San Diego State Aztecs head coach Rocky Long spoke with reporters on Tuesday about his team’s upcoming game on Saturday against the Hawaii Rainbow Warriors.
“Once again, we’re back on Saturday which is nice to be playing on Saturday instead of Friday nights. We’re playing a football team that seems to have a renewed spirit and energy. They’re playing hard and physical. They’ve had much more success this year than they have had the last couple of years.
“I think they’ve won more league games this year since they’ve been in the Mountain West. Every game they’ve played, even the ones they’ve lost in the conference, have been very close. Last week, they were 4th-and-1 and inside the 10-yard line and got stopped or they would’ve tied the score to put it into overtime. They’re a team that’s coming in here with a lot of enthusiasm, a lot of confidence compared to the Hawai’i teams we’ve played in the past. We’re respectful of what they are and how they’re playing and hopefully we can play well enough to win the game.”
When asked about the play of his offensive line:
“We’re very lucky here that we have good running backs and we might have the best running back in the country on our football team but nobody would know it unless the big boys up front, which includes the tight ends and fullbacks, weren’t doing a heck of a job blocking. As good of running backs as we’ve had, they would not be getting the notoriety that they are getting now. I think they relish the job they have and they really have fun that they have a good guy behind them carrying the football.
“We started off the season with a couple new starters in there and not necessarily the starters we thought. Daniel Brunskill, who was starting tight end for the last two years, unselfishly moved to tackle because of an injury. Like a lot of players on our team, they’re team guys first and he’s made a big difference. We’ve had a couple other new starters in there at times. Antonio Rosales, one of the guards, is a new starter. They didn’t play really well early on in the season and now they’re playing really well.
“As good a running back as DJ (Donnel Pumphrey) is, if he can’t get started, you don’t know how good he is. Obviously, the offensive linemen are allowing him to get started. When he gets to the second level and has a big enough hole that he can accelerate and run by a couple tacklers, when the offensive line plays well, you’re able to run the ball pretty good and we’re lucky that we have a good running back behind them.”
When asked if he’s surprised how the Mountain West season has played out thus far:
“I’m not surprised. I think we can all discuss on if it’s good, bad or indifferent for us but I’m not surprised at all. There are only five undefeated teams left in the country. Early on, there was expectation that we were supposed to be one of them and there are only five schools left. Boise losing to Wyoming; Wyoming is a good football team. That’s not a surprise at all. Playing in Laramie is very different. They’ve got a good football team and they’re playing at home. That’s not surprising they beat Boise.
“It throws Boise down in the rankings a bit. That might hurt the league as far as a New Year Day bowl game but it just shows you how competitive college football is and it shows you that anybody can beat anybody at any time depending on the situation. I think the most surprising thing about our league is that two teams who were picked to finish last in their division are the two most improved teams in this league: Wyoming and Hawai’i.”
When asked about throwing for 14 yards at Utah State:
“I think every game determines what you have to do. We might have to throw for 200 yards to win a game. The teams that run the triple option, they’ve had a lot of games where they’ve scored 60 points and they’ve thrown the ball maybe one time. It’s more unusual since people are in the spread more often now. That’s not unusual in the history of football.”
When asked about the play of the special teams at Utah State:
“This year, we’re having a lot of changeover on our starters because of a lot of reasons. We’ve lost some key people so in order to keep winning, your young players have to develop and what you’re seeing are a lot of guys that don’t play very much on those special teams that are developing into better football players. That doesn’t mean they’re going to be better on offense and defense because they’re not getting that experience but they won’t go out there and be shy or nervous because they’ve been in the game. They’ve been in a live situation where they’ve run down and blocked somebody or they tackled someone so it’s developing young players and when they have to go on offense or defense, they have a better chance of performing better because of what they’ve done on special teams.”
When asked about the play of kicker John Baron II:
“He was one of the best performers on that field Friday night. You can pick anybody out. DJ had over 200 yards rushing. What John Baron did was just as amazing. Not only did he make four field goals without a miss, a couple of them were fairly long and the weather conditions were ridiculous. For someone to perform at that level at what he does in that kind of condition is really something special. I think he maintains our momentum. Whenever a defense has somebody driving the ball on them and you can stop them for a field goal, that’s kind of a positive. If the guy misses, it gives the defense a really good pump up. Making those continues our momentum.”
Click below to watch the full press conference.