LOGAN, Utah -
Utah State head football coach Matt Wells, along with junior offensive lineman Roman Andrus and senior defensive end Ian Togiai, held a press conference Monday to recap the Aggies' game at Wisconsin and preview their upcoming home-opener against Idaho State this Thursday night. A complete transcript of the press conference can be found below.
Head Coach Matt Wells
On recapping the Wisconsin game and previewing Idaho State:
"We have Idaho State Thursday night, our home opener, and we're excited to get back on the field and find a way to get a win in front of our home crowd. I know it will be a great crowd and a great atmosphere, so we are happy about that. We have one less day to prepare than they do, so it was sped up over the weekend. I think it is a good thing to get back on the field. It is also a bad thing because, as a coach, you want another day or two of practice to try to fix some mistakes and correct some stuff from the game on Friday night. A lot of good came out of the early part of the game in terms of how we played defensively. You saw us setting edges, you saw us being very gap sound and making open-field tackles. You flip on the tape after halftime and right out of the gate you have two young players that don't do one assignment right, they don't do one technique right, and we miss an open-field tackle. Three plays later, it is a touchdown.
"We struggled on offense in the third quarter just to get a first down and move the ball. Getting behind the chains, you have to be able to run the ball. We did not do either one of those, and then you get behind and make some silly mistakes. Then it got out of hand. It is a hard way to learn from a loss in terms of that. Whether it was young kids or it was veterans or coaches, we all have to learn and make those corrections, and know who we are. Then, this week is all about us. This is about what we do, what we are becoming on defense and what we are becoming on offense in terms of our personnel, who we really are and what we do best. I think that is the key for us as coaches in these next few weeks here in September. We have to do that quickly."
On whether he leans toward the first-half team or the second-half team as whom they really are:
"Right now, we're both. I said that right after the game. I want to be the first-half team, but the reality says you're both in that we're good enough to go toe-to-toe with Wisconsin for that amount of time, but we're also immature enough, inexperienced enough and not good enough to make the mistakes that we made and think you're going to stay in a game. That has to be righted and corrected. We have to play like the first half for a longer amount of the game."
On if the offense not playing much in the second quarter slowed them down in the third quarter:
"That's correct. I do not think that is an excuse for the third quarter, though, because we are always going to have a 20-minute halftime. That is when momentum started to change for the game. The penalty was an early part of that, but you had, I think, five third downs where we did not get off the field. They ranged from third-and-1 to third-and-long. The penalty was a third-down incompletion and it gave them an automatic first down. There were five times in that series that we did not get off the field on defense. That does not have anything to do with the offense, but I think the whole momentum-changer in the game was that series. Then, the series right before halftime, we threw a quick game and have a drop. Those things are going to happen. I thought the three plays after that interception where outstanding. To have them obtain the ball down in the red zone immediately, and the defense has a three-and-out stand to cause a field goal, was huge. But, we didn't do anything in the third quarter to even build off that."
On how a receiver crouching puts the defender in a tough position on targeting calls:
"It's hard because you're lowering your target range. Basically, the kid lowered his body based on the ball being thrown low and inside. It was helmet-to-helmet. I do not think there's any question. There was not any thrusting, there was not any crown. Yes, to answer the question, I would like to see the ejection taken off, but I understand the penalty. I said this morning on the radio, I think targeting, even though it went against us this time, has been very good for our game. It has been good for football. You are seeing less of it. It is helping concussions and it is helping injuries. It has helped the game."
On what he sees in Idaho State that concerns him:
"The first thing you see on defense is the two big three techniques are huge, big guys that like to bull rush and get knocked back. They have two really good outside linebackers. The two corners have good experience in terms of playing last year, and those are their veterans. They have a big, strong-arm quarterback. And then Ty Flanagan kid is shifty. We are going to have to bottle him up quickly. I think, as always, stopping the run is important, but that kid can get out and create a little damage if he gets out in the open field."
On whether the Bengals having former defensive graduate assistant Spencer Toone will mean them having a similar defense to the Aggies:
"A little bit. There will be some elements of it. Spencer is an excellent coach and a great person, dad and husband. He was here on our staff in 2012 when I was the offensive coordinator. There are some elements of our defense that you can see come out in terms of their structure and stuff, but he does a nice job. To me, it is not about him. It's not about us as coaches, it's about the players."
On how Idaho State's quarterback's experience showed in their game against Western Oregon:
"His experience showed because he stayed calm. They were down at halftime and then scored to take the lead, 9-6, in the third quarter. They extended the lead late in the third and in the fourth quarter, and that experience showed through for him. That is what you would expect in a veteran quarterback, or a person that has played many snaps just like he has. He did a nice job managing that game and really playing well and extending that lead."
