RUSTON, La. (Sept. 12, 2011) - Louisiana Tech head coach Sonny Dykes spoke with the media Monday following LA Tech's 48-42 overtime win over Central Arkansas and in advance of Tech's upcoming game against Houston on Sept. 17 at 6 p.m. at Joe Aillet Stadium.
Opening Statement . . .
"Well the game last week was a strange football game. I think it was exciting from a fan's standpoint. It was certainly one that I think I will remember for a while.
"It was kind of a funny deal; we were up 21-10 in the second quarter and driving to make it 28-10. We felt like we were moving the ball pretty well. We felt like we kind of had things headed our direction and we threw an interception and they (Central Arkansas) turn around and score and all of the sudden it's 21-17 at halftime. They take the opening kickoff, drive down and kick a field goal, 21-20 and then from then it were on."
"We knew it was going to be a tough game. We knew Central Arkansas was probably going to be able to move the football. We knew they had some good players. The quarterback, obviously, is a good player and I thought he played extremely well in the game. We pressured him and he did a good job of getting the ball off and got it to receivers. They did a good job scheming. They did a good job of getting number two, matched up pretty favorably and we didn't tackle very well. That was the thing was disappointing to me, is that we missed a lot of tackles defensively in this football game and we gave up way too many third down conversions. I think those were keys to sustaining their drives. Three of four different times, if we tackle, we're in position to make a tackle, if we tackle, then it's the end of a drive and they're sending the punt team out there. We just missed too many tackles, played a little bit out of control."
"I was disappointed, the first half I don't think we played real inspired football. We weren't flying around the same way we were flying around the week before, certainly defensively. I was disappointed with that. We didn't play as physically as we did the week before. I think we really played physical defense the week before against Southern Miss and we just didn't have that same type of attitude this week. That's our job, to get them prepared and to get them ready to play and we practiced well all week. We felt really good about the game going in. We felt like we played really well. I thought we did play really well early. We go down and score pretty quickly, get them (Central Arkansas) three and out and then score again, it is 14-0 or 14-3. Then we kind of struggled at times after that."
"The thing that I was proud of was down the stretch we made some plays that we needed to, to win the football game. It was tied up 35 all, we're driving with about 2 minutes to go and felt pretty good about our chances to run the football and get in the end zone to win the game, then all the sudden we fumble and they pick it up and run it 73 yards back for a touchdown and all of the sudden we're down 42-35. I think it showed a lot about our team that guys hung in there and battled and made some plays down the stretch and won the game. I was a little bit disappointed in the way we played, a little bit disappointed in the predicament we found ourselves in but in the same sense, I was really proud of the way we hung in there and found a way to win. You know, that is what we ask our players to do every week, is to find a way to win and we did this week. Are we going to have to play better? Certainly. We are not going to win too many more games on our schedule if we play we did Saturday, but again, Central Arkansas had a lot to do with that. They had a good game plan; their kids played hard, their quarterback played well. I was a little disappointed; we should have scored more points offensively. I felt like that was a game that we could have scored two or three more times in. We need to do that. When we have an opportunity to put people away, we have to learn how to do it on both sides of the ball. Our kicking game still has to improve. We missed a relatively short field goal; we have to get that squared away. We didn't punt the ball particularly well; we have to get that fixed. So, there are lots of issues and lots of things we can improve on and get better."
