Louisiana Tech Weekly Football Press Conference Transcript: Sept. 5

Sept. 5, 2016

RUSTON, La. - Louisiana Tech head coach Skip Holtz spoke with the media Monday in advance of the team's home opener Saturday against South Carolina State.

Opening Statement:

“It is not the way you want to start the season with a loss, but I could not be more proud of the effort that this football team put forth. We talked earlier about how we would learn a lot about this football team through the first half of the season, how they would play together and what their resume was going to be for 2016. That was one of the quietest pregame meals that I have been in. We had an hour bus ride and not a word was spoken. The locker room was very quiet. You don’t know how a football team is going to respond to that. Sometimes it can mean that you are nervous and uptight, other times it can mean that you are really focused. With this football team, I was really impressed with the way they approached the entire week and the entire game. I felt like there were an awful lot of good things, for us to go on the road and play against a really good Arkansas team. I have a lot of respect for Bret Bielema and the job he has done there in Fayetteville.”

“For us to be able to go into that environment and stand toe-to-toe was incredible. This game was not about a turnover. It was not about just one play or big plays. I thought we stood there toe-to-toe and competed for sixty minutes. I thought it was a great football game. Obviously, it is a whole lot better if you are on the winning end. I thought two teams sat out there and competed their tails off. I give them an awful lot of credit. They had to convert three fourth downs to win the game. On their first scoring drive, they had to convert a fourth and seven. Then, they are fourth and four on the four yard line. They executed and did what they had to do in order to win the game. They are used to winning. They are a very solid football team, but I was really impressed with the way our football team played. I was excited about the future, because many of the things I saw in that football game, we can duplicate as the season goes on. I thought we played with the intangibles. I thought we were passionate. I thought we were physical. I thought we were into it. We played together. For a team with so little experience, to get into that environment, you do not know how a guy is going to respond. I thought 95 percent of this team thrived in that environment. I think there were a couple of guys who it may have been too big for at this point. For the most part, I was proud of the intangible things that we did.”



“We had some opportunities in this game. We had our opportunities on defense to stop a fourth and four. We had an opportunity on third and four to put the ball in the end zone and we were not able to do it as an offense. We had a ball hit the upright. Winning and losing is that close. If it goes in, maybe we are all sitting here with a different mindset today. At the end of the day, we had our opportunities. We just weren’t able to get it done and that is the frustrating part. We were close at Kansas State. We were close at Mississippi State. We were close at Arkansas. We have been close. We don’t want to be close; we want to find a way to win the game. As much as you are down with the loss, I am certainly not discouraged with the performance by this football team. I think when you look at what this team did, they won the turnover battle. They won the big play battle. We won the third down battle.”

“The kickoff team was as good as it’s been since I have been here. Our kickoff return team was as good as it has been since I got here. We had a big play punt return. They had zero return yards in the punting game. One of my concerns going into it was the big four. Those four phases of the kicking game, because speed and space are hard to duplicate in camp. I said all along that I felt like this team had talent. It is just about how quick we can put it all together and how quick we can gain some experience. They impressed me with the way they came together. We only had three penalties as a football team. We had one in the kicking game. We did not have any pre-snap penalties on offense. We had no delay of games or jumping offside. I thought they were really focused and played a good football game. Some guys had some really standout games.”

“In the special teams, I love the way that Jonathan Barnes kicked off. Three of our five kickoffs were touchbacks. They were eight and nine yards deep into the end zone. He kicked really fresh. I thought the kickoff and kickoff return were great. They averaged the 23 yard line and we averaged the 33 on our returns. I thought there were a lot of positive things in the kicking game. Some guys had some great individual efforts on special teams.”

“On defense, we did not give up a play of over 20 yards. We did not give up a big play score. We were good on third down and did some really solid things. Xavier Woods and Secdrick Cooper played really well as safeties. The interception that [Xavier Woods] made was incredibly athletic play on the sidelines, undercutting the corner route. I thought Prince Sam was a shining star. We really did not know how he was going to respond in that environment, walking into his first game. He even had his should pop out at one point in the game. They popped it back in and he said he was good and ran back out on the field. The mindset these guys had and the way they played the game, I could not have been more proud. Ephraim Kitchen played great when he went in there. Jordan Harris and Russell Farris played really well at linebacker. Jordan Bradford has a chance to really be a shining star here as a defensive tackle. We need to get more consistent on our defensive line. We got out of gaps and got reached a couple of times. I think it was a great learning experience. I thought Jaylon Ferguson, Deldrick Canty and a lot of guys played really well on the defensive side of the ball. You gave up 300 yards and 21 points; you gave yourself a chance to win. If we could have made one more stop to get off the field on one of those fourth downs. We had a couple more opportunities with turnovers. Overall, I thought we stood there against a running football team in the SEC and took them on toe-to-toe. I was proud of the way we competed.”

