Nov. 26, 2012
Coach Long presser | Coach Long quotes | Sandifer, McFadden, Kazee presser | Sandifer, McFadden, Kazee quotes
Head football coach Rocky Long
We're pretty excited around here about things that have happened over the last few weeks, and pretty excited about going to the bowl game. I think that all of us, I know the staff and a lot of the players, are happy to be staying here because there is no better place to be.
Q. Were there hopes for the Las Vegas Bowl at all?
We were really happy that we qualified for a bowl game about four weeks ago and at that time it didn't really matter. But then as people started talking about the possibilities of where you might go, we wanted to stay home and play in front of and give our fans a chance to see us in a bowl game.
Q. What do you like about facing BYU?
I don't know yet. Maybe nothing. I haven't watched them on film yet. I've seen them on TV a couple times, and they look awfully big and strong. I think their defense is ranked in the top 10 in a lot of categories. Since they were in the league for a long time and I was in the league for a long time, they look like a normal BYU team to me. Great, big, strong, mature, all of those things.
Q. How much success did you have against them when you were at New Mexico?
Not a whole lot. I don't know what the records were. I think we won twice. They won I don't know, nine times maybe? We won two or three. They won the others. They were usually pretty good games though. They were usually pretty competitive.
Q. Since you guys have done it before, how different is a bowl game at home as opposed to a regular home game? I know there is pomp and circumstance surrounding it, but is it a different ambience or something?
I actually think it makes the experience maybe a little bit better because some of the travel issues when you go on the road to a bowl game involve a lot of coordination. Being at home where you don't have all of that probably makes it easier on a whole lot of people. It also makes it much easier for your fans to watch you play because it's expensive.
Like last year, we went to the New Orleans Bowl, and only had two weeks before we went. That was expensive for us to go, and it was expensive for anybody that wanted to come watch us play too.
Q. A lot of SDSU fans really hate BYU and they're excited to get a chance to beat them. Do you feel like this is a rivalry between you guys and BYU?
How many rivalries do we have? Every other week it's a rivalry. I guess I haven't been here long enough to know if the Aztecs versus BYU is a big rivalry or not. I think there are a lot of people that were in the old WAC and Mountain West Conference that thought BYU was the rivalry.
What does BYU think? I would guess BYU thinks Utah is, and I would guess Utah thinks BYU is. I don't know why anybody else would even think it would be a rivalry game.
Q. Do you feel like your team regards this is as a rivalry game?
No, I think our team our team is excited about playing anybody. I don't think it has anything to do with the rivalry. I think because they know who they are, there is going to be great respect for their program and great respect for their team. But I wouldn't think there would be any more to it than that.
Q. Did New Mexico hate them?
I'll get this out sooner or later. I was born in Provo. My mom and dad both graduated from BYU. My dad played football and ran track at BYU. What makes you think I could even hate them? My mom and dad would hate me.
Q. But you don't mind beating them?
I would like to win the game just like they would.
Q. Would you like to win it even more? Every game was the most important game, but BYU is kind of a measuring stick and has been for people in this conference for a long time. To beat them, what would it say?
I don't see it like that at all. A bowl game is a reward, unless you're playing for the National Championship, which we don't have the opportunity to play for. A bowl game is entirely a reward for having a good season. There is no extra incentive, there is no extra benefit other than your guys coming back next year get a whole lot more practice time. It's like an extra spring practice, so it's really important for your program.
But it's a celebration of a good year. It's rewarding your players for a good year. There is no added incentive or meaning. Someone who tries to make it that way, they don't know what the bowl game experience is all about. Now I think it's different if it's the National Championship game.
Q. I think they know what it's about, and it's awesome. But BYU versus San Diego State goes way back. It's a great history. And your fans, the fan base you're trying to build would think it's pretty cool if you beat BYU?
I think it would be pretty cool too. But it's not because of a long standing rivalry of any sort.
Q. Can you speak to your success and the job that you did this year coming from where you were at one point where everybody was kind of questioning the football program to now you're conference championship and going to a bowl game? It hadn't been since 1998, how difficult this was this year?
Well, first of all, the way the world is now, everybody jumps to conclusions awfully fast. I said before the season started that we were going to have a good football team. I just didn't know when it was going to happen. I didn't know how early it would happen.
I guess every fan base in America expects you to win every game, and if you don't win every game, you're not doing your job. Well, that's really hard when there are two teams out there, and one of them has to lose.
