Countdown to Kickoff
Coach Mike Shula Press Conference: Oklahoma Game


Tuesday, September 02, 2003

Coach Mike Shula
Coach Mike Shula

Oklahoma Game Week Press Conference
Opening Comments & First Five Questions Transcript

Opening Statement:

"I think to say the least our team is very excited about this opportunity.  Oklahoma coming in the No. 1 ranked team.  I think it's the first time ever a No. 1 team has been in here at Bryant-Denny.  It's our debut here.  For me, personally, I think it's going to be special - my head coaching debut at Bryant-Denny.  I've talked all summer long seeing those upper decks that which weren't there when I played here.  Again, there's excitement around campus and I just think that we're going to have to a great week of preparation.  Our players know that, they're going to be focused and we've got to make sure that we stay on top of all the little details, and we have to eliminate some of the mistakes, for sure, that we made for sure that we made early in the game last week.  We've got to be on top of our game for four quarters and get off to a good start."

Mike, as a player you've played in games like Alabama-Penn State and Alabama-Southern Cal.  What do games like this mean?  Are those memories more vivid memories for you now than 20 years ago?

"I think so.  I think because of the tradition of the school's - Oklahoma's, Penn State's, Southern Cal's.  I think any time you get two universities like this, two football programs, the tradition with both of them.  It's great for college football and it's neat to see how over the years the schools have gone on with their national championships and the seasons they've had, and now you get the two of them together.  Especially with schools you don't play a whole lot.  That's what's going to make this neat."

Mike, I know you can't live off what happened in last year's game, but the players do seem to have some confidence, based on how tough they played Oklahoma in the second half last year, that they can line up with these guys.

"What an exciting game to watch that game was.  These guys came from behind, they had a chance there at the end, came up a little short, and it was exciting all the way through.  You have to have confidence.  We've got to take a look at that tape and learn from the things that we did well and also look at the things we didn't do so well and continue to get familiar.  Of course each year it's a brand new team, but we'll definitely take a look at that and, if there's things that we like out of that one or from the (Oklahoma-)North Texas game last weekend that we make sure we cover."

Mike, was it a great sense of relief that you got that first game out of the way Saturday, and the fact that the second half was so impressive?  Is that a sense of relief for you personally?

"I think it's going to be good for our football team.  Even after a bad start we were able to hang in there.  Ten points down - things didn't look good there in the second quarter, but we stuck with it and players believed that we could get it done and we made some plays. I think that was important.  I think it's also important just to get through the whole game.  We learned a lot just from our players being on the field.  We weren't quite sure how some of them were going to react.  We thought we knew how they would react, and most of them did pretty much.  Also, just the mechanics of the game, all the little things, the substitutions, the communication being passed from coaches to players, from coaches to coaches,  all those things that we hadn't had a chance to do, hopefully will be even better this weekend."

Coach, looking at their defense over a three or four year period with Stoops they've given up 15 points a game, just about.  Besides personnel, what is it about their schemes that make them so good on defense?

"Well, they do a lot.  First of all it's hard not to talk about their personnel.  They've got great personnel; they've got great team speed defensively, and they're big - bigger than the group we faced last week.  That's a tough combination to go up against offensively.  Scheme-wise, they like to blitz when they get a chance in different situations and they're just overall well coached.  They play with a lot of confidence.  They play with high expectations.  Again, that goes back to why I think this game's going to be special.  The No. 1 team and both teams come in with high expectations.  We're just looking forward to it."

Mike, last year's offense was mostly a run-oriented.  Obviously, this offensive line is well adept at blocking on the run.  Then of course they went through the spring with Mike Price.  When you came in, where you surprised at how far along they were as pass blockers in terms of technique and protection, and how much do you think going through that offense in the spring helped that?

"I think it helped a lot.  I was surprised because I hadn't seen them, but I had heard that they had done a nice job in the spring prior to me coming here.  As far as pass-blocking and doing some things, maybe some people call it finesse-wise as opposed to lining up and coming off the ball and trying to get after people.  I think its shows how athletic our guys are that they can do a little bit of both, and some of that showed last week, but we've definitely got to improve in both those situations."