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October 21, 2019

Matt Wells

Lubbock, Texas

MATT WELLS: Just recapping the game, they started fast. Credit to them. They took advantage of some of our errors, but they also came out and made some plays. We did not match it on offense, which was the disappointing part on our end, especially the first three drives. First three drives get past the 50 and then I think we dropped a ball on third down. Get all the way out to right around the 50 and bog down and then go three-and-out with another drop on third down. So didn't have very many drops in the day, but we had two key drops on third down. And then you look up after three series and it's 20 to nothing. And so sometimes teams gotta do that when your defense starts slow, and we did start slow on defense. Haven't done that on defense in the last several weeks. But we did and we didn't match it. On offense, and you gotta be able to do that. On the flip side one of the things I mentioned to our players is you look at the Oklahoma State game two weeks ago, and we did that in terms of we played very well on defense until the offense could kind of catch up to it. And then we did and then we kind of took off.

But we didn't match it on offense. And then I thought we settled down. It's 20 to nothing, we settle down on both sides and we actually played fairly good. And proud of the guys really for how they played two and a half, almost three-quarters after that.

Then you get to a point in the fourth quarter where we made the pick by Damarcus and it's 11 minutes to go. It's 27-17. It's a two-possession ballgame. We get a first down, move it inside the red zone and then have to settle for a field goal and we missed a red zone field goal. And that had a chance to put it to a one-possession game right there, and we didn't do it and we didn't take advantage of it. So Iowa State is a good team. Credit to them. They're well coached, and they're tough. They don't make mistakes. They make you earn it and go the long, hard way and we didn't do that. So it's an area or a part of our game that we've gotta get better at. We want to become the team that actually does that, and so they're a good team, and credit to them paragraph moving onto Kansas this week, Kansas is coming off a really big-time phenomenal effort against Texas down there in Austin Saturday. You know, after watching, I watched all three phases of the ball against Texas last night, and just, again, phenomenal effort. Those kids played hard. They spilled their guts. I thought they really, really played their tail off and deserved to win. They emptied the tank as some guys say. Anyway, they're a talented team on offense. You know, they're led by the quarterback, Stanley. Pooka is extremely, ultra-talented running back, and when that guy gets into the second level he's got the ability to hit a homerun every single time, as evidenced by his play a little bit Saturday night. But not just Saturday night. You've seen it throughout this year. I know one of our defensive guys said you saw it last year. But the guy can hit a homerun.

Four, two, eight and then Robinson five in the slot. That's four guys that are really talented. They got really good receivers. You look at them on defense, the nickel, No. 1, plays everywhere. He's a really aggressive, active football player. I like him a lot. Got a big D line, both outside backers, 9 and 5, long, athletic, really long arms. Very athletic. You gotta account for those guys. Lee is really active in the secondary.

So they're playing with a lot of confidence, and again, like I said, what a phenomenal effort they played with and Coach Miles we have a lot of respect for. Some of those guys on that staff I've known for a while. I worked with the D coordinator at one stop. So a staff that I got a lot of respect for. And we certainly need to start regrouping, starting today getting ready for Kansas Jayhawks. So with that I'll open it up for any questions.

Q. Coach, you mentioned how after the game you said the team was emotionally ready for the game, but there just wasn't something there. Now that you've gone back through it, has it become clearer to you what you thought was missing at the beginning of the game?
MATT WELLS: Not one thing. Just weren't very detailed oriented. That comes back to didn't communicate, I thought, whatever adjustment to a formation. Weren't real sharp and then all of a sudden, that's the Big 12's leading passing offense right now. They make you pay. They make you play real quick. Playing outside lever, should be inside. I'm playing outside, should be inside. Thought I was cutting this crosser, not. Not very detailed. And then, like I said, if you're matching it on offense, and we were. We were moving the ball. Had we finished the drive a touchdown or a field goal or any kind of combination, you kind of can settle the sidelines down a little bit and regroup, and then here you go. The problem is we -- you know, you're down 20 to nothing. And that's what really good teams do. They take advantage of that. They started fast, we didn't.

Q. How much did their defense, since they didn't start as hot as you wanted and you mentioned after the game that it seemed like it was -- they weren't getting the pressure you really wanted. When you did watch it back, did you see that to be the case still?

Q. They weren't getting after it?
MATT WELLS: Hitting one time, no sacks. Hit him one time, pressured him twice. Evan Rambo hit him once. Jordyn Brooks pressured him twice. We had no sacks. They did a great job of protecting. We didn't do a very good job of rushing.

