Sept. 4, 2012
Co-offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Bryan Harsin
On his overall thoughts about the Wyoming game: The goal was to run the game, and we did that. Just to kind of get those first game jitters out and not knowing what you are going to see defensively. We had a lot of different things we worked on throughout the week and in camp. We will have a lot of variety in the offense. There was a lot of overage, because of not knowing what you might get and how you are going to utilize the schemes the right way for the fronts and the different things that we heard about. I thought the guys operated well. We want to get a faster start. That will never change. We want to come out and score every time we get the ball. If we get a chance to start the game which we hope we always do, we want to go out and score and send a message. Once that first series was done, we got the ball back, went down and scored and put some good drives together. I thought we ran the ball well. I thought we were efficient in the pass game. We left some deep throws and some touchdowns out there on the field that we have to have. Those are some things we will work on and really that comes down to timing. I thought [sophomore QB] David [Ash] played really well. I thought he played smart. The biggest thing when we talk to our quarterbacks is, "Let's hang on to the football." He is trying to see things and make sure he is not getting a different look that he didn't expect and someone isn't falling off on one of those deep throws, so he held on to it. Other than that, to get everyone in the game that we did and have the opportunities to play, I thought they played well.
On where the receivers need to improve: They did good things. I think we had maybe a drop in there, but we did hang onto the ball. We still need to create separation in some of our comeback throws and things like that. We still have to throw on time at quarterback to help those guys out and that continues to come back to more reps. Now, we have a game under our belt to talk about that speed of the game. It is hard to simulate in practice with scouts what you are going to see, but the reality is we need to practice at that tempo at all times. We have to practice at game speed at all times so when we get out there it is not surprising with our footwork or what our speed has to be in order to complete those passes. That is just one of those things that comes with maturity, that comes with experience and is something we have to continue to harp on as coaches as well.
On where freshman RB Daje Johnson fits in to the scheme:
He is going to be playing some wide receiver for us. We will be able to move him around. Get him out in space and letting him run down the field and letting him catch some throws. Some quick balls to get it in his hands and let him try to do some things with it is how we utilized him. As we put the game plan together, we will kind of finalize that on Thursday, but he will definitely be in the mix.
On Daje's role being similar to senior RB/WR D.J. Monroe: [It is] a little bit different. Daje has done more of the wide receiver position. He is a natural back as well. He did that in high school, and he has a feel for that. He has played more receiver [here]. We have utilized him more out there and more because of the formations. Playing receiver you get exposed to more formations and movements and things like that, and that is what we wanted to do so he felt more comfortable with it. We will get him back in that mix and see how we utilize him, if we do, in the back field.
On how to improve the down-field passing: Just hit him. I thought we had some things set up. I thought the wide receivers did a good job of setting it up, and I thought the O-line protected well. It comes down to a timing thing and just getting back, trusting what you are seeing and letting it go because those guys are going to be able to get down the field in a hurry and they can outrun your arm quickly. The one thing going in this game for David that we talked about is we are not quite sure coverage-wise how much spin or rotation they might have. He wanted to make sure and see those things. Once you have an opponent on tape, you can start to see that and be more comfortable with it as you practice during the week and as you prepare during the week. Really going into this one, you are taking some shots down the middle of the field and you want to make sure no one is falling off and getting underneath it. He was making sure, and we got behind a little bit on some of those throws and that is what caused the underneath throws and the underthrown balls. That will get better as we prepare better and see what we are going to see on film.
On when to expect David Ash to be more instinctive: More this week, because we have an opponent on tape. He will have a chance to prepare for that opponent. He will have a chance to see what they have done, and he will have a chance to practice exactly what we expect them to do. When you do that [you will be ready], and he did that through fall camp. Seeing our defense and seeing the different looks and then seeing the same looks day-in and day-out as well, his anticipation was really good. The ball came out of his hands really good, but he had seen those things and he prepared for those. From this point on that anticipation has to improve and it will. He did it through fall camp, and he will do it from this point on. He will know what he is looking at and what he is looking for going into these games because we will have those opponents on tape.
On explosive plays: Twelve or more [yards] in the run game and 18 or more [yards] in the pass game. We had nine or 10 in there is what we had. You would like to have eight or 10 per game. That means you are getting a couple per quarter is what you are getting. Those are [not] ones like throwing a hitch and a guy spins out of it and goes and runs for 25 yards; you are moving the ball down the field or you are hitting a run that is a big run and getting into the third level. We had a few of those, but we need more in the pass game. We want to be able to do that, and we would like to have balance in the run and pass.
On how to achieve balance in the offense: Everyone says 50/50 or 60/40 and all that and that sounds great, but you are going to do whatever you have to do to win the game. That is exactly what you said. If we can go out there and we are throwing the ball around and we are hitting receivers and throwing on time then we will keep throwing it. We are running the ball and Malcolm [Brown] and Joe [Bergeron], those two guys fed off each other I felt like in this last game. When one guy went out, the other guy came in and picked right up where we left off. They were running well, and the O-line was blocking well. You could see the O-line really start to get into a groove there in that second half. If it ain’t broke, it is one of those deals right there to keep going with it and let them work.
