Tulsa plays at UTEP on Saturday for the Conference USA West Division lead

Oct. 31, 2005

Tulsa, Oklahoma - Tulsa travels to El Paso to play the UTEP Miners on Saturday, Nov. 5, in a game that pits the two teams atop the Conference USA West Division with identical 4-1 league records. UTEP has an overall 6-1 record atfer last week's win at Rice, while the Hurricane bring a 5-3 overall mark into the game.

Tulsa fanswill be getting together for another Watch Party for Saturday's Golden Hurricane football game against the Miners. The Fox and Hound at 70th and Garnett and the Side Line Bar and Grill at 59th and South Lewis Avenue will be hosting watch parties.

Game time is 8 pm (CT). The game can be seen locally on KWHB-Channel 47 and on Cox Channel 7.

Below are Coach Kragthorpe's Remarks from his Weekly Press Conference.

Steve Kragthorpe Press Conference Quotes

Opening Statement: "It will be good to get back on the practice field today and to get going. It has been an interesting week, we have never had an open date this late in the season. I thought it was a good time for us to heal up like we talked about last week and put ourselves in the position now to make a run at this thing, with the first one being at UTEP this week against a very good football team. They will be a great challenge for us. They are very explosive on the offensive side of the football and they are playing really solid defense right now. The Rice score is not an indication of the flow; I thought that they pretty much dominated that game although they had a few turnovers that put Rice back into the football game. If you watch that game on film and if you watch it on television, they definitely dominated that football game. Again, they are very explosive, they scored on the first offensive play of the game. They scored on the first four drives of the game. They are very dynamic and explosive on the offensive side of the ball. Again they will be a great challenge for us to go on the road and play in a very hostile environment, great fans. They have a great thing going there at UTEP."

Talk about the your team's success on the road this year: "Well, there is no doubt that there is a challenge to go on the road and I do not see this week being any different. They are going to have a sellout crowd, and they will be very vocal. I have talked to numerous people that have played at UTEP this year and they have said that the crowd can definitely be a factor. But that is the way it is in every road venue for the most part. We played in two challenging environments tht we had the opportunity to compete in, at Oklahoma this year and then at Southern Miss. So again this will be no different. It will be a challenge, it always is to go play on the road, but I think that our guys are excited about the opportunity to play UTEP; whether we were playing in Skelly Stadium, playing on the road, or playing in a neutral setting."

Last year when UTEP was a top-20 team, what did your team do well in order to defeat UTEP? "A couple of things; First, we did a good job of creating turnovers, and we had turnovers ourselves, but they were not quite as difficult to overcome as the one's that UTEP had particularly on their end of the field. So, I thought that we did a good job of creating turnovers and then the turnovers we gave to them, we minimized them for the most part in terms of minimizing their impact and them being able to score points. If you look at that game, we caught them at a very good time. They had already gotten their bowl bid -- they knew they were going to Houston -- basically had nothing to play for coming here, so we knew that they might be a little flat coming into the game, I felt like they were. Again they were in a situation where they were going to Houston, their bowl is already locked up, they were playing for nothing and so I thought that we caught them at a good time last year."

Is bowl game the forbidden word this week? "I think as you look at things right now in the bowl picture, you are going to have to win more than six games to go to a bowl this year -- that is the way this thing is setting up. So we have a lot of football left to play. We have more than a quarter of our season left and obviously we like where we are at right now, but we are going to have to finish strong. And I think that it is going to take more than six to get you to a bowl game this year. Six is the magic number in terms of eligibility, but it does not guarantee anything. But again we are going to take it one game at a time like we have been all season long, and our first one happens to be in this last segment of the season the way this sets up with the open date, the last three games, and the first one is at UTEP."

Do you try not to deal with the distractions of bowl talk? "Obviously we are happy about the situation that we are in, but we also know that we have a lot of work to get done to be the team that we want to be this year. Obviously, we want to compete for a conference championship. We have put ourselves in position to do that. We now we have to go down to face a very good UTEP team at their stadium to continue to move in that direction."

Is a game like this why kids play football and coaches coach football? "It is a monumental step in our quest to be the champion and to get in the championship game. There is no question, just like in major league baseball; you play until October and have it mean something in October. In college football, you play until you get to November and have it mean something in November and now we are in that situation. We have to have a great November to be the kind of team that we want to be at the end of this thing. Again on November 27th when we count it all up and sort it all out to see where everyone is at. But for us right now, again taking a step back and being objective we know that we have to take it one game at a time -- the old coaches cliché but we have done a good job of that. When we have played good football we have done that, when we have not played good football we have not. So again we are going to be very short sided in terms of our focus and that is what we do the next five days in an effort to get ready to go to El Paso and hopefully play a good football game."

Was there an area of the team you wanted to improve on in the open week? "I do not think that there was one glaring situation that jumped out. There were a number of little things from technical standpoint, a fundamental standpoint a little bit of communication, making sure that everyone is on the same page with adjustments and checks. It was more than anything, like I said last week, a tune-up. I think that our engine looks pretty good right now, but we needed to go back and tune it up a little bit to make sure that it is humming on all cylinders when we get ready to go to El Paso and also the two games after that."

