Aztec Football Press Conference Quotes

Dec. 8, 2015



Head Football Coach Rocky Long

Opening Statement:
“It’s a pretty happy time around here right now. We don’t have to play anybody on Saturday so we are going to practice today and Thursday, and the practices will be hard, but I’m sure the players will be excited and happy and having a good time out there because we’ve been having a good time ever since we won the championship. Getting to go to Hawaii for a bowl game, that’s kind of special, too. So we’re in a pretty good mood around here right now. Hopefully when we get to Hawaii we’ll be able to focus in and win another game because I think it would be great for our team as well as our program.”

On how special it is to be conference champions considering where the team was prior to conference play:
“You guys who are in this room remember. At that time I did not know if we could win another game even though I said that I thought our team showed a lot of progress during the second half of that Penn State game and there was a light at the end of the tunnel. Well, I had no idea it was going to be as good as it turned out. Our players played hard and they played well enough to do it and we’re reaping the benefits of it. It really hasn’t sunk in for me. I don't know why it hasn't sunk in, but it hasn’t, but it has with our players. They’re a happy group. I want you to know that they’re a happy group.”

On how it finally feels to win the Mountain West championship:
“It felt good, obviously. It felt really good. I’m not sure I would have wanted it any differently, but the game on the sideline was kind of nerve- racking because of the way things went. I think that our team showed something that they didn't have to show in the games before. Since we scored first, were ahead most of the game, and had a pretty good margin of victory, I don’t think they had to show what they showed against Air Force, and that was physical and mental toughness and that no matter what went bad they seemed to find a way to overcome it. I think that makes winning the championship a little more rewarding because they were put under stress and they were put into a bad position by a very good football team and still found a way to win. That makes it a little bit better than if they would have won by three touchdowns.”

On if he has taken time to look at Cincinnati:
“I have, that’s why I’m not sure that the championship has sunk in with me yet because if it had I would have taken the week off and enjoyed myself. I’ve watched their last four games on film. They’re a very, very explosive football team that spreads you from sideline to sideline and they have three really good running backs and three or four really good receivers. A couple of them, I’ve been told, have already been invited to the Senior Bowl. The NFL invites those guys so that means they have a couple wide receivers who are draft choices. They have two really good quarterbacks. They have a veteran who got hurt during the season so a redshirt freshman came in and played really well, but the veteran is healthy again so it’s going to be quite a challenge. Now, thank goodness it’s not the option game. It’s actually something that we’ve played against most of the year, so at least we won’t have the assignment errors that we had in the Air Force game.”

On what he thinks of Cincinnati’s offensive statistics considering some of its opponents have been nationally ranked:
“That just goes to show you how good they are on offense and how many skilled players they have to go to, so it’s impossible to take a receiver away because there are too many good ones. It’s impossible to take a certain running back away because there are too many good ones, but the key to every really good offense is the quarterback.”

On Cincinnati quarterback Gunner Kiel:
“He’s a very accurate thrower with the ball, he gets rid of it under pressure and puts it on the money, and he does not run with the ball very much but he can run it when he has to or wants to. He’s a very talented player, but so is the other quarterback. They throw with people in their face and they put the ball right on the money, and they have receivers that go and get it, too. I just got done watching their game against Houston and twice their receivers were perfectly covered, you thought it was going to be an interception, and the receivers took the ball right away from the defensive backs.”

On how he would describe junior running back Donnel Pumphrey:
“I don’t know how I would describe him, but he’s not very big and he’s a tough guy. I don’t like to repeat myself, but I’ve said many times that the most amazing thing about him is that he weighs 170 pounds and he can run between the tackles. You don’t see many guys like that. Most 170-pound guys are jittery guys that jump around and look for a seam or they try to outrun you to the sideline. When Pumphrey runs a power play he runs it like a power back.”

On the team awards and what he thinks of Donnel Pumphrey being named team MVP for the second straight year:
“Our players vote on the MVPs. We have a Most Valuable Offensive Player, a Most Valuable Defensive Player, and an overall Most Valuable Player on our team and they voted Pumphrey as the Most Valuable Offensive Player and the overall Most Valuable Player on our team, which makes sense to me. Our players also know how important he is to our team and everybody in this room knows how good he is, so he deserves the award and he should have gotten it.”

On how he thinks the process of building the program is going:
“I think we’re getting closer all the time. I think we’re getting better all the time. I think winning 10 games shows that the program has gotten better, and this program could get better and we might not win 10 games next year, but we might be a better football team next year. A lot of things have to go into it for you to be able to win 10 games and win a conference championship. We had a veteran quarterback who got better and better and never put us in jeopardy by throwing interceptions. We had an offensive line that wasn’t very good at the beginning and got better and better and was real good at the end. We had a defense that played well without having any injuries and then all of the sudden we had an injury that really hurt us against the kind of offenses that we’re playing against. We had a quarterback go down. That stuff could have happened four or five weeks ago and we wouldn’t be sitting here talking about a conference championship, so our program has gotten much better. We have better athletes in our program. The players in our program understand the expectation level, they understand the way we do things and how hard they have to work. They understand all that, but in order to win 10 games you also have to be lucky along the way. You have to have some bounces go your way, you have to stay healthy and not lose some of your best players, and we were lucky that way, too. We could actually have a better football team next year and not win 10 games. I think next year’s football team has potential to be as good as or better than this one was and when you build a program, every year should be like that. And then the years where you get lucky and everybody stays healthy and some guys play really well, you win 10 games. So we’re at that point and once you get to that point, you never know. When you start fast and play well the whole season everyone thinks you’re at a different level. I don’t necessarily agree with them. People think the results mean you’re in the next level. I don’t think our team would be worried about playing anybody right now, and you could take the top 10 teams in the country and I don’t think we’d be worried about it.”

