Utah State football head coach Matt Wells, along with senior center Tyler Larsen, junior placekicker Nick Diaz and sophomore linebacker Kyler Fackrell, held a news conference Monday to recap the Hawai'i game and preview its upcoming Mountain West game at UNLV.
Nov. 4, 2013
LOGAN, Utah -
Utah State football head coach Matt Wells, along with senior center Tyler Larsen, junior placekicker Nick Diaz and sophomore linebacker Kyler Fackrell, held a news conference Monday to recap the Hawai'i game and preview its upcoming Mountain West game at UNLV. A complete transcript of Wells, Larsen, Diaz and Fackrell's remarks can be found below.
Head Coach Matt Wells
Recapping the Hawai'i game:
"I'm really happy with our kids' performance. We came out ready to go right out of the gate. We started fast and we finished fast. We played well I thought in a lot of phases and were able to accomplish what we wanted, which was find a way to win. That was our goal all week, to be 1-0 at the end of the week."
"As we go into UNLV it becomes the same thing. We're trying to be 1-0 against UNLV and find a way to win. We've got the big picture and the narrow focus, which is on the Rebels this week. It's a team that has had a resurgence. Coach (Bobby) Hauck has done of good job of flipping that thing. They're playing with a lot of confidence right now."
"Caleb (Herring) and Tim (Cornett) and Marcus Sullivan create a little bit of a trifecta. Anytime you have a quarterback, a real tailback and a real wide out, you're explosive on offense. I think their offensive line is playing pretty good right now. I've seen them quite a bit on exchange tape. I've seen them on offense quite a bit to know that already, early in the week. We'll have our work cut out for us. We're going to have a great week of preparation and go down there and try to find a way to win."
On seeing a change of pressure coming off two wins:
"There's pressure every week and the more you win the more you create. That's all on me, not on the players. It's on me to get our staff to put them in a position to succeed on Saturday. The only thing two wins gives us is a lot of confidence and some revised schemes, confidence in some new players and confidence in results. When you prepare right and you play right, it breeds confidence. The more confident you are, hopefully the better you play. Each week gets bigger and bigger."
On becoming bowl eligible for the third-straight year with a win this weekend:
"It would be huge for the program, back-to-back-to-back bowl appearances for the first time in 121 years of Utah State football. That's big, but I haven't talked one time about being bowl eligible. No offense to the bowl eligibility number, but that's nothing that we've talked about. We've talked about from the big picture standpoint in January of competing and training the right way to get to November and be in the Mountain West race. We're in November and we're in the Mountain West race. We're right where we want to be. It was a little bit of a different avenue and we had some roadblocks and potholes that we had to sidestep. We had to revamp the plan and pull together. We've faced a lot of adversity, but here we are 4-1 in the Mountain West and we're right in the middle of the race. That's a byproduct of it and that's awesome."
On Darell Garretson's play on Saturday:
"I thought he played real efficiently. I thought he played well, but he's got room for improvement. He'll continue to see things. These two weeks are evidence for him of things that he's doing right. I like the way that he's patient in the pocket. I like the way that he's throwing the ball five rows up in the stands when nothing is there. We're going to clean up some technique stuff, a couple things from a progression standpoint for him. Hopefully he'll make those corrections during the week and continue to see a little bit of improvement each and every week."
On UNLV's defense:
"They're a four down front. They're going to mix man and zone a little bit more. Last week was predominantly man. They mix their pressures in and they do a good job of being sound schematically. There's a little bit more of a balance in this defense compared to the last couple of weeks."
On Kyler Fackrell being named Mountain West Defensive Player of the Week:
"I'm happy for Kyler, it's very well-deserved. He's a playmaker. We always say around here that players make plays and he made a huge one. It changed the momentum of the game. I thought it was checkmate and the game was over at that point. It was a great play, he has tremendous athletic ability and had a desire to finish that off."
