Football Weekly Press Conference Transcript: Oct. 21


 

 

Oct. 21, 2013

RUSTON, La. - Louisiana Tech head coach Skip Holtz and a select student-athlete spoke with the media Monday in advance of the team’s game at FIU on Saturday.

Head coach Skip Holtz

Opening comments:

“In breaking down and reviewing film of North Texas, it is frustrating in a lot of areas because we continue to make the same mistakes. We are in game seven and we keep talking about turnovers, big plays, third downs and red zone productivity. We have to look at ourselves as a staff first. To get better as a football team, we have to improve in those four areas. Those four areas are the areas that have hurt us week in and week out. It seems like it is just the same things, but a different game week to week. We have to do a better job as a staff holding ourselves accountable to what we are trying to do.”

“When you look at the game there are a lot of positive you can build on, but the bottom line is trying to find a way to win a football game. We have to work on giving our players an opportunity and hold them to a certain standard in order to win. We have to find a way to win a football game.”

“I am really proud of what we did from a special teams standpoint. I think Ronnie Bradford has done a great job from a special teams standpoint. That is a group of guys that are better known as the dirty dozen. They have done absolutely fantastic job covering kickoffs and punts.”

“The dirty dozen are not every day. Some of the guys who have impressed me are: Bryson Abraham, Ahmad Wallace, Blake Martin, Kentrell Brice, CJ Cleveland, Josh Cuthbert, Beau and Lyle Fitte, Josh Ross, Mike Schrang, Connor Nichols, Jabari Prewitt.”


 

 

“When you look at challenges last two weeks covering kickoff, two weeks in a row facing a top 10 kick and punt returner. On Saturday North Texas averaged minus four years and we held them to well below their averages. What we have done on a special teams standpoint with very average kicking is impressive. There are a lot of positive things we have to continue to build on. I like the progress our special teams is making.”

“From an offensive stand point, I cannot say enough about the way Ryan Higgins is competing. We have to do a better job of protecting him. As a redshirt freshman, to throw the ball 55 times is asking an awful lot of a young quarterback, but I could not be more proud of the way he has stood in there and the way he has competed.”

“Also in saying that, I think there are a couple throws he would like to have back. When you throw the ball 55 times, there is going to be a couple of those. We just have to continue looking at the film, and correcting some of those mistakes. He is doing a great job of developing as a young quarterback.”

“From an offensive line standpoint, we made some adjustments to help them protect Ryan so he could stand in the pocket. Our offensive line is not playing with consistency we would like to have. We had a few guys turn in some outstanding performances, but as a unit, we are not as consistent as we need to be.”

“Another frustration in this game was the inability to run the ball inside. I talked about North Texas’ defensive front and I think they are better than I thought they were going in. I thought they did an excellent job on their game plan of stopping the inside run game. Kenneth Dixon is a total team player. I like the way he is playing, running and everything he is doing running back position.”

“At the wide receiver position, I will say the same thing, we are far too inconsistent. The outside receivers had nine catches and four drops, which is far too many. We are trying to ask a young quarterback to throw ball with an inexperienced line. We have to do a better job of making plays at the perimeter. We have to do better job with outside receivers. Hunter Lee, Andrew Guillot, Jon Greenwalt continue to play good football for us.”

“As an offensive staff we have to do a better job of putting the pieces of the puzzle together. We may have the productivity in yards, but we have not had the productivity in points. A big part of that is our lack of execution in the red zone. We had a turnover and a missed field goal in the red zone and that is not something you can do if you want to win football games.”

“When talking about the defense, the staples up front continue to play well. Daniel Cobb played one of his better games of the year, and he is doing a better job of playing in the system. Beau Fitte is getting more work at the linebacker position and he is showing some positive signs. Thomas McDonald played one of his best games of the year. McDonald and Xavier Woods played an excellent football game.”

“You look at Le’Vander Liggins and Adairius Barnes and I thought for 66 of the 68 plays they played outstanding football. Unfortunately for the 37 yard gain that went down to the one and the one long pass before half, we were not able to overcome that. We have some good individual efforts, but as a team, we are not where we need to be. I do not think our energy is what it needs to be in the second half of a close football game. I do not think we handled adversity very well at halftime. I have to do a better job with this team as a head coach and as a staff.”

“Playing against FIU will be a great challenge this week coming off difficult loss where we continued to make some of the same mistakes. We are playing a team that scores 24 points the last two weeks. I do not think you can look at the full season of work, I think you have to look at the progress they have made. On the road early they played Louisville, Maryland and Central Florida who have proven to be good football teams. They are getting better and better as the years gone by. The last two weeks I have really been impressed with what they are doing.”

“Defensively, it starts with their first team all-conference lineman. They put him on both sides of the field, No. 8 Greg Hickman. I think he is the best football player on the field when their defense is out there. Regardless of who they play, they can rush the passer and constantly put pressure on the quarterback which has not been our strong point, which something we have to get corrected this week.”

