LA Tech Weekly Football Press Conference Transcript: Nov. 7

Nov. 7, 2016

RUSTON, La. - Louisiana Tech head coach Skip Holtz spoke with the media Monday in advance of the team's Conference USA home game versus UTSA Saturday, Nov. 12 at Joe Aillet Stadium in Ruston.

Head Coach Skip Holtz

Opening comments:

“It’s nice to win. It’s always nice to win, especially on the road in a conference game. To go and take care of business I’m very proud of this football team and what they were able to accomplish on Saturday. I said last week during the press conference that I think Seth Littrell has done a great job with the North Texas program as a new coach. What they are building, I think their players compete hard. We knew that it was going to be a challenge and we knew that we were going to have to go and make the routine play. I was really proud of the focus of this team and the energy of this team and what they were able to do playing 10 weeks in a row without an open date. Just the focus that they have been able to keep and the job they have been able to do getting themselves up each and every week and getting mentally and physically prepared to play the game.”

On defense:

“Defensively, I think we are improving. I think we can get better. Obviously, the second half was much better than the first when you look at only giving up three points and 70 yards in the second half as opposed to giving up 21 points and 200 yards in the first half. I thought we made some adjustments at halftime, we talked a little bit about them in the first quarter and even some in the second quarter but wanted to wait until we could really sit them down, show everybody what we are doing on the board so we didn’t go out there and have a major bust and give up a homerun ball trying to make some adjustments. I thought the defensive staff did a really nice job of making those adjustments and I thought the players did a really great job of executing them in the second half. It was definitely a completely different half, they gave up some scheme things that they did a really nice job with and I thought the adjustments really made a difference. Some guys are continuing to play really well. Jaylon Ferguson continues to make his presence felt in the passing game, and then I think Cedric Johnson up front on the defensive front is getting better each and every week. I like the progress that he is making as a young defensive tackle. Russell Farris continues to get better at linebacker, I just think when he was an offensive player in high school and we moved him to safety and linebacker and he is starting to get more and more comfortable and doing some really good things there. Xavier Woods and Secdrick Cooper continue to play at a high level and I think Ephraim Kitchen and Prince Sam are getting more and more comfortable so a lot of guys really stepped up and did some things good defensively. It was that type of effort that we needed as a football team on the road.”

 

 

On offense:

“Offensively, we were able to grind it out, which was nice to see. We have not been able to run the ball like that in a long time to go rush for 223 or 226 whatever it was. We were patient but we were also efficient as an offensive football team. I think Darrell Brown, O’Shea Dugas, Joseph Brunson, Ethan Reed, Kirby Wixson, David Mahaffey – a lot of those guys are doing some really good things for us up front on the offensive line. Like I said, being able to run the ball the way we were, we weren’t going to try and force it, we were going to take what they gave us and we felt like they gave us the opportunity to run the ball and fortunately we were able to execute it and make it happen. I think Ryan Higgins continues to play at a really high level. With what he is doing, I know his stats, percentage wise, were not at the same level as what he has been doing, I think he ended up 18 of 30 but he had six throwaways where he was just trying to avoid the negative-yardage play. I think he continues to play efficient at a high level. Jarred Craft running hard, had 122 yards I think or 123 yards in this game. He is running hard, he is running north and south and he is running physical. We were making first downs, I think we had 30 first downs on the day. We were able to control the ball a little bit, which is nice when you can run the ball. Carlos Henderson has another 5 touchdown game. I certainly don’t want to say hoe-hum. I was kind of disappointed he dropped the one in the end zone or he could have had another one. I think he is a special talent and getting the ball under his arms makes things happen. He is that guy that when he gets the ball everybody needs to stand up because somebody is fixing to score. I don’t know if it is us or them but somebody is fixing to score when he gets that ball under his arm. He is electric with his feet and I thought he did some really good things in that game. We have to continue to get better on an every down basis but I think he is doing some really good things with the ball under his arm. Even though a guy like Trent Taylor only had 5 catches for 40 or 50 yards I think when you look at his impact on the game, the way that he drew the safeties out of the mix which helped open the running game, I thought that he had 6 first downs by penalty with them trying to play man coverage and some of the holding that was going on. I think Trent definitely had an impact in the game and continues to play well. Like I said there are a lot of guys who are stepping up doing some good things on offense and as well as defense and as we said we keep getting better. I thought the special teams were solid and Gerald Shouse did a great job in the fourth quarter pinning those two punts down inside the 5-yard line, which I think flipped field position and really did a nice job for us.”

