University of Colorado head football coach Dan Hawkins
held his weekly press luncheon Tuesday at the Dal Ward Athletic Center. He talked about last week's game against the Missouri Tigers and previewed Saturday's showdown against the Texas A&M Aggies. The following are quotes from the session:
"Obviously it was a tough deal on Saturday. I am really proud of our guys and the way that they battled. We kind of had a slow start again, for at least the second week in a row, and I think we got beat on a couple of things there that will help us out. I think once the second quarter got going our defense was playing much better, they obviously did a great job in the second half and offensively we followed up with some things as well in the second half and despite how the score goes, we convert one of those two drives we have the chance to bring it within eight points. We still have the feeling that you are never out of it, but we have to continue to improve getting out of the gates so we are going to try a few things there."
"I thought our grounds crew did a great job getting the field ready to go; I know Missouri was pretty surprised at how awesome the field was and I think they had to get the soccer field ready to go as well and the crowd was great, it was a great day, and homecoming, but unfortunately we couldn't follow that up with a win."
"It was a tough day for Tyler [Hansen] but again, there are ten other guys that have to help him out there and when you don't get your running game going and you are under attack back there it is tough for any one guy to get it going. We had a tough day up-front, but I love those guys, I really do. They are good kids, they have a huge sense of pride and I think they have done a great job for the most part coming along this year and that's not taking anything away from Missouri because they are very good up-front, they have a good defensive line and a good defense. Unfortunately, we didn't have Nick Kasa and looks like we probably won't have him for the rest of the year with his mono and his enlarged spleen. We are going to appeal to the NCAA to see if we can get his year back, but don't know because it normally has to be within the first 30% [of the season] and his is kind of in the middle, even though he falls within the window for the amount of time you can miss. Arthur Jaffee made a nice appearance there at kickoff return and the guy has a lot of speed and is doing a nice job on special teams all around. He has a lot of speed, a lot of heart and did a good job there. We got Andre [Simmons] in at one point and he wasn't able to get going, but it was good to get him on the field as well and hopefully we can get him a few more snaps at punt returner."
"We are facing an A&M team that is really electric right now. One of the best offenses in the Big 12, one of the best offenses in the country, one of the best quarterbacks and they are doing a great job running the ball. Cyrus Gray is a very good tailback and they have some juice at wide-receiver so they are kind of hitting on all cylinders offensively right now and it is certainly starting to gain some momentum the last couple weeks so it will be imperative again for our defense to play real well and for our offense to establish some continuity and get going that way."
"It is coach [Brian] Cabral's 300th game here as a Buff, which I think is pretty amazing. It is probably the longest tenure for anyone directly associated with football other than someone at administration, or I think (CU Sports Information Director) Dave Plati is probably on his 700th game, but quite an accomplishment for one guy as a player and as a coach and a testimony to his loyalty to this place. We also have Tyler Polumbus; he is going to make his first start for the Denver Broncos this week and we are very proud of him. We always talk to our guys about playing professional football, but do you really know what it means to be a professional and I think Tyler is a great example of that, a guy who works hard, is very smart, very athletic, he's a big guy and has great feet and that obviously helps him, but he has all the intangibles too, in that he's going show up and lift and run, know the playbook and will be ready to go so we are excited for him to get a chance to go on Monday Night Football."
On Starting Strong
"Yeah, we have a bit more electricity coming out of the locker room. Like I said, I thought Tuesday's practice was probably the best I have had in a long time, maybe even the best since I have been here. It is also interesting how a couple of things will tweak it; we stopped them [Missouri] a little bit defensively [in the first quarter], we had the pass-interference call, it takes them quite a few plays to actually score on that drive, we get at least one first down on offense, but then they have the big play that gashes us and the next time we turn it over. Now our defense did a nice job going four-and-out on a goal-line stand but we just need to keep trying to get something going on those first two drives both offensively and defensively coming out of the tunnel, so hopefully that will be the case on Saturday."
"We have a few things up our sleeve that we are going to try and we'll see how they go. Like I said before, you guys go to practice; you know we always start fast in every practice, we stretch and get going and have been doing that for awhile to try to alleviate a slow start, but we'll try a couple other wrinkles in there."
