Oklahoma Football
Co-Offensive Coordinator Josh Heupel
Sept. 24, 2013

On Notre Dame’s defensive front:

“They’re big and strong. They’ve got some athleticism on the outside, too. It’s as good as a front as we’ve seen.”

On Notre Dame’s linebackers:
“Yeah. Those guys run around and make plays. The guys up front will eat you up. They make you tough and get to the second level. It’s a big test for us across the board for our five guys up front, and even the others. We need to be efficient running the football. A year ago we were in two big third-and-longs, and when we did run it we just weren’t efficient enough. It’s tough to make big plays in the running game, but you’ve got to pick up those.”

On the OU running game:
“We are running it better than we did a year ago. Our personnel is pretty much the same, so this is going to be a big test for us to see how far we’ve come in a year.”

On converting on third-and-long:
“It wasn’t just one area we struggle in on those third-and-long situations. We didn’t win on the outside sometimes. We weren’t good in protection. Our quarterback didn’t make good decisions sometimes. So, everybody played a part in us not being as efficient as we needed to be. We can’t be in a bunch of third and longs either because they’re really good at getting to the quarterback. They have a blitz package, and their corners are really good at running around. So it’s a good, tough test for us across the board.”

On QB Blake Bell handling his first road start:
“I expect Blake (Bell) to handle himself in a great way. He’s been in a tough environment in big games and in critical situations on the road. He’s had to work extremely hard to get to play, and he’s played in a couple of environments like that. It takes a lot of energy and a lot of work to get that done. But, because of his experience he’s had, I expect him to handle it extremely well. What does he need to do? We’ve got to stay out of third and longs. We’ve got to be efficient on first and second downs, and we’ve got to create some big plays. A year ago we hit them with some things that picked up 15 to 25, but we didn’t hit any homeruns, so we’ve got to find a way to do that, too.”

On the questions that may be answered in this game:
“How are we going to play in a tough environment when things don’t go well? How are we going to respond? Are we going to do the little things you have to do to win on the road in a tough environment and be a championship type football team? We’ll find out a lot of that this weekend.”

On QB Blake Bell’s ability to throw the ball:
“I think from the outside in people think we can’t throw the football. In my eyes I always knew he could. I think he played how he was capable of playing.”

On Notre Dame defense:
“They’re going to challenge us on third downs and on first and second downs, too. They make you make competitive plays.”

On RB Roy Finch:
“He’s been good. He’s great with the ball in his hands as a runner and as a receiver.”

On the Oklahoma offensive line:
“They’re tough and competitive. They understand schemes. They understand both sides of the ball. They understand defenses and what we’re doing. They just have great understanding of what we’re trying to do.”

On the Oklahoma passing game:
“Historically we did. Last year we did. This year we’re showing a level of good execution and throwing the ball. A year ago we did it well at times. We didn’t do it well in critical situations. It’s a different style than they’ve played.”

On whether it will be important to have success running the ball early:
“It’s going to be critical that we have success running it the entire ball game.”

On what he likes about QB Blake Bell’s presence:
“He has a competitive energy and spirit that I think people see. There’s a physical presence there that our guys can feed off. Composure, mental and physical toughness, all of those are critical when you’re going to play on the road. I think having other guys being able to feed off Blake’s (Bell) confidence and collectiveness is great for our entire offense.”

On this week’s game plan:
“Every week for us it’s about getting the ball in the playmakers’ hands and let them make plays. These guys do a great job of rallying the football in first and second downs in man coverage so when you do catch something they’re converging around you. We’ve got to make plays.”

On the what lessons were learned from the 1999 Oklahoma-Notre Dame game:
“That team wasn’t ready. We were in that position in that game and the week after that against Texas. That team wasn’t ready to win. We’ll find out a lot more about ourselves when we go on the road and play a great opponent like this.”

