Oct. 23, 2012
Obviously, we have a big game this weekend because of a lot of reasons. If you win, every game gets to be more and more important. And after yesterday morning when I got done watching every single one of their games on film, I had to go back and look at all the stats. In five of their games this year, they were either tied, ahead, or within one score of the teams they were playing at the start of the fourth quarter. So I thought they were much better than their record when I was watching the film. So when I went back and checked that stat, obviously, they are much better than their win/loss record, which in my business makes you nervous.
Q. Is that lack of depth, are they getting tired in the fourth quarter? Is that something that teams did in the fourth quarter?
No, they're usually a big play or two that happens. Something that happens on special teams, a kickoff return for a touchdown that kind of breaks the momentum or a fumble or an interception here or there. But for most of the game, they're playing everybody very close and they're very physical. Their quarterback is a redshirt freshman and he's pretty good right now. He's going to be phenomenal. They've got two really good running backs that are aggressive at the line of scrimmage. They've got two really good wide receivers. If you try to go by their record, you're making a huge mistake.
Q. Coach, you talk about this game being a big game for several reasons, obviously, being bowl eligible must be a big one, I would imagine. Can you just speak to that?
If we can win, we still have a chance at the conference championship. If we can win another game, we're bowl eligible, which would be the first time in school history for three years in a row. More important than that (is) we've won three in a row. It's an interesting deal, whenever you win a few games in a row, the next one becomes a lot more important. If you don't handle it right, you set yourself up for failure.
A little experience. Ryan Katz had played a lot more football as a starting quarterback at the Division I level. This will be Adam's first start. The way he played the other night, he played probably better than we thought he would play and he had a phenomenal game. But as a coach, you always find the things to worry about. A lot of guys perform well when they're just thrown in there and don't expect to play. They just go out there and know it's their turn, their time, and they just play ball. This week he's going to be trained, and when he was getting one out of every five reps, now he's going to get four out of every five reps. He's going to know the game plan. He's going to know the defense they run. There are a lot more things that are going to be on his mind this week than were on his mind when he had to step in last week. Now we think he's going to be fine because he was cool, calm and collected the other night. So we think he's going to be fine. But it's a different deal being the starting quarterback compared to the guy off the bench.
Q. A big part about Adam Dingwell's game is taking off and running. Is there a little worry about him doing that after what happened to Katz?
No, I don't worry about that stuff. That's one of the good things. We don't have to change anything we do on offense because they're both basically the same kind of player. They both like to run with the ball. They both throw it pretty good. They both run with it pretty well. They're aggressive guys. They're tough guys. In my opinion, and my opinion only, if you've got a guy that that's part of his game and you try to say don't do that, you're taking his game away from him. He's from Texas, so he's probably been playing football since he was 6 years old, and that's part of his game. You try to take that away from him, you're setting him up. As a coach, you don't want to set him up. He's got to play like he plays.
Q. Do you recruit a lot of Texas kids?
We don't recruit a lot of Texas kids, but we have a presence in Texas. We have two coaches that go to Texas every year. But most of the time we recruit players other than California kids. We canvass every high school in the state of California. We canvass every high school in the state of Arizona and Nevada. Other than that, it's people that show an interest in us, or a specific position that we start looking nationwide for. And we always look for quarterbacks nationwide. It was a little bit of we found him and he found us at the same time. He showed interest in us, and after we watched him on high school tape, we had interest in him.
Q. Are you nervous at all about your team and after such a big win having a letdown and/or overlooking UNLV?
Yeah, I made that statement that if you don't prepare the right way or if you don't handle success the right way, you're setting yourself up for a letdown. That's always a possibility.
Q. Does this team give you more concern than other teams or do you think this team can handle it better than maybe other teams can?
I don't know how we're going to handle it. There's one thing I'm sure of because they always do this. They play hard and they don't quit. They've been doing that since day one. So I know we'll play hard and I know we won't give up. Now there have been times in the past where we haven't played very well. So it's a matter of preparing the right way and playing well enough to win.
