BILL BLANKENSHIP PRESS CONFERENCE TRANSCRIPT
Oct. 23, 2013
Tulsa, Oklahoma -
Opening Statement: "Some nice things happened down in El Paso. We had a red-zone stop after a key turnover in the punting game. We're beginning not only to play better defense, but we're getting a little more productive - always one of the measuring sticks we have. Offensively, we were more efficient and balanced. Certainly got out to a fast start."
"We have Tulane this week. Obviously, a huge game for us. We'll see a team much different emotionally from the team we saw a year ago. They've grown into a confident football team. They have a very high turnover margin (plus-9). Playing great rush defense. They're an attacking style of defense. Blitzing a lot. Pressuring a lot. Playing with a lot of speed. You certainly see the impact that Nick Montana has made at quarterback."
Your team has a combined total of 99 attempts in the last two games, after having totaled 127 in the first four. Did you express a determination in practice that you would run more, or was it just the result of in-game decisions? "We really said, `We're just going to.' We made a very deliberate attempt to rush the football. You're not always going to get big gains. You have to have patience about you, and frankly, I'm not real good about that. I think we've done a little better about being patient the last two games. The same six or seven offensive linemen are now six games into the season, and I think we're starting to play a little more cohesively."
You've had two consecutive 200-yard rushing games. That was routine last season. Can it become routine again? "We're going against a (Tulane) team that is very highly ranked in rush defense. This is going to be a great match-up from that standpoint because we're going to attempt to rush the football. If you're asking me that question next week, I'd feel pretty good about it."
Talk about Tulane coming out of nowhere to lead the West Division:
"You see them playing much more confidently. They've got a little swagger about them. They're very opportunistic. They've been able to get 20 takeaways. Defensively, they're really flying around. They're not a big football team . . . but they are fast and really playing to their strength."
Is there a sense of urgency with this team? "We haven't accomplished much. We need to win this week to even begin to talk about something down the road. This is a big, big opportunity for us."
Cody Green is practicing on a sore leg. If he practices well on Tuesday, do you proceed through the week with the expectation that he will start at Tulane? "I'm not trying to smoke-and-mirrors you, but I don't know if we'll know before Thursday or Friday. If he's full go (on Tuesday), yeah. He has to be full speed. We can't have two game plans to try to protect him. He thinks he will be (ready to play). I just have to see it."
Since the UTEP game, redshirt freshman QB Dane Evans has taken the majority of the snaps with the No. 1 offense. How has he performed? "Dane had a real good week last week. He handled it really well. He's still a freshman and still makes freshman mistakes, but they are getting farther and farther between. I feel real good about his preparation if we had to (start Evans)."
What is it like to be involved in a football game in a domed stadium? "In '07, my first year as an assistant, it was a big deal for me then. I got out and got my (arm) loosened up. It felt good, throwing it around in the same place those NFL guys do. It's a fun atmosphere - just realizing you're in the Superdome is a big deal."
On Jake Alexander's possibility of being back in the lineup for this game: "You don't question Jake's toughness or commitment or ability. His deal is, is he physically able to (play), and we're not going to know until we get out there and work. I would say that we're probably seeing him more as a bonus at this point because we prepared the last two weeks with out him."
You never want to turn the ball over. When a team is turning it over how do you handle that during the week? "You really walk a line. At least I do. You can harp on it so much that you think about. We try to spin it in a positive way. We don't talk about turnovers. We talk about ball security., take care of the football - ball security, ball security, ball security. While psychologically that may not be a huge thing, I think it's important you talk about that. On defense you talk about takeaways. You're always trying to plant the right kind of seed in your guys head. We've been better, but we dug a pretty big hole early in the season in terms of the turnover margin, so we're just trying to continue to crawl our way out.
In Tulsa's last six quarters, young defense has given up only two touchdowns. Do you feel like you're gaining momentum on defense? "We knew we would be playing so many inexperienced guys. You get to the second half of the season and keep them (healthy), we would grow as a defense. They are being prepared and coached well, and there is talent over there. I've said it hundreds of times... there's just no shortcut to playing games. I think the game is beginning to slow down finally for some of our young players, especially on defense, and they're actually seeing formations and tendencies that they get coached to do. Early in the season, they're just trying to survive. Now, I think we're really taking some steps forward. As I pointed out, just the productivity of the 4th-down stops, the getting off the field in the red zone, after at turnover getting a turnover - all those kind of things are evidence that maybe we're moving in the right direction."
In a typical season, 12-15 freshmen (first-year freshmen, redshirt freshmen, grayshirt freshmen) are on the field for Tulsa. This season, 25, and there's not many teams that have that many: "It's like anything else - it's not a major deal unless it's yours. It's their first year in the heat. I don't think I was aware of it early in the season that we were playing that many, because a number of those guys are red-shirt freshmen, but they're in their first year in the heat. It's probably a good problem in the long run."
Talk about Tulane how they were outgained by 200 yards against East Carolina, but still they find a way to win: "That's the thing you see about Tulane. It's hard to define, but it's just a don't quit, fight to the end, find a way kind of team. I call them opportunistic. They find a way. They've had a couple of key pick sixes at critical times. They've blocked field goals at critical times. They've done the things they've had to do, and by the way, they probably have the best kicker in the country. Cairo Santos is the Groza Award winner from a year ago. We went down to the Conference USA media day and each team takes one player. How many teams take their kicker? That tells you a little bit about how big a deal he is to them. He's a great young man. I just wish he wasn't kicking against us."
Tulsa has two freshman defensive starters - tackle Jesse Brubaker and safety Will Barrow - who at this time in 2012 hadn't even committed to you at this time, and they're starting. When you get their commitment you're not thinking I'm going to run you out there next October? "No, what's ironic in recruiting is they probably thought that. But, that's alright. You want to recruit players that believe they can play for you the first year. We've gotten a few more of those this year. We've been very fortunate in the first two years that we've been able to red-shirt a whole bunch of young men. That's paying off for us now. We're a very young team, but we have a lot of third-year sophomores and second-year freshman and those things begin to build as time goes on.
What movie did you see this past weekend? "Captain Phillips... I thought it was a great movie. I got popcorn, I propped my feet up and I was highly entertained for however long that movie was. I think Tom Hanks is fabulous. He's had some great ones, but he was really, really good. I was very impressed with, I don't know his name, but the Somali pirate was pretty studly too. A little skinny dude you'd play in the secondary. I'd play him at safety."
ATHLETICS TICKET OFFICE