Louisiana Tech Weekly Press Conference Transcript: Oct. 5

Oct. 5, 2015

RUSTON - Louisiana Tech head football coach Skip Holtz and select student-athletes spoke with the media Monday in advance of the team's upcoming game at UTSA.

Head coach Skip Holtz

"I want to start by thanking the fans for the unbelievable attendance we have had here. I want to thank the fan base, the alumni, the student body and everyone that came out and supported this program. In the last three home games, we have set two of the top four attendance records. I need to just start by saying thank you. What a difference it makes. When you look at the number of recruits that were at this game Saturday, they got to come here and see this environment and hear their reaction. They talked about the excitement and energy in the stadium. They saw all of the former players down there in the end zone, especially right before the half when Bryson Abraham returned that interception back. It was great to see them jumping around and see their excitement. It made for a great weekend. I do not want to take that for granted. I just want to let everyone know how much we appreciate it as a program, the support we have received. It has been unbelievable. Our players feed off of it. It is great environment not only to play in, but to recruit to and have people come experience what Louisiana Tech football is all about."

"It is great to win. It is always great to win, but especially in an in-state rivalry. I think Lafayette has a really good football team. I think they do a good job. They have had some success, when you look at what they have done. I think they have done a great job with that program when you look at the Sun Belt championships they have won and the success that they have had. It was a good feeling to have them play here at home and come out with a victory. It was a big win for the program."

 

 

"Offensively, I thought it was that same blue collar attitude. We came out and averaged 6.3 yards per play. We had 27 first downs. We had zero sacks. We were 100 percent on touchdowns in the red zone. We were 46 percent on third down. It was a solid performance. Some guys on the offensive line played really well. Jeff Driskel continues to play really well. Trent Taylor had some really big plays in man coverage. Marcus Gaines was able to really step up and play well. Overall, I was pleased with the offensive performance."

"Defensively, outside of a couple of fundamental things, I thought it was a really solid performance. We were able to get three turnovers and score on defense. They created good field position for our offense and controlled the line of scrimmage. It was exciting the way they played. I did not like the opening drive when they went right down the field. We kind of lost contain. The great thing was, with that opening drive nobody got rattled. They came off the field saying, `Coach, I have to get outside. That is on me.' They knew the mistake they made before they got to the sideline."

"The offense took the ball and had a 10-play drive to start the game to make it 7-7. The defense got a stop and then the offense had a 96 or 97-yard drive to go up 14-7. Not only did we score with five seconds left in the half, but we came out in the third quarter, got the ball and went 77 yards in three plays. That 14-point swing in a two minute period was huge. Everyone says the most important time in a football game is the five minutes before halftime and the first five minutes of the second half. I think if those were the most important moments, that is what put that game away, the 22 points in the second quarter. The quick score in the third made it easier to call plays both on offense and defense. Defensively, I would just like to get a couple things cleaned up. I think they are playing really hard right now and are playing with some confidence."

"The special teams scored. When you can score on defense and score on special teams, it is a pretty big advantage when your offense does not even have to step on the field to put some points on the board. We were able to do that with our special teams and the punt block team. Paul Turner had a great individual effort on that team. Joe Sloan did a great job of scheming that up and putting it together. He put Paul in a position to make and play and he went out and blocked the punt. Jonathan Barnes hit a 41- and 51-yard field goal. When you look at some of our woes last year in the kicking game, he has done a really nice job."

"Our dirty dozen is really starting to play with some speed and some effort. You look at guys like Jarred Craft, Lloyd Grogan and Russell Farris. There are a lot of guys on that team who are doing some really good things that are not starters on offense or defense, but are playing a major role for us. Secdrick Cooper is another. We have a lot of guys that are doing a really nice job."

"The only negative I took away from Saturday were the personal fouls. After coming back and watching them on film, I do not think there was anything malicious on either side. I thought it was a clean and hard fought football game on both sides. I think in an in-state rivalry game, the officials took the approach to where they were going to throw early flags and call offsetting penalties. I think there were four double off-setting personal fouls. I think it was part of the emotion of playing the game. In a lot of games, the officials will get in and tell them to knock it off and go on their way."

