LOGAN, Utah -
Utah State football head coach Matt Wells, along with senior offensive tackle Kevin Whimpey and sophomore linebacker Nick Vigil, held a press conference Monday to recap the Tennessee game and preview its home opener against Idaho State. A complete transcript of Wells', Whimpey's and Vigil's remarks can be found below.
Head Coach Matt Wells
Recapping the Tennessee game:
"It's a very humbling defeat and very eye-opening for us as a program. It's something I haven't gone through here and something we're not planning on going through anymore. There are absolutely a lot of learning experiences for us, coaches included, that we can make adjustments on and get better at and we surely will."
"There were some good things out of it. I thought our corners played well for most of the game. Jalen (Davis), Daniel (Gray) and Rashard (Stewart) covered them up. They could have been tighter a couple of times, but they played well. I thought Nick Vigil had his best game since he's been an Aggie. The guy looked like he absolutely belonged on the field in that environment. I thought Austin Stephens played really well at center. In that environment and the fact that we were in shotgun for an extremely high number of plays, with 102,000 people there, he played well. Our tackles, Jake Simonich and Kevin Whimpey played well most of the game. There are some bright spots to build off of."
"There are a few of things that continue to stand out to me. That was the effort that a lot of kids had as the game wore on. You see things like on field goal blocks and kids' efforts on a long touchdown run, the disappointment on a touchdown you give up in the red zone. You see kids' effort and you say, `You know what, those kids didn't quit.' I was looking for stuff like that on the tape on the flight home. The way they acted in the locker room was very good, there wasn't a lot of finger pointing."
"It's our first dose of adversity. It's reality. We've got to rally around each other. Coaches and players understand that we're in this thing together. We need to find a way to make it better in each phase. I've got an extreme amount of confidence in our staff to do it, we did it last year. I have a lot of confidence in our leaders and our captains, we did it last year. We've got to recreate that recipe that we had last year to handle adversity. There will be more coming, there always is. How we react to it will say a lot about how our season goes. Unfortunately Kyler Fackrell is part of that adversity. He'll be out for the year. The disappointment is tough for me as a head coach to know what that kid went through to be where he's at. He's an extremely talented kid, but he's a great leader and a great teammate. It stinks. That's the brute nature of football a little bit. For those kids in there, it will be tough on them for a minute, especially the guys who are his best friends. We'll rally around him, wrap our arms around them and get him better. Torrey (Green) stepped in and played well. Part of that process of wrapping your arms around the defense is that everyone around them has to play a little bit better, just like we did on offense last year. We're going to have to play better on offense. You can't score seven points and win most games in football. We have to play better on special teams. We know what the recipe is, we have to recreate this thing. It may look a little different than last year, but it doesn't matter, we've got to find a way to win."
Previewing Idaho State:
"The first thing that jumps out to me is their quarterback. I like him, he's a really good player. He played well in Salt Lake last week. He's got a lot of moxie and made some really good throws early in the game. He does a nice job with the zone read. Their O-Line is coached really well, they're targeted well and did a nice job in the run game early on. We know what they're going to look like on defense. They are going to play out of an odd front, they're going to pressure with a mix of zone and man. They'll have things covered down. The biggest thing for us is focusing on us and getting ourselves better to come out and do whatever we can to get this taste out of our mouth for this next opponent in Idaho State this Saturday night."
On the Idaho State running backs:
"They ran the ball well. A lot of it was zone read. They ran a couple different schemes inside. They did a nice job covering people up with their O-Line. The quarterback did a good job of getting them in and out of some plays. They were very efficient. They did a nice job in their conference run late last year. Their program is very solid and they did a nice job against Utah."
On the depth at linebacker:
"It's taken a little bit of a hit now. You lose Alex Huerta for the year and you now you lose Kyler Fackrell. It's good that LT Filiaga is here. It's good that Torrey Green played well. Anthony Williams will play a little bit more now. Those guys are going to have to rally around and play well. I know both Vigil brothers will play well."
On the evaluation of the offensive line:
"I think we did some good things. We did some things that need to get corrected. There were a couple of things from a technique standpoint and a couple of executions. You can go back and blame it on poor communication, but you have to do that in a loud stadium, so that's not an excuse. The center played well, I thought both tackles played well. You get beat physically one snap, then on the third snap there's a miscommunication or a non-snap, however you want to put it, then again on the sixth snap, that's too many. You're not going to sustain any drives doing that. You talk about protecting the quarterback, but that's not just on those five guys. Those guys always take the brunt with the media and the fans. We know internally what the truth is. Some of those pressures were given up by running backs, some by tight ends. Some were given up by not being open down the field good enough at the receiver position and some of them may have even been the quarterback's issue. The reality of it is that it's not just those five. In some people's world it's only those five. I don't think there's a sense of panic. I told you it was going to be a work in progress. When Chuckie Keeton walks into that huddle, there are four new faces staring at him. That's different. We lost 100 and something career starts. I knew that, we all knew that. I've told you that I like the talent, but they haven't done it together. It's a work in progress and we'll be better, I'm confident in that. It was completely not like most things. It's never as bad or as good as it seems. From an O-Line standpoint, it's absolutely fixable."
