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October 2, 2012

Rocky Long

COACH LONG:  First off, I'd like to say I've got to do a much better job of coaching.  Over the last three weeks, we have been absolutely terrible in pass defense.  Special teams haven't been very good either.  They've been very inconsistent and really bad in the San Jose game.  On offense, we were good for two weeks, and really kind of poor against Fresno State.  So obviously, I'm doing a terrible job of coaching.
Second off, we play Hawaii this week, and I would guess that Hawaii feels exactly the same way we do.  When you watch them on film, they're much more talented and have the ability to play much better than they've been playing, and I'm sure they're frustrated and want to win a game very bad.  That is the same that we are.  I think we have enough talent to be better than we are.  It comes down to coaching.
I'm sure we're all frustrated.  I'm frustrated.  We're frustrated, and the only way to make that better is to be able to win a game.  I imagine both teams want to win this game very bad.  The talent level is very equal so it ought to be a heck of a game.

Q.  You say terrible job of coaching.  What do you think you could have done better or different?
COACH LONG:  When you're doing things and they don't work right, you have to adjust how you do things.  We have tried to adjust over the last couple weeks, especially on pass defense, and for a little bit of the time it would work.  Then eventually the other team would adjust to what we're doing differently, and the results ended up the same.
So we have to adjust to what we're doing and do it better, so our players understand the scheme better and perform better.

Q.  Are you planning on switching anything defensively in practice?
COACH LONG:  No, we're going to practice the same.

Q.  How about personnel‑wise?
COACH LONG:  No, we're going to play the guys that have been playing that are our best players.

Q.  What would you say is most frustrating about those two losses?
COACH LONG:  I think the most frustrating thing is on special teams in the San Jose game.  We gave them 14 points on special teams, otherwise you win that game.  Last week we made some big plays on defense which gave us a chance and kept us in the game, gave us a chance to win it, but we couldn't do anything on offense.

Q.  Leon McFadden has been the only sure thing week‑in and week‑out for the season.  What has he meant to the team so far?
COACH LONG:  He's made a lot of big plays.  I think he's intercepted a pass in each of the last three games.  Two of them he's returned for touchdowns, so he's having a great year.  But that's just like one guy on offense having a great year and not scoring enough points to win and one guy on defense.  You can't win games unless you have 11 guys on both sides of the ball playing well.
Then 11 guys on whatever special teams out there playing well.  We don't have anybody playing really well on special teams.  We don't have anybody playing really well on offense, and we're terrible in pass defense.  So we don't have anybody playing really well in pass defense.  If you want to blame it on the talent level, you can do that, or you can believe you have enough talent to be a pretty good, competitive football team.  If they're not performing at that level, it's obviously a coaching error.

Q.  I'm sure you've been in this situation before.  How does your team rally after a tough two losses like that?
COACH LONG:  I've been in this situation more than I want to remember.  I've been around teams that struggled really bad in pass defense.  I've been around teams that struggled really bad in run defense.  I've been around teams that couldn't score a point.  There's only one way to do it.
Now the positives, you want the positives of everything.  Our kids play hard.  You haven't seen one sign, even though we've been struggling, you haven't seen one sign of them giving up.  You haven't seen one side of them not playing physical.  You haven't seen one side of them not playing hard.
So as long as they practice hard and play like that, if we find the right formula or the hot button as a coach, we're going to be fine.  If we don't ever find the hot button as a coach, we're going to be like this the whole year.  Then you have to reevaluate things in the off‑season and change a bunch of things in the off‑season.  I'm counting on our kids continuing to play hard, and I count on us to be better coaches from here on out.

Q.  Talk about how you've been on teams that have struggled against the pass defensively.  What did you do to switch it up.  How far do you go to dilute your schemes or change things to make sure that your schemes fit what the kids can do?
COACH LONG:  Over the last two weeks we've changed some scheme things in practice that have helped us for a little bit of the time.  Then as soon as the other team adjusts to what we're doing, we haven't practiced it enough to be efficient or executed good enough when they actually figure out what you're doing.  We haven't executed well enough to do it.  So we haven't practiced it enough.
We can't have five‑hour practices.  I mean, we're still only going to practice the same amount of time, so we've done that for three weeks, and that hasn't worked.
So the other alternative is to reduce your package.  Probably not give them any trouble whatsoever on them figuring out what you're doing and be able to execute it better so your players play better.  Now they'll be able to do some things that hurt it.  But still if you can execute what you're doing, you should be able to offset that enough to give you a chance to win.

