SDSU Football News Conference Quotes

Sept. 18, 2012

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Press conference with:

Rocky Long

Opening statement:

(We've) got a huge challenge this week. San Jose State, after watching a lot of film, they're really good. You can look at their scores over the last three weeks and just tell that they're really good. I know that it's been a little while since we've played them, but the last two times San Jose State has played us, they've won in very impressive fashion. On defense, they're aggressive. They're aggressive in the kicking game. They cover kicks really well. They're very aggressive on defense. On offense they're explosive. They threw for 400 something yards last week against Colorado State. Quarterback is fifth or sixth in the country or something like that for percentage of completions. He's got three good receivers he throws to. They've got a couple pretty good running backs. They're good.

Q. How would you assess them in regards to the team that you played last week, which also had a pretty good offensive unit, and the task that you're going to be facing to try to stop these guys?

I think on offense, the quarterback is comparable, the receivers are comparable. San Jose's running backs are better and their tight ends are better. On defense they're a lot better.

Q. What are you guys working on defensively this week to try and step up your game against this team that has comparable quarterbacks and receivers but better running backs and better tight ends, so an all around better offense?

Hopefully we can get a pass rush with four guys. It's a fundamental issue, it's not a scheme issue. You can only scheme people so much, and after a while, if you play good football teams, you've got to be able to in order to play decent pass defense, you've got to be able to rush four guys and get some decent heat on the quarterback.

Q. The few times that you guys did get pressure on the quarterback, Jake Fely came off the weak side. What did you guys see in that?

Jake is one of our guys that play really hard, so (with) the flexibility that we have in our defense, we can bring anybody from anywhere. At the time we were trying to play a certain zone coverage, and the best way to play that coverage is to make Jake the pass rusher. We brought him off the edge a couple times, we brought him inside a couple times.

Q. Can you talk a little bit about how your running game has evolved, and with such a high scoring opponent you're facing, it would be nice to hog that ball, wouldn't it?

It would be very nice to be able to run the ball. Now, like I said, San Jose is a lot better on defense than the team we just played. Our offensive line continues to get better, and we've got two pretty good running backs. Adam Muema played a little bit last year and showed that he had some ability, and he and Walter Kazee are a good combination. Walter might be a little quicker, a little more experienced, Adam is a little bit stronger, can break arm tackles.

Q. In terms of your offensive evolution, it seems like every week they've just gotten better and better. How good can we expect this offense to be, and how close to where you want them to be are they at this point?

We're a long way away. As we continue to play during the year, we're going to play much better defenses than we've played against so far. One of them is this weekend. I don't know how good Army is on defense. They gave up 40 points to us, and they gave up 40 points to Northern Illinois, so I'm guessing they're not real good on defense. Last week's team that we played wasn't very good on defense. So our offense has had a couple really good weeks where they've really performed well, but they're going to play against a much tougher defense this week. I think San Jose State's defense held Stanford under 300 yards and they also held UC Davis under 300 yards. Now, Colorado State threw for quite a few yards against them, but no one has consistently run the ball against them.

Q. Zero turnovers in the past two games. Who do you give credit to the most on offense with that?

I think the emphasis our offensive coaches put on that. Whenever you're in a close football game, we can discuss and argue why you win and lose, but any time it's a close football game, turnover margin is the biggest reason you win or lose. We lost the turnover margin in Washington, and we lost. We won the turnover margin the last two weeks, and we've won. Now, the Army game wasn't close, but last week's game was close. There was a one touchdown difference in last week's game, and that was an interception for a touchdown. Both offenses scored the exact same number of times.

Q. You mentioned that run defense. Is that scheme, talent, activity? Why are they so effective?

They've got better players. They're pretty good up front. They've got aggressive linebackers. So it's hardly ever scheme. At this level, even though commentators will say certain coach's out coach other coaches. At this level, scheme wise you very seldom get out coached scheme wise. So usually it's how effective your players are, how they execute the plan, and obviously the more talented players you have, the easier it is for them to execute the plan. But now I say that, and some of it has to do with fundamentals and some of it has to do with their concentration, their intensity level, how hard they want to play. You can never take the heart out of a player. If you play with a lot of intensity and a lot of heart, all of a sudden those schemes seem to work a whole lot better.

