Nov. 4, 2013
RUSTON, La. - Louisiana Tech head coach Skip Holtz and select student-athletes spoke to the media Monday in advance of the Bulldogs’ “A Rivalry in Dixie” game with Southern Miss.
Head coach Skip Holtz
“Going backwards, I look first at the open date. It was going to be a little bit different than our open date three weeks ago after six games. This time, we were trying to get healthy. The FIU game was a very physical game for us. It has been a long nine weeks for us to get to this open date. We have a lot of guys with bumps and bruises and a lot of guys playing through some pain. We felt like this week was very important for us to get healthy.”
“We need to continue to develop the depth, with some of the injuries that we have had. Some guys have really had to step up, especially on special teams. We need to prepare not only for the Southern Miss game, but for the last four games of the season as we go down this final stretch. We wanted to continue to get plenty of work, where we could improve.”
“We did a lot more individual this time than we did one the last one. The last bye was a lot of team work. We still got some team work, we got everybody some reps. I talk all the time about the difference between rest and rust. You have to make sure you do not get too much rust on it, and you have to continue to improve.”
“We have to improve fundamentally and statistically. As coaches, we look at what we have to do to get better. Do we need to get better at what we are doing, or how we are doing it? That is one of the things we have looked at this week with ourselves.”
“The FIU game was a very physical game. To be able to win the game on the road coming off a loss here at home against North Texas, I was really proud of the energy these seniors brought forth. We addressed that and talked a little about it after the North Texas game, and I thought they did a nice job. I thought FIU played an excellent football game, they came in and played hard, and it was an excellent challenge for us. It was a 12-7 game late in the game and to see the players take it over was huge.”
“On the offensive side of the ball, it was about the offensive line and Kenneth Dixon. I thought those guys did a great job. We made some moves on our offensive line recently trying to get that right combination of the best five forward, and I thought those guys did a really nice job up front.”
“I thought Kenneth Dixon really just does a great job. Kenneth has some great runs. I have never watched him play and said, ‘Hey, how many yards does he have now?’ He is one of those guys that works so hard for every yard he gets, so at the end of the day you go, ‘Wow, he had 130 yards today?’ They are not in huge chunks of yardage, but he is just an absolute work horse.”
“Special teams wise, the good and the bad. Kyle Fischer steps in and goes five for five on field goals, gets a lot of national attention for the things that he accomplished which was great to see. The negative is that we had to kick five field goals. As a coach, there is always a bright spot and a low spot in everything. We have to do a better job offensively in the red zone. It was certainly nice to see Kyle step in and to take the role that he was given on that day and execute so well.”
“Getting into this game, it is the Rivalry in Dixie. All the history since 1935 and the 31-13 series, I know 41 percent of the games have been decided by one score or less. This is what you talk about when you get into conference play. When you get into some of these geographical rivalries. When you have the opportunity to start to go against someone every year. I think this is a natural rivalry, not only with the history, but with the geographical location of being in the same league is only going to add more and more to this rivalry.”
“I know Coach Monken at Southern Miss. He was a grad assistant for a great coach at South Bend that I have had the opportunity to spend a little time with. I have known coach Monken for a long time, he is an excellent football coach and a good person. He walked into a situation similar to myself. You are trying to get in there as a first year head coach and trying to put all the pieces together. I know that football team is getting better and better. What adds an interesting twist to this rivalry is the number of coaches that have ties to Louisiana Tech, whether they played here or they coached here. Most recently, even with some coaches that were on this staff a year ago.”
“The upper hand will be given to Southern Miss with their knowledge of personnel. Not only did they have the opportunity to see them every day, they had the opportunity to practice with them every day. It is going to create a little more excitement, a little more energy into this rivalry. I think it has all the makings to be a great series. I am fortunate to be part of it and looking forward to the game this weekend.”
“We need to stay focused on what we have to do. We continue to talk about a faceless opponent, even though it is almost impossible this week with it being Southern Miss. We have to worry about us. We have to worry about making the improvement and making the strides getting to where we want to be for this late four game stretch.”
On what a rivalry game like this does for the football program:
“We talked about this during the offseason. We are going into game nine and we have not watched us play an opponent from last year. We have had eight opponents and we have not played a team that we played a year ago. One of the advantages to a rivalry game is that every year you have a chance to go back and see where your personal matches up with your opponent’s personnel, even though it may be different schemes with a new staff.”
