@LATechFB Weekly Press Conference Transcript: Sept. 1

Sept. 1, 2014

RUSTON, La. - Louisiana Tech head coach Skip Holtz and select student-athletes met with the media Monday to recap last week's game and to preview this weekend's game at Louisiana-Lafayette.

Opening Comments:

"Looking back and reflecting on a tough week at Oklahoma and having the opportunity to sit down and watch the film, it was bittersweet in a lot of respects. Bitter because of the way some guys played getting in those big lights. We talked about how we were going to learn so much about our football team, and I think we did learn an awful lot about them both from a positive and the standpoint of seeing how far we had to go. I think everyone in that opening game learns a lot about their football team and a lot of new players that are going to step into a new situation and how they are going to respond on game day."

"When I looked at it offensively, we certainly did not start the way we wanted to start, but I felt like as the game went on, the offense got better and better. I though Cody Sokol, for his first college start here at Louisiana Tech, did an excellent job of standing in there and making some throws and making some reads. I thought in the second half, I think he was about 14 of 18 throwing the ball in the second half, he really did a nice job. It was nice to see him settle down a little bit and play in the second half the way that he did. I felt like the skill players played really well. I felt like Paul Turner and Sterling Griffin had excellent games, along with Hunter Lee and Trent Taylor. Those four wide receivers played well for us."



"We did not ask Kenneth Dixon and Blake Martin to run the ball a whole lot, but I thought what they did in pass protection was excellent. I thought they did a really nice job of staying in, picking up some blitzes and keeping some of the hits off our quarterback. Up front with the offensive line, we played eight guys. Obviously, we played the five that started, and then we played Kirby Wixson, (David) Mahaffey and Jens Danielsen. To play eight offensive linemen in a game like that and that caliber defense, I thought it was a great experience for our offensive line and I think it will help us as we are moving forward. I was really encouraged by what I saw offensively, not with the way we started, but certainly with the way we finished. I was encouraged by the way we threw and caught the ball in the second half and the way we executed some things in the passing game, including protecting our quarterback. That is a defense that is built for speed. They have had an awful lot of sacks, just look at the bowl game a year ago when they had one player with three sacks against Alabama. For us to have two and the offensive line really only give up one, I thought they did a really nice job of protecting the quarterback."

"On defense, which is really the side we felt like we had more experience in and I had talked a lot about how we were going to rely on our defense to carry us early, I still think we have a lot of talent over there, but I was really disappointed with the way we played defensively. I felt like we played too much as individuals. We had way too many missed assignments. We had calls where we called base defense and we have guys running out of their gap running a stunt and there was nothing called. I said you never really know how people are going to respond in a game-like atmosphere and environment until you get in that atmosphere, so I felt like defensively we can play much better than we did. I do not think that was a very good showing defensively, but I think our defensive players would agree that we could improve tremendously just by controlling what we can control."

"I take nothing away from Oklahoma. They are a phenomenal, talented team. Talking to Bob Stoops before the game, he said it is probably one of his most talented teams he has had in 16 years at Oklahoma, they had the healthiest camp they have ever had and went on and on. I just told him I was glad we were here to see them play. I think they are really good. I think they are as-advertised, but I felt like we could do some things much better defensively. I do not think we played very well within our own system. I thought there were some guys that performed tremendously. I thought the two defensive ends, Houston Bates and Vontarrius Dora, played excellent football games. I thought Le'Vander Liggins at the one corner really played a solid game. Kentrell Brice and Xavier Woods showed they deserve to be in that arena. I thought those five or six guys played really well for us defensively. We have to get to the point where we can do our job better than we did. I do not think it was anything other than guys trying to do too much. Guys were leaving their gap to go and try to make a tackle and then leaving their gap open. When you get good running backs like that, they are going to find it."

"The special teams, I think, is probably one of the poorest performances I have seen since I have been coaching in a single-game performance. When you look at what we did, I think special teams a year ago was one of our strong suits with that dirty dozen and those 12 guys that had to step in and be on a lot of our special teams. I think they are a very talented team and what they are going to do is expose mistakes, but there were things that disappointed me that we did not do very well. I think in the punting game we gave up two returns for 20 yards. We are a directional punt team and we did not direction it very well. We kicked the ball down the middle of the field. We did not have a very good net going down the field. We gave up those two returns on the kickoff cover team. We only had to cover one kick that we kicked deep and it went back for eighty yards. That is a matter of guys crossing fades and safeties being where they are supposed to be. We can show them on film that if we are doing what we are supposed to do, then those types of things do not break free. We had 12 men on the film one time on a punt return. We had 10 men on the field one time on a field goal and we still snapped the ball. We had two field goals blocked. I felt like special teams wise, it was not what we are used to seeing with our special team performance."

