SDSU Football Weekly News Conference Quotes
COACH LONG: We have an interesting challenge ahead of us this week. We're playing an Army team that is very unusual on defense and they run a very unusual offense. We have not seen them play this year because they have not played a game. I think that's an advantage to both sides. There are certain things that give both sides an advantage because of that.
But as you know, we have got great respect for the military academies around here and we know that they will be disciplined and they will be tough and they will play hard. We have an interesting challenge ahead of us.
Q. Can you elaborate on it is an advantage for both sides?
COACH LONG: They will be fresher because they will have taken time this week to get their selves back to fresh after training camp. They will have some new things in store for us on both offense and defense that we won't have practiced against or anticipated and will have to adjust on the run.
The advantage to us is that we have played a game. So our guys have seen game speed, and you see the first game out, it takes you a little while to get used to game speed.
And then there are some things that happen in every game, substitution problems, communication between the sidelines and the huddle, or however you get that in from the press box to the sidelines, and that usually gets worked out the first week.
So there are some advantages of already playing a game, but there's some disadvantages, too.
Q. What makes Army's defense unorthodox?
COACH LONG: Yeah, it's unorthodox. Coach Ellerson and I are friends from way back. In fact, we were on the same staff together for a little while. We learned a lot of the same things when we were together. And he took the flex concept, which he developed at Arizona when it was 'desert swarm,' where you have a guy that plays a little bit off the ball, sometimes in a three point stance and sometimes in a two point stance; and the guy is hybrid, sometimes he's a defensive lineman, sometimes he's a linebacker. Sometimes he's in on the rush and sometimes he covers guys on the backfield, and sometimes he's a spy guy and he's an all around guy that looks like he's a defensive lineman but he's really a multitude of things.
Everybody has an idea of how they attack a different defense. We have played this defense before so we'll have a plan of attack. It's unusual, so even though you practice against it, acout team doesn't give you anywhere near the look you're going to get on game day. All they do is line up right. They don't react right.
Q. You threw a couple of trick plays in there the last game. Is that just something to get your offense going, or is that something that you'll do more so in the season?
COACH LONG: If we ever see an advantage to running an unusual play, we are going to use it. Some people are pretty conventional where they don't give you a chance to use one of those plays. But if we get a chance to use one of those plays, we'll use it.
Q. What sort of things did you learn about your team this first game?
COACH LONG: I learned that we don't give up. And I learned that we have a continuing problem that we are trying to address it. For some reason, last year, about half the games we started slow on defense. And it really occurred again in the Washington game. We started really slow on defense.
The difference between the way we played the first half and the second half on defense is dramatic. So we are going to change some things up this week to see if it's just the routine we are in or if it's a psychological problem or whatever that is.
But I've learned that that's a continuing problem from last year. I also learned that we can play against, `the big boys,' if you want to put it that way. We can play against those guys. It was a competitive football game. I don't think we played well enough to win. I think they played a little bit better than we did, and that's why they won.
Q. What can you point to that might let the guys wash that game away and come at this game full speed?
COACH LONG: Well, you wash that game away by putting your total emphasis on the next game.
We have to improve on turnovers. We turned the ball over too often in the first game and two of them turned into touchdowns for the other team. The positive aspect was that our quarterback can get out of trouble and run with the ball and our running game was pretty good. The positive is we played really good defense the second half. They did not score the last seven times they had the ball.
Q. What's the latest with the kicking game?
COACH LONG: Our kickers will compete in practice this week and the guys that perform the best in practice will play this Saturday.
Q. Speaking of unconventional, can you talk about the quick kick?
COACH LONG: It's unconventional. You don't see a quick kick very often, but that's a strategy that's been used for a hundred years.
If you look at our kicking game, the actual part that we did, kickoff coverage was fine. Their returns were less than 15 yards a return. Punts were really good. The couple of times we punted, the punt average was really good, the protection was good and the coverage was really good. So I don't see any reason our kicking game wouldn't be strong.
Q. How about field goals and extra points?
COACH LONG: We have not tried those yet, so I don't know if that's strong or not.
Q. Did that lead you that direction; that you thought it wasn't strong?
COACH LONG: No, I think I gave the wrong impression. Our kickers are competing well and I don't think they have shown real consistency in practice. But I think I gave the wrong impression. That is not why we didn't kick field goals or extra points. We didn't kick field goals or extra points because that was the game plan going in, and as you all know, we have done some elaborate statistical analysis on how you score the most points and that's exactly how we played the game.
