LOGAN, Utah -
Utah State football head coach Matt Wells, along with defensive coordinator Todd Orlando and offensive coordinator Kevin McGiven, held a press conference Monday to recap the Hawai'i game and preview its upcoming Mountain West road game at Wyoming. A complete transcript of Wells', Orlando's and McGivien's remarks can be found below.
Head Coach Matt Wells
Recapping the Hawai'i game:
"What a win. They say they're all the same, but sometimes some of them are ones that you're going to look back on, and I'm going to call it right now, and say `that was a special win.' First of all, it's hard to win on `The Rock'. Distractions, travel, travel complications, we had them all, as do a lot of other teams. You couple the fact with who didn't play, and you're taking a fourth string quarterback, there's two 18-year-olds in the backfield at the same time, and what we did on defense, holding them to 14 points, what we did throwing the ball and then LaJuan Hunt running the ball, I thought it was a tremendous team effort. Great win, we got to number six. It's the first road victory in league play. I talk about that all the time to these guys, if you want to be a great program and you want to play for a Mountain West championship, you have to win on the road, number one, and you have to win in the month of November. We've been pretty good around here since I've been here in the month of November. We have to have another November like that to put ourselves in a position to compete for the big trophy. I'm proud of our guys for that."
Previewing the Wyoming game:
"Now we're right in the middle, on the back end of what I told you a while back was going to be the toughest two-week stretch that we've had all year. We knew it in the spring. It is what it is, and it's an awful short week, it's an awful quick turn around, especially with the travel. Those will never be excuses, they are facts, and we're excited, it puts a smile on our face, and we will rub our hands together to go do this thing. We have to find a way to beat a team that's really hot right now. You look at Wyoming the last four weeks and they've gotten their identity a little bit on offense. I know they haven't all been wins, but from an offensive standpoint they've played really well over the last month. It looks like they found themselves a running back, too. What a performance by him Saturday night. You know they have a lot of confidence, and he'll have some confidence coming in. Stopping the run is a strength of our team, so it'll be a good battle. The game, the rivalry and the Bridger's Battle, I think that's a neat thing. To play on national television is a great thing for our program, as always. Quite honestly, this thing is going to be like an NFC Central playoff game. It's going to be tough guys, cold weather, running the football, being efficient, and flipping the field in the kicking game. It could snow, it could sleet, rain, who knows? I've been in Laramie in a lightning storm when I was with New Mexico. They have weather. But it'll be fun. Put the Gore-Tex on and let's go to work. It's going to be like Bears vs. Packers. That's the way I look at it. There's going to be breath coming out of everybody's mouth, and it's going to be a throwback. It'll be fun. The kids were talking about it on the plane before they fell asleep about going and playing and doing it in the cold. It looks like the weather's turned a bit outside, so it'll be great to go and practice in it a little this week. We're excited about this game coming up."
On the play of freshman running back LaJuan Hunt at Hawai'i:
"LaJuan had a really good game. He played really, really well. He ran the ball tough. He did a nice job of keeping his balance. I thought he ran with great vision. He had a really solid performance. He had great ball security, which we tried to place a premium on last week with two young freshmen handling the ball so many times. I thought they both did a good job in that regard. It was a really good day out of LaJuan."
On the play of senior running back Joe Hill complimenting Hunt:
"I think both of their games, and their ability to run the football is a reflection of the offensive line and the tight ends. They had one of their best games. We saw a tremendous amount of movement and pressures, run game pressures, and I thought we blocked pressures and movement really, really well. It was a nice job by our offensive line."
On what Coach Wells means when he says this team is special:
"Because you don't go to Hawai'i, with travel complications, a fourth-string 18-year old quarterback making his first start, 18-year-old playing right next to him, Nick Vigil didn't get to play because of an injury, you suspend two starters, you have seven others out with season-ending injuries, and you dominate a game on the road in the Mountain West Conference. That's how I know. There are guys like Kevin Whimpey, Zach Vigil, B.J. Larsen, Brian Suite, Frankie Sutera, Austin Stephens, Taani Fisilau with what they do for this program. They're going to will it upon the rest of the team. There was no way we were going to lose that game after some of the stuff I saw Friday night and Saturday morning. It's just the culture. It's been built and it's been growing. If you want to be a part of something special, when people look back at Utah State football several years from now, and they say that decade or that age was really, really good, then you have to win games like that. When people look back at records, and they look back at scores, they don't know who played and who didn't. They refuse to lose, and it doesn't matter what it looks like. That's why my hat is off to those guys, and that's why it's the greatest team sport ever invented. It's chemistry, confidence and mojo and all that stuff. It's there. It's happening. It's not false bravado. And really, they don't talk about it much, it's how they act and how they carry themselves."
