Sep 2, 2013
LOGAN, Utah -
Utah State football head coach Matt Wells, along with senior linebacker Jake Doughty and senior wide receiver Travis Van Leeuwen, held a news conference Monday to recap the Utah game and preview its Mountain West opener at Air Force. A complete transcript of Wells, Doughty and Van Leeuwen's remarks can be found below.
Head Coach Matt Wells
Recapping the Utah game:
"Offensively we played really, really well except for two series where we had three-and-outs. As you go back and study it, you second-guess yourself and everything that you do. Everything that we called had been called previously and had been successful. We had an incomplete pass on a second down and a run on the second down of the second series that went for no yards. We got two third downs and got sacked once, threw a completion for a yard short. As I go back and look at those calls, I wouldn't have changed one thing. We didn't make the first down and we didn't finish it. That point was the turning point with the onside kick. Credit goes to Utah. They executed that perfectly. Heck of a kick from the kid and the recovery. They had two big plays on us."
"I'm proud of the way we defense played. We didn't get off to a good start with a couple of breakdowns in coverages right out of the gate, which is unlike us, but I thought we settled down. I thought we played very solid. I tell you what's impressive was first-and-goal inside the one, three straight stops at the very end of the game. Say all you want about the heat and humidity and all that, but our guys bowed up at the end. When it counted at the very end, they had it and I was proud of them from that standpoint."
"It was a close game like we all thought it would be. They made a couple more plays. Credit to them, they're a very good team and made a couple more plays than us. Our kids made a lot of plays, there's a lot of fight in our kids. I think we've got kids that are very talented. As we've had the weekend to reflect, we'll learn from a few things, we'll gain confidence from a few things and we look forward to going into the Mountain West and this game against Air Force."
Previewing Air Force:
"As I look at Air Force, I've played against them quite a bit as an assistant at the Naval Academy and New Mexico. The first thing I can say about them, as always, is that Troy (Calhoun) will have them ready to play. Coach Calhoun and his staff do a great job. It's a staff with a lot of continuity and experience. They do what they do and they do it well. They know who they are. I expect a hard-nosed game. They're very disciplined, they're very tough and they don't get out of position a whole lot. They've very schematically sound on both sides of the ball. It's always a tough place to play, Colorado Springs. I know our kids are looking forward to it. It's the Mountain West opener. We'll be juiced up and energized. We look forward to it as a challenge to go on the road and play our first Mountain West game."
On coming off a Thursday game to a Saturday game:
"It maybe gives us a little bit of preparation from a Sunday standpoint, but they played on Saturday. We basically traded game tape at the same time on Sunday. We've had their tape all spring and summer. Where it really helps us is physically. It was an emotional game (Thursday), a physical game. We're able to catch our breath a little bit and heal up a bit. It will help us out physically more than anything."
On Air Force running backs Broam Hart and Jon Lee:
"Those two kids did it last year too. Those guys are explosive. If they catch the safeties losing eye control, it's going to be six real quick. I've seen it happen coaching against them year after year. You've got to have really good eye discipline in the back end and you've got to know what your keys are. If not, those two will slip right by you and it will be a touchdown."
On preparing for the Air Force quarterbacks:
"I think we'll look at both of them and get ready for both of them. I think Jaleel (Awini) throws it a little bit better. They're going to stick to their system and do what they do. They'll run their option. They're going to get in some traditional sets and run inside zone. They're going to throw play passes off it and they're going to play with tempo and some pace. We've got to get stops on defense. I think the biggest thing we have to do is continue those two slots and stop the fullback."
On the Game Day atmosphere at the Academy:
"It's neat. I think it's a neat atmosphere. It will be an afternoon kickoff so it will be great weather. We expect a full house and I'm sure it will be an energized game because it's a Mountain West game."
On Utah State's first Mountain West game as an alum/head coach:
"First and foremost it's the goal of this program to play for and compete for the Mountain West Championship. This is step one of being able to accomplish that goal. Just like last year, you have to win conference games on the road. It just so happens that our first conference game is on the road. There's immediacy to it; there's an importance to it. Our kids know it and we look forward to it."
On Air Force's defense:
"They are tough, hard-nosed and aggressive. They'll pressure in certain situations. Both defensive ends are back from last year, and they're aggressive and active. They're a tough, blue collar, hard-nosed bunch that is well-coached."
On Air Force using lighter guys in typically heavy positions:
"What they do schematically gives them a chance. They know who they are. They slant an angle on defense; they pressure and they move around. They're smart with what they do. I think they're very smart in the back end. They don't put themselves in the position to really get out-leveraged. They've always been successful. It starts with knowing who you are and they do. Coach Calhoun and that staff have been there a long time. They know who they are, they do a great job of that and they give their kids a chance to win."
