Coach Fran Press Conference Transcript
I think it was Kirk Elder that said last week that you guys have a motto to be 1-0 every week. What is it going to take this week to be 1-0?
"We have to play better. We're playing a pretty good football team. I think pretty much across the board we've got improve. We did some good things but as I look at every area of our team I think we can make strides, and hopefully from week 1 to week 2 we will do that."
Is that usually a big week for improvement?
"It is. The old adage is, and most of you have heard me say this, is that we always tell our players that you should make your most improvement from game one to game two. Hopefully you'll have a gradual improvement as the year goes on, but I think a lot of times in game one the speed of the game and some of the unknowns can make it a little ragged. There is a little bit more to pin your game plan on in game two because you can see the personnel that you're playing and things like that. So you should make improvement."
How would you rate your passing game from the first game?
"Well the bad thing about it was we had five drops and we had a couple of pressures, so that was the disappointing aspect of it. If we catch those five we're 16 for 23 and that's pretty efficient when we only snapped it 58 times. We called probably about 26 or 28 passes and actually got 23 of them launched so we have to protect a little better. We got better on it as the game wore on and you know just some guys had some balls that they'll catch, I'm not concerned about that."
Was there any idea of keeping some things under your vest going on into the season in terms of the vertical passing game?
"Now, just exactly what is the vertical passing game?"
It's the catch phrase?
"The buzz term. It is."
Apparently takes your running back and back up quarterback to get it going so --
"(Laughs) We don't care who gets it going now. I mean, I would say the first play of the game was a vertical pass. We had Kerry (Franks) going deep in the seam and Mike (Goodson) going deep down the boundary and the quarterback's read took him to Mike and then Jerrod Johnson's throw was a vertical throw that he hit the seam second level for the touchdown. We had some other opportunities that we could have hit, one of them we didn't protect as well as we needed to. You never did define that either."
I was hoping you would define it for me?
"Yeah, I know."
In your mind, though, speaking of the receivers, if the defense is shutting down (Jorvorskie) Lane and (Mike) Goodson and the option and Martellus (Bennett) cannot get anything going, are you confident that these receivers can carry the offense down the field?
"Well, I think if all that happens..."
I mean, it has to be an extreme...
"I understand your concept. I understand. If all that happens they've got to be vulnerable to some other things and can we exploit their vulnerability then I think yes I think we can. Yes."
Mike Goodson said that he wanted to start returning kicks and punt?
"When did he say that?"
He said it today, he said he talked to Coach Pope.
"I haven't heard that yet. I talked to him about it about two weeks ago and he wasn't real excited about doing either one of those. So that's a new deal and if he'll go work on it we'd more than happy to let them return them if he can be the best guy catching them."
Do you like the prospect, though?
"I do. Not anybody can go stand under a punt. The one thing I thought Mike might want to be more involved in was kickoff return but he has never really done that in his career. I was asking Coach (Ronny) Feldman (who was Goodson's high school coach) about him as a high school player and he didn't do it very much. I had hoped that he would do more of it this year going into the season but that hasn't seemed to be what he wanted to spend his time on so we hadn't used him. If he's ready, I'm ready."
He hasn't talked to you about it but what do you think kicked in the thought, just more time on the field?
"I would guess another touch maybe. I don't know."
He said he saw other running backs on TV doing it...
"The power of television. We are going to have to start planting some subliminal messages on these kiosks around the building here to get these things firmly entrenched into their minds."
You're already pretty good at kick return. Could you use him more as a punt returner than a kick returner?
"That's a hard question for me to answer for you, Brent, because he hasn't worked at it. If he can catch them, I'd love the thought of him being back there. I watched the young man from California take that one all the way back, DeSean Jackson, and wow what a play and you've got to think Mike Goodson is the kind of athlete that can do that, too."
If you had to prioritize your concerns about the passing game would it be the drops or the protection? Would one rate higher on your list than the other?
"Well, I mean, you've got to have both. I don't think one is up higher than the other. The protection things were not major problems. We saw a new blitz and our running back didn't pick it up as well as he could, we saw it later on he picked it up really well. The drop things, I think those things will work themselves out. I'm not overly concerned with either one of those, they may prove me wrong, but..."
With Mike, you opened the game with a pass to him and now we are talking about kick returns and punt returns, is it just a matter of trying to get the ball in his hands?
"He can pack the balls out to the field for the game if that means another touch for him. I don't have any problem with him having more touches. I think he's the guy that can make big plays and that's one reason we utilized him the other night like we did and we have some other plans for ways to use Mike as the year goes on too. We certainly didn't show our complete hand the other night and we've got some other thoughts on some things like that but in due time."
On the Big 12 conference call yesterday and then with Coach Darnell in here today, you and he both expressed some disappointment in the pass coverage the other night. Are there any further thoughts on that and on what's it going to take to get that where you want it?
