Louisiana Tech Weekly Football Press Conference Transcript: Oct. 27

Oct. 27, 2014

RUSTON, La. - Louisiana Tech head coach Skip Holtz and select student-athletes met with the media Monday in advance of the team's Homecoming game against WKU Saturday.

Head coach Skip Holtz

Opening comments:

"It is great to win. I am really proud of this team. We went on the road Saturday and had the opportunity to go to Hattiesburg, a place we had not won since 1982. We had some adversity early and some guys had to step into some very difficult situations. We struggled early, especially on the offensive side of the ball. Nobody panicked or flinched. They are playing with confidence. I think that is a real tribute to the players and to the leadership of this football team. It has really been impressive to me the way some of these guys are carrying themselves."

"Southern Miss is a much improved team from a year ago. Watching the energy they played with, I talked to our players about being on top of the standings and that we are going to get everybody's best shot. Everyone is going to change their coverages and add wrinkles. It gets harder and harder as you go. It does not stay the same. That is very obvious to our football players after what we went through this week with the type of game Southern Miss played. I think Coach Monken has done a great job with that team."

"Defensively, I am really proud of the way our front seven played. They came out right from the beginning and controlled the line of scrimmage. It is really impressive to see them playing that way week in and week out. I thought we did some good things in the back end. We did not give up a big play for a touchdown. We have to clean some techniques and some fundamental things up in our passing game. We played teams like Auburn, North Texas, UTSA, UTEP and they are all very run heavy. This team was the first to spread us out and throw the ball the way that they did. There are some things we need to clean up. Looking forward, we have Western Kentucky, UAB and Old Dominion. We are going to play some pass-heavy teams. We have to get some of those things cleaned up, but I am proud of the way the defense played."



"Offensively, we had a slow start to say the least. I take a lot of responsibility for that. Going into the game, we did not want to go out there and do something crazy early when you are trying to get settled in with what they are trying to do, so you can attack it. I thought Cody (Sokol) did a nice job making some adjustments in the passing game with some of the changes that we made at halftime. It was not necessarily the game plan that we came into the game with because of some of the different things that they were doing. Early, there were a lot of suggestions and different ideas on the headset of what we needed to do to attack them. I just wanted to make sure we did not do anything to put our defense in bad field position. I said, `let's make sure we do not turn the ball over and just punt it away until we have a chance to really sit down with everybody and dig into what we are going to do.'"

"I thought they came out in the second half and executed tremendously. It would have been easy for them to hang their heads and shrug their shoulders with things not going well. Everyone stayed positive and upbeat. We said this is what we are going to do and they went out in the second half and executed it. It was a great win from an offensive standpoint to see the way we played in the second half and the front seven on the defensive side of the ball."

"This week poses an entirely new set of challenges for us, especially when you look at what Western Kentucky does as an offense. Coach (Jeff) Brohm has done a great job with his football team. They have a quarterback who has video game type numbers. I think they are second in the country in passing offense with 420 yards a game. They are fifth in the country in total offense with 550 yards a game. They are averaging over 40 points a game. They won this weekend, 66-51. They are executing at a high level right now. A lot of people would think when you put on the film that it is four-wide and they just throw it every down. They play a tight end every down. They will motion and shift. They run the ball and mix in play action passing. They are operating at a high level. Their quarterback has 18 passing touchdowns with just four interceptions. They have only given up 12 tackles for a loss, which is top five in the country. As many times as they throw, their quarterback has been sacked less than almost any other in the country. It will be a great challenge for our defense this week."

"On their defense, they are very multiple with what they do. They run pretty much every front and coverage you could draw up on a board. They do a lot of things that create a lot of problems and confusion. There will be some challenges for us. I know our players are excited about it. We went to Hattiesburg last week and had a great crowd with that red, white and blue on the opposite end in the corner. They made a lot of noise. I wear a double headset to keep the noise out, but there were times I could hear our crowd through the double headset. They were awesome, which really creates some excitement for us to come home."

