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October 23, 2012

Rocky Long

COACH LONG:  Obviously, we have a big game this weekend because of a lot of reasons.  If you win, every game gets to be more and more important.  And after yesterday morning after I got done watching every single one of their games on film, I had to go back and look at all the stats.  In five games this year, they were either tied, ahead, or within one score of the teams they were playing at the start of the fourth quarter.  So I thought they were much better than their record when I was watching the film.
So when I went back and checked that stat, obviously, they are much, much better than their won/loss record, which in my business makes you nervous.

Q.  Is that lack of depth?  Is that something that teams did in the fourth quarter?
COACH LONG:  No, they're usually a big play or two that happens.  Something that happens on special teams, a kickoff return back for a touchdown that kind of breaks the momentum or a fumble or an interception here and there.  But for most of the game, they're playing everybody very, very close and very, very physical.
Their quarterback is a red shirt freshman.  He's pretty good right now.  He's going to be phenomenal.  They've got two really good running backs that are aggressive at the line of scrimmage.  They've got two really good wide receivers.  I mean if you try to go by their record, you're making a huge mistake.

Q.  Coach, you talk about this game being a big game for several reasons, obviously, being bowl eligible must be a big one, I would imagine.  Can you just speak to that?
COACH LONG:  Well, I think that we still have a chance.  If we can win, we still have a chance at the conference championship.  If we can win another game, we're bowl eligible, which would be the first time in school history for three years in a row.  It's an interesting deal, when you win a few games in a row, the next one becomes a lot more important.  If you don't handle it right, you set yourself up for failure.

Q.  What are you losing going from Ryan Katz, if anything?
COACH LONG:  I think a little experience.  Ryan Katz had played a lot more football as a starting quarterback at the Division 1 level.  This will be Adam's first start.  The way he played the other night, he played probably better than we thought he would play and he had a phenomenal game.  A lot of guys perform well when they're just thrown in there and don't expect to play.  They just go out there and they know it's their turn, their time, and they just play ball.
Well, this week he's going to be trained, and when he was getting one out of every five reps, now he's going to get four out of every five reps.  He's going to know the game plan.  He's going to know the defense they run.  There are a lot more things that are going to be on his mind this week than were on his mind when he had to step in last week.
Now we think he's going to be fine because he was cool, calm and collected the other night.  So we think he's going to be fine.  But it's a different deal being the starting quarterback compared to the guy off the bench.

Q.  A big part about Adam's game is taking off and running.  Is there a little worry about him doing that after what happened to Ryan?
COACH LONG:¬† No, I don't worry about that stuff.¬† I don't think that‑‑ that's one of the good things.¬† We don't have to change anything we do on offense because they're the same kind of player.¬† They both like to run with the ball.¬† They both throw it good.¬† They run with it pretty well.¬† They're aggressive guys.¬† They're tough guys.
In my opinion, and my opinion only, if you've got a guy that that's part of his game and you try to say don't do that, you're taking his game away from him.¬† He's been playing football‑‑ he's from Texas, so he's probably been playing football since he was 6 years old, and that's part of his game.¬† You try to take that away from him, gee, you're setting him up.¬† As a coach, you don't want to set him up.¬† He's got to play like he plays.

Q.  Do you recruit a lot of Texas kids?
COACH LONG:¬† We don't recruit a lot of Texas kids, but we have a presence in Texas.¬† We have two coaches that go to Texas every year.¬† But most of the time we recruit players other than California kids.¬† We canvass, we go to every‑‑ we canvass every high school in the state of California, we canvass every high school in the state of Arizona and Nevada.
Other than that, it's people that show an interest in us, or a specific position that we start looking nationwide for.  And we always look for quarterbacks nationwide.
It was a little bit of we found him and he found us at the same time.  He showed interest in us, and after we watched him on high school tape, we had interest in him.

Q.  Are you nervous at all about your team and after such a big win having a letdown and/or overlooking a team?
COACH LONG:  Yeah, I made that statement that if you don't prepare the right way or if you don't handle success the right way, you're setting yourself up for a letdown.  That's always a possibility.