"Kenneth [Dixon] was part of a double foul and then had the personal foul for spiking it. That dismissed him from the game. I checked with Gerald Austin, the head of officials for Conference USA, and that suspension only goes for that game. It does not carry over. The only two things that carry over from one half to the next game are targeting or fighting. He was not involved in either of those. Kenneth is an emotional player. He had not been in the end zone and was getting frustrated because Lafayette did everything they could to take him away. They ran everyone to him. That is why Jeff was so open on so many of the reads that he made. He was able to pull the ball and run around the corner. Kenneth will be available for the entire game this weekend."

"Getting into UTSA, everyone wants to look at their record and their stats. They are a 1-4 football team right now. I have great respect for Coach Larry Coker and his staff with the success they have had. When you look at this football team, you know they are going to be physical. They are very fundamentally sound. They are a tough, hardnosed football team. They are an emotional football team. They play with a lot of passion. They are 1-4 right now. If you look at them statistically, you cannot put them at the top of the conference. They have played Arizona, Oklahoma State, Kansas State and Colorado State. Even though they are a 1-4 football team, they have lost to four top 20 teams. I think this is one of the better defenses that we have played. Watching the film, they have some great players. They are big and physical. They run a scheme similar to Kansas State. I think they have three preseason all-conference players on the defensive side of the ball. [Jason Neill], [Drew Douglas]and [Bennett Okotcha] are all really good football players. I am really impressed with the overall physicality of their team and the way they play the game. Against UTEP this weekend, their defense had 11 three-and-outs. They win a lopsided football game and missed three field goals so it could have been even worse. I think they have a really good football team."

"Offensively, they give you a lot of problems with their tempo. They are fast-paced and high-tempo, running 80 or 90 plays a game. The run a lot of formations unbalanced. They do a lot of things to give you problems. They really simplify you defensively because of all the different looks you are going to get. They have a running back that is averaging over 100 yards a game. He is a really solid player. Their offensive line is very fundamentally sound. They are big and physical up front. They have wide receivers that are explosive and their quarterback is very smart. To do everything they do, he has to be. He spends a lot of extra time in that film room, I can promise you that. It is a very complicated offense, because of the number of things they do. They ask him to distribute the ball and run the train, he does it very well. They are a very good offensive football team and defensive football team. I think they are the best defensive football team we have played to this point. They definitely have the best front four. I thought Kansas State had the best interior players. I thought FIU had the best defensive ends. I think UTSA has the best of both worlds. They are very big and physical inside with their tackles, but their defensive ends are really good players."

"On special teams, they have a freshman who is No. 1 in the conference on kickoff returns. He is No. 8 in the country. He was a state long jump champion in Texas. He is a great athlete and does a great job."

"It is going to be a heck of a challenge. We are excited to get back into conference play and going on the road again this week. With some of the close games we have lost on the road, we understand how difficult this is going to be. I hope the players are enjoying our academic day on Monday, because when we go to work Tuesday, we are going to have our hands full in a huge challenge to go down to San Antonio and play in the Alamodome."

On Kenneth Dixon's ejection against ULL:

"Kenneth was probably more hurt and disappointed than anyone in the stadium. It is a hard thing, for how proud he is and how hard he works, to have to be escorted off the field. I was in the office Sunday morning about 7 a.m. and he came walking in. We sat down and talked for about an hour. It is not who Kenneth wants to be. If he could take it back, he would take it all back. None of his flags were of negative intent or malice. He is just a passionate player and is going to have to learn to control those emotions. He was embarrassed for the way he played. He feels like it is the worst game he has played since he has been here. He tried to do too much and let his frustrations of what Lafayette was trying to do to take him away, affect the way he played the game. He very uncharacteristically missed cuts, looking for the 40-yard run on every play, rather than hitting the hole looking for positive yards. I think he got frustrated. That was part of his frustration. He did not do anything with poor intent. He is guilty of being passionate. From that standpoint, we have to learn to manage it a little better."

