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December 4, 2012

Adam Dingwell

Alec Johnson

Rocky Long

COACH ROCKY LONG:  We're continuing to practice for the Bowl game, and right now it's kind of spring practice.  We won't start actually putting game plan and all that in until about a week from now we'll start into game planning and all that.
We had several people on our team make all‑conference, which is really nice for the individual, but it's more of a statement about the program and it's nice for the program to be recognized and those kind of things.

Q.  Tell us about your feelings, Coach of the Year.
COACH ROCKY LONG:  My feeling is I'm uncomfortable with the award because it has nothing to do with me.

Q.  Why not?
COACH ROCKY LONG:  It has to do with players playing well and winning games.  You only get those kind of awards if you win games.

Q.  Who puts the players into position to play well in the games?
COACH ROCKY LONG:  The coaching staff as a whole.  So it's more of a statement of the program than it is of an individual.

Q.  Where is this program?
COACH ROCKY LONG:  Well, we're a whole lot better than we were four years ago.

Q.  Has to say something about you, you and your staff, that you did what you did with the team after losing a lot of key players from last year.  Do you think it does say something about how far this program has come in the last year?
COACH ROCKY LONG:  I think it says more of a statement of how far the players have come.  Four years ago, guess what, I coached the same way I did this year.  I wasn't the head coach but I coached exactly the same way I did this year.
Our coaching staff coached exactly the same this year as we did last year.  I mean, it's all about players making plays and winning games.  Anybody that gets any of these awards, first of all, you have to be in the right situation, and then you have to win games, or guess what, nobody's name is on that list if you don't win games.
And I don't change the way I coach from year‑to‑year.¬† We coach the same way.¬† The players are the ones that do all the work and develop themselves to that they play better.

Q.¬† Maybe the cumulative effects of the coaching from year‑to‑year.
COACH ROCKY LONG:  Well, I think consistency in a program has a lot to do with players getting better.  If you consistently do the same thing year after year after year and the players believe in it and work hard, then the players get better and then guess what, if your players get better, you win more games.

Q.  Got to be fun.
COACH ROCKY LONG:  This whole year has been a lot of fun.

Q.  When you first got the spot, you said this is where you wanted to be and this is it, you weren't looking to go anywhere else.
COACH ROCKY LONG:  I said that, yeah.  I'm lucky I'm still here today.  I'm an old man.  I don't know how much longer I'm going to coach.
I had a buddy call me and say, "Congratulations, you're really consistent, every ten years you win Coach of the Year."¬†¬†¬† I mean, I'm not sure‑‑ I doubt if I'm around to do it one more time.

Q.  Ten years, that is.  Unless it happens again next year.
COACH ROCKY LONG:  Well, if it happens, it means we had a good football team.

Q.  The last time you won it in New Mexico, do you remember that year?  What was the big turnaround that year?
COACH ROCKY LONG:¬† I think that was the first year we went to a Bowl game I think.¬† I don't remember exactly.¬† I think it was the first year that that school had been in a Bowl game in 60‑some years.

Q.  So what has it been like turning programs around?
COACH ROCKY LONG:  Well, when you have a good football team like we did this year, it's exciting.  It's fun.  It's always fun to go into a game thinking you're going to win.

Q.¬† Who impressed you‑‑
COACH ROCKY LONG:  I think if you take all the skill players, because I truly believe there's sometimes a defensive player and sometimes a lineman that deserves Player of the Year, or the Heisman Trophy, but they are not going to get it because it's all based on statistics.
So you look at any of those skill players on the first team and/or second team all conference, there's several really good candidates to be Player of the Year on either one of those teams.  I think Adam Muema was a good candidate to be Player of the Year in this league.  He was on the second team all conference.
If you look at the number of carries he had and the number of yards he has compared to all of the running backs on that list, he was much more efficient than those other two running backs, much more efficient.¬† And he was‑‑ I thought the quarterback at Nevada had a great year, too.
I thought a couple receivers at Fresno State had great years.¬† But Derek Carr is a great‑‑ I mean, that's a good pick.¬† He had a great year.¬† And he's a quarterback on a really good football team.
So him getting picked is as good as any.  There's probably, in my opinion, four or five guys on there that could have got picked for the Offensive Player of the Year but he's a good choice, really good choice.

