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October 6, 2014

Branden Jackson

Q.  Defensive line seemed to be stepping up the game.  Talk about the improvement from week‑to‑week and how important it's going to be this week?
BRANDEN JACKSON:  We knew coming in that we had the potential to be the dominant group on the defensive side of the ball.  We knew to be successful, every great defense has to have a defensive line that's just great, you know.  That's all we've been trying to chase.
We knew at first we got off to a shakey start, so we've been chasing excellence day in and day out, week in and week out.

Q.  What's the mood in the locker room these days?  Frustration?
BRANDEN JACKSON:  There is definitely a lot of frustration and frustration with each other, because we know a lot of times, we're killing ourselves.  We played some good teams and teams thatI give all the credit.  I would never take away from a team in this game, coaches and things like that.
But we kill ourselves with penalties and not playing sound ball.  We kind of try to take a note out of Coach Snyder's playbook, and we look up to Kansas State and appreciate the game of football and how they do it well and consistent and don't make mistakes.  That's the level we're trying to get to.

Q.  (No microphone.)
BRANDEN JACKSON:  The players, we would include the entire team and all I want to hear is that‑‑ I don't want to hear anybody getting down and pointing fingers at each other and blaming each other, doubting ourselves.  I want to hear a group that collectively knows we have the talent, that believes in ourselves like our coaches believe in us.
We're willing to play the rest of these seven games with the 100% and the best that we can to see what happens.

Q.  Does this mean that you will be speaking in that meeting?
BRANDEN JACKSON:  I will definitely make my voice heard.

Q.  Is that going to be after practice?
BRANDEN JACKSON:  Before practice.  Nip that in the bud.  Don't want to go out to practice and have lingering thoughts, so we will get it all out here in a couple of hours.

Q.  What do you attribute the penalties to?
BRANDEN JACKSON:  Right now I've attributed the penalties to frustration and guys trying to make a play.  A lot of times you look at the pass interference calls we get, we have players in play and it's kind of just making a knucklehead decision instead of playing technique and things like that.
Some guys just try to be overaggressive and things, but it's penalty and something we have harped on since the very beginning before the season started.  That's a frustrating thing, having to see that pop up and happen so many times throughout a game.
But it's not something we're doing intentionally.  I feel like it's guys playing hard and trying to make plays and doing sometimes something they shouldn't have to do.

Q.  After a couple of tough weeks, how nice is it to come back home and play in front of the fans?
BRANDEN JACKSON:  It's a relief to have the fans there because we know at the end of the day, all we have is the people that's in our room day in and day out, at our practices and things like that.
We always have the support of the fans.  We have some of the best fans around and it's a blessing to have someone cheering for you, not booing for you.

Q.  After the couple of weeks you have had, does it help coming back home after you have played two teams that you haven't beat in a while, to play a team that you have had success against in the past?
BRANDEN JACKSON:  Honestly, I don't think anyone has thought about that.  We went to the away games, and we matched up well with those teams, but we took the losses.
We didn't think the outcome would be what it was, and now that it's happened and the losses have occurred, it is a relief we're coming back home and playing a team that we have had success against.
But it's a completely different team.  They don't look like the West Virginia team they have in the past two years.

Q.  What's the difference this year?
BRANDEN JACKSON:  They are playing with confidence.  They didn't gain too many people, but they're gelling at the right time.  Everybody is playing for each other and trusting each other and that goes a long way.

Q.  What are the challenges a team like this presents?  Potent offense.  What are you guys looking to do to stop it?
BRANDEN JACKSON:  Looking to stop them.  There is nothing specific to get into with that.  West Virginia is a great team who does everything well.  They spread the ball out a lot, try to keep you honest, things like that.
But this game is just a man's game.  It's going to come down to their will versus our will.  And we will never bow down to any opponent.  We don't think they're too much to handle and things like that.
West Virginia is a very good team, off to a good start.  Us, we believe, is a very good team starting off shakey.

Q.  Branden, do you think the defense is doing better with the changes to Coach Smith and the things he's done and you guys are feeling more confident than you were a few weeks ago?
BRANDEN JACKSON:  Honestly confidence has never been an issue with us.  I think with the defense, it was trusting each other and getting people to know this isn't the team they played for last year, speaking of JUCO guys who are used to being a man and learn how to play for another person and learning personnel and things like that.
Coach Smith taking over wasn't too much up or down because he's been in our offense.
Coach Walsh will always be missed.  We loved that guy.  But the defense is coming together and we're trying to get it together and be like a Raven's‑type defense, a team that can hold the opponent to under 14, 17 points.  Then we don't have to worry about offense having to light up the scoreboards.

Q.  Last week, Coach Smith talked about getting better at defense.  Do you feel like your base defense has made headway there?  Feeling more comfortable in your base sets?
BRANDEN JACKSON:  Definitely, I feel like our base defense, they're speaking numbers right now.  I feel like we're getting more negative plays on first downs and then we're able to get more exotic and doing the fun things, like blitzing, confusing the offensive line, and getting after the quarterback.
I attribute that to Rika and the nose tackles working endlessly, and the defensive ends working their butts off to get better, knowing that the first down has to be a negative play if you want to be successful, if you want to get 'em behind the chains.

Q.  How important is it to just try to completely cancel out the big plays?
BRANDEN JACKSON:  We have been in position.  When you talk about that, it reminds me of the Oklahoma State game.  A lot of plays they caught over the top.  We didn't have men in position to make plays we just did.
That's our focus now.  We're getting little things done and focusing on the big things and doing extra, more to make sure he doesn't catch the ball.  It's not good enough to tackle him and make sure he doesn't score, you have to prevent him from catching the ball.
Popping them, that's an emphasis this week, stopping the big plays, because that's how teams have had success on us this far.
THE MODERATOR:  Thank you. 

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