Oct. 16, 2012
HOUSTON - University of Houston football head coach Tony Levine and selected student-athletes met with the local media on Tuesday to discuss Thursday night's game at SMU.
"The last few performances are really similar. We did what he had to do to win the game, offensively, defensively on special teams and in terms of penalties. We were efficient of offense. We had one turnover.
UAB did a nice job of containing Charles Sims. They limited the big plays by him. We had the one play right before the half, which was his longest rush. We still got him the ball 25 times or so. He was still extremely productive. We got him out in space with special formations. We still had some creative ways to get him the football.
Obviously Shane Ros had a big game. That's been the tale this season. Besides Charles Sims, we've gone into a game seeing what the defensive plan is going to be, and then based on the offensive game plan it works out where a guy or two at the receiver position has a good afternoon.
Defensively I was pleased with our effort. We had a couple turnovers. We had eight quarterback sacks. We had twelve quarterback hits. I liked our pressure. I liked our guys flying around. We didn't get into the specifics with this game in terms of a coaching staff like we normally do so I don't have a comment on missed tackles but I liked our effort.
In the kicking game we did well. Matt Hogan performed very well. He was the conference player of the week for special teams and set a conference record with the six field goals. I liked our coverage as well. We had one long punt return. It was good to see Dewayne Peace get going.
As a team what we talked about last week was penalties. We had three penalties and they had 11 for 90 yards. All that combined helped us come away with a win in the fashion that we did. I was proud of our guys. I thought we won the game with our preparation last week.
Moving forward, it's been a short week. As I stand here I know it's Tuesday for the rest of our program, but it's technically Thursday because of what we're doing as a staff and what we're doing at practice today. In our minds it's two days prior to kickoff. It's been quick with preparation and that was the major point we stressed to our players this week. Although we've won our last couple games and although it is a short week, there is no excuse for not preparing for like we have, and preparing even better than we have the last couple of weeks. That is something we'll continue to preach.
We're playing a team who is back home and has a veteran coaching staff and a veteran team. For myself, (defensive backs) coach (Zac) Spavital, and some of the seniors who have been here four or five years, they look at the players they're playing with and it may resemble our team last year. People looked at us and couldn't believe these quarterbacks and receivers were still there.
You look at Zach Line and he's a guy who seems like he's been there forever. They've got three senior defensive linemen starting for them and they run a 3-4 (defense). The linebackers have been there forever. It's a veteran team and a veteran staff. Coach (June) Jones has been there five years now. They've got great familiarity with what they do. It's something that is going to be a great challenge for us.
When you look at the teams in our conference, the team I am most concerned with is Houston. We've got to take care of the football on offense and tackle on defense. On Thursday we have to have an understanding of what they do with their field goal block personnel and their schemes. They do a great job of protection by moving their coverage.
Not only do I have the upmost respect for coach Jones, Frank Gansz Jr., their special teams coordinator, is considered the best in the country. He's been doing this a long time. Against us last year they had the fake punt, which was successful. They had a kickoff return with a throwback and they've got a number of surprise onside kickoffs in their repertoire.
It's going to take a great team effort to win this football game, on the road, with a short five days of preparation. I like what we've done so far this week. I was a little concerned coming out of the game Saturday. I thought we'd be a little bit more banged up than we are. Trevon Stewart and Zeke Riser both had great recoveries and now they'll be full speed for the game. Lloyd Allen will still be doubtful for this game. I like where we're at right now. We have to continue to prepare and take it one week at a time and one game at a time. We're down to a six game season."
On if Shane Ros compares to former receiver Justin Johnson "There may be a parallel there with the special teams. Shane starts on seven of our special teams. Justin was very similar in that respect. Shane Ros is showing us that he can be a starter for us on offense. There is no hesitation on playing him. He's tough, he has great hands, he's physical, he knows the offense, he's smart, gives great effort and he's a tremendous blocker. He's earned it. With regards to Justin Johnson, I can see the comparisons but, we don't sit up here as a staff and compare. Justin was more of a 225-pound guy where we could also put him in the backfield and put him at tight end. I see the similarities with them both being on offense and the kicking game"
On SMU running back Zach Line
"A lot of people think he's the best running back in Conference USA. He's one of the best in the country. I had the pleasure of meeting him this past spring at the Conference USA head coaches meetings. Talk about a great young man. Also you can talk about a kid that looks the part. He's as pretty of a running back as I've seen in a long time; all of 6'1 and 235 pounds of muscle. He's a great player for them and he's going to be a huge challenge for us. He is their workhorse when they run the football. They snap it to (Garrett) Gilbert who has a ton of experience, and if they're not throwing which they do quite a bit, they're handing it to Zach and getting yards. That's going to be our challenge defensively; to continue to work on stopping the run and it starts with him."
On if SMU will be desperate after losing to Tulane
"No, I don't expect a desperate team at all. This is very similar to Houston and Rice in the case that it's in the same state. Next year Houston and SMU will still be in the same conference. It's similar in that our staff knows a bunch of their coaches and vice versa. We've recruited a bunch of their players and they've recruited a bunch of ours. This is a deal where you can throw the records out when Houston and SMU play. In college football right now, what happened last week across the country has zero effect on the upcoming game. The moment that a team takes an opponent lightly, you're going to have some problems. We've got great respect for them. They've got great players. You can just look at a depth chart for them and see all the seniors who have lettered three times. It's going to be a challenge."
