The usual suspects step up to the mic this week with head coach Kliff Kingsbury, QB Nic Shimonek and DB Jah’Shawn Johnson appearing before the media. You can read the transcripts here, or watch the video here.
First up, he’s asked several questions about the Houston defense and specifically Ed Oliver.
Q. When you look at the Houston defense, everybody is always talking about Oliver, but seems like several of the other guys really stick out from the front seven, too.
KLIFF KINGSBURY: Yeah, the two senior linebackers make a lot of plays, very active. Oliver, one of the hardest playing D-linemen I’ve ever seen on tape. I mean, he is relentless, runs after every play, chases every play, which is awesome to see. But yeah, they’re a talented defense all around.
Q. For a kid that was as heralded as he is, is it pretty rare to see a kid who has as big a motor as he does?
KLIFF KINGSBURY: Yeah, it’s awesome to see, particularly after the freshman year he had. When you get revered on that level all off-season and to come back and play even harder than he did, that says a lot about his character and the people that have coached him, his parents. Everybody that’s been a part of his football career has done a great job because he plays the right way.
Q. What’s the biggest thing that jumps out about him on film whenever you watch him?
KLIFF KINGSBURY: Yeah, that’s it, just his relentlessness. He never stops chasing the football, never stops rushing, never stops going. Wherever that ball goes, he’s going to show up in the screen, and that’s a special trait.
Kingsbury also mentions that Oliver may be a little undersized, but his motor and effort really make up for any deficit in size. Standing at 6’3 and weighing 290 pounds, it’s hard to say he’s undersized. And if you will recall, Oliver was a 5* recruit out of Westfield HS there in Houston. The Tech offensive line will have their hands full with this Houston front.
Q. How did you feel you guys did in protection the other night against Arizona State?
KLIFF KINGSBURY: Not bad. I thought we gave some things up early, but that’s a good defensive front. They’ve got some big, athletic, tough guys that have played a lot of football. I thought early they were pushing it back in our face, and as the game went on, I felt like we settled in a little bit.
Facing this UH front, they will need to get settled quickly. With the Tech defense still figuring things out the offense will need to be able to keep the ball moving.
Kingsbury gives a quick update on the health of LT Travis Bruffy, K Clayton Hatfield, S Vaughnte Dorsey, and RB Desmond Nisby, where he says they are all basically day-to-day and will decide on Friday if they’re good enough to travel with the team. I’m comfortable with how Akamnonu and Barden/Ewton have faired in the absense of Bruffy and Hatfield. I am a little more worried about Dorsey being out another game and even more concerned with Nisby isn’t able to go.
After some nonsense where Kingsbury is asked about Tuberville being on the broadcast crew, the play of Mych Thomas is discussed.
Q. The play that Mike made the other night where he hustled back from the (indiscernible)?
KLIFF KINGSBURY: It was. We give out an award every week called the Raider Award, which isn’t necessarily the best play or best stats, it’s more the heads-up play or some of the contributors to winning the game, and he got that because that wasn’t his guy, just a feel thing. He felt the back going. If he doesn’t wheel with him, they may have got that 1st down and kept the drive alive, so it was an incredible heads-up play, very aware for a big guy late in the game. He was probably tired, had been playing a bunch, to wheel with that guy and lay out and make a play on him like that was a big time.
Q. (Indiscernible). Is that kind of a testament to conditioning?
KLIFF KINGSBURY: I think so. I mean, those guys are playing a lot of snaps, and they knew — those two drives were for the game. If Arizona State scores on either one of those, they beat us. They stepped up when they had to. I felt like we got in a little lull there that they had gained all the momentum, so to see guys really take control and be leaders, and had great energy on the sideline and play like they did at the end, that was very encouraging.
There was some discussion here in the Lubbock media about how this wasn’t Thomas’ role in that play to take the RB, but that he knew with Brooks blitzing behind him that the RB would be uncovered and if the back left the backfield he would be wide open. You can see the play here:
This play happened on the drive before Tech took possession and drove 90 yards to score the go-ahead TD. Had the defense not held up here, their final possession would have had significantly less time and they would have had to score to tie. Huge play here.
I mentioned this in my post-game chit chat with the rest of the staff, but Kingsbury is asked about the performance of Shimonek.
Q. Is Shimonek playing lights out from your perspective?
KLIFF KINGSBURY: Yeah, he’s gotten better, and that’s all we’re trying to do is get better every week. He knows he doesn’t have to do it all. We have a tremendous receiving corps, tremendous running backs, but I’ve really liked the throwaways. I guess the biggest takeaway, when it’s not there, he’s done a nice job sliding away, throwing it out-of-bounds, limiting the sacks, obviously he’s limited the turnovers, and we’ve just got to keep progressing each week, which with his work ethic that’s kind of what I expect to happen.
He’s also asked about defensive improvement and where he sees the Tech running game.
Q. The defense has showed some improvement. Where do you feel like it still needs to come on?
KLIFF KINGSBURY: Yeah, I think we’ve just got to do a better job of getting off the field in those 3rd down situations. Once again, they made three or four tremendous throws that were well-covered, but when we get a chance to get the ball back and stop drives, we’ve got to find a way to do that.
Q. There was a lot of emphasis in the off-season about running the ball. So far how do you feel like the team is doing through two games?
