Louisiana Tech Weekly Press Conference Transcript: Sept. 30


 

 

Sept. 30, 2013

RUSTON, La. - Louisiana Tech head coach Skip Holtz and select student-athletes spoke with the media Monday recapping the team’s game against Army and previewing this week’s game at UTEP.

Head coach Skip Holtz

Opening Comments:

 “Going backwards, recapping Army, as a coach, you look at positives and negatives in every game. I thought there were some positives in this game. Offensively, I thought we were more explosive than we have been all year. It was great to see some guys win one-on-one battles. That was the challenge we talked about after the Kansas game. Ryan Higgins did some really good things and seems to get more comfortable each week back there in throwing the ball down the field. I thought some receivers really got up there to help him.”

“One negative is lack of production in the point column. We are not as consistent as we need to be as an offensive football team and we need to continue to get ball down field to make plays. I think Andrew Guillot had an outstanding game and is a competitor. He is physical, tough and leader on this team. He wears a lot of different hats for us and I thought he did an excellent job.”

“Other guys it was nice to see were Sterling Griffin, D.J. Banks and also Eddie Johnson. Eddie was a junior college kid who hurt his ankle in camp and was limited up until a few weeks ago and we are seeing him get more and more comfortable. We are going to get him more involved especially as we get into conference play. It was a positive sign and a bright sign.”


 

 

“I thought Matt Shepperd played very well upfront. Cano was doing some good things but we have got to eliminate the sacks and the loss yardage plays.”

“One of the big chances we had in the game was when we were on the 40-yard line and just threw a 29-yard completion and have the chance to make it a one possession game. Unfortunately we took two sacks and followed that up with a 24-yard punt which led them to start at the same point we were at which is the equivalent of a turnover. We did some positive things, but we are still not where we need to be. As an offensive staff and as a head coach we have got to do a better job offensively to try and put some points on the board.”

“Defensively, they controlled line of scrimmage, which has not happened to us all year. They did a very nice job of executing all the schemes that were coming on. It seemed like we played more tentative than we have all year. We played a little bit more on our heels. That goes back to our coaching preparing them for that. I think it is fairly obvious we did not do a good enough job preparing them for a game like that.”

“I thought Justin Ellis playing the nose guard with his weight and size did some pretty good things in the middle which is why I think they started trying to go to the edge with their options, counters and misdirection plays rather than the tradition dive or dive option series.”

“We continue to build depth. Beau Fitte continues to step up and play more every game. Mitch Villemez is getting better and you are watching him come around as a junior college linebacker. I think (Lloyd) Grogan played an excellent game in the secondary. I thought Grogan, (Terrell) Pinson, and Xavier Woods all played well. Even though we held our explosive plays of 18 or more yards to a season low of two, we gave up about 15 plays that went for 10 yards of more. I think when your safeties are making all the tackles way down the field; it is not a good thing. I am glad we had them because we certainly did not give up those large chunks of yardage. We did not play the type of game we needed to play to be successful.”

“I liked our special teams; I think we have some guys that are really shining there. What we call our dirty dozen list are the starters of tomorrow. I think when you look at some of the guys who are really doing a good job on our special teams, Beau Fitte and Tony Johnson are doing some really good things there. Blake Martin, Jabari Prewett, Josh Ross and Connor Nichols are some of the guys who are playing a significant role for us. When you punt the ball for 33.8 yards and you net 33.5, your cover teams are doing a pretty good job.”

“Same thing for the kickoff team, as I think both our kick off teams are doing a great job. I think our punt team never had the opportunity to make a great return, but I think that Andrew Guillot and D.J. Banks did a great job of catching the ball and getting us field position in a game like that. Those are positives to build on, but certainly not the end result for what we are looking for. We have to go back to the drawing board as a football staff, as a football team as we start fresh this week and get back into conference play.”

“We are excited to get back into conference play and I am excited to not have to see the option again, and be able to face more of a traditional offense. Unfortunately, UTEP runs the ball with about the same success. They have rushed the ball for about 200 yards a game; I think that is a little bit skewed because it was about 230 a week ago before they got into a shoot-out with Colorado State that dropped the average down a little bit.”

“They want to run the ball, and they run the ball well. The offensive line is experienced, with three starters back and two guys who played significant time. The running back is a speedy, shifty back, but it all starts with their quarterback. He has a seven-to-one touchdown to interception ratio. He is completing over 60 percent of his passes. He is a transfer from Texas A&M, and played behind Johnny Manziel before graduating in three years. He is highly recruited and touted athletic quarterback. Even though it will be a different offense, it will be a challenge for our defense and we are going to have to play really well up front.”

