Senior quarterback Paul Thompson talks about his season, the influence of QB coach Josh Heupel, Sam…
Thompson: "We want to get that ring"
Below are excerpts from OU quarterback Paul Thompson's press conference on Tuesday. On the differences he sees in this Nebraska team versus the team they played last year Thompson: Just their maturity level. Obviously, their quarterback has done a great job for them this year, as he has in the pass. It's another year of him getting the feel for the offense. He's really become a leader, not only of his team, but one of the top quarterbacks in the Big 12. They definitely have more experience. Good size up front defensively and some physical and aggressive people in the secondary. All in all, they've definitely improved from last year, as I feel we have as well. I think it will be a good matchup. On how Nebraska's front seven compares to what they've faced this year Thompson: It's up there in the top of what we've seen so far. Definitely some older guys, veteran guys, with a lot of size and explosiveness. We're not going to shy away from that in any way. We're going to try and take advantage of what we think we can and go after them. On if he's concerned about the cold weather making it more difficult to execute the passing game Thompson: No, if it's cold for us it's cold for them too. We're not really too worried about that. We've played in cold games before. We're going to go at it with the same gameplan as we have in the past. I heard it is going to be a little cold so we'll adjust if we need to, but I think we'll stick to the same gameplan. On if Nebraska's defense will allow them to be balanced, or will they try to take away one aspect of the offense Thompson: No, not a all. From what I've seen so far we will have some shots we can take against them. I expect it to be balanced, as we've strived for throughout the season. Things might change in different situations during the game, but I'm looking forward to it being a balanced attack. I think we can be successful throwing the ball. On if he thinks that this game is going to resemble a game from the old OU-Nebraska rivalry, with both teams trying to run the ball because of the weather Thompson: It could be. I'm definitely expecting another close game. We definitely would like to get ahead and not make it close. But with this rivalry and what games in the past have been, each team's going to continue to fight throughout the entire game. One team's not going to get down if the other team scores first or vice versa. I'm expecting a good, hard-fought game. A physical, tough game in whatever is. On growing up in Texas and what kind of sense does he has of the OU-Nebraska rivalry Thompson: We definitely watched film of the rivalries. When you get here, coach Stoops does a great job of showing the tradition of Oklahoma and rivals we have. It's kinda maybe died a little bit lately because we don't play them every year. But back in the Big Eight it was pretty much Oklahoma and Nebraska every year for the Big Eight Championship to see who goes to the Orange Bowl. I'm definitely aware of the tradition between these two schools and hopefully we can keep it going. On if a game like this can revive the rivalry Thompson: Yeah, but at the same time we play two years and then we're off two years. The rivalry is still there, but it's not as prominent as it was a couple years ago. I think a lot of people are excited to see this game and are relating it to past games when we played each other every year. I'm definitely excited about it and I think it will be a big game. On the drive to win a Big 12 Championship Thompson: That's big. Both programs are back at the top right now. The drive to get a Big 12 Championship is one of the biggest drives you can have in a season. I've been a part of Big 12 Championships here with Jason White, Mark Clayton, that era, so it's kind of like a new era with new players and a young team. I'm looking to get that first championship for them. On if he thought they would be where they are right now after the loss to Texas Thompson: Yeah, we did. At the same time, we knew things had to happen. But if we didn't stay focused on what we had to do and had a slip-up, then we wouldn't be in the situation we're in right now. It kinda wasn't in our hands as far as getting here, but at the same time it was. If we would've slipped-up, let down, gave up, then we wouldn't have ourself in this position right now. We definitely knew there was a chance out there. We were reminded of that week-in and week-out that our goals were still out there. Everyone stayed focused and the coaches did a great job of keeping everyone focused. Now here we are. On their season not being complete yet Thompson: Exactly. This university and this program are about winning championships. We got the Big 12 South, but that's not our main goal. That's not our main objective. We want to get that Big 12 Championship outright and move on to a BCS bowl. On why this team has been so resilient Thompson: I'm not even sure exactly. Just a lot of guys just with a lot of heart, a lot of character, stepping in when they're called upon. Every position has just been tremendous in replacing (players) if we've had an injury or whatever it is. I'm not sure what it is, but I've been on a lot of great teams since I've been here and the character that this team shows is just tremendous, even compared to those other teams. On what would it mean for him to put his stamp on the program and win a Big 12 title as a quarterback Thompson: That would be big. I have been a part of successufl teams here — some as a backup and some when I redshirted. To actually have a bigger part in winning a Big 12 Championship