“I am looking forward to that with the new conference being in that year in and year out rivalry games, not only with the ones we have naturally but with some of the ones that will continue to form more and more with teams like North Texas, San Antonio, Rice and some of the other teams in the league. I think it is great for our fan base. I think it is great for college football. This game has so many implications in it, not just with it being bordering states playing against each other. When you start talking about recruiting, we recruit a lot of the same athletes. There is a lot more implications that last for a year more than just who won and lost on that given day.”
On whether film on Southern Miss getting beaten helps with scouting:
“You look at a guy like (Rakeem) Cato playing quarterback at Marshall and the success that he has had. Tony Petersen knows having the opportunity to coach a guy like that. With his experience there, we do not have that guy under center. We do not have that guy making those throws and doing those things that he does.”
“It is very difficult to compare and say, ‘Well they won, so we should’. That is why you line up and pay the game each week. Rivalry games, they say, you can throw the records out the window because it does not matter.”
“I look at the way they have grown through this whole process. I look at a young quarterback who threw for over 200 yards in his first start and then throws for over 300 in his second start, and we have the opportunity to be the third. Who knows where that is going? They are very talented and have gone to a lot of young players; they play a lot of younger players. They still have a lot of talent on that football team.”
“I have really been impressed with the young quarterback, the young wide receivers. I know they are playing a lot of young people on the line up front. Cameron Tom was a young man who had some recruiting battles. I had the opportunity to watch a lot of him in high school. I know they have talent.”
“I look at them on defense. I watch (Khyri) Thornton and I do not know if there is a better defensive lineman in the league. I had the opportunity to visit with one of the pro scouts and he was telling me what a great player he is. I told him that he did not even need to tell me, I have been watching the film.”
“They have talent on that football team. They are young and experienced. They have been in some games, and when you look at the final score they may be a little lopsided. At the same time when you watch them early in the year, they were in a dogfight at Arkansas. They got down in that game against Marshall early in the game with a couple turnovers and miscue but in the second quarter they win 10-0. They do some good things and it is a talented football team. It will be a challenge and I don’t think you can look past any of them.”
On whether momentum will be a factor:
“It is, but sometimes it is easier to be focused coming off a loss rather than coming off a win. We always talk about that humble and hungry. There is no doubt that they are hungry. When you are a team sitting here with three wins, it is not like you can look past anyone. We are sitting here fighting to salvage the season with what we are doing.”
“I do not think you can look past any of that. I think you have to look at our football team and getting better. I know they have gone through some ups and some downs. They have been close but they are competitive and they are finding their way. I know they have a good football staff and they are going to come in here and play their tails off.”
On addressing the red zone woes:
“We told them not to turn it over anymore. Turnovers have been a big part of it and we talked about that from the first game of the year at NC State. When you look at the magnitude of that fumble and how much it hurt, it seems like that has continued to repeat itself. We got down on the one yard line and you hand the ball to Kenneth Dixon and the ball squirts out and you lose ten. The quarterback then tries to pick it up and outrun everybody which was not a very smart decision. You come back on the second one and fumble a read.”
“Things that you have executed hundreds of times in practices flawlessly and then we get down there and maybe the apple gets in our throat. We just have to continue to harp on executing and put our players on that part of the field as much as we can in practice to try and get them more comfortable with it.”
On Ryan Higgins’ health during the bye week:
“Ryan is one of those guys that is in this boat of trying to get healthy. He has had a lot of bumps and bruises and has taken some shots. We are trying to get him a little bit healthier. He took very few reps last week. I think it is more important to try and give him a chance to get healthy, than to run him around out there in practice.”
“It was nice to see Tevin King running around out there yesterday and Vernon Butler running around out there last night. It would be a nice welcome back and it would definitely be a shot in the arm and a boost this week, if we can get some of those guys healthy.”
On Tevin King’s status, as well as Andrew Guillot:
“Right now, I am encouraged and I think [Tevin King] is probable. He was in shorts yesterday, but watching him run around out there was encouraging. I was impressed with the way he was moving around and with a week to go I feel very confident that he will play.”
“Guillot is a little more doubtful and questionable at this point. There are a couple of those guys. I have not seen him do much this past week because we wanted to get those guys off the field and give them a chance to get healthy, so I am hopeful.”