Q. At the start of the game it was one of the hottest games in history. As far as the mental approach, how would you assess the team's mentality,in the game?

I don't think we worried about it. We prepared them by explaining to them they'd better hydrate the whole game, but we didn't have any cramping problems, and we had practiced all week in the same weather, so I don't think it was any big deal whatsoever. I was kind of hoping it was going to be a big deal for them, but it didn't seem to bother them, either.

Q. On the conference call this morning a couple other coaches also expressed that they had had the same problem that you guys had against North Dakota against other teams. They couldn't get a pass rush on. Does this speak to maybe offenses evolving and being these high powered passing offenses more that defenses can't catch up or is it maybe a week where three teams had the same problem?

No, I think you're hitting on something. The offensive game has evolved where they're putting a lot more pressure on defenses, with the hurry up, with the spread. They're throwing the ball a lot more in the high school level and below that, they've gone to the seven on seven tournaments. The skill players have improved dramatically on offense over the last 10 or 15 years just because of the number of events they can go to. The training of quarterbacks, the training of receivers, and then all the rules over the last 10 or 15 years have been made to help the offense. There were four or five penalties in the last game that gave them three scores. 10 years ago, none of those would have been penalties. None of them would have been even close to penalties 10 years ago. Now all of a sudden you hit a quarterback in the chest and it's a 15 yard penalty, and guess what, they score after it. A receiver and a DB run into each other, and its pass interference, and guess what, afterwards they score. The offensive skill players have improved dramatically, the schemes have improved better by the spread. Quarterbacks are better, they get rid of the ball quicker, so you don't have to protect them as well. That's why defensive linemen and cornerbacks go so high in the draft, so you can rush four and get to the quarterback, and you've got enough DBs out there that can cover somebody man to man.

Q. So as a defensive guy, how do you keep up with that?


Q. It's nothing to do with scheme?

It has nothing whatsoever to do with scheme.

Q. Do you look for a different kind of defensive lineman or a different kind of cornerback now than you did before? Are there different things you're looking for?

Yes, you're looking for much better athletes in the defensive line than you used to. In fact, in the NFL they have the gigantic guys they put in there on 1st down to fill up gaps, and after that they take all those guys out of the game and put all these fast guys into the game to rush the quarterback. So at our level, we look for a guy that can do a little bit of both. Then if you're young like we are in the defensive line and you haven't developed your fundamental skills of pass rushing, and all of a sudden you have a 6'2", 260 pound guy going up against a 6'8", 343 pound guy, if he doesn't beat him with his quickness, guess what, he doesn't get to the quarterback.

Q. Do you see as big of a challenge going against San Jose State's offensive line as you had last weekend? That was a pretty huge North Dakota line.

San Jose is not as big, but they're more athletic. We're not going to be engulfed as bad as we were against North Dakota. I'm going to say this: We've got really good athletes in our offensive line, but their fundamental skills are in the development stages. You have to do a lot of things right to be able to rush the passer, and just because you're quick and fast doesn't mean that you can do it, and our kids are getting better as it goes. But until we get a decent pass rush with four guys, our pass defense is very suspect.

Q. On the other end, like you said, if you can't get a pass rush with four guys then you have to kind of blitz but you have to play better man to man. Is that an approach that you guys use?

Yeah, we did that last week, too. We started blitzing the heck out of him. The trouble with man coverage is if one guy makes one false step, instead of a 10 yard catch, it's an 80 yard catch. In zone coverage, a guy can be out there and they catch the ball and he misses the tackle, there are two or three other guys to run over there and tackle him. In man coverage, you slip, you plant and slip, or you undercut the route and you misjudge the ball, a five yard slant route turns into a 70 yard touchdown. So you fight the battle. Now, if you get behind, you have to take the chance. But if you don't get behind, you play it a little bit softer and let them catch balls and everybody jump up and down about them catching balls, but it takes longer to score and maybe you can outscore them. But if you can't get a pass rush with four guys, you've got to take some chances and blitz them, and then you're really taking some chances of giving up big plays.

Q. Your defense played well for about seven quarters. I believe it was 114 minutes without giving up a passing touchdown, and now this happens. What is the biggest thing your defense takes away from this last game?

