LOGAN, Utah -
Utah State head football coach Matt Wells, along with redshirt sophomore tight end Dax Raymond and junior linebacker Chase Christiansen, held a press conference Monday to recap the Aggies' 51-13 victory over Idaho State and preview their upcoming road game against Wake Forest. A complete transcript of the press conference can be found below.
Head Coach Matt Wells
On playing Wake Forest:
"We're headed to Wake Forest on Friday for this weekend's game against the Demon Deacons. This is a team that is very improved and they continue to get better every year. Coach (Dave) Clawson and those guys have done a nice job. There has been a little turnover on their defensive staff, but four out of five coaches on offense are the same guys, so they're doing some similar stuff that they do on offense. You see them building a program, and last year they get a top-25 win in a bowl game against a really good Temple team. I remember watching that game and seeing a lot of those guys now on tape, and they've gotten bigger and stronger. Their offensive line and defensive line are experienced with redshirt juniors and redshirt seniors on both sides.
"John (Wolford), the quarterback, is a four-year starter. The tight end is a four-year starter. I remember seeing those guys and playing against them in 2014. They have a lot of experience. They had a great win on the road last week against Boston College. To win an ACC game on the road and start out 2-0, I know they're happy about that. It'll be a really good challenge for us to get on a plane and go out there and play an ACC team on the road, but it's something the guys are extremely excited about in talking to the captains this morning. It'll be a big challenge for us, but it's something that we're looking forward to. We need to have a great week of practice."
On Duke Ejiofor and the Wake Forest defensive line:
"He's all over the place. All four of those guys on the D-line, I think that's the strength of their defense. They're very active and they're twitchy for big guys. They gave Boston College some fits. They play in the backfield, they're aggressive and they pressure, but they don't pressure crazy or anything like that. They'll pop a linebacker here and there, and maybe even a five- or six-man rush. But not crazy. I think they rely on those guys up front to get knock-backs and to get push-backs. They're big and strong. They did a nice job the last game."
On being aware of safety Jessie Bates III:
"You can't throw it to him. He does a good job of catching it when you throw it to him. Boston College threw it right to him and he did a nice job of catching it."
On the Wake Forest offense being more balanced than in 2014 when they threw the ball 50 times against Utah State:
"I think that can be a little misleading. He threw it 50 times in 2014, but we had a two-possession lead and held the lead for most of the game. They needed to throw it. He's one of their better rushers. He did a good job in the game against BC. They'll run some zone read with him. You can see them do run-pass options like crazy. In zone read and some other types of reads, you can see him be very patient. He's a strong runner, he's fast and agile. The running backs, they have two or three that rotate in. Those guys are strong and compact. They kind of hide behind those big O-linemen and then pop out and pop through. They're very effective."
On the strides he's seen Wake Forest quarterback John Wolford make since the game in 2014:
"I don't think I'm qualified to answer that question. That's a Dave Clawson question. I'm not qualified to answer that. When he played here in 2014, he was a true freshman. He has better people around him now. I thought he was good in 2014. It just got to be a two-possession game then, and you knew he was going to throw it. We were able to pressure the passer a little bit. I have not studied him in his sophomore or junior years to be honest with you. We studied him this spring and summer a little bit."
On the game in 2014 being tough despite the final score:
"It was an extremely tough game. It was close. We had a pick-six by Zach (Vigil). The game in 2014 was tight and it was very competitive. I went back and looked, and we only have three guys that played in that game: Jalen (Davis), Ian (Togiai) and LaJuan (Hunt). Kent (Myers) hadn't started playing quarterback yet, and Braelon Roberts, I think, might be the only five guys on the team then. That was a great win for us. It was a tough, hard-fought battle and a really close game."
On the importance of taking care of the ball against a team like Wake Forest that thrives on turnovers:
"Well, we're trying not to be dumb on offense. I think the turnover battle, whether you're playing Wake Forest or anybody, is important. Wake Forest did a great job. The point you made is accurate, they crushed BC in terms of the turnover margin. It's one of the things in our plan to win that we talk about all the time: taking care of the football. Strip searches on defense, ball searches on defense, picks, and then taking care of the ball. It's an important part. We can talk about turnover margin ever week."
