“We dropped a tough one Saturday to a good (Louisiana) Tech team. It was a game, going in, that we knew that we needed to tackle well in space. We knew that we needed to establish the run. Defensively, we didn’t tackle well. We had 16 missed tackles and we gave up too many big plays. We’ll continue to work on our tackling in space. That’s where most of their yardage and points came from. Offensively, once we couldn’t run the ball, we tried to throw it. We didn’t catch the ball very well. We had two dropped passes for touchdowns. We had some key third down drops and to beat a team like LA Tech you can’t make those kinds of mistakes and we did. We’re going to keep working at that. We’ve got to get better at tackling. We’ve got to get better at making plays.
“We struggled on third down, offensively. We were 4-of-12. The four came when it was third-and-medium. When it was third-and-long we were oh-for. We need to be about 33-percent on third-and-long, but it shows that we were way off schedule. Or we didn’t have any third-and-shorts in the game. We were off schedule and we’re not a team that can do that. We have to stay on-schedule and make the plays when we can.
“I thought James Farrimond did a fantastic job punting the football. He punted for over 45 yards (average). It was his best night punting. But, what I’m concerned about, and what we need to get fixed, is the stupid penalties. We’ve got some young players who are confusing being aggressive with being dumb aggressive. You have to play for the name on the front of the jersey, not the name on the back. Those are selfish penalties. They have to stop. We met with the seniors about it. The coaches, we’re going to up the discipline. We’re going to up the bench time. But, that’s where we can’t have too many dumb penalties where Rice beats Rice. We can’t have too many of those.
“We play a UTEP that’s much improved this year. They have their quarterback Mack Leftwich back. He had been missing some games. He’s who they want back there. Coach (Sean) Kugler does an outstanding job. They don’t get any bigger than the offensive line. They beat Florida Atlantic, 27-17. (Defensive coordinator) Scott Stoker, defensively, has them very aggressive. A lot of man coverage, a lot of high pressure blitz that we’ve got to be able to handle. We leave Thursday to go to El Paso and play.
“I think there’s a lot of wins left in this football team this year but we have to eliminate the mistakes where we’re beating ourselves. You can’t win any football games doing that. We got here, and the success we’ve had, was by being the smartest, hardest working team in the conference and we have to get back to what got us here, which is making good decisions on the football field.”
On preparing for another Friday night game:
“We’re in a regular work week now. Today is our Tuesday. We came in the morning after the (LA Tech) game. That was Sunday; Sunday was Monday and today is Tuesday. So we’re on a seven day week now. Last week was short. This week is not. We just accelerated everything we do.”
On the challenge on going on the road:
“UTEP is really good at their home stadium. When they play at home they’re a different football team. We’re going to have to outplay them. We’re going to have to be more physical. We’re going to have to eliminate the mistakes. If you eliminate some of those mistakes the other night, that’s a close football game. You watch the video from the other night; we weren’t outphysicaled. We didn’t have any turnovers. But we’re not creating turnovers. We’re making too many mistakes to win. We have to eliminate that and it has to happen now.”
On playing a lot of freshmen:
“A lot of it is that we’re young. Some of those youngsters now have eight games under their belt. You can’t say that they don’t have enough reps. They’ve got enough reps now. We’re not blowing coverages. We just have to make plays and they have to continue to grow up. But those young ones also can’t have those mistakes we’re making where we’re hurting Rice. I think you look at those two freshmen corners; they’ve done some great things. They’re getting better every week. We’ve just need to get more consistent in our play and that’s all 11 of them. That’s up to me. I’ve got to get them all on the same page.”
On trying to get the team to play consistently:
“You’ve got to continue working hard. When this season started, we didn’t know we were going to be this young. We didn’t know we were going to have this many injuries. A lot of those young men I was counting on redshirting. But when you start losing your veteran players, all of a sudden you’re taking the redshirt off. We knew we were going to be young this year in the secondary. That’s why we played V.J. Banks and Destri (White) and those guys last year instead of redshirting them. You look out on the field sometimes, defensively, and you may see six or seven freshmen or redshirt freshmen at the same time. We’ve got to continue to work with them and grow them up. At the same time, you have to emphasize what we’re doing well and keep their confidence up. That’s where we are right now. Offensively, we’re not as young. But, we’ve got to get some consistency there. The one thing you do know is that every problem has a soft spot. You just have to keep working at it. Hard work works. That’s how we’ve got through tough times in the past here and that’s what we’ll continue to do. I do like how our seniors have reacted. They are self-policing some of these mistakes. I like the leadership, especially this week that they’ve showed.”
How you approach the mistakes at practice:
“We talked all week about how aggressive we needed to play. The majority of our penalties were from young men confusing aggressiveness with dumb aggressiveness. That’s one where we’ve had a really good conversation with them. It’s one that will hurt their playing time. The seniors had a conversation yesterday with the entire team about where we need to go. It can’t be when you play a team like LA Tech; we knew going in there that Rice couldn’t beat Rice. Those penalties won’t help us win. That’s how I started this. We’ve got to play for the name on the front of the jersey. Those types of personal fouls are selfish. Penalties that hurt this team. That’s what we have to eliminate.”
On playing the most amount of freshmen in the country:
“You just have to keep working with them. We just have to get their confidence up. When the season started, we had Grant Peterson at defensive tackle. We had Graysen Schantz. Cody Henessee’s been hurt. It is what it is. We have to keep working with them, get them confident and get them better. We’ve got to get them to where they’re playing a winning brand of football, and we’re close. We’re close. We just have to keep working with them. I’ve got to get them in more situations where they’re tackling in space in practice. Sometimes, I don’t want to get anyone hurt so I’m probably too cautious, making sure we get them to Saturday. I’m going to have to change some of the things I do so we can improve faster.”
On overcoming youth:
“You never give up. One thing you learn, at Rice University, nothing’s impossible. You just have to keep working with them. What this team is right now is it has some young guys. We knew some were going to be young this year. We didn’t realize how many. But, you have to keep working with them and you have to keep growing them up. And not only the coaches, but this senior class is really helping us now. The senior class responsibility is to educate the young ones on what the standards of Rice football are. I see a lot of that happening right now with this senior class and I’m quite proud of them. Nobody’s giving up. It’s strengthening our resolve to get things corrected.”
On playing at UTEP:
“We know that when you go to El Paso, it’s different. They play a different brand of football at home. What you see on film on the road is not what we’re going to get, especially with their quarterback back. He had a concussion at New Mexico State but he’s played the last couple of games.”
On what you can do at practice to get off to a fast start:
“You emphasize it at practice. We’re starting practice today with tempo where it will be best against best with us running our plays. It’s something that you work on, you emphasize, and it’s why you put those drills in. The same with the missed tackles. We’ve got to work on drills today where we’re using the sideline better. How to gain leverage on some of these tackles. You have to continue to work at it. That’s where my job, and have to do a better job of getting these young men in these situations where they’re confident in making a play. When you see a defensive back start to slow down, it’s never going to work. You have to trigger and get there and you have to have confidence in your ability to make those decisions that you can make that play. You have to go up there knowing that you can make a great tackle; not slowing down hoping to make a tackle. We’ve just got to keep working with them and get them confident in space."