Dec. 17, 2013
LOGAN, Utah - Utah State football head coach Matt Wells, along with senior linebacker Jake Doughty and senior center Tyler Larsen, held a news conference Tuesday to preview its upcoming San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl against Northern Illinois. A complete transcript of Wells, Doughty and Larsen's remarks can be found below.
Head Coach Matt Wells
Previewing the Poinsettia Bowl and Northern Illinois:
"First of all I have a lot of respect for Coach (Rod) Carey and the program that they have had there. Three different head coaches and one result, and that's a winning program, a bowl team, and a team that competes for championships. A team that knocks on the BCS door this year and they opened it last year. I think that it is a program, as I look from the outside looking in with not any direct knowledge, that I hope that our program would be like in three more years."
"I just think that when you look at models of programs and you see a consistent winner and you see somebody who is doing it the right way with the kids they are doing it with, I think that is something you want to achieve. Now, will we go about it in different ways? Sure. I think the model that we have here has proven to be true. It's not a one-year flash in the pan, it wasn't last year, and I think that we proved that again this year. When you have three-straight winners of a season and you have a championship last year, and a division championship this year, I think three-straight bowl games is evidence that you have a strong foundation, and that you're moving in the right direction as a program. As I look at Northern Illinois' program, I have a lot of respect that they have done it for six straight years, and have been BCS contenders, top 25 the last two years and how they have done it."
On the strengths of Northern Illinois:
"It's a good opponent and they are strong on defense. The two inside three techniques are very active and they are very strong, they have a tall rangy safety in No. 1 (Dechane Durante) and the other safety (Jimmie Ward) picks everything that is thrown back there. I think he has 17 picks if I am not mistaken."
"I think Jordan Lynch deserves everything he gets. He is a running back that passes the football. He is very accurate, he is very consistent and he has a strong arm. I really like his footwork, as I study him and watch him, and I bet he is a fun guy to coach. His numbers speak for themselves, and again another great quarterback that our defense is going to go up against."
"I know that they are ready to meet that challenge. They are explosive, they have good skill, they are explosive on the perimeter and they have a bunch of blue collar tough guys inside on the O-Line that protect Jordan, so we have our work cut out for us. We understand that it is a big challenge for our defense and it's something that I know they are excited to go see how they fare on that stage. This is a big bowl game for us, one of the biggest in school history, on a national stage and we are excited to put our product out there for all of the nation to see."
On Utah State defensive coordinator Todd Orlando and how he has fit in with the program:
"The biggest thing that I was impressed with is something that you don't see, because it doesn't have anything to do with sacks or tackles for loss or picks. It was his willingness to come into a situation, recognize that it was already pretty good, recognize that there are already good players here, learn the system, wrap his arms around it, get the other defensive guys to believe in him, and put his on spin on it. And the product is very good. To me it had everything to do with Todd saying, `I've got a lot of respect for Utah State Football, and how you train and how you develop kids. Let me learn and put my own twist to it.' That takes a very humble man and a very confident man. I think he's got both of those wrapped into one. It's been a very good match for us to work together."
On making successful seasons happen again and again:
"I think it's a combination of continued effective recruiting, number one. The continuity of our coaching staff, even though we had a lot of defections last year after Coach (Gary) Andersen left. A few of us have stayed that know how we train and develop and practice and all of that stuff. I think ultimately it's the belief in the locker room. Those kids don't think they are going to win, they expect to win. They expect to win every single time, and there are five different times this year they have been completely shocked. That goes from Salt Lake to walking in the Coliseum, to last week in Fresno. They are broken emotionally and they have picked themselves up after those, and fought their tails off and have had a very good performance the next week, or the next opportunity. So I think that is evident in the locker room. For it to continue, I think that has to be handed down to the younger players and those players have to learn that. I don't know if we are there yet, we will know in a year or two. Those guys have to buy into that and they have to understand that that's what it takes, and how they act."
