BOULDER— University of Colorado head football coach Gary Barnett held his weekly Press Conference Tuesday at the Dal Ward Athletic Center. Senior linebacker Akarika Dawn also took questions from the media during the afternoon session. The following are quotes from the session:
HEAD COACH GARY BARNETT
“This game represents a big opportunity for our program; it’s also a game that our players have been looking forward to for a long time. When we first put the schedule board up a year ago it caught their attention. I think playing the game down there (in Miami) adds a little more excitement for our players even though it’s in an atmosphere and an environment that we don’t experience very often—with the heat and humidity. We don’t get a chance to prepare for those (conditions) very often.
“We expect this to be a very, very physical game. Having two weeks to prepare is good and bad. It probably gives (us) too much time to look at too many things, and I think one of our challenges is to narrow it down a little bit. Looking at Miami this year, they’ve had to play two very emotional and physical games against two very good defenses. They matched both teams very easily defensively. They have a new young quarterback that is learning their system and they have the great running game that they have always had. I think what we see as we watch film on Miami is how physical they are on offense. They also have a couple big-play guys at their receiver spots. When (Kyle) Wright has time to throw, he’s been able to get the ball to them and make big plays. They have struggled a bit in pass protection but I think most of that is because they played against two really fast and aggressive defenses (in Florida State and Clemson). Last week they were able to line up and pound on Clemson and get into the end zone to get the win in overtime. We talk about our schedule being difficult—when you start with Florida State and Clemson right out of the chute, that’s a heck of a schedule. Their program has really met the challenge. If you look at the Florida State game, they were just a play away from winning that.
“Playing Miami is a lot like playing Oklahoma or Texas—the same kind of athletes, the same kind of speed and the same kind of physical play. So it’s not like we don’t see a team or a program like this every year. I think we take a much improved defense into Miami—improved from where we have been the last couple years. Offensively, our challenge will be to move the ball against this type of speed. We probably won’t have Brian Daniels, and we have a couple of other guys banged up on our offensive line which is already pretty thin. In a game like this, what Miami does—and what they have done over the last two weeks—is they force you to make a lot of mistakes on offense. We have to not make a lot of mistakes, rely on our kicking game to help our field position and take advantage of opportunities we do get. We have to stay away from situations that play into their hands with the type of defense they run. There is no way to (simulate Miami’s speed) in practice. We’ve asked our scout team guys to play as fast as they can this week.
“During the course of the summer we worked in as much heat as we could. Fortunately we did have a lot of heat here and we were able to work out our players in the afternoons to get ourselves mentally ready for this experience. We turned up the heat in our weight room on Fridays. Other than that there is not much we can do. We have talked to our players about hydrating. The bottom line is we’re preparing to play (Miami). There is nothing much you can do to prepare for where we play. We conditioned every day last week and we will condition every day this week. We didn’t just all of a sudden realize we were playing Miami. We worked on (conditioning) all summer and planted the seeds in the players’ heads that we were going to condition to go down and play (in Miami) so that the conditions are not an issue. We have to play well to win. I don’t think the heat and humidity will make a difference in the game. It will be how we play their guys and how their guys play us.
“This is one of those games where you just have to tell the guys when the bus leaves and they will be ready and anxious to play. We are taking a veteran team down there for the most part. We have a couple guys that haven’t played much football for us and a couple guys on the offensive line (with limited playing time). Just about everywhere else we have guys who have played a lot of big games so I feel good about our experience and the veteran nature of this team going down (to Miami). This is a great opportunity for us, and hopefully we’ve used these two weeks the best we could to prepare for them.
“We will try to create the best angles and the best blocking schemes we can come up with to try and avoid the speed that they use to get off blocks. We will try to take advantage of their speed. There are certain things that speed does that we can take advantage of offensively. “We will try to play our game and get a lot better at what we do. There are a lot of things in the playbook that we haven’t used that we work on in fall camp and will bring out to be different than in our other two games. On the other hand, we have to do some things the same because it’s what we do well. It’s a balancing act on offense, but the most important thing is that we avoid negative plays. A defense (like Miami’s) takes teams out of their rhythm and puts them into situations where they are dealing with second and third-and-longs.
“Publicity-wise, this game is different, but it has the same value—it’s one win or one loss. When we met on August 3 for our first night of fall cap and went over our schedule, the buzz was all about this game. I think we want to be playing better at the end of the year because that is where we can make our mark and that’s where we can put ourselves in position for a league championship, but games like this tell us right where we are at this point in time.
“We don’t have great speed in our secondary but we’ve been really solid and haven’t made a lot of mistakes. We are considerably better than we were a year ago. The match up with their speed isn’t great, but not very many teams really match up with (Miami) speed-wise at the receiver spot.”
LINEBACKER AKARIKA DAWN
“This game means a lot because if we win we will be ranked. It would be a statement game for our university to say we beat a top-15 team. Beating a name line Miami means a whole lot.
“Our main goal is to keep (their offense) in front of us and not let them get out and use their speed. If we can contain them like Clemson did in the first half against them then we will be fine.
“I think being here at Colorado, we face elite teams. We come here to play the high-ranked teams in the nation. This is one of the games we signed up to play and it’s one we have looked forward to.
“I’m from Texas and it’s hotter there. So I don’t think heat will be an issue.
“The (Big 12) isn’t as much of a speed conference; it’s more of a power conference. Miami’s speed will be the most critical thing for us to contain.”