Q. What about this offensive effort do you want to see for this week?
MATT WELLS: You know, in the passing game we had a couple drops like I mentioned earlier, but nothing systemic or anything like that that's a margin cause. Jett's gotta play a little sharper in the passing game. We missed on some throws. We got pressured a couple times and we didn't think we needed to be. You just gotta as we move the ball, we actually ran the ball decent. We had very few -- I think we had one zero-yardage run. We had no negative runs, which is I think the first time all year: So we actually ran the ball a little bit better. But you get down 20 to nothing and you gotta start throwing it a little bit more, and we weren't real sharp as we'd been in the passing game the last couple weeks.

Q. Matt, what went into the -- what was the thought process with all the bubble screens and horizontal throws that you all made on Saturday?
MATT WELLS: Well, they gave it to us, they gave it to us. A lot of those were off of the run game, which we'd done earlier in the year. The last couple opponents have been taking that away from us. And Jett did a good job of getting it out there. A couple times we didn't block very good, a couple times he didn't throw it real good, and then there were a couple others that were schemed in as well, which made it probably look like it was a little bit more. But some of them were coming off the run game.

Q. Going back to your citing a lack of pressure, how do you go about getting more pressure considering that you have missed quite a bit?
MATT WELLS: Considering what?

Q. Considering that Keith hasn't missed quite a bit and hasn't gotten guys home.
MATT WELLS: We blitzed in this game more than we did the Oklahoma State game. Nobody probably would ever have known that. We probably pressured six or seven-man 25 percent this last game. Oklahoma State, it was less than 10 percent. We played better effort, played better energy, got on the edges, got after the passer a whole lot better really the last two weeks. Just because of scheme, we always say we try not to use scheme as a crutch, scheme being six or seven-man pressure. So how do you get to the quarterback better? Some of it is probably scheme. We can't rely on that. We gotta rush Don. We gotta get on edges. We gotta rush better. We gotta rush more efficiently. Guys have to hit home when they do, and when we do free them up, because of scheme, you've gotta hit home. You gotta cover a little bit better in the back end. When you don't cover as well on the back end, the ball is out a whole lot quicker. Therefore you're not getting home. So it ties hand in hand. We weren't real sharp on the back end either.

Q. You guys have been doing really well as far as getting those turnovers, but not translating -- stringing those together with going down and getting a field goal, getting scores. What can you guys really work on throughout the week to make sure when you do force those turnovers, two or three in the game to really string those into scores and build that momentum?
MATT WELLS: Well, we only had one turnover this game, and had we shielded all blocks a little bit better, we may have scored, which is really what we're trying to do and the intent to do because we're trying to practice how to score after those interceptions. But we only had one this week.

You know, the one thing that we did do well is we got two three-and-outs, and I think Iowa State was leading the country in -- help me. The less -- least amount of three-and-outs. Thanks. Least amount of three -- y'all know I struggle with my English grammar sometimes. I appreciate your all's patience with me and our program.

Least amount of three-and-outs in the country and we got two. We turned them both into touchdowns. We played off both three-and-outs. So that's part of ball. That's an emotion that's feeding off each other on the sidelines. Certainly we want to try to take every turnover and turn it right into points, and we missed a red zone field goal, or that question doesn't come up. You know, we would have liked that to have been a touchdown and been only down a field goal there with right around ten, nine, ten minutes to go in the game and it's a one-possession ballgame. And you think you got two possessions and they got two and here we go. Everybody's got two possessions and let's go play ball. So, yeah, I mean that's the goal. That's what we want to do.

Q. Coach, you kind of touched on it earlier in terms of the flat start Saturday, but why has this team been kind of up and down? Oklahoma State, come out on fire; Oklahoma, slow start. Baylor, come out on fire, and then Saturday.
MATT WELLS: I don't know.

Q. You really don't know?
MATT WELLS: I have my thoughts that, you know, but it's all tied to first year, trying to build this foundation and making sure that it's exactly what we want in terms of Monday through Friday the investment and pouring out and the way you're accountable in every area of your life, off the field, school, the way you practice, your practice habits, your demeanor. Even the week we beat Oklahoma State it's still not where I want it to be and where we want it to be. But yet we still made plays, and so you can't look back and go, oh, yeah, we were really good that week Monday through Friday. It's been a work in progress and there's things that have gotten better, but it just takes more guys doing it. I think it takes quite a few guys. I always say 48. That's not a magic number, 45 guys to win a ballgame. We're not there yet.