KLIFF KINGSBURY: Yeah, I felt like last week wasn’t bad. If you take out the sacks, we were close to 150 yards rushing. We’d like to be more around 200, but the game also kind of dictated us to throw it a little bit more there at the end. So we’re not where we want to be, but it’s much improved from last year where we couldn’t run it at all. We’ve just got to keep working, keep getting Nisby comfortable, keep getting Trey comfortable, and with Justin you’ve got a really good rotation there.
Q. As far as the offensive line how do you feel like they’ve done?
KLIFF KINGSBURY: Yeah, better than last year. I think having guys that played back, Steele, Paul and Madison, they’ve come a long way, and Jack, a true freshman, has some punch in there, and then Jacob Hines is another heavy-handed guy which we’re getting more movement than we did last year, and still have a long ways to go, but it’s much improved.
From his answer there about the running game, it really seems as if he wants to go with Nisby, Tre King and Justin Stockton, with no mention of Felton or Ward (who’s status may still be unknown).
He’s first asked about how he thinks he’s done these first two week and then about the game-winning drive. This right here is why I feel perfectly comfortable with him leading this team.
Q. I know you said you’re a perfectionist or you told us that at Media Day several weeks ago. Through two games, how do you think you played, the offense has run through two games? What have you done well?
NIC SHIMONEK: Yeah, obviously like I mentioned after the Eastern Washington game, whether you go 10 for 40 or 40 for 40, there’s always stuff I can get better at. I had a deep pass to Keke this last week, a post, and I felt like I kind of underthrew it, so I was pretty upset with myself right there. Still got the completion, but yeah, just little things. Like I told you, Coach Kingsbury is going to coach me to perfection, and then we’re going to settle for greatness. That’s a big coaching point for him, and I feed off of that well.
Q. Did you tell the fellas anything before that game-winning drive?
NIC SHIMONEK: Just relax. We have to score, but relax. We’ve got plenty of time. That’s what we do, we score on a majority of our possessions, so it’s not anything out of the ordinary that we have to do, just be ourselves and everything will take care of itself.
Q. You’re obviously more confident in your performance. You were chomping at the bit for this opportunity, but at the same time, as smoothly as things are going for you the first couple of weeks, has that helped you settle in?
NIC SHIMONEK: Yeah, like I told y’all before the season started, I’m a very confident person, and yeah, things have gone smooth so far, but I also understand that at some point there’s going to be a few hiccups, a few bumps in the road. It’s not going to be like this for 12 straight games. I mean, I hope it is, but I don’t think it will be.
But yeah, you know, obviously each game you get a little more experience, a little more comfortable out there. But I’m having a great time, having fun with these guys, and that’s really all I can ask for.
Always looking to improve, even after two really great performances. He’s also asked about how this team was able to finally win a one-possession game where last year this team struggled to do so (although it was not Shimonek leading the offense).
Q. How big is it that you were able pull out a close game already this year that maybe you wouldn’t have won last year?
NIC SHIMONEK: Yeah, I was talking to I believe Coach Whitt yesterday. It would have been nice to win that game like we should have won it, up 21-3 with all the momentum. We could have easily won by three, four, five touchdowns if we’d have kept rolling. But at the same time, to get a win like that this early in the year, I think it’s going to be good for us moving forward because, I mean, it’s college football. That situation is going to arise again sometime in the next 10 games.
Like you said, it was a big confidence builder to get that type of win in that situation early in the year.
One of Jah’Shawn’s first questions is similar to Shimonek’s about being able to win close games.
Q. You guys lost so many close games last year. What’s the feeling been like to have pulled one out at the end?
JAH’SHAWN JOHNSON: We got a lot more confidence now than we had last year. In situations like that, last year guys were worried and down on each other and things like that, but on the sideline this week, you could see that everyone was encouraging each other and knowing that we were going to win. We had no doubt in our minds that we were going to win that game or lose that game. Like I said, the confidence is really high right now, and I like that about this team.
He really speaks to the confidence of the team and how doubt would play a role in the team’s psyche, but not so much this year.
Q. There’s a lot more energy in general on the sidelines. Is that something y’all talked about, we have to have more energy on the sideline?
JAH’SHAWN JOHNSON: Yeah, even when the guys that don’t play, they’re out there pumping the crowd up and pumping us up, as well. We’re just cheering for each other. It’s hard enough to play a game out there with no one out there and things, so I mean, once you know that your teammates are going to have your back regardless of the outcome, so we just cheer for each other.
He asked about how the defense responded to the string of penalties on the one drive, specifically the interference call Johnson was hit with and he said it goes back to coaching points from Gibbs and Coach Scott on responding to the situation and control what you can control. He’s also asked about how he sees the improvement on the defensive side of the ball.
Q. What do you think the defense has improved the most as far as — is it being in the right place where you’re supposed to be or is it just better tackling?
JAH’SHAWN JOHNSON: I think better tackling, the effort. You see a lot of guys around the ball, which we didn’t have last year, and you see guys selling out, diving for the balls, loose balls on the ground. Just even though we gave up a lot of passes, you seen the DBs were tight to coverages and things. The receivers just made some great plays and the quarterback had a good ball. I just think we’re a lot more aggressive this year.