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Bob Stoops Press Conference
September 23, 2013

Oklahoma Football
Head Coach Bob Stoops – Press Conference Highlights
Sept. 23, 2013

Opening comments:
“There’s really no game to review, so just starting on traveling up to Notre Dame this week. It will be a big challenge. Of course, it’s our first road game with an exciting challenge playing a great football team who came here last year and won a good hard-fought game. They really made the plays down the stretch and ran down the middle in the end of the fourth quarter to make the difference in the game. They look like a very similar team this year as they did a year ago. Their quarterback Tommy Rees is a guy with great experience. You can tell by just watching him play that he’s very comfortable and throws a great ball. The difference in their offense is really just the difference of the quarterback’s ability to run. Other than that, they still throw the football well. They have good receivers, good backs, good offensive line, a lot of that is still the same, and they have a lot of the same structure really with play calling and the way the run their offense. It’s really similar to a year ago.

“Defensively they’re still really good and really physical up front. They are structurally really sound and really disciplined in how they play. They play very much the same way they did a year ago. They’re still a good football team. It’s an exciting atmosphere going up there to play. Of course, we need a good week of practice. I thought we really took advantage of the off-week in getting stuff done with our game plan and getting players familiar with it and working it in practice. There was a lot of good work against each other. We were going good against good just trying to keep each other sharp. We were trying to make improvement coming into this week with the big challenge.”

On the challenge this week:
“We’ll need to show character and step up, and hopefully we’ll play well. It will be a big challenge.”

On Notre Dame offensive line:
“He’s a lot to handle in there. You’ve got to block all those guys up front. They’re very disruptive to run the ball or protect the pass. Defending and protecting and blocking those guys is a big challenge.”

On change in the running game from last season:
“Hopefully.  A lot of the reason is that we’re blocking better and identifying who we’re blocking in a stronger, better and more consistent way. We’ve also been more persistent running the football, so hopefully we’ll be able to have some success doing it.”

On Notre Dame defense:
“They’re still an excellent defense. I appreciate as a coach their fundamentals and discipline, and you just rarely see a guy not in position, so you can tell they’re well coached, and they play hard.”

On strength of schedule in the 2014 College Football Playoff:
“I’ve been told it’s going to be a factor. How much of one? I don’t know yet. There is very little out on how all that’s going to go, so your guess is as good as mine.”

On whether this game could change the course of the season:
“All of a sudden Texas doesn’t matter or Big 12 championship don’t matter? I don’t believe that winning this game one way or another is going to do anything for the rest of the season. That’s not what I’m saying, I mean, obviously if you win it gives you momentum, but at the end of the day it’s not a conference game, we’ve only had one conference game, and we still have a big schedule. So, it’s just another one in that long line of trying to get another one.”

On his memories of the 1999 Notre Dame game:
“More than anything I remember leading in the third quarter by 16 and looking around and there were too many happy faces meaning there were guys who though they had this one and really realizing that we hadn’t truly learned how to compete yet for four quarters. The realization too, I remember telling the coaches in the meetings, that they hadn’t been ahead of anybody like that on the road before. They don’t know how to handle it and we have teach them how to handle it. They need to learn how to finish games and win a game like that, but those guys hadn’t been in that situation.”

On what he learned from the 1999 Notre Dame game:
“Well I learned not to allow one guy to rush a punt when you’re on the 50-yard line and not to second-guess myself. I initially called punt safe and I listened to a few other guys when I shouldn’t have and to me that started all their momentum. We roughed the punter with the one-man rush we had a return on. We weren’t going anywhere because we had to fair catch it anyway. I still wake up at night on that one. You guys think I forget. I don’t forget.”

On whether the 1999 game gave the team confidence:
“There’s truth to that in that we did gain some confidence, but you have to win when you’re in that position. Maybe we won some games down the road and then the next year having an experience of the bitterness of that when you were up and didn’t know how to finish it.”

On the 1999 Texas game:
“They still hadn’t learned. They were still smiling when they were up 17 in the second half.”

On Notre Dame’s deep ball:
“They’re going to put it up in every game a good number of times. He (Rees) throws an excellent ball, and they have confidence in their receivers going up and getting it. That’s definitely something we’re aware of and something we need to be able to defend. Some of it might have been exaggerated by the fact that Michigan State was on top of them virtually every snap. They may have felt their opportunities more that way. We’ll pick and choose when we are and when we aren’t just as they did.”

On the running game last year:
“A big factor in that was third-down conversions. We weren’t nearly as good as we needed to be, and they were better at getting the stop, and that was a big factor. Like you said, in critical third downs when you’re about to move to scoring position or keep the drive going then you’ve got to be able to convert those.”