Q.  Does this team give you more concern than other teams do you think this team can handle it better than maybe other teams can?
COACH LONG:  Well, I don't know how we're going to handle it.  There's one thing I'm sure of because they always do this.  They play hard, and they don't quit.  They've been doing that since day one, so I know we'll play hard.  I know we won't give up.
Now there have been times in the past where we haven't played very well.  So it's a matter of preparing the right way and playing well enough to win.

Q.¬† You've been around a lot of football.¬† A win like you had in Nevada over a team that was 6‑1, best in the conference, what does that do for a team in terms of the intangibles, like morale and confidence.¬† Can you overstress its significance?¬† Are we making too much of a big deal at this point?
COACH LONG:  I think there is a tendency to do that if it hasn't been done very much.  And Mike has told me that since San Diego State's been playing Division 1 football, it's only been five times that a San Diego State football team since 1969, it's only been five times that a San Diego State football team was down by double digits in the fourth quarter and came back and won.  So if it's only been done five times since 1969, I would say that's a significant victory.
Now, the morale is great.  Our team was really happy after the game.  They were really happy yesterday.  Now how we handle that success is key to what we do from here on out.

Q.  You as a coach, what is your approach?  Do you try to hype up the win?  Do you try to down play it to be like don't get ahead of yourselves we still have a lot of football left to play?
COACH LONG:  As we always do, we explain every situation to them.  The situation is that game is over.  We won, but it's long gone.  No one's going to remember if we don't play well this week.  Now my experience is that athletes will listen sometimes and they don't listen sometimes.

Q.  Seems that Chance Martin has gotten some confidence and gotten into the groove?
COACH LONG:  He has.  He's kicked the ball really, really well.  And I'm sure in his case the confidence factor is a big deal.  It really is a big deal for kickers.  Obviously, you saw it the other night.  He made three of them.  One with 3 seconds left on the clock to put it into overtime.  That's a pretty confident kicker.
I think our kicking game has improved.  Our kickers have improved.  I have to say that the right way.  Our kickers have improved more than anybody else on our team.

Q.  What do you think sparked that?  Just more reps?
COACH LONG:  Yeah, I think it's just playing.  In Chance's case, it's the first time he's played football since high school, and Seamus is a freshman.

Q.¬† The athletic department as a whole, your team is doing well.¬† You listed things that you have a chance to do.¬† The men's basketball team is ranked in the top 20 in the preseason.¬† The women's soccer team has won a conference championship ranked 6‑0 in the nation.¬† The attitude of the athletic program here at San Diego State, can you touch on that right now?
COACH LONG:  Well, I think what you have is a great organization from the top down.  You have experienced, quality coaches that have done a good job recruiting and then they can put their players in a position where they can perform, and if they're good enough, they perform well and win some games.  You won't find two better basketball coaches than our basketball coaches in the country.
Now as good as a coach might be, you still have to recruit talented players, because there are a lot of good coaches not winning games, and that means they don't have good enough players.  But the coaches recruit them too, so...

Q.  Is the success of all the programs helped your recruiting, like the basketball programs or anything else help your football recruiting do you think?  Is there a little bit?
COACH LONG:  I think there is a little help.  Any time you have success throughout the athletic department, it helps everybody.  It helps the morale in the building.  It helps the morale in the weight room.  Makes every team practice a little harder, work out a little bit harder.  They all feed on each other.

Q.  I know Sandifer had a couple good games.  What are you seeing out of him?
COACH LONG:  I think he had a great game the other night.  He caught several passes.  A couple of them were difficult catches and the run he made on the bubble screen that scored a touchdown was a great play, either that or it was a terrible tackle by the safety depending on which team you're rooting for.  And as is the case in most of our positions, not all of them, but most of them, it's a weekly competition.  Somehow we don't believe that around here, but it's a weekly competition.
We've got four or five what we consider very good wide receivers.  They compete every week to see who gets the start.  Now there are certain positions where there is nobody going to beat Leon McFadden out.  I don't care how he practices; he's starting on Saturday.  We don't really care how Adam Dingwell practices this week; he's starting Saturday.  But in a lot of positions, it's a weekly competition.