"We have taken great pride in our special teams and the way we have played special teams here, but ours were not very special on Saturday. We really have to do a better job of getting the point across and get the little things taught from a special teams stand point. If not, we are never going to be the type of football team we want to be. A lot of the mistakes I see in this game are correctable, and that is the encouraging part of it. It is hard to play a team like Oklahoma, but I think at the same time it is incredibly valuable because they point out a lot of your weaknesses. As we have talked about, you never know how you are going to be until you can get out there on the field. I think they pointed out a lot of our weaknesses and I think they showed our team it was great film for them to watch to see and say, `If I would have just done my job here, then that play doesn't hit or that play is successful.' I think from that standpoint, we can definitely improve from week one to week two."

"Getting into week two, that takes us to Lafayette. I think they have done an excellent job down there. I think they have built a very good program. They have won three bowls. When you look at the facts, they have won three bowls in a row. They have eight players selected for first team all-Sun Belt. They are a unanimous choice to win the Sun Belt again this year. They return just about everybody. When you look at them, they have a lot of seniors on this team that have been playing for three or four years going into this season."

"When you look at them on offense, they have a quarterback that was the preseason quarterback of the year in the Sun Belt. They have two running backs that are excellent. One is a 240-pound pounder that can run it up the inside. The other one is a speedy, shifty, extremely quick athlete and he gets the ball in space. He is their big-play hitter. He has the long runs, the big plays. They have two really good running backs that are both back. They have four returning starters back on the offensive line. The one they had to replace, they have a senior that stepped in to replace him. All six of their receivers are back and they are two-deep. Their tight end is back. They are a very explosive offensive football team that can put up a lot of points. I think they have done an excellent job and I think that is one of the reasons they are picked to win the Sun Belt."

"When you look at them on the defensive side of the ball, it starts with their defensive line. Their front is very similar to what we saw, though last week they ran something completely different. I do not know if it was a philosophy change or if they were just trying to run something different last week, but they ran something different than they had the entire season last year. We are not really sure what we are going to see schematically defensively, but when you look at their personnel it starts with those big guys up front. They have three very talented defensive linemen and really more than that because they play about six or seven defensive linemen and are always keeping fresh guys on the field. I think their three starters are explosive. I look at Vernon Butler being one of our better defensive linemen. I think they are all three like Vernon Butler. They are big, physical, athletic, run very well and they cause a lot of disruption. I think their linebackers are big and physical. They play a 3-4 defense. Their linebackers are between that 220-250 range. They play a lot of guys on the defensive side of the ball. They are kind of build for speed like Oklahoma was, but they have a little bit more size than their outside linebackers. Their safeties are the adjusters that open everybody up and I think their corners are their most talented players."

"Overall, when you look at them on offense and defense, it is not surprising to see why they have been to three bowl games and why they are picked to win the Sun Belt. These are the facts of what they have done and what they have accomplished and what you see on film."

"On their special teams, they have a senior kicker who is a Groza watch list guy. They have a punter that averaged 55-yards a punt, who is also a senior. He averaged 55-yards a punt last week. They have McGuire as their new punt returner, who is one of their most explosive, electric players they have on the offensive side of the ball."

"It is going to be a great challenge for us having the opportunity to go down to Lafayette. I encourage all the Louisiana Tech fans and the Bulldogs to come support this team down there. As an in-state rivalry game, this game means a lot and having the opportunity to go down there and play. I encourage all of our fans to follow us down there because we are going to need your support down there. It is going to be a great challenge as our second road game, but we are not going to sit around and feel sorry for ourselves. We are going to go play it. We lost a football game. Let's learn from it and move on, and that is where we are right now."



