Postgame Quotes

Nov. 4, 2017

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Louisiana Tech Head Coach Skip Holtz

COACH HOLTZ: Frustrating to be so close and yet being in this position again where we couldn't close out a game late in the fourth quarter.

To have the lead, it was -- it's hard. I mean, it's hard, I know, for the players. It's hard for the coaches. It's hard for our fans. It's hard for the alumni, the administration, to watch it all be so close and not be able to get it done.

I thought it was a hard-fought game on both sides. I thought it was a very physical game on both sides. I give Seth Littrell a lot of credit for the job he's done with that program.

I thought defensively, I think we didn't play very well in the first quarter -- I wouldn't say that. I would say that in the first quarter we played a lot more zone coverage and Mason, their quarterback, did a great job of picking us apart, was throwing the ball very accurately.

Then we went to more man. And I thought the defense played really well after that. I had a decision to make in this game on fourth and two in the fourth quarter and I made a decision to kick the field goal because I wanted to put pressure on them to score a touchdown rather than kick a field goal.

And in hindsight, yeah, I'd go back and I'd go for it. But looking at it at the time putting a little pressure on them to score a touchdown and not be able to tie it up with a field goal. And I thought offensively there were some solid performances, some guys did some really good things.

We did not have many big plays when you look at this game, and that has been the thing that we've got to be able to create more explosive plays because we're trying to work our way down the field and we would have a lost yardage play. We'd have a miscue. We'd have a penalty and it put us behind the chains and it just made it really hard.

I give them a lot of credit. I thought they played hard. They made the plays they needed to down the stretch but just very frustrating on our end to be as close as we have in so many of these games and not be able to close them up.

I told the team, we're not going to put our head in the sand. We're not going to pout. We're not going to have a pity party. We're as close as we are and we're certainly not going to quit. We have a really good football team coming in here next week. We've got 24 hours to kind of mourn it and then we've got to come into this team meeting room tomorrow night and got to be ready to play.

We've got to get ready to go because we've got another great challenge this week. So we'll just have to see where the bumps and bruises are, who is going to be in, who is going to be out. And then we'll have to put it together and get ready to go play again next week.

So it's just frustrating to be this close and not be able to get it done, especially when there's so many great individual performances but as a team we're close again, we've just got to find a way to close that door.

Q. Are these the types of losses when you're looking at the film are just eating away at you?

COACH HOLTZ: Yeah. I mean, it eats away at you when you lose a game. But what's frustrating is again you look back and go, golly, if I would have called this. If we would have done that. You know what I mean? What could we as coaches have done? And that's where you eat yourself up. Would I have done it differently if I to do it all over again?

The players are asking the question: Golly, if I only caught that ball, made that block, wouldn't have had that penalty, to be that close. If I would have made that tackle.

I mean, everybody -- that's what's frustrating when you lose a close game, and that's why it eats at everybody. But it's certainly, as a head football coach, that's my responsibility to get this team straight. And we're going to continue to bang that rock until we can get it straight because I believe there's some talent on this team.

I believe there's some guys on this football team that are going to be excellent football players, and I believe in what we're doing as a program right now. We've just got to keep banging that rock.

Q. What was the conversation like on the sideline when it came down fourth down, you had to decide between a 53-yard field goal or going for it?

COACH HOLTZ: At the very end?

Q. Yes.

COACH HOLTZ: It was fourth and 12 and you've got a kicker that has a leg to get it that far. If you go for it and you don't make it on fourth down, on fourth and 12, I think we averaged about 10 yards a completion today because we didn't have any big plays. You know what I mean? Nothing to really stretch the field.

And I think if you've got a kicker like Jonathan Barnes, who you trust that much, you're in his field goal range, you make the first -- you know what I mean? You kick the field goal.

On third down, I mean, we ran a run on second down that was, you know, a play we've run since I've been here. We had a missed block. We had a lost yardage play, came back, made a third down call. Thought maybe we had an opportunity. I wasn't trying to get the ball down the field.

But when J'mar got pressure, he had to run out of the pocket and he ended up throwing the ball deep down the field to Marlon Watts, down that sideline. But really all I was trying to do was I was trying to get a first down, get an eight- to ten-yard completion, and if we were short, at least get ourselves that much closer to a field goal.

Q. When you have a kicker like Jonathan with the ball with five minutes left to play, only down by one, is the play calling designed to eat up the clock, just kick the field goal, or do you want him to score?

