“This week is a big conference game. It’s also Coaches to Cure MD (week). I was really, really proud of the effort that our team played with against Baylor. One of the things we talked about all week going into the game was how everything we did had to be precise. It had to be deliberant. Every rep that we took in practice, every play that we made out here to win a game like that; we had to eliminate penalties. We had to eliminate turnovers. We were down to three penalties for 21 yards but one of them was on a big reception that Zach Wright made that got called for a lineman in the backfield. Those are the kind of things that we have to eliminate. We scored a touchdown with Nate German (where) we hard-count Baylor, but there’s contact so they take that touchdown off the board. Darik Dillard’s big run hits a red zone penetration. But we have our only turnover of the game. Those are the plays that we have to eliminate. We knew that going in.
Once again, (it was a) great effort. Baylor has a fantastic offensive and defensive football team. Defensively, I’m so proud of the young men. All of them played about as well as they could. It was highlighted defensively by Emmanuel Ellerbee. Officially, he had 14 tackles. (The) linebackers really played strong. The secondary, there weren’t any wide open receivers. You had J.T. Blasingame who had the interception. They have great receivers. You can be running with them and be man-to-man (but) they were making plays. We’ve got to continue to work and make our share of plays. The defensive line up front, I thought they were really solid. Zach Abercrumbia had his first sack which I’m really proud of him for doing that.
Offensively, we rushed the ball effectively. We had 234 rushing yards. We averaged 5.6 yards a carry. Darik Dillard had 124 yards rushing. But they just locked us down at receiver. We couldn’t establish any type of passing game. Their defensive back just dominated us on the routes. They really rerouted us. Anytime there was a ball in the air, you’d think you’re going to go 50-percent (and) we didn’t. You dream, too, of seeing zero coverage because those are usually some easier completions. We didn’t complete any. We had, like I said, Zach Wright’s long pass called back (and) Nate German’s long pass called back. So when we had opportunities we didn’t really take advantage of it. (On) special teams, Haden Tobola made his first field goal of the season. He’s been perfect on all of his PAT’s. We’ve just got to keep getting better.
We play North Texas this week with Coach Seth Littrell. He has a very extensive offensive background. They try to throw the ball down the field. They have a quarterback that’s a duel threat. They’re strong at receiver. They’re strong at running back. Defensively, they’re a three-down and they will blitz you. They’ll come downhill on you. They’re 1-2. They lost last week to Florida but they competed very well in that game.
We just have to worry about Rice. We have to keep getting better every week. I think that’s what we’re doing. We need to get a first win. This is an important ballgame. It’s a conference game. It’s at home. We’re trying to get our first win of the season. But, like I said, our players are playing extremely hard. They’re very coachable and they’re doing everything that we’ve asked.”
On if a corner has been turned for the team:
“I think so. The teams we’ve played so far; Western Kentucky is 2-1. They’ve only been beaten by Alabama. Army just beat UTEP 66-17 so we’ve had some pretty good opponents. But that is what I’ve said all along, too. We’ve just got to worry about us and keep getting us better. I think that’s what we’re doing is getting Rice better. Our offensive line has given up four sacks in the three games. A year ago they gave up ten. We’re eliminating penalties. I think we’re on the right track. As long as these young men will play with the effort that they’ve played with, we’re going to win our share.”
On Nate German playing quarterback:
“You will (see that more). That’s our Owl package. He was a young man that had been nothing but a quarterback for us until we got so decimated at receiver last year (so) we moved him out there. The last game of the season he had a shoulder injury that had to be repaired. So he missed all of spring and he missed a lot of the summer. So we hadn’t had a lot of opportunity to play him. But he’s a very gifted runner and a gifted passer. We’ll continue to grow that formation. He’s one that can put extra stress on a defense.”
On if the heat will be an issue on Saturday:
“I don’t know, with the kickoff being at five o’clock, how that’s going to be an advantage for either team. It’s in the heat of the day. When you kickoff in the heat of the day you really make sure your guys start hydrating early. You make sure they’re drinking as much water as they can drink. You have four quarters to play and it’s going to be hot when this one is over.”
On North Texas:
“On defense, you see a lot of the same names but structurally, they’re different. They’re a solid football team offensively and defensively. They have (Mason Fine) at quarterback that they seem to be settled in with. He throws it effectively and runs it effectively. We’ve got to play like we played last week and continue to eliminate our mistakes. We’ve really tackled well in space. Last week on some of those fourth downs we missed some tackles where we could have stopped some drives. But a lot of that is Baylor’s athleticism.”
On Darik Dillard and the running game:
“The offensive line was performing well and he was finding the seams. He’s just one of the most coachable kids that there is week in, week out. He’s been that way since he’s been here. He’s going to work hard. He’s never going to give up. He’s going to continue to give his best effort. He looked a lot more explosive in this game. On the long run he broke a tackle and looked very fast.”
On J.T. Blasingame’s interception:
“That’s something we have been stressing. Turnovers, all camp, all week. Destri White had eight tackles and two forced fumbles. We’ve just got to start getting those. We’re getting the ball on the ground but we’re not getting it. But I was glad to see J.T. step in front of that. I think you saw the sideline really explode and momentum went our way at that point.”
On the caliber of opponents preparing them for conference play:
“Absolutely. I’ve said before on the offensive line we’re starting a redshirt freshman and two sophomores. On the defensive line we starting three sophomores. Those guys get better every rep. Every rep they take on a football field they’re going to improve. They’re going to get the experience. They’re going to start getting the mental and physical reps they need. The game moves fast for them and every rep they get it continues to slow down for them. I think that’s why you’re starting to see them make more plays.”
On if this is a must win game:
“No. It’s a conference game. We’re going to give it our best. It’s a conference game. It’s important because it’s conference. It’s important because we need a win. But if you start saying it’s a must win; you don’t need that. You just need to play your best.”