"When we talked about coming to Conference USA a couple of years ago, this was part of the advantages. Our fan base was going to have the opportunity to travel. They were going to be able to come see us play whether that was at North Texas, Rice, Southern Miss or some of these other places. I am really looking forward to coming home this week. There is no place like home. To come home and have a chance to play our homecoming game against a really good opponent, it is going to be exciting. There will be a lot of fireworks on the field. I am excited for the game this weekend."

On opponents changing defenses:

"You have to be prepared for it. That is why you cannot come in and say we are just going to sling it all over the place. We are running very low risk plays early to get a bead on what we are trying to attack. We are probably a little bit conservative early in the football game because our defense is playing so well right now. We have said all season we need our defense to carry us early so we can get a bead on what they are doing as we try to attack it as an offense. I think our defense is playing really well. They do so many things that I do not think anything they do would be a change. What is consistent for them is that they are always changing. This week we just have to make sure that what we are doing is good against everything that they can do. We will have to limit the offense down and cut some things down to make sure we can execute."

On depth at the wide receiver position:

"Looking out on the field, we had Marlon Watts, who was playing in his second game, Marcus Gaines, Carlos Henderson and there were probably three starts between all of them. The one positive thing is that we should have Sterling Griffin back. Paul Turner had a chance to get some reps last week, and hopefully he will be at full speed. We knew he was able to play but we wanted to limit his reps he got in that football game. Hopefully we will have those two back at full speed. The experience that Watts and Gaines are gaining is really going to help us down the road as well."

On the Southern Miss defensive line:

"They did more moving than they had ever done. They had a lot of twisting and moving. They were never still. We had the injury to (Joseph) Brunson and we moved Mitchell Bell to guard and had Jens (Danielsen) at tackle. You have some guys playing a new position. We probably played a little cautious just because of that. They did a nice job. We really did not try to pound the ball between the tackles a lot. We tried to get the ball out on the perimeter a little bit more. With some of the struggles we are having and the way they were trying to defend it, they were in man and loading the box. As the game went on, they started spreading out more and more and going to two-deep. I thought Cody (Sokol) played an excellent game. I think there were about 10 drops or missed one-on-one opportunities. We can play better at wide receiver."

On Hunter Lee:

"He has broken a bone. It is going to be a couple of weeks. Fortunately, bones heal. I do not know if it will be a four to five week heal. We are certainly hoping he can be back for the end of the season or possibly postseason if we can get to that point. It is a hard thing to watch happen. Hunter has been such an emotional leader for this football team. He has been such a big part of the energy that is created on game day. It is hard to lose somebody like that. He talked to the team at halftime. I think it was inspirational and I think it meant an awful lot to the guys with the type of leader he is as a captain of this team. To have him standing on the field and watching was a huge motivational factor for a lot of guys."

On Trent Taylor's response to Hunter Lee's injury:

"He would probably have to answer that more than I would. He was the most experienced player on the field as a true sophomore because you look out there and we had Connor Smith, Carlos Henderson, the two true freshmen and then him. He is the senior statesman out there as a true sophomore that has played in about 15 college football games. I think Trent can handle that load. Trent is a really good football player. With the experience he has under his belt, he is becoming more and more of a vocal leader. Watching Hunter go down as close as those two are being the two inside receivers. I am sure it had an awful lot to do with it."

On how to beat Western Kentucky:

"When you play a team like this, there are two ways to look at it. You either have to keep the ball in front of you and make them slow down the game by taking some points off the board or you have to load up and get after it, spread it wide open and see if we can win a shootout. Those are really your two options. I think that story will be told on Saturday."

On the LA Tech coaching staff making game-winning adjustments:

"That is where experience really comes in. When you look on defense and the experience that Manny Diaz has with the number of years that he has been a defensive coordinator. When you look at Oscar Giles, Ronnie Bradford and Blake Baker and the experience with the places they have been, it is definitely a group effort. All the credit does not go to one person. Everyone on this staff has input into what we are doing. Halftime gives us an opportunity to all sit down and decide how we are going to attack and what adjustments we are going to make. After that, we go meet with our players. It speaks volumes with where they are with their experience and what they have done. More importantly than that, I think it shows what type of teachers they are. It is not only that you can draw them up on a grease board but now you can go relay it to your players and they can go out and execute it and understand it. I think the credit is spread over an awful lot of people."