“Offensively, we are going to have to put some points up and that has not been our forte. When you look at their numbers on defense, it is hard to simulate what people have done against them. A lot of people have played multiple tight ends and give them a little bit more of a power game since they have an extra guy in the secondary instead of a linebacker. It is going to be a good matchup.”

“Their kickoff return guy is explosive, last year he was 11th in the country and has already taken one to the house this year. We are looking for a good game out of Kyle Fischer where we can get some touchbacks, because if he gets to run, he is extremely explosive.”

“We have a great challenge. We are excited to get back into conference play. It is a little bit of a different mindset. As much as we are all disappointed by Saturday, there is no self-pity. It is time to roll your sleeves up, get back to the drawing board and let’s go to work this week. I like the leadership by (Andrew) Guillot, Justin Ellis and IK (Enemkpali) and what those guys are bringing right now. Everyone was disappointed. They played hard, but we just have to be more productive with the football on the offensive side and be able to stop the run as a defense.”

 

On whether there was any discussion of pulling a safety up to try and stop the run:

“When you look at passing game of Army, that is where they put up their points. They put up so many points because you try to rob Peter to pay Paul and stop the run, and then they come out with that play action. One of the things we were able to stop that I was leery of was giving up huge chunks of yardage. I thought we pursued the ball and ran to the ball.”

“We tried to change the front first, we went to a four down front, and then we went to a double eagle. We tried a couple different fronts, but not with a lot of success. When we walked it up, they were in a four-minute offense running their quarterback. Yeah, it was something we could have done earlier, but I did not want to give up a 70-yard run in one play. We wanted to make them earn it. That is why I give them a lot of credit. My mindset was to make them snap it again. They had to turn the ball over and made mistakes, and we just were not able to get that on Saturday.”

 

On what was wrong with the offensive line:

“We did not handle the twist on the left side very well at all. You have two new guys over there in Jens Danielsen and Tre Carter and we did not handle the twist very well. It was unfortunate because we knew it was coming. It was not a surprise. We just did not go out there and execute it very well. We gave up two sacks at the left guard position. You just cannot do that in a game.”

 

On plans to get Tevin King the ball more:

“Yes, and I think Kenneth (Dixon) ran extremely hard, but we have got to get a better running game. We put Tevin King back on kickoff returns to try and put the ball in his arms and see if we could get three or four more touches on the return, but when you get into the game down two scores, it got to a point where the running game was not a big part of the game plan in the second half. We were trying to get bigger chunks of yardage to try and score, get a stop, and hopefully score again, and make it a competitive football game. The running game was not as big a part of it later in the game. Dixon carried the ball maybe 18 times, but you would like to see us have a little bit more of a running game. Tevin needs to be more involved in running game.”

 

On focusing on making big plays after failing to stop the option:

“When we went in for the first weather break, we talked about it then. In the first series, we ran the ball three times and did not get a first down. We ran it two more times the next series and we were trying to develop more of a running game. We just were not able to get the running game going and that is when it became more of a passing game.”

“I told Tony when we went in for the first weather break that they were controlling the line of scrimmage. I said it was going to take 35 points to win this game because of the way they are controlling the ball. When you look at our first two series, we were going three and out and punting the ball. We were shooting ourselves in foot. We had a bust here, and a break there or somebody would just get beat. With us not executing at the level we need to be we need to get the ball down the field and that was a concentrated effort.  Some of our receivers and Ryan Higgins did a really good job of throwing downfield. For the last four weeks we have been telling our quarterbacks to just give them a chance. They are on scholarship to, give them a chance to make a play, and those guys did a nice job with it. That is what we tried to do after struggling on defense.”

 

On the play of Ryan Higgins:

“There is no controversy. Scotty (Young) was the quarterback early, got injured, and then Ryan (Higgins) came in and did a nice job. Ryan Higgins is the quarterback. He did some things, protected the ball, throwing over thirty times without an interception until the very last play of the game. He has given our wide receivers an opportunity. I thought he did a nice job managing the game. I think every week he gets more and more comfortable. When you walk into a season with two quarterbacks who neither have in game experience, it is nice for us going into conference play with two that have experience. Right now, Ryan Higgins is the starting quarterback.”

