The Bulldogs head coach speaks about the upcoming WAC showdown at UTEP and looks back at a decisive win over Nevada.
Oct. 16, 2000
On the UTEP football program
"UTEP over the years hasn't always been a football power. But, you've got to give a lot of credit to [athletics director] Bob Stull. He was the last coach there that had a good team. They're pumping a lot of money into football. They're building a brand new, 14-million dollar football facility. It takes money to build a program."
"In the years past, the Western Athletic Conference had no teams in Texas. So to recruit the state of Texas was always hard for them. That was always their biggest complaint. Now with TCU, SMU and Rice, and a lot more concentration in the state of Texas, a kid from Dallas or a kid from Houston likes that because now he has an option to play in the WAC and stay in Texas."
"I think that football is a real priority there now. The Sun Bowl holds 52,000, and there's a lot of talk going around that they are going to fill it for this game. They are 5-2. I think they are playing a very tough non-league schedule. They lost to Oklahoma and Texas A&M. But they've won five other games. They are one game away from being bowl eligible. They are 4-0 in the conference. They've got us at home, they've got TCU at the end of the season. I said it at the WAC meetings - I picked them to finish third. Our players have a lot of respect for UTEP.
"They've got the outstanding receivers. [Wide receiver Lee] Mays is back. [Quarterback Rocky] Perez is back. The offensive line is back in tact. They've got a lot of weapons. They've got two really good tight ends, one that's probably an NFL draft pick in Natkin. On defense, they are playing hard. They lost some good players off the defensive unit - two that made NFL teams. Obviously, UTEP has been getting good players."
"You've got to spend money to make money, and that's what's happening at UTEP. It's really starting to show. I think UTEP is a team that you are going to have to work to beat. The city of El Paso - there's no other show in town. I think last year, they averaged 39,000 a game. They're averaging 39,000, and they didn't have a winning record. That says a lot for their fans, and it says a lot for their community. And now, they've got one heck of a football team to back it up. I think Gary Nord is doing a really good job there, especially on the offensive side of the ball. I think they are a very good football team. Everyone we talk to, they all have a hard time slowing them down.
"These are the kind of games you play for. I'm looking forward to playing this game. It's going to be a big-time college atmosphere. You're going to have a full house at the Sun Bowl with first place at stake. That's why you play. I think it's a big game for us. Our players are really looking forward to it."
On UTEP's potent offense
"They can hit you in so many different areas. They've got Mays, the wide receiver. They've got a good running game. They've got a quarterback who can not only throw, he can run. They've got a very veteran offensive line. They've got an NFL prospect at tight end and another tight end who'se good. They are a little bit like us, I think. We've got different weapons that can hit you. It's not like you can just zero in on a running back or a wide receiver. You are going to have to take a lot of players out of the game. Then, they are very good at getting into formations that can cause problems."
On Bernard Berrian's performance
He touched the ball nine times for over 200 yards of offense. He's an outstanding young player, a second year sophomore. He's only going to get better and better. That was really good to see."
On the Nevada game
"That was the best we've run the football this year. We didn't have many yards, but when the guys who were running were running it, they couldn't stop them. There were piles of bodies all around. We really played well as far as moving the ball."
"The great thing was that we got of young players game time. That was important to me and it's important to the program. I think the young men that practice every day deserve the right to play anytime you can get them in the game."
On Kevin Jordan's performance
"He didn't make any mental errors in the game. He had some very dominating blocks, both running and passing. He played a very physical game. He had no mental mistakes. He really played as well as we've had anybody play. It's very hard to see when an offensive lineman plays well. He was downfield, picking up guys off the pack. He played with great effort.
On Charles Smith and Rodney Wright's availability for Saturday's game
"I think Charles will [be ready]. Rodney, I don't know. It's touch and go. My policy is that if you don't practice, it's very hard to play. In the case of Rodney, I don't think we're going to get him in this game. We'll see how he is today and if he practices [Tuesday]. I'll tell you what, he's quite a talent. If he can get some practice time in Thursday, he can get some snaps in this game. But I can't even tell right now.
"If Rodney comes back, Bernard [Berrian] just becomes the third wide receiver in a three wide receiver set. That's basically what we want. As for our starters, they would still be Rodney and Charles. My policy on that is he didn't do anything to lose his starting job, it was an injury. But Bernard has merited more playing time, and he'll get that whether Charles and Rodney are playing or not. It's good to have a guy step up like that. And David Shabaglian will see playing time, too."
On the future non-conference opponents
"We can't get games with the California Pac-10 schools. But we do have games scheduled over the next five years with Oregon, Oregon State and Washington. And right now those are the best teams in the Pac-10. So we are playing the top-level teams in the Pac-10. I'd like to be playing the California schools. But since we can't get games with them, it's very nice that we can play Oregon, Oregon State and Washington."