Football Weekly Press Conference Transcript: Nov. 18

Nov. 18, 2013

RUSTON, La. - Louisiana Tech head football coach Skip Holtz and select student-athletes spoke with members of the media at the program’s weekly press luncheon, previewing the upcoming Tulsa game.

Head coach Skip Holtz

Opening Statement:

“Looking back at the Rice game, I remember when I was young and my dad was at Arkansas. Arkansas played Alabama in the Sugar Bowl. Alabama ran up a lot of yards and beat them up pretty bad. I remember Coach Bryant came across the field and said to my father, ‘Lou that’s the best game any of my Alabama teams have ever played.’ My dad said to Coach Bryant, ‘Well, I am sure glad I had the opportunity to be here to see it.’ That is kind of how I felt in this game playing against Rice.”

“I think this Rice team showed the respect they have for David Bailiff with everything that he went through this week. I thought they executed at a really high level and played a very emotional game. They had 17 days off and they came out and it showed. They played an excellent football game.”

“Defensively, we had a hard time stopping the run with their wildcat. (Charles) Ross was an absolute horse. Watching them run up and down the field, we had a hard time stopping the run. It did not help that we could not get off the field on third down with Rice being 76 percent on third down. The way that they executed made it very hard. We did not create a turnover on defense. We created one but gave it right back to them, which started a new possession. They had six touchdowns in the red zone. They had a number of big plays.”

“I thought they executed at a very high level. We got on our heels on defense. We lost some of our keys and we certainly did not play one of our better football game. It certainly did not take away from some strong individual performances. I think Justin Ellis and IK Enemkpali continue to play really solid football for us. They are two seniors who this means a lot to them, and it showed. Daniel Cobb went out at linebacker and I thought Tony Johnson and Mike Schrang stepped in and played very well for two guys that had not played very much football for us. Same thing for the secondary, I thought Kentrell Brice came in and did some good things for us. I thought our corners played okay. Bryson Abraham has stepped up in the position for Le’Vander Liggins and really played a football game. He played 92 plays and missed two tackles, unfortunately when you miss a tackle in the secondary it results in a big play.”



“I think defensively it was not one of our better efforts, as far as the fundamentals and doing a lot of the little things we have talked about. It is like we got on our heels and stopped reading run keys and we did not play very well as a unit. Had we been able to get off the field on third down, I think it would have made it a little bit easier for everyone involved.”

“Offensively, there were a couple bright spots in that we were able to run the ball even with Kenneth Dixon going out of the game early with a knee injury. I thought some of those guys stepped up. It was nice to see Tevin King back. He was a little bit rusty but it was nice to see him. Blake Martin played well and Marlon Seets got an opportunity to get into the action late in the game. I thought he ran the ball hard and ran the ball physical. That was about the only bright spot from an offensive standpoint. We were able to run the ball.”

“I thought the four offensive linemen played very well. I thought (Vince) Cano and (Matthew) Shepperd played well inside and I thought Mitchell Bell and Jeremy Graffree played well. We did not give up a sack in the passing game. Our quarterbacks probably had more time than they have had all year as far as the pocket is concerned. With us not being able to run the ball consistently enough, I thought there were some guys that played well up front.”

“The wide receivers continue to play solid. They did not have that many opportunities with only 15 catches, but drops have been a big issues for us the past couple weeks where we have been dropping four or five balls in a game. We did not really have a drop in this game. I thought the receivers played well.”

“They merry-go-round at quarterback is showing up. We are not getting the production we need out of the quarterback position. I thought Scotty (Young) was up and down, I thought Ryan Higgins came in and played a little bit rusty. There were times he looked great out there and there were times that just from a mental standpoint we were not where we need to be as far as our reads and where we are throwing the football. I think the ups and downs and high and lows of the quarterback position, we have three quarterbacks and played every one of them and they all had a turnover. We finished minus three on the day. Even though there were some positive it was not a strong offensive showing in what we did over in Houston.”

“With special teams, I think our kickoff and punt cover continue to be productive. We did not have much of an opportunity in the return games with the majority of them being touchbacks. We were only able to force them to punt one time and that was a 55-yard punt that went for a touchback. Probably the bright spot is that we were able to execute a fake punt. We were down 14-0 and felt like we needed to get some momentum going our way. From our own 30, we ran a fake punt and I thought Logan McPherson did a great job of fighting to get the extra yards so the offense could stay on the field.”