On the injury update:
“I think we’re all good. DJ Ward is back practicing. Kendal (Thompson) is back. Trevor (Knight), when I was talking to the trainers, is set to get back to practice today.”

On the difference in the offense now and last season:
“Our quarterback is different than what we’ve had in the past couple of years if that’s what you’re asking. We have the ability with Blake (Bell) to have more quarterback run game and the opportunity to scramble a little better than some of the guys we had in the past.”

On whether Notre Dame last year prepared Blake Bell:
“I think that game alone with all the other experiences he’s had in the past couple of years being out there in critical situations does give him an opportunity to be able to handle this in a positive way and to not be shaken at all by it. He’s a great player and he’s been in a lot of critical and important situations, and he’s handled them well. So yes, it does give him an advantage that way. He’s not like a true first-time guy out there playing. For the last few years he’s been in a lot of those games and situations where it matters his read or where he goes with the ball. It isn’t just everyone blocking for him and he falls forward. He’s got to time it up right and look at the space, and he’s done a good job of that.”

On if Blake Bell had nerves against Tulsa:
“As far as nerves go, no. I thought he was excellent. He throws a great deep ball, believe me. We have great confidence in his deep ball. He might have got excited one the other night and overthrew it, but I believe the more he plays, the more those are going to be where you need them to be.”

On if Blake’s calmness in his first start surprised him:
“Not really. Because of what I just explained, his experience in a lot of big situations”

On if there is an optimum mindset Blake should have going into the Notre Dame atmosphere:
“I believe a quarterback should always be just very balanced. In fact, we’ve always told our guys; whether its big games at home or no matter where they are, let everybody else do all the being excited and jumping around. You just stay over here and stay cool and be ready to execute. You know, it’s all about being calm, being cool, ready to be precise in how you’re playing with your reads and where you’re going with the ball and communication at the line and run the offense. Let everyone else be excited and nervous, you just stay cool about it.”

On if that’s what he saw out of Blake against Tulsa:
“Yeah. You know, whenever you’ve seen most of our quarterbacks do well, regardless of the situation, that’s the mindset.”

On how the option will be at their disposal against a team this good on defense:
“Well sometimes, again, when executed properly, you just have the extra guy with the football being the quarterback so you can block everybody up front and the quarterback keeps it and you’ve got an opportunity, hopefully for some guys in the secondary have to come tackle them, which hopefully takes five yards, six yards here and there. And then, the ability to hopefully execute an option here and there, where you get someone who takes the wrong guy and hopefully you take advantage of it.”

On how much the lack of run game in last year’s Notre Dame game opened everyone’s eyes:
“Well, it wasn’t just that game. There were other instances where we felt we needed to run it better than we had. But, in that game, we did throw it well. We did take advantage of what they were doing and move the football throwing it. But again, that game was 10-6 going into the fourth quarter and it ends up 13-13 and then they made every play after that; whether it be the interception, the long pass, whatever. So, anyway, we’ll need to run it better.”

On if the run game is more important without a more experienced passing QB this year:
“Probably to some degree. It’s always important and it will be in this game.”

On the rotation of the tailback position this week:
“We’ll see. We’ll see how those guys practice during the week and what Coach Heupel, Coach Norvell and Coach Gundy feel is best.”

On if Damien (Williams) will play against Notre Dame:
“Yes.”

On how having physical guys like Keith Ford factors into being a more physical team running-wise:
“He can add some. But, Damien (Williams) is not, not physical. Damien is right there with him when it comes to being able to run in a powerful way. So, it makes a difference to some degree, definitely in some realms.”

On traveling to Notre Dame for his first time in 1999 and experiencing their traditions:
“Nothing more cool about pulling up in a bus, walking into a bad visitor’s locker room and going on the field. We do it all the time. Believe me; I’m giving Notre Dame respect. I’m not discounting them. I’m saying as a coach you aren’t involved in that part of it. In other words, once you’re pulling up, you’re pulling up to compete. You just don’t think of those things and you don’t really care about what the band may look like or anybody else. You just kind of get in your work mode and go.”

On how he has evolved as a coach since his first season:
“I’ve just gotten older. I’m still the same as I’ve been. I say that a lot; people don’t change they just get older.”

On his thoughts on the defensive line going into this game:
“I’m very excited and pleased with our D-line play to this point. I think these guys have done a great job of making plays and being disruptive. We’re giving them more opportunities to be disruptive so it’ll be an important part of this game for sure.”

