Louisiana Tech Press Conference Transcript: Sept. 17

Sept. 18, 2012

RUSTON, La. - Louisiana Tech head football coach Sonny Dykes and select student-athletes spoke with the media Monday about last week’s game against Rice and this week’s upcoming game against Illinois.


Head coach Sonny Dykes:

Opening comments:

“I will do the players of the week and captains and stuff, and get all that stuff out of the way. Defensively, the player of the week is Le’Vander Liggins. The co-offensive players of the week are Chandler Spence and Stephen Warner. Antonio Mitchum was our special teams player of the week.”

“The scout offense was Blake Martin. The scout defensive was Carter Street, and the special teams was Ronnie Fields.”

“Chandler Spence will serve as our captain this week as well. Our game captains will be (Colby) Cameron, (Quinton) Patton, (Chad) Boyd and (Chandler) Spence. All those guys will go out for the coin toss.”

“We are excited to get a chance to play again. The good thing about our season so far is I think we have certainly improved from week 1 to week 2. We are looking for more improvement. I think we realized there are some things we have to do better as a football team.”

“I was really pleased with our special teams effort last week. I think that was probably the best we have been on special teams in a long time. Matt Nelson I thought kicked the ball well, and I thought we covered as well as we have covered at any point around here.”



“Both of Ryan’s (Allen) punts were good I thought. We did a good job downing one inside the five and the other one, he basically kicked 70 yards in the air and it went to the end zone. I think it was a good, solid special teams performance.”

“We did not get a lot of opportunities in our punt return game. They had some, I guess, punting issues I suppose. We did not get a lot of opportunities to return a lot of punts. Overall, I thought our special teams were good.”

“Defensively, I thought we really started the game off well if you go back and think about the first couple of possessions. We held them pretty well and got them to punt some.”

“We got some short fields. I think that has been important for us the last couple of weeks the way we have played defense early. That has allowed us to start fast on offense. We have had some short fields.”

“We have gotten some turnovers early in the game. I think as a result, we have gotten some big leads. Obviously we did not finish the game as well as we are going to need to on defense. We have to continue to improve in that area.”

“We have given up too many third down conversions this year. I think that has probably been the most alarming. That has just been our inability to make plays on third down.”

“I think the penalty issue is obviously something we have to get addressed. We had 16 penalties. That is way too many, and that is something that is going to get our full attention this week. And again, that starts with us as coaches. We have to get our guys to be more disciplined. We had three offside penalties on our defensive line. That is something we have to get fixed. I believe all three of those were on third down and that helped them convert a lot of third downs.”

“Lots of issues, but the good thing is it was good to have an opportunity to win and I thought we played pretty good on offense. I thought we were pretty efficient. There were a couple of mistakes that will bite us if we do not get them corrected.”

“Kenneth Dixon fumbled and was able to recover it. D.J. Banks fumbled on a kickoff return and Mike Schrang recovered it. And then Tevin King obviously fumbled into the end zone and that resulted in a touchback. I think that was a big play in the game. We were getting ready to go up 28-0. I think it gave Rice some life and all of a sudden they drove down, scored and made it a 21-7 game instead of really a 28-0 game at that point.”

“Those are things we have to obviously get fixed and some corrections we have to make, but I was pretty pleased with our effort and was pleased with the result.”

“It is always good to get a win. I think that is ultimately the most important thing if you can figure out a way to win games instead of figuring out a way to lose them. I think that is probably the area we have grown the most as a program in the last two years. Last year, five games into the season and we were inventing ways to lose games, and I think that we have hopefully gotten past that. We will see this week.”

“Illinois will be a big test for us. They have a tremendous amount of talent. I think when you put the film on, they can run everywhere. They can run in the secondary, run in the defensive line. The quarterback can run, receivers can run.”

“They are big up front. They are kind of a mix with a Big 10 team where they are big and physical, but at the same time their skill guys can run well.”  

“It will be a real challenge for us really on offense and defense. The quarterback has not played the last couple of weeks. He has had an ankle sprain. I am sure he will play Saturday against us. My understanding was he was available to play on Saturday and they chose not to play him.”

“They have had some guys banged up, but I would think that all six guys that were held last week will play against us. I would expect them to be as healthy as they have at any point during the season.”

