Oct. 17, 2011
Rice Head Coach David Bailiff
Recapping the Marshall Game
"It's never just one play. You look at that game and the opportunities we had throughout the football game to score some points and make some stops, I was really proud of our team's effort. You can't go on the road, get into the Red Zone and settle for two field goals. You have to come away with points but we did score on four-straight drives - two field goals and two touchdowns in the third quarter. Defensively in the second half, we held Marshall to 111 total yards. Our offense in the third quarter was just roaring alive then we get into the fourth quarter, made some mistakes and had two turnovers. You can't make those on the road.
"We had an opportunity to win it but just made more mistakes than they did and we can't do that and win a game on the road. But I am very proud the effort these young men played with.
"I thought Sam McGuffie had his finest game running the ball. I'll sure put that ball in his hands at the end of a game to try to win it. It didn't come down to that play. There are a whole lot of football plays in a game.
"We are making progress. We are better than we were a year ago but it is just not showing up in the win/loss column right now. These young men will come over here today and they will work hard and they will work to represent themselves and this university the best they can.
"At this point last year we were 1-5. We are 2-4 and had an opportunity to be 3-3. We let it slip away and you just have to keep working. What we are not doing well, we have to get better at and what we are doing well, we have to get great at.
"Tulsa is 3-3. They are a good football team. We'll play hard and we will do our best to win it."
At what point in the week will you make a decision?
"I think we will have so much more information this afternoon that we will be able to make a decision sooner and not later."
Where do you think the breakdowns came with preparing for Vinny Curry (defense) and A.J. Graham (offense)?
"Curry is incredible. He had 3 ½ sacks. We slid to him, we did a lot of nice things to try to stop him. I think he probably played the finest football game he has played. My hat's off to a young man and the type of effort he did play with. He had the caused fumble at the end of the game and he had a long way to go to make those plays. We ran some read plays at him to get him out of it and he would get right back involved.
"The quarterback, seven of his rushing attempts were scrambles. They weren't called runs. We knew he was a good foot athlete going into it. We just have to work on our lane integrity and take those run lanes away from him. As far as the run game with him, I thought we did a pretty nice job."
Was it frustrating to have done some things against Curry and he still have that kind of game?
"Structurally, we did everything we could do protection-wise. Sliding to him, trying to do different things to disrupt him. He would still get around the corners fast and some times with the timing of routes, you have to get rid of the football. He is a fine player. He played probably one of the best games of his career."
What can you do preparation-wise that when you play that well in the third quarter, it carries over to the fourth?
"I think one of the things in talking to some of the players in the coaches is that we want to win so bad that in the fourth quarter sometimes we try to play outside of the schemes. Nothing good happens when you press. Even when you look back to the Memphis game and we had some turnovers in that one. We were up and knew we had an opportunity to win. When you are pressing in any sport, you are not the player you are. You have to treat it like you are in the backyard having fun. We have identified that. We just have to continue to work on closing games out, staying within the scheme and relying on technique and fundamentals.
"Sam (McGuffie) has never had a contact fumble since he has been here. I'll give him that ball every time. But I think Sam just wanted to win so bad. But that is why we will continue to give him the football. We will all learn valuable lessons as we go on. And we are, we are a much better football team than we were a year ago. Much better."
Talking about wide receiver Mario Hull who made first career start ...
"His stock is going up. He is making plays when we get him the ball. He had that great catch in the third quarter where he went up and got it and he also about took one the entire way if they don't hit his heals. We think he is a big-play guy who is going to get better with each rep and every game he plays. I was really proud of him to - his grandmother had passed away and he flew in early Saturday morning. He really played well."
Halfway through the season, are you at a loss at how to move forward with the offensive personnel? What's the next solution?
"(Taylor) McHargue continues to improve. We're down five turnovers from a year ago. We are up a point from where we were a year ago. We're making progress. It's not as fast as anyone wants but we are better offensively than we were. We all hoped that we would be a little better but I also think we are so close to being a big-play offense. We are inches away on this block and inches away on this run to where we are extremely close. We had some nice, explosive plays in that game. We are close to getting a lot more.
"These young men are dedicated to getting this football team better. They are committed to getting this football team better. They watch the same video we do. They know what each and every one of them has to do to get better and that is what we are trying to do. Are we where we want to be? We are an absolute work in progress after six games but we are improving."
Talking about offensive lineman Jon Hodde who made his first career start ...
"Jon Hodde played a pretty good game. I was proud the way Jon played. Jon is somebody who has worked hard in practice and when he got the opportunity, made the best of it. He was solid."
Is the team's issues with pressing start with dialogue from you?
"It starts with me. It starts with me identifying it. We just have to continue, when we get into those situations, on the sideline continuing to talk to them about how we have to have fun, got to treat it like you are in the backyard. You don't have to do anything outside the scheme. It's where your fundamentals and technique have to come in and to trust. Even defensively at that point, to stay within your scheme and do your 1/11th then go help. You can't decide at that point you have to make every tackle to win this game. You have to keep trusting what we're doing and trusting your teammates."