On Texas A&M's turnaround
"I don't know, I don't know if they can [describe their turnaround] either. You get a couple of plays, you get a little momentum, I think for them going to Texas Tech and getting their big win on the road gave them a lot of confidence. They were able to limit them [Texas Tech] to less then what they normally get and they [A&M] exploded that game. I think they had a few big plays that got them going as well, and just a little juice and motivation has carried over."
On Texas A&M Quarterback Jerrod Johnson
"They have good schemes; he can extend the play that is his deal. It's not so much that they are drawing it up in the sand, it's just if you are going to leave a gap open he can run through it, if you don't have somebody accounting for the quarterback he will take advantage of that. It is not often you find guys who are as tall as he is and as heavy as he is that can run like he does. He also has a tremendous arm; he can make any wide-field throws you want a guy to make, he's the total package and that's where he can hurt you. He can not only scramble around, but he can put his foot in the ground and he can throw it a long way down the field so you better cover your guy."
On QB Tyler Hansen's Struggles against Missouri
"Well again, he has to have help. That means having a running game that makes the defense be honest, it's having protection so you have some time to throw and time for guys to get open and catch the football and that's why again, I know it's always a lightning bolt and everyone always wants to look at that position [Quarterback], but there are ten other guys that have got to do their job so that guy can do his job."
"We talk to him [about throwing the ball away and getting rid of the ball], and coach [Eric] Kiesau obviously works on it with him, it is something he [Tyler] needs to get better at and learn. Some of those he didn't have the chance to throw it away, the first pressure of the game he did get rid of it. But some of those, when you are right behind the center and there is a bust and there is a crease right up the middle, I think typically now he rolls out of the pocket he doesn't have a problem. The last fourth down play when he took the sack, yeah he probably could have gotten rid of it, but most of the others were pretty hard for him to throw it away."
"Well, again, it's hard because a lot of times he is getting hit from the back. We always talk to our quarterbacks about keeping the ball near your chest, that's part of it, but other times he is getting popped before he thinks anybody can reach him. Fumbling the snaps is just a question of him getting it ironed out with his offensive-line and you just have to keep taking snaps.
On Offensive Line
"We have to get more consistency. We are getting the right guys, we're blocking the right guys, and we are not having a lot of mental breaks there. We just have to do a better job with our technique and again, those guys are seriously good kids, they take a lot of pride and work hard and I don't take anything away from them that way. The other side of it too is Missouri is pretty good; I don't know if you looked at their defensive line but they are pretty good, they are no slouch. We really just need a bit more juice and continuity there."
On Fake Field-Goal Conversion
"Well, again it is just one of those things where we have to do a better job as coaches. We worked on it, showed it on film, went over it, walked through, even when they lined up we were yelling it from the sidelines, so we just have to do a better job of a sense of urgency, that's all you can do. They knew what was going on, we just didn't execute. I think again, it's a case of getting a little frustrated, not getting the amount of stops they want, or not keeping them out of the end-zone as much as they want and not focusing on that particular play right there. They are a pretty attentive group and why that play slipped by I don't know."
On Passionate Postgame Press Conferences By Players
"I think all of their energy needs to translate to the field. Clearly, Marcus [Burton] has been a very focused player all year, I thought for Ben [Burney] to get hurt, come back in and make the play that he did showed a lot of great leadership and passion by him. Hopefully those guys and their passion will spill over to the rest of the squad."
"I don't know that I liked it, you like to see it on the field and in practice. Everyone can be elated after a game when you win, or disappointed that you lose but it's being able to funnel all those emotions into your practice and preparation and then in the game and that's the trick right there. It doesn't matter to me whether they are showing it [passion] after the game or not, that is irrelevant to me, it has to happen during the game."
On Finding Motivation
"We'll see, I have said this before to you guys, but Phil Jackson always talks about those break-through moments and you are never exactly sure when they come, why they come or how they come. Sometimes you think they come through a big win, but other times they come through a painful loss too of pushing you over that emotional edge and pushing you to that next level so hopefully we will take something from it."
On Redshirt Freshmen
"There are so many of them, I'm not going to pick names , but there are a lot of kids that I think could have helped us this year and are really coming along nicely. Again, as you are looking at your depth, some of those guys are playing behind pretty good players; it's not so much that one guy will beat out another guy as much as they will split time. We want them to continue to develop and look for them to contribute next year."