SDSU Football News Conference Quotes

Oct. 9, 2012

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SAN DIEGO --

Rocky Long

Opening statement:

Last week we made a little improvement in a few areas, but we are far from being a good football team. So we have to continue to improve and we better continue to do it or we'll have trouble winning any more games.

Q. What did the team improve on?

We rushed the passer a little bit better and we played a little bit better pass defense.

Q. What did you make of Colorado State's defense, after being able to slow down Fresno State?

I thought they did a really nice job of confusing the quarterback, because I watched the film, obviously. They played some bracket coverage, which is, I don't know if that's what they always do. Because I don't study the other team's defense that much, but I watched what they did. They played some bracket coverage, which is very technical. It's hard to teach unless that's what you do all the time. I'm guessing they must play bracket coverage all the time because they did it pretty well and they confused the quarterback. Now Fresno (State) had great success running the ball, so you don't throw it as much. If you have great success running the ball, you don't throw it as much. You don't throw it 50 something times if you're rushing it for 250 yards.

Q. How do you capitalize on this momentum going into this game?

The only way you capitalize is to continue to win.

Q. Any special challenges that Colorado State offers up to you guys?

COACH LONG: All kinds. The Colorado State defense has improved every week, and last week they played really well. On offense, they have a new quarterback. His first start was last week. The week before that, he played most of the whole game. The starting quarterback went down in the Air Force game early, so he's really played two straight games. He was much improved last week from when he was in the Air Force game. He had better control of the offense. He spread the ball around. I know they want to run it, and they have a running back that tore us up last year. I think he rushed for 220 something yards against us last year in that game. He wasn't healthy early in the year, but he started the last two games. So I'm sure he's looking forward to playing against us again.

Q. Are you sticking with the simpler defensive package in practice or are you thinking of adding some stuff?

No, we're going to try to stay as simple as possible and still give us a chance to win. You can oversimplify things so that the other team knows exactly what you're doing, and then they have a much better chance of out executing you.

Q. When your team is somewhat hard to define sometimes in terms of being successful in the things that you want them to be. Do you find yourself digging a little deeper into your film sessions and other kinds of things to really just pick out what needs to be done, or do you know and you just go?

No, I don't know what needs to be done, because we've tried a lot of things over the last few weeks. I've been coaching a long time. It's my experience that when your team struggles, you work much harder than you do when your team is on a roll. When your team is on a roll and playing well, you don't change anything. You just keep doing the same thing and hopefully they keep performing at the same level. When you struggle at any part of your game, as a coach, you spend much more time and work much harder trying to figure out something that will give your players a chance to play well. The guys that are losing work a lot harder than the guys that are winning.

Q. How did Tim Vizzi come to win the punt return job, and what does he contribute in just the intangibles?

Number one, the punt return is determined on who catches the ball best in practice. Return ability, being able to return the ball once you catch it is secondary. Because the worst thing can you do is fumble a punt, which we've done, by the way. But the guy that gets the return punts is the one that catches it the best. Then if he has the ability to run with it a little bit and the guys on the punt return team can block fairly well, you can get something done. Now he's a wide receiver, so he does some pretty good things with the ball in his hand. If he caught a pass, it's the same as catching a pass. If you can do something with it afterwards, it's an added bonus. Other than the one punt he's dropped, he's done a pretty good job. We also had two penalties on punt returns last week, but the punt return team did a great job of blocking last week.

Q. On Vizzi's work ethic:

Yeah, I think he works hard. This team is a bunch of hard workers. We don't have any, I don't know what you call them, dogs. We don't have any loafers. We don't have those guys on this team. If they're like that, they don't last very long. Most of that is peer pressure. Now we work them really hard. Last week when we played so bad and everyone was talking about it, I told you last week we didn't have one kid quit. We didn't have one kid not play hard. We didn't have one kid not running around, trying to do his job. A lot of teams when they're getting beat like that, they quit. We don't have those kinds of kids in our program. You want positives. There is one right there. We're not a pro football team. They're not getting paid. They're working their tails off and they're trying to play as good as they can play, and it's our job to try to give them a chance to play as good as they can play. This is not pro football.

Q. Injuries wise, is Japheth Gordon going to be back?

I don't think Japheth Gordon will be back. Colin Lockett will be full speed. Well, he's supposed to be full speed today. Who else did we have?

Q. Wade.

Josh Wade should be full speed today. I don't think Japheth will be back.

