Sept. 3, 2012
LOGAN, Utah -
Utah State football head coach Gary Andersen, along with junior linebacker Zach Vigil and sophomore quarterback Chuckie Keeton, held a news conference Monday to talk about the upcoming in-state game versus Utah. A complete transcript of Andersen, Vigil and Keeton's remarks can be found below.
Head Coach Gary Andersen
Thoughts on upcoming week:
"We need a great week of preparation, obviously both teams are going to be excited, it is the second game of the year and it's an in-state rivalry. That is a little different but something we hopefully continue to get use to as we move forward and continue to play these games into the future. Utah is obviously a talented football team. They are consistent, they have a consistent winning tradition over the years, the expectations of their program is to obviously win a conference championship, win a lot of football games, get into bowl games and win bowl games. That is something they have been able to be consistent at doing for a number of years. It all starts with the quarterback on the offensive side of the football and it will be a battle of what I think are two very good quarterbacks, it will be exciting to watch those two be able to compete against each other. Defensively, there are a lot of similarities with schemes on both sides. Over the years we have changed a little bit, Utah hasn't changed a lot, but we have changed a few things here and there, and they have tweaked their system to what is best for their personnel. Everyone talks about Star (Lotulelei) and you can talk about Star as long as you want. He is a tremendous football player, he is tough, he is physical, and he is a first round draft pick without question. I think a lot of people forget about the rest of those kids that are on that defense. (Lotulelei) is surrounded by some very talented young men that play within a good scheme and are well coached. That is always a tremendous challenge when you play Utah, to deal with that defense, and year in and year out, it has been kind of the mainstay if you will of that program. Offensively they have a lot of playmakers, John White is a tremendous back, great vision, he is tough and he cuts on a dime. I say that about a lot of backs, but when you watch him he can really stick his foot and go sideways and then get up to full speed in a couple of steps. All you have to do is watch what he did last year and you don't really have to say anything about him other than what he did last year in the Pac-12 is very impressive. He seems like a great young man, he has good ball security and is a quality back. It will be Devonte (Christopher) on the outside, I have known him for long time, seems like he has been there for 20 years at Utah, but he is a very good player. They are a solid football team and we are excited about the opportunity to prepare and see how it goes on Friday. It is a great opportunity for our team and everybody that is an Aggie, I am sure they will be excited also."
Talk about how this could possibly be the last game played here in Logan between these two teams:
"I don't really worry about things that I cannot control and I am not going to control that. No one has asked me if they should play this game in the future, I hope that they do, it is an important game for us and we want to play the in-state games. I believe that all of the coaches involved would like to play this game, but you know there is a lot of thing that control that other than the coaches, so we will see. I hope that it will stay a game that we can play consistently, but I have said it a bunch of times, I don't think we a program that it has to be a two for one. That is my opinion and I am sticking to it. If we want to play, we should play a one for one and if they don't believe that, well that is fine, but that is what I believe."
Does that hold true for BYU as well?
"Absolutely. It is a great opportunity to be on national television when we play these games, there is no question about it. BYU has a little bit different of a tweak to it because it is a Friday night thing, but do I still say we should be a one for one? I think the way that we have played against BYU over the last three years states a case for a game that people are going to want to watch. Hopefully we can make it be that way with Utah. You know, we have played Utah one time and they beat us pretty good down at their place. So we will see if we can make it be a competitive game. Competitive games create rivalries, just because they are on your schedule does not mean that it is a rivalry. It has to be a competitive game and I can't sit back right now and say year one was a real competitive game at Utah. We hung in there, but it was 31-16 or something. That is not a real competitive football game to me. You have got to play well to make that a true rivalry."
What did the video study teach you that you didn't already know after the Southern Utah game?
"A lot of the same thoughts, ball security on special teams is an issue. We have got to be able to catch punts, we have got to be able to not let a free hitter come down the middle of the field on a kickoff and hit our guy with a 40-yard sprint. It is hard to hold on to a football when you get someone running straight ahead and they hit you running as fast as they can. I don't really put that on Chuck (Jacobs), I really put that on the young man that missed his block. We need to be better with our ball security. Our short yardage offense needs to improve. If we need a yard, we need to be able to run a yard and get that. It will be tested right in those A gaps and B gaps this week, if you want to run down hill on Utah you better get someone knocked off the ball, which is a hard task a lot of the times. We need to improve in that area. Defensively, we were hand on in the backfield with the defensive backs and that needs to improve. Our overall total of penalties needs to improve. I sat back and I looked at them, the two holding penalties I am okay with those, doesn't matter what I think, but I will just say that I am okay with those. That is how we play football. Three of the pass interferences were not the way we need to play the ball in the air. We need to improve in that area. There are a couple of those that are tough calls also, but again they are called. We won't coach those any different. The personal foul was not who we are and not who we should be. So we can improve in that area and we will."
Are these things that show how young your team is?
