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January 1, 2006

Gene Chizik

Robert Killebrew

Frank Okam


GENE CHIZIK: Well, it's certainly a very exciting time for Texas football. Defensively, we've certainly got our work cut out for us. It's going to be a fun game, it's going to be an exciting night. We've been working really hard, and I think we're getting to the point now where they're tired of practicing and we're getting to the point where we're getting ready to play.
It's going to be exciting, and we're really looking forward to the challenge.
Q. Gene, when you talk about most offenses, most coaches say, well, if we take this away, if we take that away, we'll be in good shape. What do you do with these guys?
GENE CHIZIK: Well, as everybody in the room knows, they're very explosive in so many different ways. I think just philosophically speaking, the first thing you ever have to do is try to stop the running game. You know, with USC it's a little different amble because their passing game is such an unbelievable threat, as well. We've really worked at trying to contain the running game with two great running backs.
You know, if you can't start there, then your chances of winning a football game are really slim if you can't stop the run. So they're just so potent in so many ways, I don't think that you can say for the whole football game we're going to load up nine guys around the ball the whole time because then you're going to leave your corners exposed out there, and what a great football team they have and so many great receivers.
We're just going to be balanced and try to mix in and out of things and obviously start with the running game, and just kind of see how the game unfolds and see what some of their ideas are.
Q. Yesterday Coach Carroll talked about having to use three guys to simulate what Vince can do. How have you guys simulated what Bush can do?
GENE CHIZIK: Well, we've been really lucky. A lot of our guys are very unselfish, so we've actually taken Ramonce Taylor and Jamaal Charles and every day really for the last couple of weeks we've put them in practice and tried to simulate Reggie, a lot of his runs that wind back and cut back. It's about angles and how you approach the football and things of that nature with trying to stop No. 5.
We've kind of ad libbed a little bit with those guys and gotten them to run around and make cuts and change directions and things like that. It's hard to do, but we did that hoping we could get the best look possible.
Q. Gene, a two-part question for you. Obviously without giving away the family secrets, just in general, what's your philosophy on using a spy is the first question in terms of Reggie?
GENE CHIZIK: Well, philosophically what I've found is a lot of times if the guy is that good that you're spying him, he's probably better than your spy guy. You know, we've got to have 11 guys spying this guy. I mean, he's that good. I don't think you can ever take one guy and put him in a position to just spy and track and things of that nature. You certainly can't do that with a team like USC because there's so many other threats out there. The quarterback and the receivers, they've just got a complete game all the way around on offense.
Obviously we want to be able to be in the best positions to be able to stop their running game, you know, and I think the other thing is everybody talks so much about Reggie Bush, but LenDale White, he's a whole other issue in his own right. You're looking at 235-pound backs.
For you to sit there playing against this football team and really try to concentrate on one area is really hard to do because there's so many areas that are really good.
Q. That brings me to the second part of that. When Reggie is in open space, is it almost a lost cause to think that one guy can make a tackle on him?
GENE CHIZIK: Well, we're relying on a lot of help from our friends, I can tell you that. He's hard to tackle in the open field with one guy or two guys or three guys, and again, that's what we've talked about for the last month is how are we going to corral this offense as a team. It's going to be very important we stay alive. People are getting off blocks, there's people approaching the football at the right angles, and if you miss, you've got to miss in the right direction because if you miss in the wrong direction, there's nobody there to help. It's going to be a touchdown.
Just philosophically that's kind of where we are with trying to corral him because they do a great job of trying to get mismatches in open space, and when they get those mismatches in open space, that's when you see things really turn for the worse.
Q. For the players, and I saw Robert kind of nodding his head when they were talking about LenDale. Is there a possibility you can -- because the USC offense is so potent and you hear so many great things about them, are you at all worried that you take a little bit of a defeatist attitude into this game? Do you have to try to keep up that confidence, that not only can we be good but we can still be great, we can play as well as we played against any other team?
ROBERT KILLEBREW: Yes. Any time we play against any team, you have to go in and think that you have an opportunity and a chance to win. SC is a great team. They won two National Championships, 34 games in a row. They don't do that by accident.
But at the same time you have to be confident and know that your ability to play the game is what got you here, and that's what we're going to try and do, just play our game.
Q. Frank, could you talk about what you see in USC's offensive line, and if you feel like going against your offensive line in practice every day has prepared you to face them?
FRANK OKAM: I think they bring a different style of blocking that our offensive line represents. They're very athletic. It might be similar to Ohio State and Oklahoma. The center is very athletic, one of the quickest centers I'll probably face all year. And the two guards are very powerful, especially the combo blocks. They've got Reggie, LenDale, and when Reggie and LenDale go back and they're running and doing their thing, I think a lot of keys of the success for Bush and White is because of the offensive line when you have holes two miles wide, you get those mismatches.