On how the offensive line played:
"After the game I said they played fairly well, and after reviewing the tape, I still stand on that. I think they did play well. They are not there yet. They have not arrived yet. They did not win the game for us. But, when you look at it and all five of them didn't play a snap for us last year, and two of them didn't even play O-line last year, I think the work that's been done over an offseason and spring ball and recruiting is on track right now. That was a positive thing we took out of the game. Wisconsin has an active, very big and strong defensive line. There is a lot of room to improve for those guys, especially in terms of communication and playing together, which is so much of playing on the O-line. They played with a little bit of physicalness and some nastiness, and they played together. We rotated some people in there to get some experience at guard. Both Ty Shaw and Demytrick Ali'ifua both played. We'll continue to do that, as well, and Preston Brooksby will play some at tackle."
On any sort of updates on the injuries to Dax Raymond, Justus Te'i and Chase Christiansen:
"Chase just had cramps. Chase is fine, he is back. If they are not season ending, I am not going to talk about them. Those people were all game-time decisions, and they are day-to-day just like they were last week. They are in the same boat this week. Tonny Lindsey Jr. will be out for a little while. Again, if it's season-ending, we'll talk about it, but he'll be out for a couple weeks here."
On which players stood out with their consistency during the Wisconsin game:
"Dallin Leavitt had a good game. He played with emotion. He played well and tackled in space. Adewale Adeoye played good on the D-line, and he is going to play more. We already mentioned the five O-linemen as a group because that is somewhat how you have to mention those guys. You know, Carson Terrell flashed at times, a true freshman tight end, and did some nice things. LaJuan Hunt was very solid. Louy Compton made some plays, he showed up. He can rush the passer. He changes the game for us a little bit in terms of the pass rush. You look at Suli Tamaivena, he played well. He has a knack. He's very natural with some stuff. When he learns to play within the scheme and play within our defense and what we are doing, he will make more plays. He's a talented player."
On his opinion of Kent Myers' play as a former quarterback himself:
"I would say he just played okay. It is critical because here is the thing: Did we win the game? So much of playing quarterback is raising the play of the guys around you and playing well on offense. I thought at times Kent played well. And then there were a couple decisions I didn't like. Both picks; we'll live with the pick out of the hands and off the helmet. He can't make those decisions. He knows that, and we all know that. Those decisions are unacceptable for any quarterback. We have to make better decisions there. There were a couple of other passes I am sure he wishes he could have back and be a little more accurate. You take those out of that game and add a couple plays I wish we would have made earlier, and I think he probably plays a pretty good game. It is a fine line for him. Being in this offense, you'll see continued growth with him the next few weeks."
On if he considered giving Kent Myers a break at the end of the game:
"I did consider it, and we ended up staying with him to get another series because things weren't going very well and we wanted to see if he could finish with a little momentum and a little bit of success, to be blunt."
On if he feels that even though five of the 14 returning starters started the game that the best players played:
"I do. I still do. We could sit here and say I'm just going to play a veteran because he has a junior or senior by his name and not play the better player. Then I get different questions about why didn't you play better instead of why are you inexperienced. It's just different things to talk about. The best players are playing right now, and we're going to play them. There were a lot of first-time starters. A lot of those guys, 24 of them, played their first game for the Utah State Aggies. That wasn't a rep or two on special teams. That was significant reps on offense and defense. We have to grow them up, we have to get them better and get them better in a hurry because we have a big game on Thursday night."
Junior Offensive Lineman Roman Andrus
On recapping fall camp and previewing the Wisconsin game:
"From an offensive standpoint, we came out very strong. In the first quarter, we got points on the board early in the game. In the second quarter, we started having some key turnovers that really kind of put us in a hole and it makes it tough for the defense to keep up those stops when we don't drive as well as we're capable of. In the third and fourth quarters, we struggled to move the ball and we, obviously, saw a lot of things we can improve on."
On Idaho State's defense:
"When it comes to Idaho State, we've already started watching some film on them from a defensive standpoint. They do a lot of things very similar that our defense does, so we've been kind of going against the looks since spring ball and all fall camp. We will be very well prepared for them, and looking forward to it and looking forward to putting the Wisconsin game behind us, learning what we need to and moving on."
On if the offense had it too easy, too fast against Wisconsin:
"I don't think it was too easy, too fast. We came out very strong, we came out with a lot of energy. I have to give credit to Wisconsin's defense, they're a good team. But, we did a lot of things that didn't really help ourselves out. We put ourselves in that hole and it's hard to get yourself out of that."
On building off of allowing only one sack against Wisconsin:
"There's always room to improve. Obviously, it was the first start for all five us on the offensive line. We can still be more disciplined; we can still give more time to Kent (Myers) and make him feel a little more comfortable in the pocket." On the mood of the team: "We're just getting going. Definitely, we're not okay with a loss by any means, but we still have a very high energy. We are a special team this year and, if anything, it helped us come together more and we're more excited to get back out there."
On how the offensive line came together:
"It's definitely been a work in progress. I was a defensive lineman and I had been since high school. Coach (Steve) Farmer's really great at teaching me technique. When I first started he actually had me playing left guard, which was great, in spring ball. So, I played left guard for a little bit and that kind of gave me a basis and helped me ease into it and gain a better understanding. We've been switching a lot of guys around, too. Rob Castaneda is playing right tackle a little bit, so we've been playing with it. It was definitely a work in progress to find how we could all fit together and be the most productive. I feel that we've found that."