COACH HOLTZ: No, we threw two deep balls there, you know what I mean? Two deep balls that went down the field. You're trying to score a touchdown. Now obviously when you get in third and three, you try and make a first down. But you're trying to score. That was the whole mindset.

I really didn't want to give them the ball back with any time. We've been in that scenario a couple times this year. So once we had the ball, I wanted -- it wasn't a two-minute mindset, hurry, hurry, hurry. We had five minutes, you know what I mean? Let's drive the field.

We're not in a panic mode at this point. Unfortunately, we got across the 40-yard line, and we kind of stalled there with a loss-yardage play and an incomplete pass and found ourselves in a third-and-long situation where we ended up kicking the field goal without making the first down but we were trying to score.

You want a touchdown. It would have made it easy. There was a couple times we split through them and blocked everybody up front, and we had one-on-one in the open field. We just weren't able to shake that one guy and make him miss because there was a lot of green grass behind him.

Q. Watching them drop field and take the lead there, was that kind of like watching a recurring bad dream?

COACH HOLTZ: Defensively, we did so many good things in this game. We did so many good things. And we were able to get off the field.

But, yeah, it's frustrating when the game's on the line and you've got a lead that we're not able to protect it. It's also frustrating to have the opportunity as an offense from the 40-yard line, where you've got first and 10, and not be able to make a first down or get yourself in a little closer field goal range.

The offense had their opportunities in this game. But certainly the offense can't point their finger at the defense, and the defense had a lead when they stepped onto the field in the fourth quarter. And they couldn't protect it.

So, I mean, there's a lot of great individual efforts. And that's why I don't think you can say, oh, they're bad or they're good. You know what I mean?

This was them. You can't start pointing fingers. There's plenty of people that are going to do that on the outside. And on the inside, what we have to do is look at it, say what do I need to do as a head coach to do a better job to put this team in a position to win late in the games.

And that's what we've got to continue to look at. And our team has to look at it like what do I need to do -- what could I have done to help turn the tides of this game? And that's the only way to get better. And we still have three games. I know with where we are with three losses you're not talking about the conference.

There was a mathematical chance with where it was, coming into this game and the opportunity we had to play at home. But losing this game, there's not a mathematical chance. And now we've got to get ourselves -- right now you're trying to compete to get in a bowl eligibility situation, because right now we're 4-5, and we've got three games left.

And we get to play two of them at home. We're going to need to find a way to win one game at a time and approach this one week to week, with what we're doing. But certainly frustrating to be this close and not be able to get it done.

Q. You mentioned the three games left, still needing two wins to be bowl eligible. Are you preaching an overarching thing for the final three games, or is it just let's focus on the next week?

COACH HOLTZ: We've got to find a way to win a game. It was like last week, the best thing we could do to help this program was beat Rice.

This week the focus, we weren't talking about conference champions, if they beat them, if they beat them -- let's find a way to win a game.

Let's put all our efforts, energies into North Texas, let's find a way to win North Texas. Let's find a way to get one win. You win North Texas, find a way to get FAU.

Let's just stay focused. We don't have the luxury to look at the four-week picture right now. You've got to climb in and put both feet in the boat to try to do what you gotta do to beat North Texas. And that's the approach we're going to take again this week with FAU.

Q. When I talked to you guys at Media Day in Dallas over the summer, going from talking about we want to win the conference championship but we're going to go to another bowl game, we're going to try to do really big things this year. Now that the whole mentality has shifted to: We've got to do something just to win a game, how tough has that been just to see the mentality shift?

COACH HOLTZ: I think the goals of your program every year, we want to win a conference championship. That's something that you want to do. We don't sit here in August and put up conference championship every game. We talk about what we need to do to get better, what we need to do to improve.

I think what this team has overcome to put themselves in a position to be as competitive as they have been has been incredible. I've said this before.

You look at the moving chairs you've had on the offensive line and some of these positions, you get Outlaw back and O'Shea Dugas is down.

So you're sliding Ethan Reed from right guard to left guard so Shane Carpenter can play right guard and to still put yourself in a position where you have a chance I think has been pretty incredible.

So I certainly don't look at it like, oh, this has really been hard, because we shot for the stars, you know what I mean, and we missed. And we're still close. And like I said, there's a lot of seniors that sit on the front row of this team meeting room that I'm not willing to come in here and say: It's too hard, we quit. Let's not try anymore. Let's throw our arms up.

What we're going to do is roll our sleeves up and find out what we can do for FAU. Again, you want to look at the big picture. We're trying to find a way to win a game. And that was our approach week one.