We lost some confidence because going into the game I thought we were very confident. So we lost some confidence. It's been told to our players, hopefully that means to our players that we've got to go back and we've got to get a whole lot better fundamentally at what we're doing. We've got to have better technique in man coverage and we've got to do a lot better at rushing the passer. I think I said this at the very start: Our defensive line is a work in progress, and I was hoping by the third or fourth game that they would be at game speed. It didn't look like it last week. The Washington game, they wanted to run the ball. They didn't protect the passer, as well, neither. The second game we played, they don't like to throw it, they want to run it every snap, so that makes it kind of easy on DBs if they don't ever want to throw it. Then all of a sudden we played someone who had a really hot quarterback and some good receivers and he threw it 50 times. You saw what happened. Now, San Jose has got a much better running game. They've got two better running backs and they run a lot of pro set and they have more success running power plays and zone plays and all that. But they have an ability to go to a spread offense. Their quarterback, I think, has a completion rate of 77 percent. That's pretty good. That's one of the top five guys or six guys in the country. We're not the only one having this problem. Just look at the stats when they play those kinds of teams. It's disappointing, but we're not the only ones. You give us Alabama's defensive line, I'll bet you it changes.

Q. How long do you think this evolution has been taking place?

Oh, the last 10 years, maybe more than that. The last 10 years. Then offensive linemen are allowed to hold now, defensive backs are not. In the old days offensive linemen could not hold, there was a penalty, and defensive backs did hold, and they didn't call it. I mean, there are a lot of techniques in the old days you could use playing pass coverage. I used some of them. If a guy is faster than you, you just grab a hold of his behind and don't let him outrun you. It's really simple. But now you just bump a shoulder and the flag goes up and it's pass interference.

Q. How about Seamus McMorrow? We got the depth chart today. Is he your placekicker for this week or for the rest of the season?

Our placekicker has not been decided yet for this week.

Q. Even though he's listed on the top of your depth chart?

The depth chart doesn't mean anything. Haven't you figured that out yet? There are only a couple positions that that depth chart you know for sure will stay the same. There are several other positions that could change by game time on who starts, not just kicker, either. There are a lot of positions like that.

Q. You talked a little bit about confidence. Katz's confidence has to be pretty high right now, career high in touchdowns?

Whenever you're successful you gain confidence, and I think he has. Our offense has, too. They've played with a lot of confidence. Hopefully they can continue to play like that.

Q. Do you let him loose since he does have more confidence, or do you kind of keep him in the same mold because he's successful in what he's doing?

How do you mean let him loose?

Q. More passes and stuff like that.

No, I don't think that has anything to do with Ryan. That is totally our offensive package. Our offensive package is we want to be a 50/50 team, but we want to be able to run the ball. So if you're able to run the ball, your ability to protect the passer becomes a lot better with play action pass. They don't run up the field as fast. So I don't think it has anything to do with Ryan. It's just the way we want to play on offense.


Q. Ryan, career high touchdowns, did you do anything different before the game?

Ryan Katz: No, same old thing. Just went out, just tried to hit the guys when they were open.

Q. What do you take from that performance overall?

Ryan Katz: As an offense, we did well. We scored almost every time we got the ball. That's our goal as an offense and we are going to try to do it this week, too.

Q. Do you feel like the offense has been truly tested? The last two teams didn't have a very good defense and North Dakota didn't have a very good defense. Do you guys feel like you know what you're capable of at this point and you've played up to your potential?

Alec Johnson: There's room for improvement. You watch the film and there's definitely room for improvement. We can get better as an offense. It's going to be a test this week. They are a good team. They are tough on defense, so I'm excited to see what we can do.

Q. From watching the film, what do they do so well on defense?

Alec Johnson: They are tough. They put a lot of guys in the box, which makes some things tough. They are good on defense, so it should be a good game for us.

Q. As an offensive lineman, how does it feel to have two backs go for over a hundred yards?

Alec Johnson: It's nice. They're working hard. Both our backs run hard. They run really hard, so makes us look good at times. Sometimes the holes are not there and they make one. It's definitely nice to have two backs that we can depend on as an offense.

Q. And as far as the confidence you guys on fourth and one got called for a holding penalty; for a coach to rely on you in a big time situation like that, how did that feel?