On if he is concerned about the vibes of Hawaii affecting his team’s performance:
“No, I’m not concerned at all about that, but there are some people that disagree with how you should handle a bowl game. I’m just stubborn enough to not care. I think that a bowl game is a reward. Now, if we were in the playoffs, I would have a completely different attitude about this. But we’re going to a bowl game and I consider a bowl game a reward, and our team has played really well so we’re going to play hard and we’re going to practice hard, but for the rest of the time we’re going to have a really good time. Now, if that means that we won’t play as well, so be it. I don’t think that’s what it means. I think we’ll play just as well, but it’s not going to be the same as a regular-season game.”

On if quarterback Maxwell Smith is ready to play:
“No, he’s not ready to go yet. I hope he gets ready, but I don’t think there is a real good chance that he’ll be able to play. I hope he gets ready. I’d love to see him start the game, but he’s not ready to start the game.”

On what more Maxwell Smith has to do to prepare himself for the bowl game:
“The swelling is not completely out of it yet. They’re not going to let him do anything until the swelling is completely gone. They are rehabbing it. He’s doing exercises and all that and getting treatment five or six times a day in order to get the swelling out of it. But before they’ll even let him stand out there or jog around, the swelling has got to go. So after that, I don’t know what the process is. They’ll put him in the brace that he would play in and see how he feels. This is the best part of our team, I think Christian Chapman will treat practice like he’s going to start, but in his heart he’s hoping Maxwell will start.”

On the calmness he saw in quarterback Christian Chapman during the championship game:
“I think he was very confident in what the game plan was, I think he was very confident in his ability, and he performed like he was a well-prepared athlete. I don’t think we were worried about that at all, and I think we believed that he was going to play well. He just exceeded our expectation level, and that’s nice because most athletes don’t exceed your expectation level. Most of them don’t get to your expectation level, but I think he exceeded our expectation level and we might not have won the game unless he did.”

On what Christian Chapman’s performance says about the job of quarterbacks coach Blane Morgan:
“I think Coach Morgan has done a great job with those quarterbacks, obviously. They both performed well and you saw Maxwell get better as the season went along. That’s a young man willing to put the work in, but there’s also a guy that’s coaching him right, too. And if you ask Christian, he’d say that Maxwell had a lot to do with him playing well, too. Maxwell was in every meeting, Maxwell was at every practice talking to him in between reps, they watched film together outside of their normal meeting time, they are roommates on the road so Maxwell was with him the whole day before the game and night before the game, and Christian gives him a lot of credit for the way he played.”

On running back Rashaad Penny mistakenly going in to play which resulted in a touchdown:
“I heard Rashaad (Penny) is apologizing for messing that up. We yell out the personnel that we want in the game on the sidelines. Either we yelled the wrong personnel or he heard it wrong. He ran out on the field and Chase Price came off the field. Rashaad Penny is a tailback and he has run that play in practice. It wasn’t like he was doing something he wasn’t trained to do. He was just surprised when they called the play that he was out there because that play was not designed for him. He had run that play in practice. If you watch it, he turned to the sidelines and (did a shoulder shrug to confirm he was supposed to be out there) and they said ‘(yes)’ so he lined up at tailback and ran the play. The offensive line did a great job of blocking and there was a hole, so he scored. The mistake was that he wasn’t supposed to be out there, but it’s not like he ran a play where he didn’t know what to do. He apologized to me and I said, ‘What for?’ He said, ‘I wasn’t supposed to be in there.’ I said, ‘You did the right thing. You scored. I’m happy for you.”

On changing the culture and recruiting after arriving at SDSU with former head coach Brady Hoke:
“I think changing an attitude takes a while. I thought Brady started it off and did things that needed to be done. That’s why Brady and I are very close friends. We believe in a lot of the same things philosophically. I think it takes three to four years to completely change an attitude. Until you get all your own players, the attitude is not completely changed. Any new coach trying to build a program has to do that. Some of them are not given the opportunity which upsets me but every new coach that goes into a program has to do that. Some coaches get lucky where there’s enough talent there to win games but it’s still changing attitudes and the way things are done. Most coaches aren’t lucky enough to change attitudes and the way things are done, and still win games. The recruiting hasn’t changed. Our situation is that we have to do a better job of evaluating players than the Power-5 (conference) guys do.”

On coaching a team that acts unselfishly:
“I’ve been lucky to be around several teams that were unselfish but to be honest, this is the most unselfish football team I’ve ever coached.

