GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Oklahoma head coach Bob Stoops met with the media Tuesday morning in advance of the 2008 Tostitos Fiesta Bowl.
The No. 3 Sooners (11-2) play No. 9 West Virginia (10-2) on Wednesday, Jan. 2, at 6 p.m. (7 p.m. CT) at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale. FOX has the national telecast.
|Head Coach Bob Stoops|
Happy New Year to everyone. Just, again, excited to be here and looking forward to a great game here tomorrow night. And I feel like our team really through the week has had a great week of practice and really have been attendant at the meetings and on the field. Feel really good about that.
I can't say enough about the Tostitos staff, everybody has been fabulous, the accommodations out at the Fairmont Princess could not have been better. Pinnacle High School, just fabulous accommodations. Everybody out there has been great, gone out of their way to make it good for us. So, again, it has been a great trip, but most important part of it all is the game and we're looking forward to that challenge here tomorrow night.
West Virginia, compliments to them. Coach Stewart, had a function with Bill and his staff a few nights ago. They have really done a great job. Bill has done a great job keeping his team together. Very talented football team that has played really well and a championship team. We feel it is a challenge but an exciting one.
Can you give us an update? How much do you think you're compromised by the loss of three defensive starters?
I don't feel that we are compromised very much in that Darien Williams is a guy that has been a starter for us, a full-time starter for us a year ago. He goes in in one spot. DeMarcus Granger, everyone knows how we rotate our inside D-linemen. We rotate a lot of guys in there through the year, and all the guys that will be rotating in there have played significant -- have had a significant number of plays throughout the year.
So I don't believe it does much to us. Reggie Smith, I guess, in that position, it is the one with Brian Jackson, Dominique Franks will get the snaps. Dominique will start. But those guys have played well and had a full year of practice in that position.
So we feel in the end we'll be fine. It doesn't change anything for us.
Bob, someone described you earlier in the week as a team that's really good at everything but not necessarily great at any one particular element. Do you agree with that? If not, what would you say is the most elevated part of the squad?
I don't know. I have a hard time saying you're the best at or great at. We're pretty solid, though. I don't know what that's supposed to mean.
I look at our efficiency on offense. I think we're the third scoring offense in the country, so -- but I think maybe what you're saying because we are balanced, nobody wants to say we're great at running it or just great at throwing it. We got a red-shirt freshman quarterback whose efficiency, and if you look at his touchdowns to interceptions to points per game, you know, just because that's not all we do is throw it, it is as good as anybody in the country.
And so maybe that's why, is because of the balance we have. You know, the bottom line for me is points per game and we've done pretty well there. And the same thing defensively.
I think defensively we have been able to adapt to the different styles we play, whether someone wants to be physical and run it or spread us out and make us cover and tackle in space and we have been able to do both. So, again, I'm not going to sit here and trump at anything that's great. But I think we're more than solid in a lot of areas.
Bob, you are playing another very good offensive team in the Fiesta Bowl. This year you've played more really good offensive teams than any team in college football and, yet, your defense is ranked very, very high and you've had a great defensive year. Can you talk about the keys to this defense and some of the reasons why it is so good?
Yeah, I think as I was kind of saying a little earlier, I think we're just very adaptable, very flexible in how we play. And we can play a lot of styles. I think we're strong and physical enough to play teams that do want to be physical and pound it at us.
And we've been -- we've shown the ability to stretch out and spread out with a lot of people and, again, be very effective tackling in space, disciplined to be where we're supposed to be.
We've played some other option teams that, again, we've shown the discipline to be able to read it out and play it and tackle in space. So I think as much as anything, it is our being able to adapt and be flexible in how we play.
Bob, talk about their running game, if you would, especially their Slaton, Devine, those guys, are as they good a group of players as you have faced this year?
Absolutely. They all have great speed, great skill, ability to run past you, ability to make you miss them. And I think the element that is really there again is that they want -- they'll run their quarterback more than most teams we've played.
I think the only team we played is the leading carrier is Texas A & M. But, again, their willingness to use a quarterback so much sometimes can create a numbers disadvantage for you. So that's where you have to be really disciplined to take care of it and handle the run game with him.
Bob, with some young corners, either Dominique or Brian Jackson, what's the one thing or couple things that concerns you about them being out there?
