Houston Football Weekly Press Conference Quotes - Rutgers

Oct. 22, 2013

HEAD COACH Tony Levine
Opening Statement
“Recapping our game against BYU from this past weekend, what I said post game and publicly is after watching the video, we knew what kind of game it would be going in. We told our young men exactly what we’d be up against. We had a good week of practice last week. We felt all week our preparation was very good. We knew we had to execute to give ourselves a chance. It was a great football game. Over four hours, we made a lot of plays, I was proud of our young men, we had a lot of great individual performances as well. Ultimately, we did make some critical errors that cost us the game. I give BYU certainly a lot of credit as well.

“We have a tremendous challenge this week, facing an established, veteran, well-coached team in Rutgers on the road. I liked the attitude of our team when we came back in on Sunday. We had meetings, a very short conditioning session and practice for the young guys as we have all season. Nothing for them in our program on Monday and we’ll be back at practice this afternoon. Again, you look at Rutgers, and I think nationally most people know that to beat a program that has been on the rise for the last ten years or so without specifically looking at their win-loss record. Kyle Flood is in his second year as head coach. He has done a great job, certainly last year in his first year and this year we put the video on and they’re well-coached, they play fast, they are very physical , they’re explosive defensively. They make you earn every yard you get, particularly in the run game. They’re giving up about 82 or 85 yards per game rushing or somewhere in there. It’ll be a big challenge for us. We’ll get on the plane Friday, fly three and half hours or so, I know they’re going to have a great crowd. Rutgers had a bye last week, and they played the previous Thursday if I’m not mistaken so they will have almost two and a half weeks to prepare for this game. Our guys will be refocused this afternoon if you will and get ready for this challenge.”

On sophomore WR Larry McDuffey moving out of the two-deep this week
“He was (injured last week). He suffered a head injury, he is very doubtful for this game.”

On the roles WRs Aaron Johnson and Demarcus Ayers will play with McDuffey out
“Demarcus Ayers is a young man, true freshman, who I think has done an outstanding job so far. On special teams, he is our kickoff returner, he’s been backing up Daniel Spencer at one of our inside receiver positions. He’s a young man who as he comes into your program, are you going to redshirt him, are you going to play him? He broke into the two-deep and obviously we recognized something early and felt like he would be our top kick returner, and he has become that. Again, it’s a long season, so we’ve got six guaranteed games left. With Larry (McDuffey) sustaining an injury and probably not playing this weekend, we’re going to bump Demarcus over there and get him up to speed on the outside receiver position which is challenging to do for a young man who has only been here a couple of months and is focused on the inside receiver position. Aaron Johnson has played, he’s been in our program, he’s a redshirt junior, plays on special teams this time of year. This season he has played the most at receiver in the four years he’s been here. He’s probably playing 30 snaps a game out there in the X position. He’s experienced, he’s caught some passes, has done a good job, so we’ll go into this game with Aaron starting and for Demarcus to back him up . I think they’ll see some significant playing time, they both will.”

On if Larry McDuffey is going through concussion protocol
“Yes, Larry McDuffey suffered a head injury against BYU so he’ll go through our concussion management plan and process. Again, it’s pretty extensive, so I don’t see him being cleared by this weekend’s game.”

On if the loss presents an opportunity to evaluate the team
“I’m going to try to answer what I think you’re asking. We didn’t come in Sunday and go ‘We lost, so let’s evaluate everything.’ We’re always evaluating what we’re doing as coaches and on a day-to-day, week-to-week basis. We’re evaluating personnel, who we’re playing, how much they’re playing and what position they’re playing at. So what we’re trying to stay and what we’re going to stay true to our overall big picture plan and the process. We have a lot of dialogue and communication in our staff meetings, we did this morning, if there’s ever anything that either I or an assistant or a staff member thinks ‘Hey, we need to do this different,’ whether it’s changing a scheme, changing personnel, eating a meal at a different time, anything we think can help us that we need to discuss, we certainly will talk about it and make the decision we think is best. Coming off a heartbreaking one-point loss to an outstanding football team, we’re going to stay the course and not go into a different mode and start changing things for the sake of changing them. Trying to come full circle to your original question, that’s a daily thing within our program is making sure we are doing the things we need to be doing down the field, off the field, time management, in the locker room, so our young men have a chance to be successful.”

