Houston Football Weekly Press Conference Quotes - Lousiville

Nov. 12, 2013

Houston Head Coach Tony Levine
Opening Statement
“Alright, we’ll go ahead and get started. Just to briefly recap our last game, Coach O’Leary said it very well after the game, it was a great college football game and two outstanding football teams. Two great football programs going toe-to-toe for 60 minutes, about three and a half hours in total. We had a great week of practice going into the game. Our student-athletes, our staff and our coaches were very confident all last week and felt like we were going to be successful until the fourth-down play was not.

“Another great challenge this week in another great program in Louisville where I am very familiar with. I worked there for three years about 10 years ago. I’ve got a great deal of respect for Coach Strong and his staff, they’ve done a tremendous job in the really relatively short time he and his staff have been there. They’ve built it up now to be one of the top five or 10 programs nationally. Tom Jurich, the athletic director, has done an outstanding job with all sports in general. It’s no fluke the way their football program has performed recently. It will be a great challenge and one that we’re going to prepare for and one everyone in our program is excited about and looking forward to.”

On sophomore Daniel Spencer
“Daniel Spencer, I expect him to be limited today. He will practice but it will not be the entire practice and it will not be contact today. We’re cutting back a lot on the contact anyway today. I anticipate that he will play on Saturday.”

On what was hurting Daniel Spencer after the UCF game
“It was a shoulder injury.”

On the task going on the road to Louisville
“I’ve been asked about that now for the last few weeks in terms of our young student-athletes. Going on the road, having our freshmen quarterbacks, I’ve said this going in and I didn’t know this really until the season started how this young team would react to going on the road and playing in hostile environments in sell-out crowds. What we’ve come to find out and recognize is that our young men like that. When you look at our schedule with the last few games in particular, we go on the road up to New Jersey and play a Rutgers team for homecoming, a sell-out crowd with 52,000 fans, play extremely well, certainly win the game. This last game we go on the road, another sell-out, over 44,000 fans, hostile environment, the way Central Florida’s stadium is setup the fans are almost right on top of you on the sideline, and again (we) competed extremely hard were not intimidated and it’s going to be the same thing this week. Going to Louisville, again they sell out regardless of who they are playing, so we know it’s going to be a great crowd this weekend and another opportunity to get great exposure on national TV. Our kids are thriving off of that. They enjoy playing in front of big crowds, we’re getting that on the road the last couple of games so it’s something that they’re certainly looking forward to.”

On challenges with facing a quarterback like Louisville’s Teddy Bridgewater
“Facing a quarterback like Teddy Bridgewater, we’ve faced some really good ones the last couple of games at Rutgers, I bring him up because he’s talented and we’re on the road, Blake Bortles is a future NFL quarterback at Central Florida, Teddy Bridgewater is going to be a first round draft pick at quarterback as well. There’s certainly a lot of correlation between winning and losing football games but I am a believer that at the end of the day that if you have an outstanding quarterback, you’ve got a great chance to win football games. That’s why Louisville has been successful. Teddy Bridgewater has thrown just under 3,000 yards, I want to say three interceptions with around 24 touchdowns and completing around 72% of his passes. He’s a guy who does not get rattled, loves to play the game, understands what they want to do on offense, is very accurate with the football and you can see on video the respect he has earned from his teammates, whether it’s offensive line, receivers, everybody. They play so hard not only for their program but for him in particular. It’s going to be a great challenge. You look at him and study his game and if you were to ask me to give a flaw of Teddy Bridgewater I’d have no answer because there’s a reason that at some point he’s going to be a high draft pick in the national football league.”

On the running game plan against a strong Louisville defense
“I agree with your question in terms of as a whole this season we’re balanced. Earlier in the year we ran the ball a little bit more, most recently we have not as much. We need to get back to doing that. Certainly we’ve got talented running backs, specifically Kenneth Farrow and Ryan Jackson. Our offense line has really played their best football together right now at this point of the season. We’ve got to do a better job of establishing the run, taking a little bit of pressure off our young quarterbacks. Even in this last game we had a couple wrinkles in there that we were successful with, probably didn’t run it enough, and that’s something we need to do not only to help our offense and take pressure off but our defense as well and have a little more time of possession and let them stand on the sidelines a little bit longer than they have been.”

On senior defensive back Zach McMillian playing some safety against UCF
“He absolutely was. Certainly we don’t want to lose Zach McMillian for half of this game, but if there’s a positive to this point, and I mentioned this before, at corner specifically as well as our defensive linemen, we are able to rotate a number of young men in. William Jackson will start in place of Zach McMillian. He’s been playing a bunch of football for us in the last five or six games. Turon Walker has been playing a lot for us in the last three or four games. We’ve got some depth there and that’s really going to be our plan until Zach is allowed to play in the third quarter.”

