Offensive Media Session

Athletics Communications
By Athletics Communications
University of Oklahoma
OCTOBER 22, 2013

Oklahoma Football
Co-Offensive Coordinator Josh Heupel
Oct. 22, 2013

On the passing game and improvements made during the Kansas game:
Some positives, that’s why we completed the percentage that we did. There’s a bunch of big plays out there that we still missed and changed the way the game was played. Those are things that we’re going to need to hit on Saturday.”

On the difficulty making deep shots:
Some of it is the defenses and some is just us making plays. We hit a couple of shots in our big personnel, where we were running the ball a little bit. Some of it is third-down throws too. We got Sterling (Shepard) down the field a little bit during a third-and-long and we don’t get the ball to him. There was that two minute drive too, where we had a couple of opportunities to make a throw and instead of kicking the field goal, we could have gotten six points. Whether it’s in the run game or throwing it, we haven’t had the big hitter, except for the one with Brennan (Clay) against TCU.”

If QB Blake Bell will get better at throwing deep balls:
“We certainly think he’s capable of making those plays. The wide receivers are doing a better job of squeezing the box and getting him the ability to throw that deep ball. All of those pieces of the puzzle are coming together.”

If QB Blake Bell’s struggles are from game day adrenaline:
I don’t know if it’s just one thing. Ultimately, it’s just reading it and getting your feet into position.”

On improvements that need to be made in the run game:
“There is more there than what we’ve done. On Saturday, we’re going to need to be more efficient with the football. A big key to the game last week is that we weren’t in many third and longs. We can’t be in those positions against Texas Tech because their defense is 10th in the country and they’ll make it tough on you.”

On starting faster in the first quarter:
“It’s not like we’re not capable of moving the ball or that the defenses are doing something to us. We’re hurting ourselves. We’re forgetting motions on the first drives or during key second down plays and next thing we know, we’re in a third and 15 instead of a third and two. So, it’s self-inflicted wounds and things that we have to handle and take care of. At the end of the day, we have to do a better job of starting fast. It’ll be critical in this game; we need to be efficient in the ball game.”

On the challenge of being an offensive coordinator with new players:
“At our skill spots last year, we were brand new. Last year, (WR) Kenny Stills was the one guy that had his hands on the ball previously, but he was at a new position. Our quarterback was back and that certainly is different and changes you. But we had a lot of turnover on the offensive line as well. A year ago, we played and got better every single week. By the end of the year, we were playing extremely efficient football and scoring a bunch of points. We’re at Week 7 and we’re capable of playing a lot better than we have in the last couple of weeks. We have to go out there and prove it.”

On the importance of having versatile players in the run game:
“The ability to play off the line and the ability for Trey (Millard) to run the football and be a great blocker off the perimeter has allowed us to be different than we were a year ago. Our run game is a little bit different and better this year.”

On Texas Tech’s defense:
They’re playing really well. I think they’re 10th in the country on third downs and they’re giving up 3 yards per carry. They’ve been able to play from ahead and they put a lot of pressure on the quarterback when that happens. We need to get off to a fast start, avoid third and longs and score touchdowns when we’re in the Red Zone.”

On QB Blake Bell in the run game:
“He was comfortable with some of the things that we did two weeks ago, although he didn’t have a lot of carries there. It is constantly evolving and I think you have to do that in your run game. Also, each week is different with the defenses that you see and how you need to attack them, in their scheme and their personnel, as well.”

On the importance of keeping Texas Tech’s offense off the field:
“It’s not just about keeping them off the field, but keeping us on it. That gives us the ability to score points. If you convert third downs and do a good job in the red zone, that will change how the game is played.”

On the change of tempo:
“When you’re not getting the same amount of plays, you’re going to limit your run game and pass game. It certainly changes the number of plays that you get and prepare. We’re trying to pick our times that we can work with some tempo. Just like in 2009, when we had the freshman quarterback, we played at the same speed. We try to keep our quarterbacks from making mistakes and gradually implement a little more tempo.”

How QB Blake Bell has handled the tempo this year:
“He’s handled the tempo stuff that we’ve given him pretty well. The third down stuff against Texas wasn’t as efficient as we wanted it to be.”

How the season can change with the next two games:
“We think one game at a time. If you don’t, you won’t play like you need to. I think our kids understand the opportunities that are out there, but at the end of the day, you can only focus on one day and one game at a time. You’re only as good as next week’s performance. What happened last week doesn’t affect what will happen this week and you certainly can’t think two weeks ahead of time.”

