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Cougar Tracks: Coach-speak in Cowtown

Cougar Tracks: Coach-speak in Cowtown

By Greg Wrubell | Posted - Dec. 29, 2011 at 11:01 a.m.



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On the day before the Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl, head coaches for the BYU and Tulsa football teams held a Thursday morning press conference in Fort Worth--the last day of activities in that city before the scene shifts to Dallas for Friday's game.

You can hear the entire press conference and individual interviews with Tulsa players GJ Kinne and Curnelius Arnick, and BYU's Jameson Frazier, in "Cougar Cuts," to the left.

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Highlights from today's media event:

BYU Head Coach Bronco Mendenhall--

On the game:

"I'm really intrigued and excited about playing Tulsa. You have two of the most winning programs in the country over the past five or six years and you have two teams with similar seasons. The losses were against good teams, hard fought contests, and with records being very similar. So I think both teams seek to find balance offensively."

"Both teams I think play solid defense, as well. I think both teams will be hungry and motivated as most of the bowl games I've seen this year seem to be good matchups and came down to the end. I wouldn't be surprised if that happens in our game."

"I'm not usually successful in predicting what type of game it will be, high scoring, low scoring, in between, but I think it will be a competitive game with two hungry teams."

"We certainly have had our hands full in preparing for Tulsa on both sides of the ball. Whoever wins the game I think it will be a significant victory against a good team and a good way to finish the year."

--

On bowl prep:

"There is a routine that we've settled into in the post- season as we've matured. Our approach is a little bit different. We don't seek to maximize every practice. We don't spend much time on young player development. Really we follow a similar format as if we had a bye week."

"Really what we sought to do and seek to do in our bowl preparation is learn as much as we can about our opponent, get our players as healthy as possible, get them excited to play in the game, be anxious to run into each other, then hopefully develop consistency."

--

On keys to the game:

"I'm not sure the keys are different than what it takes to win any football game, especially against a very good opponent."

"I think field position always plays a giant role, which is normally tied to special teams. If you're able to start with the ball closer to the goal line, you have a better chance to score. I think in some of the (bowl) games we have seen played already, that has played out very well."

"Obviously the turnovers, holding onto the football. After a four week stretch, you hope it stays the same as it was with the same emphasis during the season."

"I think a lot of (Tulsa) quarterback (GJ Kinne). Hopefully being able to maybe limit, if possible, the success that he can have while really no one has been able to do that. He has the capability of winning the football game I'm not going to say on his own but certainly can lead and do a lot of things that very few players can do. So hopefully having an effective plan to be able to just do something to corral him a little bit."

--

On the first season as an FBS Independent:

"It's been quite a bit different; there have been positives and there have been a few challenges. From a positive perspective, the exposure. I think this will be our 11th game on ESPN this year which is a fantastic opportunity for people worldwide to watch us play. So that's been phenomenal. You add that partnership with BYU TV, we're fortunate to have our own television network. That's really provided access to church members and people worldwide. So that part has been fantastic."

"It's been liberating to design our own schedule. With that also comes the challenge of mid- to late-season games. As we already know, probably for both schools, your chance to be in a (BCS game) only comes if you're undefeated. I think for our program and probably for Tulsa, when nine or 10 wins and sometimes 11 is a successful season, at one point there will be a magical year where an undefeated season will get you into one of those games. That has proven to be, through scheduling and going forward for independence, a little bit more difficult than what I thought it was going to be."

"In terms of our team, they really haven't focused much on conference affiliation. I know when we've lost a game, their focus shifted from the chance to maybe be in a BCS game to just playing the very best football we can and win as many games as we could. That's been a little bit different without a conference championship to fight for at the end of the season. Not that they're less motivated, but it's something we acknowledged in saying, 'now how good can we get?'"

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On playing in Texas serving as a recruiting tool:

"From our perspective, recruiting is quite a bit different than any other program in the country. Really we organize our recruiting quite frankly around (LDS) Church membership. Wherever the most church members are, those become our primary recruiting areas. Texas happens to be one of those. But there's five players on our team from Texas. Not to the same emphasis at Tulsa's program."

"But for us, if there's a young man qualified and wants to be at BYU, one is enough. If there are two or three or four or five, or maybe others that don't know much about BYU and what the standards are, etc., and learn about that through watching a good football game, what they hear the commentators say, there are a lot of kids that are socially conservative that hadn't considered BYU but might consider it now."

"Going back to the first question of independence, with our exposure this year, that has generated a lot more interest than what I expected, players finding us, whether they're members of the church or not, that has been positive in terms of exposure, where parents are calling us saying, We think we'd be a good fit."

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Tulsa Head Coach Bill Blankenship--

On the game:

"We're specifically very pleased to be playing BYU. We think this is an opportunity for us to match up against a team with national notoriety, a team that's been a consistent winner. We expect a hard fought, disciplined and physical football game."

"They have demonstrated to have great defense all year, been very consistent in playing good defense. I think with the emergence of their quarterback in the last two thirds of the season they really began to take on a little more identity offensively. But even with that, much like ourselves, are really a balanced offense."

"They run the ball well, they spread the ball out to several receivers, certainly have some go to guys. I think it's a team concept and what we seek to do at Tulsa as well. I love the matchup."

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On bowl prep:

"We've been very successful. I had the opportunity to be with Coach (Todd) Graham on his staff through three bowl trips that we were actually very successful in. Won all three of those games. We followed a very similar format in terms of our bowl preparation, much like Coach Mendenhall said."

"I think the key to this is getting your guys here healthy and hungry. The tough thing about a four week stretch is they are wanting to hit, they are wanting to run into people, they are wanting to cut loose."

"Frankly, I think we're tired of practicing. It's hard to practice for three weeks, four weeks, and not have that competition. So there will be no secrets. When you have 12 weeks of film to study an opponent, you're going to know them pretty well and they're going to know us pretty well. So it really comes down to execution."

"We're going to try to execute very well. If we can operate, that's what you call the time from getting out of the huddle or from lining up until the ball is snapped, if you can operate without what we see in a lot of these bowl games, a lot of penalties, if we can operate well, I think execution will follow."

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On keys to the game:

"The people from Tulsa will hear the same things over and over again because that's how you win football games. You have to take care of the football game. Hopefully you can steal some possessions. It comes down to a turnover battle. That's the first place that I think there are keys to being able to win over and over again."

"Secondly, I think we need to be able to run the football. That's a huge task. This is a defense that's been very, very good against the run. But for us to be successful overall offensively, I think we need to be able to run the football and to be able to stay balanced."

"Thirdly, I think we have to limit BYU's big plays. If we can just make them snap the ball, it gives us a chance to stay in the game. You don't want to give up plays over the top, big runs. If we limit the explosives, take care of the football, establish some running in this game, I think we'll have a good chance to win."

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Greg Wrubell

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