Alec Johnson: It's good. It's definitely what we try to do as an offense, run the ball and pound the rock. On fourth and one, its crunch time and that's what we need to do.

Q. From what you've seen from San Jose State, are they better against the pass or against the run?

Ryan Katz: We've seen them play against Stanford. Stanford likes to run the ball. They had a lot of guys in the box. They do a little of both, though. We are going to have to throw the ball and run the ball. So it should be a good challenge this week.

Q. Can you talk to the passing game, how important the running game is, for you guys to establish something?

Ryan Katz: It's great, most of our big plays were off play action. So establishing the run first gets everyone in the box and we have one on one coverage behind it. It just opens up everything. A lot of things are open downfield and when you run the ball like that, it's good for an offense.

Q. Do you see that progressing each week, more of a rhythm?

Ryan Katz: I'd like to. When we are running the ball well, we tend to do well on offense. Yeah, I'd like to have two backs over a hundred (yards rushing) every week.

Q. Was the heat a factor for any of you guys at all?

Alec Johnson: Not really. Just had to drink more water before the game, hydrate up. Other than that, don't think about heat while you're playing game. Think about the next play, don't really think about heat.

Q. Every week seems like you have a different offensive player that steps up; what does that say about your offense and what you guys can do?

Ryan Katz: We've got a lot of weapons. All these guys have shown what they can do and they have each had a good game, each of the three games that we've played. So you know, just try to maybe keep that rhythm going and it's good for an offense when you have a different guy stepping up every week.

Q. What's one thing you guys can improve in?

Alec Johnson: Offensive line standpoint, finishing blocks downfield. We can always protect longer, keeping Ryan clean. We've got to get no sacks, there's our goal every week and we've given up a sack every week. So that's not acceptable. We've got to work on that. So that's what we've got to work on up front.

Ryan Katz: As far as the backfield and the receivers go, there are still big plays out there (after) just watching the film over again. I think we punted the ball twice. If we make one or two more big plays, we don't punt the ball at all, and it's a 60 point game. Just try to capitalize on those mistakes and continue to make plays.

Q. Are you expecting another shootout?

Ryan Katz: We'll see as an offense. I don't really know what they do on offense, but as an offense, we are going to try to score the ball, like I said, every time we get the ball. From that aspect, you know, that's all I really can say.

Q. Usually which receiver has the ball is determined by your progressions, but have you felt like a different person has just been on his game the past few weeks? How does that work?

Ryan Katz: I wouldn't say week to week. In practice, they all run through reps and they rotate. It's just a matter of who's in at that time. It seems like it's like that. Brice had a good game this week, Ezell had a good game last week. I think it's just a matter of who's in. The guys are running the routes and they are all capable of getting open.

Q. What's the preparation for a game when you have a cast?

Alec Johnson: Snap with the other hand. I've done it before. Just sucks that I have to do it again, but good thing I'm left handed is the only thing I can say about that.

Q. Can you tell us the story behind that, how that happened?

Alec Johnson: It was down on the goal line. I think I stepped on it or, I don't know, but I just remember feeling some decent amount of pain. So came off the field and doctor checked it out and said it was broken. That's where I'm at now.

Q. What's broken?

Alec Johnson: I broke my hand.

Q. Like a specific bone?

Alec Johnson: The middle finger, the third.

Q. How long do you have the cast on?

Alec Johnson: Three or four weeks they say.

Q. This is the same thing you did last year, it was the right hand you broke last year?

Alec Johnson: Yeah, just makes blocking a little harder. I've done it before so it's all right.


Q. So the defense had a rough night last time out. Talk about what was it like in the locker room after? What did you guys talk about? What's the morale?

Josh Wade: A lot of defensive guys are disappointed in the lack of our execution on our half. The offense held it up for us pretty good. We just didn't make enough plays on third and fourth down to get them off the field. They found a way to keep drives alive. It was disappointing for the defensive backs especially. We talk amongst ourselves, and we know we have to get a lot better for this week because it's going to be another challenge come this Saturday.

Q. What did they do that was so hard to stop? Coach said it hard to get a pass rush on, regardless of whether you did it up front; what was it about that team that was so tough?