On the big plays given up defensively at the Utah game:
"We just had a couple spots where we lost eye control or one guy was out of position. You do that against a really good team, you're going to lose. I think we did some of that on our side of the ball too. Once our guys settled down after those first couple of series, they played really well. We got some pressure on them in the third quarter."
On preparing for Air Force's offense:
"It will be a big week in practice. The scout team will have to do a great job of simulating it the best they can. It's an assignment football week. All the pressures and everything we do of having someone on dive, somebody on the quarterback and somebody on the option and on the pitch. We pressure so much that it's going to take a lot of discipline on our guys' part. In preparation, our scout team will do a nice job of simulating it. In these scenarios though, you usually don't simulate it in the same speed that you'll see it in a game. It is a unique offense."
On new kids who played well in the Utah game:
"I told you Nick Vigil was going to play well and he did. He made the opening tackle on the first kickoff of the game. You've got a true freshman (Jake Thompson) who kicks it five-deep in the end zone at kicker and a redshirt freshman that runs down the field and tackles inside the 20-yardline. That's impressive to see right out of the gate in the first game of the year. It's pretty cool to see. Brandon Swindall is a sophomore, played a little bit last year, had two big touchdown catches. He did really well, made some tough catches on some slant balls. All the receivers played well and caught contested balls. Bruce (Natson) has got to learn to stay on his feet and extend plays after the catch. Travis Van Leeuwen came up big, but he did that all training camp, so that wasn't a surprise. A lot of those guys are veterans who I expected to play well."
"Defensively, Tay Glover-Wright played well. That was his first full start at corner. The guy is a junior college quarterback. Last year he played nickel/dime, receiver and quarterback. Now all of a sudden he's going to play against a Pac-12 team on the edge? He played 70-something snaps at corner and played well. That's a kid starting his first game ever at corner. Jake Thompson came in and played well."
On missing Connor Williams from the defensive line:
"The mere fact that he's one of our better D-linemen and his presence not being there. I don't think it bothered us, but we missed him, there's no question there. He's an emotional leader and a very productive player. Our D-line played well. They stood up, it was next man up and they bowed up and played well. They rallied around each other. There's no question that Connor is a leader among our D-linemen. He's a physical and productive player, so yes we missed him."
On having a game as head coach under his belt:
"I know what it's like now. It's draining. Usually you stress about one side of the ball, but now I'm stressed about three sides of the ball the entire game. That was the biggest thing. It was completely a different feeling physically and emotionally. Hopefully I'm a better coach in game two than in game one, and hopefully better at the end of the year than I am in September. From how you prepare your players and handle them at halftime, and what you say to them, and calls and decisions you make. I have to get better to."
On the offensive line play Thursday:
"They played well. They protected Chuckie (Keeton). There were a few times we had some breakdowns, but sometimes you don't see that in the stats. It makes them look better sometimes. I like those guys' leadership, I thought they played well and they stuck together well. One thing that often goes unnoticed unless it goes bad is we had no false starts, and we had no identification problems from the quarterback and the center. With all the D-line movement and the crowd, I was very impressed and proud of our young men. We had three false starts last year at home (vs. Utah). Those are the administrative penalties I talk about that give you a chance to win. We just didn't make enough plays at the end."
On correcting the defensive penalties:
"There were three of them. I can live with one, I can live with B.J.'s (Larsen). He knows the rule that went in to place last year. That's an aggressive penalty that our whole team will learn from. He just needs to shut it down, but I didn't say two words to him when he came off. I reminded him he couldn't do it and he went right back in the game. Brian Suite's on the sideline, it is what it is. The other one we've got to be smarter and be able to pull it off."
On Mountain West play this past weekend:
"On paper, no it wasn't a good weekend for the league. It doesn't taint my vision of the league. It's a hard league week in and week out. Every one of us will bounce back. We started off wrong Thursday night. I don't think anything different of the league, but yeah, on paper it wasn't a good week for the Mountain West. We'll bounce back and represent in bowl games. You had a Mountain West team beat a BSC team Thursday night. It's still a strong league. This weekend doesn't change my impressions of the league."
Senior Linebacker Jake Doughty
Recapping the Utah game:
"The Utah game, it wasn't the greatest outing we've ever had, that's for sure, but we learned a lot and we'll come back and be stronger. As far as the defense is concerned, we had a few breakdowns. A few penalties hurt us. I'm still a little bitter about the loss, but we've got to get ready to move onto Air Force."