Q.  Can you elaborate on some of the things that you guys switched up that worked for a little bit against Fresno State?
COACH LONG:  Well, we did some zone blitzes.  How do you think we got two interceptions back for touchdowns.  They also threw for 300 yards against zone blitzes too.  I don't know how many touchdowns were zone blitz touchdowns, but there were two or three touchdowns against zone blitz also.
I mean, it's diminishing returns.  You make two big plays because of the zone blitz, but you give up four big plays because of the zone blitz.  If your offense is struggling, you can't let them score that many points.

Q.  Why did your offense struggle last game?  It looked like you just couldn't establish the run?
COACH LONG:  I don't think we've established the run.  I don't think we've protected the quarterback.  So it would have been really nice if the offensive line would have blocked better.  Now I don't think that's a scheme issue, but obviously protecting the quarterback and being able to block on the run, if you're playing against a good defensive front, that's technique.  Assignment and technique work.  If the assignment and technique work is not good enough, then the coaching is not good enough.  Either that or we don't have good enough players, and I'm not ever going to say that we don't have good enough players, ever.

Q.  Do you feel like your offense has been steadily getting better and better throughout the season until this game against Fresno?
COACH LONG:  I thought the offense has played well all year.  Maybe not the Washington game, but they played well for three weeks and played poorly last week, basically, because we got beat at the line of scrimmage.  They were better at the line of scrimmage than we were.

Q.  Now that being said, are you looking forward to facing a Hawaii defense that has lost a couple of defensive linemen to injuries?
COACH LONG:  I'm not really looking forward to playing anybody.  But the competitive spirit in me wants to play today.  I wish the game was today.  The only way to make yourself feel better is to be able to go out and play and win.  I think that Hawaii's in the exact same situation we are.  If you watch them on film, they've got plenty enough talent.
I think it's going to be a good game.  They're frustrated, and they're going to want to play good.  We're frustrated and we're going to want to play good.  Both teams are going to play aggressively and hard.  What it comes down to is the team that executes the best is going to win.
I think in the situation they're in and the situation we're in, you can throw what has happened out the window.

Q.  How do you get your offensive line up to speed?  It would be nice if they can block better.  What do you do as a coach?
COACH LONG:  You practice.  You continue to practice.  I mean, we knew we were going to struggle on the offensive line, and other than last week, that hasn't been the case.  We knew we were going to struggle on the defensive line, and that has been the case from day one and it hasn't gotten any better.

Q.  What is the status of Dontrell at this point?
COACH LONG:  He's still taking care of personal issues.

Q.  So what do you guys think without him on your starting defensive line, what do you guys miss?
COACH LONG:  I don't think we miss anything.  Whenever a person has to leave because of personal reasons or being disciplined, it's just like a player getting hurt.  You have to replace them with whoever the best guy up, and the next guy up, and whoever is the best guy you've got, and he's got to perform at the same level.
This is not pro football where you take them off the waiver wires or take them off the practice squad.  This is college football.  You play the next guy, and hope he plays just as well.

Q.  Looking at this next game, what is one thing that has to go for you guys in order to pull out a victory?
COACH LONG:  We've got to be able to stop a pass play.

Q.  This is the first of a two‑game home stand before you guys go to (Indiscernible)?
COACH LONG:  I don't think of two games in advance.  I think of this game.  As poorly as we've been playing, especially in pass defense, every game is crucial to get better.  I'll say it again, no game is more important than the one you're playing this week.

Q.  If you look at Hawaii, Coach, the quarterback struggled the last game.  It looks like they haven't established their running backs.  What do you see from their offense?
COACH LONG:  They had a really good running back that got hurt in the SC game, and he's supposed to be back for our game.  The struggle they had against BYU is because they lost the battle at the line of scrimmage.  BYU rushed four, and the quarterback couldn't get a pass off.  They had a seven‑man front and they couldn't run the ball.  It was totally at the line of scrimmage.
Against Nevada‑Reno, if you watch that film, they moved the ball really, really well against Reno.  They made some mistakes, they fumbled a couple times and throw an interception, but they moved the ball really well.  But Nevada‑Reno might be the best team in our league.

Q.  What do you see from special teams?  Their punter just came back.  He looks like he has a big leg?
COACH LONG:  Yeah, we've only seen him in one game, and before that, they were using one of their defensive backs with the punter.  So they were doing all kinds of things in the punting game.  Sprinting him out, rugby punting.  They had about 18 different punt formations, so he had trouble lining up to it.  Last week their punter was back, so they were kind of average.  They do the exact same thing we do.  They have a shield punt.
He kicked the heck out of it last week, so I'm sure they're glad he's back.  We're hoping all those formations don't show up, because that means you have to practice against all of them.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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