SDSU Football News Conference Quotes

Sept. 11, 2012


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COACH Rocky Long

Opening statement:

This game reminds me of how nervous I was for the first game last year. This team makes me really nervous if you look at a team that's scored 55.5 points (per game) so far and their total offense averages 527 yards a game. They had a brand new quarterback that started his first game last week. He threw six touchdown passes and threw for 294 yards. They've thrown for ten touchdown passes already this season. Last year they threw for 12 the entire season. All you have to do is go back here and look at their size. It might be the biggest offensive line we play against. Their left tackle is 6'5", 312. Their left guard is 6'6", 293. Their center is 6'4", 302. Their right guard is 6'8", 342, their right tackle is 6"8', 304, and their tight end is 6'4", 270. Not only that, they have one of the fastest receivers we've seen on film. His name's Hardin. I'll give you his number too. He's about as fast as anybody we've ever played against around here. Greg Hardin, number 84, who leads their division in yardage per game. He caught two passes, 1 for 66 yards and one for a touchdown. The other one was 34 yards for a touchdown just in the last game. So on the schedule, it doesn't look like much, but in reality, it's scary.

Q. Game planning last week against Army and turning around to game plan for an offense like this, how much of it switches out for your defense in particular?

That's the biggest difficulty we have on defense. You go from a spread type team, which Washington is kind of a spread type team. Then you play a triple option team in Army, and now you're playing a team that is very similar to us. They run similar formations. They run similar personnel groups. So they get into a pro set sometimes and run power plays and play action pass, and sometimes they put four wide receivers in there and run the spread. So they're the most diverse team we've played so far, but it's really hard coming off a triple option weekend to something else. But that happens every time we play a triple option team.

Q. Does it make it help that they're so similar because your defense is used to seeing a lot of stuff?
We haven't seen them for two weeks. We've been working on nothing but scout team for two weeks. We haven't really gone against our offense. It doesn't do our offense any good to go against us either because our defense is completely different than their defense.

Q. Speaking of defense, can you evaluate how far along the defense is this season and what you've been happy with?

I've been happy with the last six quarters that they've played. All but one series of downs in Army. That's as good as I've ever had a team play against the triple option. There was one series in the second half that we looked like the old days where they had about five or six plays and scored so fast it was amazing. But other than that series, that is the best I've ever had a defense play against the triple option, because you know my feeling about the triple option.

Q. What would you attribute that to?

I think they just played really hard. Now someone said we looked fast. I don't think we're any faster than we were last year or the year before. I think the linebacker and secondary position feel very comfortable in our defensive scheme, so maybe they're reacting a little quicker than they have in the past.

Q. Obviously success breeds confidence, and it's only one game. But did you kind of see your young guys grow up a little bit in that game half the week?

Our offensive line, where we're worried about the young guys, played much better in the first game. Our defensive line played a lot better in the first game too. But now they're doing something completely different because of the offense. We'll see how they hold up. You know, we're not very big. Now that's by design. I'm not complaining. That's by design because as many spread teams and throwing teams as you play now, you're looking for quickness and speed at the defensive line. These guys have a different attitude. They're gigantic. They have two fullbacks that are 245 pounds. So these guys get to you and say, `we're just going to run over you.'

Q. How do you avoid a situation similar to what happened at Portland State where it pretty much became a shootout? How do you make sure that doesn't happen?

I don't know if you can do that. You go into every game to try to shut somebody down and slow things down. Every game there is a possibility that a quarterback is going to get hot or a running back is going to get hot. You're going to have trouble slowing them down. It turns into can you outscore them or not? Hopefully we can slow them down a little better than the first two teams did, because they didn't slow them down at all. The other thing is they haven't turned the ball over yet either. They've caused some turnovers, but they haven't turned the ball over themselves. Then they have a real tendency in special teams. They've proven that they're one of the best block teams in the history of college football. Last year they set a league record, they blocked ten kicks. The first game they didn't block any. Last game they blocked three. They blocked two field goals and one punt against Portland State. I don't know what they're doing different than other people do, but they have a great ability to block kicks.

Q. Does that concern you with your kicking situation?

It concerns me with the protection of our kickers and punters. You can't make it if it gets blocked. So far our punt protection has been pretty good, but they're going to put it to the test.

Q. You mentioned how the first teams in the season have a different offensive philosophy and schemes. Was that by design to give your team all sorts of different offensive looks?

No, I think the schedule was decided long before this year. I actually think it's as good a preseason or non conference schedule as you can have because of that, because it gives you a chance to prepare for the conference. Obviously, our number one goal is to win the conference championship, and it gives you a chance to prepare for the conference. If everybody's paying attention on how well North Dakota's been playing and how well San Jose State's been playing the last two games, it makes it really good preparing us for our conference play.

Q. Can you speak to the progression of Nat Berhe and your defense and him making the transition last year from Warrior to Aztec? Thoughts on how he's done?

