“We didn’t win this one but I saw a lot of improvement. Offensively, we started the game with Sam (Glaesmann) at quarterback. He did throw an interception early. We replaced him with Miklo (Smalls). I thought Miklo really sparked us. We had 236 yards rushing and 227 passing. Miklo was very accurate in his throwing, but he also had an interception that was a pick-six. That’s been an Achilles heel for us over there. We just have to keep working with those guys. They’ll continue to grow and they’ll be great quarterbacks. It’s hard when you’re a young freshman to make all of the right decisions.
“I thought our offensive line is really performing well. Joseph Dill has had enough game experience now that Trey (Martin) is really starting to trust him. Their passing and blocks are a lot smoother in their transition with him going up to the linebackers. That was excellent to see. We had one sack on the game and it wasn’t on the offensive line. The offensive line has given up the fewest sacks that it has in eight years. So they are playing well.
“Austin Walter had another big game for us. He’s having to split time right now between running back and slot (receiver). It’s just where we are with the injuries at running back. So he’s doing double duty. He had that huge explosive run for us. A 70-yarder. He’s one of five players in the country that has a 70-yard run and a 70-yard reception. He continues to improve every week. We really have to watch what we do with him at practice. We have to monitor his reps because we’re asking him to do so much right now.
“Miklo, Nahshon (Ellerbe) and Austin each averaged over eight yards a carry. But, the one that I’m most impressed with who continues to get better every game is Aaron Cephus. Aaron had four receptions for 100 yards and a touchdown. He also had three more receptions for 147 yards and two touchdowns. But, one was called back for a procedure penalty and the others were called back for holding penalties. It was one of the greatest receiving days in Rice history. We just have to quit making those mistakes.
“Another thing we have to do is to grow this quarterback up right before halftime. We run out of time on the eight-yard line, which was seven, more points. You talk to them about not taking a sack; you get out of bounds (or) throw it away. At times, Miklo was so good in high school. He’s reverting back to those dynamic plays in high school. You can’t do that in college. He had an opportunity to throw it away (and) an opportunity to get out of bounds. He tucked it and tried to get in the end zone. It started at 19 seconds so we didn’t have enough time to clock the ball. But, he’ll continue to get better.
“Defensively, we didn’t stop the run the first half. They had 197 yards rushing at halftime. We defended the run great in the second half. There’s no long passes down the field. Most of them were screens or three-step (drops). We’re just not getting any turnovers. This is two games in a row that we haven’t had any turnovers. That has to be a part of it. We continue to emphasize it. We’ll continue to work on all the strip drills and punch drills. It’s hard to have as many sacks and tackles for loss as we do and not have any fumbles. Usually, when you’re getting those, you’re getting the ball out on the ground. The defense was solid but I don’t think it was anywhere near their best performance. On third down against (Louisiana) Tech we were pretty good. On third down this week, we couldn’t get them in third-and-long. It was always third-and-short.
“Special teams, we did an onside kick three times. The first one was after a penalty and Jack Fox; we called it in the middle. Jack executed it perfectly. The ball went 11 yards and he fell on it. We actually got the second one, but Houston Robert’s feet were knocked out of bounds and he hadn’t established back in bounds. So when he dove and got it, we didn’t get the possession. The third one, we were right there on top of it. It was a 50-50 ball. We just didn’t come up with it. It was good to see Jack execute those onside kicks. He had a great day. He had a long 50 (yard punt) and a 37.8 net. But, he’s amazing at what he can do punting and kicking. He’s a great weapon to have.
“We’ve got a big game against Southern Miss. It’s Homecoming. They are playing for bowl eligibility. They are a good, solid football team. They are what you’d think a Southern Miss football team would be. (They are) extremely fast, very athletic on both sides of the football. We absolutely have to play or best and cut those turnovers out to try and get a win at Homecoming. We play good around here on Homecoming and we need it to happen again this year.”
On if they expect to see Miklo Smalls at quarterback:
“You expect to see both. Going into the last game, we had already planned to use both Miklo and Sam. One thing we do not want to do when you pull his redshirt is completely waste it. We wanted to make sure that he was getting reps and getting better because he is a talented quarterback and he deserves to play. We’ll continue to grow them up and continue to improve them and the only way to do that is game reps.”
On how much they focus on getting turnovers in practice:
“We go nuts at practice over it. We are stripping the ball. We have a goal every day at practice. Ten minutes a day, we work on the punch drill. We work on every interception drill known to man. Sometimes we think that maybe we ought to quit talking about it and then maybe they’ll come. Brian (Stewart) is an amazing defensive coordinator. He and I both are defensive coaches and you’re almost dumbfounded that there’s not a fumble somewhere. There’s going to be one game where all of a sudden you’re going to get six. You know it’s coming and we hope it’s soon. But, it’s been a point of emphasis all season. That’s one of those things that you have to get. We just haven’t gotten them.”
On Aaron Cephus’ growth:
“Aaron is number one in the country in yardage per reception in FBS. His growth has really been spectacular from the start of the season to where he is now. Earlier in the year, if a route was supposed to be 12 (yards) he was cutting it at 10 or at 14. Through his hard work with Coach (Billy) Lynch, he’s really become a very accurate route runner. He was not when the season started. He’s always had an amazing ability to time his jumps and he’s also learned how to use his big body that he wasn’t earlier in the year. The turn on a fade ball and to go up and get his body square instead of trying to catch it over his shoulder. He’s a work in progress but he loves this game. He’s done some amazing things this year but the best of Aaron is yet to come.”
On the freshman and sophomore classes:
“I think Austin Trammell is another freshman that every week improves. We didn’t know going into the season how much we would play him. But, he’s become a mainstay because of what we’ve had to do with Austin (Walter) and our situation at running back. We’re down Aston (Walter), (Emmanuel) Esukpa and we can’t keep Sam (Stewart) healthy. We have Nahshon and that’s forced us to put Austin in that role so we have both Austin’s in the slot. You go into the season where Austin is not getting a lot of reps. But, you continue to shuffle and every week he improves. He’s making better decisions on punts. He’s making better decisions on kickoffs. We’re all a work in progress, but at that age, there’s more work required.”
On why his teams historically play well in November:
“I think a lot of times, you get beat up early in the year and you start to get some guys back. Where we are right now, hopefully we’ll get some guys back this year. You get where you start as a small squad. As you get people back, usually you get better in the month of November. We’re sure hoping that’s what happens this year. These guys came here to win. We all came here to win. Every coach, every player. Nobody like losing. It’s a tribute to these young men. They come over here with high energy every week. They’re pain after the game and an emotional letdown. But, they come back over here and they’re ready to go to work to try to get a win. They’re doing everything that we ask them.”
On Miklo Smalls’ big plays:
“He ran the zone read really well. There were other times that he could have kept it for some more yards. He’s a very accurate passer and he’s good on his feet. He was the MVP of his district two years ago. He’s very talented. Nobody’s ever born great. Nobody ever shows up and that position and is great. Taylor MacHargue wasn’t great as a freshman but he was pretty good as a junior and senior. You just have to stick with the growing pains. We have two great young ones right now who are making some decisions that we all wish they didn’t. But, like I said, game reps are the best teacher. They’re learning some hard lessons. Whatever lessons they learn, they won’t make it the next week.”
On Miklo Smalls running game:
“He runs the ball like a running back when he takes off. His touchdown run was a called pass. (UAB) was in two-man. He just tucked the ball. He knows in that coverage that there is not going to be a second line of defense there. He saw an alley and just tucked it and ran. Those are the type of runs that he can make.