On simplifying defensive scheme:

"We wanted to give our players a chance to play fast. We have some younger guys who are stepping in and playing more. It is not about what we know; it is about what they know. Even though we have a group of starters that can run a lot of what we did last year, we have a lot backups that are not ready for that. You put 10 guys in from last year and one new guy. If he goes the wrong way, a seam is created. We talked about just simplifying it a little more. They are a zone football team. Being a zone team, you want to play gap-integrity football. It was not a philosophical change for our defense, as much as it was what we needed to do against [UL-Lafayette]. I thought our football players did a great job of going out there and executing. When you look at the first screen pass, he did not even have to break a tackle. They threw it out in the flat and he ran down the sideline. We had a strong safety that went inside of a block and got pinned. We had a corner outside who was supposed to come inside and got pinned. That is why I talk about the fundamentals of football and assignments. After that one, I thought our players did a nice job of playing that fundamental, assignment football. That is why we were not as aggressive."

On history between UTSA and Tech:

"I think a lot of these games are going to become [a rivalry]. That is the beauty of getting into Conference USA. Those rivalries are going to start with Southern Miss again, because we are going to play every year. Same with Rice, North Texas, UTSA, UTEP and games our fan base becomes familiar with. Rivalries begin because of, `Remember that year they kicked a field goal on the last play of the game,' or, `Remember that year we threw a long touchdown pass with no time on the clock.' It is the history that creates rivalries. I think that is one of the things that is really going to start. I think UTSA does have a very good football team. We have had some very close football games with them the past couple of years. We were very fortunate to win last year in a 27-20 ball game out here. It was hard fought on both sides. Any time two good football teams get together, there is going to be some passion and some emotion. This is where those rivalries begin. There is certainly one that has been brewing with UTSA."

On players overlooking UTSA because of a 1-4 start:

"I think you can take the stats and throw them out the window. Defensively, in the conference and nationally, they are near the bottom. They have played three top 20 teams in Arizona, Kansas State and Oklahoma State. All have really good football teams. I think their numbers are more of a product, of who they have played. I know we have some good players, but right now, their numbers are more of an indication of who they have played, rather than the type of football team they are. All you have to do is go in there and put on film. They have some angry players. They play the game angry. They play the game violent and physical. They are a really good football team. Like I said, they should have been up on Kansas State at halftime 10-7. They went for it on fourth down right before halftime and did not make it. They drove the ball straight down the field. They lost lopsided to Oklahoma State but they had four turnovers in the first half. There are some variables that go into that. The hard part is that you do not know where their pocket is going to be. You do not know where their quarterback is going to be. Everything you do, you have to make sure you are fundamentally sound. You cannot draw up a blitz and send five people from one side, because they could be in an unbalanced formation and go fast. It is not a game where you are going to draw up huge schemes, because of how fast they go. They make you play fundamental football."

"They will have our players' attention when we put on the film. Our players will have the opportunity to watch film. When you look at them on film, they are fundamentally sound. Like I said, they may be the best defensive football team we have played. They definitely have the best front four we have played to this point, when you look at them as a whole. I do not think anyone on either side of the ball will watch and say, `Hey, they are 1-4.' That record does not mean anything; it is about the football team we are playing. We have to be focused on this week and this game. If we have learned anything early during the course of the season, is that we are going to play it one game at a time and not look past anybody. 2014 means absolutely nothing. We are a completely different football team than we were a year ago."

On playing in dome:

"Last time we went to the dome on Friday night. We are talking about going again on Friday night to catch punts and throw the ball. The lights are a little different. You have a ceiling above you. Finding the ball in the air can sometimes be a problem. We will go get adjusted. The dome helps to keep the crowd noise in. It is a beautiful facility. They have the bowl game there at the end of the year. It is a first class facility. We are excited about the opportunity to go play in it. I want to take the team in there Friday night, because I want our punt returners to get under the ball and see it in the air. The same thing goes for our receivers and defensive backs."

