University of Tulsa head coach Bill Blankenship met with the media Monday to talk about the Golden Hurricane's upcoming matchup against Marshall.
TU enters the game undefeated in Conference USA play and is 6-3 overall on the year.
Below is a transcript of Coach Blankenship's comments about the upcoming game.
Tulsa and Marshall will kick off at 11 a.m. Saturday, Nov. 12 on FSN.
On staying focused on the current opponent:
"Our guys are very clear in knowing that UCF is 4-0 at home. They've given up no touchdowns against opposing offenses at home. They have a defense that's only giving up 14 points a game. They are, on average, holding the opposing offense to 55 plays a game. Those are all numbers that will get your attention very quickly. They play very well at home. It's a tough environment., we were there in 2007 twice. There were some players on our team a part of the program. They were young, but they were a part of the program."
"Their quarterback Jeff Godfrey is an outstanding dual-threat quarterback. He is the key to their dangerous offense. Not only does he run the option but he's also throwing at a high percentage and connecting on 68 percent of his passes. Their tailback Brynn Harvey is really a good runner; he's a guy that has us very concerned. He's a big kid at 6-1, 210. They are probably one of the more traditional offenses in the East Division ... they're not as spread. They will shift and use tight ends and really focus in on the running game and then try to sting you with play-action. Coach (George) O'Leary has been doing that for a long time."
They have a speed receiver in Quincy McDuffie and probably their best all-around receiver is A.J. Guyton. These guys play really well at home. They have our attention, I promise you.
On the impact of the early season games:
I think it is paying off for us now. The tough thing is when you are going through it and you are not getting any traction. You are trying to look for some forward momentum as a program and trying to get confidence. It's really hard to do that. Fortunately, now, as we are starting to move forward, that high level of competition is paying off. When we played SMU and had to go against their offense, we'd seen three really good quarterbacks and three really good offenses. I think that's the advantage. You don't have that wide-eyed look when there's a guy that's really fast. When you talk about it on the offensive side, I don't want to make a big deal about it, but we felt like we ran the ball well against all those teams that we played, especially the first two. Was that an aberration? You don't know. But as the season has gone on, it looks like our offensive line has really grown into a team that can run the football. SMU had an outstanding defensive line with guys I think will play in the NFL and, fortunately for us as the day went on, we were able to get hats on them and knock them off the ball.
On the confidence of the team:
I call it a maturity level. That's what I'm beginning to see. One of the things we talked about on Sunday, I'm sure there were teams all across the country doing the same, is that Texas Tech was feeling pretty good in the locker room after their win. One of the natural things you have to fight is something you accomplished. Texas Tech had a heartbreaking loss this week. You try to use those things as a reminder. I was really pleased that our guys showed up at 6:30 this morning ready to work. There was great leadership on the field today. They made a run like this last year and it helped us across the board.
On the feel of the game:
I think our guys see it as a huge game. They see this as a team, no different than SMU that you have to beat if you want to win the conference. These guys have put it on us before when we've been in Orlando. I don't think we'll have a hard time getting our guy's attention.
On the improvement of the defense:
I think the challenge we have every week is to keep improving. The defense feels like it is getting there. I thought this week was a statement game for them. One of the things we've been fortunate with this year is we've been able to keep those same guys on the field. We haven't had the revolving door of injuries and everything else. It's allowed us to get better and grow and gain consistency on what Coach (Brent) Guy is teaching. We do have veterans at safety. You say that, but Marco is a second-year player at safety. Dexter is a third-year player at safety. Curnelius, with his veteran play ... it's nice when you can call guys veterans in their second year, guys like Shawn Jackson and Lowell Rose. Milton Howell hasn't played much. He's played real well. Hopefully we don't coach him down.
On the defense's impact on games:
When they give the offense the ball in short fields early in games, there is a huge change in the dynamic. Just the fact that they're getting three and outs and getting off the field, it certainly gives you an advantage.
On conference realignment and its impact on the team:
I haven't heard any of the players talk about it. Nationally, there's so much turmoil about what's going on and what's doing it. You almost get numb to it. Not one person has said `I wonder if that's the last time we'll play SMU.' I don't think any of our guys are thinking about it. As a coaching staff, it's easy to say that. I know the talk and we've had those discussions, but you wonder how it's going to impact that schedule with that particular team.
I think those teams you talk about are some of the best in our league. We want to continue to make our league the best we can, no matter what it is. I've been in communication with Ross (Parmley) and Bubba (Cunningham) and I'm confident that we've looked at all of our options.
We talk about it, but there are a lot of dominoes that need to fall. I will say this again: We are in a great place. I think what we have in terms of the merger that we've already agreed to is a huge step up from what we've been doing.
I think (AQ status) is a big deal. I don't know about recruiting, but I'll tell you this: It's good to be able to look your players in the eye and tell them if you do everything right, they can't keep you from the BCS. That's what you have when you are AQ. If it's non-AQ, you can run the table and they'll still keep you out.