UCF Head Coach George O'Leary Press Conference Quotes - Nov. 27

Nov. 27, 2007

UCF Football Press Conference

ORLANDO, Fla. (www.ucfathletics.com) - UCF head coach George O'Leary spoke with a large contingent of media Tuesday at the Bright House Networks Stadium Recruiting Lounge as the anticipation is building for the Conference USA Championship game Saturday. The Knights will host Tulsa at noon with the match-up set to air on ESPN.

Earlier this year, UCF defeated Tulsa 44-23 in Orlando on Oct. 20 en route to posting a 9-3 regular-season record and a 7-1 mark in Conference USA. The Golden Hurricane enter the weekend with an identical 9-3 overall mark and went 6-2 during league play.

Great seats to this Saturday's Conference USA Football Championship showdown vs. Tulsa can be purchased through Ticketmaster by calling (407) 839-3900 or by going online at www.ucfathletics.com.

Below is a transcription of Tuesday's press conference. All-access subscribers to www.ucfathletics.com can listen to the full audio file by clicking on the link above.

Opening statement:
"Obviously, we are excited about the conference championship and the opportunity to play at home with the new stadium. I know that our fan base and student body are all very excited. The key to any championship game is to have a great facility to play in. Obviously, we have that. When you play these games, you want to play them in an electrifying area and I think that it is going to be a great game situation and a great venue as far as for the fan base and for both teams. That is what you are looking for as far as the championship game is concerned.

"We are happy to be playing Tulsa, which I think is a very good football team. Statistically, they are up there leading the nation in total offense. Obviously, they have an outstanding quarterback in Paul Smith who does it all. Whether it is statistics or efficiency, I think he is what you are looking for in a quarterback that makes plays and really plays with his feet, arm and mind. I think that is his biggest attribute is he plays with his mind and he does not really turn it over. We were fortunate in the last game we played against him to get some turnovers. That is not usually what he does, so we will have to continue with that.

"I know that it is a big week for our players and they are looking forward to the game. Any time you can play a 13th game in Division I football...that is the great thing about when you have two divisions, you have a chance to play a championship game. I know that the players look forward to that. I know the coaches do. Again, I think that everybody is involved in bowl games, but the real nugget is the conference championship and then go on from there."

Is it safe to say that both teams are playing their best football?
"I think that both teams are playing very consistent. I really do. I think that both have had their moments, where there has been a lack of consistency. I do think both offenses have the opportunity to put points on the board and both defenses have opportunities to make plays. They are unique in the sense that they play an eight-man front concept. That gives you the ability to adapt and adjust. It will sort of a chess game on Saturday. My experience when you play somebody twice in the same year, it is like the NFL. It is sort of a chess game with the adjustments on the sideline, what do they do different or what have they done different. My experience is that you do what got you to that game. You may make some wrinkle changes, but for the most part, you are who you are. You get into the game and you let your kids play."

The last time you lost was when you were blown out by USF and the last time Tulsa lost was right here against you. Can anything good happen from a blow out?
"It gets the coaches attention. I will tell you that. The thing that this team did in preseason and I have always done that is they set their goals. I make sure they were realistic goals. Their number one goal was to win the conference championship. The biggest thing I had to do after the midseason couple of games there was to make sure that they knew that was still out there. You cannot get that done unless you have a senior class that we do not have a lot of seniors, but I think collectively, the guys who were there did a great job of making sure that our priorities were where they need to be with the young kids. But, I think the biggest thing is as long as they kept their vision on their goal and that was all that we tried to do. Telling them that this was still out there and if you do not believe that then you are not going to get there. So, I think anytime that you are in a blowout game. It comes down to trust and belief in each other and confidence. As you win more, I think morale gets better and chemistry of the team gets better. Obviously, the big thing is confidence level growth. I think Tulsa right now is playing as well as anybody from a confidence standpoint. I can see why when they have a quarterback that they know can make plays back there at any time."

Holding Tulsa to 23 points or less is something that only Oklahoma did. Was that the best defensive performance of the year so far?
"I think we have had other really good games on defense. I think that big difference in that game was that we kept our offense on the field. We ran possession time I think a lot more on them. I always look at a couple of things, I look at defense vs. score, and I look at possession time. Because, if we have the ball they cannot score, hopefully, not like last week and that means field position. We play those games. We are a field position football team and I always think the shortest distance is less mistakes. We spend a lot of time on the special teams game to make sure that we keep good field position. I thought we played probably offense, defense, and special teams really well that game. All three cylinders moving pretty good."

