Sept. 9, 2013
LOGAN, Utah - Utah State football head coach Matt Wells held a news conference Monday to recap the Air Force game and preview its Homecoming game against Weber State. A complete transcript of Wells' remarks can be found below.
Head Coach Matt Wells
Recapping the Air Force game:
"Recapping from the Air Force week, I was really proud of the way our kids responded. I thought they had a good week of practice and really focused on the task at hand and on the schemes of the offense and defense of the Air Force Academy. It was big week for us from a mental standpoint and I thought they handled it well and did what we asked them to do coming right out of the gate. They started fast on both sides of the ball, so that was good, and consequently they started the second half really fast. I was proud of them, there was a lot of good individual performance, but I think after you review everything the bottom line is the outstanding team effort in all three phases. We made plays in all three phases and there were some plays in the third quarter that I think flipped the momentum and made the victory inevitable. It was a third down stop on defense, we shut down a fake punt and then three plays later throw a touchdown pass to Joe Hill. It was a big sequence of events right there for us."
Previewing Weber State:
"Looking on to Weber (State), I think the biggest thing for us this weekend is that we've identified some things in all three phases that need to improve on. We've addressed those with the young men (Monday morning) and we'll continue to hit them this week. I think it's all about who we are and what we do, that's big for me this week that we move on and improve as a team in all three phases of our team. We all know of what's gone on in the landscape of football these last two weeks, as you we go back and look at it. That's got our guy's attention. (Weber State) will come in and play very, very hard, so it'll be up to us to match that intensity that we know they're going to bring to Romney Stadium."
What are you looking at in the secondary to improve?
"I think you've just got to make sure you're in the right place at the right time. Some of those (plays at Air Force), they were out of position. Some of those were getting caught up in the run position keys of an option offense, which is exactly what that offense is designed to do, and knowing how difficult it can be from the back end because you're trying to trick them from their eye control and give them false keys in different areas. They got us a few times and we got them a whole bunch too, upfront. That needs to be shored up, we need to be a little bit tighter back there and those guys will continue to improve there."
Is that technique with pass interference? Is that something they've got to improve on in their technique of covering?
"I think in some ways there is. The thing is they've got to shadow them and they've got to lock them down. They're going to be confident and they're going to be physical at the point of attack. You've got to understand when the ball is in the air and how and when to play it. I'm certain that we'll get it cleaned up and we'll be fine. There have been a couple of calls that have been made that extended drives and it's magnified when it extends drives, especially on third down."
You want your guys to play physically so pass interference is going to be part of the game, right?
"Yeah, aggressive penalties in nature, you're not going to be okay with, but you'll be able to live with them a little bit more. It's administrative, it's jumping offside on fourth-down that can't happen, especially when the entire sideline is screaming hard count. Administrative penalties, pre-snap penalties, undisciplined personal fouls and extra-curricular stuff, I think you can control all that stuff. On a pass protection you're going to have a holding call on the back end sometimes and you're going to live with that to be an aggressive team."
Any concerns about guys losing focus or looking ahead (to USC) too much in this game?
"Absolutely not. All you've got to do is flip on SportsCenter any day for two straight weeks. We've got Weber State Saturday, and we're worried about us and what we do. I don't have any concerns on that."
You used a lot more running backs at Air Force. How do you feel about the way they performed?
"That was partly by design. We wanted to get Joey DeMartino involved a little bit more and we got Robert Marshall involved. We played a little bit more two-back personnel, so we did some stuff that allowed us to do that. I thought Joey DeMartino played really, really well, one of the better games he's had since he's been here. You look up and he's running down on seven kickoffs, he starts on punt team, he starts on punt return and he starts on kickoff return. He starts on all four and he played 30 something snaps on offense, so he had 50-60 plays in the game. I'm really proud of him from an unselfish standpoint. He was very productive, he ran behind his pads a couple of times and you saw what he can do. I was proud of Robert. He came in on some two-back stuff and ran down hill, and did a nice job on the perimeter blocking a little bit. And I thought Joe (Hill) played a solid game, probably not real flashy, but solid game and made a great catch in the end zone on a touchdown catch."
Any other guys a little bit down the depth chart that got some time at Air Force that you saw nice things from?