How do you equalize the offenses you are about to face?
"We are just now studying what Tulsa does and you know what Houston does. You have to try to run an offense to somewhat try to keep the ball out of their hands. Tulsa is 3-3 and they have been beat by Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Boise; they beat North Texas, UAB and Tulane. We'll watch all the video and see what we need to do to slow them down and what we need to do offensively to keep the ball out of their hands."
Rice Sophomore Running Back Turner Petersen
Start with where you feel you guys have done good at the midseason point and looking forward, what you guys need to build on?
"I think something we've done really well, especially recently, has been executing our base plays. We've been able to, like Coach Bailiff was saying, our rushing attack became somewhat of a threat this past game. In the second half we were able to move the ball pretty efficiently, and create some big plays downfield. Our explosive play number went up substantially, and it was turning into the offense that everyone was seeing at the end of last season there for a little bit. On the other hand, something that we need to work on is continuing to not let it die out over the course of the game. We need to be able to execute these plays all four quarters instead of just one, and that's something that's going to be big for us down the road."
In the fourth quarter you only have one touchdown. Third quarter was great, how do you carry that over where maybe it's not just playing a slow down offense, where you're trying to conserve time but also generate the yards?
"Coach was saying earlier, in this game especially, we were pressing so hard. Everybody just wants to make that play, get that first down, get the ball down the field, get one more touchdown. We really need to focus on settling down, learning how to play with a lead and being able to execute with a lead. We do that and we turn a turnover, a three and out, whatever it is into a calm play where we're executing and performing at the level we should be. Then we become a much better offense."
Is that easier said then done? Clearly if you play as well as you played in the third quarter, the potential exists to be in the top half. How do you get to that point where everyone's at a calm level where they can execute?
"I think confidence is a big thing. We have to be able to realize that playing ahead is a huge advantage. We should be able to step on their throats, step on the accelerator and keep playing at that tempo and executing. That should be the time when we're putting up a ton of points. Yea, it is easier said than done, like I said, everybody wants to make that big play and when everybody's pressing to do so that's when something that happened in this game happens."
You referenced last year you made an excellent point about getting there and getting close in the midst of games. In practice do you guys feel like you're right there on the edge of being that offense everyone expected coming out of the last two games last season?
"Absolutely ... We touched on it Friday at the hotel and then Saturday. We were talking about what a great practice week we had. Every play we were executing perfectly, making big plays at practice. Offensive line played unbelievably. We have shown these signs of a very great, threatening offense. It is something that we can be and feel we should be at this point. We feel like its just one click away.
Rice Senior Linebacker Justin Allen
"A tough, disappointing loss. We expected to go up there and carry out what we planned to do all week. We had a great week of practice last week, and when it came time we just didn't finish. We're going to go back to work and look ahead at Tulsa. We have six games we can all look forward to and play our best and still accomplish all our goals that we set at the beginning of the season. We can still be a bowl team. We just have to make that turn and we can do it."
Talking about Marshall quarterback A.J. Graham ...
"When their quarterback got up and scrambled that was just that he was making a good play. It was his first time to get quality playing time. I think it was his first start and I'm sure he was excited to get out there. He's a big guy and he could run the ball well. It was the first time I'd really seen him on film for a substantial amount of time and he made the best of it in the first half."
So what was the adjustment that you guys made, because you obviously did much better in the second half, what happened at your end?
"We went back to the locker room and just had to take a step back and be like `alright, this is where we fit, this is our rush lanes, and if he leaks out this is what we're going to do defensively.' We were able to key in more on what he was doing and obviously put more of an end to it ... his making plays on his feet."
I think anybody who's watched this team can recognize that you are defensively much better this year than last year. What's the next step for that unit, doing it for four quarter or, in your mind, how do you guys continue developing and finish out an entire game like that?
"What we need to do is continue to force turnovers. We only had one on Saturday, and another forced fumble that we didn't get on, so that would have been a key turnover. I think they converted a touchdown on a drive early in the first half, so that would have been points off the board and great field position for our offense. I think the more we can continue to get negative plays and turnovers that it is only going to continue to strengthen our defense."
Going forward, you've got two offenses coming out that are very high powered, high tempo, so just talk about what you do knowing as a defense that when you're going to be out there its going to be really fast and high paced, how do you deal with that?
"We have to be solid with our fits and when they want to get out and pass the ball, we need to be tight coverage and make sure we know which cover, cover or matching or switching, the call is and be solid. Keeping them off the field is going to be key, so the more their offense doesn't have the ball, the better for us."
Cameron Nwosu had 16 tackles the other day. Can you just talk about what he's meant to have the year he's having?
"He's been great. He's been all around the field. He's been making plays for us. I think the two of us started working together more and it's been great to have someone next to me to make a lot of plays too. He does his job and he does it well."
Can you sense that defense has a) improved from last year and b) is improving through the course of this year?
"Definitely. You go back to the beginning of the year, we gave up a bunch of points early and we really calmed down from that and started forcing more turnovers. I think starting with the Southern Miss game we had four turnovers and the defense is really starting to play a lot better."