“They play well at home. I think that is the thing that stands out to me when you put the film on. They are a pretty dominant team at home, and I think they have had a lot of success through the years playing at home. They have a good home environment and home field advantage. I think their players play with a lot of confidence at home.”

“Their defensive front is probably as good as anybody’s in the country. They return the nation’s leader sacker from last year. He had 16 sacks and nine forced fumbles, which is really remarkable. That is an incredible season. They are athletic and big and long. It is kind of what you would expect from an Illinois team.”

“But, as I said, our players are excited about playing on the road. I think we have a little confidence playing on the road right now. We are excited about it. I could sense a little buzz from our players Saturday night after the game as soon as we turned our attention from Rice to Illinois, so I think that is a positive.”

“We have to continue to have a good week of practice, continue to improve, address the areas we need to get fixed and go put our best foot forward and try to beat a good football team Saturday.”

On defense against Rice:

“It is kind of what we talked about last week. We have to do a better job of not changing our mindset when we are up 21-0 or 28-7 and that type of thing. I think we have to learn how to continue to put our foot on the accelerator.”

“The tendency is to relax, but we have to get past that as a program. That is going to bite us in the rear end if we do not watch it. So, we have to get it fixed. Again, that starts with us as coaches.”

“We have to just play better defense. We have to do a better job of making plays and getting off the field, again, on third down. I think the difference early in the game was they did not convert many first downs, and then later in the game they converted a bunch. So, I think we have to improve that aspect for sure.”

On playing longer road games:

“It is funny. Our travel to this game is going to be a lot easier than it was to Houston. Houston is closer geographically, but we bussed to Houston and it was fine. It was not a bad bus trip, but this will be similar to that trip.”

“It is going to be about three, three and a half hours to get there. I really do not see any difference honestly. It is not like we are flying to Idaho, and then having to bus to wherever and having to bus to the game and all that. It is going to be an easy trip. We will fly into Champaign. The hotel is close to the airport and the hotel is close to the stadium, so I think it is going to be really easy travel.” 

On a run-oriented offense:

“I think that is what you do. You kind of see what you can do well. I think our ability to throw the football makes it easier to run and our ability to run makes it easier to throw the football. That is the way football works. That is why you have to get good at something.”

“When we became a team that could convert and execute offensively throwing the football, then I think it opened up some avenues for us and made it easier for us to run the football.”

“We have a lot of experience on our offensive line. We have good backs. It is like anything else. You have to figure out how to use your best players. That is what coaching is all about. It is about who your best players are and how can we get them on the field and how can we create good situations for them to be productive. I think we have done a pretty good job of that.”

“It is a long football season. We are going to face better defenses than we have the last two weeks. It will be a challenge for us.”

On red zone perfection (and past teams):    

“Probably not statistically. I have been lucky enough to coach on some pretty good offenses, and they are all different. They all kind of have different personalities and different strengths and weaknesses. Part of it I think is the speed at which we play makes your effectiveness in the red zone stronger and better when you are going fast and have some momentum.”

“We have been able to finish drives. A lot of times the defense with be a little tired. I think that has helped us. But, it is early. I do not put a lot of stock in statistics this early in the season or really anytime during the season for that matter. But, that is being pretty effective and it is just a trend we need to continue.”

On player confidence in the red zone:

“Yeah, maybe a little bit. I do not know if you can ever overestimate confidence. When you look at sports, whether it is football, golf, tennis or whatever it is, I think confident teams and confident players have an edge.”

“I think we are playing with some confidence right now, but at the same time our players have to be realistic too and understand that it is going to be long season, and like I said, we are going to play against better defense than we have played against.”

On Quinton Patton playing with more confidence:

“Yeah, I think so. I think he is kind of a microcosm of our entire program a little bit in terms of dealing with success. That is something you have to learn. You have to learn how to deal with that. Dealing with success is just as important as dealing with failure.”

“I think sometimes people get caught up in things that do not really matter as a program, as coaches, as individuals and everybody. Our jobs as coaches is to teach those guys what is important and to focus on the things that are going to make us better as a team and make them better as individual players. We needed to rein him in a little bit and that is our jobs. I thought our coaches did a good job of doing that.”