On Nick Vigil's status this week:
"It'll be a game-time decision. It's a possibility. We'll see how he practices all week, and we won't make that decision until game time. It's day-to-day. We'll see how he is today."
On what gets affected by the short week:
"Just what we do practice-wise, what we're going to do meeting-wise, and the amount of physicality. I'm not going to give all the answers to the test right now, but we're going to be very, very smart. I remember telling you guys during the bye week that we're about to go on an eight-week stretch with no bye week, and you look ahead during the off-season when you're preparing for the season, and we knew this in June. We adjusted some things we do in the summer because of it to try to make it as season-like as we could. We knew this was going to be a tough stretch. Having to do it and having a very short week with the back-to-back road games that was put upon us, and a day short because of television. We knew it was going to be that way, and we've made those preparations from a standpoint practice-wise and meetings-wise. We're going to leave a little bit later on Thursday and do more stuff here."
On Wyoming running back Brian Hill:
"I haven't really had time to research. I absolutely looked up his bio yesterday once we landed to try and figure out who he is. I don't know much about him from a recruiting standpoint. He exploded. He caught a nice little screen pass. He went for 300-something all-purpose yards. You know what, he was ready when called upon. A guy got injured, he got a chance to start and play an extended amount. He'd been playing though. Same thing with LaJuan Hunt, he got a chance to start, and both of them made the most out of their opportunities."
On Wyoming's offense:
"They've done a nice job. (Colby) Kirkegaard's pretty efficient with the ball. You add a running back, and let me tell you, they have two really good receivers. Jalen Claiborne is smooth. He's a really smooth wide out and he reminds me a lot of Jovon Bouknight. Like I said, the last four weeks, they've played really well on offense."
On Wyoming's defense:
"They're lead by Devyn Harris, one of their linebackers, and he's an active, active backer. Eddie Yarbrough, the defensive end is a good player. He is active and plays hard with effort. He reminds me of our defensive linemen with just how hard they play. I know he's the heart and soul of that team. I met him this summer at media days and he seems like a really good kid. They have two corners our there that are playing pretty good. They're talented out on the edge. Their corners are good and they can run. They run really, really well."
On how much of a free reign Kent Myers will have this week compared to last week:
"We probably had more stuff than you guys thought that he may have. He handled it well. He was pretty calm, and I thought he was very efficient, obviously, from a physical standpoint. But I'm talking about mental, which I think is 90 percent of the game at quarterback. A lot of that is done Monday through Friday before he even steps on that field to try to slow the game down for him. I went over to the offensive line after the first couple series, and the comment came out `coach, he's a cool cat.' I said `for real? Don't lie to me,' and they said `no, coach, he's calm; he's got it. He hasn't called anything wrong, he's not stuttering and he looks us in the eye. He has a good look.' That's when I knew he had a chance. That doesn't have anything to do physically with throwing the ball. He could have thrown the ball in the stands on accident and overthrown or underthrown receivers or been inaccurate, and I still would have said, `hey, mentally he was good, just physically we have to work on some things.' But I'm not saying that because he was on the spot with his throws and very efficient, very accurate."
On the two freshmen running backs going against each other this weekend:
"It's going to be an NFC divisional playoff game. Who's going to run the ball the best? Who's going to stop the run the best? The kicking game is going to be huge, along with hidden yardage and flipping the field. Our kickoff coverage, our punt coverage, all those things are going to be big this game. I'm not saying we're not going to throw the ball, but it comes down to efficiency and being able to make big plays in games like this. I don't think there's any question that the front seven on both sides of the ball and the running backs are going to go a long ways into determining the outcome of this game."
On how game planning offensively changes with new quarterbacks:
"It's a major challenge. You're opening up the playbook, but you're also being selective about what chapters you're opening up. When I say open it up, I don't mean just the first and second chapter. We're going to pull out from the back and now the middle. I think the staff has done a really good job, not just for Kent Myers, but it's helped at other positions to solidify some other things, and maybe downsize some things. I think they've responded in a very positive manner."
Defensive Coordinator Todd Orlando
Recapping the Hawai'i game:
"We started off, obviously, pretty slow. We gave up some big plays in the beginning. I thought we settled down pretty well and started making some plays. Probably the biggest thing I'm disappointed with more than anything else is just not finishing plays. We had an opportunity to make a bunch of them. At the end of the day, it's 14 points. It's the least we've given up all year, and we ended up scoring seven, too. If you can get away from what everybody probably thinks in terms of a yardage standpoint, and just go to what the game is won and lost by, points, you hold a team on the road to 14 points, you're doing a decent job.
