SDSU Football News Conference Quotes
Oct. 16, 2012
SAN DIEGO --
Rocky Long: (We have) quite a challenge this week and a good opportunity. Nevada is the best team we've played so far this season. They're top in the nation in total offense. They're scoring 41 points a game. They're rushing the ball equally as throwing it. They do everything really well. They're a great football team.
Q. Your team in New Mexico had a lot of success stopping them in the New Mexico Bowl in 2007. Talk about what the keys are to stopping Nevada?
Rocky Long: It's completely different. It is different offenses, it is different defenses. They've expanded their offense to include a lot of zone read type double option plays with the quarterback carrying it with a blocker in front of him. The offense isn't even close to the same offense. It's out of the pistol formation, but the offense is much better now than it was back then. That was a completely different time.
Q. Was the soft coverage you played against Colorado State just a match up thing or is it something you could see continuing going forward?
Rocky Long: I don't see us playing it this week because you have to have enough people in run support to help stop the run. They're averaging almost 285 or 290 (yards) rushing the ball every week. They've rushed for almost 400 yards against a couple people, so you have to have DB's up there to help with the run support. If you have to have DB's up there to help with the run support, you can't have them playing back there in soft coverage.
Q. Is this pistol offense more dangerous than the triple option you guys have seen and had so much success against?
Rocky Long: It's completely different. It's more of a double option, first of all. They're reading an end man on the line of scrimmage, and they're giving it to the tailback at a deeper position than the triple option does. So the tailback can cut either way so he can see a hole and cut either way. Then they block for the quarterback carrying the ball. They very seldom have a pitch back, only in short yardage do they ever have a pitch back, so it's not a triple option. And then because the tailback is in a normal tailback position, they can run all the normal eye formation plays or power plays or stretch plays or zone plays. Then added to that, they're never in a two back set. They're always in a one back set, so they can spread you from sideline to sideline and throw the ball out of the shotgun. There's a reason Coach Ault is in the Hall of Fame. He's a great coach, this is his invention, and he knows it better than anybody.
Q. What do you think you guys will have to do to stop that offense then? What's the key?
Rocky Long: I don't think you stop it. They're good enough no one else has stopped it. I don't expect that we'll stop it. Our ability to slow it down and keeping the score under control to give us a chance to win, that's our priority.
Q. The running back Jefferson, what are you seeing from him?
Rocky Long: He's only the No. 1 leading rusher in the country, so he does everything well. He finds seams, he gets in the seams, he breaks tackles, he makes people miss. He doesn't fumble. That's why he's top of the chart. He's also carried it more than anybody else, too, so he's pretty durable.
Q. What makes quarterback Cody Fajardo so good?
Rocky Long: It's just he's a little more experienced. He has confidence in his ability. He throws it well. Then when he does carry the ball, and normally with a blocker in front of him, he's got good running ability, he's fast. He reminds me of Kevin O'Connell if you all remember watching Kevin O'Connell run with the ball. He was one of the fastest quarterbacks I've ever seen. This guy is just like him. He's really fast when he carries the ball.
Q. How is Gabe Lemon doing?
Rocky Long: He's all right. He won't play this week. He felt much better on Sunday, so there's a good chance that it'll be a two week deal. He'll be able to play a week from now.
Q. It's an MCL strain, right?
Rocky Long: Uh huh. They're going to put him in a brace. He's not going to practice, but he's going to work out today. He's going to jog around and see if he can backpedal and all those sort of things.
Q. Offensively what do you guys see from Nevada's defense because it looks like both your teams are very similar. You have high scoring offenses and defenses that have had some issues this season. What do you see from their defense?
Rocky Long: I see a lot of experience. I looked at their roster right before I came in here, and out of 21 starters, they have 12 seniors that start and seven senior starters on defense. So they know their scheme very well. They make very few assignment errors. You have to execute really well to be able to move the ball. They've had some issues with a young front four. There's only one senior in their defensive line and the other ones are youngsters. So I would guess your estimation that these are very similar teams is exactly right. Now, their front four has actually sacked the quarterback a few times, but they're young up front and they've struggled some in the front four.
Q. Last week, it was the first time since 1973 that you guys went through a game without giving up any penalty yards. What does that say about how you performed last week?
Rocky Long: We don't coach it any differently from week to week. All it says is the kids were focused in and concentrating so there weren't any of the normal procedure offsides. There was none of those going on, and it was a pretty clean game on both offense and defense. Now, we did have one offsetting penalty that I guess is not official. When they offset I guess those don't count as penalties.