On Le’Vander Liggins:

“I do not think [it was a surprise]. Le’Vander (Liggins) is just incredibly consistent from an effort and toughness standpoint. When you have a guy that has Le’Vander’s type of ability – he can run, he is strong – and then you have the type of effort he has and consistent day in and day out approach he has, you are going to have a pretty good player.”

“He is going to do nothing but continue to get better and better, so it is exciting to see that he is playing with some confidence and he is not afraid to go out and compete, play physical and do the things we ask him to do. He is a guy that has a chance to be a good player and I think he is starting to come into his own a little bit.”  

On Colby Cameron’s play:

“I have been pleased with that. He has done a really good job of taking care of the ball, and I think that is where it all starts with a quarterback. His leadership first of all, I think he has done a great job of that. Our players have confidence in him. I think he has confidence in our scheme and his abilities. I think it starts there, and I think he is taking care of the football well. He has done a good job of distributing the ball to the guys who can make plays.”

“I think offenses really get good when the quarterback understands, ‘I do not have to make a play here. Someone else can make it for me.’ I think Colby realized that we have pretty good skill guys that can make some plays from time to time, and he has done a good job of getting them the ball.”

On defensive game plan for Illinois:

“I think part of their issues have been not having their quarterback. They really played well last week. They had a complete dominating performance. If you go back and look at the Arizona State game, they were not playing with a full complement of players, so I am not sure if that is a real fair evaluation of the kind of team they have or really what kind of offense.”

“I expect them to be a very well-coached offense that gives you a lot of different looks. They can do a lot of different things. (Nathan) Scheelhaase (Illinois QB) can run. He is a very fast quarterback that can create plays, create big plays, but also keep plays alive.”

“They like to throw the ball down the field. Those guys are dangerous players, so they are going to be very good on offense. They know what they are doing and know how to use their players. As I said, I think they will have a full complement of players this week.”   

On defensive adjustments for the QB:

“I think in the Rice game plan, we tried to show some different looks last week and adjust some of our underneath coverage’s, especially in third and long situations. When you do that, you are susceptible to some quarterback runs, and we knew that.”

“It is like anything. You have to pick your poison. We lost the containment on the Rice quarterback at times and that hurt us. We just have to change our looks and continue to improve on what we are doing, but obviously create some new looks and some new ways to stop people.”

“We did that last week. We executed them early. Rice did a good job of making some adjustments, and I think that was the difference really. We did not get them in as many third-and-longs later in the game as we did earlier. I think the first four or five possessions, Rice was in some third-and-long situations, and they were not in as many of those late in the game.”

“Obviously, we have to do a better job of containing the quarterback, and that is really just being disciplined, making sure our eyes are on the right spot, stay in our rush lanes consistently and have good leverage on the ball.”

On Illinois defense:

“I think we played well. I do not think we have played guys like these. These guys are athletic and productive. Sometimes you put tape on and they have these really good-looking guys that can run around and are athletic, but these guys run around and make a ton of plays.”

“When you have 16 sacks and nine forced fumbles in a year, that is really a remarkable season. They have a lot of good defensive linemen. That is the strength of their team. Their tackles are big and physical and can run. Their ends are long. They do a great job of if they cannot get there on the rush, batting balls down. They really do a good job of getting in your throwing lanes and knocking balls down.”

On offense over defense:

“When you score, I mean the other team has to score. I do not understand the whole thinking that it is good to sit there three times and then punt. I do not really understand that for the life of me, but like I said, there are a lot of people that do.  I would like somebody to explain it to me at some point.”

“I do not know how scoring could be a bad thing for your football team. But, there are a lot of people who think it is.”

On the team’s confidence:

“Well, I think that is just being realistic. The good thing is we can just show them the film, and we can say look at this guy we have been playing and look at the guy we are going to play Saturday. I do not think it is really hard to see a big difference.

On Hunter Lee’s versatility:

“I think that is the sign of a really good football player. He is a guy that is versatile in what he can do. He is really just a complete football player. He has really good hands; he runs good routes, he blocks well, he competes hard on every play, finishes runs and takes care of the ball; all of the things that you look for in a good offensive player.”