On what he was most disappointed with the defense vs. Oklahoma:

"The front seven and just everybody playing disciplined defense. That was probably what I was disappointed with. I love the effort of this football team. I loved the way they competed. They went on the road in an opening game with a lot of new starters and a lot of new faces. I thought they competed for 60 minutes and I thought they played hard. I thought they played physical. You are going against probably one of the better football teams in the country. They were big. They were physical. They were a lot bigger and more physical than I thought they were going to be. It is more the discipline of holding your gap or knowing your assignment that was my disappointment. I do not think it was a defiant thing, as much as it was guys getting out there and trying to make plays. You are trying to chase the ball and against a good running back you cannot chase the ball in a zone scheme. It was a great lesson for us going into this week because they are very similar with the big power back and a scat-back and they run an awful lot of zone. They require you to play disciplined defensive football because of the offense they run. I think it will be a great experience for us and I think our players could see that film yesterday and say we have to get better in some areas."

On encouraging the team to bounce back and move forward after Oklahoma:

"In all honesty, it is probably easier because we have their attention. We can pull up the cut-ups. Out of their runs, you can take 20 runs where everybody holds their gap and we do what we are supposed to do and it is a gain of two. Then you run the very same play and you can show where two guys left their gap and it is a gain of 18. The big play that goes for 22 yards for one of their early touchdowns, we just got out of a gap. I think from that standpoint, what happened on Saturday probably makes it a little bit easier because you have their attention. I do not play games. I am very honest with our team with where I think they are and what we need to do to get on. That is why I said you cannot sit around and feel sorry for yourself, you cannot mope because you lost a football game. All you can do is learn from it, get better and improve. There were some encouraging things. I really liked the way Woods, Brice, Liggins, Dora and Bates played and the things they did. Now we just have to get two or three more guys on that page and then two or three more and keep getting better. As this season has gone on, and I have said this all along, we will be a work in progress with so many of the new faces on this football team."

On Louisiana-Lafayette's offense not showing too much last week vs. Southern:

"They could afford to be that way in a game they were successful from a lopsided standpoint. They did not have to show a lot of the things they are doing or the things they have been working on. You have a whole season of work last year. In early games, there is always going to be something special. Somebody is going to throw out a trick play or a razzle-dazzle or a throwback. There is going to be some of that come up, but that is why it is so important to play disciplined, fundamental football. That is why that is so important. That is the only way you can hold up. I do not know what we will get offensively. I am sure we will definitely get more wrinkles than we saw the other night."

On how he plans to get the defensive line more involved:

"I think it goes back to our defensive line. We did not have a single tackle for a loss. I am going to say some of that was attributed to them and what they do as an offensive line and how good they are. Part of it is us. What do we do? We go back to what we have been doing all camp and get our defensive line to hold their gap. Sometimes in defensive football, you have to give yourself up to do your job and you cannot just chase the ball. It was almost like street ball where everybody was just running for the football and we made ourselves vulnerable. I think in order to be a better defensive football team we have to get back to penetrating with our defensive line."

On what to expect from Cody Sokol vs. Louisiana-Lafayette:

"The way he played in the second half is the way he has played all camp. I think he has done a really good job of protecting the football. I am sure that going back and watching the film there are a couple throws he would love to have back in that game Saturday because he has been able to make those throws and I have seen him make them. I thought in the second half with the way he settled down, I told him he just needed to get hit. He needed to get hit to say, `Alright, it's game time, let's go play.' I thought he stepped in there and competed his tail off. I think the more he plays, the more comfortable he is going to get and sitting in there and doing the things he has done. I am not asking Cody to do something special. I am not asking him to do two or three people's jobs. I am just asking him to play quarterback within the system, and when he does that, he is very efficient. He has a great head on his shoulders. He is very talented and he is very accurate with the ball. I liked what I saw in the second half out of him."

On the effectiveness of the new offensive formations:

"No matter what we got in, the running game wasn't very good, but I do think in the third quarter it was one of the things that got us rolling.  We were able to hit a couple of big passes out of the bigger formations to get some 20-yard gains and some big chunks of yardage to get a drive moving.  I think it helped us from that standpoint.  Then as the game went on what we didn't want to do is just put Cody [Sokol] in the pocket and have to throw it every down with how good Oklahoma was rushing the passer because that is what they do.  When you look at Striker, he is one of the best pass rushers in the country and we were trying to stay away from that.  I liked the game plan.  I don't think we executed as well as we would have liked to and I wish we could have run the ball better, but I do like what we are doing right now as an offense."