Q. On paper, it looks like this could be another shootout. The biggest difference between you guys and Nevada is they've won their close games and you guys haven't. As far as it being a shootout and you guys being in shootouts, what do you guys take from those previous games and looking at this one?
Rocky Long: I said this earlier on the conference call: People assume that if you're in a shootout that nobody is playing any defense. That's not true at all. 38 percent of the points we've scored have been caused by the defense causing turnovers and giving our offense a short field or the defense scoring themselves. That's 38 percent of our points. So even in a shootout where the score is high, one defense has to do something along the way to give you a chance to win. Right now, they've proven to be a better football team than we are because they've won some close games against some decent competition. It's going to be a great game, and the team whose defense makes the most big plays will probably have a chance to win.
Q. With that being said, last drive of the game, who would you rather have on the field, your offense or your defense?
Rocky Long: I'd much rather be ahead. I'd rather have them on the field because that means you're ahead. You're a lot better off ahead than behind. Either way you're a lot better off ahead than behind.
Q. This might be sort of an overrated thing, but you guys haven't won on the road yet this year. Is that just a product of having played some really good teams on the road?
Rocky Long: We've played two good teams on the road. We've only been on the road twice.
Q. Would you consider this a statement game as far as the teams you've beaten you were supposed to beat, on paper at least, and this is a team that has a better record, who's undefeated in the Mountain West. If you beat this team you're tied for the top spot in the Mountain West?
Rocky Long: It's not any different than any other game. We've got five left. For us to have a chance to win the Conference Championship, we probably have to win all five. So all that happens is if we win this one, the next one becomes more important, the next one becomes more important, so forth and so on. There's no such thing as a game more important than any other game. It's the most important because it's this week.
Q. When you look at the last two games that Nevada has played, they've had to sort of come from behind. It's been pretty close. Does watching game film on both of those two games kind of give you some keys as to what you have to do to beat this team?
Rocky Long: On film, you always look for advantages. So people that have had any kind of success against them, you look for why they had success. It shows what kind of team they are and what kind of character they have that they can fall behind in two, maybe even three. I read three, but I know at least the last two games they've fallen behind. Last week they fell behind by quite a bit and found a way to come back and win. So that tells you, first of all, they have great talent on that team, and second of all, they have great character on that team. They go into games expecting to win. Even the games they lost they only lost by one and that was a shootout, so to speak. The other team just stopped them on the last drive. It was (a) 32-31 (loss against) South Florida.
Q. So you look at the last game, what was UNLV doing that was so effective in the beginning against that team?
Rocky Long: They got a lot of momentum going in their direction. If you watch last night's game, it's amazing what momentum does to football. I hate to admit this, but I've been in games just like last night's game, and guess what, when it starts rolling for one side or the other, there's absolutely nothing you can do as a coach to stop it. That's in high school, that's in college, that's in pro football. There's nothing you can do. This game will be a heck of a game, and the defense that makes a big play or two or scores on defense or causes a turnover close to the other team's goal line will be the difference in the game. So you've got two powerful offenses out there, and it still comes down to defense.
Q. So you can sympathize with the head coach last night?
Rocky Long: Oh, totally. It's interesting when you listen to the radio and you hear about all the adjustments he's supposed to make. I'm going to tell you what, you can make the best adjustments in the world and when the momentum shifts like that, it isn't going to make a difference.
Q. On the 73 yard kickoff return that they had against you, when you look at it, what was the problem there? Did somebody miss a block or something?
Rocky Long: Some guys gave up the leverage on blockers and one guy gave himself up. Instead of taking on the blocker and trying to escape the blocker making the tackle, he just dove into the blocker. I don't know what possessed him to do that, but it was really a wrong thing to do.
Q. These past two weeks, beating Hawai'i and Colorado State at home. They're kind of two struggling teams, is it kind of worrisome having to go on the road and facing a team like Nevada who's 6-1 and undefeated in the conference?
Rocky Long: No, it's not worrisome. Hawai'i was a beat up, tired football team. Colorado State came in and their kids played as hard as they could play. We just were a little bit better and played a little bit better than they did. It would be a lot worse sitting here if we had lost to one of them and had to worry about going to Reno.
Q. Alec, how's the hand? Are you feeling more comfortable not having that big club thing?
Alec Johnson: Definitely. They took it off before the game. On Thursday, they gave me this little cast thing. I got to use my hands in the game and it felt nice. (I) missed them. It's nice having that giant club off.
