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September 18, 2012

Rocky Long

ROCKY LONG:  Got a huge challenge this week.  San Jose State, after watching a lot of film, they're really good.  You can look at their scores over the last three weeks and just tell that they're really good.  I know that it's been a little while since we've played them, but the last two times San Jose State has played us, they've won in very impressive fashion.
On defense, they're aggressive.  They're aggressive in the kicking game.  They cover kicks really, really well.  They're very aggressive on defense.
And on offense they're explosive.  They threw for 400 something yards last week against Colorado State.  Quarterback is fifth or sixth in the country or something like that for percentage of completions.  He's got three good receivers he throws to.  They've got a couple pretty good running backs.  I mean, they're good.

Q.  How would you assess them in regards to the team that you played last week, which also had a pretty good offensive unit, and the task that you're going to be facing to try to stop these guys?
ROCKY LONG:  I think on offense, the quarterback is comparable, the receivers are comparable.  San Jose's running backs are better and their tight ends are better.
On defense they're a lot better.

Q.  So big challenge?
ROCKY LONG:  Yeah, very big challenge.

Q.¬† What are you guys working on defensively this week to try and step up your game against this team that has comparable quarterbacks and receivers but better running backs and better tight ends, so an all‑around better offense?
ROCKY LONG:¬† Well, hopefully we can get a pass rush with four guys.¬† It's a fundamental issue, it's not a scheme issue.¬† You can only scheme people so much, and after a while, if you play good football teams, you've got to be able to‑‑ in order to play decent pass defense, you've got to be able to rush four guys and get some decent heat on the quarterback.

Q.  The few times that you guys did get pressure on the quarterback, Fely came off the weak side.  What did you guys see in that?
ROCKY LONG:  Well, Jake is one of our guys that plays really hard, so we can bring now the flexibility that we have in our defense, we can bring anybody from anywhere.  And so at the time we were trying to play a certain zone coverage, and the best way to play that coverage is to make Jake the pass rusher, and we brought him off the edge a couple times, we brought him inside a couple times.

Q.  Can you talk a little bit about how your running game has evolved, and with such a high scoring other team you're facing, it would be nice to hog that ball, wouldn't it?
ROCKY LONG:  It would be very nice to be able to run the ball.  Now, like I said, San Jose is a lot better on defense than the team we just played.  Our offensive line continues to get better, and we've got two pretty good running backs.  Adam Muema played a little bit last year and showed that he had some ability, and him and Walter Kazee are a good combination.  Walter might be a little quicker, a little more experienced, Adam is a little bit stronger, can break arm tackles.

Q.  In terms of your offensive evolution, it seems like every week they've just gotten better and better.  How good can we expect this offense to be, and how close to where you want them to be are they at this point?
ROCKY LONG:  Oh, I think we're a long way away.  I mean, as we continue to play during the year, we're going to play much better defenses than we've played against so far (chuckling).  One of them is this weekend.  I don't know how good Army is on defense.  They gave up 40 points to us, and they gave up 40 points to Northern Illinois, so I'm guessing they're not real good on defense.
And last week's team that we played wasn't very good on defense.
So our offense has had a couple really good weeks where they've really performed well, but they're going to play against a much tougher defense this week.  I think San Jose State's defense held Stanford under 300 yards, and they also held UC Davis under 300 yards.  Now, Colorado State threw for quite a few yards against them, but no one has consistently run the ball against them.

Q.  Zero turnovers in the past two games; who do you give credit to the most on offense with that?
ROCKY LONG:  Oh, I think the emphasis our offensive coaches put on that.  I mean, whenever you're in a close football game, we can discuss and argue why you win and lose, but any time it's a close football game, turnover margin is the biggest reason you win or lose.  We lost the turnover margin in Washington, and we lost.  We won the turnover margin the last two weeks, and we've won.
Now, the Army game wasn't close, but last week's game was close.¬† There was a one‑touchdown difference in last week's game, and that was an interception for a touchdown.¬† Both offenses scored the exact same number of times.

Q.  You mentioned that run defense.  Is that scheme, talent, activity?  Why are they so effective?
ROCKY LONG:¬† Well, I think they've got better players.¬† They're pretty good up front.¬† They've got aggressive linebackers.¬† So it's not‑‑ it's hardly ever scheme.¬† I mean, at this level, even though commentators will say certain coaches out‑coach other coaches, at this level scheme wise you very seldom get out‑coached scheme wise, very seldom.¬† So usually it's how effective your players are, how they execute the plan, and obviously the more talented players you have, the easier it is for them to execute the plan.
But now I say that, and some of it has to do with fundamentals and some of it has to do with their concentration, their intensity level, how hard they want to play.  I mean, you can never take the heart out of a player.  If you play with a lot of intensity and a lot of heart, all of a sudden those schemes seem to work a whole lot better (chuckling).