"I said it after the game, I will pin a couple of those penalties on me, especially the last drive. Putting a young man in a position to not be able to fulfill his job without grabbing, that is the way it goes, we should have been in a different call in a different situation. I can't really say youth forced us or forced those penalties upon us. I thought that they handled the first game well, and I hope that continues with the youth of the program. There were some kids that I have talked to personally after the game, who can handle it better. There is no better way to learn how to handle situations than by being in that situation. So hopefully we handle that better this week and certain young men play better. We are going to be youthful throughout the year."
Talk about your relationship with Star (Lotulelei), if it all:
"I know Star from way back when, mostly when he was back in high school when he was preparing to finish his high school career and I thought he was a tremendous player then. I haven't talked to Star except for through the recruiting process and obviously he didn't choose us at the end. I know the family, I know him as a young man, and I kind of know him from a distance over the last several years. I'm proud of him, he has come a long ways since high school and the way that he carries himself physically, the way that he carries himself mentally on the field. He will be a great player in college this year and he will be a great pro in my opinion, and I say that not because of his ability, but by the way he appears to carry himself. Obviously, I have talked to his position coach Chad (Kauha'aha'a), who is a good friend and an ex-coach of mine. We talk a lot and Chad has nothing but good things to say about him, so he is a quality young man."
Are Utah's skill guys legitimate Pac-12 quality players?
"Yeah, I would say. They have got tremendous speed at the wide receiver position. Obviously the running back is proven and has done a great job. The tight ends, (Jake) Murphy had a very good game and he is another great kid, a Pac-12 tight end from his first game performance. In the back end on defense, obviously they are missing (Brian) Blechen who is a great player, but the young man that stepped in there is playing well. The corners and the safeties are skilled. Their linebackers run very well and are tough hard-nosed kids. They are quality from top to bottom as you watch them on film."
How is Adam Kennedy doing?
"He is good. If needed, I think Adam will be ready to play on Friday night."
What's your biggest concern going into the Utah game?
"When you sit back and you watch them, their offensive line is gigantic. They did a nice job of controlling the line of scrimmage in the (Northern Colorado) game and their defensive line is what we have already talked about. So probably being able to hold up in those situations. A lot of times if you cannot hold up in those situations in the trenches, it forces you to become dramatic in the back end. Whether that is on offense or on defense, and that can lead to dramatic things; sometimes good, sometimes bad. That would probably be my number one concern, is the ability to hold up snap after snap in the trenches. We have made dramatic improvement, I believe in our guys. It is going to be exciting to watch them match up against some very good players."
There were times when Sorensen had nowhere to throw on Thursday night. Was the coverage really that good?
"Yes, I think that the mix was great. I thought that Dave (Aranda) and the staff did a great job of presenting a game plan to the kids and they executed in the back end, if it was a blitz or a simple rush three and drop eight into coverage, I thought that the kids for the most part were in the right spots. We were able to confuse his first read and really try to take that away from him. We also were able, we didn't come out with a lot of sacks, but we able to force him to throw a lot of balls away and we were able to take away the A gap and B gap windows against him. I thought that was of the utmost importance in the throw game, and that credit goes to the kids, the executed and did a nice job."
What you are looking forward to the most in this upcoming game against Utah?
"For me, again to see how a young team will react to a nationally televised game, a packed house, a Pac-12 opponent and all of those rolled up into one to see how this team will handle that atmosphere and handle adversity. You can say what you want, but the last game there was not a whole lot of adversity. We took the ball and we were up 21-0 and the adversity that did hit us was not a big time adversity at that point as far as the scoreboard goes. I am sure this game will not go like that and we will have some good and some bad. How we can handle the good and how we can handle the bad will be a big statement for where we are as a football team against a quality opponent."
How was the tight end blocking against Southern Utah?
"I thought that it was good. Without D.J. (Tialavea) that is obviously a big hole to fill, but I felt like Kellen (Bartlett) came in and did some good things. At the end of the game we graded those kids out and I believe he was either a winner or a champion. Keegan (Andersen) graded out as a winner. Brad Theurer was in that mix also, so I felt like it was more than adequate. There is always room for improvement but it was a positive in game one. We will get D.J. (Tialavea) back this week so that is a good thing."
Junior Linebacker Zach Vigil
Opening statement on playing Utah:
"We're excited to be playing Utah, they look like a good program. It's a big in-state rival, it's going to be packed, sold out. I personally have a lot of family coming, they're all really excited about it."
Was Utah a school you had a chance to attend?
"It really wasn't an option for me. When I played at Clearfield, I wasn't highly recruited at all. In fact, I was a walk-on up here and I earned my scholarship in January. When I heard coach (Kevin) Clune, who was recruiting me when he was at Weber State, came up here I decided that I would rather play football up here at Utah State. So I followed him up here and been working ever since, got a scholarship and I am excited to be here and we are excited for the season."
How did the defense play in this first game?
"We played good. We did what we wanted to do, flying around. We made a lot of mistakes that we are working on fixing, with our techniques and our reads. Utah is a good program and if we mess up, they are going to capitalize and we're going to do the same to them if they mess up."
