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October 16, 2012

Rocky Long

ROCKY LONG:  Quite a challenge this week and a good opportunity.  Nevada is the best team we've played so far this season.  They're tops in the nation in total offense.  They're scoring 41 points a game.  They're rushing the ball equally as throwing it.  They do everything really well.  They're a great football team.

Q.¬† Your team in New Mexico had a lot of success stopping them in I think it was the New Mexico Bowl in 2007.¬† Talk about what the keys are to stopping‑‑
ROCKY LONG:¬† Oh, it's completely different.¬† It's different offenses, it's different defenses.¬† They've expanded their offense to include a lot of zone read type double‑option plays with the quarterback carrying it with a blocker in front of him.¬† The offense isn't even close to the game offense.¬† I mean, it's out of the pistol formation, but the offense is much, much better now than it was back then.¬† That was a completely different time.

Q.¬† The soft coverages that you played against Colorado State, was that just a match‑up thing or is it something you could see continuing going forward?
ROCKY LONG:  Well, I don't see us playing it this week because you have to have enough people in run support to help stop the run.  They're averaging, I don't know, 285 or 290 or something rushing the ball every week.  They've rushed for almost 400 yards against a couple people, so you have to have DBs up there to help with the run support.  Well, if you have to have DBs up there to help with the run support, you can't have them playing back there in soft coverage.

Q.  Is this pistol offense more dangerous than the triple option you guys have seen and had so much success against?
ROCKY LONG:¬† Well, it's completely different.¬† It's more of a double option, first of all.¬† They're reading end men on the line of scrimmage, and they're giving it to the tailback at a deeper position than the triple option does, so the tailback can cut either way so he can see a hole and cut either way. ¬†And then they block for the quarterback carrying the ball.¬† They very seldom have a pitch‑back, only in short yardage do they ever have a pitch‑back, so it's not a triple option.
And then because the tailback isn't a normal tailback position, they can run all the normal eye formation plays or power plays or stretch plays or zone plays, and then added to that they're never in a two‑back set, they're always in a one‑back set, so they can spread you from sideline to sideline and throw the shotgun.¬† There's a reason Coach Ault is in the Hall of Fame.¬† He's a great coach, this is his invention, and he knows it better than anybody.

Q.  What do you think you guys will have to do to stop that offense then?  What's the key?
ROCKY LONG:  I don't think you stop it.  I mean, they're good enough no one else has stopped it.  I don't expect that we'll stop it.  Our ability to slow it down and keeping the score under control to give us a chance to win, that's our priority.

Q.  The running back Jefferson, what are you seeing from him?
ROCKY LONG:  He's only the No.1 leading rusher in the country, so he does everything well.  I mean, he finds seams, he gets in the seams, he breaks tackles, he makes people miss.  He doesn't fumble.  That's why he's top of the chart.  He's also carried it more than anybody else, too, so he's pretty durable.

Q.  What does having Cody Fajardo back at quarterback do?  What makes him so good?
ROCKY LONG:  I think it's just he's a little more experienced.  He has confidence in his ability.  He throws it well, and then when he does carry the ball, and normally with a blocker in front of him, he's got good running ability, he's fast.  He reminds me of Kevin O'Connell if you all remember watching Kevin O'Connell run with the ball.  He was one of the fastest quarterbacks I've ever seen.  Well, this guy is just like him.  He's really fast when he carries the ball.

Q.  How is Gabe doing?
ROCKY LONG:¬† He's all right.¬† He won't play this week.¬† He felt really‑‑ he felt much, much better on Sunday, so there's a good chance that it'll be a two‑week‑‑ he'll be able to play a week from now.

Q.  It's an MCL strain, right?
ROCKY LONG:¬† Uh‑huh, uh‑huh, and they're going to put him in a brace.¬† He's going to actually not practice, but he's going to work out today.¬† He's going to jog around and see if he can backpedal and all those sort of things.

Q.¬† Offensively what do you guys see from Nevada's defense because it looks like both your teams are very similar.¬† You have high‑scoring offenses and defenses that have had some issues this season.¬† What do you see from their defense?
ROCKY LONG:  Well, I see a lot of experience.  I looked at their roster right before I came in here, and out of 21 starters, they have 12 seniors that start and seven senior starters on defense.  So they know their scheme very well.  They make very few assignment errors.  You have to execute really well to be able to move the ball.  They've had some issues with a young front four; there's only one senior in their defensive line and the other ones are youngsters, so I would guess your estimation that these are very similar teams is exactly right.  Now, their front four has actually sacked the quarterback a few times, but they're young up front, and they've struggled some in the front four.

Q.  Also there was a stat from last week's game, it's the first time since 1973 that you guys went through a game without giving up any penalty yards.  What does that say about how you performed last week?
ROCKY LONG:¬† Well, I think that all it says is that‑‑ we don't coach it any differently from week to week.¬† All it says is the kids were focused in and concentrating so there weren't any‑‑ the normal procedure, offsides, there was none of those going on, and I thought it was a pretty clean game on both offense and defense.
Now, we did have one offsetting penalty that I guess is not official.  When they offset I guess those don't count as penalties.