Q. You've been around a lot of football. A win like you had in Nevada over a team that was 6 1, best in the conference, what does that do for a team in terms of the intangibles, like morale and confidence. Can you overstress its significance? Are we making too much of a big deal at this point?
There is a tendency to do that if it hasn't been done very much. Since San Diego State has been playing Division I football, it's only been five times that a San Diego State football team was down by double digits in the fourth quarter and came back and won. So if it's only been done five times since 1969, I would say that's a significant victory. Now, the morale is great. Our team was really happy after the game. They were really happy yesterday. Now how we handle that success is key to what we do from here on out.
Q. You as a coach, what is your approach? Do you try to hype up the win? Do you try to down play it to be like don't get ahead of yourselves we still have a lot of football left to play?
As we always do, we explain every situation to them. The situation is that game is over. We won, but it's long gone. No one's going to even remember if we don't play well this week. Now my experience is that athletes will listen sometimes and they don't listen sometimes.
Q. Seems that Chance Marden has gotten some confidence and gotten into the groove?
He has. He's kicked the ball really well. And I'm sure in his case the confidence factor is a big deal. It really is a big deal for kickers. Obviously, you saw it the other night. He made three of them. One with 3 seconds left on the clock to put it into overtime. That's a pretty confident kicker. Our kickers have improved more than anybody else on our team.
Q. What do you think sparked that, just more reps?
Yeah, it's just playing. In Chance's case, it's the first time he has ever played football since high school, and Seamus McMorrow is a freshman.
Q. The athletic department as a whole, your team is doing well. You listed things that you have a chance to do. The men's basketball team is ranked in the top 20 in the preseason. The women's soccer team has won a conference championship and is ranked 6th in the nation. The attitude of the athletic program here at San Diego State, can you touch on that right now?
What you have is a great organization from the top down. You have experienced, quality coaches that have done a good job recruiting and then they can put their players in a position where they can perform. And if they're good enough, they perform well and win some games. You won't find better basketball coaches in the entire country than our two basketball coaches. Now as good as a coach might be, you still have to recruit talented players. Because there are a lot of good coaches not winning games, and that means they don't have good enough players. But the coaches recruit them too.
Q. Is the success of all the programs helped your recruiting, like the basketball programs or anything else help your football recruiting do you think? Is there a little bit?
There is a little help. Any time you have success throughout the athletic department, it helps everybody. It helps the morale in the building. It helps the morale in the weight room. Makes every team practice a little harder (and) work out a little bit harder. They all feed on each other. Just like it could be the other way too.
Q. I know Dominique Sandifer had a couple good games. What are you seeing out of him?
He had a great game the other night. He caught several passes. A couple of them were difficult catches and the run he made on a bubble screen that scored a touchdown was a great play. Either that or it was a terrible tackle by their safety depending on which team you're rooting for. And as is the case in most of our positions, not all of them, but most of them, it's a weekly competition. Somehow we don't believe that around here, but it's a weekly competition. We've got four or five what we consider very good wide receivers. They compete every week to see who gets the start. Now there are certain positions where (that's not the case). There is nobody going to beat Leon McFadden out. I don't care how he practices this week, he's starting on Saturday. We don't really care how Adam Dingwell practices this week, he's starting Saturday. But in a lot of positions, it's a weekly competition.
Q. On Derek Largent starting on Saturday:
You think he's going to start this week? I'm going to tell you after the game on Saturday, Vaness Harris has made a case. So who starts there will be how they practice this week. Vaness played really well Saturday night, maybe better than Derek did.
Q. Is Derek Largent doing everything that you expected him to do?
Overall, I think he's played better than we anticipated. When we recruited him, we recruited him on athletic ability. We did recruit him in high school, but didn't actually offer him a scholarship. We had thought about it when he was in high school. So we kept track of him when he went to junior college. But it was really a need for a guy that could come in and was big enough and strong enough that could maybe be depth and help on special teams. So he's exceeded our expectations of his first year here. The best thing is he's three for three, which means he's really only a sophomore eligibility wise. He still makes some assignment errors and does some things because he's not sure of our scheme yet. He's going to get nothing but better. He's got a lot of athletic ability, and he's big, and strong, and can run well. He's one of our better pass rushers.
