Oct. 8, 2012
RUSTON, La. - Louisiana Tech head coach Sonny Dykes and select student-athletes spoke with the media Monday about last week's game against UNLV and this week's upcoming game against Texas A&M.
Head coach Sonny Dykes
"It is good to get back here on a Monday. It has been a long couple of days trying to get ready for this game already. A&M is a very, very good football team. The more you look at them on tape the better they look, which is not always the case. Sometimes by Monday teams start to look a little worse than they are and Texas A&M looks better every time you look at them. I think that is a sign of a good football team."
"They obviously have a good team. They are doing a lot of good things. Their quarterback play has been really good. He is kind of a unique player with talent. He is very, very difficult to contain. He is somebody that if you rush him he makes more plays, but if you let him sit back there and have all day then he will pick you apart throwing the football. So, it is kind of a unique challenge."
"They play really good defense. That is the thing and they are giving up right under 15 points a game. They really have a good scheme and do a lot of different things. They blitz a lot, line-move a lot and create a lot of problems for an offense. They have a lot of speed to recover."
"De'Vante Harris is really an outstanding player. They have two good linebackers; really three good linebackers. Their secondary is good. They tackle well. They are athletic and can run around and make plays. This is a very good football team."
"They are very solid on special teams. You look at their special teams unit and several of them are top two or three in the country and lead the nation in some categories as well."
"It will be a challenge for us, but we expected they would have a good team. We are just excited about having the chance to come out and play a good football team and in front of what is supposed to be a good crowd. We are going to go out there, play our best and see what happens."
"Well, it is different. When you play against a new coaching staff you do not know what direction the offense is going to take, defense is going to take or really special teams, so we have an idea now of what they are going to do with all those. I think that is a positive for us."
"I think the negative is we are not catching them early. They are playing well and executing well. They are settled in their quarterback position. They are just a football team that has a lot of confidence right now. Any time you can turn the ball over as many times as they turned it over Saturday and still win, I think it shows you have a very good football team. That is something that they just figured out a way to win that football game. That is a credit to that coaching staff and their players."
On Texas A&M QB Johnny Manziel's performance as a freshman:
"Well, you could see his talent in high school. He is doing what he did in high school right now at the college level. You just never know how that is going to translate from high school to college and he has just picked up exactly where he left off. We saw tape on him in high school and he was doing the same thing he is doing now; running around, making plays with his feet. He is just a unique playmaker. You just do not see many quarterbacks like him. He is a good one."
On keeping players focused:
"I think our football realized we have to play well against everybody if we are going to have a chance to win. We only get 12 opportunities. I think we have done everything we can from keeping them from looking ahead to this game, and there is probably always going to be a little bit of that. You hope there is not, but I think we handled it."
"We did what we needed to do to win football games and that is what you ask your football team to do is figure out ways to win. We do not really care how it happens. We just want to get it done."
"Now, you always want to improve and get better and there are a lot of things we have to improve for our performance on Saturday. I thought we had an average performance, thought we played average in a lot of different ways, so we are going to have to improve as a football team as we move forward."
"With every team, you want to continue to get better and better every week. That is a sign of a good team and that is our job as coaches is to make sure we keep pushing and make our players better day to day. Every single play we want to be better than we were the day before."
On Texas A&CM and Kevin Sumlin's similar scheme to Houston last year:
"Yeah, it is based out of the same concepts. Their passing concepts are similar. The quarterback allows them to do things that are different. They had a pocket passer in Case Keenum and they have an athletic guy with Johnny Manziel, so it is two different styles."
"There are more quarterback runs. They have done a really good job of building their offense around what Manziel can do. I think that is probably why he has made the transition so fast and has been so successful, because I think they have put him in situations to be successful."
"And again, I think they have an outstanding coaching staff. These guys can coach. They are common sense guys. They know how to get playmakers the ball and they probably do that as well as anybody."
On players' confidence:
"Yeah, there is [more confidence]. Our guys feel good about where we are. The good thing I like about our football team right now is at times when we have won they are excited about winning, but at the same time they realize they have to get better and improve."
"We are not sitting around here talking about how good we are or patting each other on the back or any of that kind of stuff."
