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SAN DIEGO STATE UNIVERSITY MEDIA CONFERENCE


September 4, 2012


Rocky Long


COACH LONG:  We have got an interesting challenge for us, playing an Army team that is very unusual on defense and they run a very unusual offense.  We have not seen them play this year because they have not played a game.  I think that's an advantage to both sides.  There are certain things that give both sides an advantage because of that.
But as you know, we have got great respect for the military academies around here and we know that they will be disciplined and they will be tough and they will play hard.  I think we have got an interesting challenge ahead of us.

Q.  Can you elaborate on both sides?
COACH LONG:  I think they will be fresher because they will have taken time this week to get their selves back to fresh after training camp.  I think they will have some new things in store for us on both offense and defense that we won't have practiced against or anticipated and will have to adjust on the run.
I think the advantage to us is that we have played a game; so our guys have seen game speed, and you see the first game out, it takes you a little while to get used to game speed.
And then there's some things that happened in every game, substitution problems, communication between the sidelines and the huddle, or however you get that in from the press box to the sidelines, and that usually gets worked out the first week.
So there's some advantages of already playing a game, but there's some disadvantages, too.

Q.  The double eagle, pretty unorthodox in college football?
COACH LONG:¬† Yeah, it's unorthodox.¬† Coach Ellerson and I are friends from way back.¬† In fact, we were on the same staff together for a little while.¬† We learned a lot of the same things when we were together.¬† And he took the flex concept which he developed at Arizona when it was 'desert swarm,' where you have a guy that plays a little bit off the ball, sometimes in a three‑point stance and sometimes in a two‑point stance; and the guy is hybrid, sometimes he's a defensive lineman, sometimes he's a linebacker.¬† Sometimes he's in on the rush and sometimes he covers guys on the backfield, and sometimes he's a spy guy and he's an all‑around guy that looks like he's a defensive lineman but he's really a multitude of things.
I mean, everybody has an idea of how they attack a different defense.¬† We have played this defense before so we'll have a plan of attack.¬† It's unusual, so even though you practice against it‑‑ I think we found this out last week.¬† Scout team doesn't give you anywhere near the look you're going to get on game day.¬† All they do is line up right.¬† They don't react right.¬†

Q.  You threw a couple of trick plays in there the last game.  Is that just something to get your offense going, or is that something that you'll do more so in the season?
COACH LONG:  If we ever see an advantage to running an unusual play, we are going to use it, sure.  Some people are pretty conventional where they don't give you a chance to use one of those plays.  But if we get a chance to use one of those plays, we'll use it, sure.

Q.  What sort of things did you learn about your team this first game?
COACH LONG:  I learned that we don't give up.  And I learned that we have a continuing problem; that we are trying to address it, for some reason, last year, about half the games we started slow on defense.  And it really occurred again in the Washington game, we started really slow on defense.
The difference between the way we played the first half and the second half on defense is dramatic.   So we are going to change some things up this week to see if it's just the routine we are in or if it's a psychological problem or whatever that is.
But I've learned that that's a continuing problem from last year.  I also learned that we can play against, quote, the big boys, if you want to put it that way.  We can play against those guys.  I mean, it was a competitive football game.  I don't think we played well enough to win; I think they played a little bit better than we did, and that's why they won.

Q.  The encouraging thing that comes out of this first game, that you're able to push the guys forward coming into the Army game, obviously you mentioned some things in terms of experience, but what else can you point to that might let those guys wash that game away and really come at this game full speed?
COACH LONG:  Well, you wash that game away by putting your total emphasis on the next game.
But we have to improve on turnovers.  We turned the ball over too often in the first game and two of them turned into touchdowns for the other team.  And the positive aspect was that our quarterback can get out of trouble and run with the ball and our running game was pretty good.  The positive is, we played really good defense the second half.  They did not score the last seven times they had the ball.

Q.  What's the latest with the kicking game?
COACH LONG:  Our kickers will compete in practice this week, and the guys that perform the best in practice will play this Saturday.