When you looked back at the tape, what were some of the breakdowns, especially when they had the middle of the field open?
"It's a whole defense kind of thing, we need to get more pressure. As far as the middle is concerned, the lower zones need to drop back a little further, we have to have our heads a little more on a swivel seeing what's coming at us and break to the ball a little better."
Did you learn some things that you've got to do a little bit better from the film?
"Yes, for sure. When you go back to the film you can really slow it down. In the game, you have just a couple seconds to make key reads and key decisions, but film really tells a different story. You can see what you should have done and what you should have seen."
In the second quarter you all of a sudden got some things going defensively. The pressure on them, they couldn't move the ball. Did they make adjustments at halftime to take you guys out of some of your pressures?
"As far as getting out of the pressures, not so much. I did feel that their receivers did a great job of finding the open seams, finding where the weak spots of the defense were and they took advantage of it for sure."
Do you feel like that game gives you some pointers for facing some of the really good quarterbacks later on in the Mountain West schedule?
"Yeah, we definitely need to get pressure. As you saw in those first few drives, when we gave them all day he could just throw wherever he needed to throw and make whatever read he needed to make. So, a big point is that we need to get pressure, get a clock going in his head and make him stressed out when he's in the pocket. As far as the back end is concerned, we need to make our covers a little better and clean up the whole thing."
Looking ahead at Air Force and scouting them is probably different from any other opponent you'll face this year, do you agree with that?
"Yeah, they're a very disciplined team, as all of the military academies are, they're a great option team. Air force will play incredible assignment football. They don't have the biggest guys or the fastest guys, but they will find the breakdowns, wherever that might be. You just have to do your job and your assignment and that's kind of the key to handling their offense."
Was it a little disappointing in the fourth quarter when Utah did run the ball a little bit against you? Up until then they had to throw, so was it a little disappointing how they started to pound it?
"It's always kind of a gut check. We try to take pride in our run defense; we don't want anyone just running the ball on us. As soon as that fourth quarter hit that's what they went to and it worked for them, so it was disappointing. Those first downs they were getting with some of those runs, they weren't making any huge immense plays but it's demoralizing. You're trying to get out and get the ball to the offense and when they're getting those first downs consistently it does hurt a little bit."
What were the keys to the goal-line stand in the fourth quarter against Utah?
"It's just gut checking time. We knew they were just going to try and pound it up in there. Throughout that whole drive that's what they were doing so we just had to bow-up and we needed some people to make key plays, be sturdy in the front, and that's what we did and it worked out."
Looking at Air Force a little bit, what do you see from the running backs Hart and Lee?
"They're good, they are athletic, they have good vision and they're tough. Everyone that goes to those military academies, they're tough guys, you can't just hit them and expect them to wilt, they're going to come back for more and that's what it seemed like. They would run a good play and they would come back for more."
Can you see a real technique to how they do this with smaller guys to get edges or creases?
"They have that triple option with the dive, the quarterback and the pitch and you have to know who your man is. What they do extremely well is their offensive line. They're a little undersized, I think they're all about 255-260, but that gives them more speed so they can make those cut off blocks that open that lane up. They're great cut blockers so they knock you down and it kind of eliminates your assignment for a second and that's all they need is that split-second and they're going to break one. Their type of football is very consistent, they're not going to have huge 80 yard plays, but they're going to get five yards at a time and just drive it down the field. So, you have to set it up to where they're not comfortable: second-and-long and third-and-long. They're kind of on a schedule, as I like to say. They go on first down and get four yards, it's second-and-six, second-and-six goes to third-and-two and they get a first down. They keep that pace going the entire time so you have to break that to have a real good chance against them."
How much do you have to account for the quarterback? He only carried the ball two times against Colgate.
"I felt that Colgate was doing a good job of containing him. The person that had that job, I felt like was doing it, but he found the openings for the running backs to go. He would hold it a split second longer and they would think he was going to keep it, and he'd give it real quick. He's a threat, he's always going to be a threat, and he can make whatever read he needs, so you have to contain him. His good running ability is what gives them their yardage."
Is it harder to account for their passing game when you're playing run, run, run for most of the game?
"You get so used to filling your gap, doing your job and you're really getting up in it to stop the run and they sneak a guy behind you. That's how they get their big plays; they get those 20-30 yard passes off. The safeties and corners have to be back ready for that to happen and they have to have faith that the front seven will do their jobs and run. Everyone needs to do their job, and if someone doesn't they're going to find that hole and capitalize on it."
In the grand scheme of things, isn't this game more important that the Utah game was?