Q. Could you talk about the two games you coached against USC when you were at Auburn, what you took away from those games and how it could help you this game?
GENE CHIZIK: Well, just reflecting back on those years, you know, the thing that dawned on me when we got done playing those games was, first of all, how physical USC was, and as everybody knows, how athletic they are. There's a lot of carryover with what they're doing on offense now as to what they did then. I don't think that they try to reinvent the wheel at all. They do a great job of, like I said earlier, getting mismatches.
It all comes down to there's a lot of power football. You can't get -- there are a lot of one-back issues and things, but it's still a power running game. You see these guys break out on the corners and you see them get on the perimeter a lot, but still, it's smashmouth football when it comes to running the football.
I think that, you know, a lot of people are aware of how athletic they are, but they're very physical, as well. I think they play that way as a team. On defense, they play the same way.
But just what I took away from those games was understanding how physical as well as athletic this football team is, and they try to establish the line of scrimmage. Like Frank said, they're very physical up front. They've got some great athletes in the front five, very athletic tight ends. So they've got the whole package.
You know, I just think that, again, if you're not playing physical football, if we're not playing physical football on defense, it could be a long night. That's one of the things that we've stressed since day one is we have to play our brand of football, and we have to play physical on that night. There's no way you can beat USC without playing physical because that's what they are.
Q. Gene, could you talk about the streak you've been involved with? Kind of unusual over the span of two different schools to be part of 28 straight.
GENE CHIZIK: Well, it's really unique. I feel very blessed and very fortunate to have been able to make the move to the University of Texas and continue a streak. You know, it's been fun. I don't think about it a whole bunch. Obviously it would be nice to continue that streak, I can assure you that. But it's been fun, and like I said, I've been very blessed, but more so I've been blessed because I've been able to come to the University of Texas and continue this, and it's been fun, especially with these guys.
This football team is different. They're just different. They've got something about them. They've got some chemistry and some great things that it's hard to pinpoint the things that make champions, but this team has got that in them. I think that's why we're sitting in the position that we're in.
Q. Gene, when Matt Leinart has gotten off to some slow starts this year, is that anything with him mechanically that the defense is doing, and can you talk about his adjustments during a game?
GENE CHIZIK: Yeah, they do a great job. You know, one thing offensively that you can see in some of the games that have been close, you can see offensively they just take the games over. The great thing with Matt is that if he does have a slow start, he's got so many other counterpunches in there to be able to take pressure off of him. I think people make a little bit more out of slow starts than they should with him. He's a quarterback that's going to hit a lot of big ones. He's going to miss -- if he doesn't come out and go 13 for 14 then people think it's a slow start. I think that's a little bit of a misnomer.
I think when USC's offense in the games they've been in trouble and they decided to take the game over, they take it over, and Leinart has got a huge part in that. You don't play Notre Dame on 4th and 10 with everything on the line and throw a perfect strike in there for a 60-, 70-yard game to put yourself in position to win the game. That was Matt Leinart, too. But I think their adjustments are really good. I think they wait to see what different teams are doing.
Second half is -- like in the Arizona State game and some other games, they take the game over, whether it's with their running game or the passing game. It's usually a good mixture of both. But their adjustments at halftime or whatever they do is really -- they're really good at it. You know, obviously they've come back three or four times, I think, during the year to be able to rally and win games. Basically they've taken it over on offense is what's happened.
Q. This is for Frank. You guys haven't been underdogs very much at all this year. You come in as 7-, 8-point underdogs. Does it bother you at all?
FRANK OKAM: No. Two National Championships and a 34-game winning streak, I guess you can say they deserve to be No. 1 and maybe we do deserve to be underdogs right now. As you say, all things are easily taken care of on game day, so you can't worry about things until the game is over, I guess.
Q. Frank, against Ohio State you guys were able to put a lot of pressure on the quarterbacks, got a few sacks, and that was a factor in that game. How much of that was generated just by the defensive line, or did you do a lot of blitzing with other people?
FRANK OKAM: Coach usually does a great job of just mixing things up. But this year he wanted to try to get a lot of pressure just with the front four. I think especially you can see the tremendous change from last year to this year, the number of sacks and pressures we've gotten. So a lot of that pressure was generated by the defensive line, and some of that was from blitzes, as well.
Q. Gene, if you have a fairly quick defense, do you find it more difficult to contend with offenses that are quick or more power-oriented?