That was our approach week two. I sit up here every week and say 1-0 mentality, that's coach's talk -- no, that's football talk. And that's what you have to do as a football team. That's how you have to look at it inside of a team meeting room. We don't have the luxury to look at the big picture. We have to roll our sleeves up and we've got to compete.

And, ultimately, it falls on my shoulders. I'm the head football coach. And it has been frustrating because you feel like you're putting your fingers in holes in the dam, and as soon as you get one clogged up or get somebody back, another one pops.

And injuries are part of this game, everybody is dealing with them this time of year, but we've got to find a way to get some of these close wins and get them closed up and find a way to win a game.

Louisiana Tech Quarterback J’Mar Smith

Q. Does that play sort of play out like a bad dream, something you guys have seen before? I think it's the third game you guys have lost that way?

J'Mar Smith: It hurts. We put our heart and soul into this game. We fought since January just to get better as a team. Just to know we're so close, we're so close and just come down to the last couple of minutes of the football game that we had. And, I think, four games and we don't want to be close. We’ve just got to get our edge back, get back rolling and we'll be fine.

Q. In the second half, seemed like [inaudible] all out, you get into or around the red zone and then you have to settle for field goals. What does that do from an offense standpoint for you guys; you're able to move the ball so far and then everything stops?

J'Mar Smith: We don't want to be -- we don't want to set up field goals. We know coming into this game that we have to score points, and the biggest way to score points is scoring touchdowns. Field goals, it can't help but it can't hurt you at the same time because we score a field goal, they get a touchdown, we're down. So whenever we get in the red zone we have to put the ball in the end zone -- we've got to find a way to put the ball in the end zone, run the draw, trick plays, it doesn't matter.

We've just got to find a way and dig deep and just push each other and be accountable to each and just put that ball in the end zone.

Q. (A question about the first three-quarters of the game to the fourth quarter)?

J'Mar Smith: We had a couple of penalties that kind of hurt us a little bit. We've got to be consistent throughout each drive. Once we get rolling we've got to keep rolling the next drive, the next drive, the next drive. We can't -- punting is not a bad thing but sometimes we don't want to punt; we want to keep moving the ball, go down there and score points, find a way to be consistent and just got to move the ball as an offense.

Q. Seemed like throughout the game North Texas did a good job of blocking down (indiscernible) receivers. When that happened -- only have so much time in the pocket -- when you see that the play isn't working out exactly as planned, what's going through your head that you can try to quickly get out of it?

J'Mar Smith: I know the time is limited in the pocket. And when stuff breaks down I’ve just got to get out of the pocket, just (indiscernible) be smart with the ball. I kind of made a mistake throwing the ball to Marlon when he came back, and a guy almost made an interception. That was on me.

And sometimes I just try to roll out, try to get it to a guy, try to drive it on him, but once I get hit the ball just came out a weird way. And we’ve just got to be smart.

They did a good job trying to lock down our receivers with their coverages. And we just try to do the best we can just (indiscernible) the ball and move the ball.

Q. Only have three games left in the regular season. Still need two wins to be bowl eligible. Were you all thinking about that right now or just focusing on getting that next win?

J'Mar Smith: Just focusing on winning the next week. We came in just focusing on winning this week. That's the best thing we can do for our program is win that week. Next week, the best things we can do is win next week. When we constantly do that we'll be fine.

Q. I guess what is the mentality of the (indiscernible). Talk was we're going to be in this bowl, we're going to try to win this conference and try to do big things this year. Just talk about that, I guess how it shifted from all the big goals to now we just trying to win the next game.

J'Mar Smith: Everything shifted. We had our ups and downs. It's called adversity; we got to know how to overcome it, and that's what builds a team. And like I said, we're just trying to focus on winning the next game and we're just trying to build character from our team and hold each other accountable and just make sure that everybody does the job and trusts each other.

Louisiana Tech Safety Secdrick Cooper

Q. J'mar confirmed it for me, but I want your thoughts, the fourth quarter, did it feel like a bad dream to you guys?

Secdrick Cooper: Kind of. But we tried to stay positive in the fourth quarter. We've been through this situation plenty of times.

We just try to stay positive as a defense and offense, we try to keep those guys up as a defense; we try to bring the juice to the team. And we just couldn't get it done today.

Q. Seemed like throughout that first drive run by North Texas, you guys were able to get them into a lot of three-and-out-type situations. At the end of the game, was it a matter of just sort of running out of gas on their final drive?

Secdrick Cooper: Not running out of gas. Just guys who have to fill our gaps better and take on blocks better and just got to do a better job of executing on defense.