Q. How long do you expect him to be out?

Now I'm going to talk like I'm a doctor or something because I don't really understand. He broke the other foot the exact same way last year. It's a genetic issue. This is the doctor talking now. It's a genetic issue that there's really nothing they can do to fix it. It heals on its own, and it's just a matter of being able to handle the pain. Last year he did it before our bowl game, so he had three weeks to get used to the pain and played in the bowl game. It actually took him two weeks and then he practiced for a week before the bowl game.

Q. How do you feel Riley Gauld did in place?

He was productive. He can get a lot better, but he was productive.

Q. How about on the D line, is Dontrell still not back?

He's not back.

Q. In terms of Cody Galea stepping in, what did you think of his performance this week?

Cody has improved. He's improved every week. I thought our defensive line played a little bit better last week. It was not a dramatic improvement, but I thought they played a little bit better last week.

Q. In terms of rushing the passer?
Both.

Q. Is it something you added or was it just playing against a lesser opponent?

No, it was a combination of both. They're getting better as the season goes along. The people that we played weren't quite as good.

Q. What about King Holder? Did you see him give a boost to the secondary?

King played well last week. I don't think one game makes you a star.

Q. Given that you lost a four year starting quarterback, one of the top rushers in the nation and a good bulk of your offensive line, have you been surprised at all that your offense has been able to keep up the scoring pace the way they have?

Maybe a little. People forget what coaches say before the season ever starts. And they make their own determination before the season starts and they stay on that kick. Before the season, I said our concern was on the offensive line. Our concern was not the running game. Our concern was not receivers. We had much better receivers than we did the year before. So it was all about one guy playing well, and that was whoever was going to be the starting quarterback. We're running the ball really well. With a young offensive line, we're not protecting the quarterback as good as we should be. We knew that going into the season, the offensive line could struggle at times. The biggest surprise to me has been Ryan Katz' ability to scramble and run with the football. I watched film of him at Oregon State. He was okay at scrambling, but he's throwing the ball here like he did at Oregon State, but he's getting a lot more with his feet than I ever thought he would.

Q. When did you first realize Katz could run?

In spring and fall camp, they scramble around and they never get hit. So you never know until they actually get into a game. You remember two weeks into fall camp he was making a lot of plays, scrambling around and nobody could hit him. So we stopped that. Any time he scrambled, we blew the whistle, tried to get him to stay in the pocket and throw the ball for the good of the whole team, for the good of the offense and the good of the defense. So the ball was in the air. When you don't hit him in practice, it's hard to tell he's that good at carrying the football. All the quarterbacks look good scrambling around in practice when they never get hit. He's been a pleasant surprise on how well he carries the football.

Q. Is that toughness, the fact that he'll scramble and not be afraid to get hit as he's running?

No, I think it's a belief in athletic ability. There is not a good quarterback in the country that's afraid of getting hit. I watch those pro quarterbacks. They'll sit in there and take a huge lick to complete a pass. The good ones will. The bad ones won't. But the good ones will stick in there and throw a pass and get hit right in the throat just as they're throwing it. So it's not a factor of toughness with good quarterbacks.

Q. As long as he's running for touchdowns, I assume you're okay with it. But do you want him running that much?

Two of his touchdowns were designed runs. So we wanted them to carry those. We would hope that he doesn't have to scramble as much as he's scrambling. But he's been sacked several times too. So being a former quarterback, I can completely understand why he gets out of there early. If I've been sacked more than any other quarterback in this league, I can understand why he's getting out of there early.

Q. Is there a chance to incorporate more design runs into your offense in the next two games?

It's all determined on how the defense plays. I thought the offensive staff did a good job seeing how their defense reacted to certain plays and man coverage. So receivers could take them away from the side we were running that play too. I thought that was a great job of scheming by our offensive staff, and I thought it was a really good job of our offensive kids executing. We do a lot of good scheming things that you guys don't know anything about because the players don't execute it.

Q. Going back to Ryan running. On those design plays, I think was the first one almost a bootleg the other night?

Yeah, it was kind of a counter play.

Q. Yeah. Obviously had huge daylight, but when you're coaching him through that, do you want him to kind of get to the sideline and then just get as many yards as he can so he's close to the sideline? How much do you coach him on getting on the ground?