“It was a game where our defense did not play the way they have been playing. It was out of character for our defense because they have been playing very well against the run. We ran into a buzz saw Saturday and I give Rice an awful lot of credit for the way that they played.”

“It was disappointing as we had won three out of the four going into that game. We felt really good about it. I felt like the team was emotionally ready. I felt like they were into it and went out and played with some energy. I just do not think we played as smart as we needed to play.”

“We get back to the drawing board with two games remaining. We are 4-6 and we need to win the last two games to make a bowl game with this football team. I would really like to have the opportunity to do that for not only the seniors and the hard work they have put into it, but also for this young football team. We could definitely use the extra practices to get ready for a bowl game in December.”

“With Tulsa, when you look at them offensively, they have the leading rusher in the league in Trey Watts, who is rushing for 128 yards a game. He is a very powerful back who has the make-you-miss factor but he is also strong enough to lower his pads and run north and south. He has an offensive line that is blocking for him and doing a really nice job. They have only given up four sacks on the entire season.”

“They made a change a few weeks ago to go with a freshman quarterback. They are playing with a young quarterback, who has made a couple of mistakes but he is very talented, has a strong arm and throws the ball extremely well. So, when you look at them they have a veteran offensive line that is big and athletic and they have a really good running back so when they are running the ball, which is where they hang their hat.”

”Defensively, they run a 4-3. They are 4-3 because the opportunity they have to put the guy in the middle is a difference maker. Shawn Jackson, No. 55, is one of the best players in this league. He is one of the leading tacklers in the league. He just broke the sack record at Tulsa. He is a preseason all-everything. He is about 260 pounds in the middle of the field. He is a beast and a great player. You need to know where he is constantly because he is the one that makes that defense go.”

“Their free safety is leading the league in tackles. He is a very aggressive player and a sure tackler. They have a defensive end who is one or two in the league in sacks in Derrick Alexander who is very talented athlete coming off the edge. They bring more pressure than what we have seen the past couple of weeks as a defense. They are very active with their two outside linebackers.”

“Special teams wise, they have one of the best kickers in the league. He is nine of 10 on the year. Their kick return average is 30 yards a return which is one of the best in the league. Their punter returner is their tailback Watts. I think they have a very talented football team and it will be a great challenge for us.”

“It is senior day this weekend and we have an opportunity to say thank you to many seniors who have played a lot of great football here when you look at IK, Justin Ellis, Matt Shepperd, Cano, Richie Casey, Jon Greenwalt and so many of these guys who have really played a key role in this program over the last 2, 3 or 4 years. It is an opportunity for us to say thank you to them.”

“I know November is hard with students being out school to get a crowd at home but this football team still has a lot to play for. As we said before, this is one of those games you cannot feel sorry for yourself. There is no self-pity in football. You learn the lessons and move on. That is what we have to do as a football team.”

“There is plenty of blame to go around form last week from coaches and staff to players being held accountable and I think we have to take a combination of all of it and we have to get those things straight and correct them because I am sure Tulsa is watching that film from last week and licking their chops with the running game that they have coming into this game.”

“We are excited about the opportunity to go play with what is still on the table and also to have the chance to send these seniors off the right way in their last game in a Louisiana Tech uniform here at home.”

“Congratulations again to the five seniors that just graduated and I am looking forward to the ceremony on Friday.”

On Rice’s success running the football to the right side:

“IK and Justin Ellis are both on the left side of the offense. Then with (Vontarrius) Dora being out, Kendrick James going out and then when Cobb went out we did not hold up very well. I thought they did a nice job of saying, ‘We are going to attack your weakness.’ We say all the time as a football team that you are only as strong as your weakest link. It is not how your best player plays, but it is how your 11th player plays. That is what makes you a football team. We did not play very well on the left side.”