He's a good player. He's one of the better defensive backs in our league. It's nice to see his production in the first two games because that position is designed for him to make a lot of plays. That's the way, in our defense, that position is designed. You're supposed to have a really good player that makes a lot of tackles. It didn't surprise me at all that he made 14 tackles against Army, because when you play that kind of offense, that guy should make double digit tackles. He's the one guy they should have trouble blocking. He's getting better as we go. He'll just get better as the season goes along.

Q. Does it take a particular mindset and a particular mind to play that position?

Yes, it takes some physical ability too. You have to have enough speed and quickness to be like a DB. You have to have enough toughness to be like a linebacker. The mentality is he should want to make every tackle. There are very few guys in this world that actually think that way. I want to make every tackle. We have two guys on our team now that do that. Jake Fely wants to make every tackle. He wants to make every single tackle, and Nat's getting more like that.

Q. But you've seen him have to arrive at that?

Yeah, he's had to learn that. Because I don't think he's been put in a position where we rely on him that much. I don't think in any defense anybody relies on that position more than we do in our defense.

Q. What do you see from their quarterback Hendrickson?

The first game they had a starter that was a transfer from North Carolina. They had a transfer who was left handed which would have been just fine with us because our scout team quarterback is left handed. But he got hurt in the first game right before halftime and Hendrickson came in. I think he completed about 60% of his passes from then to the end of the game too. Last week he threw six touchdown passes. Now some of that is Hardin. Some of that is the receiver. Because a couple of them, he just threw them up deep and Hardin went and outraced everybody to the ball and went 66 yards for the touchdown. So any time a quarterback has a good day, a lot of it has to do with the guys he's throwing to. They also have two redshirt freshmen receivers that are 6'4", and 6'3". The 6'3" guy weighs 233 pounds. So at the receivers I'm saying this, and everybody's saying its North Dakota. Their receivers are a tough match up for us because of the height of the young guys and the speed of Hardin. Hardin is as fast as anybody we've played against in the last two years. I just was watching last year's TCU game to try to get a feel for it because TCU has wide receivers like this guy. It's the same thing. It's very similar.

Q. Who on the scout team will play Hardin? How do you prepare for that?

We've got two young guys. They're not as fast as he is. Eric Judge is from San Diego High, and Lloyd Mills is from Arizona. They're little guys, but they both run fast. Last year we had Ezell Ruffin. That was great for our scout team. It wasn't good for our team because he should have been playing, but it was great for our scout team.

Q. You said after the game that one of the best things about the game was the fans. How important is it to fill up the stadium?

It's always important to get the home field advantage. If nobody shows up, you don't have a home field advantage. I was most impressed with the student section last week. That is the most students we've ever had at a game. The four years I've been here, that was by far the most students we've had at a game. Like I said after the game, they even stayed through most of the third quarter. Someone told me that's because the game started at 4:30. If the game had started at 7:00, they'd have been out of there by halftime. This game starts at 5:00. So hopefully the students will show back up and they'll have a good time through the third quarter. But I was impressed with the student section especially.

Q. You get to take a look at Miles Burris last night?

I did. I watched a little bit of it. He played pretty well, made a lot of tackles. I noticed they were taking him out on third down situations. They took him out when it was a passing situation and put a nickel back in for him. I think I caught him on a couple of special teams too, on the kickoff team or the punt team.

Josh Wade
Ryan Katz
Alec Johnson

Q. What kind of defensive mindsets have to happen with the change in the opponent's offense?

Josh Wade: You definitely have to change mindsets going against the triple option. They do a lot of things different and unorthodox. But there's a good team with a good quarterback and wide receiver coming (in here this weekend). There are a lot of good pass concepts. We've just got to change our mindset, and Coach will come in with a game plan this week and try to install it and we will try to execute like he did last week.

Q. What do you see from their receiver Greg Hardin? How does he stack up to the receivers you've faced in the past?

Josh Wade: He's very quick. We see on film, he's running by guys. He goes up after the ball, and he has a good quarterback behind him throwing the ball. So we'll see how we fare and hopefully we'll have a good week in practice. Hopefully the scouts give us a great look like they did last week and we can be very prepared for it.

Q. Is there any receiver he reminds you of from last season?

Josh Wade: No, I can't really place him with anybody. He has a style of his own. He looks very quick on film. I'm excited, it's going to be a challenge this week for the defensive backs and the defense in general to go out and stop a team that's putting up points like they are and moving the ball as well as they've been moving it.

Q. Coach mentioned before that establishing the run was a huge part of your success and moving forward it will be as well. How important is it to get that going?

Alec Johnson: Definitely. That's what we try to do offensively is run the ball. It establishes what we do, and it's kind of our identity. Play action comes off that, so it's very important. We as an offensive line understand that we need to run the ball as an offense.