Q.  (Indiscernible)?
COACH LONG:  You think he's going to start this week?  I'm going to tell you after the game on Saturday, Vaness Harris has made a case.  So who starts there will be how they practice this week.  Vaness played really well Saturday night, maybe better than Derek did.

Q.  He wasn't pretty much like he got offered past the deadline pick and all of that.  But is he doing everything that you expected him to do?
COACH LONG:  Overall, I think he's played better than we anticipated.  When we recruited him, we recruited him on athletic ability, and we did recruit him in high school.  But didn't actually offer him a scholarship, but we had thought about it when he was in high school.  So we kept track of him when he went to junior college.
But it was really a need for a guy that could come in and was big enough and strong enough that could maybe be at depth and help on special teams.¬† So he's exceeded our expectations of the first year here.¬† The best thing is he's three for three, which means he's really only a sophomore eligibility‑wise.¬† So he's going to get ‑‑ he makes some assignment errors and does some things because he's not sure of our scheme yet.¬† He's going to get nothing but better.
He's got a lot of athletic ability, and he's big, and strong, and can run well.  He's one of our better pass rushers.

Q.  You coached (Indiscernible) a linebacker.  Do you see some of that in Derek Largent?
COACH LONG:¬† They're about the same size.¬† I don't see the same‑‑ not that he won't develop it, because a lot of it has to do with knowing exactly what to do.¬† He doesn't have the same explosion or acceleration that Miles had yet.¬† Some of that might be that he's thinking too much, and as soon as he's confident in what his assignment is he might have that same thing.¬† I don't think you can compare the two right now, no.

Q.¬† The two‑point conversion at the end of the game, how much is it keeping your defense off the field because it looked like you ran a similar play a couple plays before that.¬† Did you see something or was it more keeping your defense off the field and being unable to stop that Nevada offense?
COACH LONG:  Well, I don't think it has anything to do with the defense otherwise we would have taken the penalty so that the defense had a better chance to stop them before the last drive.  In fact, it was totally a decision made on momentum.  They really struggled to score in overtime, really struggled.  If we don't have an assignment error, they don't score.  They would have had to kick a field goal.
So I thought they kind of struggled.¬† When you get the ball on the 25‑yard line, the chances of stopping them are very, very slim.¬† So I thought they struggled to score, and we scored in two plays.¬† Plus we had just driven the ball 60 yards or something, and 50 seconds to kick a game‑tying field goal.¬† Who had the momentum?¬† You going to let them stay in the game when you have all the momentum?
So people think it was a hard decision.  It seemed pretty simple to me.

Q.  What took you so long?
COACH LONG:  In fact, I called timeout because the offense had already sent the kicking team in.  So I had to call timeout to get them off the field.

Q.  What has Gavin Escobar done for your offense?  It seemed like he wanted to go into the end zone.  He wasn't going to go out of bounds or anything like that.
COACH LONG:¬† He hasn't caught as many passes this year because we have better wide receivers ‑‑ or not better‑‑ we have more wide receivers this year.¬† More guys that can make plays than we did last year, so he's not quite the focal point of our offense that he was last year.
But you see why he's good.  He's 6'6" and weighs 255 pounds and catches almost everything.  What you saw him do after he caught the ball was kind of special too for a guy that size.

Q.  Is it his athletic ability?
COACH LONG:  Oh, no, he's a great athlete.  This may be the last time you see him too.  He's a junior.  I would say there are people looking at him at the next level.

Q.  Was that ball going to Adam Roberts and if he was covered, they were going to have to make something happen?
COACH LONG:  The statement that that was a very similar play to the one that gavin Escobar caught for the touchdown, they were exactly the same play.  Different formations, different formations and different guys.  People do that all the time.
If you remember, after the long kickoff return at the Colorado State game, Colorado State ran the exact same play against us and it worked just as well.  I mean, that's a very difficult play to stop.  Is there anybody else to throw it to?  Nope.  If that guy's not open, it's up to the quarterback to scramble around.

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