On Louisville’s defensive line and defense end positions
“When you look at this program there’s a reason really that last year and this year they’ve been ranked so high nationally in terms of top 25. They are not a one-dimensional team. Everybody knows about Teddy Bridgewater and their offense and all the weapons they have with their skill guys. Defensively, they’re giving up 10 points per game. Obviously that’s Coach Strong’s background as a defense coach and the defensive front is extremely active, very talented, they’re right there in the top of the country in sacks defensively as well. They get turnovers with their defensive backs, they’re all over the field, they’re not small either. They’ve got great size and speed. Then on special teams, they’re very dangerous in the return game as well. There’s a reason, a number of reasons I should say, why they’re a top 25 team. They’re averaging almost 40 points a game and they’re giving up 10 points a game. They’re winning games as a team. It’s certainly a compliment to Coach Strong and the job he and his staff have done in the four years or so they’ve been there.”

On the dropped passes in the UCF game
“No, I’m not concerned and I wouldn’t call it an off night. Again, we don’t ever want any dropped passes. We grade our young men hard, if you will, and we feel like if it hits their hands they should catch it. Having said that, there were some catches that our young men think they should make but were not easy as well. We had a couple of drops, specifically the ones that stand out that are more uncharacteristic than any were the ones early in the game when we had a chance to stay on the field and move the chains, get in a rhythm, and we dropped balls that we have not dropped in quite some time. No reason in our opinion to panic, we have confidence in our young men and they will make those plays this week.”

On freshman quarterback Greg Ward’s lack of playing time against UCF
“We talked about it before the game, during the game and after the game. There is some game planning that goes into that based on who we are playing, what they are doing defensively, so like I mentioned before, we’ll have a specific plan for Greg and John going into each game. I’ve said it 100 times that could mean they’re not playing this week. It varies by opponent, varies by situations and we’ll have a specific plan for them this week as well.”

On the team understanding targeting rule
“Out young men absolutely understand how the officiating crews call the targeting rule.”

On a young team responding well
“Well, it’s an interesting question to ask. It’s probably one I can answer better in a few days. I do know what the answer will be, but at this point of our week, just taking you back to what our schedule has been throughout each week this season. Sunday’s we come in, we have a team meeting for about 15 minutes, talk about the game we just had, talk about the schedule this week and what is in front of us, and then we watch the video; special teams from the week before and offense and defense from the game before. At this point in the season, we don’t practice (on Sunday), we condition for about 15-20 minutes and they eat dinner and go back to their dorm or apartments and have Monday off. Monday they just go to class, get treatment if they’re banged up, but there is nothing football-related for them. While we did see them briefly Sunday, the next time we are really going to have great contact with them in terms of the message and the environment atmosphere will be this afternoon, Tuesday. We talked about as a staff this morning, in terms of what just happened a few days ago, the program playing, again, on the road, great crowd, national TV and how we’ve got to get our team focused for this opponent and this game Saturday. I know what the answer to your question is going to be at the end of the week, but like I told our staff, continuing today, it’s our job as coaches to get them in the right frame of mind, practicing how we need to, to go ahead and be successful, so that Saturday they’re ready to play.”

On offensive line and specifically OL Rowdy Harper
“Coach Elarbee and I met, specifically on offensive line, on Sunday night. Now that we’ve had some guys stay healthy for the few weeks now, you’re seeing Rowdy and (OL) DeAnthony Sims at left tackle. They’re really, really playing well individually and playing well together. (OL) Zach Johnson had probably his best game of the season in Saturday’s game against Central Florida at right tackle. Again, he’s a red shirt sophomore. (OL) Kevin Forsh is solid as well every week and so we’re seeing those guys playing their best football together, upfront, right now, which is certainly what we need them to do.”

On bigger sized opponents defensively
“We’re unique defensively in that. I’ve talked about this with our student-athletes. We’ve talked about this as a staff. Across the board, we’re very, very fast. While you may look at the depth chart of an opponent, like a BYU or a Rutgers or a UCF, and see linebackers listed as 240 pounds, 245 pounds, ours are at 215 and 220, but they’re extremely fast, outstanding tacklers and what I’m seeing when we turn on our video is multiple defenders for us sprinting full speed into the ball carrier. You have guys that are 215-220 who can run like that and are meeting each other full speed at the ball carrier. You’re seeing not that many missed tackles and you’re seeing us create turnovers. Again, we may be slightly undersized, especially some of these opponents we’ve faced recently, especially on offense, but the speed, ability to tackle, change direction and certainly the job we’re doing creating turnovers are three big pluses for us.”