Q. But it didn't work?
COACH LONG: I'm not sure it didn't work. You're saying it didn't work. I'm not sure it didn't work. We would have not scored a second touchdown if we don't go for fourth down. If we punted or kick a field goal, we wouldn't have scored a second touchdown. The first touchdown was a trick play and the second touchdown was going for it on fourth down. Did you see any other chances we had of scoring? I didn't.
Q. So it was not necessarily your preparation coming into the game as far as the reason not going for it was extra points?
COACH LONG: No, going into the game, we decided to go for two the first two times we scored touchdowns. I don't think we are the only team that does that.
I think Oregon does that. I think this last week, I think USC did that. It's interesting, no? Some other people are taking statistical of analysis of things, too.
The average, over the last ten years in college football, is on two point conversions, it's almost 59 percent success rate. So if you go for two points every time, eventually you'll score more points than you do kicking extra points. That's ten years of stats, 58.4, 58.5 percent of the time you're successful on two point plays.
Q. What's the mentality this week against Army?
COACH LONG: Our game plan has not been decided yet. Every game is going to be dealt with individually and differently. We will put our statistics over the last four years, and we'll put Army's statistics in there for the last three years because this is the fourth year Coach Ellerson is there. The last three years we'll put their stats in there and our chart will be completely different than it was that week.
Q. What about if the coach's intuition is different than the chart?
COACH LONG: Yeah, we have a chart that says: Green, go for it. It says red, don't go for it. And a gray area that allows for coaching and gut feelings. Good question, though, by the way. The chart's not infallible.
Q. What do you see from Army's quarterback and what do you expect from him going forward?
COACH LONG: I think they have a very experienced team. The quarterback is the key to any option offense. He knows what he's doing. He's been the starter for three years. It will be his fourth year as a starter. He's as good as there is at the triple offense option, reading it and running it himself. He's a big, strong guy that breaks tackles, gains a lot of yards on his own.
But what he really does is read their offense correctly. They led the nation in rushing last year. They rushed for almost 450 yards a game. They scored almost 25 points a game. They do it as good as anybody does it.
And being an old wishbone quarterback myself, there's nobody in the world can get ready for the wishbone in three day and it's the best offense that's ever been designed because you don't have to block everybody.
Q. You've had success against the service academies and the triple offense. Why have you had so much success?
COACH LONG: We have won the game. That's a lot different than having success against the triple option. Last year, if you remember the game, they were running up and down the field, and if they don't fumble a bunch, we are in deep trouble. And most people that beat the academy teams, it's not because you get them off the field and it not because you stop them. You have to out score them.
The other thing about the triple option is that they keep the ball forever, because your offense doesn't have a chance to score a lot of points. In their minds, they only have to average two and a half yards per play because they will go for it every single time it's fourth-and-one. I shouldn't say every single one, 90 percent of the time they are going for it on fourth-and-one, and fourth-and-two.
And they keep the ball forever, so your offense doesn't have as many opportunities to score a lot of points. They only punted 37 times last year. What's that tell you. It tells you they either got a lot of first downs early or they went for a whole bunch of fourth downs.
Q. Does it surprise you that you're leaning on the statistical analysis and you're embracing it to such a degree?
COACH LONG: Not at all. It doesn't surprise me. Every coach is looking to improve his team is always looking for ways to improve them. You don't do things the same way every year. And if you have a team that you think are going to be in really close games, you look for every single edge you can find. That's the only reason.
This game's going to be really close, and I thought going into the game, that there's several, nine or ten of them, those games are going to be one touchdown games or three point games.
So you have to work really hard to find where your edge is. So that's the only reason that led me to looking at statistics. I'm looking for an edge that will get us over the hump on really close games.
Q. What decision went into going for the fourth down with only five minutes left in the fourth quarter, rather than going for the field goal?
COACH LONG: It was on my chart, I can say that. It was to go for it on the chart but it was more the mentality we went into the game with. We went into the game that we were going for all fourth downs that were green on our chart. And that one was green. I'm not sure even before we had the chart, I'm pretty sure that I would have gone for it anyway, even before the chart.
We went for a bunch of fourth downs last year, too. More than anybody else in the league, I think.
Q. Did you think you were going to get so many questions about the chart?
COACH LONG: No, in fact, I like it. I'm glad people noticed and people are concerned. They are concerned or they are emotional one way, that's what every program wants. They want people that are involved with their program. They want people that are emotional about their program, good or bad. It doesn't bother me that people are mad or happy. Doesn't bother me at all. Guess what? They are involved. They are thinking about the Aztecs. It's a whole lot better than nobody caring. Q. How hard is it to go from preparing for Washington to preparing for Army?
