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August 25, 2008Ft. Worth, Texas-With the 2008 season opener at New Mexico just five days away, TCU head football coach Gary Patterson met with the media Monday afternoon to discuss his team and its opponent.
"Obviously starting off the season with a conference game against New Mexico, a team that's always been quite an opponent, it's been a very fierce rivalry up to this point. Coach Long coached here, I coached at New Mexico so we both know a lot about each university. Obviously when you're playing on the road and playing in conference it's always tough. We understand it's going to be a big crowd and a very loud crowd so we have to get ourselves ready to go play. I'm very excited about where were at right now, I can probably say New Mexico is coming into the game maybe a little bit healthier, we've been pretty banged up in some areas so hopefully we'll be ready to go by Saturday in those areas.
"Out side of that like all first games you really don't know what you really have until you play them and I don't think this game is any different.
"I love Albuquerque, when I was there I loved the fans, it will be a great game environment, they do a great job. We didn't play well on the road last year early, we lost some close ball games and for us we understand that if you want to win a conference championship you have to go on the road and be able to win so we have to get that done."
On his team's sense of urgency with a conference game(compared to Big 12 opponents) as the opener
"It's the same, with a sense of urgency it's not just about winning and losing its also about the emotional tie in with the recruiting impact it has. I think when you play a Baylor, Oklahoma, or Texas Tech and now you play New Mexico which they come to Texas also so it has a recruiting impact which is why you also want to make sure you play well."
On getting his team to compete well in the opener
"Well last year we started our season 27-0 against a Big 12 opponent. The key is we've always played well in our first ball games. We've gotten out ever since we've been here, we know how to cut back and get our legs underneath us. We know we have three or four practices left to be able to do that and get our self sharp. I think coaches are always in a situation of unknown, it's exciting to play your first ball game. Either you find out that you're very good or you find out exactly what you have to fix. At least you know where you're going one way or the other.
"In that case I think it's the case for everybody. Not very many people have twenty starters coming back and knowing exactly what you're going to get. Both teams have young kickers and punters, we're going to have a red shirt punter and a true(freshman) kicker and they're going to have a couple of red shirt punters and kickers which always makes football games amusing sometimes depending on how they handle it. There's a couple of new returners on both sides of the ball, those things always make for some interesting ball games to say the least."
On the difference of Andy Dalton from last year to this season
"I don't think probably that there's any comparison just watching the way he's handled himself. I thought Andy came in, he and Marcus both grew up the last part of the season.
"We won four out of five and a lot of that I think is attributed to not turning the ball over, we played good defense, played good special teams and then we scored some points. If we carry that over I think we have an opportunity to be better on offense. We play a very good New Mexico defense so I don't know how that all translates but we're definitely better at the offensive line position than we were a year ago and we're definitely better at the wide receiver position so we got to go play."
On how he sees his running backs stacking up this year
"Ryan Christian will start the game, Joseph Turner is not completely where we need him to be, but he will play in the ball game. It's one of those work in progress type situations, we'll see how it all goes. Right now we'll start with a small back. Aaron always plays a part in things with the different things he can do. We have two or three more tailbacks that go with that. It's all going to come back to those guys up front, New Mexico does a great job of slanting and blitzing and moving all over the place. They like TCU play the run very, very well. They're bigger up front then what they've been in the last two or three years so we have to be physical."
On the pressure on the coaches and players on starting with a conference game
"For us probably the Big 12 team was just as important. When you're talking about recruiting you're talking about twenty players we recruit against Baylor, Texas Tech, in that conference from this state. It plays just a big a part, I don't feel any different.
"Obviously you had younger players at some positions last year offensively, we felt a little more pressure with a freshman quarterback and this year we got some younger DB's."
On the players mentality coming into this season after an 8-5 mark in '07
"Well, I told them last year it was great we won four out of five at the bottom, but the bottom line is our goal is to win a conference championship. That's what the goal is, it's not to play well. We're not going to Oklahoma to play well, we're not going to New Mexico to play well, we're not going to play Stanford and play well. The goal here is to win every ball game and that's where were at. Last year we were 4-4 in the conference and that's not where we want to be.
"We lost two games by three points, we lost one by five and one by seven. Eighteen points in four losses. Three of those four came on the road, you got to be able to go on the road and take ball games if you want to win a conference title."
His impressions on New Mexico tailback Rodney Ferguson
"Two years ago he had about a seventy-yard touchdown run out of the power. He's very patient. Rodney is a good football player, that's why he's been a two-time first team all conference player.
"The guy you probably shouldn't count out that I think is just as good a player is Paul Baker, number 22, the backup tailback. He had 170 yards in the bowl game against Nevada, he can play. They're a transition, one's a little quicker, one's a little more powerful but they both can get it done."
On the true freshman who have impressed him this fall
"Well, number one is Ross Evans. He went through a three or four day stint where he was trying to mess with some things and his leg got tired because that's what happens to kickers in camps. We took him out of that and this last week he and Anson Kelton have both been awesome. We changed up how we were doing some of the drills. In the last week what we've done is let the whole team stand behind him and scream at him for the first two kicks of practice before we did anything else to make sure it was important. I've been impressed with him."
On playing at New Mexico compared to other MWC venues
"I think it's tough to play at New Mexico if you just look at how they've played at home over the years. They're a team that goes both places, they've played well on the road, they've played well at home. For whatever reason the last two times they've come here they haven't played as well as they would've liked to. They have a lot of Texas kids so that makes a difference. For us it's going to be good because there won't be that much humidity, I think our kids are excited about that."
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