“On the offensive side of the ball, I thought our skill players played really well. The game became one where we needed to execute on the perimeter. Jared Craft is an iron man and a workhorse. I said it during camp; we came in with three backs. At the end of camp, it was his job. He is our Kenneth Dixon. He is going to play until he gets tired. He is the best one and he proved that during camp. He went out and played a heck of a football game on Saturday. There are some little things that we have to clean up. We have to slow him down a little bit. He gets overly excited when he gets the ball under his arm and wants to make a cut before it really formulates. I thought he played really well and is only going to get better. I thought J’mar Smith, for a redshirt freshman, went out there and his poise, composer, operation and management, was great. He was a quarterback. I was proud of the way he played, the way he handled himself and the things that he did. He protected the football, except for one play where he threw that interception. Other than that, he did not put the ball in danger. I thought he did some really good things. I think it is obvious that there are a lot of things that he can continue to clean up, getting into some secondary reads and things like that, but I could not have been more proud. I think the future bodes well for J’mar Smith and to know that he has three more years left as a quarterback at Louisiana Tech. I think he really has a chance to be special and there are not many redshirt freshmen that can step on to that stage and handle it the way that he did. I thought he did a great job with it. On the offensive line, Darrell Brown played well. Joseph Brunson played one of his best games. I think O’Shea Dugas did some great things. For the most part, their defensive line is very good and one of the better defensive lines we have played since I have been here and offensively when we are fundamentally sound, we are pretty good. We just have to become more consistent. There are a lot of new pieces. Shane Carpenter had never really played. Ethan Reed has played some. Kirby Wixson at guard. This is the first game that Brunson started at center. You just had a lot of new pieces in there and we have to keep getting better as an offensive line.”

“Overall, when I look at this, I just think there were a lot of really positive things in the game. The bottom line is we don’t want to be close. We went there to win. That is why we got on the bus. We did not go to pick up a paycheck. We did not go to say we played in a bigtime environment. We went there to win. Unfortunately the thing that hurts is when you go back and watch the film, the opportunities that we had and were not able to capitalize on. That puts a knot in your stomach. You know how close you were. That far on the upright and it goes through and you are sitting here playing the same game with a totally different tune. We have to build on it. What we cannot do, is let Arkansas beat us twice. We cannot let Arkansas linger, that was yesterday. We have to look to today and what we have to do to get ready for South Carolina State.”

“I know Buddy Pough, we coached together at South Carolina. He is a really good football coach and has done a great job with that program. They were a 7-4 football team in 2015. They have 13 returning starters off of that team, along with both of their kickers and their punt returners. In their opener they lost 31-0 to Central Florida, but when I watch them, I am impressed. It starts with the defensive side of the ball. On defense in 2015, they ranked number one among FCS schools in points per game, passing yards allowed, pass efficiency defense, completion percentage, third down percentage and sacks. They were second or third in yards per game allowed, rushing defense, yards per catch and takeaways. This is a national defense and they had a tremendous amount of success. They have six returning starters off of that unit from a year ago. They play incredibly hard. They are physical and run to the ball. They will outright hit you. They have size and I think we are going to get a chance to go against a 400 pound defensive lineman this week. They have size upfront. Their linebackers run really well. Their defensive lineman was drafted in the third round last year. This is a team that has some talent and they are going to come in here and play hard. They are going to come in here with a chip on their shoulder, much like we went to Arkansas last week with. They have something to prove. They are going to come in here and I know they are going to play incredibly hard. On offense they have seven returning starters off of last year’s team, including four on their offensive line. I think they missed some opportunities last week, whether it was a dropped pass or missing an open receiver. Everyone says you have your biggest improvement from week one to week two, so we know they are going to come in here excited to play. They will compete their tails off. I have really been impressed with how hard this football team plays.”

“What we are most excited about is the opportunity to come home. We only have five of these this season. It is a 6 p.m. game and it is supposed to be a beautiful night with it cooling down. I encourage everyone to come out and support this football team. With only five home games, I certainly hope that people will come out to see a little bit about the 2016 football team. We look forward to coming back home and having the opportunity to play here at Joe Aillet Stadium where we have had so much success in years past.”


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