"The same goes for on offense. Tim Rattay played ten years in the NFL and can say, `when I was here we did it this way'. Even though he has only been coaching a short period of time, he has been around the game for an awful long time as a player. Tony Petersen has been a coordinator for seven to ten years in his profession. He has been a coordinator in the Big Ten and been around to put together game plans and made adjustments. Joe Sloan is a young guy and Matt Moore has a lot of experiences. I can go through all of them. I think we have a very educated and hardworking staff. We have a very committed staff. I think they do a phenomenal job with their relationship with our players. The buy-in factor from our players right now is one of the big reasons we are where we are right now."

On first quarter offensive woes:

"As I said in the beginning, I take a lot of that blame for some of the slow starts with our offensive woes. I have started the games very conservatively. I want to make sure we do not do something foolish early. It is kind of like sparring. The first two or three rounds of a heavy weight fight everyone is just feeling each other out. Then you start to attack it one way or another. From that standpoint, I take some of that responsibility. Having a young offensive football team, we are very inexperienced and that plays a part. We talked about the receivers and we have a couple guys playing new positions on the offensive line. I do not want to go up there and go 0-60 on the first snap. We are blessed to be able to do what we do on defense because of the way they are playing. It is not like we are falling behind while trying to figure it out. Just because you are conservative does not mean you are not trying to move the ball. We are not running three quarterback sneaks and punting the ball away. We are still trying to move the ball. I think we have to do a little better job of executing. It is something that we have talked about as a staff."

On relying on the defense too much:

"I think you have to go with the flow of the game. You are not going to come in and run empty and throw it eight times. If it is at the end of the game and you are down ten, you are. Can you stop them on defense? Can you move the ball on offense? You look at the first half. I do not know how many drops we had. We had a couple drops and were forced to punt. We had six outright drops. We ended up with two hold calls that put us behind the chains. That is why some of that goes on us and some of that goes on the players. We have to do a better job of executing early in the game. You have to follow the flow of the football game when you are trying to call a football game. You have to be able to adjust when you go into a football game. That is how we have approached it going into each game so far."

On winning with the passing game:

"The teams that loaded the box against us, we have shown we can put up some pretty big numbers. We have had some pretty strong performances offensively. I think we are getting better and growing on it. It is nice to have that kind of balance. We did not have that last year. People loaded the box and took away Kenneth Dixon. We would not throw for 400 yards, we would throw for 180. It was a long day. It is nice to have a quarterback like that, who is that dialed in. I do not think Cody is concerned whether he throws for two yards or 200 yards in a half. I think he is concerned with the scoreboard. He has been incredibly unselfish when we are asking him to hand the ball off and get it to Kenneth. I went to him at halftime and told him we were going to spread it out and open it up. He said, `let's do it, I am ready. I have just been waiting for the nod'. As a quarterback, he would like to throw it every down. Yet he is still very much a team player."


DB Kentrell Brice

On the confidence of the team after a 4-0 start in C-USA:

"It feels good to be undefeated in C-USA, but we take it one game at a time and look at it as going 1-0 in the season every game. You get this one and then go on to the next game 1-0."

On WKU's offense:

"We just take it as another game. A lot of teams like to throw and a lot of teams like to run, and it just happens to be their thing to throw it. We are going to prepare for it and play our best."

On WKU being ranked fifth in the nation in total offense:

"What comes to mind is it is going to be a great challenge, but we are up for the challenge."

On the LA Tech secondary forcing turnovers:

"Our credit goes to Coach Diaz and his schemes and the positions he puts us in, and it is a blessing to be able to create so many turnovers."

On the first half vs. the second half against Southern Miss:

"We weren't playing like we were supposed to play in the first half. We weren't physical enough in the first half. In the second half, we came out and put our foot back down and got our physical nature back."

On the defense preparing for passing teams:

"We have been working more on different coverage's and doing more with pass scales and things like that."


QB Cody Sokol

On the different between the first and second half offensively:

"First half, we were kind of getting some pressure up front.  I think our guys were really excited that first half and I think the second half we settled down and got back to our assignment football.  I think that was the biggest thing between the first and second half."

