Opening statement: The bye week was great for us because we got to heal in some areas. A lot of players feel better today than they did a week ago. Also, we were able to work in a lot of different areas that needed to be corrected. Will [Muschamp] and Greg [Davis] will talk to you about those things a little bit later. Itís also fun to sit back and watch college football. Itís so crazy this year. It seems like itís gotten crazy every year. Iím sitting there watching Auburn nearly get beat at Kentucky and South Carolina beats Alabama and LSU beats Florida. Itís absolutely crazy to see whatís going on. Florida State loses bad at Oklahoma then they go down and kill Miami. You canít tell anymore whatís going to happen. I heard Lou Holtz say a couple of weeks ago that one game doesnít mean that youíre going to play well the next, just because you play well one week. Youíve got to get ready to play each week. Kids have to understand that.
It was also fun yesterday watching all of our NFL guys play, especially the six that played in the Cowboys-Titans game. It was fun to watch those guys compete. I didnít know if I wanted Roy [Williams] to catch the touchdown and score or Vince [Young] to bring them back and score. I was really confused. Thatís why when it gets to our NFL guys, we do not pull for teams. We just pull for the guys that are playing and hopefully that they play well.
Coaches and players arenít happy about where we are right now. Weíve had a tough couple of weeks and another challenging week this week with Nebraska, as we get ready to go to Lincoln. Theyíve worked really hard in the open date to try to prepare to get the things better and play a complete game. Thatís what we need to do. Also, our coaches had a super week in recruiting. They got to go out and see a lot of players and could go out Thursday, Friday and Saturday night. That helped us.
We still havenít played together as a complete team for a game yet. Weíve gotten pieces together, but we havenít played our best. Thatís still out there. Hopefully thatís coming. We need to do that this weekend. Weíve been 12-0 after the Oklahoma games, but this is a bigger test than a lot of those weeks.
Thereís been a lot of talk about Nebraska leaving the Big 12 and the possible tension between Texas and Nebraska. No one in our administration has ever come to me and said anything negative about Nebraska. I really donít feel that tension. Even if there was tension between the two universities, there wouldnít be any of it that would filter down to the coaches and the players. Thatís not our deal. Itís not what we are interested in and worried about. Weíre only looking at each other from a standpoint of playing. Weíve got great respect for the coaches at Nebraska. Theyíre friends. We have great respect for their team. And we also have great respect for their fans. Itís a great place. Itís one of the special places to coach and play in college football. I canít even really think about the fact that we probably wonít be going there, especially in the near future, because the games arenít scheduled. Most of our games are scheduled through 2021 or something. So unless itís in this yearís championship game or unless itís in a bowl game, I donít think weíll see Texas and Nebraska playing for a long time. Itís a shame with two of the winningest programs in college football history that they will not be matched up. Itís been a fun rivalry and a good rivalry. I even thought that Nebraska would come back here next year. Thatís not going to happen now. This looks like the last game outside of championship or bowl games for a long time.
You have to give their team credit. Theyíve played really well. People ask why Iíve always liked Nebraska. I think their fans are great. Theyíre knowledgeable. They love their team. They love football and theyíve always been gracious about a great game. I think thatís something that a whole lot of people could look at and try to follow. Nebraska has done it right for a long time. Thereís never a seat available in that stadium. They come early. They stay late and they love their team. Thatís something you have to give them credit for. Like Coach Royal, Coach [Tom] Osborne has been a role model for me for many years. Iíve watched him. Iíve visited with him through the years. Heís a great friend and also a guy that weíve patterned a lot of the things that we do today after some of his teams in Lincoln.
When you look at the Nebraska team right now, you look at what they did at Washington. That wasnít a win. That was a dominating win. The same thing happened the other night at Kansas State. Theyíve gone on the road and played two really good teams and have beaten them badly. Then it scares you to think that Washington beat USC the next week in the last seconds and Kansas State beat UCLA. We obviously really have our hands full. As youíre looking at Nebraska, it could be the best team in the country by the end of the year. They have improved so much since last year. Bo Pelini has done a great job coaching - he and his staff. They took what they had. They had a great defense at midseason last year. It kept getting better and better. We saw it in the conference championship game, but they struggled on offense.
Now what theyíve done is brought in Taylor Martinez, number 3, and he had 369 yards himself - 241 yards rushing against Kansas State. Heís done for their offense what Vince did for ours. Now the backs are starting to get more yards. You look at [Roy] Helu, Jr. He has gotten over 100 yards three of the last four games. He and Rex Burkhead are both very good football players. Now theyíre one of the best offenses in the country. Theyíre second in the nation in rushing. Theyíre averaging 337 yards a game. Theyíre seventh in total offense, nearly 500 yards a game. Theyíre ninth in scoring with 41.6 points per game. Theyíre 26th with their passing efficiency at 152.6. Versus Kansas State, Nebraska had four scoring drives of five plays or less. Theyíve had 17 scoring drives of five plays or less this year, which shows you how explosive they are.