Q.¬† Speaking of unconventional‑‑
COACH LONG:  Well, yeah, I don't consider a quick kicka trick play.  It's unconventional.  You don't see a quick kick very often, but that's a strategy that's been used for a hundred years.
And if you look at our kicking game, the actual part that we did, kickoff coverage is fine, their returns were less than 15 yards a return.  Punts were really good.  The couple of times we punted, the punt average was really good and the protection was good and the coverage was really good.  So I don't see any reason our kicking game wouldn't be strong.

Q.  How about field goals and extra points?
COACH LONG:  We have not tried those yet, so I don't know if that's strong or not.

Q.  Did that lead you that direction; that you thought it wasn't strong?
COACH LONG:  No, I think I gave the wrong impression.  I think that our kickers are competing well and I don't think they have shown real consistency in practice.  But I think I gave the wrong impression.  That is not why we didn't kick field goals for extra points.  We didn't kick field goals for extra points because that was the game plan going in, and as you all know, we have done some elaborate statistical analysis on how you score the most points, and that's exactly how we played the game.

Q.  But it didn't work.
COACH LONG:  I'm not sure it didn't work.  You're saying it didn't work.  I'm not sure it didn't work.  We would have not scored a second touchdown if we don't go for fourth down.  If we punted or kick a field goal, we wouldn't have scored a second touchdown.  The first touchdown was a trick play, and the second touchdown was going for it on fourth down.  Did you see any other chances we had of scoring?  I didn't.

Q.¬† Going forward‑‑
COACH LONG:  So I'm thinking it worked.  It worked out just fine.

Q.¬† So it was not necessarily your preparation coming into the game‑‑ the reason not going for it was extra points?
COACH LONG:  No, going into the game, we decided to go for two the first two times we scored touchdowns.  I don't think we are the only team that does that. 
I think Oregon does that.  I think this last week, I think SC did that.  It's interesting, no?  (Laughter).  Some other people are taking statistical of analysis of things, too.
The average, over the last ten years in college football, is on two‑point conversions, it's an almost 59 percent success rate.¬† So if you go for two points every time, eventually you'll score more points than you do kicking extra points.¬† That's ten years of stats, 58.4, 58.5 percent of the time you're successful on two‑point plays.

Q.  Why didn't youdo it before? 
COACH LONG:  Because I didn't get into it much before this year.  I played Football 101.

Q.  What's this one?
COACH LONG:  This is looking at it a different way.  Trying to allow our team to score more points.

Q.¬† You said you knew you had to score well‑‑
COACH LONG:  That's what I thought.  Obviously we played better defense than I thought we were going to.

Q.  What's the mentality this week against Army?
COACH LONG:¬† Our game plan has not been decided yet.¬† Every game is going to be dealt with individually and differently.¬† We will put our statistics over the last four years, and we'll put Army's statistics in there for the last four years‑‑ actually, the last three years, because this is the fourth year Coach Ellerson is there.¬† The last three years we'll put their stats in there and our chart will be completely different than it was that year.

Q.  What about if the coach's intuition is different than the chart?
COACH LONG:¬† Yeah, we have a chart that says:¬† Green, go for it.¬† It says red, doesn't go for it, and a gray area that allows for coaching‑‑ gut feelings, yes.¬† Good question, though, by the way.¬† The chart's not infallible.

Q.¬† The quarterback got in trouble ‑‑ what do you see from him and what do you expect from him going forward?
COACH LONG:  I think they have a very experienced team.  The quarterback is the key to any option offense.  He knows what he's been doing.  He's been the starter for three years.  It will be his fourth year as a starter.  He's as good as there is at the triple offense option, reading it and running it himself.  He's a big, strong guy that breaks tackles, gains a lot of yards on his own.
But what he really does is read their offense correctly.  They led the nation in rushing last year; they rushed for almost 450 yards a game.  They scored almost 25 points a game.  I mean, they do it as good as anybody does it.
And being an old wishbone quarterback myself, there's nobody in the world can get ready for the wishbone in three day, and it's the best offense that's ever been designed, because you don't have to block everybody.

Q.¬† You said that in the past that it's the best offense‑‑
COACH LONG:  I haven't changed my mind.