On the new look of Texas Tech’s defense:
“They have a bunch of things up front and they change their pressure. So they’re pretty difficult.”

How Texas Tech’s ranking this week will impact OU:
“I have no idea. They’re just the next team on the schedule. I heard someone say that they’re ranked 10th, but I found that out today.”

How the slow offensive starts have affected QB Blake Bell:
“Some of it is him, but not all of it is. During the Texas game, he started fast but during the third down he threw a wheel route to Brennan (Clay) and the next series he had the pick six. At the end of the day, we want to start faster because it’s different playing from behind than it is from ahead. It puts different pressure on the offense and that’s what we didn’t do in the Texas game.”

On how he teaches the players to deal with setbacks:
“You try to get them to understand that they are who they are, whether they’re being praised or burned at the stake. It really doesn’t matter; you’re only as good as next week. That’s the good thing about being in the competitive realm, you get to go out and make it happen instead of responding to what has happened. That’s what you try to get your kids to focus on every single week. That’s what you do every single day; you prepare to give yourself a chance to do what you’re capable of.”

Oklahoma Football
Co-Offensive Coordinator Jay Norvell
Oct. 22, 2013

On progress from Kansas:
“We need to get better. We have been leaving a lot of yards on the field and just execution. We are going to continue working on guys in those positions and our different packages. Every week is a different game plan so we are going try to do the things we need to do against these guys to make it work. Throw for a high percentage; make chunks down the field with play action and vertical throws. We will try to put this all together and hit them.”

On not being as up-tempo:
“One of the things we are doing is there are times where we keep the ball for very long times. Our ball control has been one of our strengths and when we don’t turn it over, it’s an even bigger strength. I think it is just a different way than people have seen us play around here.”

On having different players having better games:
“I don’t think we spend a lot of time worrying about that. All of our guys are competitive, want to make plays. If you ask them, they are always open. In that way they are all the same. But it is different in the amount of plays a guy gets to play because we are not having the ball for 90 plays a game. Part of that is our fault, we need to make more first downs and convert on third downs. That is the biggest thing we are really stressing, the conversions on third downs, keeping the drive alive and keeping the football. We were a little better last week but we still need to be a lot better to beat the best teams in this league. That is where we are headed. We really need to convert on first downs and make the plays to stay on the field and finish drives.”

On FBs Trey Millard and Aaron Ripkowski:
“They are very similar players. Rip (Ripkowski) has been that kind of guy for us this year and is playing a couple of different roles as a fullback and tight end. It’s not his natural position but Trey has been doing the same thing and those guys have been very, very important in our ability to run on the edges with our twelve personal and two fullbacks. It has been very important. We have to do better with our play action and making plays off our run action.”

On the need for receivers to win one-on-one matchups:
“It is a combination of execution and being on the same page so I would say we are not happy with that at this point. We will continue on and it is just part of what we are going through right now. We just need to be executing at a higher level and we would like to see more balance with more run yardage and more pass yardage, if I can be frank with you. We need to improve and we have five games left to do that. We need to do that this game. It is important because we play a team who scores a lot of points. We are really going to have to be efficient and take care of each drive. We are not going to be able to find a way through each play; we need to be efficient, move the ball and score points. This is the only way will match some of the teams we have left.”

On the Texas Tech secondary:
“It is good. It is similar to what it has been and guys are doing a really good job of third down. It is tight man-to-man coverage, its pressure on the quarterback and execution in our protection, route-running and delivering the ball. This is something we are going to continue to do when we are third-and-seven or third-and-10.”

On the offensive inconsistency: 
“The bottom line, whether you win pretty or win ugly, you got great stats or not, it’s that you have to do the things you have to do to beat that opponent that day. And I think that is the way this football team is going to be. We felt that way in the spring. We thought our style was going to be drastically different than it has in the past. We just have to find ways to win and protect the ball. We have to find ways to continue to drive the ball and to do that we have to convert on third down and make those critical situational plays to win. We have done this at time and there are times where we have been inconsistent. We didn’t start well last week and then we kind of came on and made some plays, got some confidence. Consistently we need more guys to step up in those tough situations to help get us out of them. That is part of where are identity is in offense and we are still trying to really find that. When going down the stretch it is important we improve our run efficiency, it is important we improve our pass efficiency and get some chunks down the field.”

On WR Lacolton Bester’s TD throw at Kansas:
“You know he was the quarterback in Scooba, Miss., and he always told me he could. We all laughed because he never threw it that good in practice. That was by far the best ball he ever through. He must be a game player.”

