2017 HOUSTON FOOTBALL QUOTES FOR THE RICE GAME
TDECU Stadium • Houston, Texas • Saturday, Sept. 16, 2017
HEAD COACH Major Applewhite
“Excited to get game one under our belts. Just excited about getting out of it with a win. Proud of our guys with the way they competed. We didn’t always play well, but we played well enough to win. We were excited to get out of there with a win. We competed, but we also talked about some of our efforts as a football team: offensively, defensively, special teams, where we need to train more.
“A lot of times we get glossed over in a win, so we took a lot of time in team meetings to talk about it as position coaches, head coach, players, just demanding more out of ourselves and pushing our effort level harder and being honest on how we’re going to approach it as a program. Just coaching harder, practicing harder after wins, not taking our foot off the gas.
“I’ll also address some of the penalties. We had way too many in week one. Told the guys, I’ll eat some of the aggressive penalties, in terms of face mask holding, things like that. That’s going to happen, but we have to work to use proper technique to where we don’t put ourselves in those positions. Whether it be pass interference calls or holding calls or things like that, but a lot of stuff to clean up.
“So we’ve put it to bed, 24-hour rule. Moved on. Right now, our roster remains the same from last week. Just an update on (senior wide receiver) Ellis Jefferson: suffered a concussion. We’re waiting to see what’s wrong with his knee right now. That’s still inconclusive there, but he’s in concussion protocol, so he’s questionable for Saturday.
“Really excited to move on to week two. Really excited about this game specifically. This is a great rivalry for both schools, to have the Bayou Bucket back. It’ll be the first FBS game in the city of Houston this year, so it’ll be a great time for our city and a great day for our city. Really looking forward to it.”
On what the rivalry means to the team
“For the players who haven’t really dove into the history of the rivalry, it’s just a game to them. It’s week two or week three for Rice, but for the schools and the alumni and the city of Houston who’ve been here for a long time, it’s a rivalry that everybody is glad has been renewed. It’s another home game for both teams, and it gives us an opportunity, and Rice another opportunity, to play in the city, in front of recruits from high school, high schools that they (Rice) recruit very hard as well. Overall it’s just a positive. Just a total positive for our city and for both universities.”
On the importance of rivalry games
“Well it’s bragging rights. It’s bragging rights from that standpoint. That’s always something that’s up in the rivalries. This happens to be not so much statewide as it is just citywide.
“I remember being in some rivalry games as a player. You run into a lot of those players, a lot of these guys you’ve either played with or played against, as a district player or in playoff games, so most of these guys are going to have played against each other or with each other, so there are bragging rights from that stand point.
“But it’s just great to have it back for the city of Houston. That’s what I gather at this point. It’s just great to have it back, both universities playing each other and having something that the city of Houston can get behind.”
On Ed Oliver’s play in the Arizona game leading to American Defensive Player of the Week honors
“He played with great effort, phenomenal effort. He just needs to continue playing like that. We need others to play with that effort. There were some times and some instances where you look at the effort and it doesn’t necessarily reflect the score. This is a team that ran for over 500 yards their last two ball games, and we held them to 150-160 yards or so, and you see Ed’s effort and sometimes you look at just the stat line and you see 16 points and rushing yards, and you think, ‘hey we did a great job.’
“What we have to go back and see is, ‘look at the way No. 10 is playing with his effort. Are we all playing that same way?’ We have to play harder on that side of the football and on the offensive side as well, but we can be better is what I’m getting at.”
On if the penalties in the game can be attributed to first-game jitters
“Three specifically stood out, two on punt team. One miscommunication, in terms of cadence; couldn’t hear. We had another one that was just a lack of focus, so there were two on punts, one was cadence one was just lack of focus.
“We had another administrative penalty on offense, with a wide receiver just moving his alignment too abruptly that caused another penalty, and then we had one where our offensive tackle thought that our back was down, thought the whistle had blown, and was honestly trying to pick the guy up, didn’t know the whistle hadn’t been blown, so we got called for assisting the runner. Those are things that happen on week one.
“Those are new penalties that you have to cover with the guys, and we can learn better from offensive pass interference. We’ve talked about that. We’ve gone over that numerous times as a staff. They’re going to enforce the leaping rule this year. They’re going to enforce offensive pass interference more this year. They’re going to enforce sideline warnings more. These are things you can get hammering and hammering and hammering, but sometimes you have to learn by experience.
