Oct. 2, 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 non-conference contest against North Texas.
"For the first time all season we finally had some players in the game that we recognized as players of the game; offensively we had Charles Sims, defensively Phillip Steward and on special teams we had co-special teams players Braxton Welford and Brannon Beasley. On the scout team, our players of the week were running back Brandon Ellison, defense was Jared Irvine and on special teams Miller Pierce. That was good to see.
We were just talking about what happened Saturday. It was a good end to a football game for a number of reasons. One of the most important was our players and everybody in our program needed to experience some success and understand and learn what it takes to win a football game, the preparation that it takes to come out on top and be successful. The preparation was excellent for the last two weeks. Our preparation was actually better than our on-field performance, and that was encouraging. I was very proud of everybody in our program, players in particular last week for not doing any talking or listening outside of here. We talked about that quite a bit in our team meetings: here's what we have to do to be successful, and whatever's being said out there, positive or negative, just try to ignore it because we don't need to say much. We know where we are, what we need to do to get better, where we need to improve and what we need to do to win this football game. I'm proud of our players and everybody in our program for doing that.
Where we're at right now is obviously different than where we were a week ago. When I stood in front of you in terms of now, it's how do we handle a little success. We've won one football game, and we're supposed to win football games. We've got a talented North Texas team coming here in four days. Literally, I told this to our players in our team meeting on Monday, we all enjoyed the win Saturday evening differently; any celebration didn't last very long for me. Sunday morning we had already started working on North Texas. That is critically important right now. Everybody in our program understands that. As soon as you become complacent and satisfied, as a player as soon as you think you're too good, you take two steps forward and three steps back. We told our coaches, our players, our trainers, our managers, everybody in our program that whatever you did last week preparing for the football game, you've got to work even harder this week. We've got to be better this week than we were last week, that's our mindset right now.
We have a team coming in here that we played last season, whose coaching staff I have a tremendous amount of respect for. They've got talented players on all three phases of the football game. When you look back on the game last season keeping in mind the team we had then, the score at half-time was 20 to 17, we were ahead. This is a talented football team, they are extremely well coached and the thing that stands out more than anything is their ball security offensively and the way they turn the ball over on defense. We're going to have our work cut out for us, it will be similar to last week. It's still primarily about us. Our message to our team yesterday was that everybody may be trying to pat you on the back and tell you how great you played, but we still made errors that need to get corrected. Somewhere obvious, like false starts. We can still play better, and our focus is on that.
I want to go back to the game Saturday and mention one other thing. When you talk about a football game that lasts somewhere around three and half hours, and people talk about great plays and plays during the course of the game that could have affected it one way or another, the biggest play in the game Saturday happened in the first quarter and may not be on a lot of people's list. We had a Rice 3rd down from our own 35, which with Boswell as the kicker (for Rice) put them in field goal range, we were up 7-0, and you could see across the sideline that they already had their field goal team ready. We created pressure on defense, Lloyd Allen came off the edge and got a sack for a seven yard loss, so it was a 52 or 53 yard field goal which was a chip shot for Boswell that we pushed back to the 60 yard range. So instead of what probably would have become a 7-3 game, we forced them to punt, got the ball back and remained ahead at 7-0. When you look at the course of football games, you never know when you've got a chance to make a huge game-changer play.
On what he saw during the Rice game that he hadn't all season
"The first thing would be consistency. What I mean by that is while we weren't perfect and probably won't ever be, we played well defensively, well offensively and well in the kicking game all in the same afternoon. Going into that game, we wanted to take our offensive performance from Louisiana Tech and our defensive performance against UCLA and combine them. That's what had to do, that's what we have to do and that's what I can see us do. That was a team victory, and I told them that in the locker room after."
On whether wins will jumpstart the program
"My answer to that is yes, again I don't want to sound like a hypocrite, but while we are a top member of conference now, we are preparing for an eight game schedule. I'd lie to you if I said I didn't know who we were playing next week, but in theory I don't. We need focus on North Texas and Houston, and that's it. We need to fix what we need to fix, and get better which we did at yesterday's practice. We have to improve Houston, and focus on North Texas, and that's it for this week. Offensive wise, I hope we can look back in two months and say that the Rice game spring boarded our confidence and showed our players what preparation can do."
On being 1-0 in conference
"That's the key, we're 1-0 in conference. We've got eight games left, this next one obviously not a conference game, but an extremely important opponent which we talked about with the team yesterday as well. There's something special about anytime you play a team in your state and in your back yard."
On chemistry of the young and veteran players in the secondary
"Our secondary is meshing together well. Part of that is based a little from trying to find the right combination back there. Trevon Stewart is a good example of that, moving from corner down to safety; Colton Valencia who was a special teams guy is now a starter; Thomas Bates also a special teams guy who is now working in the rotation at corner. I feel good about our mix right now back there. I feel good about our tackling and our energy. We're not perfect we've got some work to do but I like where we are right now with the guys and positionally where they are. I like the number of reps they're getting and the mix of old and new."
