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November 6, 2012

Rocky Long

COACH LONG:  He has respect of the other players and the other players are going to rally around him.  But you wonder if he's going to perform to the level he's performed at at this point.

Q.  It almost seems like it's a product of the system with a solid rushing attack, that takes the ease off of the quarterback.  Could you talk about the back field this year where it compares to other back Fields you've had in the past?
COACH LONG:  I think the difference between this one and other good rushing teams I've been around is that this has two quality running backs that share equal time.  I've been around teams that have two quality running backs, but one got the majority of the carries, and the other one just kind of spelled them or rested them at times.  Or you had a dominant running back that got most of the carries in the game and was something special like Ronnie Hillman was last year.
Our two running backs are a little bit different styles, but they're carrying the ball almost equal number of times and having equal amount of success.  So that's a little unusual that they're sharing equal carries and very similar to yardage and everything else.

Q.  We know that there always needs to be productive offensive linemen in order for there to be a good back field.  Would you give one an edge over the other when comparing the offensive line in the back field?
COACH LONG:  Oh, I think the offensive line is much more important.  I mean, you can have some really good running backs that don't look really good because nobody's blocked in front of them.  I mean, there's not been a running back in the history of the world that's made yards without somebody blocking for them and giving them a hole.  Offensive line is much more important.
You can have an average running back that will have a really good game if the offensive line is dominating the line of scrimmage.

Q.  What is one of the reasons (Indiscernible) how much fun are you having this season as compared to maybe seasons in the past?
COACH LONG:  I don't know if you'd consider it fun.  I'm being as honest as I can, and most coaches are this way.  I enjoyed the victory the other night for about ten minutes and then I started worrying about Air Force.  I don't enjoy it until the season's over and we've been successful.  Then I sit back and enjoy what happened.
I'm sure I'll enjoy the Boise State win a lot more in January than‑‑ I mean, I didn't enjoy it at all.  I started watching Air Force on my computer on the way home.  But that's a good problem to have.  If you win those kind of games, guess what?  The next game is more important.  People hate to hear that, but it is.  This game's a lot more important than last week's game.  Last week's game is long gone.  We're playing a quality opponent that can beat us.
For us to have a chance, we've got to play really well.  For us to play really well, the coaches have to give them a good game plan and the players have to prepare well.  I think other coaches enjoy it more than I do.  I enjoy spring practice because you don't have to win (laughing).

Q.  If you don't enjoy it, why do you do it?
COACH LONG:  It's my passion, I guess.  I don't know.  Everybody does what they do, and I'm lucky to do what I wanted to do.

Q.  What does a win like this do for your program?  Going on the road, being a top 25 team, first time in San Diego State?
COACH LONG:  This team will always have that ability to brag about that even when they do exceptional things.  When you're around a team that does exceptional things, it's always ‑‑ well, in the last 15 years, or 12 years ago.  Well, they haven't done it for 12 years, but guess what?  This one has never been done before.
So this team, the members of this team will be able to carry that with them forever.  Now most people won't care.  But when you get to my age, you can brag about stuff like that.  And all the people that sit there and listen to you think it's kind of cool too.

Q.  Have the old timers, guys that have been around a while come up and said, hey, that was better than that Florida State win or that was the prettiest win I've seen in program history?
COACH LONG:  After the Boise game, I didn't hear that.  But I heard that a couple times after the Nevada‑Reno game, yeah.

Q.  Where would you rank that among your other solid regular season wins?
COACH LONG:  I think it's right up there.  I've been around teams that have beaten top 20 teams before.  But whenever you beat a top 25 team away from home and at a place where they are dominant at home, it's a pretty big deal.

Q.  Coach, it struck me that even talking to the guys after the win, they've already started talking about Air Force.  How has this team been able to sort of stay so even keeled throughout the season that's come with so many landmark wins?
COACH LONG:  That's yet to be seen because we've got two more weeks or two more games to play.  This one is important.  But I think the quality football teams and quality programs in the country learn to treat every week exactly the same.  They have the same respect for whoever they're playing.  They prepare the same way for whoever they're playing, and they go into the game with the same attitude every week.

Q.  Do you think your team has done that so far?
COACH LONG:  I think that we're learning how to do that.  I'm not sure.  In the four years I've been here, the other three years we carried on too long.  When you had a good win, it carried on way too long.  The real good programs in this country in football, guess what?  They enjoy it for about 24 hours and then they forget about it.  They don't get too excited when it happens because guess what?  They expect to win.  It's not unusual for them to win.  They expect to win.  I think our team has shown some maturity this year that they handled those wins pretty good.

Q.  Where does that stem from?  How do you instill that in your team as a coach?  Is that a coach's thing or senior leadership?
COACH LONG:  No, I think it's success.  I think people have to tell them that.  But they're the ones that have to accept it.  It's like everything about coaching.  I mean, you try to point them in the right direction, and they have to accept it for it to be true, and they have to believe in it and they have to make it happen themselves.
I've said in this room several times, we do a lot of good things X's and O's that you guys don't have any idea.  It's unbelievable, genius, because the players weren't able to execute it, and no one in the world knows it was genius.  Then you might do something completely wrong‑‑ in fact, we did it the other night.  We called the wrong personnel out there, so we called a defense that fit that personnel, but they were in a different personnel and we intercepted a pass.  Okay?  So that's players executing the plan whether it was the right call or not.
You can call the perfect thing and no one will ever know because the players don't execute it.  Coaches can lose games.  Coaches can never win a football game.  Players win football games.