On if we will see a four-man front against Notre Dame’s offense:
“There’s a good chance, but I’m not going to give you any percentages on it.”

On if he would welcome a similar circumstance to last year’s 13-13 tie in the third quarter with the opportunity to make every play after like Notre Dame did last year:
“It all matters. You want to play well all three quarters but at the end of the day if you’re in that situation, you want to be the ones making the plays down the stretch that win the game.”

On what he saw from Blake (Bell) when he wasn’t named the starter:
“He just kept a positive attitude about him and a positive vibe about him. What I appreciate is, I know how connected he is being older, and the older guys having more of a relationship or a connection with him, he could have not done that and it would have rubbed off on all of them. But, you never saw that and the older guys accepted the decision, accepted Trevor (Knight), and accepted Blake. He was a team guy- stuck with it. And then he has his opportunity and he tears it up, which we’re all pleased about it. He could have been negative or had some negative vibes with other guys that are key people for us and again, it’s just not him, it’s really not his nature, and you appreciate that about a young guy that’s a team guy and worked for his opportunity and was ready for it.”

On if the Tulsa game was any indication of strength in WR position that seemed to be concerning going into the game:
“We had some guys in some more familiar spaces, too, with Jalen (Saunders) and Sterling (Shepard) inside; that’s where they’ve played the most.  But still, regardless, that’s what we’re trying to practice harder and more and to get better, so that even when they’re outside, we’ve got to be able to execute and make plays. I just thought the whole group really showed what they were capable of in that game and they need to keep going, they need to step up and make plays.”

On if it will be a little different matchup this year because they were dumping underneath last year:
“Well, you can tell as they play, they’re deep and keep everything in front of you. So, you’ve got to be able to take the intermediate stuff and underneath stuff when it’s there, and then pick up key third downs. And then you’ve got to execute the in Red Zone, you’ve got to be able to get the ball in in those opportunities.”

On the job defensive line coach (Jerry) Montgomery has done:
“He’s a great communicator. The players have really taken to him and he is a great motivator; very smart coach. The guys are playing with better and better technique. There is a lot of ability with those guys I’m not pointing anyone’s name because they’re young and haven’t played a lot. You’re now seeing it more but they still have a lot of growth in front of them because they are young and inexperienced still ,but I like the way they are improving. He’s doing a great job and they’re doing a great job listening to him.”

On who is next in line, as far as defensive tackles, on the inside once you get past Jordan Phillips:
“Torrea Peterson, Jordan wade and Quincy Russell.”

On if he talks to his players about soaking it all in when they go to Notre Dame or if he treats it like another road game:
“I treat it like another road game. Just two years ago, we walked into Florida State; we’re going to walk into Tennessee in a couple of years. We’ve been all over the map. We’ve been out to Oregon, we’ve been to Alabama, we’ve got Ohio State at some point coming up, so it’s just another game and all that matters, again, the fields are pretty much the same. Their grass is a little higher but all that matters is what’s between the lines during the game.”

On if he has ever done any tourism on a road game outside of a bowl game:
“All we do is, when we land, generally, we take the team over to whatever stadium we’re playing at, they check their pads to make sure all their stuff is there and we’re not missing anything. Then we go out, do a little substitution deal on the field so they’re a little bit familiar with the stadium, and that’s it.”

On if they will do a walk through at the Notre Dame stadium:
“No, we’ll land and go over to the stadium, check our pads and walk out and do a substitution or whatever. But you know how coaches are; we’re always worried somebody is spying on us so we won’t do our walk through while we’re there. Surely they wouldn’t do that, but you never know. But no, we won’t do our walk-through at the stadium. We go and do a little substitution and make sure we’re all good that way and then we do our walk-through in the parking lot of our hotel or somewhere.”

On if he feels the weight of the series record against Notre Dame going into this game:
“No. I’ve only been a part of a couple of them. Those don’t really have any weight on what happens in this one so whether you won them or lost them you treat them each as their own. It’s its own opportunity and we’re excited about this one.”

On the matchup between the OU offensive line and the Notre Dame defensive line:
“It’s a big matchup. If you’re going to run the ball or protect the quarterback, it all starts with those five guys up front against their D-line and then full backs and tight ends as well, dealing with them. So, it’s a big part of the game, and they are an excellent group up there that Notre Dame plays with.”

On if he has heard anything from some of the guys that suffered losses against Notre Dame in the past:
“No, I haven’t heard from any of them. I can’t do anything for anyone else. I’d kind of like to win for our team and for us, and that’s plenty. I’m not worried about everybody else.”