On the offense bouncing back:

"We had some drops early, but I think our guys settled down.  Our freshmen got used to being out there in a big role and I think they settled down in the second half.  It is my job to keep feeding them the ball and they got it done in the second half.  I am proud of those guys."

On pressure of facing a high-scoring offense in WKU:

"It is our duty to go out there and put some points on the board.  We know that [WKU] has a good offense.  I think their lowest scoring game was 34 points so it is going to be our task as an offense to go out there and put up a lot of points this week."

On figuring out the slow starts:

"I do not really know the specific reason, but I know that we came out slow and a lot of it was I did not think we were mentally ready to play up front and as an offense.  I do not think that we were just totally ready to go.  Mentally, we just have to get better.  We just had too many missed assignments.  It is just mental stuff.  It is not physical stuff.  I think physically as an offense, we can hang with anybody.  We have shown that.  Mentally, we just need to go out there and show what kind of offense we really are because I think we are a special group of guys."

On worries with the slow starts:

"I do not think we are worried.  I think that is just something we need to keep working on in practice.  It is something that you cannot correct overnight, but through practice and hard work I think we can get that done."

On the adjustment of throwing to running backs:

"I think that a lot of times throughout the season we have kept in as protection.  This game we kind of opened it up a little bit more where he was able to get out on some routes.  That makes it easier for me because if down the field it is not there, I can check it down to him.  With a guy like that, you are going to have big plays getting him the ball.  I think that, protection wise, was crucial for us last week letting him get out on his routes and getting the ball into his hands.  I still go through the same progressions, same reads.  I am looking down field, but it is easier for me because I am able to check it down instead of having to make a big play and having to scramble around."

On how the passing game has evolved:

"I think that we have gotten better.  I think that our offensive line has gotten a lot better.  For as many times as we have passed the ball, I think we only had one sack.  That is a credit to them.  I think that we are getting a lot better up front and in our receiving core.  I think that we are creating depth.  I think those younger guys are finally getting used to it and getting a lot better as the year has gone on."

On Marlon Watts:

"I think [getting better] just comes with a little more experience.  That was his first game against UTSA and I think that the [Southern Miss] game, it slowed down for him and he made some big plays for us."

On the challenges of not having your normal rotation of o-linemen:

"We just have to keep on getting better.  I know that [Southern Miss] was bringing a lot of stunts and they were bringing a lot of twists this past week.  That is something we just have to keep improving on and keep working on and keep getting better at."

On playing at home this Saturday:

"I am hoping it is crazy.  I am hoping a lot of fans come out and I am really excited for that."

On paying attention to WKU's quarterback numbers:

"I definitely admire it, but I do not really pay much attention to it.  I am more focused just on what we are doing.  I think that we do a good job of eliminating all of the noise and extra stuff outside of the locker room.  We are worried about just winning this game this week.  There is a lot of talk about conference and stuff like that, but I think we do a great job of eliminating that and just playing like a one game season like coach puts it.  We are just trying to get that sixth win."

On how Hunter Lee's injury affected the team:

"That was a tough injury.  I think that is a great leader that we lost.  He was in the locker room talking and helping the wide receivers.  He is a great motivational guy.  He had people going out in the second half fired up.  That is someone hard to lose, but I think that we are interested in who is going to step up and who is going to fill that role."

On the receiving core coming together:

"I think that is huge.  I think that was big in our bye week.  We worked a lot with the younger guys getting a lot more reps.  I see them mentally progressing.  It is not just physical because they have a lot of physical talent.  I think that mentally, they are finally getting there.  They are understanding what they need to do and what their role on this team is.  I think their roles have increased and I think that they are going to accept the challenge.  I think they are ready."

On being able to win with a passing game:

"I have talked about this before.  I think that we complement each other really well.  I think that when people want to stop the run and load the box, we can pass it.  That showed last week.  We are willing to do whatever we have to do to win if that is run the ball or throw the ball.  We want to keep that balanced attack, obviously, but we definitely want to keep getting it into our playmakers hands.  Keep getting it into Dixon's hands.  Keep getting it to those guys like Paul Turner and Carlos Henderson.  Get those guys the ball because they make plays."


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


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