By Chris Williams, CycloneFanatic.com Publisher
As we do each and every week here at CF, here is the transcript from Paul Rhoads’ Monday press conference leading up to Saturday’s game against Kansas State.
Any guesses ast this point as to how long Matt Tau’fo’ou will be out?
PR: He has got the same that Ter’Ran (Benton) had a year ago at the Nebraska game. Ter’Ran got back for bowl preparation and of course was ready for the bowl game. It is sort of hard to gauge when he would have been able to play a game before that bowl date. A safe guess is six weeks, for sure, that he’ll be out of action.
How have you mixed things up at linebacker?
PR: Jeremiah George is available to play at MIKE linebacker. A.J. Klein really moves up to the number one MIKE linebacker spot. Matt Morton is our SAM linebacker. He’ll elevate if A.J. moves inside on a more permanent basis. We can also play our nickel package, which doubles at the SAM linebacker spot with Ter’Ran Benton and Jacques Washington.
Has Jacques Washington played much linebacker?
PR: The linebacker area, when I say ‘area,’ I mean by the tight end, is not a position where we want to put Ter’Ran and Jacques in. We’d rather have them out on wide receivers and that is where we will still try to utilize those guys. But if we have to, just because of depth and reasons beyond our control that way, they’ll have to be in there some.
Is preparing for Kansas State at all similar to preparing for Iowa? Do they do some of the same things offensively?
PR: They do some of the same things. They are going to run the football. They are going to run it with a very good back, who is third in the country right now at 185-yards a game. They will run some option, that Iowa doesn’t necessarily run. The fact that there is power involved in the running game and they are going to establish that is similar.
Is shutting down Daniel Thomas the key or do they have other weapons who will show up if you just focus on him?
PR: They definitely have more weapons. I think that slowing down Thomas is very important. I don’t know if you can stop him. We had some effectiveness last year but 185 yards a game is an awful lot. Even though that is in just two games, he has been effective in both. Wally said after the UCLA game as we were talking about scores that he thought Thomas would be the best back who we face all season long. He’ll certainly be right at the top of the heap. Carson Coffman is a great operator at quarterback. I don’t think that you can just focus everything on stopping the run. He has great velocity. I think that he is 16th in the country at efficiency or something like that. Those are impressive stats.
When you look back at Saturday’s game, was it more a case of what Iowa was doing or what you guys didn’t do?
PR: I think that it was a combination of the two. First and foremost, Iowa has got a great football team. They executed efficiently in every single direction that you turned. They physically manhandled the line of scrimmage for the first 30 minutes of the football game. We had no chance of establishing a run game and it is hard to throw the ball when they can take 11 guys and just defend your passing game. First and foremost, they beat us and physically did so. Secondly, we had a number of mistakes where we hurt ourselves. We had costly penalties. We had drops. We had errant throws. We had guys out of their gaps. Anytime you have a loss, there are a number of mistakes where you can look in the mirror and see that you provided.
How is improving the tackling on your football team going?
PR: It is actually going well. I commented last week that it was better than I thought. This week it was even better. We only had 10 missed tackles for the game. I think why it was so glaring to me and why I brought it up is because a number of those tackles, we just got ran over. When that is happening and they are tearing up big chunks of yards, I think it sticks out more. The overall number was only 10 for the game. That is manageable. I would rather have it in the single digits as I have often talked about in here. But the yards after contact was probably what was most costly in this game and what stood out. I think that we have improved as a tackling football team in a large amount since we have inherited the job. I think that the kids focus on it and pay a lot of attention to it. The results of those missed tackles of coming from an angle and trying to arm tackle a very physical running back on Saturday and we paid the price for that. We’ll pay the price this Saturday if we try to tackle Daniel Thomas that way.
It will be nice to have your secondary back at full strength won’t it?
PR: Very much so. There are just so many things that you are able to do at full strength with your nickel package and a full compliment of corners. I don’t know if that is a game that you like throwing Anthony Young in with so many snaps last week against Iowa’s receivers and precision play-action passing game. It will be an added plus to have all three of those safeties and all corners working together.
Can you talk about Shontrelle Johnson’s return game a little bit?
