RUSTON, La. (Oct. 31, 2011) - Louisiana Tech head coach Sonny Dykes, along with select players, spoke to the media Monday following Tech's 38-28 win over San Jose State and in advance of the team's game at Fresno State.
"It's good to be in here after a win. We knew it was going to be a challenging football game going into it. They have a good offensive team. We are playing well defensively and on special teams. They were on a hot streak, winning three of four off of quality opponents. We knew it would be a tough game and thought we played pretty well. The fourth quarter was a little disappointing, but it's always good to win a game. We ask our players to do what it takes to win, and they did what they had to do to win against a good, improving football team."
"You want to play significant games in November. Here we are in November with four games left against quality teams. The outcome of these games will be meaningful and you want to get to a point where every game played in November means something. Moving on to Fresno; people look at their 3-5, but they have played really good football teams in Ole Miss, Nebraska, Cal, Nevada, etc... They've lost close games to quality opponents and are really improving as a program. They are playing much better now than they were earlier in the season, especially offensively."
"Their quarterback (Carr) is more comfortable and you can tell he is gaining experience every week. When you put the film on, you can see how much they've improved. They are very fast on offense, and run well. They do a good job of mixing it up and challenge you with their personnel. They do a lot of different things and make you prepare for a lot of different things because they play with two backs, a tight end, and have a spread team."
"Defensively, it starts with their front seven. The D-line is one of the better fronts we'll face. They are big guys inside and their linebackers are extremely active. They have a really good punt returner and blocked a lot of field goals, so they do a lot of good things on special teams as well. This will be a challenging game for us, but one that we are excited about. It's nice to win three in a row and we are starting to come together as a football team."
Q: Talk about (QB) Colby Cameron's performance. It was his first start of the season.
"He did some really good things. As a quarterback, there are always some things you want to have back. We had Quincy Patton on a double post and overthrow him by a step and then had Richie Casey loose on a wheel route and missed him, so we had two opportunities to make big plays and missed the throws. He also had the fumble, but he made well on his first time out. He played with confidence and you can tell that our players felt good with him out there and thought he handled everything well for the first time as a starter."
Q: Does he (Colby) bring in a different skill set than Nick Isham does?
" He's a little bit better in terms of throwing down the field, but I think that a young quarterback grows into that, and Nick will continue to get better. Colby is also a good runner, and scrambles pretty well and can run around a bit. The different for Colby is the experience. He's been here for a while now, so we'll let the two guys practice this week and access it from there."
Q: With three straight wins, do you think this team has a swagger and identity?
"We're playing with more confidence. It's something we had in the beginning of the season, and knew we were a good football team, but we lost some tough, close football games and then lost badly at Hawai'i. Since then, we've played better; done a better job taking care of the ball. In three weeks we went from being the worst at taking care of the ball in the WAC to the best. We have created 11 turnovers and only had two. We've had a great turnover margin and anytime you're playing good defense, it gives you a chance to win. We're still trying to find ourselves offensively and show flashes at times, but we have to get more consistent on offense."
Q: Outside of turnovers, anything you can put your finger on that attributes to this three-game win streak?
"It speaks to the character of our players. When you lose games the way we did to Southern Miss, Houston and Mississippi State, you can lose yourself. To our players credit, they did not do that, and continued to work hard and do things right. We told them that if they did a few little things differently, then it would pay off and to their credit, they believed it and continued to work hard and now we're winning games. That's just the way things work. You just have to keep showing up and understand that you can only worry about the things you can control, and not the things out of your reach. That's the biggest difference. We've gotten on some fumbles and picked some balls off that weren't going our way in the beginning of the season and have been playing great defensively. Offensively, we haven't been turning the ball over as much and that has been the key for us."
Q: Fresno is probably one of the most balanced teams in the country, averaging about 500 yards. What do you think the key is to containing them?
"They can run the ball. Robbie Rouse is one of the best, if not the best running back in our conference easily. Carr has a big arm and is very talented. He can make accurate throws and then they have speed at the wide receiver position. They are always physical upfront. They run the ball well, throw the ball well. They run the play action well and also get into some of their spread offense well. There are a lot of things you have to prepare for and a lot of things they do well."
Q: Coach you guys are taking the games one at a time. Earlier in the season, we spoke about how brutal this stretch will be. Talk about your preparation.
"It's tough but it really is not bad when you take it one game at a time. This is a good team, but we are a good team as well, so we'll see what happens on Saturday. We'll worry about the other stuff later. You play what's on the schedule and if we play well, we will continue to win games."
Q: Your defense has been great these past three weeks, returning three interceptions for touchdowns. What do you tell them before the games?