On injury updates for Dora, James, Cobb and Dixon:

“Dora is in the Tevin King situation from a week ago. I feel he has a pretty good opportunity to come back this week. I would put him at probable. At this point, Kendrick James will come back. He actually came back and played in that game. He just had to play very limited with the injury that he had. He could not go a lot of plays and that is where a guy like Andre Taylor had to step in and fill that void a little bit. Right now I am hopeful that Dora will be back. Cobb at this point is a question mark. Kenneth Dixon at this point would be a question mark. He injured his knee again. We are just going to have to wait and see how he responds to that. Those two are questionable and Dora is probable.”

On the team’s response to Dixon going out with an injury:

“I thought some guys stepped in and filled a void. I thought Tevin King ran hard. When you look at the running game, guys are averaging four, five and six yards a carry; we just were not able to do it consistent enough. We would get into a third and short situation, and when you lose that work horse that has fought for those tough yards for you; we were not able to make some of those up. I thought as the game went on, Marlon Seets got an opportunity to play and he is a bigger and more physical back. With Kenneth going out we are going to have to do it more by committee. You are going to see of Marlon Seets, Blake Martin and Tevin King. All three of them are going to have to play a role for us.”

On the play of his quarterbacks versus Rice:

“We have to get better. That is all we have right now. We have two games remaining. I am hopeful that Ryan Higgins will play better with a full week of practice under him. I have talked about the merry-go-round at quarterback. When Kenneth went out we went to the package with Paul Harris as our quarterback. We tried to put an athlete at quarterback. We lose our short yardage guy when Kenneth went down and that is why we put Paul Harris in. It did not work out for us very well as we had a turnover and a couple loss of yardage plays. We have what we have at this point. We cannot pick one up off free agents or waiver wire. We have what we have and we have to do a better job of getting them to play in the system and getting them to run an offense that they can execute.”

On whether there is confusion between the quarterbacks and wide receivers:

“I thought the receivers played well and I thought the offensive line did a good job of protecting them. We talk about how important practice is. With Ryan missing two weeks, Scotty was up and down. At times we had receivers open and we were not able to hit them. We were reading the wrong side of the field. It was much more mental than it was physical. They all made a mistake. I thought Scotty’s interception, he could have put it more back shoulder, and he led him down the field too much. Ryan’s he underthrew a corner route in zone coverage which is a no-no. That corner is always going to undercut it and intercept it. There are a couple mistakes and they did some good things but we have to find a way to eliminate those bad plays that are going to cost us football games.”

On reflecting on close games and missed opportunities earlier in the season:

“I look back at the missed opportunities we talked about after Tulane and Kansas. This is where they come into play, because if that were the case we would be 6-4 right now. There was something about a woodshed in this game. They took us behind the woodshed and they beat us up. They played a good football game. This is not a game that we were a play away or were close, as much as we ran into a buzz saw.”

“The missed opportunities early in the year took the safety net away from us and now we have to win the final two games if we want to get into a bowl game. I think the players understand what is at stake and what is on the line. They will come back, it is important to this senior class and I think they will play hard. I think they will be focused during the course of the week.”

“Last week was the last week of classes. Classes ended on Thursday and you are dealing with a lot of finals. I am not making any excuses but a lot of those distractions are gone. This week it is football, with our players not being in class. Hopefully we can bounce back and have a really good week in practice. We still have a lot to play for.”

On making a late run at the post-season:

“If we win this one we can. We have to start with this one. We have to do everything we can, watching extra film, putting together a great game plan and giving our quarterbacks and some of our players an opportunity to be successful. We have some guys who are playing well. This is the ultimate team game. You can have some linebackers and defensive lineman play pretty well but if your front seven does not play well, you are going to give up some yards. I think we have some guys who are playing well, we just need to make sure we can complement them.”

On frustration with injuries to the running back position:

“It is similar to what we have dealt with at quarterback. It is hard with the merry-go-round that we have had. We have not been able to create a lot of stability. The consistency is not there. You can take 20 plays from the Rice game and put a highlight film together and go say wow that was a strong performance. We had our longest pass play of the year, finally executing a takeoff down the sideline. It was great throw, route and catch. But you can take 20 plays and it is just the opposite, it looks like blunders. We have to build on these positive plays and get some consistency where we can eliminate the bad one. That is what that stability is able to create for you. It is frustrating but it is the hand we are dealt. We cannot complain about it, we just need to make it work.”