Nothing different than what concerns me in the secondary. You've got to be able to make tackles and make plays when you are out there in space when you have the opportunities. Those guys are good athletes, confident guys and I feel they're -- like a lot of times, they're just waiting for their opportunity.
Coach, can you talk about the way D.J. Wolfe has finally developed the ball for playing so many positions on this team?
D.J. has had a great year, an exceptional year for us leading our team in interceptions. He's probably in the top five in tackles. Has really come on and played physical for us in the second half of the year.
So he is an excellent athlete. You know, comes in as a running back and he was one of the guys that really helped us recruit Adrian. Still wanted Adrian to come. They come in in the same year. D.J. moves to cornerback and then to safety. He really found a home there. I remember in the spring after one or two practices, Coach Wright and I talking that this really looks good, this really -- he is a smart guy and got excellent instincts and you get a really good athlete out there at the safety position that has to play a lot of different ways. He handles it well.
Along the lines of another last-year player for you, Allen Patrick, we talked to him earlier in the week, I personally was not aware of his personal situation where he lost a child until it came out in the local media. He said that affected him in the month of November because it had happened the previous November. So were you guys aware of that as a staff, that he was going through some stuff? Has he bounced back incredibly?
No, I wasn't aware -- he didn't make that known to me, but in the end, I'm sure it's difficult. We can all only imagine what that would be like.
But I know this, in our last -- you look at what he did for us in the Oklahoma State game and in the championship game. You have heard me talk all year, I have great respect for the way he competes and the example he sets for the team and the team player he is. He has always been one of my favorites because of how he handles himself and for that example. Again, very unselfish player but a very hard-working, tough guy in the way we play. He always competes that way.
I want to get your comment on the Oklahoma schools getting off to a good start in the Bowl season. Oklahoma State's impressive 49-33 win last night over Indiana. Did you watch your games or your thoughts on it?
I was only able to see some of the early parts. I think they scored in the first three possessions, maybe. It didn't surprise me. They're an excellent team that way. They're very productive, have been all year. Sure, it is good to see. It gives you two playing so late -- their last game. It gives you a little confidence that you've played them well and look what they're able to do to some other people.
Coach Stewart talked about getting to know your family yesterday and a little bit of the recruiting process with your brother. Can you talk about your relationship with him and what you know about his personality?
Just a very positive, upbeat person that you really like being around. I think it is obvious to everybody when you're around him just how -- the positive influence he is and he always has a great outlook on everything.
There is a long history there. Excellent person, excellent coach with a great background and, again, just very upbeat about everything that he does.
On a followup from last night, Gundy mentioned yesterday how difficult it is to evaluate an opponent, how physical they might be or speed-wise if you don't have any common opponents, you haven't seen Indiana play maybe a Big 12 team. Can you talk about that, about West Virginia? Is it difficult to know how fast or physical they might be if you haven't seen them against a Big 12 team or somebody you're familiar with?
I think it's always that way, yes, when you haven't -- you can study tape, which we all do over and over. You get some ideas about some of the teams that you feel are similar to the way you play or have the people that you do.
Until you are on the field with them, you're right. Until you see them even warming up, you start to gauge the size, the speed, and it is always that way.
Coach, what do you see the key matchups in the game?
Oh, there are many. You know, for us defensively, it's perimeter tackling, being physical inside to cancel the run game. Again, that's -- they're persistent and love to run the football. But, you know, we've got to be physical to handle gap responsibility, and then we've got to be able to tackle and tackle well, especially out in the perimeter. Other factors for us offensively, it is always critical, we feel, to be balanced, to be able to take advantage of both, run and pass, and protect the ball. That's a big factor in these games, as well.
Coach, can you talk about kind of a two-part, one, winning this game and what it means for this season and also the momentum it can give you going into next season and off-season workouts?
It is positive to win. We want -- like always, this year, to complete it, we got one more game and want one more win and another trophy. That's what the guys take pride in and want.
As far as the momentum, know what it gives you, in all honesty, it gives you positive press for a month or so, you know, and if you don't win it, then you get some negative press for a month or so. In the end, you get a new team next year. I know -- obviously looking back at last year's game, did it affect us this year? Didn't take away any momentum. We started the year gangbusters.
In the end, it goes away, win or lose, and you start over with a new team. If you watch us in our winter workouts, you'll see we've won them and we lost them. They're no different in how we're going at our work and getting prepared for the next year.