On Kansas State game
Gary Barnett: It was just the way it felt. A lot of mistakes. Some good things.
I thought in particular, the play of Maurice Lucas, starting his first game in a hostile environment. Playing against the kind of team he played against, I thought he did a pretty good job.
I thought a lot of guys in our secondary really played well. A couple of our linebackers were critical in that game. But I thought Maurice Lucas really did well for his first start, and for an 18-year-olf freshman in that environment.
Obviously, Evan Judge had a big day. He made some big catches for us. It was great to see Patrick Williams make a contested, terrific play. Hopefully, we’ve turned the corner with him a little bit, and he can start making those plays on a regular basis.
The field goal by Mason Crosby, really the entire kicking job that he did was phenomenal. We had good kicking protection all day. We had great snaps from Greg Pace. That’s an area that nobody ever talks about, he and Nick Holz, but think of that much pressure on that play at that time, and it was absolutely letter perfect.
I had gone to our coaches and some of our players on the sideline at that time and said, ‘look, this is a 50-yard field goal. And if we don’t make it, we go to overtime. It’s no big deal. I didn’t want them hanging everything on Mason. And if he didn’t make a 50-yard field goal, I didn’t want everybody hanging their heads.
Fortunately, Mason put it right through.
Kansas State, their crowd does a great job of making it a hostile environment. Of course, sitting in front of the band as they play all the way through up to your audibles makes it tough. The win on Saturday, and just everything made it a whole day of grind for some reason. But we were fortunate to get through it and get home. And now we’ve got ourselves in a position we wanted to be in. We control our own destiny. Even with Missouri’s loss, it doesn’t change things for us. It’s still a must-win game for us to keep controlling our destiny.
So it’s great to get back at home. Trust me, everybody’s anxious to get back and play on grass, and play in front of our crowd and play Missouri.
I think there’s only two quarterbacks in the country like Brad Smith. One’s Brad Smith and the other’s Vince Young. Those two guys are so valuable to their teams, and what they do in a game. They can control a game. Brad Smith is in that category.
We’ve played him now for four years. I’ve said the same thing about him (in the past), he’s just a wonderful player. He’s got wonderful ability. He’s the game. For us we’ve got to somehow find a way to control him.
You watch the Kansas game, you watch the Iowa State game, who (both) did the best job against him this year. They really didn’t do anything special against him. They just tackled extremely well, they didn’t leave their pass rush lanes, they didn’t let him break contain, they tackled him when he was inside, covered receivers. It wasn’t anything that you’d think was special. They didn’t come up with a new defense.
Nebraska is the only one that came up with a new defense and he went through them like Sherman through Atlanta.
Our challenge defensively is to find a way to contain him. We know he’s going to get his yards, we know he’s going to throw the ball. But we’ve got to slow him down a little bit.
Offensively, (CU’s) run game is a bit of an issue for me. That’s an area that has got to get better. We’ve got to improve. We’ve got to come out and be able to run the football.
I think we’re throwing the ball fairly well, considering everything. Considering we don’t have more threat in the run game than we do. So that’s going to be an area we’ve got to improve this week. We’ll spend a lot of time in practice on getting better in the run game.
And then our guys have got to be special. Mason’s got to be Mason here, and John Torp’s got to be John. We’ve kicked very well. We have a decided advantage in the kick game in this game, and we’ve got to make sure we maintain that.
Q: What did Nebraska do that didn’t work?
GB: They played a straight 50 defense (3-4), which everybody claims is the answer to this offense. It didn’t work that day. Baylor played it against A&M and that really caused A&M some problems. But Nebraska played against Missouri and I guess they got out of their rhythm. And Smith got hot, too. Sometimes it doesn’t make any difference, because he’s just good.
Q: Why is the run game not working of late?
G: You know, I can’t pinpoint it. Some of it’s the penalties. Some of it’s been all the pressure that we’ve gotten. Everybody’s forced us to throw the football. It’s never one thing. If it was one thing that’s all we would work on.
We’ve had some different guys in there on (the offensive line). I know Dave Borbely doesn’t think that’s been an issue. He’s probably right but I think the moving in and out makes practice much tougher, and maybe we don’t get as much done in practice as we’d like to.