When you play the programs that we've played the last two weeks, you know, really four weeks, five, I mean Arizona is having a really good year right now. Just it's going to the Big 12 the last four weeks you've got, Oklahoma State was Top-25 at the time when we played them. Baylor is Top-25. Oklahoma is Top-5. Iowa State today, as they should have been last week. You can't afford to miss some of the opportunities that we've missed. Flat start, really just one out of the last three. But had we played -- had we finished the drives on the first two drives and got to midfield and got past midfield, I don't know, plus 40, I think Saturday may have been different. It wasn't. Credit to Iowa State. They played really good. They're really good on defense and offense, and that's how you build a consistent program. And I want to get to that point where you're not giftwrapping teams' victories. You make people earn them, and we didn't earn those. I just wish we could have played better out of the gate on offense, just to give the defense time to regroup, catch up, dial back in, because that happens within a season. Good programs can do that, and we're not to that point yet.

Q. Is the margin for error slim?
MATT WELLS: It is. Very slim. Yeah, every Saturday in this league it's extremely slim. Kansas had every opportunity to beat Texas, every bit. Saturday, this Saturday, last few Saturdays, it is a very slim margin right now. You look at the teams that are in the top four of the standings, Baylor, Iowa State, Texas and OU and those are the four teams that have kind of won and then you've got everybody else just kind of grouped up. And we control our own destiny just like all the other teams do that's kind of clumped up in that spot here over the last, what, six weeks, with the bye week, five games for us. Some teams may have one more because they've already had their byes, but yeah, very slim margin for error.

Q. Coach, are you guys trying to make a conscious effort not to have Jett run on some opportunities? Seems like he had two or three opportunities where he could have been running for first down and ended up throwing a pass was incomplete or short of the yardage. Is that something you guys are trying not to do?
MATT WELLS: I don't think so because the opportunities that you're talking about right there is good examples, but those are just choices by him to throw the ball or to continue to run on a scramble. And he's certainly dangerous, I think, when he gets out and runs. He's got good escapability. I think he's got good athletic ability, and I do think he presents a problem for defense, are you going to spy a guy on him. If you do, you got one less in coverage, obviously. If you're in man coverage, it's one less rat in the hole, or however it be. But if you spy a guy for him, you know, it can help. If not, he's out there running around, and there he goes. But, you know, I'm trying to encourage him to get down and get out of bounds and not take direct hits. And for the most part he's been able to do that.

Q. Iowa State was also able to take advantage of the deep ball. It seemed like whenever they wanted to do that. Was it just a situation where they had the right play call at the right time? Was a guy out of position or was it just the talented receivers they have?
MATT WELLS: I think they do have talented receivers. I think we have talented DBs. But when we -- our DBs are not in either position, the right eyes, if their eyes are not right and they're not playing the right technique or there's a little bit of confusion or breakdown in terms of the communication of coverage. All you need is a split second and now that margin that we're talking about just earlier -- we're talking about margin of victory earlier, but the margin of that close a difference on some of those are huge.

Q. Coach, you mentioned -- how can a guy like Les Miles changing the program in Kansas? What have you seen him do to a program that's been stagnant for so many years?
MATT WELLS: I think Coach Miles brings credibility to that program. I mean, the job that he obviously did at Oklahoma State and did at LSU speaks for itself. He's had success everywhere he's been. And those kids played hard on Saturday. They really did. They went out and, man, they did. They emptied the tank and had every right to win and deserved to win.

Q. What stuck out about Stanley in that contest? He seemed like a playmaker against Texas.
MATT WELLS: I think he played confident. I think he played with his chest stuck out, and I think Coach Dearmon, you know, called some plays and designed it, you know, that two weeks that the change has kind of been made, I think that's -- I think 9 responded real well. He seemed like he was running the show and very, very confident. And that's a credit to his coaching. That's probably a credit to his being coachable and his coachability. But, yeah, that's a good point you make, and I think he played real well Saturday.

Q. On Saturday you said you were trying to find a way to win on the road. When you're building a foundation or culture at a new place, what's kind of the key to getting that first win and building up your guys for that?
MATT WELLS: I think it's just playing, you know, the ball. It's not so much anything special or magical or anything like that. I think we've got to start fast. You've gotta be able to run the ball and stop the run on the road. You gotta play physical in the trenches. I don't think there's any magic thing, and that's the thing with your -- to lead into that question, you said in your first year and in the foundation. I think we need to understand that you follow the plan to win and you do things right during the week. It's not something magic. It's not the movie you go to or it's not how you come into the stadium or the music in the locker room. That stuff, that doesn't matter. And so I think, you know, you get past all that and I think it's a lot more ball related.

Q. Matt, Mike Ekeler is on Kansas staff. Kirby said he is the person that first put you on his radar, on Kirby's radar. What do you remember about that game against SC in '13?
MATT WELLS: 2013 USC: 17-14. Did you look it up? I would have guessed 17-13. I knew it was really close and it was in the teens. We gave up too many points on defense that day. And I mean that sincerely. I guarantee that's what I said on Monday in the team meeting. That was a hard-fought battle. That was my first year at Utah State. We had a lot of guys on that defense. I think there were nine guys on that defense that played in the NFL at some point, free agent, draft picks, and they weren't all seniors that day. And we played really, really hard on defense.