On Richie Leone being a semi-finalist for Ray Award three years in a row
“It’s a tribute to the job that he’s done and the hard work he has put in. He’s a young man that you’d probably laugh at when you’d talk about young men gaining weight at the punting position. We recruited him and he was a about 190 pounds and 6’3.” He’s pushing close to 6’4” now and he’s anywhere from 210 to 215 at the high end. You may not think of this when you talk about a kicker or a punter, but I’ve been around some great ones, and I’ve certainly been around and coached NFL ones, and changing his diet for the last couple of years, getting more flexible, really working on his core in terms of strength and conditioning, have all contributed to his ability right now. Again, to come in, play as a true freshman at that position where you’re out there by yourself and when he was a true freshman, he had to hit some pretty big punts for us to help us with field position. He’s had great experience to be up for this award three years in a row in certainly a compliment to him. I will say this, and I mentioned this to our student athletes a couple weeks, as long as I’ve coached special teams, the ten guys that have been covering punts for us, certainly protected the punts and then covered the punts and covering our kickoff is as good as I’ve been around, so they get a lot of credit. We gave them a long punt return to South Florida couple of weeks ago and that might’ve been the first punt return we’ve given this year that has not been a negative yardage return. When you talk bout his average, it’s a little bit down from what it was a year or two ago and that is a result of us punting more often this season, just a little bit coincidentally from the 50 yard line to where you see some punters, we’ve had punters here in the past, that have been so concerned about their average and when they punt from the 50, they’re kicking it into the end zone so they get a 50 yard punt, and then they bring it out to the 20, they’ve only net 30 yards. Certainly everybody is saying the job Richie has done placing the ball not only inside the 20, but inside the 10 yard line which has really helped our defense, it’s gotten us points, we’ve gotten the ball back offensively, and we saw a great example of that in Central Florida when we pinned them down at the 2 yard line.”

On watching Case Keenum and D.J. Hayden play this Sunday
“They’re certainly saying ‘No way Coach Levine didn’t know the Texans were playing the Raiders Sunday,’ but you just told me that. I’m not going to be able to make the game, but I talk to D.J. and Case on a regular basis. The Texans had a bye a couple of weeks ago, and Case came over and spent about an hour an practice, just being Case Keenum and just watching. He didn’t speak to the team. He was a wearing a baseball hat, a t-shirt and his flip-flops and just watched us practice. I talk to those guys all the time, and I’m certainly very proud of them. They’re great ambassadors, great representatives of our program. I can’t say enough great things about those two. Case trying to throw the ball and DJ trying to defend it, but I know one thing about those to, they’re as competitive as two young men I’ve ever been around. Before the game, they certainly have a lot to talk about, during the game they’re both going to try and win it for their respective teams. Win or lose, one of them is going to be on each side. They’ll talk and wish each other the best.”

Junior Defensive Lineman Jeremiah Farley
On how to stop a top offense like Louisville
“This week we’re playing a really good offense. They have a really great quarterback, great offensive line and great wide receivers. The quarterback is a big part of their offense. As a defense our main goal is to stop the quarterback, disrupt the running game and try not to get beat over our heads.”

On the ability of the defense to force turnovers
“We don’t go into every game saying we have to get a certain amount of turnovers. We just try to practice it. If you practice enough then it just tends to happen.”

On how to stop a quarterback like Teddy Bridgewater
“To stop Teddy Bridgewater we have to play a pretty great game. We probably have to play one of the best games we’ve played all season. Just try not to make mistakes or give them too many opportunities to score and make sure the game is in our favor.”

On if stopping a guy like Bridgewater is easier said than done
“It’s easier said than done because you never know what happens going into a game and you never know how they’re going to prepare for us. All we can do is just go out there and practice what we see on film and stop the plays that we can stop and try to get them in third-and-long situations to get off the field.”

On if Teddy Bridgewater looks like a Heisman Trophy candidate on film
“He’s a great quarterback. He delivers the ball well and has great footwork and stuff like that. He also has a great offensive line protecting him. All we can try to do is get back there and make plays.”

Senior Offensive Lineman Kevin Forsch
On continuing American Athletic Conference play
“We’ve adjusted well. The competition has been high but we’re right there with them. We enjoy the competitive nature of it and the challenge that we have each week. That brings out the best in us. We’re excited every time we go out and hit the field.”

On the offensive line’s health
“It definitely helps to have those guys back because the depth is there and everybody is back to go full speed. We’re really happy to see guys like Ralph who its his last year and he’s able to come back and contribute. We’re excited to have everybody as healthy as they are.”

On bouncing back from a tough loss
“I’ve been in some really good seasons and bad seasons. One of the things you tell the guys is we have everything in front of us. We just need to keep working and focusing each week on just that game and learn from the film and see the mistakes we made, get better. That’s where our focus is.”

On Louisville
“They’re a good team. We’ll definitely be ready. We’ll come out and give it everything we have. We’ll be able to find some stuff. They’re a very good team and they bring it. We’re excited for the challenge and to be able to go up there and play.”

On what they have seen from Louisville
“We know that they’re a big, fast team. We just have to come out and play our game and stick to what we know and execute. Executing our plays is our biggest focus this week.”

On the young offense
“We love blocking for him (John O’Korn) and Greg (Ward) too. Whoever we put back there we know they’re both going to make plays. Whoever they put the ball in their hands is going to make plays. That makes our job easy up front. We just give them a little bit of room and they find a way to make it happen.”



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