On whether there are any other trick plays in the OU repertoire:
“You never know. We have a lot of kids who played quarterback in high school and play a different position now but they all have different strengths. It’s a long season and by the end of it we will have over one thousand plays and some of them will be exotic.

“We practice a lot of plays that don’t make it to the game field sometimes. We have been practicing some trick plays that haven’t been on the field until now but maybe some of those will come up in the next few weeks, we never know.”

On C Gabe Ikard’s suggestion that they’ve been practicing that play for three or four years:
“That is a little bit of an exaggeration. Gabe is a little sarcastic.”

On Coach Heupel on the criticism that comes with being an offensive play caller: 
“The one thing about play calling is everyone who watches football thinks that they can call play. It really is not that easy. I think he has done a great job. He is prepared all the time and spends a lot of time at all year round. There are always things you would like to do differently but he has done a fabulous job. His experience being around really good coaches, leeching off those guys has really helped him. It is football; you are never going to make everyone happy. If you have sat in the chair, you understand it.

“There is no question. I think all of our coaches are. All of our coaches are here at Oklahoma and experienced. They are here for a reason.”

On whether he had ever seen a block like WR Jalen Saunders on WR Sterling Shepard's TD:
“No, not necessarily. But one of the things our guys have been doing is they have been scrambling and fighting like crazy. It is not always pretty, but when you turn the film on, they are playing really hard. That’s the thing we are most proud of right now. We know better things are coming with this offensive team, with the way we practice and the effort we give on game day. If we can continue to do that, in the last two weeks I think we have had more hustle blocks and knock downs on the perimeter since I have been here. That is a real credit to Saunders, (Lacoltan) Bester and Shepard who are working the perimeter and big things are going to come because of it.”

Oklahoma Football
Quarterback Blake Bell
Oct. 22, 2013

On how much the offense needs to get some chunk plays and why there hasn’t been many:
“I think obviously, yeah, we want to, for sure. That goes along with a little bit of everything. The offense I think, we get our running game going a little bit better. Obviously we’re doing a great job with our running game, but going out of the way and taking shots down the field and connecting a couple more because missing some is a little bit of the reason, too. That could be a little on me, the receivers and offensive line, but like I said, we’re coming every day trying to get better and trying to connect on all of those.”

On if he feels like fans are always going to want more even if he plays well:
“Yeah, I think that’s just a part of playing quarterback. If you’re doing well, everyone’s with you and if you’re doing bad, they might not be. But that’s a part of playing quarterback. You keep coming every day, battling and trying to get better. Like you said with the deep balls, I just keep throwing with the guys after practice and working to stay in the pocket, maybe moving in the pocket, stuff like that and getting better.”

On completing the deep ball:
“Yeah, I think it’s a part of the game. Even the short passes, I’ve missed on a couple of short passes or this guy did this, I did this, it’s just part of the game. And like I said, it’s going to come. We’ve just got to fight for it every day and get better and after a while, coach (Josh) Heupel, like he always says, ‘You’re going to keep taking shots. You’re not going to hit them all, but we just need to hit a few. If you hit a few, then we’re going to be in good shape.’”

On what they need to do as an offense to get off to quicker starts:
“Well we just need to come out swinging quicker. Obviously Texas Tech has a good defense and we need to come out and get on top quick and by doing that, I think it’s just knowing our job and executing. Those first couple drives (against Kansas) we messed up as an offense, as a whole, and they were very critical things. So I think if we correct those things and everyone does their job, we’ll be all right.”

On the tempo of the offense:
“I think we’ve got a good happy-medium. Like I said, coach (Josh) Heupel does a good job at whatever he wants to see - if he wants to go quick or go slow. But I think he’s got a good pace going when we do go quick and its working.”

On an up-tempo offense:
“It’s fun. Especially when you’re going tempo, it’s kind of hard for the defense to get set. So yeah, once you go fast and you’re hitting some plays and you can slow down and go fast, go fast, it kind of helps the rhythm and helps the offense get into rhythm, too.”

On the fourth-and-two play at Kansas when he missed an open Aaron Ripkowski:
“All week we were working on that play and it was one of those things where my eyes were out there at Trey (Millard) for a while and I was wanting to throw it to him and I saw a backer get underneath him and it made me just skip (Aaron Ripkowski), skip my other read, and in the middle, I was thinking I was going to put it right on Sterling (Shepard) and the backer was on him. Those kinds of plays happen so quick. Obviously as a quarterback you want that one back and lay it out there to him and let him make the play.”