On the balance for RB/WR D.J. Monroe between running and catching the ball: He is a guy that is an explosive player for us. We look at those and think how we get the ball in their hands. I thought the one thing that D.J. really showed in that game was down here in the end zone when we handed the ball off to him in the wild formation and he turned the corner, ducked his shoulder and he just got skinny in a hurry and physical and got in. There was a collision there, and he kept his feet and fell into the end zone. That was really something that we wanted to see. He did it through spring and fall camp, and it showed up in the game. He was being very physical in those situations, and I think that has to continue. He did a nice job with some of the stuff out of the back field, catching some swing throws and just getting up field and trying to get him in space. I thought that everything we asked him to do he did, and he did a nice job with it.
On a package with D.J. Monroe and Daje Johnson: We will see where Daje fits in this week in the game plan. We have to make sure that we are putting him in situations where he can be successful and D.J. can be successful. That thought and idea is about speed and having speed in the back field, but we also have to balance everything out. We have to make sure that Daje is going to be positions out there in wide receiver. How much he gets will determine how much we can do with him in those other packages.
On getting freshman RB Johnathan Gray more involved: He will get more involved. The nice thing about where Johnathan is at right now is he is a very good football player who has two guys that have experience in front of him with Joe and Malcolm. We don’t have to throw him in the fire. He can go out there and let those guys do their deal, and we can get him in on some specific plays that he is prepared for throughout the week. Again, playing Wyoming and not knowing exactly what they were going to do defensively and throwing a bunch of young guys out there that might get new looks, we felt more comfortable with the veteran players and the older guys that have experienced a lot of different things. As the games go on and the opponents are on film, it is going to help those younger players so much more when they study it and know exactly what they are getting and exactly what they are going to face.
Defensive coordinator/linebackers coach Manny Diaz
On recovering after a big offensive play: The immediate thing that goes through your mind is we've got to move on to the next play, and one of the neat things about Saturday night was our worst plays on defense were actually followed immediately by some of our best plays on defense. Obviously the 11 guys that were on the field at that point were all just heartbroken, really, to allow that to happen, but to come back and block the ensuing point attempt, you could see a bunch of guys not feeling sorry for themselves and not really focusing on that play. But for us to block that PAT, I think really speaks to maybe the spirit that this team has.
On overcoming adversity: Well, there's not going to be any touchdowns that we allow that I'm going to be overjoyed about. What games provide is reallife adversity. That's what you can't simulate in practice. You can't simulate the variables of the things that are out of our control, and of course any good defense or any good team or any good individual learns to control the things that they can control and not worry about the things that you can't. But all that being said, there was no call that allowed for a miscommunication in our coverage on that second touchdown. So one, even though it may be easy to say, well, this happened causing this, in reality that's still not true. We still just made a mistake which allowed them to score.
On improvements for next week: Well, it's what I said when I sat here last week, when the games come there's something to fix, and there's always going to be something to fix. And games are also they are humbling is probably the word. But it tells you who you are. Forget about what everybody thinks. We are building our resumé. Last year's defense, one of the things on the resumé is we didn't give up big plays. Right now this year's defense is giving up the big play. We know that's on our resumé. We have to find a way to minimize that and make that a bygone sort of small point by the time the season is over. It's what I enjoy about the season is that it's what's real, it's what's defined, it's what we put on tape, and we have a chance to fix it every week.
On how to adjust for New Mexico's option offense: Well, it's going to measure players in terms of their ability to learn and learn concepts on defense. You know, we go from a team last week that lined up with no backs about a third of the game to a team that when the ball is snapped will have three backs in some way, shape or form in the backfield when the ball snaps, so you couldn't be going from one end of the spectrum any further to the other. See, that's kind of neat about college football. That's what college football is. It's not sort of everybody running the same offense, same defense week in and week out. We do have these dramatic changes in style. And certainly with what New Mexico did last week and the way they were able to run the football, it's just an entirely different challenge than we saw last Saturday, but that's the world we live in. We've got to go stop it.
On a plan to stop New Mexico: It'll be assignments. It'll be, number one, no presnap problems, got to make sure we get lined up to what they do, and communication will be important, which is one of the things we didn't do a great job of Saturday night. So we'll have to make sure when the ball is snapped that we're already not in trouble, and then they do a great job. There's guys that were moving all over the place after the ball snapped that sort of changed the number count, and we'll have to handle all that. So our guys will really have to be in the right place, and it still comes down to tackling. One thing option teams do a great job of, in a way the same thing the spread teams do in a different method, is they isolate your defensive football players, create oneonones. So even if you have the guy, it's not just having the guy, you've got to get the guy on the ground. Now, you can do that by running with five wide receivers and throwing a short pass or you can do that by going to the triple option where someone has got dive quarterback pitch. You may have someone on pitch, but he still has to tackle the guy. He doesn't tackle the guy because somebody is brought up on diving quarterback; that's where they can make big plays, and that's what happened. That's what they were able to do, explosive plays in their opener this past weekend. Those are really the challenges when you go up against an offense like this.