"The next opponent, from our standpoint, they're starting to hit their stride. They've had an injury bug, too. Obviously we played them last year. They are different schematically, but still very talented skill-wise. Brian Hill, their running back, became a full-time starter and just went crazy last week. Against Colorado State, I think he ran for a 121 yards, and last week he had explosive play after explosive play. It's a challenge. The quarterback is really playing well. He's accurate and he's really getting the ball out to his playmakers, and their receivers have a lot of experience and they're really good, too. We played against them last year. We know how fast and accurate they are, in terms of running their routes. It'll be a challenge; it's a short week. If we look a bit ragged, there's probably reason for it. We'll try to be smart during practice this week and make sure that we get them to the game. I know we'll be excited. It'll be a different atmosphere. It'll probably be cold and windy there and a little different from where we went last week, but we'll be ready."
On what they did to make up for the loss of Nick Vigil on defense:
"We put Siua (Taufa) out there. What we've collectively done with all these injuries, it started with Alex (Huerta) then (Kyler) Fackrell, now Nick's a little bit banged up, so by necessity, we've had to play a little bit more four-down. Anthony (Williams) has come along. We weren't going to start him off in the game, but we knew he was going to play a lot, and he did some explosive stuff out there. So we're really happy from that standpoint. It's just like everybody else. Wyoming will say the same thing. Everybody's thin at this point with injuries, so we're just trying to take what we have, our best players, and make sure, schematically, we can put them on the field and not try to put somebody that might be the third or fourth best guy, and play our best athletes and our best play-makers. That's the difference of where we're at right now, compared to in the past when you're afforded the luxury of depth. We've really had to sit down on Sunday nights and talk about who's playing the best right now, and to make sure we incorporate them. If we have to change scheme or do something a little bit different, then that's what we're going to have to do."
On the amount of guys that have stepped in to play at cornerback:
"I think the people who watch us play see some consistent moments. I think Jalen (Davis) is playing consistent, Rashard (Stewart) has had his moments, (Deshane) Hines is coming along, (Tyler) Floyd played later on in the game, and a lot of these guys are newcomers. If you look at a lot of those guys with the exception of Rashard, you can say to yourself, `a lot of those guys are inexperienced.' As we go further along and as they prove themselves in practice, that's the biggest part. We're not going to put someone out there that hasn't proven it in practice, and a lot of these guys are starting to do that because they're starting to learn the system. They've been here for almost a year now, so we feel a little bit more comfortable with them. You will see different people out there from here on out just to solidify those positions."
On the way Wyoming plays offense:
"The biggest thing with these guys is they're a big downhill run team. They'll run power and they'll run guard-lead. Those are their bread and butter plays. I think they do a great job when they pull of pinning guys and if you can't dig them out, they'll hit the ball right over the top of the A gaps. They've got really good vision. They're very, very patient. They know exactly where they want to the play to hit at. They do a good job with movement. When Hill gets out in the open field, he makes people pay and that's probably the biggest thing with it. That's the unique thing about him is he can hit the home run. We have good backs in this league, and we have a couple of them ourselves, but to have somebody that can take it the distance and make you pay when you mess something up is unique. All their run plays are downhill. It just takes one guy not to get underneath a kick out, or one guy at linebacker to over scrape it. And it's a credit to their receivers, too. Their receivers work their tails off down the field and cover people up to allow him to get those explosive plays."
On Wyoming's quarterback Colby Kirkegaard:
"To me, when you're looking at the quarterback position, you have some main guys in this league, and you look at Colby Kirkegaard, and you say to yourself, `this guy is a really good player.' He's probably very underrated in terms of this league. They have explosive receivers. We know that because we played those guys last year. They're experienced, I think they run really great routes, they have great hands and they've got a great scheme. Just from the preliminary stuff that I've watched, I think their staff does a tremendous job of game planning. You can see, sometimes people just run what they run. In their run game, they'll run what then run, but when you look at pass concepts, they really go after people in terms of what they run predominantly in their coverage. They have great schemes for that. I just think they do a really good job. We'll get a little bit more into them as the week goes on, but I've been impressed with that part of it. They expose a lot of coverage."