"Obviously, Houston is going to be a tremendous challenge. They are a very good football team. Well coached. Kevin Sumlin is a good friend of mine and does a really good job. Cliff Kingsbury is kind of running the offense over there at Houston and he was our quarterback at Texas Tech for three years and so, a lot of the same style of offense. You put their film on and it looks real familiar. They do it well. They are very simple. They have good players. They play fast and the quarterback is really, really good. They do a good job by letting him dictate the flow of the game. The thing that he can do is, he does a great job of taking the easy throws, completing passes, moving them down the field and then taking shots down the field as well. They have explosive players, explosive running backs, explosive wide receivers and they will kind of nickel and dime you, and all of the sudden a 65-yard touchdown. That's kind of what they do. They execute it well. Defensively, Brian Stewart is in his second year, I believe, as defensive coordinator and they are getting better at what they do. You can see noticeable improvement from last year to this year on tape. Kids are starting to play faster and have a better grasp and understanding of what they are doing. They are very athletic on defense. They run around well, particularly on the backend and so it will be a challenge for us. We are certainly going to have to play better this Saturday to have a chance to win than we did last Saturday and I think our players realize that and coaches realize that. It should be a good week of practice and we are excited about the challenge ahead and look forward to playing on Saturday."
On the human nature of looking down on a lower-level team . . .
"It's a little bit of human nature but it's like I asked our guys, who do we think we are? What have we ever done that's going to set us apart from anybody? I mean, our players have had it pointed out to them several thousand times that we have to earn everything we get. If we had been to 15 consecutive bowl games, or we had been coming off a 10-win season, you might be able to look past somebody but when you're 5-7 and lucky to win five games and didn't play particularly well the first week, you better be excited to play. I was just disappointed because like I said, we really prepared well. That is what was weird. Typically if you don't play well in a game like that, you can usually go back and say well it was because our preparation wasn't very good, we kind of went through the motions and that really wasn't the case. We practiced extremely well. One of the better weeks of practice we had. Our Tuesday practice last week was outstanding. Just a great Tuesday practice and a good Wednesday and those are the two kind of grind it out days. We just weren't into it as much as we needed to be mentally on Saturday. Again, I think Central Arkansas had us reeling a little bit. I think when Ryan Williams got hurt I think it injured our psyche a little bit defensively. It just seems like we kind of weren't the same after that but obviously, you could sit here and make a million different excuses. We are just going to have to play better."
On the status of Ryan Williams . . .
"We don't know. He is getting an MRI today, we will have a better sense of where we are once we get that back. We're optimistic but you never know. He has a knee injury, we just don't know what the extent is."
On the biggest adjustment the defense will have to make . . .
"More speed across the board at Houston. Houston is going to more of a wide open passing team and Central Arkansas was a change personnel, keep you off balance, scheme you team. So, two totally different approaches to try to accomplish the same thing. Houston kind of does what they do, where Central Arkansas is going to do a lot of different things to create matchups and scheme you and do some different things, where Houston is going to rely on the good play of their quarterback and the speed of their receivers and running backs. The same idea in some ways, just kind of do what they do. They execute well and when you have guys that can catch the ball, run a hitch route and turn it into a touchdown - we are going to have to tackle better defensively. That's going to be the biggest thing. We are going to have to tackle better. We are going to have to get in better position on the football than we did on Saturday."
On Case Kennum . . .
"He is really talented. That's the thing about him. He has an incredibly strong arm and a really, really quick release and he is very accurate on his throws. They have done a good job of making it quarterback friendly for him. Cliff has done a nice job of that. You can tell he is checking a lot of plays and checking stuff he is comfortable throwing. You know, if your safety is here, then your single receiver is going to run this and the corner is off he is going to signal a slant or a hitch or an out. It's really simple football. They just take what you give them and again, they are more than happy to nickel and dime you and then as I said, they will go over the top of you as well. So, they are a well coached football team and very fast and just scary to watch."
On the program finally getting a close win . . .
"It was important. It's hard for me to stand up here and say, boy what a great win against Central Arkansas, and again, that is nothing against those guys, but in a lot of ways I really feel like that was a significant win for us, just the way it played out because I'm not sure if in the past if we would have had enough gumption to fight and claw and find a way to make a play down the stretch. I think a lot of that is due, honestly, to our quarterback. I think he never panicked and we certainly didn't panic as coaches. We just figured he drive us down the field and make a play and that is what he did. You know, Quinton Patton has been a go-to guy for us and a guy that has made big plays, really all year for us. He is becoming more and more consistent. He still has a long way to go. Quinton (Patton) is kind of a homerun hitter now that strikes out a lot. We need him to be a homerun hitter that also hits for average and just makes the routine plays and if we can get him to do that, I think he will be a real good player."