On reaching the halfway point of the season
“There’s a lot of things at this point that I think are positive. I see the program for this season for the long term heading in the direction that I want it to go. Again, I use the word process because it’s daily. When you look at the six games we’ve played, we’ve won five, lost one. As a coach, you’re evaluated publicly by different things than you do internally. As a coach, whether it’s a head coach or assistants, when you tell and 18-year-old, ‘This is what I want you to do,’ whether it’s specific play, how you conduct yourself in the classroom, on campus, there’s so many things, as a coach you grade yourself on are they listening to you, are they doing what you ask them to do. We’ve got a group of young men right now, about 125 of them in our program currently, who are playing hard. Defensively they’re tackling, they’re taking the football away from the offense. Offensively they’re playing hard, they’re taking care of the football for the most part. I see improvement across the board really on a daily basis. I see leadership on our team. When you compare last year to this year I think you see that our special teams is much improved, we’ve scored two touchdowns. Richie Leone is doing a fantastic job. I’ll go back to what I said three minutes ago, you’re judged outside your program, within your program as coaches, not only do you want to see the young men do what you’re asking them to do, but you get into the profession of coaching to help develop 17, 18, 19, 20, 21 and 22 year olds into what you see they can be, and try to push them harder than they can push themselves. I’m very proud of the way our young men represent our university on the field and even off the field, in the classroom. When I talk about the job our staff has done to this point and where the program is headed, it’s not internally completely about winning and losing. There’s more to it, at least within our program, that’s what our staff recognizes and is proud of at this point. It’s something that we’re going to continue to work on.”

On the difference in last year’s opponents and this year’s opponents
“That’s a good question. Going into the season, we discussed it in the spring and at media day in the summertime, but even as a coach you don’t get that appreciation, or as our fans and alumni, until they see the games being played. It’s a completely different style of play in The American Athletic Conference as opposed to Conference USA the league we were in. You’re seeing the physical nature of both sides of the ball. You see skill players, meaning receivers, running backs, defensive backs, much bigger in this conference. Again, whether it’s crediting defenses in our league they play or the lack of tempo, for lack of a better word, on offenses, like Memphis huddling on every play and controlling the clock and time of possession. That’s this conference, it’s a physical conference from top to bottom. I mentioned this yesterday that BYU runs out on the field, and they’re not in our conference, but that’s a big, physical football team, they may as well be in this conference. When you look at the teams we haven’t faced yet, Rutgers, Central Florida, Louisville, South Florida, Cincinnati, SMU, that’s this conference now. It’s big, it’s physical and they’re not slow. They’re still very athletic and they have great speed. It’s something that we knew this move was on the horizon almost two years ago. We’ve been addressing it in recruiting, we looked at it this morning in our recruiting meeting looking at our commitments and we feel like we’re going to continue to address that moving forward.”

On how the team responded to the first loss of the year
“That’s something we talked about in our staff meeting at length this morning. It was actually the last thing we talked about as a staff because you’re exactly right. I’m asked about the halfway point of the season, and we’ve played six games. This afternoon this room is going to be filled with 125 19-year-olds and when you look at the way the season has played out and the dynamics of game-to-game, where bye-weeks fell, some close games, a rival opponent in Rice that came down to the wire, some teams that we’ve played within our program, we knew the type of game it would be, but maybe publically, the assumption was ‘This will be easy, this will be hard, this a trap game.’ When our young men go to class, when they go talk to their families, their friends, they’re hearing that from the outside. ‘Well this one is going to be easy, this is a tough game.’ We’re trying to make sure they’re focused on our message. No offense to family and friends and certainly their peers, but that’s our job. We’re trying to send the message and get them to buy into what we’re telling them the week is going to be like, so I agree. That’s what we talked about as a staff this morning at length because we’re coming off a homecoming game, a four hour and seven minute game. Our kids really played hard, gave it everything they’ve got, left everything on the field, and we came up short. Now, we’re going to get on an airplane on Friday, fly three and a half hours, when we land, it’s going to be 50 degrees. They’re going to have a great crowd there. They have two and a half weeks to prepare for us because they had a bye-week and our kids, this afternoon, are going to know that. That’s going to be the message. ‘This is what is going to happen this week.’ I feel like I know how we’re going to respond, but the proof will be when the ball is kicked off at 11:01 Central Standard Time Saturday morning. I like the make up of this team. In my six years here, there’s really been one team that’s had this type of leadership from the student athletes. Whereas coaches you’re not always having to correct them or motivate them, or it’s coming from within and that was the team a couple of years ago that we went 13-1 with. I like our team chemistry. I like our leadership and I expect that they’ll be ready to play Saturday morning.”

