. Those are things that I think we can build on. Carl Salazar is huge. I mean it's probably been a year in a half that we haven't been talking about a kicker in here. I think that's a big deal."

The last couple quarters of the game you've performed well, are you hoping to come out faster in the first half against UTEP: "That's the 64,000 dollar question. You want to be able to have a great offense and a great defense for 60 minutes a game, but that's where we are right now. So we have to continue to grind it out and to have a good series. The first couple series' of offense we went up and down the field, but ran out of gas and had to settle for a field goal. We were moving the ball with big chunks of yardage early in the game. The middle part of the game was a little less productive. The same issues continue to be the issues. You have to take care of the football and have to get turnovers. If you can get takeaways and prevent turnovers then you put yourself in a much different place. We can go over each of our turnovers -- take that one away and what would have been the difference in the game. Take the second one away and how would that have impacted the game. It's easy to go back and analyze that. It's very difficult to eliminate those. Those are things you have to do step-by-step with decisions and training. Squeezing the football. In the case of Trey Watts, he's fighting for extra yards, which is a great thing, but with that came a little bit of a looseness in ball security. Nobody is more hurt about that than he is, but those are type of things we work on everyday."

You talk about they guys need to get out and enjoy the game, is it almost sometimes easier to do that on the road when you don't have distractions? I don't know. We'll see, that may be a good tact to take this week. There are many times, less distractions on the road, there's no question about that. Sometimes if you go into a place that's a little more hostile, sometimes it really pulls you together and you have to lean on each other a little more and focus. I think that can sometimes be a healthy thing for a team."

Can you talk about the role Shawn Jackson plays on this team and the impact he has? Shawn is one of our captains. He was voted team captain by our team council for a reason. He's a guy they look to. He has sustained a high level of play for a lot of years. Guys respect that. He brings it everyday. It's hard to describe Shawn. He's a laid-back youngster in a lot of ways and then gets on the field, and he's just a baller. He finds the ball and is able to make plays. I think he was frustrated because he had some opportunities for sacks that got away from him. He was in on the quarterback and just didn't get him down. He's just one sack away from tying the school record for sacks. Going back to John's point (reporter John Moss), and he might be trying to hard. He just needs to keep trying like he always does because he plays pretty dang good.

How have you seen Shawn Jackson grow? "He was young man that really didn't have a clue on how to play other than just go get the ball, to now he recognizes the formations, the situations of the game. He's communicating. It's night and day from a guy who just lined up to play football and didn't really care if there were three wide receivers or none, he was just going to watch the ball, go where it went to try tackle the guy. Now, he really gets it. He directs traffic back there. He recognizes alignments and anticipates plays that are being run."

In the locker room have you sensed frustration growing or have the seniors and leaders done a good job? "I'd be lying if to say frustration hasn't grown, but it's been an internalized frustration. This group has done a fabulous job - there are no fingers that have been pointed. There's just enough to go around for all of us to share that we're just frustrated. This is a program that knows how to win. Losing is something we're not used to and we don't want to get used to it. Frustration comes from that. I'm okay with measured frustration. If you get okay with coming up on the short end of the scoreboard then you're going to do it a lot."

There seems to be a number of issues on offense. Is that what it comes down to? You have to catch the ball a little better, you have to throw the ball a little better, you have to run a little better, the offensive line can't turn a player loose. This isn't a one player or one certain area situation is it, or just a combination of everything? "That's what we see. If it was one, it would be an easy fix because you take a guy out, put a guy in and hopefully you'd be better. What has been the M.O. of inconsistent play when you put it on there would be an accumulation of plays. If I would pull out the 15 plays that had major issues in them you would go -- okay we missed an open receiver; we dropped a pass; we have an open receiver running and a QB set to throw, and we turn a defensive end loose; you have a running play and everyone does what they're supposed to do but the receiver comes in and blocks the guy the fullback was supposed to block. It's not terrible, but we don't get where we're supposed to be. Offense is about execution. People talk about it all the time, but one of the hardest things to do is to get 11 guys doing what they're supposed to do. When you draw it on the board there, and you get all 11 doing the right thing, you're probably going to score. But, if the wrong guy messes up you get a negative play, but if a non-factor guy on the backside of the play messes up then probably the play still works but someone tackles him. I think offensively we've been a little snake-bit in that some times it's this guy, and some times it's that guy. That's why we've tried to narrow our focus on offense and narrow our play selection, gosh that's boring, but the only way you can get better at doing things is to do them over and over again. So we've tried to narrow that down and that's why we had significant better execution this week, but again it wasn't enough."