PR: He is an exciting player. We had the fortunate gain of running into our own player on his first longer return. Had he not done that, their defender slipped on by. When a hard collision occurred, he would have probably made the tackle there. You can see what I’m saying when I say that the kid is a fast and violent runner. He comes off of that collision, turns and gets north. He immediately gets up the field fast and he is somebody to deal with. But you have to hit that space fast. He does that. We got him involved in the run game a little bit and we will continue to try to do that. We got some two-back sets that we showed on Saturday and we will continue to do that.
How is the confidence of your defensive front-seven after giving up so many rushing yards against Iowa?
PR: I don’t know if confidence is the right word here. They are disappointed and they are challenged to play better. I don’t think the fact that they gave up so many rush yards and haven’t been effective yet will make them walk around and search for their confidence. They have to take the right steps. They have to use their heads.They have to get in their gaps and they have to make plays. You do that by practicing that on a daily basis and then carrying over those habits to Saturday.
If you took your kids back to Tempe or Lincoln, I’m sure that they would have some great memories. That might not be the case with Arrowhead. Do you have any concerns with that?
PR: I don’t know if any of use have a good taste about last year’s game. I think that there will be a hunger that goes along with walking into that stadium again rather than a sick feeling. We will be in a different locker room and we will be in a different sideline so that will be a positive for us too. We are looking forward to this game. It is a game where the teams fight for 60 minutes and it was a heart-faught contest. It was a gut-wrenching way to lose a football game. I would not say that we had one taken away from us. We were fighting and scratching and clawing just to give ourselves a chance to play in overtime. It was a loss that was pivotal for us in a positive sense. We were a football team trying to learn how to win ball games. That loss and the next week’s loss against Kansas went a long way in teaching us that. Hopefully we can remember those lessons and continue to carry them over after a loss last week.
Your team bounced back last year after tough situations. Are you confident that this year’s team will do the same?
PR: I am. If yesterday is a gauge, then I’d say that is probably accurate. But you’ve got to play the game and find out if they are resilient enough to carry it over and execute. We stress the importance of letting games go. When I say games, I’m talking about wins and losses. You can hang around a win for too long as well. But we don’t want the Iowa loss to create a second loss for us. If we get beat, we get beat. But we want to get beat playing well, executing and playing our brand of football.
What does Matt Morton bring to your linbackers?
PR: Speed. He is undersized but when he stepped in there, A.J. Klein, who is 235, was having problems getting off the block of the tight end. Matt stepped in there a time or two and got himself free so there is a strength and explosiveness that he brings a long with that speed. I don’t think that you always have to be 230-pounds to play linebacker, if you can be where you are supposed to be and be physical while doing it.
You mentioned moving on from Saturday. Is that easier due to the fact that you’re starting conference play?
PR: I think a lot has been said about that and a lot has been asked about the position of conference games and if it has any great effect on it. They are all equal in importance. Certainly I have talked about the fact that this is a Big 12 game. We can start off 1-0 in the league and that’s important to us. Our ultimate objective with this program is to win a Big 12 Conference championship. I don’t think that we have any less focus or concentration if we were playing any other team this week.
Do you hope to play some neutral-site games in the future?
PR: I do like the idea. In going to a nine-game, round-robin conference schedule, you are five and four or four and five as far as that goes. The idea of playing four home, four on the road and one neutral is more appealing to me. Our fans love Kansas City. They love to travel down there be it for a football game or a basketball tournament. It is an exciting venue for the kids to play in as well.
What does the offense need to do better against Kansas State?
PR: Execution. The first series of the game…They got the ball down, scored on us and on our third play of the game, we had an open player and we didn’t complete it. If we do, we move the sticks and who knows what happens from there? Those are key plays in any ball game as momentum shifts and swings. We have to capitalize on that and be more efficient in what we do.
How did David Sims play?
PR: He played well. We had a good rotation with those three safeties, which is positive to us. His conditioning was good. We were a little concerned about that after missing a game and missing practice because of that. What we tried to do was put him in some scout team work in preparation for Northern Illinois. We ran him and did some extra things on the side to make sure that he was up for that. He did not tackle well. David would be the first one to tell you that. That was a disappointment for him. But overall, his first start against a very good team, I am pleased with where he is at.