Q. What were some of those things specifically that you feel like you saw maybe (inaudible) they go in and touch down there, what were some of the things you guys maybe weren't doing properly?

Secdrick Cooper: The thing we weren’t doing properly, we had a lot of people keeping their energy up. And it's not really nothing we weren't doing properly.

It's just we just couldn't execute, like I said, and guys, they were on the sideline picking each other up, saying we've got this, got to go back out there, get another stop; we believe in our offense. But we've just got to execute better.

Q. You guys have been here -- I know this is another game where you guys lost the lead in the fourth quarter. Do you guys -- you've been here before. So today, did you guys have the confidence that they're going to score another point but we're going to come back and win this game, did you feel confident even after --

Secdrick Cooper: Yeah, when we were on the sideline, when they went up, go-ahead touchdown, we knew our offense had a chance to punch it in. We thought they were going to get the job done. But we had our opportunities, too, back on defense, and we just didn't execute and get the stop that we needed for the team.

Q. Three games left in the season, still need two wins to obtain that goal. What's the mindset of the team for the following weeks?

Secdrick Cooper: Mindset is to come in here tomorrow, go to work, see what we can do better on film and practice even harder, practice way harder than we practiced last week. Every day just taking it play-by-play, and that's our mindset from here on out.

Q. You all are talking about that possibility or just --

Secdrick Cooper: It comes up. But we try not to pay attention to it. We just pay attention to taking it play-by-play, day-by-day and game-by-game.

Q. You're a senior. You've been here the last three years. You've been here for those three bowl seasons and those three bowl wins. Just how tough has the season been for you?

Secdrick Cooper: It's been real tough. I haven't experienced this in the last few years, but it goes back on our part: Leadership. We've got to bring those guys together and get back to where we were what we know we can do, and that's executing on both sides of the ball.

North Texas Head Coach Seth Littrell

COACH LITTRELL: We've got to eliminate a couple of penalties and make sure we stay or get off the field on third down. Again it's something we need to continue to work on. But overall as a team I feel like we're much better.

But I’ve got to give a lot of credit to LA Tech. I thought they fought extremely hard. They're a very talented football team.

Their defense probably played against our -- their DBs were probably the most physical we've played. Did a heck of a job. We've got to get much better with some of the press coverage stuff. We'll bounce back and get back to work at it this week.

Q. You're bowl eligible. Talk about what that means for this program.

COACH LITTRELL: It's huge. It's big to get that monkey off your back, get the six wins in the season. Just having that opportunity to now go accomplish your mission which is winning our bowl. So it's a big game, big day. And now take some of the pressure off, looking forward, go out, compete and continue to get better every week.

Q. One guy that had a terrific day was Jeffery Wilson who really bounced back from last week. Are you proud of the way he performed today?

COACH LITTRELL: He's like all of them. They're just a resilient group. I'm proud of the way he fights because he's not 100 percent. So he still is sore in some areas. And a lot of guys probably wouldn't go out there and do the things he's doing. But he's a great football player but he's a better person who loves his teammates and he's going to sacrifice himself for them. And I was proud of the way he bounced back.

Q. Gutsy call there going for it on fourth-and-one in your own end. Why did you think that was the right thing to do?

COACH LITTRELL: On the road, I almost did it the one before on fourth-and-two. And felt like we could have made it, maybe pinned them deep, have a shot at (indiscernible) position. At that point in the game I just didn't want them to get the ball back. I felt like that was our time to go. It was kind of a gut call, gut feeling. And it worked out good.

Q. Defense really played well for you. They made a stand there at the end. How important is it just when they got your end of the field for them to kind of bow up there and --

COACH LITTRELL: It was huge. And again, they played (indiscernible) physical tonight. They're getting better. Every single week they're getting better. Still have a long way to go all three phases, but I just like their fight. They knew they had to bow their neck. And that situation put them in an extremely long field goal, and gave us a chance.

Q. Couldn't get much going early offensively --

COACH LITTRELL: Well, yeah, they gave us a hard time. I think a lot of it, they're a good football team. I think defensively -- I thought their D backs, No. 21, I think, he may not be as tall, but he can fly and he's physical. I thought their DBs as a group -- we've got to do a much better job at receiver. And I didn't feel like we got off much their press coverage well. And I felt like we've done a lot better throughout the season. But for whatever reason we didn't get that done today. So you've got to give them a lot of credit. I thought overall as a team they're a good football team. It's always a challenge to come here and win.




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