They're about the same size. I don't see him the same, not that he won't develop it, because a lot of it has to do with knowing exactly what to do. He doesn't have the same explosion or acceleration that Miles had, yet. Some of that might be that he's thinking too much, and as soon as he's confident in what his assignment is he might have that same thing. I don't think you can compare the two right now.
Q. On the two point conversion at the end of the game, did you see something or was it more keeping your defense off the field and being unable to stop that Nevada offense?
I don't think it has anything to do with the defense otherwise we would have taken the penalty so that the defense had a better chance to stop them before the last drive. In fact, it was totally a decision made on momentum. They really struggled to score in overtime, really struggled. If we don't have an assignment error, they don't score. They would have had to kick a field goal. So I thought they kind of struggled. When you get the ball on the 25 yard line, the chances of stopping them are very slim. So I thought they struggled to score, and we scored in two plays. Plus we had just driven the ball 60 yards or something, and 50 seconds to kick a game tying field goal. Who had the momentum? You going to let them stay in the game when you have all the momentum? So people think it was a hard decision. It seemed pretty simple to me.
Q. What took you so long?
In fact, I called timeout because the offense had already sent the kicking team in. So I had to call timeout to get them off the field.
Q. What has Gavin Escobar done for your offense? It seemed like he wanted to go into the end zone. He wasn't going to go out of bounds or anything like that.
He hasn't caught as many passes this year because we have better wide receivers. Not better, we have more wide receivers this year, more guys that can make plays than we did last year. So he's not quite the focal point of our offense that he was last year. But you see why he's good. He's 6'6" and weighs 255 pounds and he catches almost everything. What you saw him do after he caught the ball was kind of special too for a guy that size.
Q. Is it his athletic ability?
Oh, no, he's a great athlete. This may be the last time you see him too. He's a junior. I would say there are people looking at him at the next level.
Q. On the two-point conversion, was that ball going to Adam Roberts and if he was covered, they were going to have to make something happen?
The statement that that play was very similar to the one that Gavin Escobar caught for the touchdown. They were exactly the same play. Different formations and different guys. People do that all the time. If you remember, after the long kickoff return at the Colorado State game, Colorado State ran the exact same play against us and it worked just as well. That's a very difficult play to stop. Is there anybody else to throw it to? Nope. If that guy's not open, it's up to the quarterback to scramble around.
Q. Ryan Katz goes down in the first quarter, and coaches tell you to start warming up because you're going into the game. Tell us what was going on in your mind?
Adam Dingwell: At first my heart went out to Ryan, I felt pretty bad for him. That's a tough way to go out for him. I hope he recovers well. After that initial feeling, I just said I've got to go win this game, and I can't do it all by myself, so I'm going to need the guys around me. I talked to them and said this is a big game. We're going to pull it out. I just got ready to go and I was excited to get out there.
Q. Coach was saying that last week you were kind of thrown into the fire. It's a little bit different than the situation this week where you're actually going to be able to prepare to be the starting quarterback. How does your preparation change or stay the same? Mentally, is that a different spot for you to be in?
Adam Dingwell: It doesn't change at all. I've prepared all year the same way. I'll continue to do so. It all starts in the film room where can you get to know your opponent. It's not much different for me at all. I'm the same guy, and I'm going to try to be the same guy constantly, and I'll prepare the same way I have been.
Alec Johnson: Yeah, I have faith in both of them. Adam and Ryan have a lot of similarities that I can see from both of them.
Q. How high does that win last week rank against all the games that you've played in your career?
Alec Johnson: It's up there. A win is always good. That one was sweet. First overtime game since I've been here, so it was good.
