Sept. 29, 2012
HOUSTON HEAD COACH Tony Levine
"That was a great team win. That's what I just told the players. It was not perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but we made plays on offense. We played particularly well on the defensive side of the football, and we did some good things on special teams. That's what it takes to win a football game."
"The thing I stressed more than anything was our preparation. You take nothing for granted as a coach ever. With a young football team, it takes them understanding how you prepare to be successful. What successful means is winning the football game. I really liked our guys' preparation over the last two weeks in all three phases (of the game), and I think that played out and showed today."
"We still need to get some things corrected. We had eight penalties, and five or six were false starts. We still put the ball on the ground on that punt return and with (RB) Ryan Jackson at the end of the game as well. It may never be perfect, but that is what we're striving for, and we'll always have some things to clean up. Those come to mind right now."
"The thing I'm excited about is that we're a young team, and I'm going to enjoy the next two months watching this football team grow up in front of our eyes. To go out and prepare like they did the last two weeks and come away with the victory gives them confidence and that's what we need at this point."
On the team's preparation
"What I saw our guys do the last two weeks, which they haven't done, is get together (and watch video on their own). I'd be up there in the morning at 6:30, and there are guys watching video at 7 a.m., on their own. I pass by the Carl Lewis Auditorium, and there are 20 players in there, on offense and defense, watching video on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday morning with no setup by a coach and no coach in there with him. When you have guys that begin to do that, they start to take ownership. They get so invested in the preparation that they're going to refuse to lose the game. What we've talked about for years in our program is comparing a game to a test. When you go into an exam as a college student, and you feel prepared and you're confident that you know the answers to the test you are about to take, you perform well. That's what you saw this afternoon.
On if the team got momentum from sophomore wide receiver Daniel Spencer's touchdown
"They probably did. What you saw out there at times, when you talk about Daniel Spencer's touchdown, is players making plays. I just grabbed (WR Deontay) Greenberry. At the end of the game, he catches a ball, with one hand on his hip. It was a third-down conversion, might have been a second down, but it gets us into the red zone on that play. Those are players making plays for us. When players make plays it is contagious. When you have success and enthusiasm and emotion during the game, you have momentum and it can snowball a little bit. You saw that a little bit with Daniel's touchdown catch."
On if the team's use of RB Charles Sims
"I want to say he had 24 carries and four receptions. To kind of pinpoint a number we want around 25. 24 and four is 28 and that's what we're shooting for. In the Louisiana Tech game he touched it around 33 times and that's fine too. That was a 115-play game. It's great to have him back and healthy. He's a dynamic player. We talked about it this week as an offense. He may rush for 3 and he may rush for 2, but at some point he's going to break one and make a guy miss and take it for 50. We saw that a couple times tonight."
On the balance the running game brings
"That's something that is important for what we do offensively. People have a perception of us offensively that all we do is throw the football, and that's not the case. We want to be balanced and not be where we're going to be banging our head against the wall. If a team is going to stack the box and try to eliminate the run then we're going to have to rely on the passing game. We'd like to be balanced and take what the defenses give us but in a perfect world what we did this afternoon is what we'd like to do every week. Run the football, establish the run and then set up some play action throws and take some shots down the field when we think it's appropriate."
On Houston's punting
"Richie Leone is doing a fantastic job, and again I said this this week, we're playing him too much. We don't like to punt the football around here very often, but I think he had four punts today and he's as a true junior is doing a fantastic job changing the field position. That goes back to your question as well. That's momentum when he hits the punts, and I don't know the distance of that one, I might have saw 62 yards, but it sends the punt returner back to catch it and also you run down the field and you got guys making tackles there and jumping up and down getting excited. Richie is doing a fantastic job."
On Houston's defense this season
"I was on the radio this week, and somebody asked me `What grade would you give your defense at this point in the season?' My answer was, I'm not really interested, and no offense to the question, in putting a grade on our defense right now. I look at the first game of the year, we've played four. I look at the first game of the year, they were on the field 44 minutes. That's tough, I'm not making excuses for them in that game, but that's tough to be on the field three quarters of the game. Then the next game against Louisiana Tech who is in my opinion, not only one of the finest football teams in the country right now, but one of the best offenses in the country right now. I think they scored 56 against us, 56 against Rice and 50 something the next week. I haven't seen a score, but I'd be shocked if they didn't win today as well and put some points on the board. So we've played a great offense in Louisiana Tech, again not making excuses for our defense. We give up eight touchdowns, and that's unacceptable. Then we go out to Los Angeles, and I think we had improved play. We tackled much better. We forced those turnovers. We still gave up 30 points. They scored seven defensively, so it's hard in the first three games to put a label on where we're at defensively. I've had more questions about the 3-4, 4-3. What you saw tonight is guys playing with passion, guys tackling, guys running the football. You saw us hit the quarterback, create some turnovers. I think that's more of the 2012 defense that I feel like I know, what we saw this afternoon. Time will tell. It's been four games."