On defense, we knew they were good to start the year. Theyíre number one in pass efficiency defense. Theyíre number one in pass defense. Theyíre fourth in scoring defense giving up 13 points per game. Theyíre 12th in total defense giving up 275 yards per game. Theyíre 22nd in third down efficiency at 32 percent. Theyíre led by number 4, Lavonte David. He had 16 tackles against Kansas State. Heís had 35 tackles over the last two weeks. Heís had 60 tackles for the year.
Their place kicker and punter, Alex Henery is one of the best in the country also. Heís averaging 44 yards per punt. Heís made only four field goals because thatís all theyíve had to kick. Heís also in a position where he has gotten 28-of-28 extra points. Niles Paul, number 24, is a great punt returner that we saw return a kick against us which nearly was a game changer last year.
Since 1998, weíve played eight times against Nebraska. Only two of the games have been decided by more than four points. Six of the eight games have been decided by 17 points or an average of 2.8 points per game. The three in Lincoln have been nine points difference. None of them have been more than four points. Itís also the first time since we had the back-to-back Oklahoma State and Texas Tech top ranked teams [in 2008] that weíve played two ranked teams in the top 10 like Oklahoma and Nebraska. I think Oklahoma is sixth and Nebraska is fifth.
We practiced this morning. We flexed at 5:45. We were out there early. John Chiles, who only played 10 plays last week against Oklahoma is probable for the game and Mike Davis is probable as well. Hopefully we can get some of our receivers back.
On playing against Taylor Martinez and the Nebraska offense: I think you have to start with [Martinez] because he can win the game. Now whatís happened is all the other guys are opening up. The two running backs who couldnít get free much last year are now getting 100-yard games. Theyíre making big plays. Martinez can throw it. People arenít talking about his passing efficiency. He can do both. Heís been a game changer for them. Heís shown so much composure as a freshman.
On the difference in Nebraskaís defense from last year to this year: Theyíre basically the same. They havenít changed much at all. Theyíre very aggressive with their defense. Not that they blitz a lot, but they line up and do what we call ďmatch.Ē Theyíre going to have their guy take your guy. Heís going to have him all over the field. Thatís why their shutting down everybodyís passing attack. I think Washingtonís [Jake Locker] - they all say heís a number one draft pick, maybe the best quarterback in the country - was six-of-20, I think. They make it very difficult because they can get pressure on you with four. Their linebackers are more in the 200 pound to 210 range that can really run with your backs and tight ends and wide receivers, and their corners can really cover. Itís very difficult to get people open.
On if Nebraskaís defense is different than Oklahomaís: Yes, Oklahoma is much more multiple than Nebraska.
On how the bye week affects him as a coach: Itís good and bad. The bad part is that you have to wait another two weeks to have a chance to play. The pain of losing stays with you. Itís a very difficult thing. Itís not like basketball and baseball where you play on Tuesday and play again on Thursday and play on Saturday and Sunday and get another four next week. You can get it fixed easier. The good thing for us it that we needed to heal. We had three very physical games with Texas Tech, UCLA and Oklahoma Ė emotional games, two of those three. We also had some things we needed to fix. We went back to work and are trying to do a better job with the things that havenít been done well. Itís funny, parts of our kicking game have been good, but they all havenít been good on the same day. Our punt block and punt return teams have been so good throughout the years. Weíve given up 21 points and havenít scored any on that team. Thereís some fundamentally sound things that we need to fix. Hopefully a lot of those got fixed because Nebraska can sure expose you if you donít play well.
On any major changes for this week: Well, itís a lot of little things. Coaches are at a real disadvantage in the 15-minute [post-game] press conference - people want to know how the offensive line played and what changes did we make on defense. You really canít get into some of those things anyway, because we donít really want to say what we changed for Nebraska. Secondly, itís hard to explain it in a sound-byte, and that is what people expect. Itís a difficult thing to do - thatís where we get the term coach-speak.
On the past two games and Nebraska all being in one stretch: Itís basically like the four games we had back in 2008 Ėit was Oklahoma, Missouri, Oklahoma State and Tech. Those were ranked in the top 8, I think, at that time. Going to Tech is tough, whether theyíre playing well or not, that is always a tough trip. UCLA surprised us, and we didnít play well. But it was a physical game, and we got beaten up. And then you have the physical and emotional game with Oklahoma last week. And now weíre pulling up to a Nebraska team that may be as good as anyone in the country. So what we will do - this will be the last game of the first season. Itís midseason right now, and then weíll start over next week. Our guys understand that because theyíre running the option and doing new things, we like the fact that we had ten days to prepare. You need that with this look, and not only do you have trouble preparing for Martinezís speed, but he makes everybody else better on his football team especially on the offensive side. So it has been a tough stretch, but itís been a stretch that made us grow up and be better too. Weíre not going to play any teams better than last week and this week.
On if the goals for the offense have changed throughout the course of the season: I think some people have totally gone off the end of the road with what offense we wanted to implement. All we ever said is we wanted to have more balance with our running game, and that was it. I shouldnít have said anything about it, because it gives everybody something to yell at when youíre losing. But that hasnít changed. We are running the ball better right now than we were at this point last year, but weíre not running near where weíd like to. But as far as being balanced, thatís what we would like do and thatís our goal still, and weíre not there right now. And weíve been back to the same offense for the last three or four weeks that we had last year and throughout Coltís career. We just want to run it better.