"Oh, I think they just have to tighten down in coverage a little bit. I think maybe we were a little bit to blame as coaches. I think we wanted to make sure we didn't give up big plays and have the ball go over our head easily and give Montana State any cheap points and make them earn everything. Sometimes as a result we gave too much cushion and didn't compete as well or weren't in a position to compete as well with the ball in the air. I think all of those are real correctible areas. I don't think Jordan (Peterson) had his best game the other night. I think he'll bounce back and play a lot better. I think he would say that, too. I think all those are certainly correctible areas and our players are going to have to come out, have a good week of practice and take steps to do that and I think they will work very hard at that. They've been very competitive with the ball in the air in practice."
(Marquis) Carpenter seemed active the other night.
"I think he played very well. Very well. Marquis has had his best string of practices this fall. I think come January he stepped his game up, put a lot of purpose into it, had a very good spring, came to August camp and has stepped his game up. What he's doing now is surviving the test of time that he can do it day in and day out which has been probably his deficiency he'd be good, down, good, down, good. We haven't seen the down cycle now. As coaches you start learning to believe that you're going to get a consistent performance. You have heard me say before that the hardest thing for a coach is the inconsistencies and when are they going to be consistent and when they are consistent you're a lot more confident to put them in the game. I think Marquis is getting to that point where the coaches are recognizing that fact. He is aggressive to the ball, sometimes maybe a little too aggressive in the past but I haven't seen that out of him this fall. I thought Arkeith Brown came in and played well a little bit the other night too."
Everybody has a different talent they bring to the table, do you not feel that any of these guys are the collective total package?
As a corner?
"Yeah I think all of them can be. We're just fortunate we've got four guys right now that are pretty darn competitive. The all played about the same number of snaps I believe the other night. Johnathan Batson would be in that mix but we're trying to redshirt him right now. With Marquis graduating that would give him next year and with his position switch, if we can do that injury wise that would be the thing to do. Arkeith and Marquis are just as talented as Danny (Gorrer) and Jordan. They've just been a little up and down. Corner is a bad position to be up and down. To their credit both are playing more consistent at this point. I think they're all pretty competitive. There's not a lot of separation in the four. There's been far more in past days."
"Yeah. Other than this year. There has been far more than there is right now."
What happened to Marquis last year? He was a guy two years ago that came in as a J.C. player and seemed to play quite a bit then last year he maybe didn't play quite as much.
"He didn't. I think two things: His inconsistency which I think as his position coach, his head coach and his coordinator left you a little concerned about how he was going to play. Then Danny Gorrer and Jordan Peterson played pretty good and Danny and Jordan sustained a pretty even level, pretty good level of performance. That kind of relegated Marquis to be a back up more last year."
Did it take him some time also to pick up the system a little?
"It could have. I didn't say that, but obviously that could be part of it. Coach Malone is a real stickler for technique and discipline and doing things down in and down out and I think it's taken Marquis a little while to do all those things the way Coach Malone wanted him to do them. Probably Jordan and Danny did them a little quicker and that's safe to say about Arkeith too. Arkeith was a little like Marquis but both of them have done much better and I'm really glad to see that."
You did hope to redshirt Batson, is that because of Carpenter?
"Definitely, Marquis can't redshirt because he's a senior and Arkeith has already redshirted so what you would hope to do is redshirt Johnathan if we can."
Has Johnathan been receptive to that I take it?
"Yeah, especially in light of going from safety to corner."
Coach, you talked a lot about the corners. How would you evaluate the safeties in the game, two new guys in that position?
"Alton (Dixon) I thought played a pretty solid football game and I think Jordan (Pugh) did too. Again, there was probably a time or two when you would like for both of them to be a little more aggressive when the ball was in the air, like we said about all the defensive backs. There was a couple of times Jordan broke up passes I thought he was going to get a interception on one. Alton made some good plays upfront in tackling and stuff like that. I was overall pleased. I thought Devin (Gregg) was a little softer than he had to be at times. Devin is always going to be the guy that keeps the ball in front of him and he sometimes needs to be a little bolder and have more confidence in himself to make some plays I think he can play and I think his coaches feel that way about him too."
You said the first game you go in and you don't know what you don't know. Are you surprised at all somewhat about the lack of aggression when the ball is in the air considering that wasn't a problem...
"Yeah, I think so. I think we're a little surprised about it. I want to take some of the blame and put some of the blame on us as coaches for that. We gave up yards, we didn't give up points and that's still the No. 1 factor in winning and losing. Yards can correlate to wins but you know that was still the bottom line there. We gave up one deep throw that I was disappointed that we gave up. Other than that we were good about keeping the ball in front of us and not giving them a cheap score. I think when you play a team like Montana State if you give them any easy scores, turnovers backed up, things like that then it puts them in a real position to have a chance to make it a heck of a game and we really never put ourselves in that position the other night which was good."