On utilizing the tight end and full back positions vs. FAU:
“We needed to be able to get the running game going. When you look at North Texas and what we did here with a couple short edges, it made it very difficult for us to hand the ball off with some of the things that they were able to do to us. We just wanted to solidify our edges, put a little more beef on the table without us having a fullback or tight end on scholarship or in the program. If you can get Kenneth Dixon going downhill, he has the tendency to do the rest on his own.”
On Carter Street and Tony Johnson’s performance at those positions:
“I thought they did a nice job, especially for guys that had a very limited role on a short week, and not having the open week to get ready for it. I thought they did a very nice job and gave us the opportunity to at least be able to solidify our edges on short yardage situations.”
On Southern Miss’ ability to stop Kenneth Dixon:
“Whether you have been with Kenneth or had the opportunity to watch him on film, Kenneth is impressive. He plays the game with great passion like we have talked about. When you look at us, where we have had our struggles and our woes, we have played three different quarterbacks. We have not had the efficiency in the pass game like we would have liked, and then you put on the film and watch Kenneth Dixon. It is one of the things almost every coach comes across the field and says, ‘Wow, that guy’s a horse.’ He does a great job.”
“A year ago you have two NFL receivers and a quarterback, and you had the opportunity to keep people balanced. As soon as they loaded the box, we were able to hurt them down the field. That is one of the reasons that you have a (Quinton) Patton that is able to do what he is doing and then a Kenneth who is able to do what he is doing. They complimented each other. I think that is one of the areas where we have really struggled this year, where we have given people the ability to do a little bit more of that because of the way we have struggled in the passing game. We have taken a hard look at those things in the open date and some of the things we can do to try and take advantage of people trying to play us one handed.”
On whether Tevin King’s return helps Dixon in the running game:
“It gives Kenneth a break and gives us more speed on the perimeter. That is one of the things he brings to the table, the ability to get the ball to the outside with his speed. He also adds a boost to kickoff return, which is something we have gone through with a couple injuries to our kickoff return guys. We have just had a hard time in the kick and punt return game, getting some continuity and some consistency. Hopefully, having Tevin King back brings you a little bit more explosive player in you backfield and on your return teams.”
On getting Scotty Young reps during the bye week:
“Both quarterbacks got a lot of work last week with Ryan having the ability to get a little bit more rest. Scotty has really come back energized. This has been difficult for him. He came into the season as the starting quarterback and then to get an injury and to have to sit and watch. He has waited his turn patiently and waited to get back into this opportunity. I think he is making the most of it.”
“I have really been impressed with the week that he had last week. I thought he came back last night and a number of people were commenting on it. I think he threw the ball and probably did as good a job as I have seen him do playing quarterback since I have been here. I was really impressed with the week he had last week and we can build on that.”
“It is just going to continue to provide depth because as we said we have four games left without an open date. You get this late in the year and everyone has bumps and bruises and you have to make sure you have depth. I think Scotty really did a nice job with the opportunities he was given last week.”
On whether he would consider a QB change if the interceptions continued:
“You have to. We are 118th in the country in turnovers. Not necessarily when you look at the margin, but the number of turnovers lost. Whether we are putting the ball on the ground through fumbles or whether we are throwing interceptions to the wrong colored jerseys. Neither one is good. I have sat up at this podium and talked and harped about the importance of turnovers and how we have to do a better job with it. Regardless of who it is, we have to find a way to stop it.”
“This is a Southern Miss team that has created a turnover in every game so far this year. They are aggressive in what they do, and they have created some turnovers. We have to continue to coach it. We have to continue to make sure we are doing a better job of not putting the ball on the ground or putting it in danger in the passing game. If that were to happen, then yes, I feel comfortable with what I have seen out of Scotty this week.”
Seeing Coach Perot on the other sideline?
“It is definitely going to be different. With him being the guy that recruited me and being here for four years out of my five, it is going to be weird seeing him on the other sidelines. It will be even more awkward to talk to him after the game.”
Will he [Perot] give tips to his D Line?
“I am sure he will. You cannot help but try and help the team that you are with. He will most definitely do that. I cannot imagine him not doing that.”
What have you seen from Southern Miss defensive line on film?
“I think their defensive line is one of their strengths of their team. I know they play hard and they are active. It is going to be another challenge for us as an offensive line.”