On the reactions and emotions of the team after the loss:
"Quite honestly, there was some shock, some were ticked and some were embarrassed. I know I felt all three of those emotions. We haven't had this. We need to respond in a very positive manner. I thought this morning started off really good. In this building we're going to address it head on. We're not going to skirt around any issue. We're going to be very detailed. We're going to be very demanding without being demeaning. Those kids know it. They're going to be that way with each other. We're going to face this thing head on and get the ship righted."
On Chuckie Keeton and Joe Hill's first games back from knee injuries:
"I would say that they both did some really good things and maybe some things that were not their best execution. They'll play better in the next game."
On Kevin Whimpey:
"The kid epitomizes a lot of what this program is built on in is hard work and effort. He's got a blue-collar mentality. He does all of the extra things. He's a football junkie. He's a solid student and has already graduated. He's a young man who is a great husband and soon-to-be father. He just cares. His care factor is off the charts. He's a tremendous leader. He has led by example the last couple of years and now has really stepped up. To be a great leader you have to be a great player too and his play backs it up. If you continue to do that, to me you have a leadership platform. I'm very proud of Kevin."
On Chuckie Keeton's performance at Tennessee:
"It was good. Not great, not bad. He did some stuff really well. We have to clean up some eye control and footwork stuff. It seems like I say that a lot with him, even on the games where he does really well. That's the standard we've set for him and that we're going to continue to meet. It's not going to get lower. There were some balls I know he wishes he had back. There are probably some calls we wish we had back. He'll play better."
On Idaho State's defense:
"They're active up front. They're going to slant, they're going to angle, and they're going to pressure from the field and the boundary and play zone. They do a nice job. I think the linebackers do a good job. I'll get into some specifics as the week goes on and we get to know them a little bit better. This is a little quicker of a turnaround than we're used to."
How the short week might affect the team:
"On a normal week later in the year, it hurts a whole lot more. They played on Thursday night, so they have a Friday, Saturday and Sunday on us. That's a three-day head start. They're going off our Tennessee game which they weren't going to have until Monday. So from that standpoint, it's not a huge worry. They had three days to rest up and we're a day short on recovery, so that's maybe an advantage to them. They're going to game plan off one game plus our games last year. We're going to game plan off one game plus games last year. Later in the year though, a Thursday-Sunday game would be a little more of an advantage for that team."
On third down conversion concerns:
"My major concern is that there was too much third-and-long. We weren't very good on first downs, which leads to third-and-longs. I think over half of our third downs were seven or more yards. We weren't as good as we needed to be on third-and-medium. We were 0-of-1 on third-and-short, but the problem there is that we only had one third and short. You have to be better on first down production. That leads to third down challenges, which we struggled in."
On JoJo Natson's job on punt returns:
"You kick it short and high and you get fair catches. It's the same thing we did to them. I know it sounds funny, but that was one of the big, bright spots of the game for JoJo. That's the hardest job in college football, being a punt returner. Do it in the SEC with SEC guys coming down in front of 102,000 people with short and high punts. You've got your guys and they're guys running right at, it's loud and fast and furious. You know what, he had seven fair catches. It doesn't show up in the stats as very good, but let's go field some punts and we'll all struggle. It's hard. It was a great job by JoJo, but nobody will know it except for me and his mom."
Senior Offensive Tackle Kevin Whimpey
Recapping the Tennessee game:
"Obviously, it wasn't the game we wanted to have. We got out-executed on both sides of the ball. I think we need to come in with a better mental mindset. I think the coaches prepared us the right way to be able to go in there and be successful. We believed we'd go in there and be successful, but it wasn't our night. There are some things that we need to clean up. There is some good in the film as well as a lot of bad. Those things will get fixed as we get ready for this week. We're excited to get back to work, we're excited to come out and play in front of our home crowd and we're excited to get this team on track to play for and win the Mountain West Championship."
