Houston at Tulsa: Weekly Press Conference

Oct. 9, 2017

H.A. Chapman Stadium • Tulsa, Okla, • Saturday, Oct. 14, 2017


HEAD COACH Major Applewhite

On the how the O-line has improved from the previous couple of weeks…
“Execution. There are so many things that go into the run game. The offensive line, first and foremost always deserves credit. Both of our lines, defensive and offensive, we promote those in our program. They did a great job of executing and doing what they’re asked to do. Creating movement in situations, but a lot of it is getting into the right looks to run the football and running backs breaking tackles. On the fifty yard run that Duke (Catalon) had, where we were backed up on our five yard line, you see Steve Dunbar flying in there and wiping the safety out. Now Duke is free on the corner, so there’s a lot of people involved in the run game. Not taking anything away from the offensive line unit, because they did an outstanding job. There’s a lot of people who have to do some great things to be able to run the football and we just need to understand as an offense why we ran the ball well, how do we keep doing that in practice, and put an emphasis on that as coaches. We need to continue to move and improve throughout the season on that.”

On how the team has progressed in the season and where they are at the halfway point…
“Right now at the halfway point, it is one game at a time. How can we focus on one game at a time, one period at a time, one practice at a time and one rep at a time? We have our mindset that way as a football team. What do we have to do throughout the week in our process of getting ready to give ourselves the best chance to win? Let’s not get too retrospective halfway into the season. Let’s understand what we’ve done the last couple of weeks that has allowed us to win. We also talked about how it’s the midpoint of the season. We’re not going to get an off week until four weeks from now. There’s going to bumps, there’s going to be bruises and there’s going to be soreness, that’s part of the game. Guys who are banged up a little bit, have some bumps and bruises, suck it up and go. If guys are injured, other players step up. This is that point in the season. While there’s been some good things over the last two weeks, let’s not lose sight of our failures three weeks ago. That can get washed away after a couple wins. Let’s understand ball security, taking the ball away, scoring touchdowns in the red zone, making people kick field goals and taking the ball away in the red zone, is what has won the last two weeks. Let’s understand that feeling three weeks ago and not ever lose sight of that. I feel very confident that our team is growing and maturing from that stand point. We just have to stay on it every day as coaches and make sure their minds are in the right place.”



On how Grant Stuard has earned his special teams’ role…
“Number one is his effort. He plays with great effort. He practices with great effort. Number two, physicality. If you give great effort, you play hard and you’re a physical football player you’re going to have a place on our football team. He has tremendous pride as an athlete. He’s very competitive, no matter what ask him to do. Whether it’s playing defense, being on punt team, kickoff return team, kickoff coverage, or punt return, he has tremendous pride in his assignment. He’s learning, growing and developing as a player. He needs to have that same process week-in and week-out, and watch himself continue to grow.”

On how the player’s react when they’re backs are against the wall…
That’s the mentality you have to have. The good red zone defenses that I’ve been able to be around as an assistant, it’s been the mentality that no matter where the ball goes, how it gets there, if it’s a kickoff return, an offensive turnover, or a punt return, you flip the switch and go put out the fire. They’ve done a great job of that. In today’s football, there is so much spread and so many explosive plays, that you end up in that situation. A lot of it has come down to how you play defense. Not that you say ‘Hey, it’s okay if you get down there.’ That’s not it by any stretch of the imagination, but there is a little bit of a conceding thought that they’re going to move the ball at times and get in the red zone. It’s what they come away with, whether it’s three or none is the most important thing. It’s our offenses job if they come away with none or take the ball away to get 2 first downs, good field position and score.”

On what contributed to the performance of the offense this week…
“I think more guys have become more comfortable in their roles. It helped with Dillon (Birden) being out, Duke (Catalon) got more of a flow. It’s like hitting a baseball, the more at-bats you get, the more you see those pitches, and the better you can anticipate them. As the game went on, like a lot of backs he starts to see it better and better and better. That helped, but the main thing was just the tempo. We played faster, the plays came in faster, the players lined up faster and they played better that way. We have to continue to improve on that, keep that same tempo throughout practice and get better.”

On the defensive line this week and people continuing to step up with Ed Oliver not being 100 percent...
“We try not to just focus in on one player, but there were some great things that the defensive line did. There’s some times that we were out of position, whether it’s from not getting a call, executing the call, or inexperience. There were a couple times in there where we were not fitting the right gap and the ball slips out of there for 20-30 yards. We’ve got to eliminate those so we don’t have to play great red zone defense and keep the ball out of that portion of the field.”

On if he is surprised when recently injured players such as Ed Oliver play well in games…
“It does and it doesn’t surprise me. It does surprise you because it’s just not human nature for people to give it up like that. There are some times where I think ‘Wow, this guy’s tough, he gives great effort, he’s not 100%, but he’s still doing it.’ At the same time, I know how much he loves to play, I know how much he wants to win and wants his defense to be great. He goes out there and does it for the other 10 guys in the huddle. There’s times where you are surprised and there’s times where you’re not surprised.”

On what Ed Oliver’s attitude brings to the team…
“Your best players are going to create a lot of the atmosphere, attitude and mentality of the team. I thought Greg (Ward) did the same thing for our offense; didn’t say a whole bunch, but how competitive he was, how excited he was to go play and practice brought everybody’s level of intensity up. I think Ed, and a lot of the others on the team, like Terrell (Williams) as you mentioned earlier, get the guys excited to play and it’s contagious; you can’t hide it.”

On Linell Bonner and Dillon Birden’s injuries…
“They are much closer to playing this week than they were before. Obviously on Bonner, we didn’t know until Friday morning, but he’s been through the protocol and you never know how concussions work. Hopefully, he’ll be available Saturday. Dillon’s been cleared, but he didn’t feel quite right and when he did, it was too late. We were in the feel of the game, so we felt it was best to sit him out. Both of those guys should be closer to playing this week.”

On how tactics will be adjusted for the Tulsa game…
“Coaches know New Mexico vs. Navy is a harder tape to watch and Tulane did some things that were similar to that game. That’s a hard offense to get ready for; what Navy does and what New Mexico does makes it very difficult to get ready for those teams.”


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