Q.  There was a lot of talk especially after the first game about your aggressive attitude on fourth down and point‑afters and hunting less.  And everybody's like, What's Rocky doing?  And now you have two huge wins that are directly related to that philosophy.  The win at Nevada and certainly against Boise.  Is there any sense of vindication or now Rocky's a genius?  The back and forth, is there any sense of vindication from that philosophy?
COACH LONG:  None whatsoever.  We do it to give what we think is the best chance for our team to win.  We'll do that every week.  We'll continue to do that.  But guess what?  The only reason people are happy about it now is because it worked.  If it hadn't worked, the same people would be talking the other way like they were the first game of the year.  I've been around long enough to be smart enough to know that.  If they work, everybody thinks boy, what a gambler.  "Boy, gee whiz, that's wonderful".  If it doesn't work, "What a dumb ass."

Q.  Was that an audible?  Because Adam looked like was he just clarifying.
COACH LONG:  He changed the side of the play.  Yeah, he did that several times during the game.  He changed the protection a couple times.  That really helped.  He changed which way the running play was going to go which really helped.  I thought that was the biggest difference between this week and his first start.  He really did a nice job of getting us into the right play.  If you get into the right play, you have a better chance of success.
You still have to block though.  You still have to execute it, but it gives you a nice chance.

Q.  You had a player grab a Player of the Week award five consecutive weeks.  How important has that been to your success?
COACH LONG:  I think that's just a bonus.  I think it's a bonus when you win a game and someone played well, that you get some extra recognition.  I mean, it's nice for the player.  It's nice for the team, but I think the best thing we do is we have a team.  We don't have anybody on our team that's self‑centered or worried about themselves.  They're all worried about the success of the team.

Q.  Given how young you guys were on the offensive line, defensive line, and how few seniors you have starting, are you surprised by where you guys are at this point in the season?
COACH LONG:  I'm surprised by what I thought we would be at the beginning of the year.  I'm not surprised now.

Q.  What do you mean?
COACH LONG:  At the beginning of the year I thought that the inexperience we had would have caused us problems throughout the year.  I think our offensive line developed quicker than I thought and they're getting better every week.  The defensive line didn't develop as quick as I thought they would, but they're playing pretty quick right now.  Then you have guys stepping up that no one would have guessed that we'd be playing that well.

Q.  Such as?
COACH LONG:  Oh, Adam Muema.  Everyone was concerned before the season was we lost Ronnie Hillman.  I told everybody, but they didn't want to listen because you all know better.  Bryce Quigley has really developed into a good offensive linemen, Cody Galea has been playing well on the defensive line.  Derek Largent at linebacker, he's exceeded what we thought he would be out of junior college.  I could probably list 10, 12, 15 guys if I had a list in front of me and wanted to go that way.

Q.  What about Jake Fely, injury‑wise?
COACH LONG:  He should be fine.  He's got a strain in a muscle in his lower leg.  He plays hurt anyways, and he weighs 190 pounds and he's‑‑ he says he's 5'11", but I don't think he is.  A guy that size playing middle linebacker is going to get beat up.  So he better play tough and he better be able to play hurt.

Q.  How does a guy that size have this success?  He's having a fantastic year.  He's only a sophomore.  How does a guy that size do so well?
COACH LONG:  He's a good football player.  He's got great instincts and has a great heart.  He's obviously got athletic ability too.  He's quick, he can run fairly fast.  He's not afraid to hit you.  In fact, he likes hitting you.  He's got great instincts.
That's one of those things that coaches don't coach.  Some people are better at it than others.  They just react the right way.  He plays really hard and he makes a lot of plays.  He was exactly like that in high school.  He didn't get recruited about a lot of people because he was 5'9" and weighed 190 pounds.

Q.  Do you go extra hard after guys like that?  That seems to be a model that maybe Boise might have gone after, TCU, teams that really improved their program that weren't able to get those consistent five‑star guys.  Is that a way you go getting guys that have immeasurables like that?
COACH LONG:  We try to recruit good football players, yeah.  If you could get one like Jake that was 6'5" and 240 pounds and was going to be a first‑round draft choice, that's the one you'd get.  But there are only a few of those guys in the world.  So we look for good football players that fit into our system.

Q.  You were successful at NewMexico for a while and starting to gain success here.  Were you ever a write‑in candidate for office during any moment?
COACH LONG:  You mean political office?

Q.  Yeah.
COACH LONG:  No (laughing).  That's a funny question.  That's a good one.  No, I don't think I was, let's put it that way.

Q.  Lot of people are saying they're going to write your name in today?
COACH LONG:  For what?  For President?  For dog catcher or something?  I mean, I can't believe anybody wants that job.

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