"I don't have to tell them much. They know our formula; play well and play hard. Expect something good to happen and make good things happen. That's exactly what they've done and it's a tribute to their character. We've played some of the best offenses in college football early on and gave up some touchdowns but the guys kept believing in their technique and the coaching staff. They continued to work hard and do things the right way and it paid off. We cannot lose our edge. Sometimes, you go out and play well a couple of weeks in a row and lose yourself. We have to be a mature team and not lose our edge."
Q: Do you think the close loses earlier in the season contribute to the defense's edge?
"If we continue to play well, we will win. Houston is [ranked] 14th in the country, Southern Miss is in the top 25 in the country and Mississippi State is a good football team. They draw confidence from those games and know how close we were to winning those games and they learned from those games. As a coaching staff, we learned from those games and as players, they learned from those games. You just have to continue following your formula and prepare well. We've really done a good job preparing by practicing hard, watching extra films, being attentive in meetings, traveling well, etc... I like the way we've played on the road this season and a lot of it has to do with our maturity, focus and preparation for the game."
Q: Talk about the game plan for Tommy Spangler. Going up against top offenses and going back and forth from great running teams, to great passing teams.
"We've been able to stop the run these last few weeks and that makes a team one dimensional. Anytime you become one dimensional offensively, you become easier to defend. It will be difficult to do that against Fresno, but our defense has played well. We've made plays and are much more improved now than we were a year ago. All of that gives us a chance to create turnovers and gives us a chance to win."
Defensive Back Chad Boyd
Q: As a defense, you guys have created a lot of turnovers over these past few weeks. Talk about the shift in turnover margin. Was there something said after the Hawai'I loss about making plays defensively?
"We all just realized the opportunities we missed during the Hawai'i game. We have the physical abilities and the skill set to make plays in those situations. We just stressed it more during practice and knew that we can make plays when those situations come about. That's pretty much what we've been doing. We've been reading our keys, jump the receiver routes and read the quarterback well."
Q: Have you guys gained confidence even with close losses to Houston, Southern Miss and Mississippi State?
"We never really lost our confidence. Houston is undefeated and Southern Miss has one loss, so we know we can compete with the best of them and we just knew we had it in us. It might have taken us a few games, but it was a tribute to hard work and preparation."
Q: You stopped Houston for the majority of the game. Keenum recently broke the record for most touchdowns in college football history. How does it feel like knowing that you held him back a little?
"It's a good feeling because we know what type of quarterback he is and the numbers he puts up are excellent. If he gets in a rhythm, he can't miss. With us, we kind of stopped his rhythm for the first three quarters and made him hit or miss. Great players make great plays and that's what he did in the fourth quarter. It would have been great to stop him and give them their only loss but it is what it is."
Q: Coach spoke about taking the games one game at a time. However, if you guys put together a streak and win two or three games, is a bowl game something that comes to mind for you guys?
"Everybody thinks about it, but we make sure to only worry about the game coming up. That's what our mentality has been the last couple of weeks and it has paid off for us. We have a tough test this weekend, against a great team, so we have to come out playing our best and hopefully we get a win."
Q: The last three times you've played Fresno, the games have ended in very close losses. Does that stay in your mind coming into Saturday's game?
"We think about it and it gives us a prediction of how this game might be, just knowing the skill set of their team. We are very similar in terms of size and speed, so it probably is going to come down to who wants it more and we just have to execute.
Q: Where is this team confidence wise when you came into this season thinking you were going to improve and then you had close losses that first month of the season? Where was your confidence then and what turned it around for you?
"The confidence then was still pretty high, but we were disappointed with our record. Right now, we are playing at our true potential and we know we can play with anybody.
Q: Coach spoke about the 11 turnovers created the last three games. You guys have had an interception returned for a touchdown the last three games. Are creating turnovers kind of contagious on defense?
"It is a little bit just because everybody likes to compete. Everybody talks about it at the end of the season, but it's a good thing. I wish everybody could have a pick or a fumble recovery."
Q: Is Dudley bragging a little right now?
"We actually tease him because every time he gets into the end zone he looks like he's about to die. He's had two in the last three games so congratulations to him. At the end of the day, it's great for us because it's a win for all of us."
Q: Defensively, you guys have done a good job of stopping the run. You guys are ranked 13th in the country at stopping the run. When you make things one dimensional, does it make it easier or tougher on the defensive backs and secondary?
"It makes it easier, because we can react and read certain plays better. For instance, stopping the run allows us to read the play action better and allows us to stay in coverage's longer knowing that the front seven are getting to the running back and quarterback as well as they have been."