"That Utah one, that one hurt pretty good, but our goal is to compete for a Mountain West Championship and, as you said, in the grand scheme of things the Utah game won't really affect that much, it's the Mountain West play that's the most important. We've got to really come to play on those games and show up when we need to show up. The Utah game, it was a bummer, but we've got to move on, keep our heads up and keep pushing forward."
What does it mean to you to be on the precipice of the school's first Mountain West game and entering this new conference?
"It means a lot. The Mountain West is a bigger conference with more competition, so I feel we're stepping up, we're moving up the ranks as a college team, so it's a way that we can go and prove ourselves and show the nation that we're here to compete and do our best week in and week out."
Senior Wide Receiver Travis Van Leeuwen
Recapping the Utah game:
"Anytime you lose to an in-state rival like that it's a tough loss. Especially after beating them here last year, you want to go down there and beat them at their place, but they finished the game great, they played great and that's a great team. You have to learn from it and come back and prepare for the rest of the season and our next opponent, which is Air Force. I'm really looking forward to playing Air Force, they're a tough team. They looked really good against Colgate, especially in the second half. They opened up the run game in the second half after Colgate jumped on them. They stopped the pass and the run when they needed to. Anytime you play a team at their place it's always tough, but I'm excited to have the opportunity to play them there."
You went over the century mark in the last game. Is it hard to appreciate the game you had after a loss?
"Anytime you lose, regardless of your individual performance, it's tough because it's a team game. It's all 11 of us on the field as an offense, all 11 as a defense and everyone that's helped us get a look. The scout team, they did a great job of getting us a look and, from the coaching standpoint, it's tough when you lose. It's nice having individual accolades, but the most important thing is winning."
What do you see from the Air Force defense, especially the pass defense?
"They have a really tough defense. They fly around to the ball and they're very disciplined. After Colgate had a really good start, I felt like they caught on to Colgate and shut down anything they tried to do from the passing game and from the running game. I think we've got to really execute on them and jump out early on them because they like to control the clock too."
What was it like being on the field and seeing some of Chuckie Keeton's scrambles and getting out of those sacks?
"He had a heck of a game. He's one tough kid and he made some great throws out there. I couldn't believe some of the tackles he broke and got out of during the game. It just shows how hard he's worked and how much of a leader he is. He's going to have a great season for us."
What did you see out of Brandon Swindall?
"Brandon had an awesome game, he's a great counterpart to play with. He's big and tall, runs great routes, and has good hands and speed. I think it's going to be a fun season because Swindall is going to have a huge part in our success this year, as well as a few of our other receivers like Travis Reynolds and Bruce Natson as well. We have a lot of weapons at the receiver position and I'm excited to see how our season turns out."
Talk about how the wide receivers have developed this fall:
"There were a lot of question marks about us going into the season, but I knew my guys in that room. We've got a tough group of receivers and we've been working all off-season, putting in a lot of extra work, and I feel like this is one of the best receiving corps Utah State has had because we have so many weapons. They can't just take away one or two guys because we have three or four guys that can make plays. It's going to be a fun season playing with these guys."
Talk about the second half of the Utah game and what went wrong offensively:
"Utah did a really good job defensively stepping up and shutting down what was working for us. I felt like there were a few plays here and there where we could have made some big plays to change the game, but they got a little bit of momentum going and they were able to get the ball at the end and keep our offense off the field. As an offense, at the end of the game, we weren't able to execute on a few third downs that would have been big to keep the drive going. Like I said, we will learn from it and move onto Air Force."
Looking at Air Force, does the secondary look like one of the better parts of their team?
"They have really good corners. They're' disciplined, they play assignment football and they're not going to give up anything deep. They're really good in the run game too, so we have to do a good job of blocking them and really work on our craft and technique against them because they're really good in their zones as well. I think this week is a big week, I'm focused on our game plan and technique against those guys because they're going to be really tough corners to play against to open up Mountain West play."
Will Air Force play more zone than what we saw against Utah?
"Utah came out and played a lot of man on us in the first half and switched it up a little bit in the second half and played some zone and some man, but in the first half they ran almost straight man the whole half. I think Air Force will be a lot more zone than Utah was, but maybe they saw something that Utah did that they like and they might try something else, but I expect them to play a lot more zone than Utah did."
What's it like preparing for a conference game this early in the season?
"It's kind of neat. Usually you're playing non-conference games, but it's kind of nice opening up conference play right now because it gives you something to play for. You play for that Mountain West Championships and we open up against a great opponent and it's tough to play at their place, so it'll be fun to go into that atmosphere knowing it's the first conference game. It's going to be fun and I'm excited."
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