BOULDER University of Colorado head football coach Gary Barnett held his weekly media luncheon Tuesday at the Dal Ward Athletic Center, as Barnett and punter John Torp and kicker Mason Crosby addressed the media during the afternoon press conference. The following are excerpts from the gathering and notes from the evening practice session.
Additionally, at the bottom, quotes from Texas A&M's Dennis Franchione's press conference also appear.
Additionally, at the bottom, quotes from Texas A&M's Dennis Franchione's press conference also appear.
On the Iowa State Game: “We really played pretty well defensively. I was pleased. We had a number of guys make Victory Club, who played very well. I was really proud of the way they played, pleased with the way our secondary played. I thought they kept the ball in front of them, and only gave up that one big play. They didn’t give up the big play that hurts you and that was critical in this game. Offensively, we are just misfiring. We have some good things going, but we’re inconsistent and we’re not executing at times very well. There are times we do and times we don’t. As an offense in total, we are not hitting on all cylinders, so we have to tweak a few things and keep working on it. We are not going to throw out the system or do any of that sort of stuff, because the system works. We’ll just keep working and getting guys better; that’s really the only approach we can take.
“On special teams, we asked them to be special and they were special in every category. Stephone Robinson was probably the one who was overlooked the most Saturday. He is a guy who we rush the punter every time, and he still averaged 10 yards a punt return. We say if we can just get 10, than that is one less first down we have to get. Stephone did a great job catching the ball and getting what he could without a return (blocking scheme). Mason just did a great job and so did John. John was just outstanding. We are doing some things in the punt game that help his average a little bit and his net yards average pretty well because we are able to cover (the returner) and do a good job at protection.”
On Texas A&M Game: “Going into A&M now is really an unbelievable challenge. That team has really grown and grown and grown leaps and bounds. Their defense is really impressive. When you watch them, you want to turn it off for awhile and then come back and sit down to watch them because they are really that good. They have become one of the best defenses in the country.
“They really run well, but I think I’ve been more impressed with their tackling. They put a lot of pressure on you. Their leading corner has four sacks, so they’re always brining the corner off the boundary as an additional pass rusher. Many times you don’t account for him.
“(Reggie) McNeal is just an outstanding football player. He is probably playing the best out of all the quarterbacks in the conference right now. He’s really, really good. He throws it and he’s got the same kind of running ability as (Missouri QB) Brad Smith. He’s got receivers, their running game is going and he really seems to have a feel for what they’re doing. He’s made a lot of big plays; in himself he is a weapon. He’s certainly a valuable player. Even when he doesn’t have anybody to hand off to or throw to he’s a weapon. So, we’ve got a huge challenge for us on both sides (of the ball) and on special teams.
“We know (College Station) is a notoriously difficult place to play. But, we play in tough places and that is not going to affect us. We train at altitude, so hopefully that is going to help. But, we just have to fix us. Everybody that A&M has beaten they have had big plays against. We’ve got to prevent big plays, make sure we’re aligned and keep the ball in front of us. On offense, we have got to get more than three or four cylinders running we have to get them all going. We are going to have to make some plays and make some third down conversions.”
On CU’s Red Zone Defense: “We have been a bend don’t break defense, and we have been good in the red zone for whatever reason. Everybody asks me, but I don’t have a reason. We just seem to tighten up down there, or maybe it’s just that the other teams seem to tighten up as well. I just don’t know. We have done a good job down there statistically, and I wish I could tell you it’s because we have a great red zone plan, but we don’t. We just play and that’s the way it works out.”
On TB Bobby Purify’s Injury: “We really have to work hard at getting somebody else ready to take the load (if he’s not full strength). We are going to do that this week and we did it last week a little bit. We’re just hoping eventually that this (injury) will get better. It gets a little bit better each week, but when he does play it’s hard for it to get any better fast. So he wants to play, but we just have to do the best we can to get someone else ready. We have to get a lot of reps in practice for Lawrence (Vickers) and the two freshmen (Hugh Charles and Byron Ellis). It’s too bad that we’ve got (Brandon) (Caesar) out for the year, because he would have been a big addition for us. He’d probably be carrying the ball a lot.