"There is a hunger in the entire organization to get better and keep improving and that is what you want to see. I have been at some teams in the past that maybe all of a sudden got ranked or had some success and they had the whole we have it figured out mentality. I haven not sensed that from this group. Our guys are still grinding and realize they have to work hard to keep getting better."
On LA Tech's special teams:
"We have made some plays on special teams. We have had some personnel issues here recently that have come up depth wise that has hurt us some on coverage units. We were not as good covering kick-offs last week as we had been, so that is something we have to improve. A&M is outstanding at returning kick-offs, so we are going to have to get that sorted out a little bit and improve that part of our game."
"I was happy with our front rush last week. Going into the game, we felt like we needed to put some pressure on the punter. We blocked a kick and had an inadvertent whistle, then blocked the next one and you do not see that very much."
"Our return game was good. With our punt return, we just have not faced a lot of opportunities with our punt return. We have faced a lot of teams that have junk kickers and guys kick the ball out of bounds. We have not really faced someone who kicks it down the field. We will see more of that this week with A&M. They have an outstanding punter."
"I feel good about where we are on special teams, but A&M will challenge us. They are really good in the return game. Their kick-off return and punt return games are solid."
On handling Texas A&M QB Johnny Manziel:
"That is the thing you have to do against them is pick your poison. Are you going to blitz them and let him run out of the pocket or if you are going to blitz them do you want to play man coverage and have a bunch of guys with their backs turned covering them and not knowing where the quarterback is going with the ball?"
"It is difficult to let a quarterback to just stand back there all day. They have good receivers and we have to pick our poison and mix it up a little bit and show them different looks and try to get him confused and maybe a little bit uncomfortable."
"You make those decisions as the game progresses with seeing what they are doing to hurt you and how you try to answer what they are doing and give them something different."
"I think anytime you face a young quarterback, that is what you always want to do is try to get him out of his comfort zone, but as you said he seems to thrive in that type of situation, which is different from a lot of young quarterbacks. He likes to create things and I think that is when he is at his best."
On staying patient in the case of giving up a big play:
"Yeah, we are going to have to keep an even keel. I think that is going to be important for us. You have to understand it is going to be a 60-minute game and for 60 minutes we are going to have to play well. That is the way it is every Saturday. There are going to be some negative plays that happen and some positive things that happen and you have to react in a good way to both of those because that happens on Saturdays."
"That is what I like about this group. When we have not played well at times this year, we have been able to get it together, go back out and have a great third quarter. When things start getting out of hand a little bit in the fourth quarter, our guys have been able to go in and make a play, recover an onside kick or get a stop or a turnover or touchdown; whatever it is."
"They have done the things that have allowed us to be successful. You like a football team that does that because you want to do whatever it takes to figure out a way to win."
On scoring 30+ straight points each week:
"That is the thing you want to see and I think that is what we all see as coaches, players and probably fans is what we are capable of. We have done a good job of really playing together in spurts and we would really like to see it continue over the course of an entire football game."
"Our defense has really done a good job of creating turnovers and understanding when key situations arise in games and making a play at that point. Just like we had a goal-line stand Saturday against UNLV and I thought that was a really critical situation at that point and our defense went in there and got a stop on fourth down and got the ball back."
"We got a big play right after that with a pass to Quinton (Patton), so our offense, defense and special teams have done a good job of playing with each other. We just have to continue to keep that going."
On appreciating the historical statistics with being ranked:
"Yes and no. I think you do a little bit. When your program is fighting for respect, it is probably a bigger deal to get ranked here than Ohio State. Ohio State has probably been ranked 175 out of the last 178 polls or something crazy like that, so it is a bigger deal here."
"At the same time, if you start worrying about that stuff, it just kind of clutters your mind and you lose focus on what really matters and what is important. That is just the grind of coming every day and grinding it out and getting better and remembering why you have been successful and continuing to do those things."
"But, I understand the significance of it. I have a tendency to ignore those things during the season and then look back on it all and say, `Wow that was kind of cool.' Right now you just cannot get caught up in much of that."
On having confidence to come from behind in games:
"That is what winning does for you. It makes you think you can win. If you win enough, all of a sudden it goes from we can win to we expect to win. I think that is kind of our mindset right now."