"It's nice to see Ronald Butler get his first catch and that's a touchdown. Shaan Johnson gets his first career catch. Jake Simonich is a redshirt freshman offensive lineman that saw his first significant playing time. Bill Vavau played 30-something snaps on the O-line at guard and tackle. Sini (Tauauve'a) did a real good job at guard. So, we had a lot of guys that got a lot of playing time. I was proud of Nick Vigil on defense. I thought Nick played really well. Ricky Ali'ifua is a true freshman D-lineman who had a really good game. If I'm pointing out D-linemen, the three that did really well were Ricky (Ali'ifua), Paul (Piukala) and A.J. (Pataiali'i). Those were the three guys that set the tone. Those three guys are a huge part of the reason why Zach (Vigil) and Jake (Doughty) played so well. When you're playing an option offense you've got to play really well at inside linebacker and to do that you've got to have D-lineman that have gap control and can eat up two offensive linemen at the same time. Those three guys stood out to me on tape. They played with great effort, especially backside effort."
Is Chuckie Keeton's level so much higher even than last year right now?
"I said on the radio this morning, nobody believed me when I said, he's just scratching the surface of his potential. I still mean it, I still think so today. I think he's played two good games, but there's 8-10 things that got pointed out to him at 6:30 (Monday morning) that he could have done better and he should have done better. He will do better and that will come this week and then the next week and the rest of the year and into his senior year. I'm very confident that there's more room for improvement and the coolest thing about coaching him is that he knows it before we do. He wants to be better and I still think he can improve in a few areas, but he's been very, very solid and very productive."
Do you still feel that he's underrated nationally, even with what he's done in these first few games?
"Honestly, I don't really know. It's like you've got tunnel vision, all I know is Weber State right now, I've forgotten about Air Force. From a national standpoint, I really don't know. I know for us he's been very, very productive and very, very consistent and I'm sure that as he strings a lot of those performances there'll be a lot of other people telling me how it is on a national scene. He's not worried about that and I'm definitely not worried about that. We always say, your film is your resume and so what he puts out there on film and TV and all that kind of stuff is for everybody to comment on, but I'm happy with where he's at now."
Any mentors reach out to you after you got your first win?
"Yeah, a lot of guys reached out and it was pretty cool. Guys I coached for, coached with, high school coaches, those kind of guys reached out. That's when you figure out it's cool to get your first win. We've moved on already. I've got the 24 hour rule and we've passed it so we've moved on to Weber State already, but those were some nice calls and texts."
Was it just Utah's defense that shut down the running game for Weber State?
"Quite possibly. I really like those two running backs. I know Josh (Booker) real well. I actually recruited Josh, he's from Oklahoma City. I recruited Josh to the University of New Mexico right out of Oklahoma City and I know he had a very productive high school career in a very tough league. I know what kind of league he's from and he's been very productive since he got to Weber State. Bo (Bolen) has been very productive. I think both of those are a good one-two punch for Weber State. They're strong, they're shifty, they're good out in space and I like those two backs. You've got the two quarterbacks. They've got the senior (Jordan Adamczyk) that's accurate and I know the freshman (Austin Chipoletti) is athletic, so those will be the keys to stopping those guys. The kid from Park City, Eric Walker, is a solid player for them. He catches everything in site. Those will be the guys that we're going to need to focus on and contain those guys."
What are some things you'd like to see out of the offense overall?
"We've got four specific things to get them cleaned up and they got that addressed to them (Monday morning). I'm not going to announce that to the rest of the state, especially since we're playing and in-state school. Couple of things in the kicking game that we need to clean up and be more disciplined in, some technique issues. There are plenty of things to point out to those guys in spite of what I think was a good performance on Saturday."
It's a rare opportunity to play at home the way the schedule is set up.
"Yeah, it's nice to be back home. I'm excited to be back in Romney Stadium in front of our fans, especially the students, the Herd. I know that they're going to come out in full force. We want it to be a full house, more than anything just to support these young men and what they're doing. As a football team, when they run out of that tunnel and see the support that they get there's an extra shot of adrenaline. It'll be a great weekend with Homecoming, there's going to be a lot of alumni back. That's important for us to play well in front of the guys that have paved the way for us and before us, so that's kind of been a theme for us the last few months. To get a chance to do that will be exciting for our kids and to play in front of a packed house."
This last signing class, you talked about Ronald Butler and Bill Vavau, anyone else sticking out?
"I think those two are playing well. I think Jeremy Morris has played a significant amount of special teams snaps and he's played really, really well, so I'm happy with his progress. One that sticks out to me right out of the gate is the dad-gum kicker, Jake Thompson. He's been really solid in two games and he's a weapon. When you've got nine kickoffs, eight of them are out of the end zone and the one they do bring out he's got 4.3 hang time and we get a stop inside the 20 at the 16-yardline. You've got the punter, Jaron (Bentrude) is a first year starter at punter and he had two inside the 20 against Air Force, one on a sky kick and the other on a rugby punt. Those were both inside the 10-yardline so nice job by them. You look at those 11 possessions starting for Air Force inside the 25-yardline, one at the 16 and two at the 10, I think that helps the defense out tremendously."
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