Guys came out and looked strong with the numbers they put on the scoreboard in the first half. Anything that comes to your mind that you can turn to and say, ‘Hey, here's some things we definitely need to work on’ now that the game’s done? Second-half performance seemed to be a little off compared to the first from what I could see.
“I was pleased with the way our team played. They did what we asked them to do, and that was take care of business. Started fast. That was a key for us in the game. We wanted to improve in that area, and we got our hands on the ball defensively. Our secondary players were breaking on the football, intercepting the football, and that happened on the first possession. UNLV put us in good field position.
“Our offense took the ball down, drove, and put a touchdown on the board with the pass from Jake Rudock to De’Veon Smith. So, a lot of good areas. It felt like we improved today as a team and got the win and yes, there will definitely be things to improve from, get better at, and coach, so all those things are positives.”
After last week why do you think the run game with De’Veon struggled a little bit, and how important is it that you can go to someone like Ty [Isaac] and spark that with a different back?
“That was a fantastic run by Ty Isaac. We didn't block it right, and…it was not blocked the way we drew it up. Missed a block. I thought it was going to be a tackle for a loss, and Ty did a real good job somwhow. He swerved, he avoided, he made a tackle miss, avoided another and was off to the races. It was the darndest thing I've seen in a long, long time but very good for us. Ended up being 90 yards on the drive and a 70-some-yard carry by Ty Isaac. That was good. I thought…
“It was a swirling wind. We struggled a little bit to pinpoint some passes. We had some guys open but didn't hit them. But, again, played pretty well. Pretty good, fundamental, solid football, penalty free– not completely penalty free, couple costly ones. But overall, yeah, I was pleased with the way the team played.”
What were your impressions of Jake Rudock today? He threw a pick. How concerned are you with five picks in three games?
“His job is to win football games, and as I said it wasn't an ideal day to throw. There was a swirling wind quite a bit the whole day. But yeah, thought he did a good job. Managed the game well and for the most part the offense was moving darn near every time we got the ball. And, as I said, there's things to get better at and improve from and coach, so a week of doing that.”
[After THE JUMP: “‘Satisfied’ is not a word I’m ever going to use. It’s never a word I’m going to associate with football.”]
Along the same lines, what's the level of concern about the lack of explosive plays in the passing game, and is that a receiver and quarterback thing still a timing issue at times do you think?
“Um, I guess I'm not as concerned with statistics as you two seem to be. We’ll just keep striving to get better in every area. There’s definitely some areas of improvement for our football team, which… I was pleased with.”
Talk about the depth you have at running back and [inaudible].
“Yeah, it's starting to define itself. Drake Johnson got back into the action today. That was good to see, I thought. All the running backs are really doing a good job not turning the football over. They are squeezing the football and protecting it. That's really good, going three games without a lost fumble from the running backs, so those are good things.”
Jim, just going back to the running game as far as – I know it's the third game of the season, but are you seeing the necessary progression that you want to see? I think you guys had 258 rushing yards, that huge run by Ty…are you seeing what you want to see right now, or is this still something that you're kind of figuring out what you have and what you can do with it?
“Well, when you rush for 250 yards, I mean, it's a good day. It's a good day running the football. But yeah, we strive to improve. When you can pick up a short yardage situation that's very, very important to do, get that done. There's things we got done. There's things we didn't.
“It was a good football team today. They had some good, big athletes. They’re well coached, and we knew they would be. I thought our team did a good job taking care of business.”
You talked about the takeaway early on the interception. How much does that kind of set a tone for the day and pump up your defense?
“It's huge. That’s something we were focused on to improve on and I thought our defensive backs responded. They were anticipating more, they were using their instincts better, breaking on the football. Taking good risks. You know, you can't just take risks all the time. You've got to calculate in a split-second if you can get your hand on a ball or if it's going to be a mistake to do that. So, taking a good risk and get pass breakups and interceptions, that’s good for us.
“We've got to have that or the offense has no fear when it comes to throwing the ball, so the more you get your hands on the football the tighter you make a quarterback’s throw, and the execution and timing’s got to be real good [mumbles]. Can’t just feel like they can throw it into your secondary with no consequences.
What is the fairest way to evaluate a quarterback? Obviously look at the win/loss, but when you look at the film how do you evaluate it?
“Yeah, everything that you're asking them to do, which is handle the ball every single play and move the offense. Throwing. It's management in the run game. It’s ball handling. It’s taking care of the football. Those things. Important things.”
Status update on Joe Kerridge?