On the passing of D.J. Tialavea's father and the tough year he has had:
"It's a guy who's part of your family. When you get that call early in the morning from a mom, it's not easy to take. I have no idea what D.J. is going through, I've never been through it. We'll be there for him and his family and support him in any way we can. I was with him for a little bit this morning. It's a sad situation. Sometimes life deals you big blows. The kid has had a couple of them. In tough times you find out your character. He's a first-class kid who has been a great player for a long time."
On the significance for whoever wins this weekend compared to the past games:
"I've been in some of those ball games where it probably didn't mean much playing against them. Right now we're playing for the same thing as far as bowl eligibility, but we're playing for the Mountain West race too. You never know what's going to happen here in a few weeks. It will be a big game Saturday. They'll be fired up and it will be a home game for them. I'm sure they'll want to get the taste out of their mouth from last week. We've got confidence going into it, so I'm sure it will be a tremendous match-up."
On seeing teammates from the 1993 Las Vegas Bowl II Championship team last weekend:
"That was cool. It was really neat to be able to honor those guys. That was the first bowl win in school history. Seeing those guys come back is important, not only to our program, but to them, so they feel connected to the program. I always talk about playing for the guys who came before us and those are some of those guys. To have them and Coach (Charlie) Weatherbie back is part of the family atmosphere we want to have around here and that has been created. I want to continue that."
On the team leading the Mountain West in turnover margin:
"I think when you look at turnover margin it's a combination of multiple things. It's defenders catching picks when you have that opportunity. It's strips and rips and things that you're getting your hand on the ball. It's an emphasis from an offensive standpoint of protecting the ball. That goes right over into special teams with the guys who are touching the ball - kick catchers and punt catchers. We put a big emphasis on that in practice and I think it's starting to pay off."
On the kicking game against Hawai'i:
"I'm really happy for both those kickers this week. Nick (Diaz) was money. He's very consistent and we protected him. Jake (Thompson) came in with a 52-yard field goal, which was huge, not only for us as a team, but for his confidence as well. He's been the long field goal kicker all year, we just haven't had that opportunity. He's been a weapon since the very first kickoff against Utah."
On the Aggie defensive unit:
"I think we all reestablished ourselves after the two tough losses. I don't think we played well in any phase of those games. I think the defense, from the Air Force game on, has played really, really solid. They've given solid performances against completely different offenses. That's what I expect out of them and what they expect out of themselves. Hopefully we'll keep playing like that."
Junior Placekicker Nick Diaz
On the special teams play against Hawai'i:
"Against Hawai'i, I think our special teams was a huge part of that game, as always. The offense and defense did great and the special teams came out there and did our part. There are three parts to every game, the punt team executed like we were supposed to, the kickoff team went out there and got touchbacks to pin Hawai'i in their own red zone, and the field goal team executed the way that we were supposed to. It was nice to see Jake Thompson boot a 52-yarder for his first career field goal. I expect to see great things from him in the future. If he keeps working hard he is going to be a very valuable asset to this team, as are the other specialists as well. I thought all sides of the ball played very well and it was nice to see us come out with the victory over Hawai'i, especially at home."
On how important it was for the field goal unit to go 4-for-4 following some issues with blocked kicks:
"Definitely a big confidence booster to go out there and watch the line execute the way they can, along with the snapper, holder and kicker getting our timing down and doing our part as well. It was really nice to see the unit execute the way that it should and have a nice flow and put points up for the offense."
On what was going through his mind after the first extra point was partially blocked:
"Just kick it as hard as I can and cross my fingers. It definitely startled me a little bit, but it went through and that was nice to see. Fortunately, part of the training of being a kicker is that you have short-term memory loss. You forget about it and move on to the next one. That's what all the coaches teach, that's what they preach to us and that's part of our mental training."
Was it predetermined that Jake Thompson would kick field goals beyond 50 yards:
"Going through fall camp and the first part of the season we focused on having two placekickers, one covering longer field goals, 50-plus, and having myself cover 49 yards and in. The kid has got a really strong leg, so we were very confident that he could make it from practice. The kick was cleared by several yards, so we were all confident that he was going to make that kick."