Q.  You've had success against the service academies and the triple offense; why have you had so much success?
COACH LONG:¬† I think we have won the game, okay.¬† I think that's a lot different than having success against the triple option.¬† I mean, last year, if you remember the game, they were running up‑and‑down the field, and if they don't fumble a bunch, we are in deep trouble, okay.¬† And most people that beat the academy teams, it's not because you get them off the field and it not because you stop them; you have to out‑score them.
The other thing about the triple option offense that academies do‑‑ they are the only ones exception Georgia Tech that are really running it now because of public opinion.¬† But the other thing about the triple option is that they keep the ball for‑ev‑er, because your offense doesn't have a chance to score a lot of points.¬† In their minds, they only have to off age two and a half yards per play, because they will go for it every single time it's fourth and one‑‑ I shouldn't say every single one; 90 percent of the time they are going for it on fourth and one, and fourth and two.
And they keep the ball forever, so your offense doesn't have as many opportunities to score a lot of points.  They only punted 37 times last year.  What's that tell you.  It tells you they either got a lot of first downs early or they went for a whole bunch of fourth downs.  It's funny, people don't ask them why they go for fourth down.

Q.  With the evolution, if you will, with stats (ph), does it surprise you that you're leaning on stuff and you've embraced it to such a degree?
COACH LONG:¬† Not at all.¬† Doesn't surprise me.¬† I think every coach‑‑ I have to get this right.
Every coach is looking to improve his team is always looking for ways to improve them.¬† You don't do things the same way every year.¬† And if you have a team that you think are going to be a real close‑‑ you look for every single edge you can find.¬† That's the only reason.
I think this game's going to be really, really close, and I thought going into the game, that there's several, shoot, nine or ten of them, those games are going to be one‑touchdown games or three‑point games.
So you have to work really hard to find where your edge is.  So that's the only reason that led me to looking at statistics.  I'm looking for an edge that will get us over the hump on really close games.

Q.  What decision went into going for the fourth down with only five minutes left in the fourth quarter, rather than going for the fifth?
COACH LONG:  It was on my chart, I can say that.  It was to go for it on the chart but it was more the mentality we went into the game with.  We went into the game that we were going for all fourth downs that were green on our chart.  And that one was green.  I'm not sure even before we had the chart, I'm pretty sure that I would have gone for it anyway, even before the chart.
We went for a bunch of fourth downs last year, too.  More than anybody else in the league, I think.

Q.  Did you think you were going to get so many questions about the chart?
COACH LONG:¬† No, in fact, I like it.¬† I'm glad people noticed and people are‑‑ let me put it this way‑‑ concerned.¬† They are concerned or they are emotional one way‑‑ that's what every program wants.¬† They want people that are involved with their program.¬† They want people that are emotional about their program, good or bad.¬† It doesn't bother me that people are mad or happy.¬† Doesn't bother me at all.¬† Guess what?¬† They are involved.¬† They are thinking about the Aztecs.¬† It's a whole lot better than nobody caring.

Q.  The fumble play, did you get a good look at it?
COACH LONG:  I think it was a 50/50 call, and whenever they have already made the call and it's 50/50, watching the replay, they are always going to go with what they called before.  So if they would have called him down beforehand, they would have kept the downs.  But since they called it a fumble, they would keep it a fumble. 

Q.  Inaudible.
COACH LONG:  I don't know.  I think that's a dumb rule, anyway, because it's all subjective of how you call it.

Q.¬† What's the defense on the option‑‑
COACH LONG:  It's impossible.  Now everybody in the room that's been here before understands my prejudice for the triple option.  I don't think you can stop it.  On a chalkboard you cannot stop a triple option.  It's the only offense in the world on the board you cannot stop.
And that's why people that run the spread offense are now getting in the pistol, because they can run read plays; even in the shotgun, they are running zone replays to try to eliminate guys they don't have to block.  Just by the quarterback reading the guy, they don't have to block the guy, okay.  Now, if you give us two weeks, I'll tell you, we'll slow them down.
I mean, we had two weeks to get ready for Navy a couple years ago and we slowed them down.¬† We didn't stop them; we slowed them down.¬† If you look at our recent games against triple option teams, we have slowed them down ‑‑ we have just kept the score down enough so that we could out‑score them.¬† But we have not slowed them down statistically.¬† If you look at their stats, we have not slowed them down.¬† So our offense better score a lot of points this week and not very many plays.