COACH LONG: It's impossible. Now everybody in the room that's been here before understands my prejudice for the triple option. I don't think you can stop it. On a chalkboard you cannot stop a triple option. It's the only offense in the world on the chalkboard you cannot stop.
And that's why people that run the spread offense are now getting in the pistol because they can run read plays, even in the shotgun. They are running zone replays to try to eliminate guys they don't have to block. Just by the quarterback reading the guy, they don't have to block the guy. Now, if you give us two weeks, we'll slow them down.
We had two weeks to get ready for Navy a couple years ago and we slowed them down. We didn't stop them, we slowed them down. If you look at our recent games against triple option teams, we haven't slowed them down, we have just kept the score down enough so that we could out score them. But we have not slowed them down statistically. If you look at their stats, we have not slowed them down. So our offense better score a lot of points this week and not very many plays.
Q. Do you ever consider installing the triple option here at SDSU?
COACH LONG: I believe the triple option is a triple offense. But there are several reasons you can't run them any place but the academies, and it's all because of recruiting and selling tickets.
People don't like watching the triple option. They think it's boring because it's not what they see on TV on Sundays. It's not what they see from the NFL, so they think it's a boring offense. I remember people saying all the time, `Well, you give it to the fullback every single time, you give it to the fullback.'
The fullback only gets it if the read is correct. People don't want to get that in depth and they don't like watching it. The other reason is you can't recruit anybody to it. Everybody wants to be an NFL football player. If you're an offensive lineman, you don't want to come out low and scramble on the bound and cut people. You want to show people you can pass the ball.
If you're a wide receiver, you don't want to stock-block the corners for the pitch guy, you want to run routes and catch the ball. Now they will get a good quarterback because they will recruit a quarterback that was a quarterback in high school that everybody is recruiting as a defensive back. He'll still want to be a quarterback, so he'll go to the wishbone.
So you'll get a really good athlete at quarterback. But in the old days, at Oklahoma when they had great quarterbacks, they ended up being DBs in the NFL. You won't get a really good running back. You'll get some pretty good running backs because they get to carry the ball. But you won't get a good running back because he thinks he should be the tailback and he should carry the ball 35 times so he can get to the NFL.
So in recruiting, every kid has a dream of going to the NFL. And most of the time, they are not going to go to a wishbone team unless that's the only place they can go. Academy kids have a completely different attitude about what the rest of their life is about. They are going to school and in this case to become soldiers and they play football, because that's part of their DNA.
But they are really there for a greater purpose than they are to be pro football players. I really admire them. So when you have a kid like that, guess what, you can recruit a kid like that because he could care less what offense and defense you run. You tell me what to do and I'll do it. That's the kind of kids they are. They are special kids, absolutely special kids.
Q. What's your relationship with your kickers?
COACH LONG: Our kickers and I have a great relationship. I talk to them every day, because when everybody else is meeting, they are sitting in the lobby over there, so we have a discussion every day.
And our whole team has been advised about our game plan. They will be advised about our game plan today for this week. They will be advised from the first day and they are advised to the last meeting we have exactly what we are going to do. Every kid that was on that travel squad knew exactly what the game plan was going in last week. Whether they agreed with it or not, I don't care, but they knew what it was.
Q. Is this somewhat new? Did you do this last year, with the charts and all that?
COACH LONG: No, the only chart we had last year was the two point chart. And the use of the two point chart, you can argue that all you want, too. Some people use the two point chart right from the beginning and some people wait until the fourth quarter. Football 101 says you wait until the fourth quarter. So anybody that uses a two point chart before that, he's wrong. If you believe in traditional football.
Traditional football has gone out the window if you have not watched Oregon and those kind of guys play. Pretty soon the NFL will be like Oregon, too. The NFL, it just takes longer to add all those different things to it. The NFL copies college football, by the way.
Q. Would you advocate at some point getting rid of that single extra point kick and just always go for the two?
COACH LONG: I would be willing to get rid of all kicking.
Q. What do you want to see in terms of progress out of Ryan Katz this week?
COACH LONG: I hope that when there are chances for him to have a little patience and wait for receivers to come open, I hope he feels more confident and can do that this week.
I was very happy with the way he played, though. I thought several times he got first downs by getting out of there. He had to get out of there a couple times because of pressure, but not always. If he had a chance to make a play, he went and made a play. That's all you want in football is you want guys that make plays. Now I hope he doesn't throw an interception and I hope he doesn't fumble this week.