That's a great question. First of all, when he's carrying the ball on a designed run, it's no different than the wildcat. It's exactly what they do in the wildcat. Tim Tebow made it famous last year. It's just that our quarterback's doing it instead of a wide receiver or running back taking the shotgun snap. It's the exact same plays that they run out of the wildcat. No, I don't think you teach him to hit the ground. He's not a pure drop back quarterback. If you design running plays for him, he is a running back. So when he carries the football, his job is to get in the hole and make people miss. In fact, one of the touchdowns that he ran, the free safety had a clean shot at him. Nobody blocked the free safety. The free safety maybe touched him. I've been trying to explain that on the other side of the ball. That is what's happening in college football is you're getting great athletes out in space in one on one situations and the guy carrying the football or catching the football has all the advantages. Because he can set you up, and he can plant and go where he wants to and the guy trying to tackle him has to react. So if you have equal athletes out there, the guy with the ball wins every time. That's what happened with their free safety. I'm sure their free safety is really a good player. Ryan stuck a foot in the ground and went the other way, and all he did was lay a hand on his thigh.

Q. Do you see Ryan going to the NFL?

I don't know how NFL people view him. I know the NFL is starting to go with more athletic quarterbacks. The days of the pure drop back quarterback are kind of going by the wayside. They're starting to get quarterbacks that's can move around and get out of trouble and make plays with their feet. The NFL is always slow reacting to innovations in football. They stick with the proven way for a lot longer than colleges do. Colleges will jump on an idea. If it works, colleges will jump on it quick. The pros kind of mix and match and wait to see if it really works before and then they pay those guys a heck of a lot more. Ryan Katz is on scholarship. I don't know how much he gets, but it's not very much for room and board. In the pros they're paying them a ton of money, so they might not want him to get hit.

Q. If you were an owner or a head coach, would you bring him on?

Ryan Katz?

Q. Yeah.

Would totally depend on who else I already had. You want an honest answer, right?

Q. Say you were in need of a good back up number two quarterback.

Probably not. If I needed a third string quarterback, probably, yes.

Q. Ronnie Hillman is going to return for Monday Night Football. Have you seen him play this year and your advice to him?

I haven't seen him play. I heard he's played in the last two games. I heard he was on the inactive list. He was on the roster, but he wasn't playing for a while. But I heard he played in the last two games and played pretty well. So hopefully he continues to play well. I don't have any advice for him. He made his choice. He's there. He's making good money, and I guess he played pretty well in the two games he played. I don't ever get to watch pro football.

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OFFENSIVE STUDENT-ATHLETES

Q. When you were at Oregon State, it looked like they didn't let you run a whole lot. Is that pretty much not part of the offense up there? What accounts for your very small number of running yards at Oregon State?

Ryan Katz: One, we didn't have too many designed runs. Two, I was wearing a knee brace. So I was just required up there. I wore a knee brace on the plant leg. I don't have one on anymore.

Q. They made you wear a knee brace at every game?

Ryan Katz: Uh huh.

Q. Did you ever have a knee injury?

Ryan Katz: No, they just made all the quarterbacks wear it on your plant leg.

Q. So you can run a little faster now?

Ryan Katz: Little bit.

Q. How much do you enjoy running as kind of that part of being a quarterback?

Ryan Katz: I like it. There are a couple of designed runs in there this week. So, yeah, it's fun. It's fun to get out there, guys blocking for you.

Q. How do you not play down to next week's opponent?

Ryan Katz: Can't do it. I think Hawai'i was 1 4 last week. We did a good job of preparing all last week, and we've got to do the same thing this week. We're trying to get back on a roll. Get another win this week. Just got to keep preparing like we did last week and try to keep this thing going.

Q. You guys are at the midway point right now. How would you assess? Did you see yourselves in this position? Did you think you would be better or worse in some categories?

Alec Johnson: I hoped to be better. 3 3 is not where we want to be around here. So we need to work harder in the second half of the season to do better.

Q. What is one thing you guys can do better or could have done better to have a better record?

Alec Johnson: Given up a lot of sacks as an offensive lineman, that doesn't allow Ryan to get the ball to the receivers. We didn't do that up front. So that's one area we need to improve on in the second half. We're running the ball all right. Running backs are running hard. At times, there are not holes there and Adam Muema and Walter Kazee are making holes. We need to block for them better up front. So I think we can improve as an offense.

Q. The last two games did Fresno State and Hawai'I put some more guys in the box for you guys to have to block?

Alec Johnson: Yeah. Fresno, they blitz a lot and Hawai'i has a lot of man to man coverage. The backers blitz when they see the backs block. So I would say they put a few more players in the box, both teams did.

Q. Do you almost lick your chops, Ryan, when facing opponents like this who are not necessarily lesser quality, but you can score some points on?

Ryan Katz: Not really. To tell you the truth, we try to attack each week the same. We want to win this week no matter who we're playing. So like coach says all the time. It's really about us. It's about how we prepare and how we play, and not really worrying about what the opponent is doing or thinking. We come up with a good game plan, and we try to execute on our part.