On Rutgers explosive offensive play
“A couple of things. The way you started that question, ‘You’re playing a team that’s explosive, they’re scoring points, they’re physical,’ I just feel like going back to Joseph’s question about this conference. Every week now, you’ll be able to start a question with that. These are good football programs we’re playing and we’re a good football program. They have tremendous talent there. Kyle Flood has done a great job. The players play hard. One thing overlooked there is their special teams too. They’ve returned three kicks for touchdowns. It’ll be a great challenge and it’s interesting as a coach because on Sunday and really probably more so Monday, when you really are watching your upcoming opponent’s video, as a coach you’re always saying ‘Wow. These guys are really, really good,’ and you hope, and I feel confident, that the opponents we are going to be facing are putting on our video, which I tell our kids, that’s our resume, and hope they’re saying the same thing about us. I think this is going to be another outstanding football game with two great programs going head-to-head. It’ll be challenging for us. Everything in your previous question that you asked is accurate. Them being rested and having the additional ten days or so to prepare for us and us coming off this close loss and having to get on an airplane and go to their place is going to be something that we have to make sure our young men understand.”

On noted changes in Rutgers offense with RB Paul James out and defense starting two true freshmen corners
“You talk about the running back position. They’re not going to change their philosophy much. Coach Flood is considered one of the top offensive line coaches, as an assistant, in the country. His personality is they want to be hard nosed, which they certainly are when you put the tape on. They’re going to establish the run. The two other backs they have are still big, physical, young men. There’s no question. Any program that loses their starting running back, you’re turning to the next two guys. We’ve done that as well with Farrow out. They’re going to continue to try to establish the run. They’ve done a great job. They’re physical upfront and we did certainly see the announcement that they’re going to play the two freshmen at corners. Anothony Cioffi, he’s been a special teams guy for them who, as I’m watching the special teams film, number 31, shows up all over the field. I am a believer with that being my background. If a guy can come in as a true freshman and play at a high level at special teams where you’re playing in space, having to tackle, change direction, he could definitely play defense for us. I expect those two to be ready to play against us Saturday.”


On winning the special teams battle
“With special teams, we’re trying to win that battle every week. I say this regardless of our opponent. The thing that stands out, they’ve blocked a couple of kicks, but their return game is outstanding. Janarion Grant is a true freshman that we actually recruited. We had him here on a visit and his first college play in the opening game against Fresno State, he catches a kick off and he’s very explosive. He’s also their punt returner. It’ll be a great challenge for us. Their starting receiver, (Quron) Pratt, number seven, is the other returner. When you want to kick it away from Grant and you kick it to him, he took one 99 yards. They’re very talented. Janarion took a punt return back for a touchdown as well against Arkansas. It’s going to be a great challenge. I like what we’ve done to this point in the kicking game. Richie (Leone)’s punts being inside not only the 20, but the 10-yard line, ultimately led to Derrick Mathews safety a couple of plays later. Our kick-off coverage has been good this season. The thing we’ve done through six games that we hadn’t really done last season was we’ve scored two touchdowns on the blocked field goal return. Demarcus Ayers this week and we’ve blocked three kicks already. We have to continue to play plays in the kicking game. Change of momentum. When you go on the road that’s certainly important to try and get a sway in moment if you can in a big play in the kicking game.”

On DB Thomas Bates’ two interceptions
“Those were two big interceptions; one down in the red zone, in the end zone, which was huge. The thing that’s, among other things, a little bit different with our defense is a philosophy change, if you will. We’re playing nine defensive linemen, so we’re keeping defensive linemen fresh. We’re playing a bunch of defensive backs specifically at corner. William Jackson, he played fifty something plays the other day. Turon Walker, our junior college transfer, played 30 or 35 snaps in his last game. We’re keeping Thomas fresh. Zach McMillian has a couple of interceptions already this season, but he’s playing his best football in his four years here. He’s being very, very physical. He’s coming up in tackling. I like the rotation there and I like that those guys are making plays. At the safety position we have quite the depth. Trevon Stewart played 144 plays when you combine the defensive snaps and special teams plays against BYU. That’s really over two games right there when you look at 144 plays in one contest. Earl Foster is a guy that has been doing a great job on special teams. He’s a 6’2” safety, a redshirt sophomore. He made every tackle; he had the block that got us the touchdown on the kickoff return. He’s a guy that’s going to have to play some at safety moving forward to give Adrian McDonald and Trevon Stewart a little bit of a rest.”