here would mean a lot to me, and I think for a lot of these guys that weren't a part of it those past years. It will be a good experience for them and a good driving factor for them to have that type of experience as they lead the teams through the next two or three years. On if he felt the team was due to catch a break after what happened at Oregon Thompson: I never really felt we were due for anything. What happened to us, happened to us. Sometimes you kinda expect that there's going to be a fairy tale ending, but that doesn't always happen especially if you don't prepare yourself. If you think it's just going to happen, then it won't. Week-in and week-out we prepared ourselves and got ready to play, took it game-by-game and it got us in a good situation. On if he watched the Texas-Texas A&M game Thompson: No, I couldn't. I was too scared (smiles). I didn't watch it. I sat at home because we had a little break Friday before we had to come up and leave to go to Stillwater. So I came home, didn't turn the TV on, just sat there in the room and had the computer on or whatever. And then about 40 seconds left in the game I started getting text messages on my phone — 'Turn the game on! Turn the game on! 'I said, 'No, I'm scared. I'm scared (laughs).' I turned it on and saw just the last hit on Colt McCoy when he got injured. I guess the last 40 seconds of the game is all I saw. On if he woke up Sunday and finally realized that all of their goals where still in front of them Thompson: It hit me after the game (OSU). I was really excited Friday night. I woke up about 4 o'clock (a.m.) and thought we had already won it because I had a dream that we had already won the game. So I woke up and was all excited. And then you know how it is when you have these dreams that aren't real, you're kind of upset. So I went back to sleep and had to kinda re-focus my mind because I thought we had already won the game. Then right after the game, I thought about what we had been through and where we are at now, and that was just a great feeling. But again, that's not our ultimate goal right now. We want to get that ring. On how much he has dreamed about leading this team to a title since Aug. 2 (beginning of practice) Thompson: I've thought about it before then, and definitely since then. I've always felt I could be a successful quarterback in this league and at the collegiate level. I've always thought that I could lead this team to great things. I'm not the only leader that's done that. There's been other guys that have factored in with that, but with me being at the quarterback position I felt that there was a lot of responsibility on my shoulders, and I think I've done a good job of carrying that. On if they take pride in being a no-name team because their biggest star is injured right now Thompson: I think has a lot to do with we don't have the names on the back of our jerseys, as we had in the past. That might even add more to people not knowing who we are individually. With that, people kind of play more for the team. It's not about you as an individual, it's about this team and where this team wants to go. The guys have done a great job of just playing for the team and not for the individual awards or statistics. On if he's every played in a game when it was 17 degrees Thompson: No, if it's 17 degrees I'm at home in the bed somewhere cuddled up (laughs). On the challenges that a quarterback faces throwing the ball in cold weather game Thompson: Everything gets harder and gets a little more stiff, so it's going to be important for us to stay loose. I think they have heated benches, so every time I'm on the sideline sit down and get on those benches. I'm a guy that kinda likes to stand up and stay on my feet a lot to stay loose during games, but I think it will be important for me to get around the heater a little bit more this game. We've played in a cold game this year, so we'll have some experience with it. I don't think guys are going to panic. On how have they become such a good road team Thompson: I think the main thing is we don't think of it as a road game. If we do what we need to do we'll take the crowd out of of it, similar to the A&M game. When we came out and had those two drives it was one of the quietest stadiums we'd played in. We're just really not focusing too much on (the crowd). We know it's a 100 yards of football no matter where you are. As long as we take care of what we need to take care of, the fans can do whatever they want to do and it's not going to effect us. On if there is a difference in playing for the Big 12 title game this year, as opposed to before when they were playing to get to the national title game Thompson: No, the goals we had are a BCS game, and that's right out there ahead of us. A Big 12 Championship in itself is something that's big and real important for this program and for this team. We don't need any other motivation than going out and playing a great rival in Nebraska and getting us a Big 12 Championship. On this being his biggest game yet and if he still finds himself nervous before a game Thompson: I've never just really been real nervous for any of these games this year. I've been real relaxed, real calm and had a calm demeanor. No one expected us to be where we are. We're excited about the opportunity. I do put pressure on myself, but I'm confident in what I can do and I'm confident in this team. I'm a lot more anxious and ready to get out there. I wish the game was always sooner. I really don't like late games because I don't like sitting around. You get kind of antsy, you can't sit still. But as far as just being nervous, it's really more just anxious.
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