Previewing Idaho State:
"With Idaho State, they kind of play a three-down defense, a 3-2 box, kind of what we see out of our defense. They play five-technique defensive ends, sometimes they'll bump up into a four-technique, which is hat up on the offensive tackles. I think they play hard, they're nose guard is pretty good as is No. 46, their mike linebacker, Mitch Beckstead. They run to the ball, you can tell that the culture up there is starting to change. Their care factor is high, you can see it on film. They execute on offense and they have some good receivers. I was impressed watching them play Utah. Yes, the score was 56-14 or whatever it was, but they had two big special teams mistakes, and without those the game could have looked quite a bit different. I'm excited to play those guys, obviously I went to school there. It'll be fun to get back on the field and get this taste out of our mouths."
On how he sees that the culture has changed at Idaho State:
"The way that they play. Some teams that have been bad in the past stay bad because of their attitude and effort. I can see the attitude in the players just by the way they play and celebrate with each other. Even when they were down by so much to Utah, they were still giving effort. There was no quite that I saw and I think they work hard as a team regardless of the scoreboard."
On his experience at Idaho State:
"I'm grateful to Idaho State for giving me that semester scholarship and giving me the opportunity to get out on the field. That being said, the attitude was different when I was there. It was just guys playing for themselves, selfish play. Although I did have a lot of friendships with the guys on the team, it wasn't that team feeling like `lets go out there and get this win'. There was no real belief after the offense went down and scored on our defense."
On the good that came out of the Tennessee game:
"I think some of the young players played well. I think the offensive line handled the noise well. We were so close on a lot of plays, but close doesn't cut it. It wasn't our night, but the defense ran to the ball, played hard and was physical at the point of attack."
On how he evaluates the offensive lines performance:
"We'll take all the blame, it was all on us. With our offensive scheme, all 11 guys have to be executing at the same time. What I saw on film was a guy made a mistake here, another guy made a mistake here. We did have a lot of new guys playing, so you're going to get those first game mistakes hopefully out of the way by week two. I just think I saw a lot of small mistakes. There would be a wide receiver streaking down the field open, but maybe an offensive lineman missed a block or a running back missed a block or a tight end. Small things like that on every play starts to build up and you get behind the chains, resulting in the type of performance that we had."
On the communication:
"We could communicate, we could hear each other. I thought we did go into the game prepared, but sometimes when the lights come on you are bound to make some mistakes. No young guy has ever come in and had a perfect game to start. We expected some growing pains and they manifested themselves, but we will have them cleaned up this week and in weeks to come."
On having been beaten so badly for the first time in his career at Utah State:
"I use visualization before games and that was not anything close to what I saw happening on Sunday night. I though we were more prepared, I thought we were ready to execute, and I thought we were more physical and those things just didn't happen. The 38 to 7 loss is something that I've never dealt with at this program. It just gives me the resolve to want to do more for this group. All the captains and all the leaders will be doing more for our groups because we know that what we've been doing so far hasn't been good enough."
On the legacy he wants to leave:
"I believe that this can be a really good Utah State offensive line. I think we did run to the ball, we did have some good things that we put on film. I want to be an offensive line that pass protects and run blocks, be balanced. We can get out in space and cut the corners and allow our running backs to get up the field on screens. I just want to be known as a group that gives effort and executes, and we'll make that happen."
On if the athletes on Tennessee's defensive line or the play of the offensive line was more surprising:
"All the credit goes to Tennessee, they beat us 38-7. I don't think that they physically dominated us, I just think they out-executed us, they came ready to play."
On if Tennessee's athleticism or physicality surprised him at all:
"No, not really. They played base defense. We got pressure a couple of times, but they weren't a real pressuring team. We got base looks, looks that we've drilled over and over and over again in practice. Executing those looks in practice is one thing, but doing it in a game is another. I think it's good for guys to get their feet wet and learn what it actually takes to execute on game day."
On the offensive line rotations:
"We had a rotation going where Bill (Vavau) would go to right guard, Taani (Fisilau) would go out and Tyshon (Mosley) would come in. It was kind of a three-man rotation in the middle there. Four new guys by the end of the night played the guard spots. That was the plan going into the game though."
On how long it takes for new guys to get up to speed:
"I think that once you get into a game, take live reps and once there is no re-dos, when you get that into your head mentally, then you practice multiple reps with a whole different mindset. Everything that was bad this week can get fixed and we have the desire to get it fixed. We have the want to, we'll give the effort in practice and we'll take the coaching. I expect everything to be fixed this week."
On what he did after getting his first game action:
"For example, we're running basic inside zone, a run between the tackles. All week I know I'm blocking the end when the run is coming to me, but when the ball gets snapped in the game, you take the wrong footwork and the end beats you. Yes, you know what you're supposed to do but sometimes you need to get up to the speed of the game. Games and practices are two different things."
