Transcript: Rice Football Press Conference
Nov. 14, 2011
Rice Head Coach David Bailiff
"We had a tough nonconference schedule this year. I thought we went to Northwestern though and offensively, we took care of the football. We had one turnover which led to points. We couldn't get anything explosive. We ran the ball and get to the safeties but just couldn't make people miss. They are a very solid defensive football team. We just had a hard time establishing a running game or establishing a throwing game. We played extremely hard but just didn't get it going. Defensively, we held them below their season average rushing. We gave up four, big plays. A couple of them we had great coverage on. They made some plays and we didn't. Our special teams I thought were solid. We let Chris Boswell attempt a 60-yarder that if the ball was rotating the other way when it got there would have gone through (hit the crossbar). But we played extremely, extremely hard. Obviously, you want to go up there and get a win but I was pleased with how our young men played.
"Going into the Tulane game, this is an important game for us. We have played well at home. I know the guys will show up today with a great attitude ready to go to work. We know that going to a bowl game this season is not possible but we know we have two games left and really need to get this win at home against Tulane.
I'm looking for the guys coming over here and working to get it done. We have young men of character and that is the one thing they have never done is quit. They were really hurting in the locker room Saturday, especially those seniors. But I know they will come over here today with that leadership and will have a great day today."
Talking more about last week about the Northwestern game ...
"I thought we finished with great effort all the way through the game to the last snap. We threw the reverse pass to get it down to the nine and scored. I'm glad we got those points in late. I was proud of how hard our young men played for four quarters."
Can you explain some of the streakiness of the offense?
"I wish I could explain it. We try not to be streaky. That was one thing, we couldn't get into any kind of rhythm Saturday and when we got some drives, we never came up with any big plays to finish it off. Then you look at the fourth quarter and you have two, three-and-outs. That is one thing we knew going in there. We knew we had to stay on track. We had to move the chains and if you were not going to get the big play, you still had to establish drives and get points."
With two games left, do you do anything differently to look ahead to next year?
"Right now, no. We're investing in right now. We are going to try to win these two games to give us a nice conference win record. We have played really well at home this season. We need to get this one against Tulane and head down to Dallas. We are here trying to win football games. That is what it is all about.
"We have not won as many games as we all wanted to this year but we are a lot better football team than we were a year ago. You look at how Bryce Callahan. He's fourth in the country right now in interceptions. You look at both of our linebackers (Cameron Nwosu ranks 26th nationally; Justin Allen ranks 67th), our tackles for losses are up, our sacks are up. Statistically defensively, we have hit six of the Top 30 offenses in the country. But if you look at some of the other indicators, we are better than we were. That's what we have to build on and we have to build on it this week. It's one of the things you hope to do, get better every week. We got beat by a very solid Northwestern team last week. It's still all about trying to be 1-0 this coming Saturday against Tulane.
Talk about what Jake Hicks and Xavier Webb have met to the team?
"Those guys have been here for five years. Jake, his first year here, he caught some kind of virus and got down to 220 pounds or he wouldn't have redshirted. He was going to play as a freshman. He is one of the most dependable, solid guys on the offensive line who is a true competitor every time the ball is snapped.
"Xavier is the same way. Xavier shows up every week, leading this football team, both of them do. Trying to win. Trying to set examples for the younger classes. I think they really exemplify what you want in your seniors. It hurts that I didn't get them to a bowl game this year because they have really worked hard and deserve it."
Talking about Sam McGuffie's opportunity to return from injuries to play in the final two games as well as injuries as a whole ...
"We are trying to get him back and he wants to come back.
"We may get Eric Ball back this week. Luke (Willson) got some snaps in the game so he should probably be back 100 percent this week. I think Sam will have a chance to come back. He just had too much pain Saturday morning when we were seeing if we could suit him up and couldn't.
Rice Senior Offensive Lineman Jake Hicks
This will be your last home game here; can you sum up the last five years or so?
"I wouldn't trade it for anything. I'm glad I came to Rice. This is the best decision I could have made, and after travelling and going around to play other schools, I see why coming to Rice is so special. Why this is the best place I could have gone. I love being here. I love the guys. We're more like a family here than anywhere else, or anyone that we've played at least. I wish I could have won more games this season, like I'm sure everyone else does, but I wouldn't trade playing at Rice for anything."
You were on the Texas Bowl team; some of your teammates haven't been to one. What do you tell them? Is there anything you tell them in the locker room these last two games, just moving forward?