Q. Obviously success breeds confidence, and it's only one game. But for any of you guys, was there a feeling in the room like the young guys might have grown up a little bit in that Army game?

Ryan Katz: Yeah, definitely. It's great to get a win whenever you can. It was a tough loss in week one (and) guys are just anxious to get back on the field and get a W in the W column. It was a good game. A lot of young guys played and everyone got a lot of good playing time. So it was good for our team.

Q. How does this year's defense kind of stack up with past years?

Josh Wade: The guys have gotten a lot of reps. When Coach Long came in, he's been working with a lot of the guys and they're starting to get older and they have experience playing with the way we rotate and the way a lot of guys get on the field. You've seen the plays over and over. With that repetition, you start to get a better play for it, and you play faster and more aggressive towards things.

Q. Now that it's been four years into learning Rocky Long's 3 3 5, do you feel you've gotten it down?

Josh Wade: We definitely have gotten steps of understanding it more. You can always get better. We're not going to get content with learning it. There are different game plans every week. We've got to come out and execute for the opponent that we face that week. With things changing and things like that, we have to stay on our toes. But, yeah, we feel more confident with the 3-3-5 defense and understanding where we have to be and playing with each other instead of our guys doing their own thing. We play and each person does their job, and that ultimately shows up in the team stats.

Q. Coach said he was pretty pleased with the offensive line last week. How did you guys grade out? What did you think the line learned over the last two games that will help serve you well going forward?

Alec Johnson: We graded out all right. We did all right. We can get better, definitely. We still need to work on protection, and keeping Ryan clean and keeping our backs up and running the ball again. We can get better is my response to that.

Q. What is the biggest difference in playing in an atmosphere like Washington and coming back home?

Ryan Katz: It was great. That was my first game in Qualcomm. The student section was great and we had a lot of fans there. So, yeah, it was great to get in front of the home crowd and finally play in front of them.

Q. How important is it to not overlook this team on Saturday?

Ryan Katz: You can't do it. They're the next team on your schedule. We have to prepare for them. We have to prepare for them hard. We have to have a great week of practice like we did last week and just keep building on it. We're not taking anyone lightly. They're the next opponent and we want to beat them.

Q. Josh, same question. Also Rocky had mentioned the sizes and weights of every offensive lineman. Does that trouble you at all?

Josh Wade: Yeah, they have some guys that can make plays. They have bigger guys that can put up a lot of points. We're not going to take anybody lightly. We're going to prepare as hard as we did last week. Have guys practice and go out and execute and play the best we can play.

Q. What they've done is eye opening. Is that almost helpful to you guys in a way to keep you focused?

Josh Wade: Yeah, we want to go out and compete. We'd like to go out and compete against other good teams and they've been playing well. Like I said, they've been scoring a lot of points, and we take it as a challenge. So we're going to go out and try to keep this ball rolling with the win and just go out and play as hard as we can. Another home game for the fans, we like playing here and want go out and get another win.

Q. What is one big thing in the game that you guys are doing well?

Josh Wade: We're playing together. Guys are being where they need to be. Guys are making plays and we're getting a lot of hats to the football. You saw that with Army because they run that triple option, and it's important to get a lot of guys to the ball. So I think guys are understanding where they need to be and how to play together more. You can see it more as we get more repetitions and more practice at it. Guys are starting to understand a lot more.

Q. Coach kind of mentioned that the first three teams you guys play all run different offensive schemes. How good of a test is that for you guys in the preparation going forward?

Josh Wade: It's good in the sense that we get a feel for a lot of different things. These guys can come out, they have a lot of different pass concepts against teams that run the ball more and they have a lot of size. We have to go out and have good technique, be in the right spots and be aware of what's going on. Like you said, they have very different schemes every week. So, yeah, that is the biggest thing is making sure we prepare differently and have the proper game plan and players executing.

Q. Also, Nat Berhe had a good year last year. Wasn't talked about too much coming into the season but he has had a pretty good couple of games. How important is he to the team and how have you seen his development?

Josh Wade: Nat's a very good player. I was happy to see him go to Aztec. The coaches asked him to play Aztec and be in certain spots, and he was able to do that this week. He's getting a lot better. He's an athlete. So when you put him in positions to make plays, we can count on him as a defense to make the proper plays that we need him to make for us. So he should be a very good player this year.

Q. How well would you say your trust is coming along with you and the receivers, especially with you and Ezell?

Ryan Katz: It's going well. We've been working all summer and I knew Ezell was a good player when I first got here. He's put a lot of work in over the summer and it's coming along well. We can keep building, have another good week of practice and keep the ball rolling.

Q. Did you get a chance to watch Miles Burris last night? What were your thoughts on that?

Josh Wade: I thought Miles played well. I saw him get a couple tackles for loss. He looked pretty big like he had been getting in the gym a little bit, and I thought he played well. I was happy to see an Aztec out there being successful like that.

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