COACH SPEAK : OCTOBER 31
By Leo Haggerty
Had a chance to chat with 8 head coaches from around the country. Another great week of commentary and, included in the group, six of them are piloting programs in the AP Top 25. Hey, SEC, you’re missing the boat here.
The following is in the order of how the head coaches are listed.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers HC Dirkers Koetter
#11 Oklahoma State HC Mike Gundy
#22 West Virginia HC Dana Holgorsen
#17 USF HC Charlie Strong
Arizona HC Rich Rodriguez
#12 Washington HC Chris Petersen
#13 Virginia Tech HC Justin Fuentes
#14 North Carolina State HC Dave Doreen
LH : You open the game with two 11 play drives and come away with two field goals. The six points is nice but was it frustrating not to come up with a touchdown on either of the first two drives?
DK : Absolutely.
LH : How much the Panthers have missed linebacker Luke Kuechly who has been out with a concussion?
DK : Kuechly is one of the best linebackers in the league. He is a tremendous player. Their defense is tough with or without him, but when they’ve got him in there that’s like us not having Lavonte and/or Kwon in there. It’s the same situation. Mayo, that comes in for him, he’s done well when he comes in. But, you don’t take a guy that’s in contention for Defensive Player of the Year every year out of your lineup and not have it affect you.
LH : You’ve seen film on Cam Newton for two or three years now. Are you seeing the Super Bowl Cam Newton this year or a new one?
I’m not sure about that. What I do know is Cam has been an MVP in this league before. He has been to a Super Bowl. He’s obviously a top-flight dual-threat quarterback. I think he’s one of the best deep-ball throwers in the league no matter how you slice it.
LH : If someone would have told me that 13 points was going to win your game with Texas last week, I would have called them nuts. Is it something Texas did or something you didn’t do or a combination of both that kept the score down?
MG : I think it was Texas. You really have to give them a lot of credit. They made adjustments in the game and we didn’t do a good job in the second half of countering their adjustments. We were rolling pretty good in the first quarter. Really the first quarter and a half. In the second quarter they made some adjustments. We got beat up a little bit up front. We have to adjust better with our coaches on the offensive side of the ball.
LH : Your offensive line is in shambles. Do you expect to get any of the starters back in the near future?
MG: Well, we’ll find out a lot more tomorrow afternoon. We evaluated them, obviously, yesterday and today. We’ve tried to use that 48 hours rest and then we’ll evaluate them again. I’m hoping that we can get some guys back. For a while, I felt like I was running a MASH unit. I was looking around for guys and we’d almost run out of them. We’ll come up with a plan though.
LH : When we talked last week, you were a little bit prophetic. You said we have a history with Baylor and you were spot on. That was a war down in Waco, wasn’t it?
DH : Yeah, that’s what were kind of expecting. We had such a good third quarter that, I think, we got complacent and forgot to finish. We played three good quarters of football and then let them get back in it. You can’t do that because anybody in the Big XII can get themselves out of a hole real quick.
LH : Isn’t it just really hard to win on the road in the Big XII?
DH : Yeah, it really is. Half our league is ranked in the Top 25. That, alone, just tells you how good the league really is. The teams that we’ve played, Kansas State and Texas and Baylor, those schools have been in the Top 25 their fair share of weeks, I can assure you of the history of that. When you play on the road, your goal is to win. I think that people talk a little bit negative toward us because we were up so much in the third quarter and allowed them to get on a roll and get back in it. At the end of the day, it’s about winning the ball game. I was proud of our guys by the way that they hung in there and didn’t allow it to happen. We made a big stop on the two-point conversion. The drive before that we held them to a field goal and recovered an onside kick as well. I was proud of our guys for hanging in there and getting the win. At the end of the day, that’s all that matters.
LH : If you look at your roster and Houston’s roster in terms of where your players are from, isn’t it really Texas against Florida?
CS : It really is. I was in Texas and we both recruit the same type of kid. We recruit within our state and they recruit within their state because you don’t have to go outside the state. If there’s a type of player we’re looking for, he’s in Florida. Same for Houston. They can get what they need by just going around the state and we do the same thing.
LH : I’m not in your locker room but I suspect the 800-pond gorilla is the 24-game streak of 30 or more points. Now that you have the record, will it be nice to just go out and play football?
CS : We just try to not make a big deal out of it. I know I don’t. I don’t talk about records. I don’t talk about rankings. I just try to prepare for the next team we have to play. We don’t make a big deal about it. It’s big on social media but I don’t make a big deal about it. We just want to go out and compete and go out and execute. Play with some emotion and play with some passion.
LH : Just win, right?
CS : Just win. No matter how we get it.
LH : You control your own destiny. You win out and you win the PAC XII South. That’s no secret to your players, right?