Q.¬† Do you ever consider‑‑ inaudible.
COACH LONG:  I believe the triple option is a triple offense.  But there's several reasons you can't run them any place but the academies, and it's all because of recruiting and selling tickets.
People don't like watching the triple option.  They think it's boring because it's not what they see on TV on Sundays.  It's not what they see from the NFL, so they think it's a boring offense.  I remember people saying all the time:  Well, you give it to the fullback every single time, you give it to the fullback.
Well, the fullback only gets it if the read is correct.¬† He doesn't get it if‑‑ but people don't want to get that in depth‑‑ come out low and scramble on the bound and cut people; you want to show people you can pass the ball.
If you're a wide receiver, you don't want to stop block the corners, but the pitch guy, you want to run routes and catch the ball.¬† If you're a quarterback‑‑ now they will get a good quarterback because they will recruit a quarterback that was a quarterback in high school that everybody is recruiting as a defensive back; and he'll still want to be a quarterback, so he'll go to the wishbone.
So you'll get a really good athlete at quarterback.  But in the old days, at Oklahoma when they had great quarterbacks, they ended up being DBs in the NFL, okay.  You won't get a really good running back; you'll get some pretty good running backs because they get to carry the ball.  But you won't get a good running back because he thinks he should be the tailback and he should carry the ball 35 times so he can get to the NFL.
So in recruiting, every kid, which is good‑‑ every kid has a dream of going to the NFL.¬† And most of the time, they are not going to go to a wishbone team unless that's the only place they can go.¬† Academy kids have a completely different attitude about what the rest of their life is about.¬† They are going to school and in this case to become soldiers and they play football, because that's part of their DNA.
But they are really there for a greater purpose than they are to be pro football players.  I really admire them.  So when you have a kid like that, guess what, you can recruit a kid like that because he could care less what offense and defense you run.  You tell me what to do and I'll do it; that's the kind of kids they are.  They are special kids, absolutely special kids.

Q.  What's your relationship with your kickers?  Did you talk to them after the game?
COACH LONG:  I think our kickers and I have a great relationship.  I talk to them every day, because when everybody else is meeting, they are sitting in the lobby over there, so we have a discussion every day.
And our whole team has been advised about our game plan.  They will be advised about our game plan today for this week.  They will be advised from the first day and they are advised to the last meeting we have exactly what we are going to do.  Every kid that was on that travel squad knew exactly what the game plan was going in last week.  Whether they agreed with it or not, I don't care, but they knew what it was.

Q.  Is this somewhat new?  Did you do this last year, with the charts and all that?
COACH LONG:¬† No, the only chart we had last year was the two‑point chart.¬† And the use of the two‑point chart, you can argue that all you want, too.¬† Some people use the two‑point chart right from the beginning and some people wait until the fourth quarter. ¬†Football 101 says you wait until the fourth quarter; so anybody that uses a two‑point chart before that, he's wrong.¬† If you believe in traditional football.
Traditional football has gone out the window if you have not watched Oregon and those kind of guys play.  Pretty soon the NFL will be like Oregon, too.  The NFL, it just takes longer to add all those different things to it.  NFL copies college football, by the way.

Q.¬† Would you advocate at some point getting rid of that single extra‑point kick and just always go for the two?
COACH LONG:  I would be willing to get rid of all kicking.

Q.  What do you want to see in terms of progress out of Ryan Katz this week?
COACH LONG:  I hope that when there is chances for him to have a little patience and wait for receivers to come open, I hope he feels more confident and can do that this week.
I was very happy with the way he played, though.  I thought several times he got first downs by getting out of there.  I mean, he had to get out of there a couple times because of pressure but not always.  If he had a chance to make a play, he went and made a play.  That's all you want in football is you want guys that make plays.  Now I hope he doesn't throw an interception and I hope he didn't fumble this week.

Q.  Inaudible.
COACH LONG:  Good.  I mean, if you look at the injuries last week's game, I guess we
beat 'em up, because we didn't lose anybody.

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