“Again, it is up to us to figure out ways to use him. I think that is something we have to continue to do, and the thing I like about Hunter is you know what you are going to get. There is a level of consistency there that I think is really critical to having a good offense.”

On injuries:

“[Ray Holley] is good. I think we are going to be remarkably healthy. To go into the third game of the season, I would expect everybody would be available and we are as healthy as any football team I have been around at this point of the season.”


Hunter Lee

On playing running back and wide receiver:

“It is really nice.  I love to catch the ball, I love to run the ball so it feels real good to be used all over the place and use my talents wherever [the coaches] want.  I have a lot of fun doing it.”

On being a part of this offense:

“It is awesome.  It is high-tempo, high-scoring.  It is a lot of fun.  I feel that not only is it exciting for the team but I think it is exciting for the funs as well so I love it.”

On the red zone success:

“I think it is the determination.  The offensive line does a nice job every play, getting after it.  The receivers, we are all hungry to block every play.  If it is a pass, we run our routes to the best of our ability and the running backs do a fantastic job getting into the end zone and running hard.  I think it is a collective effort of everybody putting in work and doing their job.”

On the two freshmen running backs:

“[Tevin King and Kenneth Dixon] are doing a tremendous job.  I love watching them play.  They are real exciting guys putting up great stats.  They are doing a great job and I am so glad they are on this team to help out and play for us.”

On the defensive line of Illinois:

“I have not watched anything on Illinois yet, but I will watch it some today.”

On confidence of facing bigger schools like Illinois and Virginia:

“I think we feel really confident.  I feel we go in with the same mindset every game.  Whoever it is we are going to go in and play our game and play as hard as we can and hopefully come out with a W.”

On line between confident and overconfident:

“When it gets to a point when people are not as focused, when guys seem a little too relaxed or goofy before games it can seem like you are too overconfident.  The coaches do a great job of keeping us humble, keeping us ready to play.”

On playing home opener:

“It was great.  All home games are a blast having our home fans.  They did a great job and were loud and into it.  That atmosphere is always fun.  Being able to put up a W for Louisiana Tech at home is just a lot of fun.”

On playing against his home state school Rice:

“I can honestly say it feels like any other school, but nothing really felt different playing Rice.”

On saying anything to players after fumbles:

“No.  Those guys, when stuff like that happens they do great at staying focused and getting ready for the next play knowing that they will not do it again.  They do a great job doing that.”

On Colby Cameron:

“He grew into a great player last year.  He is doing great things now and I just feel he is more confident back there, more relaxed and he has much more confidence in his team and in himself.  He has really been showing.”

On the offensive line:

“Those guys have been playing with each other for I guess a year now, a couple years now, so they have that chemistry.  They have been doing a great job.  They just have that chemistry and have been working really well together.”



On transition to cornerback:

“It is just hard work.  Coach always tells me keep my head up and keep working hard.  Make sure I am doing my assignment, so when it comes to that I just know what to do and just keep my head up.”

On going from offense to defense:

“It actually helped, if you could say that, because knowing what the guy is thinking on the other side of the ball helps you react better on defense and defense is all about reaction.”

On toughest part of transition to defense:

“I have to say mindset really.  It is not the fact of actually doing it but wanting to do it.”

On not returning kicks:

“Yeah, it was fun doing it, but coaches just want to put the team in the best place to win and I have to respect that.”

On defense giving up late scores:

“It is just guys knowing their assignment.  We know what we have to do; we just have to do it.”

On defense relaxing because of offense:

“I believe we become sort of reliant, if that is what you could say.  We just have to do a better job of keeping our head on straight knowing that it is a four quarter game, 15 minutes a quarter, playing hard the whole game.”

On containing Illinois’ mobile quarterback:

“Dealing with that really is just us.  No game we play has to do with them, it is all about us executing our assignments.  The coaches are going to put us in the best predicament to succeed, we just have to execute.”

On adjusting to playing so many plays:

“I have to say Houston helped.  Those guys were on the ball fast, running plays fast.  With Rice, they were not as fast but they were fast.  That helped with the conditioning and all.”

On first summer conditioning:

“It was tough, mentally and physically, but we had to come out there ready to work every day with our head on straight and no joking around.”

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


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