On what happened to change to a winning mentality:
"I think that Gary (Andersen) instilled not only giving great effort, but being smart, being football junkies, while he continued to recruit better players that still have those thoughts and ideals. I think you get a better product and a better locker room. When guys buy into living right off the field and having high character, although we're not perfect and we never will be, and to go into class and to doing things right in the classroom, then usually your product on the field improves, and you're a good player on the field. And I have seen that to be true."
On opposing defenses using pressure to get to Utah State's freshman quarterback:
"I think that's dependent on what defenses and what schemes they have. Fresno State has been pressuring all year. It didn't matter that Darell was back there."
On keeping up with assistants' salaries:
"There is a formula, and that is something that I think Mr. (Scott) Barnes and I have addressed and are still addressing. You always want to improve your situation here and with our current staff, and reward guys who deserve it and those that we can get more money for and all that kind of stuff. I think it's better than it's ever been. I think it's going to get better, because you want to stay relevant in the Mountain West and who your peers are. And it's something that's out there, and I think that the more you win and the more you continue to put the product out in Logan and at Utah State and you're consistent, I think the nation recognizes it. And they are going to come after your coaches, and I am aware of that."
On the benefits and expectation of being in the Mountain West:
"You know the exposure is coming with the TV contracts, and how it's a better conference and a really good non-BCS conference. You know all that and I think it met those expectations. We knew that we were going to be on bigger platforms nationally and the competition was exactly how I thought it was going to be. I was an assistant in this league for three years, so I had a pretty good idea, although some of the staffs have changed and there has been some turnover and there have been some schools that have gone up from when I was an assistant that are not there anymore. So it has changed a little bit, but we played Wyoming, Colorado State, and UNLV here at Utah State in our non-league games recently, so I think we knew what we were getting into."
On the Northern Illinois offense:
"You've got the wide outs on the perimeter, and you have an explosive offense averaging that amount of points and doing the things that they are. You've got a good quarterback, you've got talent on the outside and you've got a really good running back. In a lot of ways that reminds me of us last year when you got guys with experience and guys who are explosive and make those plays for you."
On the feelings of losing and winning bowl games:
"I think the obvious is when you win, it propels you with a great feeling and the attitude of accomplishment into the next season. It's just a good feeling when you remember and look back on those bowl games with great feelings. I remember losses when I was an assistant and I don't think that it is a detriment either to the next year. Sometimes it can serve as a motivating factor. I can tell you that the loss at Fresno State will be a major motivating factor and something we verbalize for the next nine months around here, because we didn't finish the drill. So that one for sure will. You go back to the Humanitarian Bowl when we lost at the last second, that didn't set us back the next year. I mean we didn't sit around and feel sorry for ourselves, so I think you got both, and we will use both. I don't think a loss is detrimental to our psyche."
On Jake Doughty and Zach Vigil:
"Those inside linebackers to me epitomize the program and they are the face of that defense. They are blue-collar and have great work ethic. They are in-state kids and they are football junkies. Really, I don't know if I have ever seen such junkies, they are like quarterbacks they watch so much tape. If you do that you usually end up being a really good player if you have talent, and those kids have talent. It goes to show you from a recruiting standpoint it's an art not a science, and you get lucky sometimes. We got lucky with those two guys."
On Jake Doughty and other walk-ons making an impact:
"I think those guys all look up to him and want to be him whether it's Jake or Zach (Vigil) or Jamie Markosian, the list goes on and on. There are a lot of guys that go through the walk-on program and have been successful at Utah State."
"There is an art in it. If you hit on more than you miss you're going to be pretty successful. Recruiting is not perfect. You sign guys you think are going to be good and you evaluate, and they don't pan out for whatever reason from an on-the-field standpoint. You get guys committed and you end up not signing them for whatever reasons. I was told a long time ago, by a veteran coach that it's about the guys you sign, not the ones you lose. Those are the ones you need to concern yourself with. So that's what we've done. We concern ourselves with who wants to be in Logan, Utah, be a Utah State Aggie and buy into our values and fundamentals. And those guys that you all just mentioned, they have all bought in. That's why they have been successful."
