Oct. 4, 2014
Louisiana Tech head coach Skip Holtz
“Winning is fun. I am really proud of this team tonight. Having the opportunity to come back home and play was awesome. I want to thank everyone who came out and supported. I really appreciate the support we receive at home.
“We were coming off a loss at Auburn where I felt like we did some really good things. The challenge we have continued to talk about is that we have to get better. I thought this football team got better tonight. This was the most complete game that we have played. The difference between this game and North Texas and ULL, is that when our two’s went into the game, they finished the game. We have talked to them about this not being a participation game. If you are going to go out there and represent this team, you have a standard to uphold.”
“I thought the defense played a great football game. I challenged our team to outrush them. I told our team that if we are going to outrush them, corners were going to have to tackle, safeties were going to have to tackle, receivers were going to have to block and it was going to take a total team effort. We came out and were able to run the ball the first two series of the game. After that, they just started putting everybody on the line of scrimmage and started blitzing us like crazy. We started throwing the ball down the field and some guys went up and made some great plays. The defense created five turnovers and UTEP only had one turnover coming into this game. I thought Manny Diaz and the defensive staff put together a great game plan. I thought the players went out and executed it. There is a huge buy in factor right now on the defensive side of the ball and our defense is playing great right now.”
“Manny Diaz met with me this morning and told me that he thought we could block a field goal. We sat down and he showed me where he thought the weakness was and what we were going to do. He said we were not going to waste it on an extra point, we were going to wait for a field goal. When they kicked that first field goal, I was all eyes. I was excited to watch it and it happened just like he drew it up. Xavier jumped in through the middle and did a great job. Defensively, great effort. Offensively, I am proud of the way they competed. This was far and away our best game on special teams. We had put a lot of starters back on special teams to try and make it a real emphasis.”
“I am proud of this football team, we are 2-0 in conference going into the open date. We are going to give the team off on Sunday and Monday. I think they have earned that with the six weeks that we have had to get to this point. On Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday we will put on full pads and get after it. We have to get some people healthy. Paul Turner did not play in this game. Blake Martin did not play in this game. Bryson Abraham did not play in this game. We have a number of guys who are kind of nicked up. I am really proud of the way some guys stepped up tonight. Hopefully we can get some people healthy and get our two’s polished up so that we can gear up for the second half of the season which are all conference games.”
Did you expect a victory this lopsided?
“Yes and no. I keep making the battle cry about us having a faceless opponent. It is about how we play and this was our most complete game. I felt like we were the better football team. Did I project five turnovers and some of the big plays? No. We were hitting on all cylinders tonight. It was really working. I thought Cody played a beautiful football game. I thought he protected the ball. He had that one interception on the second series of the game. I thought he did a really nice job running the ball. I cannot say I saw the film and thought it would be this lopsided. Did I think this team was capable of that? Yes. From what I saw against Lafayette and North Texas, I figured if we showed up that way the rest of the season we would always have a chance. When we are playing with that type of energy and protecting the ball we can be very good.”
28 Points off of Turnovers, mindset after turnovers?
“When you get a turnover, you have momentum, your players are juiced and the last thing you want to do is go three and out. We would ask ourselves, what are the best plays we have in our pocket right now to get us down the field and score? Some of them were passes and some of them were runs. We were able to capitalize on some of those turnovers. I got frustrated a couple times we were down there, but I do not want to get greedy. The players still have to go execute it and I thought they did a great job. When the momentum is high, you have to strike while the iron is hot.”
“Cody had negative seven yards rushing coming into the game. We were determined we were going to get him to the positive mark. He made a great play on the run and then Sterling had a great block to get him into the end zone. We knew it was there, but I did not come into this game saying we needed to run Cody. When we needed a play, I knew I could go to the zone-read. The players did a good job of executing it.”
“I think our players are playing with a lot of confidence on the defensive side of the ball. I think the buy in factor is huge. There is a really special chemistry on that side of the ball right now with the relationship between the coaches and the players. I think it is really showing on the film. There is a strong buy in factor and it is showing with the way those guys are playing on the field.”