So I think we started off the season. We were a young football team that didn't play very well, especially up front in the defensive line, which caused the defense to play poorly. The offense came along pretty quick, then finally the defense kicked in and we were a good football team just like we predicted before the season started.
I don't think anybody's surprised at our success. I don't think our kids are surprised at the success. I think our kids expected to be good, and then obviously, momentum plays a huge role. Once you start playing well, the confidence factor kicks in, and all of the sudden you're playing well all the time. When you walk on the field, you believe you're going to win, and that makes a huge difference than not believing you're going to win.
Q. You always talk about this as like a five-year building process. Are you at this point where you wanted to be at the end of year three?
I think our overall record is better than I anticipated it would be at the start of the year. There was no doubt in my mind that we were going to be in a bowl game and have a winning record. Winning the conference championship I think is a little more than I expected with this young of a football team. But after we won a game in Nevada-Reno, that was the goal, and that was the belief of our team that we were going to win the conference championship. If we had started a couple weeks earlier, we'd be outright champions.
Q. How beneficial was the added practice time for your team, especially for the younger guys?
Of all the great things about a bowl game, for building a program, that's the number one benefit. Because when you get a bowl bid, the kids have a really positive attitude about things. So they work hard in the weight room, they work hard on the practice field, and all the majority of the guys that aren't going to play in the bowl game, it is another spring practice. In fact, our practices will be an hour to an hour 15 minutes long, then a 30-minute scrimmage all the way till the week before the first game. All the guys that don't play very much or the guys that have been on the scout team or have been redshirted, they'll scrimmage. There is only one way at getting good at playing football and that is playing football.
Q. Looking at the big picture, is there too big of a gap between the final game and the bowl game, and a lot of these bowl games where it's like 30 days or three weeks, four weeks, five weeks, too big of a gap?
I think that's a great observation because you only get so many practice sessions by NCAA rules. Even ours is a long time between our last game and when the bowl game is. There are great benefits to having that time because you can spread practices out and work on fundamentals and all those things where you can really improve your team and improve your program. But when you have that much time between a game to the next game, you lose a whole bunch of the sharpness. A whole bunch of the attitude about preparing for a game, you kind of mentally get lazy. Even though they're working hard in the weight room and on the practice field, the playing week after week, you lose all of that.
So I think, even the National Championship game, I think those teams would play much better if they were playing this week. Now I know there is an SEC Championship game that comes in between. If they were playing within a week of their last game, the game would be much better. But it's the same for both teams, so it's competitive.
I don't necessarily think you're getting the best football of the year though. You usually get the best football of the year if two teams are good in the last game of the year, it's usually the best game.
Q. So what is your schedule going to be for next year? You have 15 extra practices, is that right?
We get 15 practices between our last game and the bowl game. So we're basically practicing three days a week. So that's like spring practice. And in spring practice, you're not preparing for the opponent, you're preparing your team for next year. That's one of the reasons the emphasis on winning the bowl game. There are more important things, and that's developing the team for the next season.
Q. So what is your idea of playing some of the young kids in the bowl game or not? Do you do that?
No, the ultimate goal is still to win. So you play the same players you've played all year. Now the ones that aren't going to play that much, they're going to get a whole lot more practice time than the other ones because you don't want to practice the other ones very long because you might hurt them. Don't want to practice them full speed because they might get hurt before they get to play in the bowl game. So when you're talking about a four-week period before your last game and the bowl game, that's a dramatic change from what they're used to.
Q. What are your thoughts? You get to play BYU in the Poinsettia Bowl?
Leon McFadden: It's just good to be rewarded with a bowl game after our success this season. We're all excited about being able to play in Qualcomm Stadium in front of San Diego County.
Q. Do you regard BYU as a rival?
Leon McFadden: No, not necessarily a rival.
Q. How do you feel about them in general?
Leon McFadden: Oh, just it's a good team. We have respect for that team. We're going to approach this game the way we've approached every other game. Play to our highest ability and go out there and have fun.
Q. Were you holding out hope at all for the Las Vegas Bowl, something different? I know you've been to the Poinsettia Bowl already, perhaps something different?
Dominique Sandifer: No, a bowl game is just a reward. We set out what we wanted to do, and that is win the conference championship. We did that, and now the bowl game is a reward for us at the end of the season. We can go anywhere. We're just happy to have this opportunity.