Q.  On paper, it looks like this could be another shootout.  The biggest difference between you guys and Nevada is they've won their close games and you guys haven't.  As far as it being a shootout, you guys being in shootouts, what do you guys take from those previous games and looking at this one?
ROCKY LONG:¬† Well, I mean, I said this earlier on the conference call:¬† People assume that if you're in a shootout that nobody is playing any defense, and that's not true at all.¬† I mean, if you‑‑ 38 percent of the points we've scored has been caused by either the defense ‑‑ on our team have been caused by causing turnovers, the defense causing turnovers and giving our offense a short field or the defense scoring themselves.¬† That's 38 percent of our points.
So even in a shootout where the score is high, one defense has to do something along the way to give you a chance to win.¬† And like you said, I think right now they've proven to be a better football team than we are because they've won some close games against some decent competition.¬† I mean, it's going to be‑‑ I think it's going to be a great game, and I think the team whose defense makes the most big plays will probably have a chance to win.

Q.  With that being said, last drive of the game, who would you rather have on the field, your offense or your defense?
ROCKY LONG:  Well, I'd much rather be ahead.  I'd rather have them on the field because that means you're ahead.  You're a lot better off ahead than behind.  Either way you're a lot better off ahead than behind.

Q.  This might be sort of an overrated thing, but you guys haven't won on the road yet this year.  Is that just a product of having played some really good teams on the road?
ROCKY LONG:  Well, I think we've played two good teams on the road.  I think we've only been on the road twice?

Q.  Yeah.
ROCKY LONG: ¬†That's‑‑ yeah.¬† I had to think about it a second.

Q.  Would you consider this a statement game?
ROCKY LONG:  A statement as far as what?

Q.  As far as the teams you've beaten you were supposed to beat, on paper at least, and this is a team that has a better record, who's undefeated in the Mountain West Conference.  If you beat this team you're tied for the top seed or the top spot in the Mountain West Conference?
ROCKY LONG:  I don't think it's any different than any other game.  I think we've got five left.  For us to have a chance to win the Conference Championship, we probably have to win all five.  So all that happens is if we win this one, the next one becomes more important, the next one becomes more important, so forth and so on.  There's no such thing as a game more important than any other game.  It's the most important because it's this week.

Q.  When you look at the last two games that Nevada has played, they've had to sort of come from behind.  It's been pretty close.  Does watching game film on both of those two games kind of give you some keys as to what you have to do to beat this team?
ROCKY LONG:¬† You always look for‑‑ on film you always look for advantages, so people that have had any kind of success against them, you look for why they had success.¬† I think it shows what kind of team they are and what kind of character they have that they can fall behind in two, maybe even three‑‑ I think I read three, but I know at least the last two games they've fallen behind.¬† Last week they fell behind by quite a bit and found a way to come back and win.
So that tells you, first of all, they have great talent on that team, and second of all, they have great character on that team.¬† They go into games expecting to win.¬† Even the games they lost they only lost by one, and that was a shootout, so to speak.¬† The other team just stopped them on the last drive.¬† I think it was 32‑31.¬† Southern Florida, I think it was 32‑31.

Q.  So you look at the last game, what was UNLV doing that was so effective in the beginning against that team?
ROCKY LONG:¬† I think they got a lot of momentum going in their direction.¬† I think if you watch last night's game, it's amazing what momentum does to football.¬† I mean, I hate to admit this, but I've been in games just like last night's game, and guess what, when it starts rolling for one side or the other, there's absolutely nothing you can do as a coach to stop it.¬† I mean, that doesn't matter‑‑ that's in high school, that's in college, that's in pro football.¬† There's nothing you can do.
I mean, I think this game will be a heck of a game, and the defense that makes a big play or two or scores on defense or causes a turnover close to the other team's goal line will be the difference in the game.  So you've got two powerful offenses out there, and it still comes down to defense.

Q.  So you can sympathize with the head coach last night?
ROCKY LONG:  Oh, totally.  I mean, it's interesting when you listen to the radio and you hear about all the adjustments he's supposed to make.  I'm going to tell you what, you can make the best adjustments in the world, and when the momentum shifts like that, it ain't going to make a difference.

Q.¬† On the 73‑yard kickoff return that they had against you, when you look at it, what was the problem there?¬† Did somebody miss a block or something?
ROCKY LONG:  Well, some guys gave up the leverage on blockers, and one guy gave himself up.  Instead of taking on the blocker and trying to escape the blocker making the tackle, he just dove into the blocker.  I don't know what possessed him to do that, but it was really a wrong thing to do.

Q.  These past two weeks, beating Hawai'i and Colorado State at home, beating two struggling teams, is it kind of worrisome having to go on the road and facing a team like Nevada who's 6 and 1 and undefeated in the conference?
ROCKY LONG:¬† No, it's not worrisome.¬† I thought that both teams we played‑‑ I thought Hawai'i was a beat‑up, tired football team.¬† I think Colorado State, their kids came in and played as hard as they could play.¬† We just were a little bit better and played a little bit better than they did.¬† It would be a lot worse sitting here if we had lost to one of them and had to worry about going to Reno.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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