Palmer: Yeah, absolutely agree. I've heard a lot about this defensive end and everything and he's great, but after watching the film, he's definitely not all their defense is. They've got a great linebacker, secondary's really good. They really are extremely similar to us, they've got a great defensive line. They are definitely going to present some problems for us offensively. We definitely have to get ready for the entire defense, not just one guy.
How do you feel about the current state of the offense right now?
Palmer: I think we're doing good. Obviously we had some red zone troubles [against Boston College], but the good and bad thing is that we kind of had to shoot ourselves in the foot in the red zone. The good thing is that it's something we can correct and get better at. I think we're doing a good job. Kyle [Parker] made a couple of mistakes but I mean you're going to get that every now and then, especially from a red-shirt freshman. I think we're coming along really well and we're in a good spot right now where we can continue to keep improving.
Do you think this offense is starting to gain an identity?
Palmer : I think we're getting it. We're obviously establishing the run a lot and a power running game and hitting the ball down north and south, instead of east and west; we're not running sideline-to-sideline. I think that's something that we're definitely trying to establish and I think we're doing a good job of it.
Does it seem like there are just a lot of little mistakes happening in the red zone opposed to one large flaw you can focus on correcting?
Palmer : Yeah, it's definitely frustrating. But you know, nobody's going to play a perfect football game. That's part of being on offense; if you mess up one play, it's going to get exposed. On defense if someone misses their assignment, someone else can make up for it. So you really have to play close to perfect, you have to have 11 guys playing well. So it's absolutely frustrating, but it's stuff we can correct. You watch the film, correct it, move on, and hopefully don't make the same mistakes twice.
How decisive is it to possibly have Chris Hairston out of the game on Saturday?
Palmer : It's crucial to have Hairston healthy no matter what first of all. He's definitely our best tackle, no doubt about it. And yeah we definitely need him and could use him going up against the #1 defensive end in the nation— you need your best tackle. Yes, we need him and want him out there, but if he can't go then we have to adjust and we have to play. We need Lambert and Landon to step up, we need David Smith to step up. Tight ends might have to do a lot more blocking, maybe more than what we want to do. That's part of it, that's part of being on the team. If a guy goes down, the next guy has to step in and be ready to play.
Senior tight end Michael Palmer has four catches for 37 yards in his first three games this year. (Roy Philpott)
Palmer : Yeah, I mean part of Kyle's attitude is that he's going to take shots. He's got a strong arm and sometimes it works out awesome for him and other times it shoots him in the foot thinking that he's got too strong of an arm. So yeah, he made a couple of mistakes but I don't think anyone on this team wants him to do anything differently. He's watched the film and seen where he shouldn't have thrown the ball so I think he's learned from it. I think one of the biggest things he'll have to learn is sometimes you can't go for the homerun every time, sometimes you just need to check it down to your running back. That's part of maturing as QB and realizing that we might have a big play called, but if it's not there then check it down, gain 5-10 yards, and go to the next play. I think he's learned from that, and I don't really want him to change from the way he's playing. I don't mind him taking shots like that every game and sure he's going to make mistakes, but I want him going full speed and taking shots down the field.
A similar opportunity for higher recognition was presented to this team when you guys faced Georgia Tech a couple weeks ago. Do you feel better prepared now to face a ranked team like TCU?
Palmer : Yeah, I mean I wouldn't say we weren't prepared for Georgia Tech. We just made a couple of bonehead plays and hopefully our team's learned from that. That's part of growing as the season goes on, you make mistakes and you have to learn from them. You have to learn to not do the same stuff twice. I mean that was on the road in a really tough environment and now we're home in Death Valley. Hopefully we'll be able to make some better plays, smarter decisions, and do things a little bit better.
How did it feel on the offensive side when you saw your defense consistently going out there so strong last Saturday?
Palmer : I mean sometimes I don't have time to even sit down or anything. Those guys play great. It was kind of surreal sitting there because you'd start going over corrections on the sideline and then all of the sudden you'd hear them yelling 3rd down. I mean our defense is one heck of a defense and that's the first time we've actually been able to play our defensive scheme. And we played the spread, the triple option, and we finally got to put in our defense and I think they proved how dominant they can be.
How much weight are you putting on this game as an opportunity to put this program on the national scene again, given it is a top 15 team coming into your place?
Palmer : Yeah, it's absolutely important. I mean this is exciting for me, I'm going in against the #1 defensive end in the nation. You have to look at it as an opportunity and a welcomed challenge and that's definitely what our team is doing about this. Any time you get to play a top 15 team, you have to get excited about it. This is why you play college football, so that you get to play teams like this and games like this.