 

On Higgins’ protection of the football helping the decision:

“It does and I thought he did a good job in the Kansas game with throwing the ball and protecting it. We got loose with it and that is what he needed to continue and understand. He is starting to play more in the system. We tell him that we do not need the great play, but just do not make the bad one. Make the routine play, pick the ball up and throw it to first. Take the read, throw the ball, and take the completion. I thought he did much better job in this game. He is getting more and more comfortable in the pocket. He is reading defenders and is not nervous. He is taking what the defense gives him and I think that it was a good quarterback does.”

 

On getting the offense and defense on the same page:

“I think the defense has played well all year. This was something that was completely different. It was a completely different look. It is very hard when you only have one week to prepare for that offense. When you play them the first game of the year and you have all camp to get ready for it, it is different. It is difficult to get to where you can stop that offense in one week. I do not think last week is where I am really worried about the defense. I am confident the leadership will bring the defense back to play again.”

“I am excited about watching them play this week. We talked about the new starters on the defensive side but I am not making any excuses. Tre Carter played a great game the week before and did a good job of picking the twist up in practice. He picked it up a few times in the game and why one play was different then the next, I do not know.”

“The more you play the game, the more the game slows down, just like we talked about with Ryan Higgins. There is not a lot of experience up there. We have to continue to work at it and push at it. We cannot just say that a year from now we are going to be very good. We have to figure out how to do that now. We have to find a way to create more big plays and put points on the board. It is going to take a while for the inexperience to become as consistent as we want it to be.”

 

On UTEP’s quarterback’s ability:

“It will be a great challenge for defensive front and linebackers. You have to contain him and keep him in the pocket, which is not always easy to do. It takes away a little bit of pass rush because you are worried about keeping him in front of you, with as athletic as he is. You cannot just pick a side and try to beat a side to get there. He presents some challenges. When you look at the strength of the defense, it has been our defensive line. It will be a great challenge for us to keep him contained and yet at the same time, try and stop their running game.”

 

On seeing the triple-option offense down the road:

“No, I do not. Let’s just say I hope not. It is an offense in itself. You do not get ready for it in a week and you do not put it in in a week. It is not just the triple option, it is all the options that they have. I commend Army on the game because they played error-free game on offense and that is not something they had done up to that point.”

 

On entering Conference USA play:

“You have to find a way to go 1-0. This is the longest stretch we will play, six games in a row. We have played five games and three on the road. This week will be the fourth. The first four out of six you are playing on the road. That is a lot of travel, and it takes a lot out of your football team. It poses challenges for the team. I think the excitement for players will be the conference race. I think the game with NC State, Kansas and Army, although they are great games to play, and great opportunities for us, I think the players are excited about getting into the conference race. It creates a different excitement during the week.”

 

On whether the next hurdle for the offense is being able to sustain drives:

“To put points up, we talked early in season where we needed to create turnovers and scoring opportunities for our offense. When you look at a team scoring 40 or 50 points a game, they are not taking the ball and driving 80 yards seven times a football game. They are getting field position, turnovers, scoring on defense and special teams.”

“We have to find a way to get production on the scoreboard. It is not have many yards you had, or how much you improved. It is about how many points you score. Offensively, we have to continue to work to be as consistent as we need to be. We also have to find a way to create some big plays. We cannot rely on consistency, but I hope we get better and better as the year goes on. We are going to need some big plays in order to put points up on the board.”

 

On whether the team will see more read option in future games:

“We have seen the read option before this. It is more of the blocking schemes up front. You constantly have guys coming in at your legs. I thought that made us play a little more tentative. They ran a toss sweep, a power play, the dive option, the counter, and it was not one play that got us. I do not think it was the option; it was more of the blocking schemes.”

 

On how assignment football went:

“I thought it was decent. I think it was more the fundamental side of it, that we were not as aggressive up front with our defensive line. I thought guys like Grogan and Pinson, while they were making a lot of tackles; they were making them down field. From an assignment standpoint, we did not give up the homerun ball. We made them earn it. They executed and did it. I thought they did a pretty good job to execute it as a defense from an assignment stand point.”

 

On inside receivers: Lee, Guillot, and Greenwalt:

“The things that come to mind when you mention those three is toughness, attitude, determination and as I heard on a video this morning, grit. The passion and the grit that they have, and the way they compete every day in everything they do. They are going to be successful. When you look at them, height, weight, size, speed, they do not just jump out on paper at you. When you watch them play, they jump into your heart. They play the game the way it is supposed to be played. The play it with a mental toughness and a physical toughness. It is not about tape on shoes or wristbands and looking better. They go play football. I think we need more players like them in college football today.”