On moving around the pre-snap setup of the defense
"That was part of our game plan. We wanted to take away the run and the quarterback run as well. Based on the teams we are facing and what their strengths are, we will change our defense accordingly right before the snap of the ball. You will see that throughout the season. It depends on what kind of offense we're playing against."
On having two strong cornerbacks on the outside in D.J. Hayden and Zach McMillian
"It definitely helps (our defense). What we've seen out of the secondary the last few weeks is improved tackling. They've been physical, they set the edge better, and Saturday when Rice was throwing the ball we did not do a good job of covering the ball. They had some great hits on Saturday, and they weren't all from our linebackers, many were from our smaller defensive backs as well.
On Adrian McDonald making the depth chart in the secondary
"We made the decision last week to pull his red-shirt off. He played on special teams Saturday and is now two deep at corner. He's a guy who in the next two weeks you will see playing some corner or nickel. He's another guy who was a high school quarterback, came here as an athlete and has picked up his new position quickly. He's a guy who's been on scout team the last four weeks and was on scout kickoff coverage and kickoff return. If our starting kickoff return couldn't block him maybe their's can't either."
On Andrew Rodriguez no longer being on the depth chart at receiver
"We took a step back with him last week injury-wise, and he'll probably be out for the next four weeks. It's disappointing, he's disappointed, we want to let him play but it takes time to heal. We'll see whether he's ready to go later this season."
On quarterback David Piland's strong performance
"It's an interesting question because usually people are asking if we're going to make a change at the quarterback position. Within our walls we are saying don't listen to outside sources. I kept prefacing my answer last week, when I was getting much more of those questions about Piland, with `I'm not making excuses for anyone'. We became one dimensional because of so many injuries on offense. What I saw him do in week two to week four is what I expect him to do. He is playing how I expect him to play, and that's how he played Saturday. No one out there was perfect, including me, and everybody has got to improve. The thing I am more proud of him for more than anything is his leadership. To become a leader you have to carry yourself a certain way and hold yourself to high standards and expectations. Some guys can't handle that, and he's shown me he can."
On Larry McDuffey
"In high school he showed flashes to where you expected him to be a certain type of player. I didn't think he would be that type of player in September of his freshman season. It takes a special young man to come in as a true freshman and be physically and mentally ready to play. To pick up our offense, our defense and be able to play at a high level--Larry is doing that. He loves to play football, and when you've got a lot of guys like that in your program you will be successful."
On the play of freshman Larry McDuffey
"He's a great player. He's definitely proven himself as an athlete. He's really worked hard at studying and getting in the playbook knowing where he's supposed to be. He's grown up quickly, as we've hoped he would. He got a lot of speed, that's for sure."
On having Charles Sims back from injury
"When we run the ball it opens a lot of things up for passing game and Charles being back there is a threat in itself. It's great to have him back, great to have him healthy. He's a definite threat they have to watch for."
On getting a taste of winning
"We know it's a lot of work. We need to keep focusing on our preparation and look at the film to know things we did wrong then get better at those things."
On making improvements after the win
"As an offense, finishing drives. We'll start off a drive and get rolling, but we really need to a better job of finishing drives and coming out early in the game scoring in the first possession of the half. That'll be a great help for us."
On North Texas' defense
"They're a sound defense. They come off the ball well. They have a lot of energy; you can see it on film. They do a pretty good job of causing turnovers. They've got some pretty good defensive backs out there. We need to take advantage of how they play their defense and get things rolling on the right foot. "
On what came out of the win over Rice
"An understanding that it's just one week at a time. The three weeks in the past are done. The feeling is a lot better with winning, that's for sure. I feel like everyone is a little bit more positive, and at the same time we want to go win again. That's our goal now. Everything in the past is done; the losses and the win. We're focused on North Texas and we're excited for this week.
On Andrew Rodriguez being out
"There's going to be guys who have to move out and step into roles, but he's going to get better. A-Rod stills studies up and does things right. He's going to be a great player here, but right now we've still got a lot of guys that can play the position. It's a bad loss, but at the same time we're going to be fine."
On North Texas
"It's a pretty big game. Like coach Levine said we have to keep on preparing like it's the biggest game. Last week we compared really well and it showed."
On how the team is preparing for North Texas
"They play really physical. They're offensive line is really physical. This week in practice we're going to work on getting off and defeating the blocks."
On North Texas compared to last year
"They were physical last year too. We're going to take the same approach and practice hard."
On the win over Rice last weekend
"It was a great win for us, feels good to be 1-0 in conference. With that being said we are moving forward and focusing our attention on North Texas."
On what to expect from North Texas
"They like to run the ball, and they have an experienced O-line so we have to challenge them. Getting pressure is something we are emphasizing in practice. They didn't allow a sack last year when we played them, so our goal is to get to the quarterback as much as possible."
On returning to Robertson
"It was fun playing at Reliant Stadium, but there's no place like Robertson. Playing in front of the Cougar faithful is something we look forward to every week."