What makes John White so good?
"John White is a good back. He is tough and physical, a slash runner. He is a smaller type back, but he is strong. He reminds me a lot of Joe Hill, our running back, he is going to put his head down and run through you if he has to. He is a key player that we have to stop if we are going to win the game."
After looking at Utah on film, what is your biggest concern from a defensive standpoint?
"From a defensive stand point, I don't have a concern. If we all execute and do what we have been coached to do, we're going to win the ball game."
What would a win against Utah mean for the program?
"That is huge for this team. The biggest thing that I have noticed from being here from last year's team is the mentality. You guys all watched the games last year. We would get up in a game and everybody would hold their breath in the fourth quarter like 'what is going to happen now?' This year we don't have that mentality at all. It's we're going to win the ball game."
What make Jordan Wynn good?
"Jordan Wynn is a good quarterback. The scheme for them is to set him up for success. He is going to make good throws; he's a smart quarterback and a good player. Like I said, Utah is a solid program and they are going to come in here prepared just like we are going to go out there prepared."
On Jordan Wynn throwing an interception on one of his first deep passes:
"I am not worried about throwing the long ball, because that is really not my deal, but our defensive backs are ready to play him. They are going to cover down and do what they need to do in their zone coverage. I wouldn't say that he has taken a lot of shots. He is going to take the shots that he knows he can throw."
Sophomore Quarterback Chuckie Keeton
Opening statement on playing Utah:
"This game, this is a big game. This is going to be my first year ever playing against Utah. I have heard how important of a game this is; it's a lot of pride on the line. A lot of my classmates, a lot of my teammates are from the Salt Lake area, so they talk to me about it all the time. 'Hey, are you guys going to beat Utah?' 'This is going to be a big game.' Just taking that in, it is a little more preparation of course, but just knowing the tradition."
Talk about the way it was going into the first game a year ago and then this year?
"My personal feelings, it was the same thing. We came and competed. That is not only with my position group, but us as a whole team. Last year was Auburn, which had at the time, won the National Championship, so we knew we just had a big name to go against first of all. Our approach playing against Auburn and playing against Southern Utah was really not that big of a difference. We still to come out and execute, we had to get into the film room and watch a lot of tape to just prepare against them because we hadn't played them last year. Really you can't think of any game as different, you have to treat each opponent as the same caliber and let the cards fall where they may."
What is it going to take for you to lift your team to victory in a game where people expect it to be close?
"It really is a team game, that is the biggest thing. As long as we stay true to what we do and we just go through all of our assignments and know what we have to do in each situation, I feel like we will come out with more wins than we did last year. Especially in close games scenarios like we had last year."
When you look at video of Utah, what do you see?
"I see some physical kids. A lot of them have very good motors. One of their defensive lineman, Star (Lotulelei) is one of the guys that stands out the most just because once again, he is a big name, he has made a name for himself as being one of the top defensive lineman in the nation. That is definitely one thing we have to look at, but we can't overlook the rest of the defense. We just have to play our football, we have to be physical up front and we have to play smart throughout the entire game."
Is there any unit from a year ago that this Utah team reminds you of?
"I would have to say Fresno State, just because it's a good defensive line. That is the biggest thing and their backers right behind flow to the ball very well. That is one thing that we have to game plan around. We know coming into this game that there defense, being as good as it is, it's going to be a challenge. I think that if we stay with what we do and game plan well, we'll have good success."
Do you feel like you will be able to attack their secondary like you did to SUU?
"I really hope so, but like I said, we are still in the very early stages of our game planning, we'll see. Just looking at more film of them, we'll kind of know what spots we need to attack out of the secondary or maybe just the middle linebackers or the linebackers in general. Just getting towards the end of the week, we will really start to figure that out."
Utah is not quite as young on the corners as SUU, does that make a big difference to you?
"It kind of does, but they still have to adjust to what we do as well. We ran a little bit of the pace in our first game. We actually caught Southern Utah on one of the Joe Hill touchdown runs in an up-tempo type of play. When we run those types of plays, the defense secondary has to adjust to where we are, what personnel is on the field and just where we are on the field. When that comes in, they have to communicate a lot. I know their safety is a sophomore as well, because he came from the Houston area. I'm not 100 percent sure that they have seen the type of football that we play as far as speed and all of that. So, that's definitely going to be something that we are going to try and use."
Was there a point in the game where somebody said, 'Let's get the ball to Matt Austin more often?'
"No. I mean Matt got a few more balls thrown his way in the second half, but that is just reacting to what Southern Utah did. They did change up a lot of things that they did last year, as far as trends and tendencies. That is one thing that we have to do. We have to adjust just like they do."
On facing Utah's defensive line:
"It is definitely going to be fun to do. I mean, football is a game of fun. You want to play against some of the best guys and with that, it is the defensive line of Utah. If we do well then we are excited and if we don't, then we have to adjust and get back on page. I think our offensive line is going to have a fun time. Whether it is just being in the grind or having success against them."
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