Turner Gill's weekly presser kicks off with some praise for the seniors after their performance last Saturday. Despite the late loss, I definitely agree that some of those guys stepped up and made some memorable plays in what should have been a memorable win.
From the player side we're hearing from Steven Johnson, Pat Dorsey, Jordan Webb and Bradley McDougald.
Kansas Head Coach Turner Gill
"I just want to reflect a little bit on our last ball game. I was really proud of our seniors. They really played well. They showed great leadership while playing their last home game in Memorial Stadium. I also thought our young players gained experience, and they were being very productive. They have been pretty productive throughout this whole season. This football team continues to show great heart, great determination, excellent work ethic and a commitment to the culture of what we're trying to do in building a winning program here. Some examples in this game show that our football players, our team and our staff are showing a true commitment to what we're trying to accomplish here.
On the offensive side, at the end of the last game, they tied it up. Our guys came back on the offensive side and moved the ball down the field. They showed resilience and confidence, even in overtime after (Baylor) scored. We came back and on the first play, scored. It shows our guys are moving things in the right direction. We went for it on fourth down three times and were 3-for-3 on fourth downs. As myself and the offensive side of the ball showing confidence that our guys can get things accomplished as far as what we're trying to do. We won the special teams battle in the game against Baylor. That's huge and shows some progress in two phases."
"The defense has created nine turnovers the last three games. I've been talking about that all year long, and we're seeing that in the last few ball games. When the defense is able to create turnovers, that's given us a greater chance to be able to win a football game or have the chance to win a game. I thought that showed our players are starting to execute what we're trying to get accomplished on all those phases. A couple individuals in this last ball game that I thought stood out. (Safety) Bradley McDougald has really come to play, doing a lot of good things. When he's making some plays, it's causing and creating turnovers. He's getting some of his own, but also his teammates are causing some also. (Running back) Darrian Miller definitely has done a great job as far as being one of the young guys, getting experience and now the game has slowed down a little bit for him and you're seeing him being a lot more productive. We're still going to stay the course. We're going to work tirelessly in trying to make sure we continue to move this program forward. It's going to continue with the Texas A&M game this Saturday."
On Texas A&M:
"I'm obviously very familiar with (Texas A&M head coach) Mike Sherman and a few guys on their staff as I worked with them at the Green Back Packers. (They are) very bright as offensive minds. They run a west coast-style offense. They want to be balanced as far as being able to run and also play-action off of the run. They'll take their shots down the field as far as deep balls. That's kind of his strategy. The offense averages over 500 yards a game, so we're facing another good offensive football team. They have been very productive so far this season."
"Defensively, I think it starts off with their sacks. They lead the nation with 35 sacks on the season. They do a lot of blitzes. They are in a 3-4 front so they show a whole lot of different looks. It will be a little different than what we have played the last two ballgames. Iowa State and Baylor were pretty standard in what they did defensively. Now we go against A&M, where they're multiple in what they do and how they do things and try to cause a lot of havoc on the defensive side of the ball. Our offense will have a challenge with that."
"A lot of things are going well and now we just have to figure out a way to finish some things in a ballgame."
On playing more younger players the rest of the season:
"We're going to do what we feel will give us the best chance to win. We'll take into consideration to get some young guys more playing time, but the No. 1 priority is playing the best guys that give us the best chance to win the football game."
On rebounding after tough losses the last two weeks:
"We just need to continue to build on the good things that have occurred, particularly for us in the last two or three ballgames in every phase. The defensive side of the ball is making very good strides and improvement to building on from that. Then, it's just continuing to believe, continuing to work at it, continuing to teach and continuing to coach. That's how you do it. You continue to work and the biggest thing is when adversity hits, for either one of us in the ball game, how are we going to respond to it? I think that will tell you where things are at for both teams."
On avoiding first bit of adversity:
"As coaches, we just have to keep teaching them, keep encouraging them, keep believing and keep moving forward like our team has done. We've had quite a bit of adversity, and to see our guys continue to be committed to what we're trying to do these last two ballgames has definitely shown that. Our guys continue to believe, continue to work hard and continue to go out there and play the game of the football. That's what you go out there to do. Continue to play hard."