"We just need to play well. That is what you want to do, you just want to improve and in a lot of ways we took a step back with the way that we played, in some ways, Saturday. You want to keep moving forward and we're going to need to play better, defensively, obviously, than we did last Saturday and we are going to need to play better offensively, as well. We're going to have to hold serve when we have the football and we are going to have to get some take aways. When you play Houston, you are going to have to score points. That's the thing, you are going to have to score points. In a lot of ways there is more pressure on your offense that there is your defense just because they've got to match them point for point. We've got to understand that if we get down 14 we just have to continue to play and not panic. We'll get a sense of how mature we are on Saturday. Like I said, I was more disappointed in a lot of things about Saturday's game but I was really impressed with our toughness. We played for 60 minutes and we talked to them about doing that all week. We had some confidence. The weird thing was, I don't think anybody panicked. I think we felt like we could drive the ball the length of the field and win the game. Then when it got in overtime, we spent a lot of time preparing for overtime, five or six practices during fall camp, we worked on overtime and I think it paid off for us. We felt like we would be in some tough ball games this season. We didn't know that it would be Central Arkansas but we knew that we would be in some tough ball games and we knew we needed to be prepared for overtime and when we got in that situation we wanted out players to feel comfortable and I think we did. I think that paid off for us tremendously."
On putting up points offensively . . .
"It was okay. We did some good things. I thought we moved the ball pretty well but we are going to have to play better than that. We had a couple of series where we never got into a rhythm and wasted some possessions that we have to learn not to waste. As I said, I really feel like we could have scored two or three more times. We should have."
On the special teams . . .
"That is something for us that is going to be important. We have to continue to be good at returns. Our punt team is something that we have to get squared away. That's been a bit of an issue for us this year. We haven't been able to really get that thing nailed down from a personnel standpoint and just from a productivity standpoint. We have to do better with our punt team but I really feel like our field goal block team has been outstanding. You block two field goals in two games. Houston has done the same thing. They've actually blocked two field goals in two games. They have a unique way of blocking, they have a leaper that jumps up and does a great job of blocking kicks, but that's who we are. We have to be good at special teams around here. It's a huge emphasis for us and we spend a tremendous amount of time on it and get our best players on their, so we expect it to produce."
On the importance of the running game . . .
"The funny thing about us, and somebody we do this stat because I haven't done it, but if we can make one first down then we usually will move the football and have a chance to score on that drive. When we do that, we play fast, we get a little bit of momentum, the defense gets on their heels a little bit and that is when we can start to sustain some drives and move the football. We're still not that clean in the run game in terms of assignments and technique and that type of thing. We have to really improve some areas up front. I thought Lennon (Creer) ran hard. I thought Ray (Holley) made some really critical plays. To me, Ray Holley has played extremely well, really the last two ball games, in a lot of different ways. He just always makes something happen when he gets his hands on the ball and we have got to continue to get him more and more involved."
"We have to play better up front. I haven't been real satisfied with the way we have played in the offensive line the last two weeks."
On slowing the game down against Houston . . .
"I think you just measure the game. You find out what the game is like. Obviously, if it is one of those things where we can slow it down but stay in our rhythm offensively then I think it is wise to do that at times, but we practice fast and you hate to go in there and change your rhythm because really that is what offensive football is. It is all about establishing a rhythm and getting into a mode where you can execute and you're playing fast and again putting a defense on their hells. So, the reason we play fast is because it allows you to be simpler and when you are simpler you can execute better and you are more sound in what you are trying to do. So that is what we have to continue to do but at the same time you have to be smart in your approach. You have to try to get your defense off the field some, you have to try to rest them at times and so, it is a delicate balance really."