Q. Does that do anything for this team's morale? What are some of the intangibles it brings after a win like that?
Alec Johnson: It means that we only have one loss in conference, and the conference championship is still a possibility. So we need to prepare hard this week. UNLV is going to be a good game.
Q. How do you guys avoid sort of a letdown? Last week you were so up for this game that you won in such a dramatic fashion. How do you avoid that lull that comes the following week?
Alec Johnson: You can't. You've just got to prepare hard, do the same thing we've been doing for the last three weeks and all season, and get after it in the film room. And out at practice, we need to practice hard. We can't let down at all.
Q. Take us through the game type process. They call timeout, what is going through your mind at that point?
Chance Marden: Just a little bit of everything, except for the kick itself. In that situation, it's crazy what thoughts pop into your head. How you take yourself out of the situation and then once the whistle blows and you're getting back into your steps, everything goes blank and you just have to perform.
Q. Give us an idea of what you're putting in your head so you don't think about the kick?
Chance Marden: Just a little bit of everything. Just the culmination of what got me here. Just the journey I've been on, and how I'm so thankful.
Q. Did you think at the beginning of the season that sometime during the year you would end up winning conference special teams player of the week honors?
Chance Marden: I wouldn't say conference special teams player. Definitely just having a chance to help my team was the most important thing. Giving them the opportunity to win is my job as a kicker, and to come through like that on this stage is an amazing feeling.
Q. I see twice you missed the first one. Does that make it more or less pressure after the second time?
Chance Marden: Well, the first timeout they called it pretty early, so I heard it. I wanted to kick it, and Dingwell grabbed it away from me. The second one they called the timeout, and I heard the whistle, and I made sure he got down. I didn't want to miss the practice kick, so to speak. So I took a little extra second. The timing was a little off, and just getting good contact on the ball, just getting that release and just the third one putting it through.
Q. The second one you heard the whistle, so you knew it was a practice shot?
Chance Marden: Yeah, I knew it was a practice shot well before.
Q. Have you ever been in that kind of pressure situation when you were a soccer player on the soccer field?
Chance Marden: Penalty kicks, but nothing compares to that. Nothing where all the people are just looking at you. A PK is a five shot shootout, so you can miss and your team can still win. That was all on me, I had to do it. But I'm grateful that a great hold, great snap, and then the line blocked. It was a team effort.
Q. After starting out the season 0-for-3 on field goals and hitting seven in a row now, what's been the biggest change since your start of the season?
Chance Marden: Just getting used to the routine. Just going out there every day, doing the same things, knowing how to manage the game properly and knowing that I should take a couple of kicks into the net and not over kick throughout the game. Stay mentally in it. So it's just a learning process, and it's going well now.
Q. What kind of response have you had on campus from other students, and not just necessarily about you, but about the team in general?
Chance Marden: There's definitely more of a buzz. In my class early this morning, there were a couple people talking about the game and overhearing it brings a smile to the face. It's a great feeling.
Q. What about you, Adam, increased buzz about this game?
Adam Dingwell: Yeah, like Chance says, there is a huge buzz around campus, and that's cool to hear when you're walking and overhear people talking. It's really exciting and just makes you want to get back out there and go do it again. Kind of like Alec said, we've got to refocus. That one's behind us, and it's all about UNLV this week.
Q. Did you guys learn anything about yourselves as a team in the last game that you didn't know before or maybe weren't sure of before?
Adam Dingwell: I don't believe so. We never had a doubt in our mind. Not many people gave us a shot to go into Nevada and win. But we believed, and that's one thing we preach around here. Never give up and play until there are zeros on the clock, and we did that and we showed that we can overcome certain circumstances.
Q. You struggled a little bit in the beginning. Talk about what got the ball rolling for you?
Adam Dingwell: Everybody around me. I knew I couldn't do it by myself. Maybe in the start I was putting too much pressure on myself. But once I got into the flow of the game, everybody around me just picked me up, they believed in me. That was huge. The O line did a great job for me all night. Not much pressure at all. Then the receivers were making plays, running backs working hard downhill, and that opened everything up for me.