On improvement of the defense compared to the early season losses:
"I have to give credit to both our players and coaches for staying the course and making small adjustments. I think the biggest thing has probably been simplifying a few more things on the defensive side of the ball; making sure our guys have been able to line up correctly and then going and playing. Sometimes, you get a little scared if you go so simple that the offense is going to know where you're at and what you're doing. They may be able to take advantage of that, but I think the bottom line stated to our staff on the defensive side of the ball is to put our guys in position where they can have the chance to play fast. Where they can move around and go from point A to point B, see the ball and make a play. We simplified earlier, but I'd say we simplified even more (recently). We're making sure when we turn on the tape Sunday, we see our guys playing fast and we've seen the results of our guys being able to make more plays. As I told them, the offense is going to move the football in the Big 12 Conference, but we have to find a way to create turnovers. When you create turnovers, you are able to have your players, both offensively and defensively, get excited. They're going to run around with more enthusiasm when you cause some fumbles and get interceptions. When you cause turnovers, it brings some energy to your football team."
On Bradley McDougald's improved play:
"We did move him a little bit. Earlier in the year, we had him at the free safety, and then we moved him to the strong safety. After a few more games under his belt as a strong safety, he became a little bit more comfortable so now I think the game has slowed down for him. Therefore, he's able to react versus seeing, thinking and reacting, which is what he was doing early on. Again, it's his first (full) year playing on the defensive side of the ball too. You never know when it's all going to click for each individual guy. Sometimes it takes two games, sometimes it takes a year, sometimes it takes two years on a certain individual where the game slows down and they're making plays for you. That's finally happened for Bradley, and he's making plays."
On experience with Mike Sherman:
"I went there trying to be the wide receivers coach when I interviewed. Then they had a job that was called a player development director, which is really more trying to be involved with the rookies and second year guys, trying to make sure they continue to finalize their education and continue to help them with their family and transition from college to the NFL. I also assisted with coaching the wide receivers. My responsibility was the liaison between the coaches and the players and also with the administration as far as player personnel people, how the locker room was going, because I was always down in the locker room hanging out with the guys there. I tried to make sure everything was okay and just try to be at length with the coaches. If I saw things, I would give heads-up to the coaches. I obviously was involved with the X's and O's too. I helped those guys transition for that. Obviously, I learned a lot of great things from (Coach Tom) Osborne too. I think with Mike Sherman, he was very organized in the way he presented things. The way he went about things with the X's and O's of offensive football. I had a chance to really zero in on that and organize things if I had the opportunity to be a head football coach."
On being around Brett Favre and those guys with the Packers:
"It was a good experience. It was first time being in the NFL. On the outside looking in you never know what goes on inside, but I think the thing I learned from those guys is they worked hard. They all had their own personalities. They were a close-knit group. They taught me a lot about football and the work they do in the offseason as far as in their own personal ways."
On the challenges of playing at Kyle Field:
"The noise factor will probably be a little more than some of the other places we've traveled to. I've been there I think two or three times and it's a place that can get pretty loud. Our guys have played enough football to where it shouldn't be that big of an issue, but you never know. Some of our young guys haven't been in those situations, but we'll keep that all in check. It's a great opportunity to play there in a great environment and our guys will be ready for the challenge."
On playing Texas A&M for the last time in the Big 12:
"For our players, it's all about execution. Whether they're (Texas A&M) here next year or not here next year, it has nothing to do with your execution and trying to play the game of football the way you're supposed to play it. I think it's good for a story as far as after the fact, but it really doesn't play a factor if we play harder or not as hard. We're going to play the best we can against this opponent and hopefully our guys will execute to the best of their abilities."
On if he remembers the first time he went to Kyle Field:
"The first time I was there, I was at SMU and then I've been there twice with Nebraska. The thing I remember about it was being in the press box and the press box was shaking when they do their chants and cheers. That was probably the only thing that was unusual as you go into different stadiums. I actually have a younger sister who graduated from Texas A&M, so I'll have to see which side of the fence she'll be on."
On how the team has responded from the loss to Baylor:
"We had a little workout on Sunday, but today will be the first day we'll have the opportunity to spend the whole day with them. They're still engaged and they will be ready to go. They know they still have some things that they want to accomplish here in the two games that are left. They are ready to move on and that's what we've taught them. I don't see anything different."
On Darrian Miller's progress:
"We were able to put more on him, because he was here in the spring. I think the good thing is he is taking care of the ball. He's a hard runner, a very determined runner. He has definitely benefited from coming in the spring."