Is there an upside and downside to beating teams by three touchdowns?
"I think that there is an upside. You know that if you do god things right, then good things will happen. The downside is overconfidence and by no means. All you have to do is watch them on tape and if you are overconfident then you are not watching the tape. I think that Coach Graham has done a marvelous job as far as that offense is concerned. They have so many weapons that they can hurt you with. It is just not one guy. There is a bunch of guys that touch the ball in the passing game. A bunch of guys have touched the ball in the run game and they have an experienced offensive line. I think the uniqueness of Tulsa is their defense. They play that three-four-one, three-five defense and I think that is the thing that I think is different where they can do a lot of adapting and change things up. That is where an experienced offensive line is really important when you play Tulsa."

Have you seen any overconfidence in practice through the week and if you have what have you done?
"I try not to change very much during the week. I actually probably get a little harder on them this week as far as finishing plays. There is a sign that I have around my desk `B. O. B.', Body On a Body, and when the whistle blows in practice there better be a body on a body. That is our whole goal offensively and defensively is to get off blocks, but to put a body on a body. When that whistle blows do not stop until you hear a whistle. That is the only way I know how to do that. A lot of times you will see kids hit somebody and the whistle has not blown and they are standing around. It is a body on a body until you hear a whistle, so that keeps practice moving around at a pretty good pace."

Is there anything that has surprised you about this football team?
"Well, I knew that we had a good freshmen class coming in, but the amount of freshmen that have helped out this year. I think at the receiver corps and linebacker wise. A walk-on like Ricky Kay coming out and helping us out that ended up being a heck of a play for us. Just the amount of freshmen that have matured quickly, I mean that especially. Where we were strong, I think were the lines on both sides of the ball and that is what takes the longest to play at this level is the defensive and offensive line. The skilled athletes, I think their athletic ability takes over. They have time to react just a little bit. Probably just how much maturity and how quickly some of the young kids matured this season."

There are many different events that are going on during this championship week like a pep rally tomorrow. How are you going to adjust?
"I am just sending my captains to the pep rally that is not a big deal to me. We are unique here. We practice in the morning. My kids go to the class and that is where I expect them to be because I check classes on them. They understand that. I think that is a big thing that has really helped us out since I have been here is practicing in the morning. I think you get done Thursday at noon, then you have a day and a half off of your feet before you have to hit the field for practice. Conditioning wise, we have stayed fairly healthy. We have had a little luck with that. I think the big thing is that the kids understand and they have been through a bunch. I always tell them do not drink the poison. The only people that matter are in that team room when I get up to speak to them. They are the only ones that can control that ball game. Nobody else can control it. They can say what they want and do what they want and do what they want. The people on the field and the people on the sidelines are the ones that really have the job to do when it comes to kickoff and all that, making sure things happen."

What were some of the things that you told Kyle Israel after the USF game?
"I told him to just do what we ask you to do. Most quarterbacks get in trouble because they try to make plays instead of taking what the defense gives you. So, it was that kind of speech. It was not `we expect you to do this.' All that I expect him to do is move the chains and if we do not move the chains then I want to be able to punt. That was the speech and do not try to take something that was not there. We will put you in an offense that will try to utilize your talents. Do not try to make a play when the play is not there. That is what I thought he was trying to do earlier in the season is to make a splash. Just take what the defense gives you. As long as those chains move, we have the ball and it is possession time. I sat down and discussed that with him. He was the guy. I am not going to yank him out. I want to get Mike Greco some work, but Mike is like a freshman and at times he plays like a freshman. The quarterback position is so difficult to play. You can play young kids there but you better have a good surrounding cast around him and do not have to lean on that kid to do everything. We have other people that can touch it and make chunk plays out of it. I made sure that Kyle understood that. Here is what I wanted him to do was just be very efficient at what we asked him to do. Do not try to do a lot more. If we have the opportunity and you can make a play fine, but let's not do things that is out of order."

Is there a moment that has stuck out over the past six weeks that you are particularly proud of?
"I am always proud of them. Anytime we win, I am proud of them. If we do not win, then I am not proud of them. That is the way the game goes fellas. The quarterback gets all the praise and he is the one that gets all the blame too. Just like the head coach does. I think Kyle is a good kid and to be a quarterback at a Division I level today, you have to have thick skin. It is not always praise because when things do not go well they do not blame the right tackle. They go right to the quarterback did not make enough plays, he threw the ball, he did not throw it well enough, he had open receivers that he did not hit. Meanwhile, it could be a wrong route, there could be a lot of things involved in that. I usually sit with him on Sunday and tell him what I see. The biggest thing that he had to do was play within the scheme of what we wanted him to do. That is what he has done a better job with. He has been a lot more efficient at taking what we give you and let's not try to invent things on the field."