On the importance of the next few games:
"What will be decided is early mojo and early momentum. I said that two weeks ago. I said it even before Wisconsin that we'll know where we're at, at the end of the month of September, and I don't think anything has changed. Here we go, we're going to go play two road games. We're going to go on the road and play an ACC team that won a bowl game last year, just one of the teams on our schedule that played in a bowl. The next few weeks, I think, will tell us more where we're at. We've started out well here before. I hate getting into big-picture stuff. It's week-to-week. It's the mojo and the chemistry your team has. Are injuries going to take a toll, or are you going to get a little lucky and not get some key guys hurt? The guys that do get injured, are we going to have guys step up and play well? There are so many questions to be answered. I don't have the answers for you today because we don't know. I think we'll know more in three weeks."
On how he feels about the quarterback position as a group:
"I feel the same as we did. Jordan (Love) played a little over a quarter. DJ (Nelson) played the last series. It wasn't ever in a part where the game was being decided and either one of those guys had to make decisions. We ran the ball most of the time. Coming out of training camp those three guys, and Henry Colombi, I thought, overall, we had a good quarterback group. I'd like to just play one and for that one to play really well and stay healthy. That's what I'd like to do this year right now. That doesn't have any bearing on Jordan, DJ or Henry or their progress. We've had to use the whole room before, so we'll see. All four guys, we can win games with. But really, last Thursday night didn't tell us anything different than I thought we already knew."
On Kent's lack of mistakes against Idaho State:
"He was 24 out of 26 in the passing department. He was extremely efficient with the ball, made smart decisions and threw accurate balls. We played catch. Our receivers made some competitive catches. It was good to have Dax Raymond back. I think it's always good for a quarterback to have a security blanket in a tight end. We had two incompletions - one off of a tip and the other one was inches from another touchdown. It was a good day from Kent, and I think it started with the O-linemen. They gave him great protection."
On the advantage of having a tight end in a passing system compared to teams that don't use one:
"We're definitely not an Air Raid offense like Washington State. There are some elements of our offense that tie back to that. I think the advantage of having a tight end is it helps you in the run game, and it helps you in the play-action passing game. With no tight end, you're very limited in the running game in terms of your options and the type of runs you're running, so therefore your play-action game off of it. We have three really good tight ends, and we're going to play all three of them. They'll have a big part in our offense. You can do the same things in the passing game with a really good tight end like what we have, and it can make mismatches for some people depending on the safety and the linebacker that you are trying to cover him with."
On the special teams:
"In your minds, our special teams have played good because there have been no drastic issues. From a coaching standpoint, I think we've done well in special teams, but I don't think it's been anything crazy-good. We've had some good individual performances. Aaron (Dalton) has punted it well. We've downed some inside the 10. We had one called back because of a stupid penalty on our part. We messed up the formation, but it negated a tremendous play by Gaje Ferguson. (Dominik) Eberle has been good, he's been consistent. (Emmett) Odegard, snapping, you all don't even know who Odegard is. That's what tells you he's done a good job. DJ (Nelson) has done a nice job holding. We still have stuff to clean up. We blocked a punt, that's always big. We're not very good on kickoff return right now. We're bad. We have to get better blocking up front. Our timing is off on the back end. Everyone thinks it's all about the kickoff returner, but it's more about the 10 other guys. We have to continue to cover kicks well. We've done a nice job so far on the punt. We anticipate Wake Forest to load up and come get after us. We have to be prepared for that to be able to protect a punter."
On Wake Forest's special teams:
"They're good. They're very solid. They're well-coached and I think their schemes are solid. I spent a lot of the day yesterday with coach (Mark) Tommerdahl looking at a lot of it, and they're coached up very well."
Redshirt Sophomore Tight End Dax Raymond
On recapping the Idaho State game:
"Coming off of the loss against Wisconsin, coach (David) Yost and coach (Matt) Wells talked about how this week was all about us and for us to play our best. We really did that against Idaho State, especially in the first half. We came out and showed them how we can move the ball and we did it again in the second half. Like I said, it was just about us, seeing what we were capable of doing. It was a great win for us, especially at the beginning of the season to see how we can play and the ability that we have."
On how nice it was to be back playing again and catching passes:
"It felt great. It had been a little while since I had been in an actual game, so I felt fantastic. It was so much fun."
On if he is feeling 100 percent now across the board:
"Yes. I'm 100 percent."
On how frustrating it was for him not being able to play in 2016 due to injury:
"You are really with these guys year-round and they become your family. With a football game, it's like you are going into battle and to just have to watch your teammates and best friends go out and play, and you can't help them, it's really hard. I was really excited for this year to be able to help my guys out."