On if defensive play calling would have dramatically different if Rice QB Taylor McHargue played
"No. They would not have been different at all."
On if he did a double take when he saw Rice QB Taylor McHargue pregame
"I don't know who assumed that. We prepared for him and game planned them schematically more than personnel wise. No one came over to me in warm-ups and said `Hey Taylor is warming up.' We were going to be here this afternoon and go against whichever 11 they put out there. Sometimes they win without a quarterback and they snap it to a running back. It wasn't going to change our preparation. I shouldn't say I don't think, I know it wouldn't have changed our emotion and enthusiasm defensively."
On facing QB Driphus Jackson
"This was the way we were going to do it regardless. Taylor is doing a great job, and he's really throwing the ball well. His most dangerous trait going in was the ability to run the football from the quarterback position. A lot of you probably saw this, but we spin safeties down and try to get an extra guy in the box pre snap to take away the quarterback run game. Regardless really which quarterback they played with today."
On Phillip Steward's play
"It's ironic that you would ask that because I was just staring at him in the locker room as I addressed the team. He's a guy, again it seems like he just got here. He came in as a true freshman and played on special teams and because of an injury ending up starting almost the entire season at linebacker for us as a true freshman now he's a senior. The way I think of him is he's gives everything he's got. I think when you look at him on the field after a series and he's coming off, he almost looks like he can barely get himself off the field, but when the ball is snapped, he's all over the place. He's making hits. He's stripping the football. Last year, he had six interceptions. He's a major, major leader for us in the locker room. He's done a great job up to this point in the first four games."
On the play of Trevon Stewart
"Trevon's doing a great job, Going back to what I said in my opening statement it's fun to watch this young football team grow. He's a guy that our coaches are yelling directions too but between the band and the crowd he can't hear us. He did make some freshman mistakes today, but he's a guy that since we started practice in August he's always around the football making plays. He made an impact today and when he came in as a corner we knew we had to get him on the field so we've moved him to free safety, and that's going to be his home for the next four years. The better he plays the better our defense plays."
On the chemistry between Daniel Spencer and David Piland
"Daniel has been a guy who is playing well, as a team we dropped 12 balls, and Daniel had a few of those. But he did come back and made some excellent catches and runs for a touchdown. He is a guy who is playing at a high level and playing consistent."
On the young core of receivers
"On national signing day I went through about 24 names and I talk about Deontay Greenberry, Andrew Rodriguez who was a three year starter at Allen and who may be the most polished. Xavier McDonald out of junior college then I mentioned a kid named McDuffey out of North Shore. Next thing you know he's making plays and he's a guy who has showed up and made plays, and it was ahead of the learning curve for a freshman."
On if the Rice game is special
"It is special; we go out planning to win every week. This rivalry between Houston and Rice is one of the best around. As a player and a coach I've been a part of some great rivalries Auburn-Alabama, Louisville and Kentucky. But there are very few if any that you can be driving to a gas station in Missouri City and get out of the car and say good morning to Coach Bailiff. There is a great sense of familiarity within the two schools. They have guys that we tried to recruit, and our guys have played against them going back to high school. That makes it very unique, and being so close it makes it special because you can have bragging rights within your own city. In a game like this you throw out all the records once the ball has kicked off the records go out the window."
HOUSTON SOPHOMORE QUARTERBACK David Piland
on having a second chance against Rice
"It's a wonderful feeling to get another chance. Only a few times in life do you get second chance and I wanted to make the most of this opportunity. As a group we prepared well. We put in extra work, really focused on some things we needed to fix and went out and performed."
on having the first lead of the year
"It's a great feeling to go out and score. We focus on that because you don't want to come out cold. We can do a better job of that, taking the opportunities we have and making more of them. It's a learning process right now. That was good to have those young guys know what that feels like and to expect that going week to week. It helps our team quite a bit."