On UTSA:

“This week, we have a chance to come home, kind of close the book on North Texas and get ready for Homecoming. We have got UTSA coming in this weekend. There is no place like home. I am excited to have a chance to play our fifth home game here in Joe Aillet Stadium. I know the players get excited about having the chance to be able to play here at home. No travel, not getting back late at night, those type of things. So I think everybody is really excited to come back and play. It is a conference game and when you get into November you’ve got two teams that are playing for something that I think creates a lot of excitement and energy. In college football, as you get into November and you start to look at all the differences in conference races going on and the implications. I know a million people are saying, ‘If they beat them,’ and, ‘If they beat them, and they do this and this,’ and, ‘This happens and that happens.” You talk about who is going to win the divisions and who is going to host a championship game. There’s a lot of things that are still out on the table. But as we have talked about as a football team, those things are still out there and they are the elephants in the room that everyone wants to talk about. For us right now we have to stay focused on the process and the process of getting better continually to improve fundamentally and keep getting better as a football team. We still have a lot of football left to play. You can play as many as four games still remaining, so there is still a lot of football left to go even though there is only two left on the regular schedule, so we have to make sure that we stay focused and control what we can control, which is us. We are going to leave all of the speculation for everybody else and what we are going to do is control what we can control and that is the way that we play this game on Saturday. I think Frank [Wilson] has done a really nice job. UTSA is a hot team right now, they have won 4 of their last 5 since their open date. A new coach with a new staff that is really starting to put his fingerprints on this thing. They are playing hard, they are playing confident, they are playing physical, they are flying around, they have made some adjustments personnel-wise and scheme-wise that settle into what they are. Right now, they are really good at it. Their lone loss was a multiple overtime game with UTEP, but right now they are really playing well. Like I said, they have gone on a string and won four of the last five.”

On UTSA’s offense:

“Offensively, I think it starts with their quarterback, who I thought played a great game against us last year. We had an opportunity to see him, he is throwing the ball really well, he has really good feet and he is a tough fiery competitor. Dalton Sturm who I think is playing really well right now, he is one of the big reasons for their success. It goes to show you the exact science of recruiting and that he was a walk-on at UTSA and yet he is one of the better quarterbacks in this league. He is really a quality player. With what he is doing, they have two running backs that are doing it by committee. The two of them are running for a combined 135 yards per game. Their offensive line are big, they have a transfer from LSU at left tackle who is a really good football player. They are big, physical, and running the ball. They are very multiple in what they do, in they are giving you multiple unbalanced formations and different formations with what they are showing. They are able to control the ball, make first downs, and they are scoring a lot of points. When you look and them and their stats over the last five games it is really impressive with what they are doing offensively.”

On UTSA’s defense and special teams:

“Defensively, they are good at what you need to be good at to be a good football team. They are second in the conference in scoring defense, creating turnovers and in the red zone. When you look at them, I think they are really an efficient defense that starts with their linebackers. They have a freshman linebacker that is top 20 in the country in tackles, he is very active all over the field. Their front is very active, they play a lot of guys in their front. They are playing a lot of guys on defensive and they are just rolling bodies in and out to keep them fresh. They have an awful lot of talent, but I think it all starts at the linebacker position as active as they are. Their special teams are solid, their kickoff and kickoff returners are two of the better ones in the league, which give us a challenge this weekend.”

Closing remarks:

“You are in November and you are playing for something at home with Homecoming. There is a lot of excitement and energy right now with our players and the program and just having the opportunity to play the game, so we are looking forward to this week.”

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