Was Devin supposed to roll over faster on that play?
"The deep one between him and Jordan? Yeah, I think Devin could have gotten in there."
Coach Koenning mentioned your offense, said it was feast or famine. I know it's something you alluded to as well comparing it to ‘05 with the quick strikes and three and outs. Can you just kind of talk about how you would like to see more ball control on your offense?
"First off five three and outs is not what we have been about and is not what we want. That's just a bad formula. Gosh it's great we scored 38 points. We snapped the ball 58 times and scored 38 points. It is pretty hard to be disappointed in that but I would have liked to have seen those other five drives have a little bit more consistency to them and even if we don't get any points out of them we snap the ball another 12, 15 times in the game. The advantage of us snapping 12 or 15 times is they're snapping it 12 or 15 less and I think that's a much better formula for us and for any team. Last year our formula was, we held onto the ball quite a bit. If you go back and compare our first game last year with Citadel statistically with Montana State we're a little better in all areas. I was a little surprised at that but it was a little bit like that last year in the first game and we eventually kind of found ourselves and found our identity and found our rhythm and got to where we wanted to be. I think we only snapped the ball 64 times the first game last year if I remember right. We were a little inconsistent last year."
What did you think about kickoffs and kickoff coverage?
"Well, first off Matt Szymanski did an awesome job. He kicked one out, non-returnable in both end zones, that doesn't happen very many times. In Kyle Field if there's anything that is hard to get a handle on, it is which way is the wind blowing. You watch me after pre-game warm up I look at the flags and some are blowing one direction and some are blowing sideways. If you stand down at this end it's blowing one way and if you stand down at the other end it's blowing the other way. Then the kicker comes and tells me he wants to kick a certain direction I'm like how did you figure this out? Why do you want to do this? I just put my trust in them in that regard. Believe me there are more days that I have walked off the field at the end of pre-game warm up clueless about which way to kick the ball because of the swirling winds in our stadium. I hope someday we do something to those corners to enclose or put some jumbotrons that affect the wind patterns somehow so I can figure it out. Fortunately we don't have lots of wind but I didn't see a lot of impact from the rule change Saturday. I think when we do play wind games where it is more of a factor kicking into it or with it it'll probably...certainly kicking into it could be a little bit of factor. I charted every one of our kickoffs where our guys were when the ball was caught. For most of the night we were probably 4 or 5 yards farther away from the returner when he caught the ball which is probably going to factor into that field position that we are talking about, but our coverage was good. I know they were in the teens in their average. That was excellent. Our kickoff return was good. I'd like to think it (the rule change) helped us in the return game a little bit the other night and didn't hurt is in the coverage game."
What kind of tests are you expecting from Fresno State?
"Fresno has a good ball club. Pat Hill has done a great job there. I've coached against Fresno State a number of times and it's always a physical game, it's always a tough hard fought game. You're going to be very impressed with their athletes, they've got good speed and quickness, good strength they are a tough, hard-nosed football team. They don't beat themselves. They are always well coached, soundly coached. They are always solid in the kicking game if not good in the kicking game. Last year they had some ups and downs and that's not the norm as you look over Pat's reign there and people before Pat at Fresno State. That's just not the way it is. It's a good football school. If you put them in our league or the Pac-10, I mean they played USC back onto their heels. Y'all remember that game when Reggie Bush had a great night and I remember watching the Kansas State film a couple years ago before we played K State and Fresno beat them 45 to 20 or something and there weren't any frills in that game. It was power and iso and good rhythm throwing game and good solid defense and solid kicking game and that's the way they win football games. Pat does a great job with them. This will be a hard game. I'm glad we're playing at home and not at their place and our crowd was magnificent Saturday night. Largest opening day crowd. The student body was awesome. I went to Midnight Yell Friday night and that may have been the largest crowd I have ever seen at Midnight Yell and they were into it and they made Kyle Field what it is and I hope we have that advantage for a 2:30 game."
Anything special you do with a mid-afternoon game in early September?
"Obviously we remember the SMU game which was the second game a couple of years ago and there were a lot of people in the stands that weren't surviving very well let alone the players. Our players handled it very well I thought. They are pretty well conditioned to do this and I think sometimes practice is tougher than the game is because we practice a lot more snaps than they play in games sometimes. I think they'll handle it fine. First day game got to get up and be ready to play and I think the players enjoy that more than waiting around all day. I know as coaches we like it. I don't think there's a lot of big adjustments for that."
Coach, what are your plans for Billy Chavis, Roger Holland and Von Miller?
"I still think we're going to play them. We didn't get them in the other night. I would not say we're 100 percent sure of that yet. You know, we need to watch them more every day in practice and see how situations go if they continue to improve. If we don't get injuries those will be the guys. I think definitely Roger Holland will play. On the other two a good chance but, we just kind of need to see how things go the next week or two."
They don't have to play, they may play?
"Right. Could play."