Q. What kind of stuff did Washington throw at you that maybe surprised you a little bit?
Ryan Katz: Some of their fronts were a little different, some of their blitzes on that aspect. They weren't doing too much different stuff coverage wise. I would say mostly in the box.
Q. What would be the outcome if you had a chance to play them against this weekend?
Ryan Katz: We'd watch the film and get better. We'd have a little bit better beat of what they were doing. Who knows, we don't get to do that.
Q. What were you seeing and are you working on sort of staying in the pocket a little longer, something he said he would like to see out of you this week?
Ryan Katz: Yeah, I would definitely like to do that. You know, at times I had to run and there was some pressure and other times guys just weren't open. I'm not just going to stand back there. If nothing is open, I'm going to try to make a play. Our offense is designed for me to stay in the pocket. We'll do a better job of that this week.
Q. Can you talk about the touchdown play? Did you have to talk with the officials about that before the game to put them on alert you might try that play?
Tim Vizzi: Yeah, Coach Ludwig talked to the referees before to make sure it was all go. That was something we talked about and knew that it might not be legal, especially with the Pac-12 refs. So he checked and got the okay. Then had the perfect opportunity at the start of the second quarter to run the play and we ran it.
Q. And then what is your job on that? Do you have to run inside the numbers or inside the hash marks?
Tim Vizzi: We had a sideline huddle and I had to proceed inside the numbers and then just jog right off, a couple yards away from the sideline and they didn't take notice of that. You know, that's what we wanted.
Q. What was going through your mind as the play progressed?
Tim Vizzi: Catch the ball. That was my first and final thought, catch the ball and then run with it.
Q. What were you thinking after, considering it's your first touchdown for SDSU and first Division I collegiate touchdown?
Tim Vizzi: I was excited. I knew we were down two scores and I knew one play of the game could put us (within) one possession. So that's what we did and when we completed the pass and got the touchdown, and knew we were only one more score away from tying the game up.
Q. How do you feel the offensive line did?
Alec Johnson: We were all right. We were shaky at times. Way too much pressure and four sacks is not acceptable. But there were times where our protection was pretty good and that's something to build on and something to learn from in the film and work on for next week.
Q. What do you guys see out Army's defense? What do you see that they do differently?
Alec Johnson: It's a different defense. We have the experience of playing against it last year, so the guys who played it last year will have some experience with it. It's unconventional, just like our defense. So that helps us a little bit, just going against unconventional defenses.
Q. What's hard to do against them?
Alec Johnson: We were decent at running the ball last year. We landed a couple passes early last year that got us a lead. But we really stalled offensively. We have to get the run game going this week.
Q. Do you guys have to block any differently as a line when Kazee runs as opposed to Muema?
Alec Johnson: It's the same thing. We try to block as long as we can and finish blocks downfield and protect our backs as much as we can and give them yards, open up holes for them. So the change of the backs doesn't really matter at all.
Q. Did you practice more on two point conversions or short fourth-down conversions coming into this week?
Ryan Katz: That's what we did all during camp. In our scrimmages, we went for two, went for it on fourth down. In the game, I really didn't think about it. That's what we do. That's what we did going into the game and that was the game plan. So just we go from there.
Q. What's that say about your coach? Do you admire him for being innovative?
Ryan Katz: Yeah, we were playing the game to win. Coach tries to put the team in the best possible chance to win, and just because it's not by the books doesn't mean it's wrong. That's what we were doing as players we just have to go out there and make plays. If we make those plays, it's great job, who thought of that.
You've just got to do what you're coached to do and that's what our game plan was.
Q. What happened with the first and second two point conversions?
Ryan Katz: Yeah, I had time. I got to my third read. Might have been a little window, as I watched the film, where maybe I could have got the ball in there. The second two point conversion, they had it pretty well covered. They only rushed four and had a lot of guys in the end zone. I just tried to make something happen and unfortunately it got tipped.
Q. Coach was saying this week that one of the things that Army does, they hang on to the ball forever, which is perhaps a little more pressure on the offense to be mistake free and to score as soon as you can. What are your thoughts on that kind of pressure going into this game?
Ryan Katz: Yeah, just as an offense, we want to score every time we get the ball. It was a little shaky as a whole this past weekend. I mean, we are going to learn from it. We watched the film. It's going to be nothing different. They keep the ball for a long time, but our goal is to score. Put points on the board and we are going to try to do that every time we get the ball.