Have you and Mike Price's paths crossed? "I have known Mike for a long time, twenty-five years actually. Mike came to Weber State in 1981, when my dad was the head coach at Idaho State. Probably still one of the best football games that I have ever seen in my life, and I have seen a bunch of them -- when Weber State played against Idaho State in 1981, it went into three overtimes, Idaho State ends up winning the game and going on to win the national championship that year, the 1AA championship. A guy named Roger Ruzeck kicked a 52-yarder in regulation sending the game into overtime and it went into three overtimes. It was a great game, one heck of a game."

Is there a comfort level that you get into when you have won the close games that you have played this year? "To be honest it is very uncomfortable for me. I would rather win by three or four touchdowns. We will take a win anyway that we can get it. We knew going into this season that it was going to be a challenge every time we walked out on the football field, whether it was our non-conference schedule or moving into Conference USA. We knew a lot of the games would go down to the wire, and we certainly expect in the next three occasions that they are going to go down to the wire. It is going to be a challenge. There is no question that the parity in this league that we have talked about before is tremendous. There are great coaches, great players, and this is a league that is very topsy-turvy. Anybody could beat anybody on any given day There have been very few games that were not decided by just a few points in this league. It speaks for the quality of football that is being played in our league and again we know that we are going to have a challenge every time that we walk out there. I feel more comfortable with a three or four touchdown lead, like maybe at North Texas when we played that one. But these are tough."

Talk about UTEP and their rushing attack: "I think Tyler (Ebell) is a very dynamic player, he has done a great job for them this year. The guy has a great track record. He had a bunch of rushing yards when he was at UCLA and he is doing a great job for them. The other running back, Marcus Thomas, is really playing well. He ran the ball extremely well between the tackles against Rice. He had significant yardage behind his pads, but they are both playing really good football right now. I think that is an element that they were missing last year when Howard was running the ball he was a guy that would take the ball outside the tackles and really stretch you from a horizontal standpoint. These guys are doing a much better job of "pounding the ball inside" which sets up a lot of their play action passes. If you look at the first play of the game, they fake the counter gap play and they hit Chris Francies on the sideline for the touchdown, so that is certainly a big play."

Talk about developing a winning attitude, and can a team forget how to lose? "I think that we have not forgotten how to practice that is the biggest thing. I think that we are doing a good job of preparing right now and we certainly understand that we are a beatable team, every team is beatable, and the Golden Hurricane are no exception. The thing we have to do a great job of is making sure we prepare each week to have a good showing. Nobody is invincible, we are not invincible, USC is not invincible, and anybody can be beat. Texas is not invincible, the Cowboys almost got them the other night so nobody is unbeatable. I have not seen an unbeatable team yet in college or pro football. So everybody is capable of being beat and we are in that situation so we have to continue to play well if we want to continue to win."

Your thoughts on UTEP quarterback Jordan Palmer: "Jordan is playing very efficiently right now. He is much more consistent than he was last year. The thing you look at is that he has started in 30 football games, so he is playing good football for them. He played well against us last year with the exception of couple of turnovers and he is throwing the ball really crisply right now. He has been throwing the deep ball with a lot of accuracy -- that first pass he threw to Francies was a great throw, right on the dime with about a 50-yard post route against Rice. He is playing well there is no doubt. The thing that I like about him is that he looks more comfortable in the pocket, he is moving around better in the pocket, keeping his eyes up and throwing some balls off of the scramble, and I know he did that a couple of times against Rice the other night. He is a good player."

How big will turnovers be on Saturday? "I think they will be big, there is no doubt. We are going to have to take care of the football and we have done a good job of that recently, but we also have to secure some turnovers. That is a big part of any game, particularly a game on the road, we have to do a good job of winning the turnover battle."

Your thoughts on UTEP receiver Johnnie Lee Higgins, Jr.: "He can fly, he is really fast, probably one of the fastest players that I have seen in a long time. I think he runs in the high 4:1's. Now he is returning punts, he is returning kickoffs, and he is healthy. He caught one the other day that looked like a little dragger and all of sudden he's down UTEP's boundary against Rice. That guy has a rocket right now."

Talk about UTEP's receiving corps: "Joe West is playing well for them. The tight end steps up and makes some plays for them. They are doing a great job on the screen game, Tyler is catching balls on the screen game, there is no doubt. They have a stable full of great receivers. Jamar Hunt, the young tight end is doing a great job for them as well. So they have plenty of weapons on offense there is no doubt and a big, strong, physical offensive line that is doing a nice job of protecting Jordan and obviously opening some holes for their running back too."

Talk about trying to get points on the board early in the game: "Obviously you want to have a quick start. I would rather go ahead and knock anybody out early, but we know this is going to be a four-quarter game and we are going to stay the course. That is one thing our team has done a good job of this year is staying the course when we have gotten behind. Southern Miss would be a good example, getting down by 10 at two points in time in the game and being able to come back. I mean obviously we would like to have a good start, kind of like our season. A good start does not ensure a good finish, we are going to have to play 60 minutes of great football."