On having his first career collegiate field goal be from over 50 yards out:
"It was almost identical, mine was on the left hash at 53 yards and his was down the middle at 52, both long kicks. That's got to be exciting for any placekicker just starting off, especially for his first kick in college, at the Division-I level and against a good, quality opponent, that's just exciting."
On if there is still an open competition for the placekicking job every week:
"Absolutely, as with every other position. Coach (Wells) has to keep that competitive edge and go with the hot hand, and we have a lot of specialists."
On how the kicking competition is judged each week:
"Throughout the week, our biggest days are Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. We all get kicks mixed in and obviously it goes back to game performance throughout the week and week's prior. Basically, leading up to the next kick it's all collective."
On how the team worked to correct the issue with blocked kicks:
"Everyone just did their own part, that was the biggest thing that we needed to do. The line needed to do their part. As far as the snap-hold-kick, we need to do our part to speed up the operation. The two weeks did give us a lot of time to make sure we got done what we needed to in practice. We had the defensive coordinator rush us more that usual, put pressure on all sides of the line, pressure my timing and really put us to the test."
On what it's been like to have Coach (Dave) Ungerer coaching special teams:
"Two completely different coaching styles. Coach Ungerer is a very good coach. He's a player-oriented coach, he's constantly making sure that our legs are fresh, communicating with us and just trying to get a feel of what our mentality is going into the next game. He's a really good coach, I have a lot of respect for him and am happy that he's my coach."
On what it would mean to become bowl-eligible for a third consecutive year:
"I can't even begin to tell you what that means to this program. From what I've heard, it's a really big deal, not only for the program but for the school and this community as well. Just listening to the positive vibes that are going around, not just on campus but around the community, it's special and I'm very fortunate to be a part of it."
Sophomore Linebacker Kyler Fackrell
Recapping the Hawai'i game:
"Obviously, when you hold a team to 10 points you played pretty well on defense. I think overall there were definitely some things we can fix. They were still able to get a little bit of a running game going where they hadn't been able to earlier in the season. Part of that was us focusing on their pass because that's what they did the majority of the time, that's what they're good at, but they were able to get a little bit of a run game going, which we aren't okay with. Then in the pass, I think we defended that really well, we rushed the passer pretty well. Sometimes we got beat, the one touchdown pass we got beat deep, but that's man-to-man coverage. Their guy made a play, it was just a good play by them, but overall I think the defense played soundly."
On the defense only allowing 10 points in each of the two games following the two-straight losses:
"I think we definitely needed to answer the call. We did not perform well against BYU, especially, or against Boise State. There were some things that we knew we needed to change, so no matter what the offense was doing, giving up points in the 30's is not okay with us. We got the coverage right, and we got the D-line and everybody focused on pressuring the quarterback, which has been a big thing."
On making adjustments to stop the Hawai'i offense following their first scoring drive of the game and again at the beginning of the second half:
"We made some adjustments at halftime and I don't know that there was anything wrong schematically with the touchdown, it was just a good play by them. The corners locked up the receivers after that and everybody just sort of bowed up and started making plays after that."
On the 99-yard interception return for a touchdown:
"I just saw me loosing gas a little bit for the last 30 yards, but it was an awesome effort from the whole defense. I had a whole crowd of teammates around me looking to block somebody. All I had to do was make the one cut and run as fast as I could and there were people running down to celebrate with me. It was awesome."
On being named the Mountain West Defensive Player of the Week:
"It's a huge honor. It's the first time this year and I'm really excited about it. I didn't think I was having an especially spectacular game. The pick definitely helped get me that honor. There are a lot of great players in this league so it's a huge honor."
On being the first player in 49 years to have an offensive and defensive touchdown in the same season:
"I didn't even know that, but that's a huge honor also. There have been so many great players and it's been fun to go to the other side of the ball and try to help produce when I can. The defensive touchdown, it was a total team touchdown to get me into the end zone."