“Talking to ( head trainer) Steve (Willard), I don’t think (a full week off) would help Purify that much. Either way, you don’t know which way to go with it. Bobby has five games left, so how many do you really want to pass up. He has passed up so many in his career already and he doesn’t want to give up anymore. It’s one of those things that as long as the doctors tell him he can’t hurt it anymore, he can play and he wants to play, then I am going to go with what he wants to do.”
On Joel Klatt Maybe Trying to Do Too Much Before: “Especially on a team that has so few seniors, you feel that it is on your shoulders and that you have to do more than just play the game. You tend to do it. If Joel feels that way, then that has probably pretty much been the way that’s been for him. That’s why last week, taking four days off not being the starting quarterback, getting a chance to reflect on everything and look at it from a different perspective probably was the most valuable thing that has happened to him this year. We’ll see what he does with it. I think he went into that (ISU) game as a team member and not as Joel Klatt the captain and the quarterback. He went right in and didn’t miss a beat.”
On CU’s Confidence: “The kickers feel good about themselves. The defense feels good about themselves, but our offense is struggling from a confidence standpoint. They are not struggling from a perseverance standpoint. We had a good, crisp focused practice on offense yesterday. They all want to make it work. They are just as befuddled as you or I am as to why we don’t execute at times. But, we also know that everything works, we just have to keep clearing up some things.”
P JOHN TORP and PK MASON CROSBY
On Torp Shining Crosby’s Shoe After a Big Kick:
Torp “It’s an old soccer celebration. We both come in from a soccer background, so it’s just something that we have adapted to the football field.”
Crosby “People say they’ve seen it in soccer, but not in football. We’re kickers and we are kind of weird.”
On Torp’s Performances:
Crosby “John has definitely been having a good year. Every time he goes out he’s doing what the coaches are asking. He just goes out there and does what he’s supposed to do; that’s what impresses me the most about him.”
On Crosby’s Play:
Torp “He definitely has got a big time leg. I’ve really enjoyed not having to do those little punts because it helps my average a little bit. So I was joking with him, the ball was on our side of the 50 and then after a run it was on the other team’s side of the field, and I said to him, Good, we’re in your territory now.’”
On the Lost Art of Directional Kicking:
Torp “Last year we did a lot more directional punting depending on what our formation and coverage was. You guys may have noticed we have been throwing out a lot of different formations and schemes as a punt return unit this year. A lot of times with the gate formation I’m supposed to kick it across the field to where most of the group is. I mean, directional punting is still there, but it’s kind of a weekly thing depending on where coach Barnett wants the ball and how we’re lined up.”
On Being Ready for a Fake Punt:
Torp “I’m definitely ready if I’m called upon. A lot of the times we’ve lined up this year, they (the defense) has been calling out to watch for my number because of some of the things we did last year. But every week we kind of notice something that the other team does, so we might have to adapt to have an option there. But I’m definitely ready if the call comes.”
On Pressure of Upcoming Games:
Crosby “I’m looking forward to the added pressure, looking forward to some big time games. I’m interested in seeing how the team reacts to going down to College Station and playing a good team down there. I like whenever there is some extra pressure. It kind of calms me down because it makes me focus a lot harder.”
On Special Teams Attitude this Year:
Torp “The difference between this year and last year is that there is just a lot of pride in the special teams. On the punt team alone, Tom Hubbard, who’s my personal protector, has done a great job of ensuring I don’t get killed. And guys like Dusty Sprague and Hugh Charles will come up to me after a pump and apologize for missing a tackle. A lot of people are taking a lot of pride and are working together to make the big difference this year.”
On Teammates’ Support:
Crosby “It definitely builds confidence. With the team backing me it’s a much better feeling than last year. When I go out there I know that everyone is on my side and that whether things go right or if they don’t go right that they are there for me. It’s kind of a crazy thing that people are asking coach for me to kick a field goal whenever there is a long kick.”