Offensive Coordinator Kevin McGiven
Recapping the Hawai'i game:
"Obviously I'm very, very pleased with how we started the game. We didn't know if points were going to be hard to come by just based on where we were at, personnel-wise. We were able to start fast in the first couple of drives and come away with scores. We tried to get Kent (Myers) into a good rhythm early, where we were giving him some easy throws. Of course the shot over the top to Hunter (Sharp) was not necessarily an easy throw, but he made the most of the situation there. That first series he threw a really good fade ball. We had worked on that in practice prior to going into that game. The most important thing in the game was being able to establish the run. You saw that. Our guys up front were able to handle the movement Hawai'i brought us, the blitzes, and blocked that stuff up well. LaJuan Hunt was able to get a lot of carries and get into a rhythm. Joe Hill was running really, really well early on, and then LaJuan really carried us the rest of the way. Probably the biggest component in that game was being able to establish the run. Taking pressure off of Kent opened up some things on the perimeter for him to get some easy throws in the play action. He was able to capitalize on some big plays, and it was good to see."
Previewing the Wyoming game:
"As far as Wyoming goes, this week, it's a little bit different challenge. Defensively, structure-wise, they're a four-down team. Just from getting a feel for them last night and this morning, they're not blitzing a lot. They have a really, really different mentality than what we saw last week with Hawai'i. Each week will be a new challenge for Kent (Myers). Now he has to learn a new defense. He has to try to figure out what we're doing to try to attack them. There are a couple of different concepts that he'll have to grasp. We'll try to carry over as much as we can for him to be able to be successful. If there are things in the plan that we didn't get to last week where he has some reps logged, we'll try to continue his development. There are some things we've already installed in the game plan that he'll have to learn this week. We'll approach it similar to what we did last year with Darell (Garretson) in terms of his evolution and how much he can handle. We want to take a very similar approach in terms of being able to run the ball, take pressure off him that way and give him throws that he can manage and be successful with. Wyoming is playing very well right now. Obviously they had a really good game against Fresno State last week, and they're playing with some confidence. You see a difference just from last year, playing at the end of the year, to what I saw on film, where they have guys that are starting to understand their schemes. They're playing with high effort within those schemes. They have some personnel that are pretty good players. They have some youth as well. We're going to try to pinpoint areas where we think we can expose them both schematically and personnel-wise, but they're playing good football so it's going to be a challenge for us."
On what it's like working with so many different quarterbacks these last two years:
"It just seems like every single practice is a new situation almost, or every week. It's not just going in and presenting a game plan to a player, it's working on fundamentals. There are things that showed up in that Hawai'i game that Kent (Myers) hasn't done a lot throughout practice. A lot of things with his footwork popped up in the game. You do have to address those things and spend some individual time working on fundamentals and implementing a game plan at the same time. You are working with different quarterbacks that go through your individual drills, but you don't necessarily coach them specifically on it all the time. That to me is what shows up is the things that you're not coaching them specifically on, that you may just be coaching a starter and how much of that is really retained and how much goes in one ear and out the other. You hope they're always listening to you even though you may be talking directly to a different guy, and guys that are able to do that and apply it sooner rather than later on the field are the ones that you see having success. I knew Craig (Harrison) had been in the system a long time, going into the UNLV game, that he'd understand that stuff. But with Darell (Garretson) last year and Kent this year, I've been pleasantly surprised with how much they've retained without coaching them specifically."
Do you see any similarities between Kent Myers and Darell Garretson?
"Both of them are very similar in how poised they are. Both of their first times in there, there was a lot of confidence. They manage the game really, really well. Both of them are stingy with the football. That was a big key in that game, too, was just not having any turnovers and managing the game that way. You know they're talented, otherwise, hopefully, they wouldn't be here, and hopefully we can identify those types of things from the physical tools coming in. But you don't always know how they'll handle those situations. I can't say that I was totally shocked by either one of them performing the way they did with their first start. I knew Kent was very athletic, I think it was only a matter of how he would handle it mentally. He was able to handle the game plan mentally, and he prepared really hard throughout the week. I could see a changed player from the time we made the decision to go with Kent to the time it was time to start that football game. There was definitely a changed player, and you saw it throughout the week in his preparation. It's been like that. The nature and the culture in that room is the next guy has had to step up a lot in that room, and the ones that are either down or up next are kind of wrapping their arms around that guy and bringing him into the fold and doing everything they can to help him out. It's a unique room that way."
On the play of junior wide receiver Hunter Sharp:
"Hunter really hasn't been a surprise to me. From the minute he got here, I knew he was a hard working, very, very talented individual. We found out in the Tennessee game, that he can go up and get it. We found out through the first couple weeks that with his speed, he's a deep threat and can break guys off on posts and post-corners, and he gets on a defender really, really quickly even if they're playing off coverage when we're throwing verticals on the outside. He's very, very aggressive to the football. We're going to continue to try to find ways to utilize him in that aspect of our game. Try to scheme him some shots or some explosives. We've done some different things with him to try to gain some leverage advantage when the corners aren't playing exactly the way we want them to play, whether it's with motions or whatever it may be. We're going to continue to do that and try to utilize his skill set."
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