On Derrick Mathews interceptions and fumble recoveries
“People around here become spoiled, and I’m talking about within our program, because he’s a tackling machine. He doesn’t miss tackles. He forced a fumble against Memphis on the opening drive. It was actually lying on his back. He made the tackle, forced the fumble, he’s laying on his back, all his teammates swarm to the ball, the ball is being kicked around, and he is able to get up off the ground and run over and recover the fumble. In this game, he was the American Athletic Conference Defensive Player of the Week for his effort. 12 tackles, 4 tackles for loss, 3 sacks, an interception, a touchdown, and a safety is a pretty good day’s work. If you’re asking if how he is playing is surprising to us or something we have not seen to this point, no, not at all. He started outside linebacker as a true freshman, 14 games, started last year as an outside linebacker as a true sophomore for 12 games, gained the weight, moved inside and this July he was one of the couple guys that I took with me to our American Athletic Conference meetings up in Rhode Island. I feel like he’s a guy that’s going to be a leader for us and he’s a captain and is really, really playing well right now.”

On watching Case Keenum play on Sunday
“You know what, I had a chance. I was doing some recruiting from my office. There’s a big TV in my office that I didn’t even know worked. I turn it on and tried to see if we subscribed to that station and we did, so I had a chance to watch Case for a little bit and it was great to see him out there. It brought back some good memories. He extended plays, ran around, and threw the ball down the field. I’m proud of him. He’s a great ambassador for our program, and I enjoy watching him play. I wish the Houston Texans all the best the rest of the season.”

On what it’s like to make game-changing plays like he did against BYU
“It feels pretty good helping the defense out and helping the team out. We lead the nation in turnovers, and when you get more turnovers you help the offense out.”

On his play where he came out of nowhere to intercept the pass
“All week the coaches were saying that the quarterback was a scrambler, and that he likes to extend plays. I saw the wide out running down the field, and then I saw the quarterback scrambling. Something told me to run to him, but then I saw the ball in the air, and I just ran to catch it.”

On the challenge of dealing with the size advantage of the BYU receivers
“Their receivers were pretty good. It wasn’t just the two main receivers, but they had a lot of receivers come in which helped them keep their legs fresh. The height gave us a little bit of complications, but overall it wasn’t that bad.”

On the challenge of coming off an emotional loss and having to turn around and get ready
“We just watched the film and got over it. We lost by one. It wasn’t a conference game, so we still have our goals. We just have to go to New Jersey, play good solid defense, win special teams and get the “W”. That’s just a game we lost. On to the next one.”

On the confidence taken gained by hanging with a team like BYU
“We never thought we were going to get blown out or lose the game. We’ve believed since the summer started that we can win every game. We just came up short that time. It still doesn’t change our mentality. We’re still going to try to win every game.”

On moving past BYU on to Rutgers
“It’s something that we have to do. We have to get our focus on Rutgers. We’re just going to learn as much as we can from the loss. We watched the film, and now we’re on to Rutgers watching them and getting ready for a real good team in Rutgers.”

On the focus this week
“There were just a few plays that we saw where if we make those plays then things turn out differently for us. So, we just have to keep our focus on doing our jobs; especially up front on the line. We have to make sure we give the guys time and open up holes for the backs and everything like that.”

On what he can take away from a close BYU loss
“I think that’s what made the loss even that much tougher, because we were so close. There is a lot we can learn from this game, so we have a lot we can do to get better for Rutgers.”

On what he expects from the fans at Rutgers
“It will be a good environment. There will be a good crowd there. I’ve never been in that area, so I’m excited personally to get to go up and play in that area and in front of those fans. A lot of people are excited to get the chance to go up there and play in that venue against Rutgers.”

On what he has seen out of Rutgers on film
“Watching film, their defense is good. We’ll have a big challenge up front. Their front seven is very good. We’ll be challenged up front to give the guys time.”

On playing good defenses this year as preparation
“The level of competition will be kind of raised up now that we’re in this part of the schedule. We know that we have to bring our A-game up front and be ready for anything they’re going to throw at us.”



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