Q. So, say you guys beat Colorado State by seven points. Is it a disappointing win for you or still a win?

Ryan Katz: A win is a win.

Alec Johnson: No one's disappointed. That's for sure.

Q. So next week if you guys win by seven, okay, because I could see it the other way. I could see you guys coming back and saying we only won by seven points against an opponent that wasn't necessarily up to par.

Ryan Katz: A win is a win.

Q. What did you guys learn about your offense after the last game?

Alec Johnson: When we execute, we can put up points. It comes down to that. I think we executed pretty good. Still see the film and there is room for improvement, definitely. So (we're) trying to do that. Work and prepare hard this week.

Q. Of all the games you've played so far, which would you say is the most complete offensive performance?

Ryan Katz: I don't know. I don't really want to reflect right now. We're worrying about this week. Like I said, we're trying to get this win this week.

Q. I know it's early in the week, but have you gotten a chance to look at the film yet of Colorado State and gotten a feel of what they like to do on defense?

Ryan Katz: Yeah, we've been in the film room a little bit individually. They've got a good defensive group. They're going to have guys that we've got to prepare for. Coach Ludwig is coming up with the schemes this week, and we'll have to see what he wants to do.

Q. What have you seen them do differently from past opponents or are they similar to your past opponents?

Ryan Katz: They run a pretty base defense. They've got a good defensive line and some good linebackers. And like I said, we're just going to have to prepare for them. We'll get a better beat on them today. Today is when the game plan goes in and the scouting report and everything. We'll get a better read on them this week.

Q. Talk about a situation where you would slide down instead of getting the extra yards if you saw a guy coming from the side. Cause coach said they're not coaching you to go down. What out there would you see?

Ryan Katz: Coach Ludwig tells me every week, protect the ball and protect the team. He doesn't really tell me to slide. But protecting the team, don't try to get some silly extra yards. When the play is done, the play is done. It's kind of just gauging that. I feel like I got a pretty good feel for that, and try not to take any unnecessary hits.

Q. Any emphasis for homecoming week?

Ryan Katz: Get a win. We want a win this week. That's exactly what we want to. How about you, you got anything for homecoming?

Tim Vizzi: No, get the W, execute on all three levels, offense, defense and special teams.

Q. How much do you like blocking for Ryan when he gets scrambling around out there? You're normally looking for him to throw the ball, now you have to block for him?

Tim Vizzi: When he tucks the ball and takes the run, you have to do everything you do to protect your quarterback. He's one of our most important pieces on offense. We need to protect him the best we can.

Q. Talk a little bit about what you guys formed this year and having the successful passing attack. What are you enjoying about that?

Tim Vizzi: Just the ability to go out there and throw the ball. It starts with the run game, so it all begins with the run game. What the guys do up front opens up the pass, and that's basically our attack on the field and every day in the game and in practice.

Q. Yesterday did you guys get a bit of a confidence boost with this game against Hawai'i last week or were they such a depleted team that you still feel like you've got some things to prove to yourselves in general?

Ryan Katz: Definitely. It's definitely a good win to bounce back coming off two tough losses. So it's always good to get another win. But we want to keep this going. This is the second half of the season, and we're going to keep it going this week. We want another win, and after that, just keep it going. Try to get better, like we did last week. We got better in a few things and just learning from the film, learning from our mistakes. Like I said, try not to make those mistakes again.

Q. What what's your thought about Tim Vizzi as a teammate?

Ryan Katz: He's a `we' guy. He's all about the team. He's out there every week giving it his all. I think a lot of guys are `we' guys on this team. There are not a lot of individuals who are all about themselves. That's what I like about it.

Q. What impressed you when you first saw him?

Ryan Katz: He's a hard worker. Every time I needed someone to throw during the summer, he was there throwing with me. He tried to get me to come out snorkeling one time. I couldn't do that. He's a hard worker, definitely. That's what I like about him.

Q. Why wouldn't you go snorkeling?

Ryan Katz: There was a report about a great white out there, and I don't really do that.

Q. Did you try to get him to surf too?

Tim Vizzi: No, I'm not a surfer, but take advantage of La Jolla being 15 minutes away.

Q. How do you feel you guys have been doing on special teams and is there anything you need to work on in that area?

Tim Vizzi: It all starts with protecting the ball, so that was one thing we emphasized on. That we need to protect the ball and we need to make a big play to change the game. So it all starts with catching it and then it just starts with my guys blocking for me. That's what's been happening. Also on the kickoff team, we had a big turnover, so the momentum of the game could completely swing if we get a big play on special teams, so that's what we've been focusing and trying to do lately.

