Sept. 3, 2001
Obviously we beat Alabama, 20-17, you all know that. The amazing thing is that Alabama hasn't lost (a home opener) in 108 years or something like that. Thank God I didn't know that because that would've scared our team to death, including the coaches. I knew they had a lot of success at home and those types of things, but I didn't realize it was 1893 or whatever the date was (the last time they lost a home opener). When you start a season in the first game and you don't have any penalties, they had 15 for 93, and you don't have any turnovers, they had two and of course we converted them into two field goals, it said a lot about our football team and it made me really proud. I told our team Friday night in our team meeting, the key to winning first of all is to maintain our poise. We are going to go into a real tough venue. It's going to be a very difficult situation. It's going to be hot. It's going to be humid and it's going to rain. They have a new coaching staff and the fans are going to be wild because of everything new and we beat them last year so you're going to have to maintain your poise. The turnovers, the kicking game and field position is going to decide the outcome of this football game. We are going to have to protect the football, we're going to take it away, we have to be sound in the kicking game and we have to play field position. That's what we did and it ended up working out real well. We had great focus. I told you at the press conference afterwards that it was the most focused football team that I've had on the Friday prior to a game. Again, the effort was great. You look at the video and our guys are flying around hitting people and giving second effort so I was proud of that. We had a huge goal line stand. Our defense did a great job and that goal line stand was huge and you all know that as well as I do. When you are down 10-0 and you don't panic, that says a lot about your football team and it talks about the maturity of your football team and the experience of your football team. We didn't change our game plan. I could've easily gotten out of it one way or the other, offensively or defensively, but we stuck with out game plan. They made one big play on a blown coverage if you want to call it that. Outside of that, we were doing fine. Offensively, we just tried to stay with what we were trying to do and I told you after the game once again, we were trying to control the ball, trying to shorten the game, trying to keep it away from them and trying not to make mistakes to beat ourselves. It ended up working out well for us.
There is no question that there are a lot of areas where we need to improve. When we look at the video with our team today and we talk to our players, there will be some things that we need to emphasize. One of the big things is that we need to throw the ball better. Our quarterback needs to throw it better and we need to catch the football. When you drop five passes which we did, that takes you out of drives and you have to punt the football. We're counting on some guys and we're depending on some guys to make some plays. Routine plays. We're not talking about great plays, just routine plays. If you make routine plays you move the chains, make first downs, continue to possess the ball and ultimately score at the end. So we need to improve in our passing game. I thought we made a huge improvement defensively on third downs from a year ago. Offensively, we only really converted one and it was a third and 15. And again that's because we were dropping the ball and not throwing the ball well. So we need to throw it better and catch it better. But our defense improved. They were huge. I think the big thing was tackling. You look how we tackled and we did an outstanding job of tackling. We missed very few tackles. I wish we would've made one more on a sack which probably would've eliminated that touchdown, but we tackled very well.
As far as the upcoming game against Kansas, they are 1-0. They beat Southwest Missouri State, 24-10. The last time we played Kansas, I was the offensive coordinator here and it was in the Aloha Bowl and we lost that football game. One of the interesting things is that they have seven new coaches on their staff. They have a new offensive coordinator and a new defensive coordinator.
For complete press conference, please click on the audio version located at the top of this page.