Senior Linebacker Jake Doughty
Previewing the Poinsettia Bowl and Northern Illinois:
"Their offense is very good and Jordan Lynch, their quarterback, is dual threat. He can run and pass the ball extremely well, similar to Chuckie (Keeton) and Taysom Hill from BYU. We need to stop him from running the ball first and fore most and then we'll move on to the pass."
On playing against someone who finished third in the Heisman Trophy race:
"It's a new challenge. You play college football to play the best athletes in the nation and he, being third in the Heisman, is one of the best. It's going to be an exciting game."
On what plays make Jordan Lynch so effective:
"A lot of them are read plays. As their leading rusher, he wants the ball as many times as he can get it and even when he's dropping back if he doesn't see one of the first or second receivers that he likes he's going to tuck it and gain 20 or 30 yards. He does that extremely well so we'll have to contain him. He's a very physical runner, he's got good agility, he can make you miss and he can run you over."
On what the key is to bringing Jordan Lynch down:
"Hitting him true, no arm tackles. You've got to get your body in front of him. He's just going to run through your arm tackles, like all great runners. If you don't have a good base underneath you he's just going to truck you, so you need good form tackles and rat-tat-tat defense. Get a lot of people around him and a lot of guys hitting him."
On the transition of defensive coordinators from Dave Aranda to Todd Orlando:
"Coach (Todd) Orlando came in fitting our scheme. He learned our plays, learned what players can do what and those sorts of things, so it wasn't a hard fit for us. It was more of a challenge for him coming in here with a new defense, new guys and just learning what we can do. As far as the differences between the two coordinators is concerned, Coach (Dave) Aranda liked dropping into coverage and, if it's third and long, stopping them right before the sticks. Coach Orlando is more of a pressure kind of guy. He likes to blitz and put pressure on the quarterback to get a clock in his head. Both styles seem to work pretty well, it just depends on what coordinator you have."
On being the first class in school history to go to three bowl games in a row:
"Now it's just that the expectation is a lot higher. My freshman year up here we won four games so that was kind of a disappointment, but the past three years have been like a dream come true. It's been a pleasure and a privilege to be a part of a program that's on the up-and-up. The expectation around here is now that we're going to a bowl game and we're going to win games, it's great."
On what the biggest difference has been with this group compared to other groups:
"Our work ethic wasn't that much different. The biggest thing I noticed was the mindset. When games got close, the mindset during my redshirt freshman year and my freshman year was `uh-oh, I hope we don't lose it' instead of to keep applying pressure. Now it's like `the game's getting close, this is where we step up.' The players aren't that much different, we had good players back then too, the mentality around here seems to be a lot different now."
On if there was a time in his career where he was worried that he wouldn't make it this far or wouldn't finish his career at Utah State:
"Once I came up here I knew I was going to stay up here. As far as competing, I never thought I'd come this far, honestly. I always wanted to play some defense, but as a walk-on and no one really wanting you it's kind of humbling to say the least. You just have to work harder, get more time in film and become a preparation junky. A lot of guys are satisfied with just being on special teams and being a part of the program. As far as I'm concerned, I want to do my best and exceed expectations. It's kind of just a motivation to keep me going."
On if he's satisfied yet:
"No. Every game it doesn't matter how many tackles I have, I should have had more. Any loss that we have, I always think it's my fault and the defenses fault. It helps to try to keep us humble and keep us going."
On his thoughts on his fumble return for a touchdown against Fresno State:
"I'm slow, I didn't realize I'm that slow. That was about the only thing that I got out of the film really. When their running back almost got to me from behind, thank God (Zach) Vigil was there to block him because I wouldn't have scored otherwise if we're being honest."
On how playing well against an opponent like Northern Illinois would validate what the defense has done this season:
"So far this season, I'm pretty proud of our guys. The games that we lost we should have played better, flat out. Utah, BYU, Boise State and Fresno State, we should have performed better and we didn't. There are some games that are kind of disappointing, but as a whole I think we've been playing pretty well. As far as NIU is concerned for our defense, they're a pretty big running team, which I enjoy more because I can be more of involved in the game. With a dual-threat like (Jordan) Lynch is, you have to be prepared for everything. We've got to bring our best game and hope everyone is keeping their assignments or he's going to make a fool of us."