On when he moved to left tackle:
"It was maybe a week and a half into spring ball. Coach Farmer called me into his office and he said, `Hey, we want to move you to left tackle.' I still felt like I didn't really have a grasp on the offense, but a lot of the older guys were really great, too, in terms of helping me and teaching me how to play tackle after just barely kind of getting a handle at left guard."
On how he was recruited to play on the offensive line:
"I haven't played offensive line since Pop Warner, so it's a totally different game when you get to this level. I don't really consider that I had any real offensive experience before coming here. When I was at Snow College, coach Farmer was very upfront and told me he thought I had a lot of potential on the offensive line and I bought into it. I had a couple other people also guide me along the way, and they took me out and worked with me a little bit. After the season at Snow - I played D-line all at Snow - the offensive line coach there, Rafe Maughan, worked with me every single day for about a month after the season, kind of teaching me just the very, very basics of it when I felt like this was something I wanted to do and make this transition. He was a big help. Coach Farmer has also been really great staying after practice whenever I want, to help me work on technique, watching extra film. So, it's all been very helpful in making the transition, which is not a super easy thing to do."
On if Utah State was the only one to suggest the transition:
"The Aggies were the only ones that were looking at me seriously for offensive line, for sure. They were the ones that put the idea in my head and I just went with it and I feel good about it, too."
On if it helped to have played on the defensive line and now the offensive line:
"Absolutely. I was a rushing end in high school and then moved to tackle as I got a little bit bigger, so I know what worked against me when I was playing defensive line. I've picked up a couple of those things and it's definitely helped me overcome the learning gap. What I lack in experience, I can make up for with knowing what's going through a defensive lineman's head, reading certain cues and stuff like that."
On Idaho State's defense against Western Oregon:
"You have to get them credit, right? I'm sure we'll get a better feel for them when we see them on the field Thursday, but for first impressions, this isn't a game that we're going to take lightly. We're not going to go into any game with the wrong attitude. We're treating this like any other game. We're hungry for a win after last week and looking forward to it a lot. Everyone's really, really up."
On Idaho State's size:
"They're big guys, we saw that. But, coach (David) Yost and coach Farmer have us really well prepared to keep a high-tempo offense, which if you're not prepared for, it's going to get you. We will have that going for us. Even if we slowed the offense down, we have some tough guys up front and next to me, so we'll be able to handle it."
On if he's been involved in a game with an outcome like Wisconsin's:
"It was definitely a once-in-a-lifetime experience, especially as my first collegiate start playing in front of 76,000 people, playing in that kind of atmosphere. Even though the crowd was chanting against us, I just felt the energy and was feeding off it. It's definitely a bummer what happened, there's no doubt about it, but it was a neat experience."
Senior Defensive End Ian Togiai
On the Wisconsin game:
"As far as the defense played, we were prepared mentally and physically. Our mindset was there, our focus was there and we came out with a lot of juice in the first half, but we struggled to keep that juice going in the second half. Little things like our gap assignments and technique were going down in the second half, but mentally, our guys were still there. We just need to clean up a lot of the little things and we'll be good to go. Like I said, our mental focus was there, none of our guys gave up, and we just kept working and fighting together. We're actually hungry for a win, we're ready to go."
On the similarities to the situation when the team lost to Tennessee in 2014:
"Our culture here is no matter what happens, we're still going to move forward. It has always been there since I came here as a freshman. Regarding the teams, we do not look down on anyone, and we do not look up to anyone. We try to keep them on the same level. We'll prepare for any team the same, no matter how big or small the team will be."
On if he took some encouragement from the Wisconsin game:
"Oh yeah, just the vibe of our team. We have a special team this year. As I said, we didn't give up even though the score looked that way. I feel something special this year that I didn't feel last year, and our guys are hungry. We are trying to get better. I'm excited to see how we do this year and how we prepare for our next opponent."
On if a lot of players played against Wisconsin:
"We rotate a lot on our defensive line. We have a lot of inexperience, but I was proud of the way our D-line played. Me, (Christopher) `Unga, and G-Mac (Gasetoto) Schuster, were the only ones that really played last year, so I was a little worried to see how the new guys would do, but I'm proud of those guys because they really stepped up and it seemed like they knew what they were doing and seemed like they weren't inexperienced players."
On redshirt freshman nose guard Ritisoni Fata and sophomore defensive end Jacoby Wildman:
"I'm proud of those guys, they really stepped up. Physically and mentally, they were preparing themselves and they got ready watching extra film, doing little drills after practice or before practice as a group together, as a D-line. You could tell they really wanted to get better and it showed in the first half."
On Idaho State's offense this year:
"I know we're not looking down on them. I know they play hard, and they almost beat Oregon State last year. We are not looking at them any different than we looked at Wisconsin. We're getting ready for a big game and we're ready to play."
On Idaho State having a balanced offense:
"They actually run the ball really hard. Their running back, even though there will be defenders around him, he will just keep going. So, we plan on just swarming to the ball as our game plan every week and seeing what we could do."
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