“Offensively, they have a returning starter at quarterback. Their tailback is rushing for 90 yards a game at this point. They are getting better and putting points up on the board. For the third week in a row we are facing some very dangerous return men. Sam Miller their punt returner is doing a great job. Also, their young talented kick returner is doing a good job. He has a lot of shake and wiggle. Those are going to be guys that challenge our dirty dozen.”

“This is a week we are looking forward to. We say it as a football team all the time, there is no self-pity in football. As much as you want to sit down and lick your wounds and evaluate what we did positive and negative. It is time to roll your sleeves up, get competitive and we have to be ready to go because we have another football game this week.”

On the pass rush of FIU:

“I do not know if anyone puts a better pass rush each week than us going good against good. We go every day against IK Enemkpali, Justin Ellis, Vernon Butler, Dora, Shakeil Lucas and those guys up front. We see it every day. We just have to evaluate what we are asking them to do. It is not the lines we put on the board, but the way we can get our guys to go out there and execute.”

On Larry Banks possibly moving to left tackle:

“Larry was out there in the spring and moved to guard because it was better suited for him. Him and Tre Carter have been battling it out at the guard position. We have talked about a number of different changes just like the secondary a week ago, with some of the problems we were having a week ago giving up the big plays.”

“You have to look at personnel. You have to look at what you are doing schematically to give up big plays defensively. We had to do that last week to figure out what we were doing wrong. It is something that has been talked about with Larry Banks. You have two guys in Graffree and Mitchell Bell who have been playing a lot at tackle. A young guy in Darrell Brown along with Jens Danielsen who will be future tackles on this football team. We have a couple guys in that mix that we are evaluating but there will be some moves this week on the offensive line. We cannot sit status quo and continue with the inconsistencies we have right now.”

On QB Ryan Higgins running more each week:

“We have tried to utilize his legs a little bit more, and that has been a nice little wrinkle in what we have done as an offense. We have tried to move him a little bit with some of the play action think if we can understand to throw the ball in the flat on a play action. If we can get them to understand that a little bit more and get a little more room in the pocket and get some completions then it is something we can do more of.”

“We have to protect him betting in the pocket. We need to be able to maximum protect and get the ball down the field. These are all things we have talked about, as well as some of the personnel issues. We have gone at it hard in the last 24 hours to solve problems in the passing game.”

On dropped balls by the wide receivers:

“Four drops with nine catches is too much. We have to continue to stress it and emphasize it. There are five guys outside we are working with. Everybody had one drop. The standard cannot be accepted. If everyone has one, then we have five drops. If every offensive lineman only missed two blocks, your quarterback is getting hit or sacked ten times a game. We have to eliminate some of that inconsistency. There are not a lot of personnel things we can do, because those are the guys we are playing. We have to take the guy in practice that is doing the best job securing the ball.”

On learning from mistakes vs. North Texas:

“Great lesson to learn from way we handled adversity. So many people talk about momentum in a football game. Momentum is real. Momentum has highs and lows over the course of a football game. We have to go out and make a play, get a turnover, get a sack, make a big play on special teams, flip the field or do something to get momentum to go your way. We did not go out and do that, and that is what I mean about us not handling the adversity well.”

“We have an expression that all I need is a crumb. Just give me a crumb and I will get the rest of it from there. I do not think we had that attitude when adversity went against us. That is on me as a coach, I have to do a better job as a coach motivating them and getting them to continue to show some fight. I certainly do not want to say guys on this team did not roll up their sleeves, but as a team and unit we did not make a lot happen when that momentum was going against us, and that is what great teams do. A lot of great teams come from behind or have to overcome some adversity somewhere. On the road, you have to be able to fight momentum swings over course of football game. That is something we addressed and talked about and something we have to get better at.”

On comparisons with FIU:

“I know they are playing a lot of young players and their quarterback is about the only one returning. They have been through some growing pains just like we have. They had a new coaching staff coming in and they have a lot of talent on that football team. You can see them getting better and better every week. When you watch against UAB and Southern Miss, I have really been impressed with what they put together. They have done a nice job. They are building it, just like we are here. Hopefully we can make strides we need this week to go win against a football team that is talented, but very young, which is the same boat that we are in.”

On red zone productivity:

“Two things when you look at the red zone for us red zone for us have been the number of field goals missed, and the number of turnovers in the red zone. Offensively, you would like to score a touchdown, which we are only doing on 57 percent of our trips to the red zone rather than having that upwards of 75 percent.”

“We have to do a better job of running the football. We also have to spend some more time practicing it although we have spent a lot of time in the red zone. We have done an awful lot of red zone game planning, but we need to do a better job of executing it. I am saying we as a staff, getting our players to buy in, understand it and be able to go out there and execute it on game day. Getting players to buy in. It is not about what you call, but being able to execute what you call.”

“The red zone woes are definitely an issue for us right now, and I do not think you can put your finger on one thing. It is a combination of everything but regardless when you score 57 percent of the time you are in the red zone, you are not going to be very productive. You are down there four times and you turn it over and you miss a field goal you cannot come away with points in a close football game.”  