On if defensive issues were because of inexperience: I don't think there's any doubt that that will be one of our main points of emphasis this week in terms of improving. I think that's one of the deals that you just take for granted the experienced guys that we had on last year's defense that have been in that environment. When you do things that you don't do for 29 days in practice and you do it on game day, then you know that that environment playing out there in front of all those people changed. [It] changes the deal or the situation for some of the guys that we had in the game. You could see the very distinct line between our guys that have been in that environment and played a lot of defense as opposed to guys that haven't been in that environment. You have to go through it, you have to do it once as a coach. You warn them; you're like the parent that warns their child about the dangers of this, that and the other, and the child still goes and does it and they came back and said,"Gee, mom or dad, you were right about that." And you just sit there and say,"I know." So we'll move on, and the good thing is the first one is out of the way.
On moving forward with the defense: Well, for us, I mean, it still comes down to what we want to do every week. We want to be a better tackling team, which I suspect we will be in the second week of the season. We want to be a team that doesn't beat ourselves before the snap. We want to be a team that doesn't give up big plays. We want to be a team that makes big plays. You saw that in flashes a little bit in the Wyoming game. There was a lot of good when you put the tape on and watched it. We have a lot of respect for Wyoming's running game, and they only had two runs of over five yards, and one of them was the first play of the game. I think two thirds of the runs were for three yards or less. We had a run defense, and the challenge we had week one was good. We gave up a few explosive pass plays that are all correctable and that we can fix, and we just look forward to moving on.
On goals for improvements: Well, sometimes I think they're the same. I think they're the same. I think when you look at your defense and when you come back in, no matter who you play, you're in this constant state of just trying to improve and just trying to get better. Yyou want your guys to be people that are just infatuated with just improving myself over whatever I was last week, and if you get 11 guys or 22 guys that have that attitude, as the whole, of course we'll improve. So everybody has got a little thing, from our best player all the way to the guy that got one snap in at the end of the game, everybody has got something individually that they can do better that we can coach better than we coached in the first game. I've got to coach better in week two than I coached in week one. So if we all dedicate ourselves to doing that, that is what we set as our goal every week is a constant state of improvement. And it's funny how things work out on the scoreboard if we do that.
On the challenges of the option offense: Again, what an option offense does, it really brings out in a way it sort of puts your defense in one line because you've got to handle the A gap. It starts in the A gap. Then they're going to move out to the B, to the C, and then somebody has got the quarterback and somebody has got the pitch, and there will be a blocker out there for that. So really it puts a stress not just to have somebody fill all those jobs starting from our defensive tackles out to our corner, and everybody is going to have to tackle. That's another thing these offenses are really good at. They can make anybody on your football team the tackler if they want to, so you've got to win, and if they find the guy that's not in the mood for tackling then you could be in for a long day. You could play it all right and that guy doesn't feel like tackling that day and you've got a bad day going. The run game always starts in the A gaps with our defensive tackle, and one our linebackers will always be haunting that area, and everything starts inside out and moves from there.
On what he saw that he liked from the defense against Wyoming: You know what, I watched the tape on Sunday, I was pleased. There were still some little things that you just saw from the first day. I have different standards. There were a lot of threeyard gains that nobody would ever notice, and they were good plays for our defense. But they really could have been zeroyard gains if we just maybe would have gone a half a count sooner and attacked the line of scrimmage. But overall when I look at our run defense, when I compare ourselves to even our opener last year against Rice, we were a better defensive football team Saturday than we were one year ago against Rice. Rice ran for 130 yards on us. With what they did, overall I was pleased with their performance, but they know they have some room to improve.
On CB Carrington Byndom: I think Carrington is a guy that really improved in his confidence as the year went on last year. I think the Oklahoma State game was a good game. I thought he played well against Oklahoma. I think against Oklahoma State he really made some plays against [Justin] Blackmon where he started to say, "You know what, I might not be half bad at this deal." The neat thing about working with Carrington every day, he's a very humble individual. He's soaks up [defensive backs] Coach [Dunae] Akina's teaching like a sponge. He wants to improve every day, and he's a fun guy to coach. So you're always happy when guys like that have success on Saturday.
On DT Desmond Jackson: We just felt like he had more flash plays. We're a bit of the mindset that we have four starters at defensive tackle and who plays the first play isn't necessarily the most important thing, but we did think that Desmond was a little bit more productive, and Desmond plays extremely hard. [He] really is made for what we talk about in terms of penetrating, getting across the line of scrimmage. But it doesn't mean anything against any of the other guys. We felt just Desmond had to be awarded for some of the plays he made on Saturday.