Houston at Arizona: Weekly Press Conference

Sept. 4, 2017

Arizona Stadium • Tucson, Ariz. • Saturday, Sept. 9, 2017


HEAD COACH Major Applewhite

Opening Statement
“We are excited to be back and are ready for a true game week. Our guys had practice yesterday. Obviously, the last 72 hours have been different for us. On Friday and Saturday, our players, families and team spent a lot of time making sure everyone was squared away. Those who had damage had the opportunity to be helped and make sure they were okay to get their mind cleared for game week.

“Our players came out Sunday really focused and I’m proud of them. Yesterday, we had about an hour and half practice and the guys were ready to get back out on the field and get after it.

“We are excited to be back and be back in game week.”

On message to team Sunday
“You don’t move on, but you have to compartmentalize. That’s one thing we kept talking about last week. We have to compartmentalize what is and what we have to do. That’s a great lesson for us to learn.

“I told the team, ‘as we get older and I’m not far removed from you as a college football player, but a wife changes things, a job changes things, a child change things. There are a lot of things that will pop up that are very, very important to you, and then there are also things you have to do because it’s your occupation, your passion or your hobby. You have to compartmentalize those thoughts and that energy to be able to go and do those things.’



“We talked about last week being last week. The things that are most important to us are family and our health, and none of those things have changed from this room [Carl Lewis Auditorium - team meeting room]. When we are in this room, we are giving ourselves the best opportunity to win. We are going to trust in our process and our training, and that’s the way we want to do things each and every day.”

On how many members of the program were affected by Harvey
“It’s hard to tell, but probably about 10-15 kids’ immediate families were directly affected by Harvey. I’m taking about families having to move out of their homes. Family structures are very different. There are aunts and grandmothers that mean a lot to our football players, so that raises the number even more. Some people’s health situations change because they had to move out of assisted care living and move into different homes. It’s affected all of them to some extent because of teammates, even ones that don’t live in Houston or have family in Houston, they still are housing teammates who have lost apartments or homes.”

On team helping each other
“We had a lot of different groups go out with their units, so it was by position. The defensive backs went out and helped D.J. [Small]. I know Dillon [Birden] had some running backs go out and help him. It was all based on need and by position, and that was what our plan was Friday and Saturday. If you were one of those that needed help from your position group, they were there to help.

“We also had coaching staff members, two of which were on our offensive staff, that had homes flooded. Offensive staff members went by Friday and Saturday to check to make sure Coach [James] Casey and Coach [Brian] Johnson had what they needed and assist them. We wanted to make sure we were taking care of one another.

“We also had a great opportunity for our players to take all the goods we collected there in Austin and take them to a shelter that was able to provide to a community that didn’t have a lot. It’s eye opening when you have that opportunity to see what some are lacking in basic necessities.

“For our staff, our wives, and players to see that - I felt like that was a really good learning experience.”

On if any student-athletes are currently not with the team
“They are all back. Every player was back at practice Sunday. Everyone’s situation is different. We had some guys stay in Houston just because of concerns. One needed medical help, and one had a child and was concerned about the living situation. We understand those are family situations, and we also understand as a football team, we make up that work. We all do the same amount of work, so we make up the work we miss when we aren’t with the football team and we go from there.”

On how assisting others helped with team camaraderie
“I don't know about the word ‘camaraderie’. I feel like that comes through, more or less, by playing, having hard practices, winning and going through things more from a competitive stage. It taught us all, coaches included, where our obligations need to be.

“Maybe this is just me as a former athlete speaking, but when I visited hospitals, it was more about the impact you could have on someone else. How you can brighten someone’s day, how you can support someone. It wasn’t really a camaraderie building effort. Those are built in hard and tough workouts that wore you out and broke your team down, very difficult fourth-quarter comebacks, that’s where camaraderie becomes the core of it all.”

On team’s focus moving forward into game week
“That was No. 1. When we walked in last night and talked to the team, we said, ‘No. 1. Is everyone alright? Does everyone have everything they need? Don’t be modest, don’t be humble. If you need help, ask for help.’

We needed to get every player’s mind locked it. Now that we are locked in, ‘What is our routine? How do we prepare? How do we prepare our minds? How do we prepare our bodies? What kind of premium do we put on our preparation versus our opponent’s preparation? How do we focus on us?’

We watched a lot of football Friday and Saturday. We can learn from obedience or we can learn from experience, and learning from experience is the way that fools learn.

I told the guys, ‘let’s watch what happens in some college football games. Let’s see some substitution errors, let’s see some delay of game errors. Let’s see a special teams error where the punter goes down with the football and takes a knee. Let’s learn about all the little things we can, and let’s be conscious of it because we did lose that game experience. With that said, let’s learn from what we watched on television and learn from the first-week mistakes and let’s go out and be mindful of those in practice.’

We went back and talked about: No. 1 - we are all here and safe; and No. 2 - let’s train and use our preparation, trust the process and pull from the games we watched Friday and Saturday because we lost those game reps.”

On how he’s been able to manage obstacles from last week as the head coach
“You have a plan for what you want to happen when you are here in this building, but obviously that gets thrown out the window. Moving from hotel to hotel and wondering if the game will still be played, but all of that now is in the past. We told the team and in this building, we refer to all of that as last week. Now for our city and our fans, that’s months to come. But in terms of what we do in this building, that is last week and that is where we have to put things. There are going to be times in our day where we aren’t practicing football, so compartmentalizing and using the time wisely to help our city or our families, we need to do that.”

On how program is trying to make this as normal as a game week as any
“We have living arrangements and transportation for everyone in this program set. School starts back tomorrow. That’s really what an athlete wants more than anything is a routine they can sink their teeth in to and trust. They want that structure. A lot of normalcy will come back tomorrow when they enter class, have practice in the afternoon and they start filing into their routine. We haven’t had any distractions. That’s been the position coach’s job, head coach’s job, director of operations’ job to go through to make sure each player, individually, has shelter, food, transportation and how each of those things are getting covered.”

On Arizona’s offense as they showed the running game a lot in week one
“They can do both [run and pass]. They didn’t do both the other night, but they can do both. I’ve watched [Head] Coach [Rich] Rodriguez, [Co-OC] Calvin Mcgee and [Co-OC] Rod Smith’s offense for years. They have been together at West Virginia, Michigan and now Arizona. They are going to play with great pace. They are going to run the football and allow their quarterback to participate in the run game. If need be, they will throw the football. I have seen them throw for 300, 400 and even 500 yards. But if they don’t have to, they aren’t going to.

“They are a very conditioned football team, a very mentally tough football team. Their quarterback is very efficient with what they ask him to do. He is very comfortable in their offense and reminds me a lot of Greg [Ward Jr.] with his confidence and competitiveness. He takes control of their offense and does a great job.”

On starting quarterback
“We will make that decision on Friday before the game, but both have competed really well thus far and they will continue to compete this week in practice.”

On depth chart moving into game week
“The depth chart changes daily. It changes daily because of performance, because of injury. Our guys will always understand they are competing each and every day. There is never a position sewed up on this roster. I want every player to know, especially the ones getting the one and two reps, they are one play away from starting, and I want them to understand that. That’s the way they have to prepare going into game week.”

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