You know, offensively we moved the ball. We couldn't score. That was a really good Trojans defense, really, really good, and we came close, but that -- our guys fought. I thought they played really, really hard.

You mentioned Mike. Eke's a really good coach. He's been some really good places. I've known him for, I don't know, a handful of years, and certainly, you know, he -- he's got their special teams. I can see the energy on the sidelines for him. You can see it on tape. Their special teams is very, very good. And they are very sound. He's an energetic guy, and I know he brings a lot of experience. D.J. Eliot, the D coordinator, he and I were at Tulsa together, coach P, we were all together. And D.J. is a friend, but is a respected college football coach. He's done a really nice job with the way they play. Coach has got good assistants around him. He's done a nice job of hiring guys up and down.

Q. What have you found out about Adrian Frye? Are you going to have him this week?
MATT WELLS: I would say probable, questionable to probable.

Q. He hurt his hand some way?

Q. When are you going to get the next update on Alan and on Maverick?
MATT WELLS: Soon. Not sure. I don't have a date.

Q. When they get back at such point, whatever time that is, how do you see the competition between him and Jett?
MATT WELLS: That's a long time from now. I don't know. It's not fair for me to speculate on any of that because that's not today and it's not this week. So that's not fair. So I'm not going to comment on that.

Q. What kind of gains have you seen from Jett with this extended playing time that he has gotten and what do you still want to see?
MATT WELLS: I just think he's gotta take another step. Saturday there were some good stuff and there were some things that he did outside the framework of the offense, and you can't do that. And he knows that, and some of that I think Iowa State caused, so again, credit to them. But I think it's just daily mastering the new things, because there's going to be new things in every game plan. And it's week to week. It's not just -- you know, now there's a book on him. So now as a QB you got two and a half games, two games and three-quarters, whatever it is, on him this year, and so D coordinators start to see him, and he's gotta be able to practice and take it to another level and then go out and play again this Saturday and against a new scheme and a new D coordinator and all that kind of stuff. It's just normal stuff playing quarterback.

Q. Coach Breece Hall kind of an unknown going into this past weekend. He ran the ball so well against you guys. What concerns you for your defense with Pooka being more established? I mean everybody knows what he can do around the football and the struggles you guys had stopping the run last week.
MATT WELLS: I just think -- I mean like I mentioned in my opening statement about Pooka, I mean he is very talented. He's shifty. He can one cut, but sometimes you think one-cut guys don't have speed. This guy's got homerun speed and they move him around. They play him outside a little bit, but they get him in the back field. They do a good job of getting him the ball. He's an ultra-talented guy and one of the top backs in this league. Right now he's going to be All-Big 12 running back.

Q. Along those lines, what do you think the issue was stopping the run last week?
MATT WELLS: Well, I think he's certainly a good running back. They got a good scheme. They got good O linemen. The receivers block real physical on the perimeter. There's times where we didn't get off blocks on the perimeter. We had some missed tackles. I don't think it was a -- I don't think there were a ton of missed tackles, but there were a few. Obviously he missed one on the 75-yard run. He missed one right at the point of attack and, deuces, gone, you know. And it's talented Breece, and he is talented. Pooka will do the same thing if we miss a tackle like that.

Q. Coach, going back to the bubble screen, you mentioned that it wasn't just one thing. It was receivers not blocking. Does that add to the frustration that it's not just one thing? It's not a consistent thing that it's multiple things going on?
MATT WELLS: That's coaching. I mean I could answer frustration on everything we have to coach. It's not just coaching. It's what we do every day. We wake up, and we come in here and we correct, we encourage. We demand. And so it's never just one thing. And just because you did it right the next week doesn't guarantee you the same results without coaching it to the nth degree right now in year one, again, the next week. And in that particular case there were times we threw it out there and we shouldn't have. There's times we didn't block it well. There's times we really didn't -- we weren't really on the right track. So it's a little bit of combination of all those, but not frustration. That's just coaching, you know, and I mean that sincerely. You just -- you know what you're dealing with every day, and even when it's good, you still try to coach it and make sure it stays that way. But there's no sense in getting frustrated because we're going to continue to do it and it's part of our offense. So that's what we are asked to do and so we wake up and we do it every single week and every single day, and we'll try to do it better even the stuff I think we did well Saturday I think we're going to try to get better at. That could be termed frustrating if you want because just because you did something good, I'd like to quit coaching that and move on, but it won't be that way. But I respect the question. But it's really not. I mean you're really not. You continue, you gotta coach all facets of it.

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