BOULDER – University of Colorado head football coach Gary Barnett held his weekly media luncheon Tuesday at the Dal Ward Athletic Center, as Barnett and junior quarterback Joel Klatt addressed the media during the afternoon press conference. The following are excerpts from the gathering, as well as several notes from the day’s practice session.
ON THE WSU WIN: “As you break it down our defense played really well. We gave up three big plays, which of course is what we keep working on and every defensive team keeps working on getting rid of those. One of them was a bust, one of them was just a great play by their receiver; we actually knocked the ball away and it fell back into his hands. The other one was a trick play that got us and they did a good job with that. The rest of the game we played really well. Usually that is (an) experience (problem) when giving up big plays like we did.
“We are running the ball really well; we are tackling very well and we are a much better tackling ream than we were a year ago even though we were older then. But, we are also still very young. If you look at our defensive personnel, the people who are playing for us are a lot of sophomores. It is incredible to see the number of sophomores on this team.
“I thought the difference in the game Saturday was special teams. Both defenses played well, both offenses played pretty sloppily and were ineffective. But the special teams for us were big in the game. We were fortunate to be able to punt the ball and be able to cover as well as we did in the game, even though we did give up a 21-yard return. That team traditionally brings a lot of pressure and creates a lot of problems in the punt game and we did a really good job of stopping that. I was really pleased with the effort and the attention to detail and the work our special teams coaches did because it really was the difference in the game.”
ON CU’S OFFENSE: “Obviously right now we are struggling on offense. I don’t think there is any one thing you can put your finger on. We have tried to be as objective as we can possibly be in evaluating ourselves. We haven’t been very accurate and first down (plays) really hurt us Saturday. We were really good on first down two weeks ago against CSU. Last week we were awful on first down and we had a number of penalties. Noise was a bit of an issue but I think probably the checks that we employed — the number of checks that we employed trying to be perfect — affected us. It felt as though we were never the same after Bobby (Purify)’s long (65-yard TD) run was brought back. You have to fight through that. We can’t be affected that way. We have to mature on that level and not be affected by the mental aspect of that. We are all sure that we will. We are going to continue to work in those areas as much as we can.
“Going into this game we feel like we are going to have to loosen up Joel a little bit. We have to take a little pressure off him, not try to be so perfect with him and do our thing. I think we are all pretty convinced that we can be a good offense. But since the second quarter of the CSU game we haven’t been a good offense, and that is just flat out the truth. This week brings a very sobering look to our offense with everything that is going on. We certainly have their attention. We have our coaches’ attention as well. We will be better; I know we will be better with our offense going into this game.”
ON NORTH TEXAS: “This game is sort of a matchup much like we had last week. Their offense is struggling without (RB Patrick) Cobbs and defensively their strength is their front four. They have got a player (Adrian Awasom) who was a defensive player of the year last year in that league and is the preseason pick to be player of the year again in that league. I can certainly see why; he is a great player, he really is a good player. Their front four is really sturdy. We are going to have to block them and we are going to have to pass protect; we have to be very careful on the edge. This team is picked to win the Sun Belt Conference again. Their M.O. is that they play tough teams in the preseason and then they win all their conference games. I think they get toughened up with their preseason schedule and then everybody they play in the conference is easier than their non-conference. So, they seem to zip right through that. You don’t (win three straight conference titles) without having good players and being well coached. Probably the thing that jumps out the most when you watch these guys is how well-coached they are. Their staff has done a really good job. They are not really ever out of position and they run the ball well and do the things they are supposed to do.
“We have to be careful because this is a dangerous game for us, dangerous from the standpoint where we have had two really emotional games that were hard to win. We hung in there and we won them. Human nature says ‘I need a rest, a mental rest, I need to not have a game like that,’ and what happens is you are not ready, you are not hitting on all cylinders and mentally you try to take a break. That is when you have a mental letdown and bad things happen to you. But I don’t expect our offense to have a game like that. They were sufficiently embossed by the game last week. Their attention will be on whoever we play this week; that will not be an issue.