Q.  What about on defense, are you surprised that Jake Fely was only second team?
COACH ROCKY LONG:  No, the way we play defense around here, it's very difficult for our defensive players to get awards.

Q.  Why is that?
COACH ROCKY LONG:  Because we alternate so many players, they are not in there as other players and their statistics, most of these are based on statistics.
So if you're the leading tackler in the league, guess what, you're going to be first team all conference.  Doesn't matter if you've played 700 plays or you played 350 plays.  It's the same with Adam, being second team running back, that was on total yards, who had the most rushing yards.  It had nothing to do with per carry average.
So almost all those awards, other than the offensive lineman, all of those awards are based on statistics.  So if you have a defensive player, as opposed to a linebacker that plays 70 plays a game on another team, there's a real good chance that he won't get what he deserves because the statistics don't match up.

Q.  Do you talk to Coach Hoke at all?
COACH ROCKY LONG:  I talked to Coach Hoke last week.

Q.  How was that conversation?
COACH ROCKY LONG:  It was a great conversation.

Q.  What did you guys talk about?
COACH ROCKY LONG:  Each other's season.

Q.  Complimenting each other, I'm sure.
COACH ROCKY LONG:  We don't always compliment each other.  We are really good friends, and when you're really good friends, most of the time, you're getting after each other about something.

Q.  What was he telling you about your team?
COACH ROCKY LONG:  No, he was really proud of this team because he had something to do with it.  I mean, he recruited several of the players on the team that played well this year; so he was really proud of the team.
And I told him I lost the ‑‑ no, I'm not supposed to bet¬† (Laughter).¬† It wasn't money.¬† I had a friendly bet with a friend of mine about the Ohio State/Michigan game so I was getting after him about that game.

Q.  You lost that bet?
COACH ROCKY LONG:  I did, because I bet on Michigan.

Q.  Adam, after you took the loss to Washington, struggled out of the gate, a lot of people criticized your head coach.  Can you just talk about the coaching job he's done, turning you guys around and keeping you guys up and game planning all season?
ADAM DINGWELL:  He's done a great job and as for the Washington became you can't put that on the coach, put that on the players, because we had a scheme we were going in there with and we had thing we were going to do in certain situations and as players we didn't execute and we didn't get the job done.  So I don't know if that's as much of a reflection of him as it is of us.

Q.  Since he's not going to toot his own horn, can you talk about the performance he's had?
ADAM DINGWELL:  It's been a lot of fun to play for him, I'm looking forward to the years to come and I'm sure the seniors had a great year this year.  It's been a lot fun but we have one more game to play and that's kind of what we are focused on right now.

Q.¬† You were 2‑3 at one in the point season and there was a lot of backlash towards the head coach because of certain calls.¬† What was the turnaround for you guys what was the reason why you guys went on the streak to win those six, seven games?
ALEC JOHNSON:¬† Not much.¬† We did the same thing we did all year honestly.¬† We knew that at 2‑3 we needed to win games and we wanted to win games and we prepared hard.¬† I don't think much changed at all to tell you the truth.

Q.  It was more than a ball rolling this way or that way or a guy falling on the ball?
ALEC JOHNSON:  I don't know about that.  I think we stayed together as a team and played hard.  I think we got better each week and that's a testament to the coaches.  I just think we improved as a team throughout the year.