On how the team handles losing: Thereís so many people on the team that itís hard to say. Some of the young guys may be worrying about that a little bit. Some of the old ones know they can win. I told them last night when they got back for our team meeting, that if they looked at Saturday, wins are really hard. Florida has lost two in a row. Itís hard to win, and sometimes we take that for granted. And as players and coaches, we cannot take that for granted. We have to go back and make sure we do the things we have to do to get back on track. We cannot take any win for granted. After you lose two, you donít take a win for granted.
On if heís seeing the same effort from his players: Yes, they are really trying. And I think thatís part of growing up. I was a little worried because you got some young guys on the team and the older guys playing [together], so you never know [if] theyíre going to mesh. We always say that [during] preseason. You never know how youíre team is going to respond to you in the fourth quarter in a tight game. Like we said, I liked how we responded in the second half at Tech. I didnít like the way we responded to UCLA, and I liked how we played in the second half last week. But I didnít like the first half. Itís a team thatís growing up, and we need to grow up fast.
On the belief that Texas has little chance against Nebraska this week: I havenít heard anybody say that we have a chance. We havenít been an underdog around here in a long time. I guess Alabama was one of the few for the last few years. Maybe in Ď08 against Oklahoma. And weíve been an underdog the last two weeks in a row, so itís new for us and I donít like it. It means youíre not playing very well.
On leadership roles among team members: You can do things at practice - you can have team meetings and have player speeches. But until produce out on the field, theyíre not effective. And thatís what we told the guys. You can do that, but you have to do it on TV. In front of a national TV [audience], to win a game that weíre having trouble with, to step up and be the strong leader that you need to be. And that is what weíre asking the guys to do. Who is going to step up on Saturday at 2:30. They had a great practice this morning, and theyíre excited about going. But itís going to be a hard fought game. You canít play it on Monday. You canít play it on Tuesday. But make plays during the game to change the momentum of the game. Then we can stand up and say you have become the leader. We saw inconsistency from Tech up to Oklahoma, so it is something we have to do for the rest of the year to be successful.
On how QB Garrett Gilbert is handling the pressure: I think Garrett is fine. Heís smart. Heís tough. He grew up in football and he understands that at Texas, you need to win games. He understands that he is going to be scrutinized as the quarterback. We told him that before he came here. But he was here when every one gave up on Vince Young and said move to him to receiver or free safety. He sat in the stands and watched Missouri, where we took [Vince] out and he was out of there. He watched the Chris Simms and Major Applewhite stuff. He watched Colt [McCoy]. There were times in Coltís first or second year that people said heíll never be tough enough to win the game. I get all those calls and emails. So I think that [Garrettís] demeanor is really good in that the only thing that is important to him is winning. Heís not sensitive. Heís not worried about perception of people. He does want to continue to win like the great quarterbacks before him, and that is something thatís on my plate. Itís on his plate. Itís on Greg Davisí plate. All of us need to pick it up.
On his prior success at Nebraska: Well I would think that itís more walking out of there with three great games. Those things are unbelievable. I will never forget the Ricky [Williams] game, because 47 straight wins and he had a great night against a super blackshirt defense. And Iíve said it many times - to be there after the game and the ABC interview and walking off the field, and having the fans, all who stayed, giving an opposing player a standing ovation is something Iíve never seen before, and I donít think Iíll ever see again. It was one of the most amazing moments to me in sportsmanship that Iíve ever seen. I was in the dressing room and called Coach Royal, and I will never forget, he said, ďWe need to get our fans to be that way.Ē And I said, ďCoach, our fans are booing me, theyíre not worried about the other team yet.Ē We have to get them through that, so we can move forward. And then the second game up there was unbelievable. In the last moment of the game, they called a push-off on Roy Williams. Iíll never forget the official dropped his flag and couldnít find it. We huddled up and the flag comes out, and I asked him where the flag had been. He said, ďI lost it.Ē So he threw it out there late. Then we had a short punt, [and] they return it nearly for a touchdown. Then Frank [Solich], trying to be aggressive, goes for the score to win the game, and Nathan Vasher intercepts the ball in the corner with three seconds left. Then in the last game with Ryan Bailey, we kicked it at 25 seconds leaving 22 seconds left. And that one was after they make the first down then fumble the ball and we get it. We start moving it then we fumble it, and Kasey Studdard sprints down the field and dives on it to save it. Then our kicker has a pulled groin, so poor Ryan Bailey is on our sidelines and most of our players didnít know who he was. I will never forget Greg Davis saying, ďShould we try to score, or is a field goal right?Ē And I said, ĒGo ahead try to scoreĒ, because I didnít know what Ryan would do when he got out there. Then he kicks it right down the middle into the snowstorm to win the game. But even after that they get it to midfield. They throw it deep for the last play of the game, and Brian Orakpo hits the quarterback late and they get another throw into the endzone. So all of these games have been unbelievable. This has been great for college football.