“Defensively, especially with as many young guys as we are playing, our coaches have to do a good job and out leadership has to do a good job to make sure that we are hitting on all cylinders. We have vowed — and one of our goals is — that we will respect our opponent at all times no matter who it is. If we go out and play our game and we go out and play the way we think we can play then this is a game we should win. We know that, but you still have to go do it. You have to have the right attitude in practice and you have to practice the right way. Our players have had great attitudes in practice; we have had good practices everyday since camp opened and we had one yesterday. They are listening and they are doing what we ask them to do.”
ON CU’S IMPROVED DEFENSE: “I think it is a lot of things. I don’t think you can pinpoint one thing (that makes us better). I’d say if you just look statistically, the one thing that is better is our tackling. We are a much better tackling team than we were a year ago and that is what really stands out to me more than anything. Last year, even when we played good games, we missed a lot of tackles. This year we are not missing those tackles, either because of emphasis, or because guys or older, or a scheme combination.”
ON WHERE HE’D LET MASON CROSBY KICK FROM: “First of all you have to look at the situation, that is critical. I would not be afraid to let Crosby go out there two seconds before halftime and kick a 65-yard field goal. I would let him try it. It wouldn’t bother me a bit to do that. Play in and play out — I think Saturday was 41 (yards) and 52 (yards for him) — and I think I am really comfortable in that category. Beyond that I would have to think about that. It depends on who we are playing and the situation. (His longest kick in practice) is probably 80 yards, 75 or 80 yards. Usually you don’t measure them, though. Instead you just go ‘Whoa!’
QB Joel Klatt
ON THE CU OFFENSE: “It is a terrific week for us to focus on ourselves, to focus on the things we need to fix that we need to be better at, and take it as an opportunity to become the team we want to become. We obviously haven’t played to our potential in either of the first two games. Fortunately, we have come out of them with two wins and this week is a great week for us to get back to the basics and really go after North Texas with the things we know how to do.
“Besides the first quarter of the CSU game it’s been the defense playing well or the special teams bailing us out. This will be a great chance for us to focus on ourselves offensively. This game is a chance for us to come out and play aggressive and fast on the offensive side of the football and score some points.
“Personally, I need to mentally slow the game down and get back to making reads like I did last year and in the first quarter of the Colorado State game and really stay within the offense. I really took on too much last week and tried to do too much and consequently it hurt us in the passing game.”
GENERAL: “Defense is really all about attitude and effort and everyone can see the type of effort our defense is playing with right now. Our special teams are playing with a great mentality. They’re trying to be the best special team out on the field each time they go out there for a play. The mentality is working great for those guys. Once we get the offense to get going a little bit we feel like we’ve got a very good football team. And hopefully we’ll step up and do out part and get this three headed monster going.”
ON NORTH TEXAS: “This by no stretch of the imagination is a team we can go out and just walk all over. That’s not even close to anyone’s mindset. We just need to find a way like we have the previous two weekends to be the best team on the field Saturday evening. So as long as we take that mindset and continue to work hard in practice and continue to do the little things and be a detailed team then we’re going to give ourselves a chance to win the football game and that’s all we can ask for.
“I think it’s 100 percent on the leadership of this team (to not let down), 100 percent on the captains and the seniors to hold everyone accountable and realize we haven’t played well. We’ve been fortunate to win both football games. We’re excited in terms of where we are in terms of the season right now, but by no stretch of the imagination are we where we need to be as a football team.”
Practice Notes: Linebacker Brian Iwuh (ankle) remained out of practice Tuesday, as Barnett said the junior’s playing status still remains day-to-day. Head trainer Steve Willard told Barnett that Iwuh “at least has a chance to still play,” against North Texas. ... Barnett said that he has begun to “feel very comfortable” playing true freshmen tailbacks Hugh Charles and Byron Ellis. The duo is currently listed at co-No. 2 behind Purify on the depth chart, as Charles received two carries against Wazzou while Ellis saw field time against CSU. ... Barnett also said that redshirt freshman Bernard Jackson will remain at receiver after making the switch from quarterback last week. The coaches believe that the 6-foot-2, 190-pound Jackson is much too athletic to not reach the field. Against Washington State, he received his first game action ever, as he carried the ball three yards on a reverse that was originally designed to be thrown down field. Barnett said Jackson could possibly see time as a kick or punt returner down the line, as well.