“When you get a group of kids together that like each other, stuff like that happens. When you have 100-plus players on a football team, they’re just like society. It’s hard to get 100 people to like each other. Usually you have segments where they like each other but they don’t like that another group. Most football teams are just like that. This football team really likes one another. The ones that don’t fit in don’t stay very long, and it’s not me running them off. I don’t know how that developed but it’s really fun to be around them. I’d like to take credit for that but I promise you, it’s not me. We don’t recruit and say, ‘You’ve got to like everybody else or we’re not going to recruit you.’ We recruit by ability and we’re lucky to have that right now. I hope it continues but there’s no guarantee for that.

“A lot of it comes from the seniors. They set the tone. Our seniors over the last three years have done a great job with leadership. This group really likes one another. I believe they said at the banquet that they play four-square in the locker room. I haven’t played four-square since I was in elementary school. They set up baskets and play basketball with nerf balls and all kinds of stuff. They hang out in the locker room more than any other team I’ve been around. It’s fun to be around them. I wish I could find the formula.”

Redshirt freshman quarterback Christian Chapman

On executing the game plan in Saturday’s matchup against Air Force:
“I just went out there with a game plan and was happy to execute it with the guys. It was a great game plan by Coach (Jeff) Horton and Coach (Blane) Morgan.”

On if there was anything tough during the game against Air Force:
“Nothing really comes to mind that was really hard. I wanted to execute the plays that came in and do my part, whatever they asked me to do.”

On how Maxwell Smith helped him prepare for the game against Air Force:
“He was a huge mentor to me. We watched a lot of film together. Him and I hang out and we’re pretty good friends. He brought me under his wing, showed me Air Force defense and we talked about it even in the hotel room the night before the game. We talked about certain looks they might give us and what we would do. He’s been a great help to me and I appreciate him for that.”

On Maxwell Smith’s possible start at the Hawai’i Bowl against Cincinnati:
“I think if he can come back and is ready to play, he should play. It’s his senior year. He got us to where we are. We wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for him. I played the game for him and just finished what he started. If he can come back and play, I’d be happy that he can.”

On the seemingly unusual nature of the team’s unselfishness:
“I think that’s what you need, is a team whose characteristic you need to win. Being as close as we are, events and activities like that, really helps the team on and off the field. It really helps to win games when you’re that close.”

On the impact quarterbacks coach Blane Morgan has had on him:
“Coach Morgan has been a great coach. In the meeting rooms and on the field, he brings us together. We’re a pretty close-knit group. He’s had a great influence on me, not just football-wise but academic-wise. He’s always talking to me about grades and has been a great mentor to have. Also, Maxwell (Smith) who is older than me and has been like a big brother and leads me.”

On preparing for the Air Force game with Coach Blane Morgan:
“He didn’t really come to me one-on-one. We went to the meeting room with Max, same things we would do before a regular game. We just continued to do that throughout the week.”

On if there’s any pressure to win the bowl game:
“Not too much. I’m just enjoying the moment. It’s a blessing to get to go to Hawaii in the first place and play a team like Cincinnati. It’s going to be fun playing a team outside our conference. I’m excited.”

Senior defensive lineman Jon Sanchez

On the seemingly unusual nature of the team’s unselfishness:
“I think it might be unusual because we’re all college students and do our own thing. I think, like Coach Long said, we’re pretty close as a team, even more so than in the past. It’s definitely helped on the field. You could tell at the (Mountain West) championship.”

On the defense being tested by Air Force’s running game:
“Playing against Air Force was pretty tough because they were the first option team we’ve played all year. We prepared the best we could and when it came down to the game, we were ready. They are a great team as well and were ready for us. They knew how to attack us. It’s been a long year where we’ve had all kinds of situations arise, but we were ready to finish it up when we needed to.”

On what Cincinnati brings to the table:
“I heard that they’re a spread team; they throw the ball around a lot. It’s going to be a challenge to stop them, but we’ll be ready for it. I’m sure Coach Long will come up with something to stop them.”

On how he feels about playing in the Hawai’i Bowl:
“I’m excited. Even though I’ve been there twice, (both times) have been for a (regular-season) game and being stuck in the hotel for 24 hours. We’re going to be there for four to five days and actually have some fun. I’m looking forward to it.”

On SDSU’s football program development:
“Each year we’ve been good, and now, we’ve won 10 games and a championship. We’re getting to where we want to be. Each year, we’re going to be getting new players with the coaching (staff) remaining the same. I don’t see any reason why they (SDSU) couldn’t continue to succeed.”

On SDSU bouncing back from its 1-3 start following the loss at Penn State:
“To be honest, I’m not sure if it was in my head that we were going to win nine in a row. At the same time, I knew we had a good team and we had a chance to bounce back and win a championship. That was the goal after the Penn State game. We told ourselves that we could still win the championship. That’s what we wanted to set out and do.”

On if there’s any pressure to win the bowl game:
“I don’t think there’s pressure. We just won the championship game. To win another game and get to 11 wins on the year, that’d be great… and possibly a top-25 ranking – that would be huge. I don’t feel like there’s any pressure on us.”

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