The weekly press conference this week features head coach Matt Wells, offensive lineman Terence Steele, and defensive back Zech McPhearson. Wells’ opening statement pretty much acknowledges that the performance against Oklahoma was not what is expected and they just have to be better.
Coming off that weekend, obviously not the result that I or any of the players or coaches wanted, but Oklahoma is a good team, really good team, good coaches, and they played extremely well. We didn’t play as well as we would have liked.
What it causes you to do is you start to look internal, and you start to look at what you’re doing, how you’re doing it, who you’re doing it with, the messaging, how you’re messaging. Causes you to do everything, and we’re certainly doing that. We’re accountable for that, and it’s led right here by me first and foremost.
So I do know this: We have a bunch of players and coaches that — they want to make it right. They’ve got to continue to work and to strain and to, I think, just continue to hear the message, to send the right messaging, the work, the accountability, the coaching and teaching we’ve got to do.
We’re all in this together, and we all know that. That wasn’t the result we wanted to begin Big 12 Conference play. It wasn’t the start we wanted at the beginning of the game, and we own it, and I own it as the head coach.
Anyway, we’re committed to moving forward, I know that, and to learning from it. And when I say moving forward, I mean you’ve got an Oklahoma State team that’s extremely talented coming in this weekend here at home. It’s a chance to be in front of our home crowd and play in Jones Stadium. And we all know that what that means to us and what they want to do at home. And we have to protect our home field, and we understand that that will be a challenge. But I can’t wait to watch our guys do it, and I mean that, because we’re all in this thing together and I’m leading it.
I’m probably not as critical as a lot of you, but that’s a decent acknowledgment for Wells. I think I’d like to hear about specifics about what they are doing, but I don’t think he’s going to give us that.
Wells also acknowledged that quarterback Jett Duffey will be the starter moving forward:
Moving forward, Jett Duffey will be our quarterback moving forward. We’ve got to play good around him. The guys going around him have got to play better. We’ve got to play better and coach better. We’ve got to put Jett in the right positions from an individual standpoint that give us the best chance to win.
This team does not revolve around one position, we all know that. We’ve got to play better on defense. That’s what we’re committed to doing.
Wells confirmed that Duffey just played better than Jackson Tyner, the video and after the game. Wells elaborates about naming Duffey and what Duffey needs to improve upon:
Q. Why do you think it’s so important to name a starting quarterback and get Jett those reps consistently with the ones in practice?
COACH WELLS: Yeah, I mean, contrast it to last week, and we were still deciding. I’ve decided he’s going to be our starter moving forward. He’ll get all the reps with the ones. The guys around him, in terms of receivers and the running backs, we rotate them in pretty frequently, but it’s really the five guys in front of him and him going with the ones together. So, yeah, it’s important.
Q. Where do you want to see improvement from Jett this week?
COACH WELLS: Taking the play to the signal to the call, consistency. He can be better at that. We can be better for him. Just in terms of what we’re trying to do in the passing game, which some of that will change because you’ve got a new opponent and new schemes in the back end.
The question was also asked about the defense:
Q. Coach, you mentioned the defense needed to have better effort against Oklahoma. Is that (indiscernible) tackling with the amount of missed tackles that you guys had?
COACH WELLS: I think there were certainly a few missed tackles, and let’s credit them. They’ve got really good skill guys, really good, some of the best in the country. I would have liked us to tackle better. There was certainly a lot of yards after contact that we can improve on.
But when I talk about improvement, it’s not just the effort — you know, your effort. I think maybe you meant more the outcome. We all want that better outcome.
The effort to the ball at times was really, really good. There’s other times it wasn’t, not to our level, but that’s evident in wins as well. It’s alignment, assignment, and then tackling certainly.
Certainly, when you don’t tackle well against an elite skill team like Oklahoma, they’ll make you pay a lot quicker, as was the case.
I also liked Wells answer on which position group or players have improved the most since the start of the season:
Q. During the season, where do you see which position group has made the most improvement?
COACH WELLS: Made the most improvement since the start of the season? I think our tight ends have played well, our Hs, our inside guys — Rigdon, Mannix, Donta Thompson — I’ve seen them improve. I’ve seen Xavier Benson improve a lot. He’s a young redshirt freshman outside backer, kind of playing to the field and to the boundary.
I’ve seen Des Smith improve. There’s a guy that I respect as a senior. He didn’t start the, whatever, the first game or two. He got benched out of the nickel personnel group. Never gave up. Never gave in. Got prepared and played very well against Oklahoma. Guy’s got a great sack if we do what we’re supposed to on the back side of it. It’s a phenomenal effort to even chase down the quarterback.
Those are some of the guys that come to mind.
Another one, because of the unknown that I have mentioned a couple of times here, is just the kickers and the specialists. That’s an improvement because it came from an unknown. Just had no idea because of the game experience. And they’ve all held up and done well.
And last but not least, I think a lot of you have had questions about the offensive line:
Q. When you look at your offensive line, what can you do as coaches or how do you talk with them or work with them to get them to improve and, as you say, play better, not necessarily play harder?
COACH WELLS: I think it’s — Chuck, I think it’s daily fundamentals as well as communication. How you’re communicating, how you’re targeted, how you’re ID’d. One guy’s off, that looks bad. We all know that, right, with O-line play because you’ve got to play in unison.
It’s also when you face an extremely talented D-line, similar to my question about tackling, I mean, they can expose you real quick when you’re off with the footwork or a step or a fundamental. So I think you’ve got to go back to the basics, and you’ve got to have both of those for an O-line.
A-J Media’s Don Williams recaps the news above about Jett Duffey receiving the starting nod at quarterback. Williams also writes his notebook where he’s got a few quotes from defensive coordinator Keith Patterson. RedRaiderSports’ Brandon Soliz has more quotes from Patterson and here he’s talking about the defensive issues:
“The biggest thing is, and any time you play people with that athleticism and you have a lot of one-on-one tackles, we gotta create population to the ball carrier,” Patterson said. “We gotta get guys breaking the stack. We were doing it earlier in the season. It seems like it’s tapered off. Whether it’s a confidence issue, a coaching issue, I don’t know. But we’re doing everything we can to obviously correct it, point it out on video, trying to get our guys to say, ‘hey, here’s what happens when you’re one-on-one against base.’ It’s going to be an open-field tackle. You’re not going to knock the guy down. You gotta be able to come to balance, be able to get the guy down in those situations.”
Patterson said there’s no true way to emulate in practice what you might see on game day. However, he thinks tackling is a mixture of mindset and reps at it during practice. Mindset plays a bigger part in it with the amount of confidence one of his players has to follow through and make a smart tackle.
Patterson added they emphasize commitment on tackles, working on technique, angles and such in practice to improve on the defensive side of the ball.
RedRaiderSports’ Billy Watson also spoke to defensive back Desmon Smith and defensive tackle Jaylon Hutchings, and what they need to work on moving forward:
“Really, my footwork,” Hutchings said. “Lateral movement, I can really work on. Finishing plays, that’s something I could work on. I think overall as a defense just us executing. When coach gives us the call, we need to execute better.”
For Smith, his improvement comes no on the field but off of It.
“It’s just me kind of me really being consistent every day in what I do. Whether I got personal issues going on at home or stuff going on in football, just being the same guy when I walked in those doors.”