Q. How different is a bowl game as opposed to a regular game against a conference team at Qualcomm Stadium?
Dominique Sandifer: A bowl game is like I said, it's a reward. So it's going to be good for the seniors and us. We're ending it how we began it at Qualcomm. That's going to be fun to be in the stadium, the atmosphere of a bowl game. We've been there three years in a row, I want to say, and it's always nice to have a nice reward at the end of the season, and especially this year being the Mountain West Conference Champions.
Q. Did you guys expect the season to end this way with you guys winning the championship, 9-3, going to your third straight bowl?
Leon McFadden: Oh, yeah, definitely. All season we talked about us seniors leading from the front and holding everybody accountable to their job. Also, we started building this foundation when we went to the Poinsettia Bowl two years ago. We've had the same mindset for the past couple years, and it all worked out after all the hard work.
Q. All three of you guys were here two years ago when you met BYU last and that whole replay fumble thing happened. Is there any added edge or desire for revenge after that?
Dominique Sandifer: No, it's football. It happens. I mean, you can't control everything. In football you're going to get calls your way, you're going to get calls against you. You're going to get calls against you and calls for you. It's just football. It happened, and that's it.
Q. Walter, when did you hear when you tore your ACL and you'll be done for the season?
Walter Kazee: About halftime. I went in and they told me it was torn. But the team picked me up and went out there and got the job done, and we still won the game.
Q. Can you reflect back on your Aztec career and everything you and the program have accomplished?
Walter Kazee: It started out rough for us when I first got here. We were good, but we never really saw our potential. And now that we've won the conference championship, it shows how much hard work we put in as a team staying together and believing in each other and obviously it paid off.
Q. Do you remember what happened on the play that you tore your ACL?
Walter Kazee: I think I hurt my knee my first run and I just kept playing on it. Then I finally couldn't run anymore after I made a cut back to my left, and that was the end of it.
Q. So you pretty much stayed in for the entire half with a torn ACL?
Walter Kazee: I think so. I don't know when exactly I tore it, but, yeah, I've finished out the half.
Q. You came out before that, right? The first one, what happened there? Was that related?
Walter Kazee: Yeah, I think they all just kept happening every time I got hit. It just tweaked it a little more every time, and then the last one. I couldn't do it anymore.
Q. How do you describe the frustration of not getting to play anymore?
Walter Kazee: It is very frustrating. I love football, I love playing with these guys. They're like my brothers, and I'm disappointed that I can't play. But then again, I'm happy for the success we've had as a team. It's been a great season for us, and I'm proud of these guys for bringing us this far.
It's just good. I can't really be too disappointed, because we did what we said we were going to do this season and it has happened. This is just the reward. But I'm going to be on the sideline cheering my team on.
Q. Coach said that really the biggest benefit of being in a bowl game were the extra practices. You guys didn't have that last year. How beneficial is it to have the extra practices heading into a bowl game?
Dominique Sandifer: I think they'll be good for us. It's always good to practice more against your opponent. Get to know what they do a little better and make us more prepared for the game.
Q. Is it also kind of like a spring practice type of feel, like practice three times a week and the young guys scrimmaging and stuff.
Dominique Sandifer: Yeah, with the extra bowl practices, it's always good for the younger guys in the program. Some of the guys who didn't get to play this year, those extra practices can help them and condition them for next year. So at the same time, we're playing for the bowl game now, but it's also building for our future, and that's something you really want to have.
Q. Coach said after the game he thought the two-week layoff had an effect in the way you guys played in the first half. Now there is a month-long layoff between now and when you're going to play in the bowl game. How do you keep motivated and keep that momentum going?
Walter Kazee: I think we just have to keep the energy high. Obviously, we don't want that to happen again like what happened the last game. So we just have to put emphasis on going out there and practicing fast and playing hard because stuff like that can happen in a football game.
Leon McFadden: As Walter was saying, the energy has to stay consistent. As seniors and captains on the team, we have to keep the younger guys motivated and let them know that this hard work we've put in this last year is not over yet. We have one more game.
Q. Did the energy seem like it was a little dead in the first half of the last game?
Walter Kazee: I don't think it was just dead. I think we felt like we were going to win the game, and nobody came prepared, and then we realized we were in a fight just like every game you feel like it's a fight. So at halftime we stepped our game up and got the job done.
Q. Where did you watch the rest of the game from?
Walter Kazee: On the sideline. I was out there after the doctor told me I was out. Just got dressed and went back out to the game.
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