On the Tulsa running game being a concern:

“There is some concern that they are going to be able to come in and run the ball. That is the challenge that we are going to serve up to our defense. Our defense has done a really good job outside of Army and Rice they have done a really good job of stopping the run and playing as a solid front seven. Hopefully, getting Dora back and Kendrick having a week to heal with IK and Justin Ellis, Tony Johnson and Mike Schrang we can build on that and challenge them against the run.”

On Tulsa having a down year compared to year’s past:

“It is hard for me to answer that. Trying to watch them at this point, you watch their special teams. Their kick returner is averaging 30 yards a return and their punt returner is Watts. They have a tailback who is leading the league in rushing. Right now at the beginning of the week, I am seeing all the positive things that they are doing. They made a change a couple weeks ago at the quarterback position, I do not know the reason behind it, but the freshman has come in and done some great things. He is throwing the ball really well but he has been inconsistent as sometimes freshman are. It is hard for me to put all of that together at this point. I have not watched enough film on them to say what all the problems are but I see a lot of talent on that football team and a lot of positives. On defense they have a lineman, a linebacker and a safety who are as good as any we have played this year. It is going to be a big picture that we put together through the course of the week.”

On Rice head coach David Bailiff:

“Saturday’s performance shows the respect his football team has for him. David Bailiff has had a hard week with his father passing away unexpectedly. I had the opportunity to talk to him almost every day this week. It was a very emotional and hard week for him because it happened so suddenly. His dad sat in that tunnel and has been there every game since he has been there. They are very close and I know it was very hard for him. I know his team really responded with an emotional performance. Thoughts and prayers are to David and his family. I know it is a difficult time for him. He is an excellent man and an excellent football coach and he has done a great job building that program at Rice.”

On whether Rice’s running game caught LA Tech off guard:

“It did. I did not expect them to line up and run the ball like they did. I did not go into this saying, ‘Wow we have to get them to throw it.’ I did not expect it. We talked about it coming in though that running the ball and stopping the run was going to be one of the keys to the game. We were not able to do it. They came out and threw a play action pass on the first play and hit the big play. Then they came out and ran the cross sweep into the boundary. We made some adjustments to that and then they started running the speed option. They had a great game plan and they did a really nice job of executing it. We did not play one of our better games.”

On whether the running game reminded him of Army:

“It had the same feel standing on the sideline. You knew they were going to run the ball but you could not stop it. It was different schemes, but it had a similar feel. We could not get off the field. It was the same thing at Army. In the first half we had four possessions as an offense and then the two minute drive at the end. It had a similar feel to it, like at Army.”

On freshman DB Xavier Woods:

“Xavier is a football player. I know he is a freshman, but I have used that expression that if a dog is going to bite you, he will do it as a pup. He has stepped in and he is a football player. He has awareness and he is intelligent. He understands football. He understands what a wide split and a tight split mean and how to react to it. He does not need a thousand reps to get it. He has great instincts and awareness. He is very intelligent, physical, fast and athletic. He is all those things we saw in recruiting.”

“The thing that has really impressed me is his football IQ, his football knowledge and his understanding and awareness out on the field. He is one of those guys who makes checks and knows what is going on. Some guys see 42 offensive guys lined up in the formation, he sees what is going on, on the field and can explain it to you. I think he has a bright future because he is a special athlete with great awareness and intelligence. That is one of the things when you say mature beyond his years, mature as a football player.”

On whether he thought Woods could be a starter right away:

“I thought athletically he would come in and be given every opportunity to start. I knew physically he had the talent skills and ability but those intangible things we talked about, you cannot measure in recruiting. I knew he had the talent to start and we were going to give him that opportunity, and he impresses me more and more every day with what he is doing as a freshman and the football IQ he has and the way he plays the game.”

On whether Woods’ intangibles come from his coaching at West Monroe High School:

“Coming out of a program like that, that is why people go and recruit the programs that win every year. When you look at a guy like Trent Taylor and a guy like Xavier Woods and the programs they came out of and they type of football they play. It is not surprising that guys coming out of programs like that are able to come in and make the impact that those two have as true freshman. I think it is huge and a really credit and testament to the coaches at West Monroe and a credit to Xavier himself and the commitment that he has put into it and the understanding that he has.”

