UT Head Coach Charlie Strong speaks at his weekly news conference at Bellmont Hall on Monday August 29, 2016. (Jay Janner/American-Statesman)

BEVO BEAT Football

Charlie Strong: ‘We need to become road warriors’

Posted October 31st, 2016


Charlie Strong’s regular game-week press conference has come and gone.

The big takeaways:

1. The biggest challenge this week is Texas Tech quarterback Patrick Mahomes, obviously. Strong said the Longhorns’ two biggest musts defensively are to (a) keep Mahomes contained in the pocket, not allowing him to scramble or take it outside, and (b) when Mahomes does take it outside, Texas defensive backs can’t drop their coverages to help with Mahomes.


2. The 18-Wheeler, Strong says, is not going away. But the offense is looking at adding wrinkles to it. Whether the wrinkles could be Tyrone Swoopes throwing out of it, or perhaps lining D’Onta Foreman in the backfield instead of out wide, or perhaps the Longhorns actually finding some positive results out of the package like they did earlier in the season, we’re not sure.

3. Texas plays solid at home, but has been anything but on the road. This is a road game week. Will the Longhorns finally figure it out?

4. Wide receiver Lorenzo Joe is out for this week’s game with an injured shoulder.

On to some specific Q&A:

Is the team maybe starting to trust each other more?

“The trust has always been there. You see guys now go make plays. Lorenzo Joe making a big catch there, then Armanti Foreman making a big catch on the sideline. There were good efforts on defense. The trust was there. We harp on it so much: Just make it a one-game season, whether it’s here or on the road. We’re gonna have to play well.”

Strong received several questions about Mahomes and the Tech offense:

Does Texas Tech put more pressure on the second level of the defense, the linebackers?

“They run a lot of crossing routes, knocking off defenders and getting guys open. It’s where they get guys on the run where a guy’s wide open and gets on down the field. The quarterback’s the issue; he scrambles around. You can’t drop your coverage. You’ve gotta be smart to keep the quarterback contained. TCU did a really good job of forcing him in the pocket.”

How important is getting quarterback pressure?

“We can’t let him outside the pocket. However he needs to throw the ball to get it there, he’s gonna get the ball there. If you see him scrambling, do not cover him up.”

Will there be any changes to the roster?

“They may not start, but will get a lot of time. The guys will get their numbers. It’s all about competition.”

Does that mean Patrick Vahe will play?

“That’s not an issue. He knows he’s gonna play.”

(Even though he did not play against Baylor ..)

What’s changed with the pass rush?

“On Saturday, just more pressure allowed us to go zero blitz; I told them hey, we’re gonna go blitz them to see if we can’t get the ball out of the quarterback’s hands.”

Was that the most blitzes this year?

“Yes, it was. Anytime it was in the red zone, we came with all-out pressure.”

Has there ever been an example where you’ve gone up to Sterlin Gilbert and said, ‘I wanna see this …’

There’s no need to. Our offense hasn’t been a problem. … You’ve gotta call the game. He knows what he wants to call, and I don’t walk up an say ‘I need to see this play.'”

What’s still missing that you think will show up in these next four weeks?

“Consistency. We’ve gotta be consistent week in, week out. At home you have the crowd, energy, passion. They just need to have that on the road. Just always feel that crowd is yelling for us. We have to be consistent, and that’s what we haven’t been.”

What was the difference on defense against Baylor?

“On Saturday, we came with more pressure in the red zone. I think one time we zero-blitzed seven times in a row. When the players are coming off the field and say coach, keep running that defense, you know they’re feeling good about it. We were able to get stops and get the field goals. We knew just holding them to field goals would keep us close to where we needed to get to.”

Were you on board with D’Onta Foreman lined up at receiver (on the 2-point play)?

“It was just a matchup with them. Our offensive guys do a great job. It’s amazing, week in and week out. Those two offenses were similar. … Even being in that situation, we were able to get the plays we were able to get and be as effective as we were.”

The thing is, that 2-point try out of the 18-Wheeler package failed. In fact, a few minutes later, another reporter looped back to the formation that had Foreman lined up wide.

“There’s a reason why he’s got him out there. He was only out there one time.”

Reporters then reminded him that Foreman lined up out wide twice in the game in short-yardage situations, not just that one time on the 2-pointer.

“Well, he wasn’t out there 20 times. Everything is for a reason. When we line up, and that was our 18-Wheeler package, when he went outside, they had to adjust and move linebackers out of the box. Swoopes will tell you he just totally missed it (by running inside instead of outside).

On whether the 18-Wheeler is losing its effectiveness?

“Our offense is talking about it. They’re going to put some more wrinkles into it. But Tyrone will tell you he just missed it. If he’d gone outside, he would’ve walked in. We can add more wrinkles to it and we will continue to use that package.”

Will Swoopes still line up at running back?

“He will play some.”

Was that good defense Saturday?

“The first two scores, you don’t ever want to see happen. But once they settled down … it’s about gap control more than anything. There wasn’t a lot of big passes. Quarterback scrambles hurt us at Kansas State and hurt us the other night —”

Strong was then interrupted: But do you think you’re playing good defense?

“We can play better.”

And, 30 minutes later, Strong ended his presser. As he walked out, he said “I’ll put on my costume tonight.”

What is it, he was asked.

“I’ve got it on.”

Strong, whose choice of wardrobe last week (a black top with a Big 12, not a Texas, logo) generated some online buzz, was wearing a burnt-orange sweater top with the Longhorns logo.

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