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October 11, 2012

Bill Blankenship

UTEP – 11
TULSA - 33

Q.  Going into the half it looked like it was going to be another close game.  What adjustments did you make and sparked you for the third quarter?
COACH BLANKENSHIP:  Just encouraged them to execute a little better and finish drives.  We got in there twice, and had to kick field goals offensively.  We were playing well on defense.  Still we were playing a little soft early on, and I'm talking about at the perimeter, and we just had to stay the course and played with a little more passion.  I thought we were really sluggish in the first half.

Q.  Did it seem like it was disjointed?
COACH BLANKENSHIP:  Like a Thursday game?  Yeah.

Q.  It was a funky game.
COACH BLANKENSHIP:  Yeah, it felt like we had trouble gettingeverything from timeouts to ‑‑ it just seemed like it was a hard game to get in the flow of, no doubt.

Q.  What play in the third quarter sparked you guys?  Was it the long touchdown?
COACH BLANKENSHIP:  Oh, I think that was a big one without a doubt.  I think J.T.'s run, I thought Zack Langer did a great job of spelling Alex.  We had a pretty good drive going and Alex got winded and we needed to get him out, and Zack Langer powered in there and made a couple of plays.  Then a big catch late in the game also kind of just kept‑‑ seemed like UTEP was crawling back in, trying to get some momentum, and I thought Zack did a good job of helping us kind of close the door on them.

Q.  On the Douglas run, didn't they go about halfway up the field and get called back?  Did you notice that?
COACH BLANKENSHIP:  He thought we were going to our heavy personnel, and we did not, yeah.  We don't run Alex on that sweep.

Q.  (Indiscernible)?
COACH BLANKENSHIP:  Huge, yeah.  We had actually made some pretty key mistakes getting down in there, if I remember right.  I think that was the same drive that we had the PI that extended it.  You know, we just kept fighting, and just really proud that defensively it's just another great reminder to play every play, play every play.  Because you know what, if you're on the sideline with me watching, you're just going, golly.  It looks like they're going to score.
We just keep fighting.  That was a huge play to just kind of fight through and look for the ball.

Q.  Cory talked on Monday about how in these close games no panic on the side.  At the half, what was their demeanor?
COACH BLANKENSHIP:  The guys' demeanor was good.  Mine wasn't real good because I wanted more passion.  I'm okay with‑‑ there's not a panic.  Not a concern of anything more than just play hard.  I felt like we were this close to playing hard, but we did not ever cut loose and really‑‑ there was just a difference.  You can see it.
When you're playing and you're actually executing, but you're not playing with passion and that was really my encouragement at halftime.

Q.  Did you notice Cole Way's ankle?
COACH BLANKENSHIP:  I did.  I was a little concerned by it, frankly.  The guy is knocked‑‑ I don't want to say snapped in half, but he smoked the guy it looked like from the sideline.

Q.  The guy's forward progress died on the spot.
COACH BLANKENSHIP:  Yeah, there is no telling what he'll want to do next week.  But it was from the sideline, it looked like a big‑time tackle.  If we could actually make those guys practice tackling, that's one thing.  Hopefully we have learned.

Q.  Shawn Jackson scored on the fumble recovery.  What's he bring to your defense?
COACH BLANKENSHIP:  DT tells me that's the third time in his career that he's scored a defensive touchdown.  I think that's one of the things he brings to the defense.  He is a playmaker.  He has a nose.  He almost picked an out cutoff and would have probably gone six on that one.  Just, again, he makes me smile because you watch him, and he doesn't look like he should be able to do what he does, and yet he just has a way of making plays.

Q.  Singleton ties the school record tonight.

Q.  Has he gone from a guy maybe a packaged four to a planned four to a guy that when we need a lift?
COACH BLANKENSHIP:  No question.  No question.  The thing about Alex is he now to me has inserted himself in the three‑man rotation as opposed to just being a guy that we needed at certain times.  He really has become a force for us.  It's given us a whole different dimension that's kind of like throwing a curveball or a changeup.
You know, we hit him with this, hit him with this, and then they've got that guy coming downhill at him.  So it helps us in terms of kind of changing things up in the run game.

Q.  It looked like right before the half and right after the half you've got two drives, almost 14 minutes.  We're going to pound away at it.  Was that ever on your part?
COACH BLANKENSHIP:  Yeah, but we needed to dink it around a little bit too.  I know in the second half we were effective in throwing some short balls that were trying to make the defense play honest.  Sneak guys in the box and throw it out there.  I thought we did a good job second half of making that more productive.  That first drive in the second half, I think, maybe immediately after that.  We're doing a little better job.
But that's part of to me just an extended run game.  We're not trying to get too fancy about it.  Just trying to make them play honest in the box.

Q.  Everybody else in the country set an open date except for you, it seems like.  So if there was a little funky feel tonight, was it maybe they just need a couple days?
COACH BLANKENSHIP:  Well, I know we do.  And the thing that's nice about a Thursday, and we've already talked about this, even though it's not an open date, it's an open weekend.  We'll get two of those here in the next three weeks.  I think we're ready for it.
We need to get ready and go 1‑0 next week and try to get rested up and healed up, but right now we need to finish.  I'm really proud of them.  They've been very focused a week at a time, going 1‑0 that week.

Q.  You've had three or four flurries this year where you've scored three or four touchdowns.  Is that where you can counter the 14‑play drive where you plot your defense with enough athleticism?
COACH BLANKENSHIP:  Yeah, I think if we don't fumble a ball early on like after a passing run, I think we've got some ways to mix it up a little bit.  I think we'll get even better as we go.  But I'm very encouraged with where we are.  We're finding that identity, and it's not always pretty, but it sure is effective.

Q.  You get that Bowl eligibility, are you guys excited?
COACH BLANKENSHIP:  No, we're excited to have six wins, no doubt, but it's early in the season.  In fact, I haven't thought about it until you said it.  I may go celebrate on that one.  That's pretty good.
I like that we've got six wins in seven weeks.  The truth is we've got six wins in six weeks.  So now we need to get another win, and then we'll have a down week, but it's a big deal for us to have an extra day or two to get ready for Rice.

Q.  Not long ago six wins was a big deal.  It really was when you start counting down.  Four games, then three.  Now here you are.
COACH BLANKENSHIP:  Well, we sure would like to take credit for that, but I think that's been the standard that's been set here from what I inherited, so we'll continue it, hopefully.

Q.  Then is it safe to say you would still like to do more effective passing?
COACH BLANKENSHIP:  Sure.  Yeah, we missed a few early in the game.  But by the same token, it's that same old story.  I think Cody missed a couple that he should have had.  Then later on we drop a couple.  But we're going to get better.  It's something that we know we need to improve.  It's like we're not practicing on it every day.

Q.  Cody was out at the beginning of the fourth.  He's fine?
COACH BLANKENSHIP:  Yeah, there was no reason to continue playing him if they hadn't scored again.  I put him back in because we need his leadership, and then we went right back down and got another one.  I felt like that kind of iced it.  But I was hoping that we had iced it, and then we let them get behind us on a big play and get a two‑point conversion.  You just kind of felt the wind suck out of our defense.

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