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DEFENSIVE STUDENT-ATHLETES

Q. What did you guys see from King Holder making his first start? Do you think he did well?

Leon McFadden: Yeah, he was amped up for it, to be able to start. He performed great. He had minor technique issues in assignment, but overall the whole game he did well.

Q. Josh, how is the calf?

Josh Wade: It's a lot better. I'll practice more today. I was limited in reps last week, but I should be able to go the whole practice today.

Q. Leon, I'm looking at this SDSU record book, and your name is in a lot of categories and you're creeping up. Just put your years at San Diego State, including this one, into perspective?

Leon McFadden: I didn't even know that I was creeping up in the record books, to be honest with you. Over the years, I'm just going out there and playing hard. I love the game and those accolades came with it. Being in those record books or being in the standings doing that is something that just came along with me doing it and having fun.

Q. How has this year differed from previous years?

Leon McFadden: I guess being recognized by peers in our conference and everything. I feel privileged to be a part of that. And this year is my last year. My last opportunity to be Mountain West champions and that is the legacy I want to leave behind.

Q. Does it almost give you a certain confidence boost when people do recognize you?

Leon McFadden: Yeah, it's definitely a confidence boost for me.

Q. Do you feel like guys up front did a better job rushing the passer last week?

Nick Tenhaeff: They're a young group. Each week, they continue to make great strides and they continue to grow. Every game start they get and every play they have is a major leap forward for them and they are always improving. I'm happy with the performance they had.

Q. It looked like you and Derek were pretty much always in there. Talk about how you guys have picked up your end too?

Nick Tenhaeff: I think it's an entire defensive thing. We know we have to step up our game. We've given up too many points. And we're working overall as a whole to try to improve.

Q. Can you talk about Derek Largent and his first year in the program? What have you seen him doing to develop?

Nick Tenhaeff: Largent is a fun kid. The first day he came in here he was already in the film room. He's somebody I thought could make an impact initially. He tries hard. He works hard on the field. He's a big, strong kid. He has all the physical ability he needs, and he's going to have a bright future here.

Q. What were some of the different things for you guys this week on defense compared to the past couple of weeks?

Josh Wade: Coach kept it simple and the guys were able to execute. It was a really straightforward plan. We were able to fix the technical issues that were hurting us a lot more in games and we were able to play a lot better.

Q. Leon, confidence is such a big deal. Did you get some of your confidence back against Hawai'i?

Leon McFadden: Yeah, most definitely. I know Coach Gonzalez writes in the safeties test every week that we get, `confidence is contagious.' This week, that really affected us. The win gave us a great confidence boost. For us to be successful on the field and be relaxed and paying attention to what we have to do, we have to have that confidence.

Q. Can you guys sort of talk to what you're going to be facing with Colorado State? What kind of problems they might present and what you've got to do?

Leon McFadden: Well, it's early. We watched film yesterday, and as far as the receiving corps, they have a guy that's been there the last three years or so, Lou Greenwood. He's a great receiver and a great athlete. We are looking forward to playing against him in the secondary as well as another guy named Dominique and Marquise. Marquise Law is a bigger guy. He's very athletic. On film, he's athletic. They have a running back coming back that also gave us some trouble last year. (We're) looking forward to playing against him.

Q. Coach described that running back as a guy that tore it up last year. You're not going to let him do that again?

Leon McFadden: No, most definitely not. Especially at Qualcomm, we can't let that happen.

Q. Nick, how well would you say the line backing corps knows the 3-3-5 defense now?

Nick Tenhaeff: Yeah, it's something you have to have a couple of years in because it's such a unique defense from what you ran in high school and things you have run in the past. All of the starters and everybody that gets rotation has a great understanding and knowledge of the defense. And that goes down from the coaching to us. We spend a lot of time in the film rooms and the coaches do a great job preparing us each week for it. We have complete confidence on our assignments every week going in. We're just happy for the opportunity to play again this week.

Q. You were talking about coach simplified things. What was simpler? Was it the play calling, being in certain spots at certain times? What was simplified?

Josh Wade: We called a lot of the same plays a lot during the course of the game. I'm not sure if it was personnel wise or his strategy behind it. But it was very simple. The times that I was in the game, I kept getting the same play calls and from that point you line up and play from there because you're getting into a rhythm and seeing it over and over again through the course of the game. I'm sure it was like that for a lot of the other guys too.

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