On who will start at quarterback vs. Tulsa:

“I do not know. I cannot tell you, but I can tell you that neither won it on Saturday. I will let them have reps during the week of practice and then we will see where we are.”


Sr. OL Vince Cano

On his maturity over the years:

“A tremendous amount, just being able to see the actual gameplay and being full speed every day in and out of practice, watching film, and having Shepperd beside me continues to help me to notice the little things. Things like how a defensive lineman will set up before a play or the formations that we are in. Being able to know what we are doing and how the other team is going to come at us has been a big improvement from camp to now.”

On injuries to the running backs and quarterbacks:

“Everybody we have back there is prepared and talented enough to do the job they are asked to do. Us up front, we are a group and we try to do the best that we can to help them succeed. Every one of our running backs and quarterbacks can do the job. As long as we up front hold it down, gets holes for the running backs and keep people off our quarterbacks I think it will just happen for us.”

On what the mood was like when Kenneth Dixon went out with an injury:

“When Kenneth went down, I did not expect him to not come back. My first thoughts were to just keep rolling. If and when he comes back, the game plan would still be rolling. When he did not come back, I did not flinch that much seeing as we had Tevin back and we have Blake Martin who has come up as well as Marlon who did a good enough job to score. I would have liked to have Kenneth back because he is a beast. But, just seeing all the guys we have right now and how good of a job they are doing it did not make me falter.”

On whether the changes at RB changes the offensive line’s duties:

“I do not believe so. We are going to open the same holes. We are going to run the same way and do the same game plan for our backs. They all see the holes differently but they are going to hit them just as hard as Kenneth. It is just going to come down to can they make plays in the secondary when they get there.”

On earning his degree and graduating:

“It is awesome. I cannot wait. I have a bunch of family coming up. I have some of my best friends from back home ready to see me get my diploma. It is very exciting. I know I am about to start the next part of my life. It is a good feeling.”



Fr. DB Xavier Woods

On Skip Holtz speaking highly of him:

“It feels good. I just come in everyday and work hard. I do not come in to get the coaches praise; I try to make myself better every day I come in here.”

On how much he credits his high school coaches:

“They instilled hard work on the field and in the film room. We watched film every day there just like we do here. He prepared me for this level.”

On meeting his own expectations:

“I want to be the best freshman out there. I also want to be the best player that I can be for this team. Every day I come in and work hard, I want get better every day.”

On making checks and reads as a freshman on the field:

“I have my mess ups. In practice I mess up a lot. Once game day comes around, I am going to have it down no matter what. I am not going to make any wrong checks I the game, but in practice I am going to mess up a lot. Once game day comes I am going to have it together.”

On whether he makes all the checks for the defense:

“I do not make all of the checks. As far as the secondary goes, me and Thomas McDonald make the checks for the secondary.”

On his experiences so far in his freshman season:

“Coming in here from summer workouts to the first game at NC State until now, it has been the best experience that I have ever had. I love it, just to be able to compete at a high level every day, it is fun.”

On whether he feels pressure to make a bowl game:

“I do it for them because they are seniors; this is their last home game. I come in and work hard, try to improve everyday just to give this team a better shot at winning.”

On what he has learned the most this season:

“I have learned the most mentally, how to study film, how to prepare for a team. Physically, I have learned to get bigger and stronger.”

On his responsibility as a true freshman:

“As the defensive coordinator Coach Dameron expects us to know everything. Even if he does not tell us, he expects us to know. He makes it hard on us because he knows the whole scheme of things as the defensive coordinator so he expects us to know everything.”

On the similarities between Kim Dameron and Jerry Arledge:

“Coach Dameron is much harder on me than Coach Arledge was.”

On only having football this week with no school:

“It is football 24/7 for me. With no school now, our focus as a team should only be on winning this game. We have to go 1-0 this week. That is all that matters.”

On what it was like to know Rice is going to run the ball and not be able to stop it:

“That is the worst feeling, to know that the team is going to run the ball and we cannot stop it. They outplayed us.”

On how he treats these next two games:

“We just have to win this week, every day at practice, today, tomorrow and the next day we have to get better. Just win today.”


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


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