HOUSTON - University of Houston football head coach Tony Levine and selected student-athletes met with the local media on Tuesday to discuss Saturday's Homecoming contest against Tulsa.
Houston Head Coach Tony Levine
"Going back to the game Saturday at East Carolina, obviously I'm disappointed more than anything in the outcome. Statistically, I think the story was third downs on both sides of the football. Our inability offensively to sustain drives and move the chains resulted in us only having the ball for 15 minutes. I believe we were four of twelve on third down conversions.
Defensively, we were on the field for 45 minutes, three quarters of the game. We couldn't get off the field on third downs. It unfortunately worked hand-in-hand in a negative way. They were 12 of 20 on third down conversations. We have to do a better job of getting off the field on third downs.
What we talked about last week and we talked about at our team meeting on Monday is to be more efficient and successful on third downs on both sides of the football. Specifically, offensively our margin for error is so slim; we can't have an incomplete pass and get to 2nd and 10, run the ball for three yards and get to 3rd & 7. We need to be efficient and gain four yards or more on first down, so when we get to third down, it's third and short. We can't gain six yards on first down and have an illegal receiver down field penalty, which backs us up. We can convert, but the percentages are against you.
Again, I give East Carolina credit as well. I thought their offensive line and defensive line controlled things up front and made it tough for us on both sides.
Trevon Stewart is doing a great job, specifically as a true freshman. When he comes out of the game with 21 tackles at the free safety position, it's a good individual performance.
When you look at the team coming here in a couple of days they may be the most complete team in our league. They're extremely well coached and extremely physical in all three phases of the game. The video shows it and the statistics prove it as well. When you look at their roster, their 22 starters on offense and defense, they have a few sophomores and the rest are juniors and seniors. Unfortunately there are a bunch of names that are very, very familiar to us. It reminds me a little bit of us last year in their running back position; they kind of have the three-headed monster. They're fast, they're illusive, and they're powerful. They have Willie Carter who's an H-Back type guy; he's a big young man. Cody Green, their transfer quarterback, is having a tremendous year as well.
Defensively, I think they lead the nation in sacks. They play a 4-3. They're very, very sound. They're very good against the run. It'll be a big challenge for us and we have to get back on track. We don't mind playing on the road, however, it's good to be back home for homecoming. I think our fans will be excited about our uniforms that will be showcased this weekend as well."
On if team depth will become an issue due to injuries
"Yes and no. If you ask that question to any coach they would tell you that they are banged up. We have some guys that are hurt but you have backups who become starters. We have some guys we are going to count on to play at a high level."
On what Kenneth Farrow brings to the team
"He is a guy that is getting better every week. One play that really comes to mind is the final play of the game against East Carolina. He got the ball four yards from the line of scrimmage and makes a couple of guys miss, then runs over their starting safety for a touchdown. He is a powerful guy who loves to play the game. I have a lot of confidence in him for this weekend. There isn't a set number of carries we have in mind for this weekend. We are going to see who has the hot hand, whether it be Kenneth Farrow, Ryan Jackson or Braxton Welford."
On the impact of Phillip Steward
"He provides great leadership to our younger guys. Regardless of position he makes an impact on their game. Guys like Trevon Stewart or Adrian McDonald really look up to Phillip. He is doing a great job for us defensively and he has the stats to back it up."
On the status of Charles Sims
"With any of our young men that are injured, they are evaluated every day. Charles suffered a new leg injury that is different from the previous one. He is doubtful for this Saturday's game. There's always a chance, but it doesn't look like he'll play this game."
On Tulsa's defensive pressure
"They do a tremendous job especially on the defensive line. They run a 4-3 defense and do a great job of creating pressure. Our offensive line has to be disciplined to execute their blocks and control the line of scrimmage. It'll be a great challenge for our offensive line."
Redshirt Sophomore Quarterback David Piland
On the Tulsa pass rush
"I've got full faith in our guys up front. They have been preparing all week and it's going to show. They're going to try and put pressure on us, but there has to be voids in their defense if they bring extra help to create pressure. It'll be up to us to find those voids and capitalize."
On the game plan if Charles Sims is out
"We have guys that can play. Prime example is (Kenneth) Farrow's run at the end of the last game. It's a difference but we can still run the ball and be efficient as an offense. The biggest difference is the amount of touches. With Charles in the game we know he's going to get the majority of the touches. With him being out we're not sure who is going to get the most action. It should be a lot of fun to spread the ball and get more people involved."
On the last homecoming at Robertson Stadium
"It'll be fun; we're excited to play Tulsa. Over the years the conference has come down to either Houston or Tulsa so there is a rivalry there for sure. We also have the new uniforms, which a lot of the guys are excited about. It's a big-time game and we're going to approach it as such."
Redshirt Sophomore Offensive Tackle Rowdy Harper
On the difference in his play last year from this year
"Charles has been a key factor, but also coach (Lee) Hays. He has helped us tremendously in growing as a team. Our effort last week wasn't very good and it didn't meet his standards whatsoever. We still aren't where we want to be but we're working hard each day to be better as a group."
On playing Tulsa
"It's extremely special for me because I'm from Tulsa. My Dad played for Tulsa, and I know a lot of guys who play for them, so there is a lot of familiarity there. It's going to be a special game because it is the last homecoming game at Robertson Stadium and we're wearing commemorative uniforms as well."
Sophomore Linebacker Derrick Mathews
On stopping the Tulsa offense
"Our goal is the same every week which is to stop the run. We're going to try and make them one-dimensional and try to get them to throw the ball more. We're preparing each day to play our hardest."
On chasing bowl eligibility
"Our goal is the same it has been since day one. We want to take it one game at a time and focus on who we're playing on Saturday. Right now all we're focused on is Tulsa and how to prepare for them. We're back at home which is good because of the home field advantage. It'll be exciting because it's the final homecoming game at Robertson so there will be plenty of emotion on Saturday."