On shuffling different guys on the offensive line:

"We came in and said we wanted to play all eight players.  We said we wanted to play all eight of those guys that we felt were ready to play right now with the starting five and [David] Mahaffey, [Kirby] Wixson and [Jens] Danielsen.  I thought they went in and did a really nice job.  We have got to play more than five guys and in a game like that that was going to be as big and as physical as it was, you are always trying to prepare your football team as we go through a 12-game season to develop that depth.  When you look at guys like [Kirby] Wixson and [David] Mahaffey, they haven't played at all.  That was their first college football game so I think it was great to have the opportunity to get experience for those guys.  I thought for the most part they did a pretty good job in there."

On showing the entire offense:

"It is hard to run an entire offense in 65 plays.  We didn't get in every formation.  We didn't run every run play or pass play that we have.  As I have said before, we put a smorgasbord of offense in for camp and then every week you kind of go back and you start over and you say `we like this, we like this, we like this' and those are the things that you practice that week.  We certainly didn't show everything we do, but I like having the ability to get big or get in 10-personnel and spread the field a little bit depending on who you are playing and what you want to do that week."

On the benefit of having played in a tough environment going forward:

"It was 85,000 as the announced attendance, something along those lines.  I thought it was a great venue.  I said in the press conference after the game that I give Oklahoma fans an awful lot of credit.  They cheered for their team.  They were loud, but they were incredibly classy.  I thought they were very classy and it is probably easier to do when you are up 48-16, but I thought that every time Oklahoma had a positive yard play they clapped.  There wasn't a lot of yelling and screaming.  I would imagine it is going to be a lot different this week that we will hear some people that will have some choice words for our coaches and our players down on the field.  I thought it was a great venue.  I thought it was a great environment and it was nice to have the opportunity to play in that stadium."

On the hype of it being an in-state rivalry game:

"It is fan and media driven, but I think anytime you get into a geographical rivalry game like this you have two schools in the state that are competing with recruiting and are in two different conferences.  I think these are rivalries games.  I love these games.  I think there is an awful lot that rides on it, not only for your program, but also for your fan base.  I think it creates a lot of excitement for our players.  A lot of these players from both teams are from the state of Louisiana.  They played with each other in all-star games and played against each other in high school and I think that just adds to the rivalry itself."


Quarterback Cody Sokol

On how his confidence grew throughout the game:

"I think I went out there and I was really excited.  It was my first start.  I also think as the game went on I got comfortable.  In the second half, I felt like I was ready to go.  I think that just comes with experience.  That was my first start and I think that happens.  I get excited and I want to do well, but I think going into this next game a big focal point is going to be going out there the first half and making sure I get going early."

On ULL's defense:

"They do a great job mixing up coverages.  I just need to make sure I am in the film room and that I am comfortable with what they are doing and I am able to see it early."

On the first quarter against Oklahoma:

"It was hard but that was a good football team.  I give kudos to them, they did a great job.  We just have to make sure that against Lafayette, we come out there in the first half and we make sure we execute from an offensive standpoint.  We had a lot of things, a lot of miscues, a lot of missed assignments, but that is something we can learn from and get better with this week going into this next game."

On the importance of getting the running game going:

"Those guys do a great job back there and they did a great job protecting for me, but that is also a big thing we need to do is establish the running game.  That opens up the passing game a lot.  Those guys work hard and I think our offensive line is doing a great job.  They are getting better every day and that is something we are going to look for this next game is to develop a run game."

On the snap that hit Hunter Lee in motion:

"That is just little stuff that we worked on all week and we were good, but when you get out there sometimes communication is harder.  You are in a big stadium and it's loud.  That play was on us.  The biggest thing is I am happy we got on the ball because we didn't want to get a turnover there."

On the passes he wishes he had back:

"There were two throws I definitely wish I had back.  We worked on that a lot during practice and I think that those were throws I was making in practice.  Those throws I can make.  I think it just came with a little bit of the excitement.  I wanted to get the ball into their hands quick.  The interception, I was getting a little pressure and I saw the corner with his back turned so I tried to throw a little back shoulder ball and the guy made a great play on it.  On Kenneth Dixon's wheel route, I tried to get the ball to him a little quicker than I probably should have.  I should have put some air underneath it.  That is something I will learn from and take out of that game."