On Kicking at Altitude:
Crosby “We talk about that a lot. You know, I don’t think it really does matter that much. There is a lot of hype saying you kick the ball a lot farther at altitude, but I actually think that some of my better kicks have been at lower altitudes.”
On Keys to a Long Field Goal:
Crosby “Just staying calm and staying focused. Sometimes on a longer field goal I have a tendency to kick it too hard. My leg swing will be too quick and the ball will hook left or something like that. But for instance, on Saturday I treated (the 60-yarder) as if it were a shorter field goal and kicked it like that, just staying smooth and keeping my technique as consistent as possible.”
Tuesday Practice Notes: Barnett said that Daniel Jolly will completely focus on playing fullback, as the sophomore had been working at tailback and V-Back (versatile back) earlier in the year. Due to Purify’s injury, Jolly will take over for Vickers at fullback and be backed up by sophomore Paul Creighton. Barnett also noted that redshirt freshman Bernard Jackson (elbow) is close to being at full speed, and that CU will “continue to see if there are chances to work him in there” at punt returner and wide receiver once healthy. Jackson, a former quarterback who was moved to receiver early this year, injured the joint while returning a punt against North Texas in Week. 3.
TEXAS A&M FOOTBALL Head Coach Dennis Franchione Quotes
Weekly Press Luncheon, Oct. 19, 2004
Q: Have any of your goals changed?
COACH FRANCHIONE: No. When we put our goals together at the beginning of the year we set very high goals. We have a pyramid of them and there’s almost always something that youıre trying to attain. At the top of our pyramid is the national championship and at the bottom is coming together as a team. I just believe that you only can attain what youıve set as a goal. It’s hard to attain something you donıt have. You need to have a vision for where you want to go otherwise youıre just like a ship out in the ocean without a rudder; youıre just going to float around. We identified ours pretty well.
Q: What’s that?
COACH FRANCHIONE: The heading on it is play smart and play together. It deals with far more tangible items such as effort; being the least penalized; which we havenıt been very good at and I made them vow to work harder to improve if I was going to color this in, play physical Aggie football. Itıs more football-related areas that we can identify and then I know Iım going to be talking about focus, intensity, aggressiveness, things like that I know Iım going to be talking about with the team. Usually I take about a month to two and a half months after spring practice and just kind of let this digest on my mind about how Iım going to handle this team. This year it just happened a little earlier because the movie ³Miracle² kind of played right into our whole plan. What I put on those blocks of the pyramid change each year to a certain degree based on where weıre at as a program and where weıre trying to go and what we need to do to get there.
Q: After the Utah game, did you sense that what you were going to tell the team after the game would be important to which direction your team went this season?
COACH FRANCHIONE: What assists you in that I think is that this team had already laid such a foundation of coming together as a team and playing for each other and the < the relationship of coach and player trust and player and player trust was strong enough that it was much easier to deal with that game on Sunday and Monday than it probably would have ever been last year. Weıve been together and players learn to trust us and weıve learned to trust them on a lot of things, too. Theyıve learned to trust each other in the feel and accountability of each other. When we come back and start saying weıre better than this and it was really fairly easy. We had done our work ahead of time. People ask if Iım a positive person or negative person. Iım not a negative person but Iım a realist in that I know I may have to deal with this or all the way to this with this football team. When the Utah situation happened it wasnıt like I hadnıt thought about it. When I go in the locker room after a game I have four speeches ready for our team. So I know based on how the game has gone what I want to say. For the most part, before we ever get to the end of the game. You obviously change it and take whatıs happened and mold it a little bit.
Q: Since youıre a realist would you talk about how far this team has come and how quickly theyıve done it.