More on QB Blake Bell and the offense:
“Blake (Bell) knows the challenge. He knows the defense from a year ago and knows he has to be prepared, not just in the Belldozer but it our regular offense too. He knows what they bring to the table, and he knows what kind of effort it’s going to take to get it done. It’s not anything extra ordinary. It’s doing the ordinary at a very high level. If you have 11 guys competing as one every snap and every whistle then you’re going to give yourself a chance to win.”

On the receiving corps:
“All of those guys are versatile and we use them in there to catch the ball.”

On the ability to throw deep balls:
“We haven’t been nearly efficient as we can be and need to be with our deep balls. That has to do with everyone, the quarterback and protection. The wide receiver has to make the play and the quarterback has to be better throwing it too. It’s all those three things coming together.”

Oklahoma Football
Co-Offensive Coordinator Jay Norvell
September 24, 2013

On the matchup with Notre Dame’s secondary:
“They’re very well-coached. We know half of their coaches. Half of their coaches are from Iowa so we know all those guys. They’re really well-coached. They play two different styles. They play a blanket coverage style and they play a really aggressive bump-and-run man style. They play more of it than they did a year ago. They’re putting their corners more on islands in one-on-one and they’re more aggressive and physical about it. We have to play with great technique and take advantage of opportunities. It’s something where you have to be really sharp in your execution and you may get one chance to make a big play, run a certain route, and our guys have to be really dialed in on their execution.”

On if OU’s wide receiver corps is a physical group:
“We still haven’t seen all different styles yet. We’ve seen different things from the other defenses but we haven’t seen the quality of a defense quite like this. It will be a real challenge and it will be a real test for our guys in every way in the running game and the passing game. They really make you work and force you to earn everything you get and we have to do a really good job of playing with technique and great effort. That’s one thing a great defense really makes you do is play physical and they also make you play with technique and we have to be able to do that on Saturday.”

On the Notre Dame game and Jalen’s (Saunders) disappointment despite a great performance last year:
“I just think it was a real opportunity for us and we let it get away. That’s something that you really remember. The ones that get away from you, you remember more than the ones you win. I think Jalen had a really productive day, but at the end of the day there is just a sense of lack of satisfaction because we didn’t win. It’s another chance, another opportunity against this very good defense. They have a lot of good players over there. In a game like this you have to win your individual matchups. You have to beat them at what they do. You’ve got to be prepared and that’s what we’re practicing to do.”

On if QB Blake Bell’s first road start increases the need for a good performance from the receivers:
“I think it all works together. We all know that it’s going to be a challenge on the road, it’s Blake’s first start on the road. I don’t know if we have even thought a whole lot about that except that we have to read to play in their elements and play in the noise. We have to be on the same page and execute. We’re going to get stressed and we have to respond properly when we get stressed. Third downs will be really important. They play great field-position football and we’re going to have to execute and not make mistakes. I think when you look at the game last week, Michigan State, there were a lot of penalties and a critical interception. Those things really made a difference in the game at the end. In the end, you have to win the fourth quarter. It’s one of the things we have stressed. If you look at the end of the Notre Dame game last season they won probably half of their games in the fourth quarter. That just shows how mentally tough they are as a program. We have to have that same type of mental toughness and perform when it counts in the end.”

On if this team is tougher mentally than last year:
I think we have gained a lot of that. I think we’re more physical and because of that I think we play with a little bit different edge. We’re going to need that this Saturday against that style of defense. They’re not fancy. They don’t do any fancy blitzes, they just line up and challenge you to beat them. You have to play with a physical mentality and you have to have great execution. That’s what you have to really focus on as we go into Saturday.”

On if he likes the matchup of the Oklahoma offensive line vs. the Notre Dame defensive line:
“I do. I like our line. I think we have developed a tough-minded edge about ourselves. I think it also has to carry over to the perimeter with our receivers and perimeter blockers. They’re not going to get out of position so they’re going to force you to play with great effort and fundamentals and physicality. That’s going to be a real challenge for us. It was a really physical game last week against Michigan State. We have to make it that kind of game and we have to prepare for that kind of game.”