Josh Wade: The quarterback was mobile enough to get out and keep the play alive. Then we weren't getting good enough pressure on him and he was just locating guys and putting the ball right on them. He did a really good job with that. We had plenty of opportunities to get them off the field, and somehow we just didn't execute and do enough to stop drives and get them off the field.

Q. Do you guys feel like the last weekend was kind of a step back?

Leon McFadden: It's a step back, but at the same time we can look at the film and learn from it and put it into play this week against San Jose. These two teams are similar and we're going to have to cover guys. Like Josh said, in the secondary we have talked amongst ourselves and we have come to the conclusion that no matter who we are playing, you have to pay attention to your assignments.

Q. I know it's still pretty early in the week, but are you expecting a more formidable challenge than last week?

Leon McFadden: Yeah, they have three good receivers and a better running back and tight end, so they have more threats. Watching the little bit of film that we have already started to watch, these guys are going to come out hungry and ready to prove a point. They are coming off a 2 1 record so far and barely losing to Stanford by three. So they are a pretty good team.

Q. Talk about the first points of game, it seemed like you got your defense rolling.

Leon McFadden: The pick to the house was coming from our line up front, getting pressure on their quarterback for him to get rid of it fast. That's all credit to them. That's the only reason why I was able to do that.

Q. At which point in the game last week, did you guys go and play more of a man-to-man?

Josh Wade: Coach switched it up a lot through the game. There were situations where he wanted to put more pressure on the quarterback and to do that we had to go play man. We didn't get enough pressure and he found a way to complete a ball. We would go back to zone and some of those were working for us. It works off and on for us throughout the game, so it was majority. Then in the fourth quarter, we started playing a lot of zone. That last drive, we were able to get them on the field and we played a lot of both. It was just a mixture, we mixed it up a little bit, started playing more zone towards the second half.

Q. So that was probably working better for you guys?

Josh Wade: I think so, yeah.

Q. When you know that you're a young defense and still really learning to put on a pass rush, does that put more pressure on you to make sure that if the ball does come your way, you can't get beat?

Leon McFadden: Yeah, it does put a little bit more pressure on us, being able to stay in coverage a little bit more. Our secondary is experienced, so we are able to handle that task.

Q. Would you guys say you gel better after a big win against Army?

Josh Wade: It's definitely a confidence booster. It was strange transition going from Army because they ran that ball almost every play that game. And then to come out and have North Dakota come out and throw it around the park like that. You feel good about wins, but we have to execute and figure out another game plan for the next opponent in front of us.

Q. How valuable was it getting the experience of game speed against a team like North Dakota going into San Jose State?

Leon McFadden: It's definitely valuable. It's helping us going into this next week. Like Josh said, you're playing against somebody who runs the ball and then the next weekend, they are throwing the ball almost every other play. Especially for secondary, that's what we want people to do is throw the ball, have action.

Q. You guys have been around college football for a while, you're pretty experienced. Like in the last few years, do you feel like offensive skill players are faster, better and just more skilled coming into college than they were before? Last week you guys were not the only Mountain West team that got a lot of points hung on you as a defense; do you see a switch there at all?

Josh Wade: I feel like the game is changing a little bit. A lot of teams are wanting to throw the ball more, a lot of screen passes and a lot of one on one matchups and trying to make guys miss in the open field. As a secondary, you've still got to be able to make plays and confuse quarterbacks and get to where you need to be to execute. So yeah, a lot of teams are passing the ball more as the game changes.

Q. So how do you guard against the secondary? Does it go back to fundamentals?

Leon McFadden: Exactly. You said it right there. It goes back to fundamentals. Each opponent you play, you are going to have to pay attention to fundamentals, no matter their skill level. If you're caught slipping, the ball will find you and it will be a big play.

Q. Would you say you guys were a little over confident going into the North Dakota game as a defense, the way you played the week before?

Josh Wade: No, I don't think we were over confident. I know a lot of guys on the team are competitive and we want to perform in front of any opponent that's in front of us. We just didn't get it done in the sense of making plays to get them off the field and cover guys well enough. I know guys are going to be excited this week in practice, and we have a lot to prove. We have a lot of game play and stuff to get in front of us. So we are going to go out here and cover better next week.

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