"Our guys have some confidence and we know what is ahead of us Saturday and I do not think any of us are afraid of Texas A&M. We understand we are going to have to play well, but that is in our hands."
"We have to worry about ourselves and not about them, and that is our message regardless of who we play. Whether you are playing a Top 25 team or a 0-10 team, it is focusing on how you play and worry about doing your job and not get caught up in them, whether they are really good or really bad."
On 8:15 p.m. kickoff making a difference:
"It is probably a bigger deal for my wife because [my daughter] Ally will probably not go to the game. Other than that, I do not know that it is that big of a deal."
"That is one of the positives about being here is our guys have to be flexible and adjust because of weather. We do not have an indoor facility, so we have to be flexible and move practice around."
"And just the nature of being at Louisiana Tech sometimes, you have to have flexibility and I think our players adapt pretty well. Hopefully they adapt to the later start. I like our guys in that regard. I think it is something we cannot control and our guys will not worry about it. We will play whenever they tell us to play."
On playing West Coast games in WAC helping with a late start:
"Yeah, I think the unusual nature of being in the WAC and dealing with things you have to deal with sometimes; that gives you a little bit of flexibility and allows your guys to adjust."
On unfairness of the BCS:
"It is just the way it is. That is not a big deal. The BCS is certainly not based on any kind of fairness. Basically, you have a national championship that excludes half the football teams, so it not necessarily built on quality and fairness."
"But, that is the way it is in college football. You just deal with it and do the best you can. That is kind of our approach when it comes to pretty much anything. Our deal really is when you are fighting for respect and credibility, every game is important because if we had lost last week, that would have been the biggest game of the year."
"Anytime you play and you are in the situation we are in, every game is big. Not from the BCS, because that is so far away and that is so far removed from even entering our minds."
"I mean I do not even know how to spell BCS. That is like miles and miles away from our thoughts. Our thoughts are just about trying to win football games and have a program that people think is significant."
On difference between A&M game at beginning of season and now:
"Not Really. We go and approach it like any other game. We are more focused now being 5-0. We know things are going to get harder for us. We are going in there with our mindset of getting ready to prepare for this game so everybody is focused and we are just ready to play."
On the buzz of his hometown of Shreveport:
"A lot of people have been calling me and stuff, but I am not letting all of that get to me. All of it is a distraction right now so I am not trying to focus on that. I am trying to focus on this game that is coming up."
On Texas A&M's quarterback:
"We really have not watched tape on him. When we heard that hurricane was coming through and they were going to cancel the game we just stopped worrying about that. I really forgot what he is capable of. I have not been watching any kind of college football on TV because I am superstitious. We are going to get in this week and watch film to see what he has got, and then hopefully prepare well to get ready for him."
On the team's confidence:
"We have a lot of confidence. When we come back from a game and we come back to practice guys still walk around the locker room like the season just started. It is 0-0. That is what I like about this team, and a lot of guys are just buying in. They know what we have to do now and everybody is just getting focused and just readying and preparing."
On the team being ranked:
"That is just a distraction. We do not really look at that. We are not worried about being ranked right now. We are just trying to win games. Go to practice every day, work hard every day, execute everything and just get ready to win."
On preparing for a mobile quarterback:
"It is the details and executing the little things. It is being in the right position and getting the right calls."
On making big plays as a defense:
"We show spurts of greatness. When we know we are average, we go to the sideline and we try to talk it out and adjust our game. To be great we have to go in looking at the minor things and details and just go back in to try to execute the next play."
On the defense carrying their weight the past three games:
"We have a great offense. We do enough to get our offense in great position to win the game for us. It is all a team thing so we try to put our offense in great position to get us points and we are going to try and stop them as best as we can."
On the goal line stand versus UNLV:
"That was a great stop by us. Vincent Cano did a great job of blowing his guy up and just getting to the running back and making that stop on the goal line. It was a great call by the coaches too. We blitzed them and it turned out to be a pretty good call."
On tuning out the flack of giving up lots of yards and points this season:
"We have our leaders on the side line. If we give up a big play, the guys will come through and are like `hold your head up man' because every time we step on the field we are expecting to win."
On expecting to win:
"Coach Dykes came in and that was the first thing he said was we were going to hit the ground fast and expect to win every game. Ever since then everybody has been buying in and we are expecting to win every game."