On the receivers improved performance against Tulsa:
“I think it’s just like any other position. We expect a certain level of performance and we weren’t getting that so we changed a few things and got it squared away. There’s a level of expectation at each position and you have to perform, you have to do things that we have talked about. I think our guys understand the importance of where their focus needs to be.”

On if working with QB Blake Bell in the bye week has helped with the receiving gain confidence in him:
“Confidence comes from performance in games. No matter what happens in practice, a performance like he had against Tulsa it just rubs off on everyone’s confidence, and his as well. I think everybody has that confidence and we now have to go on the road. It’s an important road test to win in a tough environment, where there’s been a lot of history and not a lot of teams have won. It would be a real notch for our football team to go up there, play well, and get a win in that environment.”

On if first-down success or third-down success will be more important:
“Both. Really both. They try to get you behind the eight-ball by not allowing you success on first down, which puts you in third-and-long situations. In the past, we have seen a lot of three-man rush and a lot of coverage. They have an extra dropper and it makes it harder to find open receivers. We have to do a good job of making efficient plays on first down, whether it’s running or throwing. In this game, it’s important that you catch it and get upfield, north and south. It’s not fancy, it’s just get upfield, get the yards you need, bang off pads, and move on to the next play. Six and seven yard gains are big in this game and you have to do it over and over again because their style of defense forces you to do that. By design, they don’t give up big plays so you have to be prepared to take the underneath stuff and take the shots and move the ball down the field that way. It’s as much of a mindset as anything else when you’re playing against this team.”

On if not thinking about QB Blake Bell’s first road start is because of his previous experience:
“I just think it’s a collective thing. We need to go on the road and play well. Blake has played in games on the road before, he hasn’t started, but he’s been in those situations that have been very important for our football team. I think that experience showed last week. He has a confidence about him, he has an air about him and he played against this team last year in some very important snaps and he came through. I think he has personal confidence, I think he has confidence in the rest of his teammates. And his teammates, I think you can see how they rallied around him when we played Tulsa. This will be different test. There’s no question it will be a bigger challenge. I think our team has confidence collectively and in Blake.”

On if playing road games like this in the past like Florida State make the coaches feel good about preparing their players:
“Yeah, I think we’re excited about it. That’s the great things about being at Oklahoma and that’s why these kids want to come here is to play in these types of games against non-conference opponents that are so highly regarded. This is a special thing. I never played at Notre Dame. I coached there for a few months when I was a graduate assistant for Lou Holtz, but I never played as an opponent there so I’m excited to go there and compete and play in that environment. But that’s the special thing about being at Oklahoma. The non-conference venues that we go to every year make it special. Kids dream about performing in these types of games. I think everybody is excited about it. It will be a special afternoon. We just have to keep our focus on the things we need to do to win the game.”

On how important these games will be when the playoff starts next year:
“There’s no question. I’ve been here six years and these games have been really important. Because of our strength of schedule, we have gotten opportunities to play in bigger bowl games and they have really counted going down the stretch at the end of the year. We sit and look at the teams that some of our opponents are playing and these games help us. They help us get better and see different styles of teams at a national level. It helps us when we go to the Big 12 season. I don’t think it’s a question that they are a great benefit to us as a program.”

On what he appreciates most about QB Blake Bell’s demeanor:
“He’s just a real competitor. He’s a tough competitor. This is a game of wills and Blake has a very strong will. That rubs off on his teammates. You could see that on some of the tough plays last year where we had to score on the goal line versus a defense that doesn’t give up many rushing touchdowns. We had to get the ball in and he found a way to get it in. That rubs off on his teammates. They see that competitive fire in him. These guys have seen that in him. They rally around it. We’re going to need that, to a man. We’re going to need that will to win in a tough environment.”