On Coach Josh Heupel:
“The thing about coach (Josh) Heupel is that he expects you to come out at game speed every day. I know that’s a lot easier said than done, you’ve got guys coming out maybe not running crisp routes or maybe guys just kind of going through the motions. That’s the thing about Coach Heupel, he’s always expecting the best from you and he’s always wanting to go game speed in every single thing you’re doing in the practice field because it’s going to carry over to the game. I’d say just his mentality and his effort on the field – he just wants the best from us.”

Oklahoma Football
Wide Receiver Sterling Shepard
Oct. 22, 2013

On being close to reaching his father’s receiving numbers:
“That’s the first time I have heard that. Hopefully I get him. He didn’t get to catch the ball that much, but I would be excited.”

On the offense:
“We are working on it every day. I feel like we are putting a lot of that stuff in trying to get yardage with our deep balls. It’s going to come around.”

On moving the offense:
“I think so but that is what we are working on in practice every week. We want to open up the field and it is coming.”

On Trey Millard and Aaron Ripkowski:
“It is very important. I mean you catch switch Trey out and have him catch the ball or you can keep him as a top-notch blocker. It is great having that type of power.”

On Texas Tech's defense:
“Oh yeah, they are good. They are very physical and like to play a lot of press-man. That is one thing we need to work on is beating press coverage. We have the scout guys being physical with us.”

On hearing people say they are going to load the box up:
“Definitely. I feel like we have a lot of guys who can make plays. We rotate so many people, that if they choose to load the box, we can still make plays.”

On a quick first quarter start
“We have to get that going early, especially in this game. We know they are going to put a lot of points up and we just need to counter that.”

On long drive scoring:
“I mean it’s important in any game and I feel like we are going to do it this game. I feel good about it.”

On not having as many plays a game:
“No, I mean we are going to get our fair share of balls. We know that whenever we do catch them, that we make something happen. I feel like we have been doing a good job of doing that throughout the week.”

On sharing plays and games:
“They [opposing teams] watch film and they see one guy had a good game last week and will try and shut that guy down. But we have so many good players it’s just about seeing who is going to have that game.”

On Texas being the first time in 18 games without a catch:
“I started off slowly at the beginning of the season and have tried to pick it up since Tulsa. You have to keep fighting. Everything might not go your way but you have to keep going and fight through that.”

Oklahoma Football
Fullback Trey Millard
Oct. 22, 2013

On if being in the bigger sets with both he and Aaron Ripkowski playing TE has worked well:
“Yeah, we’ve had some success in it. I think especially just finishing out games we’ve had quite a bit of success with being able to stay on the field and running out clocks. When we’ve had to do that we’ve done a good job running it even when the defense knows we’re trying to run it.”

On if running clock and staying on the field as an offense will be important vs. Texas Tech:
“Yeah. Definitely to stay on the field is one of our goals. We’ve always had a goal of running the ball, it’s been something that we’ve focused on all season. We’ll continue to try and do that.”

On if the biggest challenge they have had to face this year is defenses stacking the box:
“Sometimes. Kansas, especially. We knew going into it that they were going to stack the box and force us to make throws on the outside and force us to run the ball on those types of looks. We knew that that’s kind of what their style was and that’s what we were going to have to face.”

On if he chuckles hearing teams will load the box considering OU's passing game:
“A little bit, but we definitely have to execute in the run game to open up some of those looks in the pass game.”

On the Texas Tech defense:
“They make a bunch of plays. They rally to the ball well – a bunch of athletic guys that move pretty well in space. We’ll have our hands full.”

On if the slower tempo offense makes them more physical:
“I don’t know if it makes us more physical or not, we just have less plays. A lot more plays are staying in bounds - not so many incompletes and things like that - so it kind of shortens the game up. But I think we ran it and were pretty physical when went up-tempo, and I think we’ve ran it and been pretty physical now, too.”

On the importance of having a good start on offense:
“We always try to start fast. The past two games we haven’t really done it but we’ve kind of fought through that. Part of it is to win on offense, defense and special teams and we did that, I think, this past game. We know that the defense can keep us in it and the offense will just have to keep plugging.”

Oklahoma Football
Fullback Aaron Ripkowski
Oct. 22, 2013

On the versatility of himself and Trey Millard:
“It really helps us a lot. It helps us open up some holes and run the ball. It just opens up a lot of other tools.”

How he feels about teams trying to stack the box:
We don’t take offense to it. We like when people try to match us up and come in there needing an extra guy, instead of just playing it normal. We like the responsibility of someone else coming in and putting more pressure on us.”

On playing tight games in the fourth quarter:
“It’s been huge for us. Being able to finish on the field and run the clock out is a big tool that we like to utilize.”



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