On the confidence of the team going into the Louisiana-Lafayette game:

"I think we are really confident.  I think [Oklahoma] was a game that we all learned from I think it was a great game that we were able to start with.  That is a different environment and a great team that we played.  They did a lot of good things defensively, but offensively I think we did some things to hurt ourselves.  There are some things that we can do a lot to improve on and make a lot of corrections and go back to look on film to see that it really wasn't them, it was us.  It was a lot of us hurting ourselves.  I am excited.  I think as a team we are excited to go into this next game."

On wide receiver Trent Taylor:

"He does a great job.  He is one of those guys that work his tail off.  He is one of those guys who really I don't think anyone can cover him.  He is a great route runner.  He does a great job in the passing game, getting open.  He and I developed a rapport over the summer and that is where it started, going out there every day and throwing balls to him.  I am excited about this next week with him."

On the importance of this game being an in-state rivalry:

"You don't really get caught up in it, but you know that it is important.  I think it is big everywhere you go, having those in-state rivalry games and they mean a lot.  I think a lot of our guys are excited to play this game and we are really working hard because this is a game that we need to win."

On his toughness:

"I think that is just part of my job as a quarterback.  There is a toughness that comes with playing quarterback because you have to stand in there and take hits."

On his relationship with wide receiver Sterling Griffin:

"He is one of the first guys when I came in that I met and he is also one of those guys that were out there every day during the summer working with me.  I think he has done a great job.  He has had a great camp.  He looks fresh.  He is out there running really well and he is making a lot of plays."


Defensive End Houston Bates

On the Oklahoma game making the defense even hungrier for ULL:

"We just have to get better.  I told the guys this is a new season.  We are 0-0 coming into this game.  Oklahoma does not matter.  What happened there is in the past and we are going to put it behind us and go through this week and get better as a defense.  We are going to play as one and that is the point of emphasis for this Saturday."

On the size of Oklahoma's offensive line:

"They are one of the biggest I would say.  They were some giants.  I told the guys going in they were going to be that big I don't think any of them believed me until they got lined up against them and saw just how big they were.  They are human.  They played well, but we definitely gave them some plays that we wish we would have had back.  I am not taking anything away from them, but we gave some plays that we shouldn't have on Saturday."

On Louisiana-Lafayette's running backs:

"We are going to be ready for them.  We saw three running backs at Oklahoma that were, if not big, but bigger than we are going to see this weekend so we are a little bit prepared and we are going to be more prepared once we meet them on Saturday."

On what attributed to the defensive breakdowns:

"It was a hostile environment.  We had a tough time getting everybody on the same page.  For everybody that hasn't been in that environment, it is tough for the first time.  You don't know what it is like until you experience it.  Getting everybody on the same page and getting the big-eye look out of your face, that is what I asked the guys.  Get the big-eye look out of your face because this is real, it is game time.  I think this week we are going to be calmed down and everybody is going to play their game and we are going to play as one."

On ULL's quarterback compared to Oklahoma's quarterback:

"He is similar.  He is a good player.  I remember him in high school.  I didn't play against him, but I knew him going through some combines.  He is a great player.  We are going to have to get ready for him.  He is similar to Trevor Knight.  I think we kept Trevor Knight, from a rushing standpoint, in check, but we are going to have to do better in the passing game and get more pressure this week."

On getting more pressure on the quarterback:

"We have to settle down and stay in our rush lanes.  That was a problem we had against Oklahoma with guys getting out of their gaps and not trusting the guy next to him.  This week we are going to have to do better than that."

On the environment this Saturday:

"We are going to be ready for it.  I know they get rowdy down there, but we are going to be ready for it.  It is just another game and another week and we are going to be better than we were the last week.  That is our job and that is what we are going to have to do."

On what the ULL game means being a south Louisiana native:

"It is a little bit of pride.  I know some guys at ULL and my ex-girlfriend went to ULL as well so I know how they get down there.  They love football and we love football and so it's going to be a pride game.  We are going to do the best we can.  Guys are going to be playing with a little bit more emotion than normal.  It is going to be a fun game and we are looking forward to it."


For complete coverage of Bulldog Football, please follow @LATechFB on Twitter or visit the official home of Louisiana Tech Athletics at LATechSports.com.


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