Q.  At the start of the game it was one of the hottest games in history.  As far as the mental approach, how would you assess you guys' mentality, I guess, in the game?
ROCKY LONG:  Oh, I don't think we worried about it.  We prepared them by explaining to them they'd better hydrate the whole game, but we didn't have any cramping problems, and we had practiced all week in the same weather, so I don't think it was any big deal whatsoever.  I was kind of hoping it was going to be a big deal for them, but it didn't seem to bother them, either (chuckling).

Q.¬† On the conference call this morning a couple other coaches also expressed that they had had the same problem that you guys had against North Dakota against other teams.¬† They couldn't get a pass rush on.¬† Does this speak to maybe offenses evolving and being these high‑powered passing offenses more that defenses can't catch up or is it maybe a week where three teams had the same problem?
ROCKY LONG:¬† No, I think you're hitting on something.¬† I think that the game has evolved.¬† The offensive game has evolved where they're putting a lot more pressure on defenses, with the hurry‑up, with the spread.¬† They're throwing the ball a lot more in high school level and below that.¬† They've gone to the seven‑on‑seven tournaments.¬† The skill players have improved dramatically on offense over the last 10 or 15 years just because of the number of events they can go to, the training of quarterbacks, the training of receivers, and then all the rules over the last 10 or 15 years have been made to help the offense.
I mean, just our last game, I mean, there was four or five penalties in the last game that gave them three scores (laughing).¬† 10 years ago none of those would have been penalties.¬† None of them would have been even close to penalties 10 years ago, and now all of a sudden you hit a quarterback in the chest and it's a 15‑yard penalty, and guess what, they score after it.¬† A receiver and a DB run into each other, and it's pass interference, and guess what, afterwards they score.
So I think that the offensive skill players have improved dramatically, the schemes have improved better by the spread.¬† Quarterbacks are better, they get rid of the ball quicker, so you don't have to protect them as well.¬† And that's why defensive linemen and corners backs go so high in the draft, so you can rush four and get to the quarterback, and you've got enough DBs out there that can cover somebody man‑to‑man.

Q.  So as a defensive guy, how do you keep up with that?
ROCKY LONG:  Recruiting.

Q.  It's nothing to do with scheme?
ROCKY LONG:  It has nothing whatsoever to do with scheme.

Q.  Do you look for a different kind of defensive lineman or a different kind of cornerback now than you did before?  Are there different things you're looking for?
ROCKY LONG:  Yes, you're looking for much better athletes in the defensive line than you used to.  In fact, in the NFL they have the gigantic guys they put in there on 1st down to fill up gaps, and after that they take all these guys out of the game and put all these fast guys into the game to rush the quarterback.
So at our level we look for a guy that can do a little bit of both, and then if you're young like we are in the defensive line and you haven't developed your fundamental skills of pass rushing, and all of a sudden you have a 6'2", 260‑pound guy going up against a 6'8", 343‑pound guy, if he doesn't beat him with his quickness, guess what, he doesn't get to the quarterback.

Q.  Do you see as big of a challenge going against San Jose State's offensive line as you had last weekend?  That was a pretty huge North Dakota line.
ROCKY LONG:¬† San Jose is not as big, but they're more athletic.¬† We're not going to be engulfed as bad as we were against North Dakota, but hopefully our athletic ability‑‑ I'm going to say this:¬† We've got really good athletes in our offensive line, but their fundamental skills are in the development stages.¬† You have to do a lot of things right to be able to rush the passer, and just because you're quick and fast doesn't mean that you can do it, and our kids are getting better as it goes.¬† But until we get a decent pass rush with four guys, our pass defense is very suspect.