On if there is a moment with the new group of offensive lineman that he is looking for where he knows they've got it:
"Last year we had the desire and the want-to. We spent a ton of time in the film room and we spent a ton of time together working on chemistry. All that stuff we're doing this year and then some. The one thing that we don't have yet this year is in-game live reps. As those reps add up, look for our performance as a unit to improve."
On the demeanor of the team:
"The loss obviously still hurts and lingers in our minds, it's something that none of us are going to forget. Being beaten like that is a huge deal and is something that Aggie football is never going to stand for. It has also taught us and given us the resolve to practice harder and to pay attention to detail. We'll learn from the loss and definitely won't forget it. The team has a positive mentality moving forward and we know that we're going to accomplish what we need to before moving into conference play and competing for a Mountain West Championship."
On what home-openers are like:
"I love playing in Romney. I love the local support, even Aggies that come from far away. I love the game-time atmosphere. I love the "I believe" chant. I love our student section. I love the passion and emotion that everyone brings to the games. I'm proud to be an Aggie, so playing in Romney Stadium is an honor for me."
Sophomore Linebacker Nick Vigil
Recapping the Tennessee game:
"As far as the Tennessee game goes, obviously we're very disappointed by the outcome. It's been a while around here since we've lost and been dominated like that. As far as the defensive play, I feel like most of the time we had nine or 10 guys who were doing what they were supposed to be doing and then there were one or two guys out of position, which ended up hurting us. Third-downs in the second half kind of killed us on the drive coming out of halftime. I think they converted three or four third-down-and-shorts and prolonged the drive. I think some guys got tired at the end of the drive. Some good things, I think everyone played pretty hard, even when it kind of got out of hand at the end still. Guys were still running to the ball and giving a lot of effort, that was good to see."
Previewing the Idaho State game:
"As far as Idaho State goes, we haven't had an opportunity to go over film too much so far, we've been going over the Tennessee film trying to get some things corrected. From what I've watched so far they're pretty athletic. They've got some guys at receiver who will go up and get the ball. Their running back is quick and has good vision. Both running backs do, No. 31 and No. 1. Their quarterback throws a good ball. He makes good decisions and is mobile as well, he's somebody we're going to have to contain."
On some of the big things that were learned from the loss that need to be fixed:
"What we've learned is that we've got to pay more of an attention to detail. Just little things like knowing your assignments. We had a lot of blown assignments that really hurt us."
On his sack of Tennessee quarterback Justin Worley:
"It was just set up for me to come off the edge. The tight end blocked me and I was able to get his hands down and turn the corner."
On the injury to Kyler Fackrell and how the team will respond moving forward:
"It's hard see a guy, especially of his caliber, go through something like that since he is a guy that could potentially go to the NFL after this year. It's hard to see him go through that because he's a close friend. It hurts us defensively, as he's arguably our best defensive player, but it's an opportunity for some younger guys who haven't played that much to step up."
On Torrey Green coming in and filling in for Fackrell for a lot of the Tennessee game:
"He came in and did a good job. He had a few good pass rushes and he knew what he was doing the whole time, so it was good to see him get in there and not get caught up in the moment. He did a good job, we're going to need him to play well."
On his feelings on how the defense stacked up with Tennessee physically:
"I think physically we held up pretty well. They are big, strong and fast, but I feel physically against the run we did a good job of getting into our gaps and limiting big plays. That was encouraging to see."
On how the front-seven did making things tough for the quarterback:
"We weren't able to get into our pressures as much because the third-downs were shorter distances. I feel like a lot of the times we weren't able to bring as much pressure as we wanted to. That kind of left the defensive backs on an island, we weren't able to get to the quarterback as fast as we should. As a front-seven, we have to do a better job of getting to the quarterback and disrupting his timing."
On how exciting it is to play at home for the first time this season:
"It's always exciting to play here, especially for the opener. It's always packed and loud, and it's always great to have the support of the community. I love to see how into Aggie football they are and how much it's grown over the past few years. It's exciting to be able to play in front of the home crowd. Hopefully we do a little bit better than we did last week."
On the home-field advantage of Romney Stadium:
"I feel like it's an advantage to play here with how loud it gets. I think people come here and they don't realize how loud it actually gets in here. Our student section is probably second to none in the entire country. We don't get as many fans as some other teams, but with how loud it gets in here I think it effects teams."
On Idaho State's running backs:
"I watched a little bit of the Utah game and they played them really tough through the first quarter. Their offense was moving the ball up and down the field. They made a few mistakes, but their running backs looked really good. They look fast and athletic with good vision. We're going to have to contain those guys."
On the Idaho State receiving corps:
"They've got a few big guys. We're going to have to do a good job not letting them get behind us. We've got some young corners still, we're going to have to rely on them to challenge for the ball."
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