On Marcus Gaines seeing more targets:

"We do not target receivers. We do not target Trent, Paul, Marcus or Carlos. Jeff's job is to drop back, read and take what the defense gives you. We do not have a play in our offense that says throw it to him. We do not have signals on the sidelines that say throw it to the X receiver. He drops back and if they roll coverage to the boundaries, he is going to work the field. If they roll coverage to the field, he is going to work the boundaries. Will he get some more plays? Yeah. If they start rolling to him, Paul Turner will have a big day. If it is man to man, it goes to whoever wins or where the extra safety takes Jeff. I think Marcus played a great game. I love the guy. He has made those plays in practice all year. We kept saying when he gets his opportunity; people are going to say, `Where has he been?' Those that come to practice can see the plays he makes. He will get more opportunities and you will see it because he is on the field more."

On injuries:

"Kirby Wixson and Conner Smith will not play. There is no update. I expect Carlos to play and practice Tuesday. He put on his uniform and was out there on game day. He was trying to see if he could really open it up. He said he was at about 90 percent. He will be fine by Saturday."

On single coverage:

"When you start doubling receivers, it is hard to load the box. If they had doubled Trent you would have seen Dixon get more involved in the passing game. It is a little hard to blitz when you start double covering receivers. It is a decision that a defense has to make and then we will start making our adjustments accordingly. If they would have done more to take away Trent, you would have seen more of Kenneth Dixon. We would not have had to keep him in to protect Jeff. They were trying to double Kenneth by loading everyone up inside because of his success. We are going to react to whatever a defense gives us."

WR Trent Taylor

On Marcus Gaines:

"I knew that it was something he was capable of doing. It was just a matter of time before he was able to show out in a game. He definitely proved that Saturday. I was very impressed by him, seeing him have the game that he did with 165 yards. It was good being able to see him ball out the way he did. Hopefully he can continue to do that the rest of the season for us."

On the personal foul penalties:

"Coach Holtz was very disappointed in us which he should have been. We made a bunch of childish decisions out there in the Lafayette game. I think throughout this week, it is going to be something that he focuses on and something that we focus on. I do not think we will have a problem with it, just having the experience that we have from last week's game."

On the atmosphere of the Alamodome from two years ago:

"It is a tremendous atmosphere. I loved playing there. They bring a bunch of fans out to the game. I guess the way the stadium is built, it gets pretty loud in there. On third downs, you cannot really hear too much so we are going to be focused all week and preparing for that."

On there being any discussion of the game in San Antonio two years ago:

"We have not really discussed it at all. I do not think we will. Compared to the team we have now and the team we had that year, it is a huge difference. We have improved tremendously since then. I do not think that game is anything compared to what is going to be happening this coming Saturday."

On if UTSA looks like a 1-4 team:

"No, they do not. That is something that coach Holtz has already talked to us about. He said do not look at their record. If you just watch the film on them, you will know that they are a team that flies around. They can make plays and they have a bunch of athletes on that team. We are going to have to come prepared and be ready for what they throw at us this week."

On how UTSA's defense compares to the defenses already faced this season:

"Coach has already talked about their defensive front. He said they have a great front four. That is something our o-line is going to have to be ready for. I do not know how much that is going to affect our game plan. We will see what happens throughout the week on what coach Holtz wants us to do."

On being surprised if teams choose to play man coverage on him:

"I was surprised Lafayette did that. I thought they would learn at this point. We have too many weapons out on that field for them to do that to us. We definitely showed them Saturday."

For complete coverage of Bulldog Football, please follow Louisiana Tech on social media at @LATechFB (Twitter), /LATechFootball (Facebook) and @LATechFB (Instagram) or visit the official home of Louisiana Tech Athletics at LATechSports.com.

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