Sept. 25, 2012
HOUSTON - University of Houston football head coach Tony Levine and selected student-athletes met with the local media on Tuesday to discuss Saturday's Bayou Bucket contest against Rice.
"It's good to be back in a game week; last week went by quick. We got a lot accomplished on and off the field. Our staff was out recruiting and now we are back with our preparation for our game against Rice. Really looking forward to this week because it is a rivalry game. It's great for the city and the schools. It's unique because we are so close to one another a lot of players know one another as well as the coaches. I worked with David Bailiff for three years at Texas State and he has been a mentor for me in this profession.
You're seeing two teams getting prepared for a game that is very important for both teams. There are a lot of similarities between the two; both having similar records as well as both teams being young. What they're doing offensively is tremendous. They have explosive players and Taylor (McHargue) is doing a great job running that offense. We know what kind of player Taylor is because we tried to recruit him a couple years back and you can see the growth in his play, especially in his decision making and his ability to run the football.
Defensively they are young and extremely aggressive. One thing that stands out to me is that they do a great job of creating fumbles. We have to do a great job of taking care of the football and that is something we have stressed this week in practice. On special teams you could make the argument they have the best kicker in the United States. (Chris) Boswell has done a terrific job for them and he's someone they have been bragging about for a couple years now.
It will be a great challenge with where we are as a program. We had a better day of practice yesterday than we did all of last week. We got healthy which is a big thing for us. It's great to see Charles Sims back as well as Kevin Forsch, Ralph Oragwu and Kent Brooks. Having guys back to full speed helps with energy, execution, tempo and most importantly confidence. Our players are excited to play and execute our game plan for this week on all three phases on Saturday."
On the mindset going into Saturday
"The mindset is a number of things. We have to do things correctly to win football games. Our players understand the importance of not only this conference game but the rivalry as well. No question about it, this game is important and the hardware that comes with it is important as well. We had a team meeting breaking down the history of the Houston-Rice rivalry, so they know what it means."
On keeping the edge for Saturday
"When two programs like this meet in a rivalry it's easy to keep that edge. I've been involved in rivalry games not only as a player but as a coach, whether its Minnesota-Wisconsin, Auburn-Alabama or Houston-Rice. Each rivalry is special. The Houston-Rice rivalry is unique because of the location factor of being in the same city. There is a motivation factor to this game and it isn't hard for our players to stay focused."
On the message to the team
"It has now become a nine-game season. Our goal is to play for and win a conference championship and that goal is still available. We haven't won a game in conference nor have we lost one. Including today we have 61 days left. That's what we're promised. We have to go one week at a time and prepare to win our football games."
On the Rice offense
"They are deep across the board. What makes them so dangerous is they can run and throw the ball at a high level. The play of their quarterback has kept them at that level. They have plenty of weapons on the outside, which allowed Taylor (McHargue) to make great decisions in the pocket. He is playing at an extremely high level offensively and it's showing statistically."
On if Taylor McHargue doesn't play
"We are going to prepare for Taylor to play. If he doesn't, then we will have to adjust for Driphus (Jackson) but since he is a freshman there really isn't any film on him to go back on. He's played a little bit this season but not enough to plan for him and pinpoint his tendencies."
On the Bayou Bucket game
"It's a big deal; a lot rides on the game in this city. It's a big deal for them and for us. I'm excited to get another shot at it since it didn't work out the way we wanted my freshman year. Fumbling that ball on fourth down really sits with you. I'm excited to have another opportunity to play and put our offense back where it needs to be."
On a fresh start to the season with the conference opener this weekend
"This is also a fresh start after a bye week. We got a lot of people healthy, and it is a big game because this is our first conference game. To add to that though, this is a big rivalry. It's still Rice, they are going to come out and play as hard as they can as they do every year."
On what it means to be defending the Bayou Bucket this year
"It means a lot to have it and it means a lot to lose it. I've seen them take it from our sideline, and that will stick with me forever. It's definitely a special thing to have, but that means that it hurts that much more to see it go. We want to keep it here."
On making every play count
"As a freshman, that is one of the things that the coaches harp on you about. I didn't really understand it at first, so I understand now the things that ride on this game. Sometimes you have to tell the freshmen and explain to them that it's not just any other game because of the hype, and because it's our first conference game. They are definitely going to come out and play as hard as they ever have. They are a very sound team and it should be a great matchup."
On the importance of turning over a new leaf with this game
"It's a great refresher, but knowing that as well, this is our first game and we have to go get this. We have to go out there and attack it knowing that it is our first conference game. We need to up our preparation, up our practice tempo and any mistakes that we have made we need to fix now. It's important now that we are confident in the people who are out on the field and confident in making plays."
On the bye week
"The open week was good for us. It gave us a change to refresh, get back to fundamentals and prepare for our game this Saturday."
On the confidence of the team
"We are still a very confident team, and that's how we practice, like we are an 0-0 team which is what we are in conference. We are confident going into conference."
On the progression of the defense during the bye week
"We worked mostly on tackling and becoming better tacklers as a defense. We have to give the offense opportunities to make plays, which means we have to do our job and get off the field."
On the mindset for this week's game
"The mindset is we have to keep the bucket. That's a big deal to the city and a big deal to both teams. We know it's going to be a tough game. We're just going to come out and give everything we've got for that bucket. Everybody gets pumped up around the city for it."
On what the Bayou Bucket means
"It comes down to bragging rights. You see these guys around town so that is an added incentive. Not that one is needed, but it is."
On the benefit of the bye week
"We definitely took advantage of the open week. We got a lot better and got everybody healthy. It worked out alright for us. We can come off the open week with a good push."
On the improvement of the front line
"Every week we come back with a lot of stuff we need to work on. Up front we all trust each other and we know we're going to work hard and correct everything."