On deciding to keep the red shirt on kicker Jonathan Barnes:

“We have evaluated week in and week out throughout the season. They compete every week. They kick their handful of kicks every week in practice and the numbers have not been lopsided enough to take red shirt off Barnes. I think Jonathan Barnes is going to be an excellent kicker and has a bright future here. Right now, there has been a heck of competition.”

“Kyle is going to have to do a better job. He understands that it is his job right now. It is a momentum killer on last play of half when you have a football team that drives all the way down to the five yard line and then has to kick the field goal and then you cannot make it.”

On if the team has progressed like he thought this season:

“At some positions, we are better than I thought we would be and some we are not as productive. I cannot say that across the board for all five linemen. It is the consistency. Last week (Vince) Cano plays the best game as a center he has played all year, and then this week he does not follow it up. That has probably been my frustration, what we get one week, we have to continue to get it the next.”

“We have not caught the ball as well as I would have liked to. We have not protected the passer with the consistency I would have liked to have. We have also not been able to run the ball consistently. There is a glaring lack of big plays for points at this point as an offense. Our productive and our points as an offense do not add up. Where we rank as a total offense, and where we rank in points, are on different ends of the spectrum. Not having some big plays for points, and not creating turnovers has led us to where we are. We have to evaluate our problems and get better as team as we get into this weekend.”

“Our defensive line has been outstanding. I love the growth of linebackers and new faces in the secondary. You look at Adarius Barnes and where he was week one and now where he is week seven, it is two totally different players. I think there have been a lot of positives on this team. We are making a lot of strides in a lot of areas, just not making them as quickly as we need to. As coaches, have to evaluate who is doing it and what we are doing to do a better job.”

On the play of Xavier Woods:

“He is a football player. Xavier Woods and Trent Taylor stepped in as true freshmen. They are committed. They are confident in themselves. They are talented and work at it. They are physically and mentally tough. They are what you would describe as good football players. We talked with our football team about what are the intangibles you need to be a good football player and I think you could walk those two up here and they fit the bill.”

“I think if you have a lot of guys like Xavier Woods, you are going to win a lot of football games. They are making themselves stand out as some of better players on our team from an offense and defensive standpoint. Look at the productivity Trent Taylor has had, not in the numbers but look at his fourth down catch at UTEP that keeps scoring drive alive. Look at some of the yards after catch. As the season goes on, you are going to see him play a bigger and bigger role.”

On using the middle of the field more on offense:

“I do wish we would have attacked it a little more. At the same time, you have to be able to protect your quarterback to throw the ball down the middle of the field. If you look in the second half, we did a much better job of protecting him. We were limited in where you can throw the ball. We had a couple of plays down the middle of the field in the first half that unfortunately we were not able to get off.”

“Ryan did a good job of scanning the field, throwing off his back foot and trying to get the ball to the middle of the field. Neither ball got there because of pressure received up front. After that we kind of went away from it, but watching the film, yeah I would like to get it in the middle of the field and farther down the field. Those are some of the schematically things we have to look at it, to do a better job utilizing the entire field.”

 

Redshirt freshman QB Ryan Higgins

On his progression through this season:

"Really the teammates have helped a lot.  They show their support constantly and the coaches do as well.  Really just every snap getting more and more comfortable with, not only our offense, but everything we are doing as a team.  Everything is slowing.  It is just getting more and more comfortable every week.

On what was learned from watching the North Texas game:

"Some plays I needed to have a little more confidence in our offensive line.  Really doing more on my part to find some hots and getting rid of the ball a little bit quicker because [North Texas] did a good job of pressuring us up front.  Really just doing everything we could to attack maybe more of the middle of the field and getting the ball into some of the playmakers hands quicker.

On deciding when to run or pass:

"It is hard to describe.  I want to be able to throw first and that is always what I am thinking, but when worse comes to worse I can do something with my feet.  If I feel more confident that I can get more yards on my feet than try to force a ball, then I will take off.  I am looking to throw first.

On developing more confidence in offensive line:

"The relationship I have with the guys is getting better every practice and they are getting better every practice.  [Vincent] Cano is in his first year at center and we have some inexperience, but they are getting better, I feel, every week.  Our relationship is getting better and we just have to slowly build confidence. 

On watching film of FIU:

"Today was the first day we watched some film.  Me and the other quarterbacks got in there before this and watched for a little over an hour.”

On FIU’s defensive lineman:

"He is a very good athlete.  What we have seen, he is fast and he is strong.  They have some good size too.  Really just watching him, making sure I know where he is at every play because they will move him around a lot and just prepare the best we can to hold him off.”

On the chemistry with the outside receivers:

"I think it is just a mental thing.  Really, what we have been trying to do lately and what we will continue to do is I will stay after with as many guys who are willing to stay after and just get balls.  It does not have to be routes, just make sure we are on the same page and feel as comfortable as possible with each other.  Throw as often as we can.  Really, I think it is just a mental problem that we are definitely going to fix.”

On focusing on the middle of the field going forward:

"Like coach Holtz said, we are going to take shots all over the field and really push some deeper routes.  Anything we can to get some bigger plays is exactly what we need."

 

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