On the WKU game….
We were fully outplayed and dominated in the first half of this game in all three phases by a very good Western Kentucky football team. This was a team that played Alabama, the best team in the nation, closer than a lot of other teams have this year. They lost in overtime to Vanderbilt and lost to LA Tech, which is the best team in the C-USA West right now. They held us to 67 yards on the ground and we had zero sacks versus their pass game. Their ability to dominate the line of scrimmage was big for them. They beat us in special teams and dominated us on third downs. We were 2-for-13 and they were 8-for-12. Every area is going to need to be better for us before we head to El Paso to take on a solid UTEP team.
UTEP is currently 2-5 and 1-3 in C-USA play. In their five-game losing streak they scored a combined 56 points, but they scored 52 points in the game they just won over UTSA in five overtimes. I give a lot of credit to their coach, Sean Kugler, and their players and staff for going into the bye week after that five-game losing streak and addressing the things they needed to fix. They played a very gutsy game against UTSA and just kept battling despite being down multiple times.
They play hard in all three phases and are a physical team. They are an extension of their head coach. Sean is a great coach. They showed a lot of mental toughness, so we will need to have a great week of practice. We need to stay focused on the process of winning, and that all starts with preparation and practice. Then we just have to execute on Saturday.
How critical is it to know when to get on the players’ case and when to back off a little bit?
It is the most critical thing. Every team in the country is a little bit beat up right now. We didn’t get back until 3 a.m. Sunday, so the guys were feeling pretty tired at our meeting yesterday afternoon. The first thing I made everyone do was stand up and repeat after me “We are a good football team.” That was the message to them. That game is over and we are only going to focus on what we can control.
On how his team has recovered mentally since their last loss…
They were a little bit shook. We all were. The mindset has to be that we need to move on. The last three weeks of practice have been tremendous, and were the best three weeks we have had all year, in fact. The expectation is that this will be our fourth-straight week of great practices. At this point in the year, we usually cut back a bit too because of the constant physical pounding that they’ve been going through. It is also the eighth week of the school semester, so we need to keep their minds fresh.
On what happened to his pass defense against WKU
He has been doing that to pretty much everybody. He started the season by throwing for 550 yards against Rice. Alabama was really the only team that’s held him in check. That isn’t an excuse, though. We need to play better. We needed to get more pressure on him. We had zero sacks. We need to play better in coverage on the back end and tackle better, too. WKU has two NFL-caliber wide receivers who both played to that standard in that game. That is an area we need to practice to get better.