On knowing the type of offense Texas A&M runs:
"It works both ways. It becomes a guessing game. He (Mike Sherman) knows what I know and I know what he knows. We all see everybody's plays (on film). I don't know if it's necessarily an advantage because he understands all those things. They've been very good on offense, very explosive. It'll be a good challenge for us and we'll be ready to play a better game against them than last year."
On the kicking situation the rest of the season:
"We'll talk more about it tonight. Coach (Aaron) Stamn and I usually get together on Tuesday nights and kind of see where we are at with those things. It could be the same as last week with Mueller handling PATs and Doherty with field goals or Ron (Doherty) could handle both."
On who sticks out for Texas A&M:
"I think it starts with the quarterback (Ryan Tannehill). He can throw the football on time. I think more than anything he has excellent timing on his routes. That's one area that Coach Sherman really emphasizes. I think they are running him a little bit less than what he did last year, but I think he can do both. He can run, throw the deep ball well and he understands the offense. He has great command, so I think it starts with him. They have receivers and backs and everything else, but I think Tannehill really makes it go."
On if keeping Robert Griffin III in check gives the defense confidence:
"It gives us confidence. We continued to work hard at it. Our guys have continued to understand what we're trying to do defensively and our coaching staff has made some adjustments to try and get our players to execute better. I think it shows that our players have bought into what we're trying to get done. We never know how long it's going to take for the execution to get to where you want it. We haven't all totally put it together, but all we can do is try to improve."
Senior linebacker Steven Johnson
On the defense forcing more turnovers:
"We just have a lot of people flying around; the more people you have flying towards the ball, the easier it is to get the ball out. Getting turnovers and takeaways is all about an attitude. Forcing turnovers is something we've been trying to implement in practice these last couple of weeks."
On playing at Texas A&M's Kyle Field this Saturday:
"I'm looking forward to it, I want to see their 12th Man and see what that's all about. It will be a good experience for me, something I will never forget."
On if playing Texas A&M for the last time as Big 12 members fires the team up:
"It does. These next two weeks we have are big (playing Texas A&M and Missouri). We have two teams going to the SEC, and these last two weeks we've been so close to winning - and there is no quit in us, we aren't giving up. We're going to keep working and get the momentum for next season."
On if he noticed any difference in Coach Gill against Baylor:
"He was very animated on the sidelines, and if I were him, I would be pretty animated, too. That's just Coach Gill being who he is, he just wants the best for his team."
Senior defensive tackle Patrick Dorsey
On when the defense started to put more of an emphasis on turnovers:
"I think it started right before the Iowa State game, we started simplifying things more and putting more of an emphasis on turnovers."
On the confidence level of the defense:
"The confidence is high, we're riding high right now, we feel like we're in a pretty good spot and we want to keep improving."
On how much he is looking forward to playing at Texas A&M this Saturday:
"I have a lot of friends and family coming out for the game. Being from Houston, playing in Texas is a big deal. Playing in College Station is a big deal."
On the defense line play the last couple of weeks:
"We've been attacking the ball more, the coaches have been giving us more of an opportunity to be playmakers and attack the line of scrimmage."
Sophomore quarterback Jordan Webb
On stopping momentum in a game:
"You just have to make plays. There were plays out there to be made that we didn't make. When that happens, you're not going to stop the momentum, and it's just going to keep building for the opponent."
On if the play call was correct for the two-point conversion on Saturday:
"I definitely liked the play call, trying to get the ball to Tim Biere since he's one of our biggest playmakers. You definitely have to like that."
On mindset of team after the tough loss against Baylor:
"We were down, but we got back to practice on Sunday. We had a good, spirited practice and we're going to do the same today. We feel like we're right there, really close to getting that win."
On Coach Gill's message after game Saturday:
"He just told us that we just have to keep working. We're right there, and if we keep working, we'll get things to happen."
On his message to the team as a team leader:
"We just have to keep our heads up. We're working in the right direction. We're right there, and we can't lose our focus now."
On Texas A&M's defense:
"They have some good athletes. They have good team speed and some size. It's going to be a good test for us."
Junior safety Bradley McDougald
On what has been going well for the defense the last couple of games:
"We've tried to slow the game down in a number of ways, we've been watching a lot more film. The coaches have done a great job of getting us better looks in practice. I've always been taught that great games on Saturday start on Tuesday."
On if he thinks that these last two games have been the best that the defense has played:
"I've been playing with a lot more confidence these last couple of games. We've just played with a better mentality each game."