Oklahoma Football
Head Coach Bob Stoops – Big 12 Conference Call
Sept. 23, 2013

On similarities between Notre Dame last year and this year:
“Well they are a very similar team, as far as the way they like to play on offense and defense. Their schemes are all the same. They’ve got good athletes and are well disciplined in everything that they do. So I see them very similar, you know watching them, as they were a year ago.”

On if that familiarity helps prepare for the matchup this year:
“It helps to some degree. You know, you are familiar with how they want to play and who their personnel is and that kind of thing, but they’re familiar with us, as well.”

On Notre Dame quarterback Tommy Rees:
“You can tell, his experience, you can tell he’s a guy that has played a lot of football. He’s been a starter for a couple of years and he plays that way. He throws an excellent ball and has excellent control of the offense and everything that they want him to do.”

On if things are different when you get past the non-conference and into conference play:
“Not all that different. We do things all the same way so at the end of the day we look at each game the same and we’ve already played a conference game and so really it doesn’t change anything for you. You’re still continually working the way that you do to try and improve and try and get ready for each week.”

On if he got a chance to watch any Big 12 football this weekend and if he has a feel for what other teams in the league are doing:
“Not much of one and if I did I wouldn’t give an opinion. I was focused on watching the Notre Dame/Michigan State game.”

On how the team and Blake Bell, in his first career road start, will handle the environment at Notre Dame:
“Hopefully we’ll handle it well. Our guys are going to be on the road a lot as you go through the season. That’s just the way it is. You’ve got to be able to handle it. With our style of not huddling and those kinds of things, hopefully we’ll be able to handle it in the right way in that we don’t count on being able to verbally communicate a lot anyway. So hopefully we can manage it better than teams that do count on being able to verbalize all their counts and the way they call their and those kinds of things.”

On if he tells his players anything about playing in an historic place like Notre Dame:
“Same way we do when we go to any other stadium, which is nothing. We don’t really care. We go to a lot of places, we’ve been in a lot of stadiums and they’re going to be in a lot more. So we get ready to play ball and worry about what’s between the lines on the grass and that’s all that matters. We go a lot of places.”

On how he sees the style of offense developing for the rest of the season:
“Hopefully much of the same in that when your opportunities to run the ball are there in the  way people are defending you are there you take advantage of it and when your opportunities are there to throw it you take advantage of that. The other day, two weeks ago, things get a little skewed in that we ran the ball for 200 yards or right at 200 yards and passing wise we had one pass that went for like 80 when they have an all-out blitz and you hit them and that one opportunity changes all the numbers and statistics a little bit.”

On the biggest keys to playing Notre Dame:
“Well there are a lot of them. I think first turnovers are a huge deal, third down conversions each way, stopping them and us getting them and being able to have good balance, run and pass. I thought a year ago, those are big deals in the fourth quarter. Last year they made all the plays down the stretch in the last six minutes of the game and that’s what changed the game. It was a 13-13 game with six minutes to go and they make all the plays at the end.”

On the differences in the Notre Dame defense without Manti Teo:
“They still look the same. They still look very disciplined and I appreciate that as a coach. How well coached they are, how hard they play, they play with technique, they’re strong up front. So I appreciate the discipline and the structure of how well they play.”

On why OU schedules marque non-conference opponents like Notre Dame:
“It’s been a philosophy of (Athletics Director) Joe Castiglione and mine since we got here. To play one or two always really difficult non-conference schedule, challenging teams. For the most part through the years because of the BCS rankings, we’ve always felt that if all things being equal, if we’re undefeated and someone else is undefeated and we went to Alabama like we have, we’re going to Tennessee, we’ve been to Oregon, if you go to those places and you host those kinds of teams and you beat them and all things being equal, then you got a better opportunity to get the nod in the BCS formula than if you don’t. Than if you’re not playing anybody. It’s worked well for us for the most part through the years and when you win those games it’s a big boost but also it’s just been Joe and my philosophy even with our fans. They’re exciting for our people to watch and to compete against and it’s good for college football so we like being a part of that. Even though there’s always the risk that you don’t win and when you don’t it sure doesn’t help your formula, the BCS formula, that’s for sure.”

On if tough scheduling becomes even more important with the coming playoff and the new selection committee:
It may be because they keep saying strength of schedule is going to matter more and to me that is the only way you are going to keep these kinds of games is to reward people for playing them and even when it’s a well-played game and you don’t come out on the positive end you don’t get hurt by it too much, if some other team hasn’t played anybody is all I’m saying. To me it should to matter.”

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