Offensive Line changes:
“I feel like it has been good for us. We are starting to come together and mold together with who we are playing with. I think the changes have been good for us.”
How big is this rivalry?
“I think it is one of the biggest rivalries that I have been a part of since I have been here. They are right down the road and have coaches on their staff that have been here and played here. It is going to be a dogfight. I think it is going to be a fun game.”
What do you remember from the last two games against Southern Miss?
“The weather was not the best. It was always a fight. It was a close game, and I think it is going to be another good one. Of course we want to pull away but I think it is going to be a fun, hard fought game.”
Offensive Line mindset in red zone:
“We put the weight on our hands and get the ball in the end zone, whatever we have to do. We put as much weight forward as you can and drive the guys off the ball and get that ball in the end zone. Get the ball to (Dixon) and let him punch it in there.”
Do you like the challenge of the ball running to your side?
“Not necessarily. I do not pay too much attention to which direction the ball goes. I could care less which side the ball goes to. Our goal is to make a hole for Kenneth. We just want to give him the biggest hole we can, and let him hit it.”
“We still focus on what we are doing more than the other team. That is what is most important. I believe it gives you can extra kick of motivation in the game to go out there and play hard. I think it is huge for both programs and it is going to be big for this area and I think it will be a good turnout.”
Using past coaching experience to start your own career:
“It has been huge for me. I have had two great coaches in my position that have had a lot of experience whether it is at the pro level or in the college level. I have had a lot of great opportunities with good coaches and I have taken a lot in from what they have coached me with.”
Motivation to not be the team that snaps Southern Miss’s losing skid:
“We cannot take anything for granted. These guys are going to be coming out here and they are going to be playing hard. They have nothing to lose and they are going to do everything they can to beat us, so we cannot take them lightly. We have to go out there with a good mindset and work hard all week to prepare for Southern Miss.”
Do you believe they are due for a win?
“Not necessarily, but anything can happen. If we get on our heels at all, anything can happen.”
Southern Miss has nothing to lose; does that make them more dangerous?
“Potentially it does. I do not think they are coming in here with any mindset other than trying to beat us. They have no reason not to. I do not think it necessarily means they are more dangerous than anyone else. We still have to focus on what we are doing more than what they are doing. We have to prepare like we do every week so we can beat these guys.”
Focus on your job:
“We have no necessarily tried to simplify things but not worry about everyone else. You cannot do someone else’s job on the field. That is basically the bottom line. If you focus on doing your job and 11 guys on the field focus on doing their job than that play is going to be successful. You can only do one job at a time and that is your own.”
The season from a defensive line standpoint:
“I think we have been playing well. There is always room for improvement. I just want all the guys to keep going and keep fighting”
“The bye was big for us. A lot of guys got their feet back under them. A couple guys got healthy and it is going to help us out for these next four games.”
Was this bye week different than the last one?
“The difference was that there were a lot of practices. The first bye week, we banged pretty good. This week the coaches laid back on the hitting, but we still got a lot of god fundamental work.”
Rest vs. Rust:
“I thought it was a good thing coach was light on us. At the same time our whole goal was to get good fundamental work in and still get good mental work without getting rusty.”
Southern Miss offensive line:
“I think they have a good offensive line. They fight hard and play well.”
Coach Perot teaching his offensive line to be aggressive:
“Coach Perot is the type of guy who is going to have them fighting hard. He always tells the offensive line that it doesn’t matter how you block them, just block them. I am sure that is how his guys are going to play this week. I know they are going to play hard for him.”
How was the defensive line helped the offensive line in practice?
“With us being the older guys and more experienced group, every day we go out and work the offensive line hard to give them a good picture of how Saturday is going to be. I think they have been doing a good job with it. There is room for improvement, but that is every position on the team.”
Pichon at FIU, and playing against family
“I think it had a little bit to do with that. AT the same time I saw him during the week practicing all his moves. That is probably the most I have ever seen him mentally into it, since I have been here. I was not surprised with the game he had.”
Has he [Pichon] continued that this week?
“Yes. I think that game gave him more confidence. That is what we need.”
Challenges of going against a coach that knows you’re abilities:
“It is going to be a harder task. At the same time we just have to go and watch film and practice for them, just like they are preparing for us.”
For complete coverage of Bulldog Football, please follow @LATechFB on Twitter or visit the official home of Louisiana Tech Athletics at LATechSports.com.