On if he sees himself as the face of the Utah State defense:
"No, I'd say Kyler Fackrell and Zach Vigil are more of the face than I am. They're top players, great athletes and they come to play every week. I wouldn't say we have just one face. I like to think of our defense as one, kind of a unity thing. I wouldn't say we have one face to us."
On what mistakes defenses seem to make most against Jordan Lynch:
"What I've noticed a lot is that they bite on some of the fakes, like the play-action kind of fakes. They're getting down hill, expecting a run, and then he kind of fools you with a great fake and throws it over your head. Also, a lot of people keep biting on a fake from the running back and then he just keeps it. It seems like other defenses aren't taking his running game as seriously as they need to. A big key is just wrapping up, you see some guys try to arm tackle him and you just can't do that against a runner as strong and powerful as he is. We just have to bring our feet and hips, wrap-up and run through him."
Senior Center Tyler Larsen
Previewing the Poinsettia Bowl and Northern Illinois:
"Northern Illinois's defense is very solid. I think they're a big reflection of why they've had such a great season, despite that fact that their offense is so explosive. They don't really have that big of guys on the defensive front, but their effort and speed is what I think makes them so dominant. We've got to make sure that we stay on point when it comes to receivers, running backs, quarterbacks and us as offensive lineman."
On taking the eight sacks against Fresno State personally:
"There are sometimes where the quarterback is hot or the running back has to pick up a guy, but when it comes to the point of it all, it's the job of the offensive line to protect the quarterback and we take that to heart when it comes to having even one sack. We never want the quarterback to be touched. We've just got to move on from what happened last game and move onto other things."
On defenses bringing more pressure since Darell Garettson became the starter:
"I think with him being a freshman, defensive coordinators think that they can get into his head more easily. We really have seen more pressures than we were used to. With Chuckie (Keeton), he was that dual-threat, being able to scramble out of anything. We've just got to make sure we watch more film as an offensive line and meet with Darell to make sure we're on the same page. We need to know what guys we need to account for and what guys he's going to be hot off of so he can get out of a bad situation."
On what's impressed him the most about Darell Garretson's progression:
"I think his composure that he's kept. No matter what kind of game that he's having, he's always in there battling. When he came in at New Mexico and started the whole game he did a great job. We were all really proud of him, and he had that composure and confidence in himself that Chuckie (Keeton) had when we played Auburn three years ago. He's just got that confidence, he knows that he's going to make great plays and he knows that sometimes it's not going to go the way he wants, but he just finds a way to move on."
On being named a second-team All-American:
"I'm truly honored to be on that list. It's always been my biggest goal to be named an All-American. A lot of the guys that I work with, coaches and players, have pushed me to be the best that I can and now that I'm on the All-American list, I just look back and say thank you to everyone."
On being named a finalist for the Rimington Trophy:
"That's also a great achievement and I'm very happy about that. Being named one of the best centers in the nation is really overwhelming. It just makes me want to work harder and show everyone who I am."
On ending the season in San Diego rather than Boise:
"To me it really doesn't matter, I'm just happy that we're in a bowl game. San Diego is just a little bit more convenient because that's where my wife is at right now."
On playing a team that just lost their first game of the season the previous game twice in a row:
"We know they're going to come out trying to show people that they should be in a BCS game and we just have to come out with our confidence that we have every single game. We know our defense is going to do great, and as an offense, we have to get enough points up there."
On the future of Utah State:
"I think it looks really bright. As Aggies, we pride ourselves on hard work and on being a physical team. As an offensive lineman, I've been watching those guys and they've been doing a great job. There are a lot of freshman that are really stepping up. We might see a couple of guys starting who are young. Defensively, we've always had a great defense and they're looking really good. Receivers, they're looking great too, we've got a lot of talent."
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