Q. How do you feel about Army's offense?
Leon McFadden: This offense is a tough offense. We have high respect for (Army), they run the ball hard. It's a difficult offense to prepare for within a week, but all we can do is go out there and work hard and try to understand it to the best of our ability.
Q. Does having a lot of veteran guys who have seen this offense before help going into the game vs. Army?
Leon McFadden: It most definitely helps a lot due to the fact we have played against the offense a couple of times with the different academies. So it does help.
Q. Do you enjoy Army's offense or is it a challenge?
Leon McFadden: We enjoy it because like I said, we have respect for these guys. They always come and play through the whistle and that's all we can ask for. We love the competition.
Q. Coach said last week you started out a little slow on defense the first half; what was the issue going in and how did you guys fix that, because the second half you played great.
Josh Wade: Guys just started settling into the game a little bit more and got back in the rhythm of things. Progressively we started playing better as the game went forth. You can see that statistically in the second half compared to the first. I think just settling in and guys getting back in the rhythm of the game and trusting things and not all flying around to the ball.
Q. Last year you guys were down on multiple occasions and that happened again on Saturday. Obviously it's something you have to work on, but what do you think the reason for it has been?
Jake Fely: I'm thinking the first half we always come out and think that we are just going to play our ball and the second half we always try to correct our mistakes that we made the first half. When we should just correct our mistakes in the very beginning and start off fast and physical. You know, that trend started last year and we are definitely trying to stop that trend so we don't start off slow this year. We definitely need to work on that. Even though we started this game like that, we are going to try to work on it this year so we eliminate that.
Q. As a cornerback, how do you guys prepare for Army not throwing the ball that often?
Leon McFadden: We just have to be prepared to make a lot of tackles going into this game and that's basically it. We really have to key in, though, because they will run the ball and lull you to sleep and then they will try to do a big play. So we really have to pay attention to details.
Q. How good was Keith Price compared to some of the quarterbacks you faced in the past?
Jake Fely: He was good and elusive. He knew where to throw the ball a lot. But he's the same quarterback, just a quarterback. We should have been able to adjust to it. But he was a good quarterback. Give him the credit that he deserves. Next time we need to go out and show him that we are a good defense.
Q. How was it playing in that stadium? Was it as loud as you guys thought it would be?
Leon McFadden: Yeah, it met our expectations. It was very loud. But we felt privileged to be able to play in that stadium.
Q. What are some of Walter Kazee's strengths as a running back?
Jake Fely: I would say being small, not too small, but being shorter than others, he's able to stay under the view of the offensive linemen, which opens up holes for him. He's able to search the holes that he can fit through with his size, and he runs hard. He doesn't give up. He just keeps running. That's the thing I like about him.
Q. Who would you say is the most elusive runner of all the running backs that the team has?
Jake Fely: I can't just pick out one. But I would say that Walter Kazee and Adam Muema, because they run the ball consistently hard.
Q. How weird is it spending most of fall camp preparing for Keith Price and then having a quick turnaround to prepare for Trent Steelman?
Jake Fely: It's always a challenge to adapt to every game and have a new game strategy. You know that Army is going to be mostly a running team, so even though the last game it was mostly pass, we are going to have to adapt and just play ball like we know how to play.
Q. When Coach first told you that he was thinking about this chart and going for it on fourth down, what was your reaction? When did you first hear about this from him?
Josh Wade: Coach talked about it through camp and we were practicing it. We were excited about it. We knew as players that doing this kind of strategy, we would have to execute. We have faith that we can convert over 50 percent of our two point conversions and going for it on fourth down and things like that, that's more of an offensive strategy.
But defense is ready to go out and play with any field position. Every time we go out to the field, we feel like we have to stop the offense no matter what the situation is. We are ready for any situation on the field and we just go out and play defense every week and try to stop them in any situation.
Q. How do you feel like the game plan worked out for the team last week?
Josh Wade: We were not effective enough. We didn't execute enough to win the game obviously. But we'll see how this game plan goes. It's still early in the week. Coach is probably going to come out and give us the game plan, the statistics and break it down. We'll do what's best for the team, the smartest decisions. We are going to roll with it and practice hard and see if we can make the proper adjustments to win this week's game.
Q. How excited are you to be playing football at the Q?
Leon McFadden: I'm very excited to play at Aztec Warrior Stadium. It's good. This is the best time of the year. The San Diego County is supporting us more and more these last couple years. We are excited, this being our (home) opener, we are very excited.
Jake Fely: Not every team gets the opportunity to play in a professional football stadium and we obviously get the opportunity. It's always exciting to play football in our stadium. We just have to go out every game, excited to play each game so we can win.