GENE CHIZIK: Really it just depends. It depends on the team. You know, when you have a lot of speed on defense, I think the thing that you've really got to guard against is over-pursuit. I think that goes back to us continually harping on angles, how we approach the football, who's leveraging the ball to whom, things of that nature. Having a quick defense certainly is not a negative to a power game at all because if you're going to be quick on defense, you always have to be powerful, as well.
But I think the thing, again, that you guard against the most when you have a very fast football team is approaching the football the wrong way and not using very good angles. I think that's what gets you in the most trouble, especially when you're playing a very athletic football team, as well.
Obviously that's what USC is, and again, that goes back to how much of an emphasis we're putting on trying to approach the ball the right way. We know that somebody is going to miss a tackle, we know that somebody is going to break a run. What we're trying to do is make sure we tackle it and live for another down. We're going to try and make sure that we don't turn any running plays into huge, gigantic plays. Again, just bring the ball down and let's live for another down.
Q. Gene, is this the ultimate challenge for you as a defensive coordinator and also your football team?
GENE CHIZIK: I think it is, for two reasons. One, obviously the venue. You work your whole career and these guys can play four or five years in college and go on and play 12 or 15 years in the NFL and you're never guaranteed to be on a stage as this, and that's very unique and that's very exciting, and certainly these guys really deserve that.
And two, obviously when you're playing a team that has in some arenas been tagged as one of the best football teams in college football history, that makes it fun. That makes it really exciting. It's going to be a great challenge and one that -- I may do this another 20 years and never get a shot to do this, and they may play for another 20 years and never get a shot at doing this again. For those two reasons I think it's something you hold onto for a long time, so we're looking forward to it.
Q. The whole spy thing, I don't know how many USC defenses opponents tried to spy on Reggie Bush this year. Do you get guys like Frank wanting to be the spy, people volunteering to be the spy?
GENE CHIZIK: Yeah, we talked to Frank long and hard about spying (laughter) Reggie, and if he just places it out there, Frank, go out and cover him and stuff. It just didn't pan out (laughter). Frank was just a step slow (laughter), but it was a good thought. It was his thought, too.
Again, I just think it's hard. You know, I think it's hard for somebody to spy Vince Young. You spy Vince Young, he outruns your spy. Again, it's a team thing. And defense usually is. Defense is a team thing; it's not about one guy, it's about 11. That's what I think our guys have evolved into.
Q. Have you seen other opponents do it?
GENE CHIZIK: Not really. I think what people try to do is they try to stay out of mismatches the best they can, but USC does a great job of getting some of those mismatches by formationing. So they'll hide Reggie now; he'll be all over the place, he won't just be at running back. They'll move him around. So it's a catch-me-if-you-can deal, and they do a great job of that.
Q. It's been a while since you guys have played and there's been a lot of talk about how great USC's offense is. How tough has it been just hearing about all that and just waiting to finally get a chance to play against them?
ROBERT KILLEBREW: It's just been tough wanting to play, sitting out for almost a month. If you're any kind of competitor, you just want to play and get a chance to play against any kind of team. So that was the hardest thing, just sitting out and going to practice and keeping it against ourselves, keeping it Texas guys. That just kind of gets old after a while.
I look forward to just playing again, just playing against somebody else, and like coach said and is always saying, against the greatest offense, the greatest team in college football history, that just makes it even a little better. But I just want to play again.
Q. Frank, who's the best bowler on the team?
FRANK OKAM: Usually it goes back and forth every week. I hate to say it, but last time we played, Mr. Wright won. I've been hearing about it for a month, so I'm kind of ready to get back out there and show him up a little bit.
GENE CHIZIK: Frank is going to spy him (laughter).
Q. Gene, maybe this is just a semantics sort of thing, but throughout the years Pete has been asked a number of times about adjustments. You yourself mentioned the Arizona State game. I think that was the game where they went run heavy in the second half. Am I correct on that?
GENE CHIZIK: That is correct.
Q. He says, we don't adjust, we just keep doing what we're doing. Maybe it's a semantics thing. Do they adjust and actually change things or do they find what's working and go to that?
GENE CHIZIK: I think it's more of the second, the latter part. They don't change what they do; they run the same plays. What they do is they really find out what you're doing to try to stop them and then they'll give you a heavy dose of what they do is the best thing to counter whatever you're in. They don't change their offense, they just do a good job of kind of piecing everything together and running and throwing against the things that you're -- basically whatever you're trying to defend, they're going to do the opposite. They don't change their offense, no, they're not going to do that.
Q. If I could just follow that up. The first say five minutes of the third quarter, will that be the most intriguing and challenging portion for you?
GENE CHIZIK: Absolutely. The first five minutes -- I would say the first two to three series of the football game and the first two to three series of the third quarter could be really interesting.

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