COACH FRANCHIONE: I would never want to say I didnıt believe these players couldn’t achieve this because thatıs not true. I couldnıt have said that I thought the likelihood of it was real strong. But I wasnıt going to doubt them. I was going to believe in them. So am I surprised a little bit of where we are? You have to be. If you think back to July and August when we talked and youıre thinking weıve got three of the first four games against preseason top 20 teams and then two road games. It was hard. coming off a 4-8 year and knowing how much work we had to do, to think that we could get to this point today. Obviously it wasnıt impossible.
Q: What do you remember of the week leading into the Clemson game?
COACH FRANCHIONE: Our players believed they could beat Clemson. The Wyoming game was such a validation of all of our thoughts. I didnıt know how good we were but we all knew we were better than the Utah game and the 31-0 Wyoming game was just a reassurance of Owe are better.ı The Clemson game our players believed they could play with Clemson. They knew they would have to play well and have to execute and play hard and play well on defense. You know, I was still at a point in time where I didnıt know what to believe. Youıre afraid to let yourself believe too many good things and certainly donıt want to remember too many of those bad things that are still out there.
Q: What were some of the things you saw during the off season spring practice and everything that made you feel there was this foundation laid you definitely didn’t have last year.
COACH FRANCHIONE: Well, first off, itıs the way the players came back in January. They came back with an attitude that they didnıt want to go through that again. They had more purpose to everything. We had been full cycle so they knew what was coming next. They understood the importance of getting stronger, why they needed to get stronger. When we went to see the movie ³Miracle² that helped get my message across about team and it gave us an early rallying cry of OWho do you play for?ı As we continued through the off season and the off season program and spring practice you could just see them coming together and seeing the elements of putting the team first and themselves secondary. (You could see it) in the way they handled themselves, the way they talked, the way they started to have compassion about how their teammate was doing rather than themselves. Then you go into summer workouts and my first summer it was like OGosh weıve never worked this hard beforeı and this summer it was OThis is what we do. This is what we need to do to get to where we areı and our August two a days were a reflection of that because you know everybody kind of put a lot of personal issues out of their mind and focused on getting better and getting better as a team and just been a lot of comments and body language that leads you to know youıre start to go put those pieces together.
Q: When you hired Les Koenning at TCU what about him made him the right choice?
COACH FRANCHIONE: No. 1, Les was opposite of me and I didnıt want somebody that was like me. I wanted to offset my strengths, and hopefully I have some, with that person’s strengths. He had some real strengths in the passing game and he had strengths as a coach from the state of Texas as far as knowing a lot of people. He’d been in the NFL. I knew he was going to bring a lot as far as identity in the State of Texas with his dad being a high school coach with his knowledge and his background. His strengths being the opposite of what my strengths, so we could mesh it together and make
Q: Can you breakdown the offensive game planning and how that works in regard to Coach Koenning?
COACH FRANCHIONE: Les and I probably spend more time together than any coach and unfortunately Iım the head coach and heıs the offensive coordinator so he has to put up with me fussing at him sometimes. But we have a good
relationship. We have one where he can speak our mind and get better. Les has lots of great ideas and every coach in that room has input into the game plan. As we go through formations down and distance things everybody has thoughts and we search for the best thought. In some ways Iım kind of the quality control guy. I donıt let us do too many things. I donıt let us put in stuff that maybe I donıt think weıre quite ready for or Iıll let us go a little over the edge in some areas maybe, but Iım the quality control person I think in that room for the most part. Amazingly during a game I think Les and I counterbalance each other pretty well. I may be thinking one thing and heıs thinking another and a lot of times he gets into a great rhythm with his play calls and sometimes I do and sometimes weıre both sitting there saying we donıt have a clue. Neither one of us had any rhythm in the fourth quarter of the K-State game because we didnıt have the ball enough, so where do we go? We both started bouncing ideas off of each either and fortunately we found one that worked pretty good.
Q: Did you have to be talked into starting five wide receivers with no backs against OSU.