Q. Can you talk about the two point conversion and coach allowing you to win the game by putting the ball in your hand?
Adam Dingwell: Yeah, that was sweet. We wanted to win the game. When we called that timeout, we knew we were going for two and we were all excited. It was my job to get the ball into our playmaker's hands. And the O line did a great job. I had more time on that play than I had ever since we've been repping it. They did a great job. Adam Roberts made a great catch. It was nothing about me on that one.
Q. Have you been practicing two point conversions more this year than in years past, or was it the same? I know there was a lot of hype about the beginning of the year?
Alec Johnson: No, we always practice two point conversions. It's not like this year we practice it more than any other year. It's been the same. As an offense you need to prepare for two point conversions, and we've been doing that this year as well.
Q. Your team is doing very well. The men's basketball team is pumped, getting some good props. The women's soccer team is ranked in the Top 10. What kind of atmosphere among the athletes, not just the football team, but among the athletes here on campus, can you talk about that and the success that's been going on right now?
Adam Dingwell: I think it's exciting. Everybody's excited, everybody is kind of getting into sports around here, and that's exciting to see. There is a nice buzz on campus. As far as we go, you got to put it behind you and just get ready to win this next one.
Q. How's Ryan Katz doing? Have you seen him or talked to him since Saturday? How's he holding up?
Alec Johnson: It's tough. It's always bad when you go down with an injury. It's a rough one, especially being a senior. You never want to see it happen like that. I think he's doing all right.
Q. Is he still around the building?
Alec Johnson: Oh, yeah.
Q. Do you know if he's going to still come to meetings and stuff like that?
Adam Dingwell: I'm sure he will. He loves football. He loves the game and he's a great teammate, so I don't see any reason why he wouldn't be around. We'd love to have him. He's a great leader, and that is something you can't take away from him. We're proud of him. He got us to this spot so far. My heart goes out to him, but I'm sure he'll be around.
Q. Has Ryan said anything to you about what you have to do stepping into his role?
Adam Dingwell: A little bit. We spoke briefly at halftime. He was in the locker room, and I told him we're going to win this one for you, man. You got us here. I feel terrible for him. That's a tough way to go out like Alec said. He kind of gave me some words of wisdom, pumped me up a little bit and said go win the game. That's all I needed.
Alec Johnson: Same thing. Dingwell is excited at times, and you can feel that. But it's no different. It's the same play calls, same everything.
Q. Was there anything you learned from watching Ryan Katz on the field?
Adam Dingwell: Yeah, leadership, that was the main thing. He led those guys up and down the field when he was out there. That's one thing you can learn, not just from him, but previously when I was here, Ryan Lindley did the same thing. So I've learned from two great guys that were ahead of me, and I think that carried over in the game.
Q. You have gotten game time action early in the season. Do you feel that helped you when you went into the quarterback role?
Adam Dingwell: Yeah, I do. Getting on the field is an unbelievable experience, and being able to do that early in the year was nice. Kind of got the jitters out of the way, you could say, about my first college play or however you want to put it. But, yeah, it was exciting and I think it helped me.
Q. What does Gavin Escobar bring to this team in terms of his ability? Because you have so many receivers, but it seems that he's caught a lot of key touchdowns for you guys.
Adam Dingwell: Yeah, Gavin's a great player. He makes matchup issues for defenses all the time. If they want to play him tight and kind of take him out of the game, we have guys on the edge that can go make plays. So offensively, we've got a bunch of key guys that can make plays that I just need to get the ball to and let them do what they do with it.
Q. Chance, you think that coach is testing your ability to handle stress by throwing you out here in front of the media? He was fairly protective earlier in the year, and I think that says a lot towards the confidence that he has in you. What do you feel about the situation?
Chance Marden: About speaking to you guys today?
Chance Marden: Same old, same old. Nothing too different, not that big of a deal.
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