Sept. 21, 2006
ORLANDO- UCF head football coach George O'Leary held his weekly press conference with the media on Thursday and discussed the Golden Knights' 24-17 loss to USF as well as the upcoming Conference USA opener with Southern Miss. The Golden Knights had two days off following the contest with the Bulls before returning to the practice fields on Wednesday for a full week of preparations. UCF went 7-1 last year in C-USA play and won the inaugural East Division title during its first year in the league.
Opening Statement on the USF game last Saturday:
"We had some opportunities in that game, I think that some of our key players had some opportunities where they did not take advantage of plays and we did not get it done. I believe that we should have stayed longer with the running game, especially in key situations during that game. We are a team that has to run the ball in order to set up the pass and not pass to set up the run. We abandoned the run too soon when I look at the game film, especially in that second quarter when they were on their heels a little bit. I am not real happy with our kicking game, but I think that punter is doing fine. Our kickers need to be better especially during momentum changing plays like when we are missing make-able 35-yard field goals. As a coach, going into the fourth game of the season, I am looking to correct things and our corrections are obvious. The coaches have been instructed as far as what needs to be done."
On the preparations for Southern Miss:
"We are getting ready for Southern Miss our first conference game. I thought that we practiced yesterday well and today I saw a lot of enthusiasm. The big thing is to get better and improve each day, which is something that the players need to understand. We are early in the season and that was probably a game that we should have been in because we had a lot more opportunities to score touchdowns. Everybody is looking at the defense, we are continually looking to get better at that each day in practice. Conference play is key because it dictates where we are heading and what we do. The kids understand that this is a national televised game on a Tuesday night and I know that we are looking forward to playing."
Going into conference play, is it important to win the first game?
"No, you have eight of them alright. I think that it is important to get on the winning side of the ledger. I am not a very good loser or winner, so I do not know what I am. As a coach, I am always looking for mistakes and right now we have to coach better and our players need to be more accountable for doing what they are told to do in certain situations, especially some of the more experienced players. We need to get the ball into our more productive players' hands because there is more than just Mike Walker on the field, so we have to spread that ball around more and the coverage dictates that from what I have seen. I was pleased with our running backs."
Will you be giving Jason Peters and Philip Smith more carries after seeing what they can do, once you get Kevin Smith back this week?
"Kevin is the best running back that we have. He made a mistake and I am the one that suspended him. A lot of programs he probably would have played. I am not doing that in this program because there are rules for everybody. He will become a better player and person for it. Obviously, I think that he would have been somewhat of a difference, but I do not look at it that way. There are not very many rules that I have, but the ones that I do, I make sure that everybody obeys them. Kevin is the best running back we have, and they will all see time in there. I liked Philip Smith, he just now needs to see more action because he has a great burst, even though he was a bit nervous on Saturday when he hit some of the holes. He is a breakaway guy because he has great speed."
Last year Southern Miss led 45-7 at halftime. Is there anything that you can take from that game?
"Do not turn the ball over. It was ridiculous giving up six turnovers in the first half. You just cannot give teams that kind of field position. They looked very good against N.C. State. It is going to be a great ball game and I am looking forward to it. Conference games to me are what it is all about and this game is very important because it is the first conference game."
On the return of Kevin Smith to the line-up:
"Kevin to me is a kid that has a lot of heart and understands that he did wrong and was really upset with me for the decision that I made. I told him that if it was my own son I would have made the same decision. There is no gray area there to me, it is very simple. Kevin is a kid that has a lot of pride in himself and he is truly embarrassed about the whole thing and he has apologized to everybody. It is over as far as I am concerned, he paid his dues and took the penalty. He can only do one thing, which is go out there and be who he is in practice and get ready for the next game."