In some respects, when you’ve got a veteran quarterback like Joel, and you’ve got veteran receivers and tight ends, you sit there and go, ‘Why do we want to pound this thing in there for 3 yards when we can throw it for what we’ve been able to throw it.’ We’re second in the conference in throwing the football. And we’re pretty efficient with it.
Q: Where do you want it to be?
GB: Well, you just want it to be better. We’re sixth in the conference in rushing in rushing. You think, ‘well, that’s not too bad,’ except it’s 72nd in the country. I guess it’s just my personality, and it’s our offense’s personality to be a little more physical and more aggressive in the run game.
Q: Brad Smith has been grabbing headlines since he stepped on campus. Is there a reason why he’s never really grown to be a dominant player or a Vince Young type?
GB: Well, I just paid him the highest compliment I could pay a player. He’s one of two quarterbacks in the country that can control a football game. I don’t know about the rest of it, I just know that he is one of the two best quarterbacks in an offense like this in the country.
The rest of it comes down to the schedule and luck and a lot of other things, and the people around him. Vince Young’s got some pretty good people around him. He’s got the best people in the country around him. But Brad Smith has been a dominant player in this conference, there’s no question about it.
Q: What are they doing differently with Smith this year?
GB: They’ve gone to the Utah/Bowling Green offense where they’re getting the ball in his hands almost 100 times a game because they’re no-huddle, they’re at the line, they look over at the coach who tells them what play to run. So, he’s just getting more reps.
There is a constant pressure on you as a defense. They’re always ready to run the next play, they’re waiting to see how you line up. They’re calling their plays, adjusting to it. It’s just a constant pressure from an athlete like Brad Smith in their offense. They’re much different than they were a year ago.
Q: Are you glad to see the seniors take control of a situation by calling a team meeting like they did yesterday?
GB: This group has all along. This group did in the summer, they did in fall camp. So this is just typical of the leadership that’s on our football team. This meeting was about trying to explain to the younger guys where we are in the season, where we are on our schedule, and how big a game this is. This wasn’t about much more than that.
Q: You’ve talked almost every week about how tough the next game is. Has this been one of the toughest seasons you’ve played?
GB: I think that’s the game anymore. The difference between football and basketball is, we are in a playoff every week. And that’s why you get the crowds and that’s why all your games still mean something. In basketball, you can get to the (conference) tournament and still get (to the national tournament).
To me, college football is one big playoff. Especially when you’re in a conference like ours. Every game becomes absolutely critical for you. That’s one of the reason why I am opposed to the playoff system. I don’t want to go into all that, but we already have a playoff. It’s called every week.
If you want to control your own destiny, they every game becomes a must-win for you. If you lose that, then you’re sitting around hoping and crossing your fingers.
Q: Do you have other tricks to try and cut down on penalties?
GB: That’s an almost unanswerable question. I don’t have a solution to it. It’s really got to come from the players.
We’ve got to do a better job in practice of drawing attention to it. But those are things that players have to decide. Punishment can only go so far. You do have to have a little punishment thrown in there.
Coming out of this last game, I’m not sure what to tell my players anymore in some cases. I know what to tell them when they do some things, no question. When you hit a quarterback late, and it’s late, I know what to tell them. When they line up back in the backfield and they’re supposed to be on the line, I know what to tell them.
I don’t know what to tell them on some issues. This is a violent, tough-nosed game and it’s got to be played that way. You’ve got to play the echo of the whistle every play or else you’re not going to be a good football player. And when you get penalties playing that way, you don’t know what to tell them.
Most of the penalties that occurred last week were absolutely our fault. We take responsibility for them. Players take responsibility and I take responsibility. But there’s also penalties that occur in game that you don’t know where they come from. I don’t know that you worry about the, you just keep going and kind of hope everything evens out.
On Missouri’s defense
GB: They are really good at rushing the passer. We counted they hit the Nebraska 40 times in that game. They are second in the conference in sacks and that is just their personality -- they put a lot of
pressure on you up front. They are a lot like Colorado State in the type of movement that they provide. Everybody is moving so much and doing so many zone blitzes that sometimes the answer is to go out and throw the ball.