 

On outside receivers:

“Jaydrick (DeClouette) is supposed to be back this week, and it will be nice to get him back out there. With what he was doing in fall camp, I am no sure he would not be one of the starters today. Eddie Johnson has a chance to be a big-play receiver. Richie Casey is doing better at running with the ball, he had a couple key first downs. He is really starting to come along. DeClouette probably brings the most shiftiness of all of them. We are getting a lot of man coverage, and press on the outside and we have to keep working it to beat press and get those guys the ball.”

 

On winning the time of possession battle vs. UTEP:

“That is what they have wanted to do. They wanted to run the football. They have scored over 35 points in three of their four games. Going into last week’s game they were rushing for over 230 yards a game. That is where it is going to start and you have to be able to stop run, but they have a very athletic quarterback back that is able to throw the ball and get the ball over the top to make big plays. They want to run the ball first, so that is where we are going to start as a defense. “

 

On how important early drives are:

“If we could have started game 14-0, it would have taken away from what they wanted to do, just like they took us out of our running game. It is huge. If someone gets out to a fast start, I think it makes them more on dimensional which makes it easier to defend.”

 

IK Enemkpali

On being ready to play a more traditional offense:

“I really am ready to get back to it.  Army was real scrappy.  Guys were diving at your legs and you did not know where it was coming from.  I am really ready to get back to getting off the ball.”

 

On containing UTEP’s quarterback from scrambling:

“This week it is not that big of a worry.  Coach Eggen does a good job of harping on us to keeping containment.”

 

On the defense’s performance versus Army:

“Army came out and got the job done, and we did not.  They were more fundamentally sound, more assignment sound than us.  We just did not get the job done.”

 

On keeping team moral up:

“We have been here before.  A couple of years ago we were 1-4 and went on to win the WAC championship.  We have a lot of football to be played.  It is not over and that is what we have to keep telling the young guys that is it not over.”

 

On the C-USA West Division being wide open:

“We still have a chance to win the championship.  That is what we play for is a championship.  It is attainable and we just have to go out and get it done.” 

 

On his confidence in having faced mobile quarterbacks before:

“It comes with the back end.  The back end has to do their job to hold up the quarterback.  With our defensive line, a great group of guys with Justin Ellis, [Vontarrius] Dora and Shakeil [Lucas], getting pressure it is going to be real fun.”

 

On frustration of not getting much pressure in the backfield versus Army:

“It was a little frustrating, but during the game we could not do anything about it and just try to find a way to get it done.  We did not get it done.  There is no self-pity in football so we could not do anything about it.”

 

On the comparison to the 2011 season:

“Two years ago we just cut the BS out.  We were accountable to each other.  We looked each other in the eye and told each other that we are going to get this done.  That is what we are going to have to do this year.  The young guys probably have not been in a situation like this, but we have some guys who have.  It is our responsibility to let them know and give them that confidence that this thing is not over with.  We have to keep driving on.”

 

On UTEP being a must win:

“We have to win.  It is conference.  Everybody has to step up their play so yes.  It is time to get this thing going.”

 

On the 2011 season being the talk in the locker room:

“We let [the young players] know that we have been in this situation before and do not hang your head because it is not over.  There is a lot of football to be played.  There are a lot of good things that we are going to be doing.”

 

 

Andrew Guillot

On what it meant to lead the offense:

“That was my best game here in six years.  It really did mean a lot.  I am hoping, really, to repeat it and just keep going on that performance.  If my name gets called and I get the opportunity, I just have to make the plays.”

 

On what the message is to the younger players:

“Just come out and work every day at practice.  Just get better, get in your playbooks, watch film, learn what they are going to do and how to beat them and just come out and play.” 

 

On Ryan Higgins:

“Ryan can do it all.  He can run and he can throw the ball.  He has a nice arm.  He throws the ball really well down field.  He made some great throws during the game.” 

 

On his connection with Higgins:

“Ryan and I have been really close.  We started hanging out a lot during the summer.  We played softball together and stuff and just grew closer.  He trusts me and I trust him.  We talk on the field a lot.  I will tell him I see a coverage and I am going to be open or another guy is going to be open.  I will let him know and tell him what to look for a lot of times.”

 

On applying the 2011 season to this season:

“Anything is possible.  We have been there before.  We can definitely bounce back and run the table to win the conference.”

 

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