COACH FRANCHIONE: No. I challenge our guys in the staff room and if they’ve done their homework -- I call it checking their hole card.’ If they meet my challenge and theyıve dotted the iıs and crossed the tıs and are prepared to sell me on it, I give them no problem whatsoever because I know they’ll coach it well. I know they believe in it and I know the players will sense those things and so when I say Iım quality control thatıs a little bit what I do. So when we opened up with five wide receivers in the game that was what we felt like as a staff was the best thing to do and I certainly had been a part of the decision but I donıt necessarily think it was my idea.
Q: When you say counter balance do you mean that Coach Koenning is more five wides and youıre more two tight ends and two backs
COACH FRANCHIONE: The way I would have looked at it in 1999 when Les joined our staff, I had an option background maybe a little stronger than he did and he had a passing background a little stronger than I did and we meshed them together. We donıt run a lot of option anymore. We have gotten away from it a little bit, although we still have some elements of it in our offense. His strengths in the passing game are really good and I can kind of take us in the other direction and keep everything meshed together.
Q: Does that or should that send a message that youıre willing to throw the ball 55 yards down field with a few seconds left on the clock instead of taking a knee and running the clock down?
COACH FRANCHIONE: Weıre going to try to score anyway we can anytime we can. I hope it does. The other part of that is that I believe in Reggie (McNeal) right now so much. When you have a quarterback that you can go out on the edge a little bit more of risk but know that heıs going to understand and keep you out of a problem then as a coach it lets you shoot from the hip a little bit more. Itıs not uncalculated, I donıt mean that. It means if we want to call four verticals 10 times in a game like we did against Iowa State, we know Reggieıs going to take care of it.
Q: How happy are you with the defense and its ability to produce turnovers?
COACH FRANCHIONE: Thatıs been a major key. Itıs just been really pleasing to see our defense grow together especially in light of what they went through in the Utah game. To see the young players coming in with their enthusiasm getting a little better every week and then to see some of the older players getting better. I didnıt know if it would happen this soon.
Q: Have you ever seen anything like what yıall are doing right now as far as turnovers on offense?
COACH FRANCHIONE: No. One turnover in six games... I donıt know if I’ve heard that have from any other team let alone one of my teams. I can’t remember that. You know, Geoff mentioned that destiny the other night. I’d like to think that itıs happened as a result of the hard work weıve put in on emphasizing turnovers and takeaways. Not only did Taylor (Schuster) recover it, he had both hands on it as he lumbered down the field. You know that theyıve accepted this coaching. This is an important part for us to turn our record around.
Q: Last year you said you were glad to be at A&M but what’s it like being at A&M right now.
COACH FRANCHIONE: You coach for lots of reasons. But the biggest enjoyment of this year has been getting to go to the lockerroom after the game and see our players and see their chemistry in there and their confidence grow and self esteem grow and them grow together. The locker room after the Clemson game was just unbelievable and then the K-State game was even better and Oklahoma State game was neat. So those are memories you want to keep as a coach because itıs really what you do this for. As far as really enjoying it obviously winning is more enjoyable than losing but as coaches I always say you dwell on the losses too long. You donıt have enough time to savor the victories so you get wrapped up in the now with the next game. I watched Bill Parcells get interviewed by 60 Minutes a few weeks ago and his ex-wife said he was never happy even if he won the game and he explained that people donıt understand that within an hour after the game you got this guy’s injured what are you going to do here you got this problem to deal with you got this problem to deal with. As a coach, you immediately move ahead so fast with whatıs the next challenge you donıt have enough time to completely enjoy it but I’m glad weıre a part of it.
Q: Aldo De La Garza said he was scared to death at the prospect of starting two redshirt freshmen on the offensive line. Were you scared how those guys would react?
COACH FRANCHIONE: Well, I think that would be a wrong use of words for me. I watch practice every day and I had reason to believe they would have success. You always know that a young man playing in his first college football game might have some ups and downs so you probably a little anxiety or concern about that. But you made your decision to put them in that position based upon watching practice every day and watching a tape of practice every night so you have a level of comfort that theyıre going to perform reasonably well.