On lobbying to get more snaps at tight end:
"I'm a defensive player now. I played offense in high school, but I definitely prefer defense now. In certain packages I would like to contribute, but I'm a linebacker and that's where I want to be."
On how the linebacker corps has performed this season:
"I think Jake (Doughty) is somewhere real high in the FBS in tackles and either leads the conference in tackles or is behind the San Jose State backer, but there has been a lot of production out of those guys. We've done a good job, but I definitely think other areas have stepped up as well. Maurice (Alexander) in his first year back playing safety, a new position, he's done an awesome job. Nevin (Lawson) and Tay (Glover-Wright) stepping up and moving from safety. Everybody has done a great job of stepping in and making plays when it's their opportunity."
On what he sees out of UNLV heading into this week's game:
"The quarterback is a different guy. The guy last year was a big pocket-passer and the guy they have now is a lot more athletic. He can move around and make plays with his feet as well as his arm. They're good, they were good last year and they're good this year. They have a lot of talent at wide receiver, they have a good running back and their O-line is really physical. It will be a good challenge, they're a really good team."
On what makes Tim Cornett a good running back:
"He's obviously pretty fast and I think he has good vision. We haven't had the opportunity to watch a whole lot of film on them yet, but we played them last year and he has good vision. If he sees a hole he'll just go, one step and he's trying to get yards. It's going to be a challenge."
On UNLV's ability to fight back from behind:
"Hawai'i is one of those teams too, they did it against UNLV and Fresno State, so the coaches were preaching that when it was the fourth quarter. Against any team in the Mountain West, it's a really good conference, so you can't let up for a second. You have to play all four quarters and that's what we're going to do."
Senior Center Tyler Larsen
Recapping the Hawai'i game:
"Versus Hawai'I, I felt like the offense came out strong and confident. Darell (Garretson) did a great job out there in his second game starting. It was obvious that the receivers got a full feel of how he is and how he's going to be playing from here on out, it really showed out there while we were playing. The offensive line, I feel like we came out and did what we needed to do and had a great game. We got Joey DeMartino another 100 yard rushing game, so overall as an offense we had a great game."
On Darell Garretson's ability to sit in the pocket and face pressure:
"It's a little different to be able to have a guy just sitting there, but for a freshman he did a great job. Just watching him, even with guys two or three yards from him, he was just sitting in there and making plays down the field."
On what he's seen in Garretson's progress and what has impressed him the most:
"Just the reads that he makes with throwing to receivers. You look down the field and there are guys covering them, but somehow he finds ways to find that pocket between the defender and the receiver and he hits it."
On what he was thinking watching Kyler Fackrell's touchdown:
"I was thinking `no way that happened.' I was sitting with the O-line talking about the previous drive that we had and I looked up and all of a sudden Fackrell was at the 50-yard line. I didn't know he had that much speed."
On being more physical with the run-game:
"Being physical was a huge point of emphasis for us. Also, it was just technique. You think that it's not that big of a deal for an offensive line, but once we have our technique down, we get low and get hands inside, it makes a world of difference when it come to making run blocks."
On what he sees from the UNLV defense:
"They're a lot more physical and bigger, they're athletic and they fly around. They were a great defense last year, but they're a lot more athletic and physical this year from what I've seen."
On becoming bowl-eligible with a win against UNLV:
"Going 1-0 is what we're always focused on each week, but getting that sixth win and being bowl-eligible is huge."
On if he ever imagined when he arrived at USU that the program could be bowl-eligible three straight years:
"We always wanted that to happen, but knowing that we're actually in position now, it's one of the best feelings knowing that I was fortunate enough to be a part of it."
On what it means to be a part of the winningest senior class in USU history:
"It's huge, it's been a real long journey for a bunch of us seniors going through just four wins in the first few seasons and then exploding after that. It's been fun and we just want to keep setting that record so no one can catch us."
On knowing each game is one of the last ones in his career:
"It's bittersweet, it's been a great career here. Knowing that I only have three games and two home games left, it's going to be hard letting go of this program and watching it carry on after I'm gone."