“But we talked about the physical errors and how we got in position to get a facemask, how we got in position to get offensive and defensive pass interference, and the things we can do, technique wise, at the front end of the play that don’t cause that at the back end of it.”
On if everything is back to normal now following Hurricane Harvey
“It’s getting back to normal, and the kids will tell you it is normal. They are very resilient and malleable. These guys will adjust to anything, and that’s what we talked about: ‘Very proud of you doing that. Let’s flush that out of our minds.’ There’s no more getting back to. We’re back. We’ve had a Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday with classes in session. We’ve had a Friday walk through. We’ve had Saturday at the hotel. We’re in the season now. It’s all about creating routine.
“That was one thing that Danny Amendola and Julian Edelmen came down in our champions talk, and it really pounded home to our football team in that champions meeting about how important a routine is, and how those two guys operate with a routine, and how they’ve overcome injuries and setbacks with the routine, and how the prepare themselves through their routine. That’s something that we pound in with coaches. All the great ones have routine in what they do. They will vary it up with intensity and volume, but they all have a great routine in what they’re doing, and we continue to pound that weekly.”
On if they will play multiple cornerbacks
“With playing the pace teams, we play three or four corners a game. People take vertical shots on you, and then they roll another guy in, and you’ve got to think about having a fresh corner there. You don’t want a guy steady taking bullets, so we’re going to rotate guys at the corner spot, and we’ll do so at the wide receiver positions as well just to keep those guys’ legs fresh throughout the game.
“There’s a certain trust factor with your starters, and we found that out in 2015, that there’s a certain trust factor with a Demarcus Ayers, with a Chance Allen, with a Steve Dunbar, and then we saw about five to six games a season these guys are playing 65, 70, 80 snaps a game, and then they’re starting to get fatigued. There’s a fine-line balance between putting some subs in, and there’s a reason the guys are starting, but you’re also trying to make sure this guy lasts the entirety of the game. So that’s one of the things that, other than the very objectives turnovers, red zones, better tackling, creating more turnovers; those are the things that we talk about as a staff; that we’ll rotate, sub our players and continue to keep our players fresh.
“You learn that after game one, and the players feel that. They’ll come off the field, and that’s what a game feels like. I know what those scrimmages felt like, I know what those team leaders felt like, that’s what a game felt like, and now I really feel pressure mentally and anxiety of just performing throughout the course of the game. This is how I need to prepare myself throughout the week. This is how I need to sleep, this is how I need to eat, this is how I need to hydrate. It was really good to have a night game. All the adversity that you could fit into it, good opponent on the road, night game, late game, hot draw, all those things really help us with what we need to do.”
On his opinion of Isaiah Johnson in his first game at cornerback
“There were some really good things he did, and you even saw him make some corrections in the game. Saw him sprint out to the right, throw a hitch and miss a tackle, and then we come back the next series and same play, same throw, same catch and a tackle was made for a 2-yard gain. So I could see him correcting some of those things as the game went on.
“I was very encouraged by it, in fact, I addressed that as a team after week one, we’ve got to grow, we’ve got to learn about ourselves, and there are a lot of guys in this room that have played a lot of snaps, that thought in their head ‘I’ve got this.’ – you don’t. Open yourselves up, listen to your coaches, let’s get better. Find whatever percentage that you can improve, whether it’s technique, whether it’s mental assignment, whether it’s just peer effort, whatever it is, just open yourself up. Then there’s other guys, who haven’t played a lot of football, or are playing a new position, like Isaiah, that should be an open book. “Hey, this is my first step back, tell me where I can get better, where can I improve?” I know him specifically that he’ll spend a lot of time with Coach Jennings. He’ll continue to get better, and that’s the biggest part of getting better, is attitude and being there, so he’ll be there this week. I know that.”
On who will fill in for injured wide receiver Ellis Jefferson if he cannot play Saturday
“If Ellis can’t go, Keith Corbin will be the starter on Saturday right now. (Steven) Dunbar and Corbin will be starting outside with Bonner in the slot. (John) Leday, Courtney Lark, Terry Mark, Derek McLemore all those guys will be playing in backup roles, and we’ll continue to evaluate D’Eriq King.”
On which freshmen will have a chance to play throughout the season
“They had shown some things, special teams wise, that they can help us on and they’ve shown somethings that they can help us as pass rushers. There are other freshmen that’ll play as the season goes on, it’s still a very long season. A lot of goals still ahead of us, a lot of snaps left, so there’s a lot of freshmen that are going to continue to get better and they’ll have a role as the season goes on.”