Q.¬† On the other end, like you said, if you can't get a pass rush with four guys then you have to kind of blitz but you have to play better man‑to‑man.¬† Is that an approach that you guys‑‑
ROCKY LONG:¬† Yeah, we did that last week, too.¬† We started blitzing the heck out of him.¬† The trouble with man coverage is if one guy makes one false step, instead of a 10‑yard catch, it's an 80‑yard catch.¬† In zone coverage a guy can be out there and they catch the ball and he misses the tackle, there's two or three other guys to run over there and tackle him.¬† In man coverage, you slip, you plant and slip, or you undercut the route and you misjudge the ball, a five‑yard slant route turns into a 70‑yard touchdown.
So you fight the battle.  Now, if you get behind, you have to take the chance.  But if you don't get behind, you play it a little bit softer and let them catch balls and everybody jump up and down about them catching balls, but it takes longer to score and maybe you can outscore them.  But if you can't get a pass rush with four guys, you've got to take some chances and blitz them, and then you're really taking some chances of giving up big plays.

Q.  Your defense played well for about seven quarters.  I believe it was 114 minutes without giving up a passing touchdown, and now this happens.  What is the biggest thing your defense takes away from this last game?
ROCKY LONG:¬† I think we lost some confidence because I think going into the game I thought we were very confident, going into the game.¬† So we lost some confidence, so hopefully that means to our players‑‑ I mean, it's been told to our players, hopefully that means to our players that we've got to go back and we've got to get a whole lot better fundamentally at what we're doing.¬† We've got to have better technique in man coverage and we've got to do a lot better at rushing the passer.
I think I said this at the very start:  I think our defensive line is a work in progress, and I was hoping by the third or fourth game that they would be at game speed.  Well, it didn't look like it last week.
And the first two teams we played, the Washington game, they wanted to run the ball, okay, so‑‑ and they didn't protect the passer, as well, neither.¬† And the second game we played, they don't like to throw it, they want to run it every snap, so that makes it kind of easy on DBs if they don't ever want to throw it.¬† Then all of a sudden we played someone who had a really, really hot quarterback and some good receivers and he threw it 50 times.¬† You saw what happened (chuckling).
Now, they've got a better‑‑ San Jose has got a much better running game.¬† They've got two better running backs and they run a lot of pro set and they have more success running power plays and zone plays and all that.¬† But they have an ability to go to a spread offense in their quarterback like‑‑ I'm not sure, I think it's 77 percent or something like that, his completion rate is 77 percent.¬† I mean, that's pretty good.¬† That's one of the top five guys or six guys in the country.
I mean, we're not the only one having this problem.  Just look at the stats when they play those kind of teams.  It's disappointing, but we're not the only ones.  You give us Alabama's defensive line I'll bet you it changes (laughing).

Q.  How long do you think this evolution has been taking place?
ROCKY LONG:  Oh, the last 10 years, maybe more than that.  The last 10 years.  And then offensive linemen are allowed to hold now, defensive backs are not.  In the old days offensive linemen could not hold, there was a penalty, and defensive backs did hold, and they didn't call it.  I mean, there's a lot of techniques in the old days you could use playing pass coverage.  I used some of them.  If a guy is faster than you, you just grab a hold of his ass and don't let him outrun you.  It's really simple.  But now, shoot, now you just bump a shoulder and the flag goes up and it's pass interference.

Q.  How about Seamus McMorrow?  We got the depth chart today.  Is he your placekicker for this week or for the rest of the season?
ROCKY LONG:  Our placekicker has not been decided yet for this week.

Q.  Even though he's listed on the top of your depth chart?
ROCKY LONG:¬† The depth chart doesn't mean anything.¬† Haven't you figured that out yet (laughing)?¬† There's only a couple positions that that depth chart you know for sure will stay the same.¬† There's a couple of‑‑ there's several other positions that could change by game time on who starts, not just kicker, either.¬† There's a lot of positions like that.

Q.  You talked a little bit about confidence.  Katz' confidence has to be pretty high right now, career high in touchdowns?
ROCKY LONG:  Whenever you're successful you gain confidence, and I think he has.  I think our offense has, too.  I think they've played with a lot of confidence.  Hopefully they can continue to play like that.

Q.  Do you let him loose since he does have more confidence, or do you kind of keep him in the same mold because he's successful in what he's doing?
ROCKY LONG:  How do you mean let him loose?

Q.¬† More passes, the first play instead of running a play action have guys run ‑‑
ROCKY LONG:  No, I don't think that has anything to do with Ryan.  I think that is totally our offensive package.  Our offensive package is we want to be a 50/50 team, but we want to be able to run the ball.  So if you're able to run the ball, your ability to protect the passer becomes a lot better with play action pass.  They don't run up the field as fast.
So I don't think it has anything to do with Ryan.  I think it's just the way we want to play on offense.

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