Flip it over to the other side, there does seem to be that incremental improvement that you and Brent (Guy) talked about early in the year that each week the defense might get a little bit better. That seems to be happening doesn't it? "I think so. I really do. The thing you see from our young players especially is that we tend to not play as well in the beginning of the game. Well, there's a recognition factor. When it comes to defense you have to see things and recognize and react to the speed of that particular opponent and once our guys have done that with our coaches adaptations as the game goes on, I think we've gotten better as the game has gone on. I think we're a better unit then we were 3, 4, 5 weeks ago. We're having some issues because of some new players having to be injected each week, but that's kind of what we're dealing with on both sides of the ball."

If the offense is making a few little strides and the defense is getting a little better, basically you're at the point where you need a tangible result? "Absolutely, I think that's where we were last week, frankly. It looked like we were going to get a tangible result. We actually played better. There were enough positives on both sides of the ball and on special teams to believe that we could get to a win. We were almost there. It came down to the last play, and we didn't make that one. Rice executed that flawlessly."

Do you think Cody (Green) catches an unfair amount of criticism for the offense? "I think he does. I'll just say this . . . I don't think he's playing well enough to avert the criticism, so start with that. But if you go back to his first game against Iowa State a year ago, he's been under constant scrutiny from that game forward. It never went away."

Does it also come with the position of quarterback? "It does. That's exactly what I've said from the beginning. You can get by with it if you're winning, but if not it gets unbearable. It's just what it is. You need that guy to help you play better. If everyone is playing better, the quarterback looks better."

Do you see him getting better this year? "The irony is . . . he was much better last week. There's nothing I can say to defend him to the people who already don't like him. He is not playing as well as we need him to play, but he's not playing as poorly as most people perceive him to be playing."

Talk about UTEP: "UTEP is pretty fascinating if you really look at the numbers. They're sitting at 1-4 and you would expect statistically to see issues that are typical of 1-4 teams. They don't turn the ball over, their third down percentage is high, their quarterback is throwing at a 60-percent completion rate, they're scoring 33 points a game. Their numbers offensively don't correlate to where they are 1-4. They've struggled on defense, but again it's not as statistical as it is in points given up. They've given up a lot of points. They have a new coaching staff. Coach Kugler has come in and has had to really revamp what's going on. I think he's a sharp guy. You can see the things that they're trying to accomplish. I think they're going the right direction. I think they're a little out-gunned depth-wise and maybe getting beat up a little bit. They have an offense that is very productive and powerful and a defense that's been struggling a little. So that's going to be an interesting matchup with an offense here that's struggling and a defense there that's struggling, so we'll go see what happens.

What kind of quarterback is Jameill Showers? "He's a true duel threat guy, He can sling it around. He can really throw it deep. They have tall, really athletic receivers that they do a good job getting the ball to, and he can get out of trouble. He's a good player. They do a really nice job offensively getting into a lot of personnel groupings. I think you see a little bit of the pro influence that comes with Coach Kugler. You get a lot of groupings and multiple formations in trying to get matchups. They're very efficient on offense and a lot of that is because their quarterback is very efficient."

On UTEP's defense: "They've shown multiple ways of attacking the offenses that they've faced. Against Louisiana Tech, they played man coverage across the board, and against some of the other teams they've been a little more zone-oriented. They will bring a lot of heat. This is a team that likes to bring a lot of blitzes and pressures."