“Yeah, we'll see. I think our fullbacks were really involved today. It was a good football game to be a fullback. Both Joe and Sione [Houma] contributed in the running game, not only blocking but they were carrying and catching balls out of the backfield. Both of them did a fine job, and we’ll see how serious the ankle injury is.”
Do you expect his role to continue to expand if he’s healthy?
“Yeah, that’s- they’ve done a nice job. Both our fullbacks, and Poggi too. It’s really…what would you say, fullback by committee? You guys like saying that about running backs, right? The more better players the better.”
Building off that question, you seem to be piecing things together at a few different positions; fullback [and] running back today. How do you manage that dynamic when you’re still getting a feel for how you want to divide things up in that kind of way?
“Uh…what are you asking?”
How do you manage between the different guys when you might play one for a while and then another for a while? How do you manage that dynamic?
“Yeah, just keep playing them. That’s what we do in terms of game plan. That’s part of game planning. Having a player you want for a play; we do all that ahead of time. That’s game planning. How to use everybody’s talent. Try to get as many people involved as possible. I think we’re doing a good job of that at multiple positions: receiver, running back, fullback, tight end.”
Is timing between Jake and the receivers in games, is that something that’s still developing?
“Uh…you saw something wrong with the timing?”
I’m asking if it’s something you’re satisfied with.
“‘Satisfied’ is not a word I’m ever going to use. It’s never a word I’m going to associate with football. It’s a confusing word. It’s like ‘comfortable.’ I just don’t ever associate it with football. We’re always trying to improve. Never satisfied. Never been satisfied, and there’s not too many players that are satisfied when it comes to football.”
So, happy? Happy would-
“Happy. Yeah, happy.”
Ryan Glasgow mentioned that he seemed pretty disappointed you guys didn’t get the shutout. He said there were some sloppy plays and that he definitely did not want to give up those points. What are your thoughts on that, because I remember after the Utah game guys were critical and you kind of stepped in and said they were being overly critical. Is Ryan being too critical of himself and the defense?
“I mean, I don’t want to…what?”
Sorry, that was kind of, uh…Ryan said there was some sloppy-
“Yeah, you want to get a shutout. Yeah!”
“They played really good. They played fantastic football and darn near did get a shutout. UNLV’s got a vote in that, though. They’ve got a heck of a good quarterback and they’ve got some real good players and they made a couple outstanding plays on that drive.
“Give them credit. That was a heck of a football team. They’re going to win some games. Maybe a lot of games. We made one particular mistake that extended that drive. Linebacker lost leverage and extended the drive, and then they made two fantastic plays so…”
He used the word sloppy. Was he- do you feel like that was justified? Was he being too critical of himself? Do you view it that way?
“I don’t know. I don’t know what he was referring to there.”
The defensive line as a whole. I think he was saying they made some sloppy plays.
“Maybe ask him exactly what he meant by that.”
O’Neill hung another one inside the five and got a good rolling punt. Probably one he’d want to have back, but how much of a weapon do you seem him being over the course of this season?
“Well, so far, so good. He’s doing a really, really good job. Makes good, cool-headed decisions back there. Handles the ball well, and he’s got the ability to really pinpoint some of those punts. The wind factor; he seemed to have a good grasp of the wind. One went out of bounds, a 15-yard punt. I don’t know, do they have wind in Australia? Swirling- I don’t know from your vantage point, but it was pretty windy out there. It was tough to punt. It was tough to throw the ball. It was one of those type of games, but it was good because he’s figuring it out.”
You’ve been pretty clear that De’Veon’s been your guy the last couple weeks, from the end of camp until now. Is Ty’s performance something that can challenge De’Veon for the top spot now?
“I think we’ll play as many good players as we can play. Find roles to make them…try to put them in as many roles where they can be successful. It’s a team game. What are you trying to get at? Some divisive running back-”
Well, no. Just, can you envision-
“We don’t ever talk about any kind of running back controversy, just so you know, from here on out. Quarterback controversy? I’ll address that. Whatever you want to know, like who the starting quarterback is? I will talk to you about that. But when it comes to any other position, whether it be right guard or running back or safety, there’s no discussion about any kind of running back controversy-”
Can you envision-
“Right guard controversy!”
“That’s as clear as I can tell you. The more good players that we can have the better for our football team, and we’re encouraging that as much as we possibly can and the players are responding to it. I feel like when they get an opportunity they’re going to be hungry to make the most of it. I think that’s what you saw today with Ty Isaac and Sione Houma and some other examples as well. It’s a good thing for our team.”