Q.  Second team this year for yourself, just talk about that accomplishment, playing with a broken hand for a few games this year.
ADAM DINGWELL:  It's an honor to be mentioned as a second team.  I had a good line around me and great backs to make me look good, and some slippery quarterbacks to make me not look as bad as the play I messed up on.  So it really is a team accomplishment.
COACH ROCKY LONG:¬† I'll mention something about that.¬† To make all conference first or second team as an offensive lineman is probably more based on how you played than any other position, because coaches have to watch film to see and really concentrate on offensive linemen to see who the best offensive linemen are; where a running back might not be the best running back in the league, but if he led the league in rushing, he's probably going to make all‑conference.
I think it's much easier to pick other guys than offensive linemen.  Offensive linemen has to be coaches actually watching the offensive line and seeing who the best players are.
So having two offensive linemen on the all‑conference team I think is a big‑time reward for those guys, because they very seldom get patted on the back.¬† And they are very important to your success, so if you're picked as an all‑conference, first or second team as an offensive lineman, I think that's better than any other position to be honest with you.

Q.  What did Nik Embernate do well this year?  He's one of your first team all conference picks.
COACH ROCKY LONG:  Both him and Alec, they have been playing a long time which really helps on the offensive line.  You don't make assignment errors and you know where to go, when to go there, so you can concentrate on doing it the right way and accomplishing your job.
They are both really aggressive, physical, get‑after‑you offensive linemen, but their technique is good and most of that is them training themselves over four or five years.¬† Their technique is good enough that they fit up on defensive linemen or backers or whoever they are blocking and open up holes for guys like Adam and Walter to run through.
But I think being picked as an offensive lineman is truly maybe a bigger honor than maybe being Player of the Year.

Q.  Coach is giving credit to his award today to the players.  What is it about Coach that put you in the right spot to make the plays to be the team that allowed him to be Coach of the Year?  What is it about Coach?
ALEC JOHNSON:¬† The way he makes us practice, it all starts there.¬† We get after it in practice.¬† We fly around.¬† We get full‑speed reps.
And then they always have a great game plan for us to go into the game with that we just have to execute, and we know if we do that as well as we can, that we can come out with a victory and that's just what we try to do.

Q.  He's pretty creative?
ALEC JOHNSON:  Yeah, and every now and then throw a little wrinkle in there.
COACH ROCKY LONG:  I have nothing to do with that side of the ball, by the way.  That's Andy Ludwig, him and the offensive coaches are the ones that develop the offensive game plan and they are pretty inventive.  A head coach, if you have a really good coordinator and good coaches, you know what a head coach does?  Stay out of their damn way.

Q.  A couple of you guys got honorable mentions, Bryce Quigley, his first year playing tackle and Derek Largent, his first year in the program, can you talk about their performance?
COACH ROCKY LONG:¬† Well, I think Bryce Quigley is the same thing.¬† I think if people would have known him, would he have made an all‑conference team.¬† But that's actually somebody watching a film and going, who is that guy.
Derek Largent I think made some spectacular plays that coaches remember.  I mean, he made a couple sacks, he made a sack and got the fumble himself.  He tipped the ball twice and intercepted it himself.  So he had some spectacular plays and that stick in coaches's minds.  So I think that's why he got that award and I think he's just scratching the surface.  I think he's going to be a much better player the next two years than he was this year.

Q.  There was a few names that came up for the Heisman Trophy; do you have any choice, one or the other?
COACH ROCKY LONG:¬† I don't really‑‑ I think that's a really nice award but I don't think that award picks the best player, best college football player in the country.¬† I think it might be an offensive or a defensive lineman.¬† It might be the linebacker from NotreDame, I don't know.
I don't know how anybody picks the No.1 player in the country when there's so many good players throughout the country.  And I think that it's really nice for college football but I think there might be an offensive lineman that deserves it and he has no chance for ever getting it.

Q.  Isn't that what the Rimington is for, though?  They have those awards, too.
COACH ROCKY LONG:  Yeah, but they put the Heisman trophy up as, it's slated as the best football player in the country, is it not?  Yeah.  I don't believe you can pick one.  I wish I had a vote, though.

Q.  If you had a vote who would you vote for?
COACH ROCKY LONG:  I had a vote I would concentrate on it a lot more and have a reason for voting for someone.

Q.  Would you pick the linebacker out of NotreDame?
COACH ROCKY LONG:  I might do that just because he's a defensive guy, I might do that.  No, I don't know who deserves that.  I don't have any idea who deserves it.

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