HOUSTON - University of Houston football head coach Tony Levine and selected student-athletes met with the local media on Tuesday to discuss Saturday's upcoming game against No. 22/23 UCLA in Los Angeles.
"After having a chance to look over the game film from Saturday night I wouldn't change anything I said immediately after the game. We did some things better in game two than game one, but we didn't do enough to win the football game in all phases.
Defensively, tackling is something we are going to continue to stress and that is going to be the number one point of emphasis this week. We counted on the video we had 29 missed tackles that accounted for 196 yards after the missed tackle, and that is unacceptable and we're not going to stop very many people or win very many games tackling like that. Offensively, it's about not turning the ball over. We had the ball on the ground six times Saturday night. We lost two fumbles and when you lose the turnover battle it makes it hard to win a football game.
As a whole it's about penalties, and we had way too many penalties. The effort was there, especially when a player goes in for a tackle and his hands cross the facemask and then it becomes a 15-yard penalty. One thing that stood out in a positive way as well as a negative is the concept of making plays. We saw some guys that stood out to make plays, and on the flip side we had opportunities to make plays and we didn't. I was proud of our effort that we took a team that was a conference champion last year down to the wire. We believed that if we got that onside kick our offense was going to go down and score a touchdown. I think we improved and we need to continue that.
We are going to play a team that is extremely talented and they have a lot of momentum right now. They just beat a good Nebraska team and they have put themselves in the top 25. We went out there two years ago when we were 2-0 and ranked and they were 0-2 and everybody remembers what happened that night. We are excited for this opportunity especially because we have had great practices and improved each day on things we emphasized.
Offensively for UCLA they are extremely balanced; the stats they have put up in two games are ridiculous. They have an extremely talented redshirt freshman in (Brett) Hundley who is great at getting the ball out of his hands quickly. They also have (Johnathan) Franklin at running back who is leading the nation in rushing. Defensively, they fly around. They have corners that are great, they have (Datone) Jones at defensive end who is going to give us everything we want. It's no accident they are 2-0 and ranked in the top 25. They are a sound team on all phases. It's going to be a big challenge and our players are excited for it."
On improving the pass rush
"There is a huge point of emphasis on our pass rush. We have got to get pressure on the quarterback. We haven't done that from our defensive line rushing. We have to generate more by bringing more guys from different areas to help the guys on the line. We can't give these guys time to throw the football because they'll hurt us."
On UCLA Quarterback Brett Hundley
"He is extremely talented. He was recruited heavily out of high school and the way he carries himself on the field already this season is impressive. He has a great command of the huddle and his offense. He's doing a great job of utilizing his weapons that are around him."
On what stood out when seeing the missed tackles
"It's all correctable. We started last night in practice and will continue tonight on correcting the issue. A lot of it is technique. Some of it is personnel, which we'll look at in practice. Guys will have an opportunity to step up in practice come Thursday. We have guys out of control ducking their head. If you close your eyes and don't see what you're hitting you will not make a tackle. The formula for winning games for us will be tackling and taking care of the football."
On getting on track
"It's a great opportunity for our team this week to get on track and improve each week. Regardless of who we play we have to improve on cutting down penalties, taking care of the football and tackling. You see it each week; the teams that do that well are the teams that win football games."
On where the team is emotionally
"We had a team meeting yesterday and told them we are a good football team and don't listen to anyone outside our program. We have a plan for our program and we are continuing to build on it."
On the relationship with UCLA Offensive Coordinator Noel Mazzone
"Coach Mazzone was the quarterbacks coach at Minnesota when I played there. Kevin Sumlin was the wide receivers coach too. Coach Mazzone is well respected across the nation and is doing a great job. What they are doing out there, they got some of it from us with Dana Holgorsen and Kliff Kingsbury, but he has put his own twist on it. When people watch us on Saturday night they'll see similarities between both offenses with the motions and the quick game."
On the offensive improvement
"Our offense performed well. We could have done some things better, but our tempo was up there and we will continue to get better at that week-to-week. We did a great job of getting playmakers the ball. Not throwing any interceptions definitely helps the game plan as well. I'm going to keep learning and getting better with my reads. We were effective as an offense and we're going to keep getting better."
On chemistry with wide receiver Daniel Spencer on the field
"Spencer is a great player. He was a running back in high school, and once you get him the ball he's going to make some guys miss. He will definitely be that playmaker that we need. There are a lot of guys who had catches in that game, and it's nice to know our opponents can't just focus on one player. There will be a lot of guys getting the ball and we will keep it at a high pace so that defenders can't focus on any one guy. I thought Spencer played really well. He still had some lapses and mistakes but he is going to be a really great player here."
On UCLA's defense
"They put a lot of guys in the box. We're going to have the opportunity to throw the ball. They are a bigger team obviously, and we're going to have to wear them down with tempo and running the right play at the right time. We're going into it with a really positive attitude, and it's going to be really fun to watch. They have a new defensive coordinator as well as a new offense so it should be a great challenge for us."
On getting off to a quick start
"It's absolutely important that we get off to a quick start and that we get into the feel of the game. We've got a lot of young guys and having their confidence at a high level right off the bat is a great asset for the team. We're going into it with the same game plan, high tempo and the mindset that we're the only people who can stop us."
On tuning out outside talk about the game
"We're just excited to have another opportunity. It's easy to get down at this point, but I think everyone is really positive. We're really close to being a great team. With that in mind we have to have both young guys and veterans step up into leadership roles and really take it upon themselves to not have mental errors, ball security errors and make plays on Saturday."
On what happened in the Louisiana Tech game
"We fell a little short. We did what we were supposed to do on offense. We got in the end zone but we fell short a little bit. That happens sometimes."
On what was different about the offense this week
"We just started doing more things on offense. We turned it on and found that click we needed to get into the end zone. We added little tweaks, maybe a shift here or there to get us going."
On running 115 plays in one game
"I've never been in an offense like this but it's fun."
On stopping UCLA running back Johnathan Franklin
"I feel like we have a good chance of coming around this week. We have a great game plan going in."
On staying positive despite 0-2 start
"Our goal is still ahead of us; we're still trying to win our conference championship. The first two losses were bad, but we still have the chance to go out there and play again."
On being a team leader
"I've been here through the ups and the downs, so I'm telling them we still have the chance to go out there and play again. I tell them to keep their head up, keep fighting and let's go out there and play again."
On setting a defensive tone
"Defensively, I feel like we should come out there and set the tone for offense. If we go out there and get a couple stops to start off and the offense scores, then the momentum is on our side. If we get that point in, we will have a better chance of winning the game."
On chemistry with the team
"I don't think it's the chemistry. We have a great chemistry inside the locker room and outside. I feel like it's just the tackling that's really hurting us. Plus, the penalties were really hurting us. I feel like this week if we cut down on the missed tackles and the penalties, we will have a great chance of winning."