“He should have had two touchdowns that is the unfortunate part. He made a great catch on the goal line. He made a great play with his one handed catch. Dunn is one of those freshman that played a little bit more tonight. Roland Dunn played on the corner more tonight. Secdrick Cooper played more at the safety tonight. Jarred Craft is running well. Deldrick Canty is playing a strong role for us right now. We have some really talented freshman right now. We talked about being able to get them some work so when we got into conference, they were ready to play. With Paul Turner being out for this game, as well as Blake Martin, it really opened up a big window for guys like Jarred Craft and Marcus Gaines. Carlos Henderson went out midway through the third carter and Marcus went out and played well from there. A lot of freshman are stepping up and watching their growth, they are getting more and more ready to play a prominent role for us.”
“It has been a hard six weeks. There was a lot said about four of our first five games being on the road. We played two top five teams. We played three games in 13 days. They have answered the challenge we put in front of this team. I am really proud of the way they came out and played.”
Was this the true potential of the team?
“Yes. We are coaches and obviously always want more. There is always a play here and there where I thought we could have done more. We have talked about some of the foolish mistakes we have made. We came into this game with the mindset of playing hard for 60 minutes. Let’s play passionate emotional football for 60 minutes. If we can do that, let the chips fall where they may. If you make a mistake, forget it and go on to the next one. I thought this was the best game we put together from the beginning to the end.”
How important was this game?
“It was a big game, it was a conference game. That is what we have been stressing. We talked about after five games, it is a new season. We needed to find a way to go 1-0 this week and the team did that. We will go into the bye week and try to get some guys healthy, so we will be ready for our next run. There was some pressure for us in this game to come out here and perform. That is why I am so proud of these players with the way they went out there and competed. The way they competed from top to bottom was really fun to watch.”
“It is nice when you start to have some depth. Carlos as a freshman and Gaines right behind him as a freshman, it is nice to see those guys performing. Carlos can run and he is a special player. He still has to get better at some things and he has to work every day to keep polishing some parts of his game, but he is a very talented young man. That was evident by what he was able to do tonight. I know he will be the first to tell you that he still has a lot of things to work on to get better and to become an every down player. He is getting better every week though.”
“This was our best game on special teams and it was not even close. We did a nice job on our cover teams, our return teams and the way we kicked the ball.”
Defensive Coordinator Manny Diaz
On whether he and the coaching envisioned winning by a large margin:
“I don’t know about the points, but we felt the first thing we did was match up well against the run game. That is where it all began. They are obviously a great running football team. We thought the team we played last week was a great running football team. We feel like we have the ability to shut down anybody’s running game. Our kids are getting more confident in that and I think that sets the tone early. It is not a hard game if you can make someone one dimensional. It is hard to win that way and I think the credit goes to our guys up front for the way they got after them in the first half of the game.”
On whether he thinks the pressure rattled UTEP QB Jameill Showers:
“I would agree with that, but I still think that goes back to not having the running game you are used to having. The diversity of their running game, that is always there. What it did was put all the pressure on him to make the play for them, and when you know they are having a hard time running the ball, then you can confuse the quarterback and confuse offensive linemen, which is what we were able to do today.”
On Xavier Woods’ performance vs. UTEP:
“It was right in front of his face. He has two eyes and great instincts for the ball in the air. I think a lotof the credit when we go back and watch it will go to the rush. I think a lot of those plays, the quarterback was off the spot. If you chart quarterbacks all the time, once you get them off the spot, their productivity goes way down and crazy things start to happen. I think that’s what we did. I think we got the quarterback moving around and made him make some poor decisions. When you have a guy like Xavier on the back end, he can punish them.”
On forcing turnovers that turn into points:
“That was a part of it because we are trying to become more of a servant defense for our offense and put them in more adventitious positions on the field to score. Whether it was us scoring on the field goal block or Tony (Johnson)’s play in the second half forcing the fumble, that type of stuff is what gets the landslide going and that is really how routes occur. It is hard to drive the ball on anybody in this age of college football. You have to do some things to flip the field and create explosive plays. It was good that we could do that to help our team win.”
On the pitch from Adairius Barnes to Le’Vander Liggins on the blocked field goal:
“We practice that every week in practice. We are trying to score on defense and credit to those kids for keeping that alive and that is going to be a fun one to watch.”
On what he saw on film of UTEP he felt LA Tech could take advantage of:
“They had a weakness in their field goal protection that every week had been getting a little bit more exposed, but no one had really done the one thing they could not handle. That is just what happens in Week 5. In Week 5 and 6, you get a pretty good beat on who everybody is and where their weaknesses are. The credit goes to the kids. They had to go out there and make the play. It turned out to be a big time dagger in the game.”