On if he knew going into the 2016 fall camp that he was going to have to sit out the season:
"I came to the realization of that pretty quickly once we started going."
On how good he feels about the team's chances on Saturday if they limit their turnovers against Wake Forest:
"I feel wonderful about our chances. We haven't watched much of Wake Forest yet, but I know they are a really good team. They are coming off a really big win at Boston College. But, like I said, and like coach Yost and coach Wells have said, the Idaho State game was about us and now we've just got to thrive off of that win and keep the momentum rolling out to Wake Forest."
On what the talk of the week was to get better offensively following the Wisconsin game:
"Just watching the Wisconsin game from the sideline, what I saw in the first half of that game is a ton of potential that our team really has. We need to find out what was going right in that first half and then sustain it for the whole game, which I believe we can do and will do this season. It was a giant positive for us the way we handled Wisconsin in the first half. In the second half, we let things go and started to struggle with what they against us. The first half was a giant positive, though. We were in the game with the ninth-ranked team in the nation, but we just couldn't finish it."
On the confidence the team gains when things start to flow well, like it did against Idaho State:
"Like I said earlier, it was about us and getting the team rolling and getting into the end zone. We got the team rolling and now we've got to continue to do that throughout the whole year."
On the other tight ends in the program like Damion Hobbs and Carson Terrell:
"Damion and Carson have done a wonderful job. We all have the ability to catch the ball and get behind the line and block, which helps with the running game. If we can be utilized well, which we have been, it's going to help our offense a ton."
On talking to former tight end Chris Cooley over the weekend:
"I knew who he was, obviously. He came earlier in the summer and talked to the tight ends and inside receivers, and just talked about his time at Utah State and in the NFL. He talked about what he did and what he didn't do that he wishes he did. I have learned a lot from him in the short time I met with him in the summer and after the Idaho State game when I got to see him for a second. He is an awesome guy."
Junior Linebacker Chase Christiansen
On recapping the Idaho State game:
"Our focus was on us and getting better from what we did against Wisconsin. We played well defensively against Idaho State, but there are still some aspects of the game that we need to clean up, so we've got a lot to work on as we go into Wake Forest. We held Idaho State to 13 points, which was a positive, but we could have done better in that regard."
On Wake Forest:
"They have got some weapons offensively. Their quarterback is really good and they have explosive running backs and tight ends. They do a lot of things that our offense does as far as they will pace you and the run-pass option plays, so we have seen a lot of that, which will help us as we get prepared for exactly what they are going to do. But, they have some weapons that we need to come prepared defensively for if we want to win the game."
On if coach Wells addressed the defense about what he wants them to fix on that side of the ball:
"The whole staff has addressed what exactly it is we want fixed and everyone on the defense is aware of the problems that we've been having defensively, so we've got a very clear picture of what we need to get fixed."
On what the defense needs to fix:
"Fundamentally in the run game, we need to fit better. Our big thing is to always stop the run, so when we start getting gashed or start getting split in the run game, it's almost always a fundamental breakdown. So really, the focus is doing what the coaches are teaching us to do every play."
On the challenge of facing a dual-threat quarterback like Wake Forest's John Wolford:
"It's a huge challenge. Any time you have a quarterback who has the ability to throw the ball down the field well, which he does, and use his legs, it's difficult because it's an extra guy you have to account for. We have to bring our A game against him and keep him contained."
On the nice start to the season fellow linebacker Suli Tamaivena has had:
"He's really athletic and really smart. He's picked up the defense really quickly and it's fun to have a guy next to you who knows what he's doing and has that play-making ability. It's been really fun having him next to me."
On Mason Tobeck's role with the linebackers:
"He's really embraced his role and every time he gets in, it seems like the plays that he does have, he does really well and makes a lot of tackles."
On what it's like to have a coach for the inside linebackers and a coach for the outside linebackers:
"For the most part, we've always been separate besides last year. It just seems like one person can't get all the fine details if you coach both units. So, trying to coach both at the same time is pretty difficult. Having us separate is a huge advantage."
On how the guys have been playing up front: "Awesome. You can't stress that enough because they don't get a lot of, but if they're playing poorly then the whole defense is playing poorly."
On creating turnovers:
"Creating turnovers is a huge momentum shift in the game and it increases your odds to win. Last year, it seemed like we just couldn't get them and this year, it was a huge focus during both spring and fall camp. We are always trying to get the ball out and trying to turn the tide, whether we score points or put the offense in a great position to score."
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