On the increased blitzing the past few weeks
"It's always game-by-game in all three phases on how we're going to attack our opponents. Right now not only does our defense like blitzing, but there are certain guys who are good at it. You can concern yourself with what your opponent does but you always have to understand what you do well. That's something we're going to continue to do but it depends a little bit on who we're playing. It's something we're good at and it's something the kids enjoy doing. It's no accident we got to the quarterback 20 times Saturday."
On the progress of the team
"There are definitely some things that are starting to come together. At the same time though, we can do better. That's the great part about this season- we haven't played perfect games and there are a lot of things that we work on day in and day out. We're doing a great job of improving and working to get better."
On Matt Hogan as a security blanket for the offense
"He has played great, he is always there and sometimes I'll be thinking that we are going to punt the ball and the field goal team is running onto the field. It's a 50-some yard field goal, and I've got all the confidence in the world in him. It's a great comfort to me and to the offense, but at the same time we need to finish our drives."
On his relationship and chemistry with the young receivers
"They are definitely maturing, and that's a great thing to see them coming along and starting to become more comfortable out on the field, more comfortable catching balls. In hard situations with guys on their back they have done extremely well. They play a vital role in our offense and will keep continuing to get the ball."
On the challenges that the Mustangs present on defense
"They have a great defensive line. Their defense is solid. They are a great team so with the shortened week it's a lot to prepare for, but we are excited to play. There are a lot of things that they do that we haven't seen yet. We will attack those challenges."
On receiver Shane Ros stepping up
"Him stepping into that role when Daniel Spencer was unsure whether he could play was huge for us. He stepped right up and said I can play this role. He has been a big special teams player in the past, and is still an amazing special teams guy. It's great to see him step up and take that role."
On Phillip Steward
"He's done a great job as far as leadership and creating turnovers on the field. They are playing great right now. It's comforting for me to know that I can come off the field after just scoring and they might force a three-and-out and we can get the ball back. We need to do a better job of driving down and scoring and taking the tension off of them, and then we will be in some better situations."
The transition that the team has gone through to adjust and be successful
"I'd say everyone is still upbeat and high energy. We have a goal and that is what we are focusing on each week. This week being shortened, everything has been tightened up a little bit, focusing a little more. Everyone is excited."
On difference between this season and the 2010 season
"Just being there and playing there has probably given me confidence but this is a completely different team. We have a new team and an almost completely different coaching staff and there aren't a lot of guys who will be with me on the field this week who were with me last time. It's going to be a lot of fun to get back out there with this group."
On getting better by competing with Trevon Stewart and D.J. Hayden
"They're guys who can come out and do with they do, regardless of what I do. With Trevon being able to play the way he plays is a blessing for us because he's more advanced and more mature than any freshman I've seen come in here defensively. His mind and his football IQ are very high. D.J. is a fantastic guy. He goes out and plays his best each game. He's always getting better each week. Being able to see that, it allows us to increase our play.
On the big hit during the UAB game pumping the defense up
"Coach Levine was showing us high energy plays and how we get excited off of each other based off special teams, offense and defense. Those plays fuel us and get us more excited throughout the whole game. He says that the most excited team usually wins the game, which has been true for the past couple of weeks. It's easy to hit somebody when they're not looking and he wasn't looking, so I was able to go over there and get underneath his chin. It's awesome to be able to energize your team. You can see it from the sidelines and on film. Everybody got excited, so it was pretty cool."
On Phillip Steward's leadership to the team
"He talks the whole game. He talks to the defense, the opposition, he talks to everybody. It's just his personality. We feed off of him all the time. He makes such big plays and he's such a key contributor to this team. When he makes a big play, we all feel like we need to step our game up that much to be able to compete with him and be on the same level as him."
On how difficult it is to prepare for a short-week's game
"It's extremely hard. Your body is still trying to recover from last week. We just try to get in ice tubs and do the best we can. They have to deal with the same things we have to deal with. It's just whoever comes out with that same mindset. This is the most important game of the week for us, which is a conference game. We just need to come out and step our game up and hopefully get a victory."
On what to expect from SMU's offense
"They're a high powered offense. Based off of what they've put together since I've been here, they've always been a good offense. I've played against Zach Line for three years and he's always brought his a-game. He's a hard runner and he's every bit of 250 pounds. Their receivers are excellent; they've got a lot of speed. With a coach that knows the in's and out's of our strengths and weaknesses, it's a great challenge to our defensive backs."
On coming off career performance with first touchdown
"It felt good. Dave (Piland) made a great pass. I was just thinking about moving the chains, I wasn't thinking about scoring a touchdown. It felt great."
On it being a special moment after first touchdown
"There's no doubt it was special, but at that moment I really didn't think much of it because I went into the game and wasn't thinking that this is my first touchdown or career high. I was just trying to go out there, win the game, do my part and everybody else is doing theirs and just contribute to the win."
On hearing from family members and friends more frequently now
"I had a couple text messages after the game but it happened to be on FSN so some of my friends and family that weren't there were able to see it. It was nice for them to be able to watch when they weren't able to be there in person."
On hard work paying off
"It's special to me. To be honest, it was more about making a name for myself and showing people my abilities and what I can do. In high school I had the knee injuries and different problems, and I felt kind of slighted during the recruiting process. I think it was just fuel to my fire to show people that I was worthy and capable of getting a Division 1 scholarship."
On how much harder it is to prepare in a shorter week
"You have to take advantage of all the time you have. We're up here Sunday, when we're usually off. We practiced Sunday, Monday and today is our last practice and then we're leaving. I think since we're trying to get our legs back and get our health right, the mental reps are huge this week."