On the players executing a game plan he implemented this morning:
“It was not all that complicated. We just sort of had to put one guy in a gap they were not paying attention to and the rest worked out good.”
On whether the coaching staff stumbled on something UTEP did to take advantage of:
“No, we look at it every week. Our defensive staff handles our field goal blocking, so every week we watch it and feel like we have a chance to block a kick. We knew if we got them in that formation we had a chance to score. Everything we do on defense, we are trying to create plays, and not just for our own ego. We are trying to create plays because it helps you win. We have built in traps in our coverage. We are trying to make plays on the ball when it is in the air and tackles for losses – things like that. That was an opportunity. They got it. Our kids saw it. You don’t have to make it up as a coach. You show them on the video they have a weakness in their protection and we have to expose it because no one had yet.”
On whether the defense reached its potential vs. UTEP:
“Obviously, when you out-score someone on defense; that is not going to happen all the time. That is a special night. What the kids are starting to see is the difference between good and great because what we did tonight, we have done that before. We just had not done it for four quarters. You have already seen that in the North Texas game. That is the Lafayette game. But we got distracted at the end and they did not make it look dominating. Our kids understood that and were mad about that. It was important today with the way the game ended. It was almost poetic justice to finish a game on defense and get a pick. That is what they really wanted to do. They wanted to turn the screw for 60 minutes unlike what we did in those first two games.”
On the depth of the defense:
“I would hope so, and it is also a part of how we build our defense. We are not a defense where one guy should make every play. We just build a wall and wherever the running back decides to run into will get the tackle. The fact that a lot of guys were productive, a lot of guys were making plays behind the line of scrimmage, we were able to roll a lot of guys in our front seven like we do. I think all of that is a part of it.”
On the sense of the coaching staff heading into the bye week:
“It is big. All you have to do is look around the country. It is hard to win a Division I football game now. There are a lot of people today that are sad. To be 2-0 in the conference, there are not a lot of teams right now that are undefeated in their conference. Of the teams in the west, you are basically a game and a half up on two of them and a game up on everyone else. Two of the teams in our league come to our place and we have to go to one. That is all we talk about. That is why you talk about what if you lost. No one every thinks what if you lost. No one even considers that. They just consider what is in front of you, what this game is and how we go about winning it. Now we have another west opponent coming in to our stadium and that is going to be a big, big deal in terms of meeting our goal, which is being a conference champion.”
WR Hunter Lee
UTEP was bottling up Dixon, how did it feel for the receiving core to be called on to make plays down the field?
“As a receiving core we have a lot of confidence with man routes and with our routes in general. It was nice for everyone to go out there make plays and contribute.”
What comes to mind when the ball is in Carlos Henderson’s hands?
“Just speed. He is fast. It is good to know that he is stepping up. He got a little wide eyed at the beginning of the year. Now he is really stepping up and making plays and playing like he needs to and we know he can.”
Cody Sokol TD run:
“I was surprised by his speed. That hair made him look a lot faster. I did not see that coming, but he made a great play. He looked good. When he came here they told us he was partially a runner. After watching him, I did not believe it for a little while. He is starting to make me a believer.”
“I am proud of the guys tonight, we still have a few plays where we need to get better. Kenneth had a great run called back and in big games, things like that cannot happen. We need those touchdowns. I think as a whole it was much better this week. We played a great game, we just need to fine tune some things and get this thing rolling.”
“It is awesome, I get fired up every time the defense makes a stop or a turnover. They are playing big time right now. They have to continue to roll and we have to continue to do the same thing we have been. If we continue to do that, I think we will have a special year. We made further progression this week of what we can do. We need to build on that and just keep getting better and better.”
Does this feel like 2011?
“It feels very similar. As far as team bonding goes, I feel like everyone has bought in. This is a brotherhood. This last week, guys put in the effort and the work day in and day out and it showed tonight. We have conference play from here on out so there is no time for mistakes. There is no time for errors. We just have to keep rolling, making plays and keep playing like we know we can. If not, that is a conference championship out the window. I really think we have the players and the talent to go and win it.”
QB Cody Sokol
On where his speed came from:
“I have always been able to run a little bit, but this week was big. Their [defensive] ends, we knew that they crashed and that they were going to stop the run so it was in our game plan that we were going to read the backside end. If he wanted to get in on the run game, then it was my job to pull and make some plays happen.”