"I think when you get to this level of football, winning is winning. While it's awesome to have a goal like a bowl, it gives you something to play for a little bit. Winning the game is still one of the best feelings you can have in Division I football, and I don't think anyone would rather lose a game than win just because we have one less game to play this season."
How does it feel not getting those goals?
"This weekend was different from any other weekend because it was like losing two games. We lost the game at Northwestern, but we also lost the chance to play another one, and when you have a finite amount of games left, that hurts to have that one taken away. The way we look at it now is we have two games left. We're looking at Tulane now, they're a conference team and good competitors, but it's a winnable game for us. As long as we go out there and do our job we'll win, and really that's all we have to play for now, that feeling of winning a game. We play to win, that's it. Its not such a bad thing to go out with two wins, and we need to focus on winning these last two."
Is it tough to get over the disappointment and to shift your focus to Tulane?
"I wouldn't say it's easy to move beyond disappointment. It hurts to lose a chance at a bowl game for your senior year, its tough. But I think we've reached a level of maturity on this football team to where we can handle those kind of set backs and still go out and win games. It's not something that's easy to reconcile and move beyond, but it's something we definitely have to do, and something we definitely will do."
What's it going to be like for you to go out of that tunnel for the last time on Saturday?
"It's going to be tough. At this point in the season everything we do is going to be the last time we do it. We were getting on the plane to Northwestern, and John Gioffre was sitting next to me, and I said, `John, you know, this is the last time were going to ride on a plane together as teammates' because we're driving to SMU. Little things like that, where it's the last time you do something, I guess its always tough to do something for the last time in your life but especially in football where you only have a small opportunity to enjoy those things. Going out of the tunnel against Tulane is going to be bittersweet. I love playing the game. I love being at Rice and I love all the guys I'm around, and there's just so much enjoyment out of it, but the last time you do anything in football is always tough."
On the O-Line, when you look at the young guys, what have you seen that's developed?
"We have some talented guys. I haven't seen a lot of the plays because a lot of the guys are getting red-shirted right now, they're on scout team, but some guys we have now, I've been surprised by the amount of body coordination. One guy who comes to mind is Caleb Williams, who's been working out with us. Just the way he understands pass protection, where his hips have to be and everything, is pretty advanced. Certain guys like that. Justin Warren has gotten a lot bigger, a lot stronger, and I'm excited to see that. What we have now is a lot of guys coming up who really love the game, really love to play. If you have that foundation, then building up from there is a lot easier."
You played with Xavier in high school and now play with him in college, what's it been like to play with him all the way through?
"It's been awesome. Xavier's a great competitor, he loves to play the game, and he loves to win. It's been cool just to play with him as many years as I've been able to. He's a great teammate and football player. I was excited when I found out he was coming to Rice four years ago, and it's just been a great experience."
Rice Senior Safety Xavier Webb
What's it going to be like?
"The last game? It will be emotional. A lot of the same things Jake said. Last game, second to last game, for most of us to play football in our career. It will be emotional, but it will be a football game, and you always want to beat the person across from you. So during the game, I think it will just be another football game. Maybe at the beginning and definitely at the end it comes to you that it's coming to an end."
More emotional for the moms and the dads, they bring them out there and have that whole deal?
"Just all around it will be emotional. Mothers will be crying. It'll be emotional."
If you can follow up on what Jake was talking about, this moving beyond, putting the bowl game aside and shifting the focus back to the last two games. What's the process?
"Like Jake said, it'll still be a football game. It'll still be competing; trying to beat the other team, so all the frustration you have to the point ... you might as well let them go. There's no bowl game, there's no hopes of a bowl game, so you might as well just drop the frustrations and just win a football game."
Have you thought a lot in advance about what senior year is going to be like, or has it been a rapid process, just week by week?
"Just a rapid process. I haven't thought about that at all. Really it hadn't started to hit me yet that it's all coming to an end, but I haven't been thinking about that."
This weekend, Justin (Allen) was talking about the big plays that have been the defense's nemesis, when you look you've played some high powered offenses that like to throw the ball a lot, but in a nutshell, can you put your finger on what's caused that?
"I think that in our defense, we focus a lot on stopping the run, and we're a very aggressive defense. So a lot of time that leaves a bunch of one-on-one situations. If that one person doesn't make play, then it opens up for a big play for the offense."