Q. How much longer are you going to have that on your hand?
Alec Johnson: I think this week. They said I've got to go down and check with the training staff, but this week I should have full use of my hand.
Q. Will you switch back to snapping?
Alec Johnson: Today I think I will, so back to normal.
Q. What do you see from Nevada's defense? It looks like they're pretty similar just in terms of where they are in rankings and stuff like that to what you guys have on offense and defense. What do you see?
Ryan Katz: They're a good defense. They play hard, good fundamentally sound defense. We'll learn more today through preparation. We've watched film a little bit, but we'll get a better beat on them today and carry it into practice.
Q. When you see the last two teams they've played have come pretty close to beating them and this team has given up pretty large leads, what does that say to you going into this team?
Ryan Katz: It's a winnable game. That's what we're going to try to do. We watch film and see what they did the past weeks, but every week is a different week. They had two close games. We just want to get a win this week.
Q. After winning big the last couple weeks and then heading on the road to take on Nevada, who is 6 1 right now, what's your mindset like and how is the confidence level?
Alec Johnson: Tough place to play. They're a good team. Their record says that. We're going to need to play well and execute on offense, do our part, and help our defense out. It'll be, I expect, a hostile environment. It'll be a fun game.
Q. This one looks like it's going to come out to another shootout. You guys have played in those a few times this year. Do you think that will help you guys this week?
Ryan Katz: Yeah, every week is a new week. You never know how a game turns out. We're going to prepare the same as we did the last two weeks and the same as we did all season and just get ready for Nevada.
Q. Josh, are you guys looking forward to playing more run support this week against Nevada?
Josh Wade: Yeah, definitely. They're a good running team. They come out in that pistol, little read options, things like that. It's going to be a challenge to come up and stop the run and guys are going to have to cover on the back end.
Q. What has enabled them to be so effective from what you've seen on film?
Josh Wade: They're getting after guys, their running backs run really hard, the quarterback is always a threat. Both quarterbacks, the backup quarterback is really quick and the starting quarterback is a fast guy, too. They have a lot of playmakers in the running game and they're getting after guys and making plays.
Q. As defensive backs, you're kind of accustomed to playing a lot of triple option teams. Is there a lot that you can take from that going into this week at Nevada?
Josh Wade: Definitely. We're used to trying to get off blocks and things like that and getting back in the backfield. Then we have a lot of guys coming from different angles and blitzes and things like that, and they usually get after the run and make a lot of plays and hitting guys in the backfield.
Q. How much more difficult does it make it for you, Josh, the fact that the quarterback is a scrambling quarterback?
Josh Wade: He's always another threat out there. When he can run the ball, you've got to compensate more guys and you've got to get more hats to the football. Because he's always that threat of breaking one just like a running back could.
Q. So with a quarterback like that are you more prone to look in the backfield?
Josh Wade: Yeah, you want to be late run support, but you've still got to just focus on your receiver especially in man coverage. You've got to lock in on No. 1. You can't let him sneak by you or get lulled to sleep.
Q. It seems like you guys have had a little bit of trouble with running quarterbacks this season. Why has that been the case?
Josh Wade: Guys just got to get to the ball a little quicker and see the play that's happening in front of them a little bit faster. Coach will give us a good game plan and we should be able to get a lot of guys to the ball and be able to slow it down.
Q. On the other end of the spectrum, you guys have had some pretty good defensive performances the last couple weeks. What is the confidence level like?
Josh Wade: We've been rolling in the right direction. I feel like guys have been playing increasingly better every week. We've been really intense, maybe forcing some turnovers, and on the offensive end capitalizing on it and scoring off those turnovers. We've really been playing well together lately. It's definitely a huge momentum going into this game, and we just want to keep the ball rolling.
Q. If you could talk about what Brice Butler has brought to the receiving corps this year?
Dominique Sandifer: Everybody seen that he's really explosive, great hands. He's an athlete. He's a real good athlete. It's good to have him out there. It's another threat for the offense.
Q. When you look at the offense under Ryan Lindley last year and the offense with Ryan Katz this year, are there things you've been able to do this year because Katz can run the ball that you maybe weren't able to do or did differently last year?
Dominique Sandifer: They're two different styles of quarterback. Lindley wasn't as mobile as Katz is, so I guess you could say, yeah, we can do certain things different with Katz. It opens the playbook just a little more.
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