RR : No, it’s not. It’s interesting because there’s a lot of teams that control their own destiny. I don’t know if it has ever been like this, this late in the season. There’s so many teams in the PAC XII, in both divisions, that have a chance to control their destiny. It’s exciting for our players. No one expected us to be at this point but, the more you win, the more you believe. Obviously, we have a big one this weekend.
LH : Was the Houston game a wake-up call for your team?
RR : I don’t think so. We were really disappointed because we had a lot of opportunities to win that game especially with the ball at the end. I think the Utah game was more of a wake-up call. We were angry at ourselves because we had so many opportunities to win that game. We had some turnovers and let them back in the game. After that game, we had a bye week and I thought our guys responded really well and refocused. We have done a good job all year of focusing. Camp began in August so there’s nothing that has wavered from that point.
LH : Jimbo Fisher at Florida State is a big proponent of going to two bye weeks. What’s your feeling on that?
CP : I really don’t have a feeling on two bye weeks. We’ve been talking out here because there’s a couple of teams that don’t really have a bye week. USC plays all the way through and, I think, Washington State plays all the way through and gets a bye after they play us. It would kind of put a little more symmetry into everyone’s schedule. It would make everyone all the same. I think that could be a good thing. The problem is, when you start extending the season, which way do you extend it? I really want to bring our guys in earlier than we are. I think some of the details have to be worked out.
LH : Everyone talks about how the bye week helps the players. Do coaches need to decompress as well?
CP : Absolutely. For sure. I don’t know how much decompressing that’s going on. It’s a little bit of a different rhythm. You’re still busy. Catching up on recruiting. Self scouting. Getting out on the road for a few days but it is still different than the normal part of the season. You may not be able to decompress but you can catch your breath and that’s important.
LH : College basketball is going through a huge scandal right now and I think the big problem is the AAU. It doesn’t seem to be a problem in football because all the athlete has is his high school team. Do you think this will not be a problem in football because players have to play for their high school or they don’t get noticed?
CP : Yes but there’s still guys that are players in these kid’s lives. There’s 7-on-7 coaches or there’s trainers or whatever. It isn’t as prevalent as it is in basketball but we still do feel a bit of that from those type of guys.
LH : Years ago Duke wasn’t considered to be a major football power. Since Coach Cutcliffe got there, they’ve improved tremendously. What do you see about Duke on film?
JF : Well, I mean, first of all, I would say David’s pedigree speaks for itself. I mean, he’s won everywhere he’s been. He’s as fine a football coach as there is in all of America, maybe the most underrated football coach in America. We played Duke when we were just starting out at Memphis, and they had good, solid teams then, and I don’t think that those teams, as good as they were, are even close to as good a teams as they have now. When you look at the way they’re coached, how fundamentally sound they are, and the type of athletes that they’re recruiting now, I mean, they are recruiting better and better athletes, so they’ve got the perfect recipe to have success. They’ve got really, really good coaching, sound schemes, and they are getting better and better athletes in there.
Q. There’s at least four or five, maybe six teams in the ACC that control their own destiny, and you’re one of them. Win out, and you’re in. Your players have got to realize that, right?
JF : Well, we don’t talk too much about the long-term here. I have never brought up winning out or anything other than the next game. When we had our bye week. We knew it was right in the middle of the season, and we said we have six more games, all within our division, and we’re going to have to take them one at a time. We spend little or no time talking about the big picture and try to focus ourselves weekly on making sure we’re ready to play.
LH : You drew the short straw this year and got the Notre Dame everybody expects to have to play. What are you seeing on film that’s made them different from the last couple of years?
DD : Well, they’ve got to play us, too, you know, and so we just line up, whoever they put on the schedule, we’re going to give them everything we’ve got. As far as what are they doing better than last year, they’re running the football and they believe in running the football. A year ago they were more of a passing football team with Kizer at quarterback. I think he’s using his personnel well. I think he’s got an excellent offensive line and a big running back and big tight ends. What they’re doing really fits their personnel, and they’re doing it well and they believe in it. Defensively, I think Mike Elko is a great coach, and they’re very sound. A year ago he let go his defensive coordinator at the beginning of the season, and so that side of the ball was a mess. They’re playing well and they’re playing with good systems right now.
LH : There’s five or six teams right now in the ACC that control their own destiny. Is it nice to know that all you’ve got to do is worry about yourselves, and not worry about help from anybody else, and just win?
DD : Oh, absolutely. I mean, any time you’re in that position, you can really focus internally and think about the things you can do to make your players better and help your coaches coach better and allow guys to improve. I have a saying here that we talk about all the time, it’s just we want to put a personal best on the field every day, and it’s finding that one more thing you can work on, and I think when you’re not worried about anything on the outside of your program, that helps.