Oklahoma Football
Wide Receiver Jalen Saunders
Sept. 24, 2013

On how he thinks Notre Dame will play from experience last year:
“They kept everything underneath and protected the run a lot. So we’re probably expecting the same thing from this year. We will see how they come out and what they are up to.”

On how often he saw the clip of Manti Te’o’s interception last year:
“I have seen it quite a lot; it is really hard to even watch. I am ready for Notre Dame and to get back at them. I feel like I have something against them for that.”

On getting a chance to play against Notre Dame again:
“I am just ready and prepared for these people and the team to go against them in a game.”

On the secondary matchup:
“They like to be real physical on the outside and on the inside, too. But we just need to play physical and be faster than them this coming Saturday.”

On the wide receivers’ role on offense:
“I feel like every position for the receivers, inside position and outside slot, all look great. We are progressing week by week.”

On practicing with Blake Bell:
“It means a lot. The timing was an issue in those first two games, but Blake has been doing a tremendous job these past few weeks. That’s why he is the starter.”

On the personality of Blake Bell:
“He steps into the locker room and the field the same way; with that demeanor and look to him that he is ready to go to war.”

On Blake Bell’s look:
“When you look at Blake you see a big guy, and that’s something you expect. It is the way he is built and the demeanor and the way he carries himself. We just look forward to him and each and every play we get.

“He is very outspoken about everything. He makes mistakes, just like every quarterback and player does, but he always makes up for it. He knows everything and it is really a pleasure getting to play with him.”

On having two positions on the field:
“I feel really great in both positions. Last year I just played slot and this year I am playing a little bit of both. It has been very unique playing both positions. Last year, as you know I was playing the slot position and two years prior I was playing outside. It has been a great time being able to go out and play both positions.”

On the plays it allows him to play:
“I think it keeps the defense on their toes and it opens up the opportunity for a lot of other plays for other players. So me flip-flopping allows a lot of plays for us.”

On the running game helping out wide receivers:
“The running game helps out tremendously because it helps stack the box. We can get five to six yards on every play and it allows for people to get in the box but also a receiver one-on-one.”

On matching the physicality of Notre Dame:
“We want to win. We want a clean sweep win every time you step out onto the field.”

On ball security and third downs:
“Third downs are always big for our offense; we look forward to that. We practice it throughout the week and prior to this week. We are just ready to go.”

On big time non-conference games:
“Last year, we had one loss going into the game and this year we are undefeated. This is going to big one for us because it a non-conference game. It is going to put a big exclamation point on our season and how we are going to do for the rest of the season.”

Oklahoma Football
Offensive Lineman Bronson Irwin
Sept. 24, 2013

On how confident he is in the running game this year after it didn’t do much in last year’s game:
“I think last year, being able to air it out was a strength for our offense. But as you have seen these first few games we have done a pretty good job of running the football too.”

On Notre Dame defensive linemen Stephon Tuitt and Louis Nix:
“They’re very good players. It’s the same guys we faced last year up front. Nix is a big guy, every bit of 340 or 350 [pounds]. He’s a big body but you just have to keep him covered up and make sure you’re tight with your schemes and your gaps. They’re deceptively quick for how large they are. They’re really good players all around. They’re fast, strong, quick, and take up a lot of space."

On what he thinks they will learn from this game:
“I think we are going to be tested, for sure. We’re going to be tested up front. It will be our biggest test up front by far. We’re going against a really solid defensive line and front seven. I think it’s just going to challenge us all over on offense and I think it will be good for us.”

On if running the ball well will make life easier on offense:
“In general, it opens up lanes downfield for passing and that’s the case within the offense. Establishing the run came help us out with the downfield game.”

On what Coach Bill Bedenbaugh thinks of last year’s game:
“He has just pointed out things we may need to change a little bit. There are plays where we were close to busting some big runs. He just kind of pointed out that we were a little off on some plays that could have been really big for us.”