On being back in the positive in the rushing category:
“It is awesome. It feels good and it was much needed this game.”
On coach Holtz joking about having him have positive rushing yards on the season:
“I think he was just joking about that, but that was definitely in the game plan. Tonight was going to be a big rushing night for me, just seeing on film what they did and our coaches did a great job game planning for it.”
On tonight’s productivity:
“It is awesome. It was one of those nights where we knew how they played and we knew we were going to take a lot of deep shots. Completion percentage wise, it was not all there because we were taking so many big shots, but we knew that was important with their team the way they did things. They played a lot of man so we were going to do a lot of play-action passes and try to hit them long. It was great. When you have six passes completed and three of them are touchdowns, that is a pretty good night.”
On hitting Carlos Henderson for the long touchdown:
“It was big. That was something we have been working on in practice. Carlos has been improving tremendously as a football player and really just understanding the game. The kid has made leaps in the film room, understanding his job and what he needs to do on certain plays. That is the biggest thing for him because he has all of the athletic ability in the world.”
On if it is sometimes surprising if Carlos Henderson does not have a long play:
“He is one of those guys in practice where you throw him the ball and he is the vertical threat. He makes plays happen in practice and on the field where you can tell he is a playmaker. We like getting the ball into his hands.”
On Carlos Henderson’s speed:
“He has elite speed. He has the special ability to run. With someone like that, you just have to get him the ball. He is a playmaker on our offense and he really stretches the field for us. Defenses have to really prepare and really be aware of where he is on the field.”
On the defense setting up the offense:
“Those guys have been doing a great job all year. Coach Diaz has been great and those guys work their butts off on the defensive side of the ball. They take pride in what they do. I am proud of them tonight. They did a great job of creating turnovers. [UTEP] was a team coming in that only had one turnover. They controlled the game clock and we knew as an offense that we were going to get limited touches. I believe we only had three in the first half. When your defense can go out and get turnovers, it makes it so much easier for an offense.”
On the morale of the team:
“I would not say that we needed that loss [to Northwestern State], but we needed it a little bit as a team. It was huge for us going into this week how mentally prepared we needed to be. I think before that, we were kind of lackadaisical on the mental side of the game. We went out there and just played. It is a credit to all of our guys this week. We really got into the film room and did a great job mentally preparing for this game. I think it showed out there, but that is something going forward we need to do for every single game and not take anything lightly. We have a lot of conference games coming up that we need to win.”
On if the preparation for UTEP can be repeated:
“I think this shows to everyone that we pretty much play ourselves and hurt ourselves. When we go out there and we execute and we do the little things right, it is great. We score points, we put up a lot of points and our defense does a great job helping us out. I think going forward we just need to keep with this mentality that we have right now. I think our morale is up and we are excited. We are a team that plays with a lot of passion and I love our guys.”
What did you think of tonight coming off of two losses?
“I feel like tonight was great. It is always good to win, and we are 2-0 in conference. We get a bye week to work on another team.”
How good is it to see your teammates step up and play good?
“It is always good when people come and focus on the run. I feel like they downplay the quarterback and receivers. We have a good quarterback and good receivers that will go down the field and make plays.”
What did you think about the defense being able to slow down the other team’s running back?
“I think they did a really good job against him. As for me going against the defense in practice this week, I knew that they were going to step up and rise to the occasion.”
Talk about going against the defensive linemen in practice.
“It is tough going against those guys every play. They do their job and they make plays in the backfield.”
Talk about Henderson’s role in the offense when he plays like he did tonight.
“He brings speed to the offense. Every time he touches the ball you expect a big play from him. Like Hunter said he was shell shocked in his first few games but I feel like he is starting to buckle down now.”
Talk about Jarrod Craft and the other two’s.
“Getting the twos reps is always good. Coach always says that you are one play away from playing. Jarrod Craft works hard in practice. Every time he gets the ball he runs hard, so it did not surprise me when he scored.
UTEP head coach Sean Kugler
On if the game was a shock:
“It was surprising, but that stuff happens in football and how we respond to it is going to reveal our character.”
On what went wrong in the game:
“It was a multitude of things. We did not play smart. We turned the ball over. We gave up big plays. Probably everything you can add up to a blowout, it happened.”
On where the team goes from here:
“We are going to get back and prepare for next week. There is not a whole lot you can do.”
On if this game was a reminder of last year:
“I do not look back to last year. This year is a new year and next week is a new week.”
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