on if there was more riding on today's game following three losses
"Everyone was going into this game with the mindset that what's done is done, we have an opportunity to go no and win a conference game; our goal is to win the conference championship, and we have to win this week to do that. Going into the bye-week we were pretty beat up as a team. We had injuries, we had to get healthy and we did that. We needed to learn and get back to where we want things and we did a great job of that."
on the offensive chemistry tonight
"It again goes to preparation. How we prepared this week and our understanding of what to do, what the look was, where the ball would be and just that kind of understanding really put us over the top this week. You get a confidence when you've seen it 50 times."
on getting Coach Levine's first win with this group
"It felt good for us especially against Rice in the Bayou Bucket. We are going to be happy about this win today but tomorrow we need to get focused again. We have a goal and we need to be able to accomplish that goal."
on if there was an emphasis in today's game plan on scoring early
"If we can do that every game that would be great, but it definitely puts a lot less pressure on the defense because if the defense is up against a running team and they get up 14 points they can run the ball. Then we're sitting over there trying to play catch up. Whereas if the opponent is down 7, 14, 21 points, they have to start throwing the ball and it takes them out of their element. It's one of those things that we need to focus more on, going out and scoring on the first drive and making more opportunities especially after turnovers. We've got to reward the defense."
HOUSTON JUNIOR RUNNING BACK Charles Sims
on having a healthy offensive line again
"It felt pretty good to get back out there. Those guys did a great job of opening up holes and making plays."
on getting back on the field
"It felt pretty good to get back out there and be able to make plays."
on touching the ball an average of 25 times a game
"That's fine with me."
HOUSTON SENIOR LINEBACKER Phillip Steward
on the progress of the defense
"Based on how we played tonight, going forward we are going to be very good. How we played tonight is how we strive to play the rest of the season. If we have to meet extra after school to watch film so that we can play like this that's what we're going to do."
on the defense preparing extra on their own
"The last 3 games didn't go our way, and we knew we would have to prepare more so we would have a better look on our opponents. If we have to come in at 6 in the morning that's what we'll do. We all came in at 6 a.m. this week to watch film and it payed off tonight."
on feeding off the special teams and offense
"Starting the game off, when (P) Richie (Leone) kicked it deep and the cover team got down there fast, that fueled us as a defense. When we stop the opponent down there it gives our offense a chance to score. Every time he has a good kick it gives us a chance to stop them in the red zone like we did tonight."
on starting fresh with a win in conference
"It is nice, but after this game we will celebrate tonight and then let it go. Next week we have to come out and do it again. This was a great win for us but we will have to come out next week and fight."
on the game
"We were prepared for both of them. It didn't make a difference on defense what we were going to do. Either quarterback we were going to put pressure on them because that's what we do as a defense. It didn't matter who started tonight, we were going to come after them. We stuck with the same game plan we had all week.
"That was our goal, to make him uncomfortable. We knew he was young, and once you start getting him uncomfortable he makes bad plays. You put pressure on him, he makes mistakes and the game goes our way tonight."
On Rice receiver Donte Moore's talk prior to the game about the Cougars
"We heard those comments but didn't pay any mind to them. We did our talking on the field tonight."
RICE HEAD COACH DAVID BAILIFF
"Offensively we had a hard time sustaining drives. We had seven or eight plays and came away with no points and you can't do that. Defensively we were out there for a long time and we had way too many missed tackles. We got into field goal range and took a sack which cost us. You have to play as a team to win and we didn't do that today. I was proud of Driphus (Jackson); he learned a lot today and is a very talented young quarterback. There are a lot of things he can do better but he really competed and gave us his best. We have to now focus our attention on Memphis because I know we're a better football team than what we showed today."
On the growth of Driphus Jackson
"We've tried to play Driphus more and more each day. He gained a lot of experience today. He will learn from this game and continue to get better. He's a great quarterback who will win a lot of football games for us."
On not having Taylor McHargue
"Taylor was playing well but injuries happen in football. When you have someone go down, the rest of the team has to elevate their play."
On the play of Sam McGuffie
"He's got great hands and he's exceptionally fast. He was able to get separation and make some plays. We need to continue to keep him involved with our offense and get him the ball more."
On the play of Charles Sims
"He's a great running back. We remember him from last year and he's one of the top running backs in the conference. He's a very talented and hardworking young man who is capable of making great plays."
On when the decision was made not to start Taylor McHargue
"It was decided right before kickoff. He was throwing on the sidelines for warm-ups, but the doctor did not clear him for today's game. He is still listed as day to day."