Sept. 23, 2003
UNM Head Coach Rocky Long
Question: Your teams are 1-10 when they fail to gain a turnover. What's your take on the turnover situation?
Rocky Long: "The biggest factor in close games is turnovers. Last Saturday we turned the ball over once, but we were in the process of going down and scoring some points because we had the momentum going our way. The turnover by them was called back (on a pass interference penalty). Later on, we made them fumble, but we couldn't recover. If we did, we would have had the ball around the 50. And the interception that was called back would have brought the ball to the 50, so there's two scoring opportunities right there that we didn't get."
Q: What do the offense and defense need to do to improve?
RL: "Even if you win, there's things you can do better on both offense and defense, it all goes together. People like to separate the two, but they work together. If the offense gets some first downs you don't have to play as much on defense, which means there's less opportunities for the other team to score. If the defense causes turnovers, it gives the offense a shorter field a better opportunities to score. It all goes together."
Q: How does New Mexico State's two quarterback system work?
RL: "They put both [Buck Pierce and Paul Dombrowski] in the game at the same time several times a game. They run a bunch of trick plays with the two quarterbacks in the game, but they aren't all trick plays. They motion of one of them, they run a quarterback power play, they run a bubble screen to the quarterback and they run the option. They run the same offense with either quarterback in the game."
Q: What was wrong with the running game against Washington State?
RL: "There's two reasons: they're very good on defense and we weren't blocking very well. And I don't know if we weren't blocking very well because they're good on defense or if it's because we weren't blocking as well as we have in the past (before injuries to Calvin McDonald and Jason Lenzmeier). D.D. (Cox) and DonTrell (Moore) are a little sore, but we're far enough into the season that all running backs are a little sore, so that's no excuse."
Q: How much of an advantage does the bye week give New Mexico State?
RL: "I'm a big believer in the bye week. I believe it's a huge advantage. It gives you three or four extra days to prepare, but probably the biggest advantage is that you're fresh and excited about playing, all those nagging injuries are all cleared up and you're 100 percent. That's the biggest difference. Plus, no matter how you're season is going, it gives you a week to put things in the proper perspective and it renews your enthusiasm no matter how the season was going before the bye week. It's a lift physically and mentally for the next game."
Q: What was the rivalry like when you were a player?
RL: "It was very good in my day. When I first started playing, New Mexico State was considered the better team. In the three years I played against them, we won twice and tied them once. When we won down there, we scored in the last 30 seconds to win the game. So at that time it was very competitive, which is a lot like it is now. The teams are very comparable. Both teams seem to have the same philosophy on offense - they want to run the ball and use play action pass just like us. Our defensive philosophies are a little bit different, but the talent is very similar. Ever since Coach Samuel has been there, it's been a very good rivalry. New Mexico State has developed a very good program that has a great chance for success."
Q: What do think the mental state of the team is at this point?
RL: "I think we're disappointed and upset that things aren't going better than they are, but I don't think there will be a letdown. If we were ever going to have a letdown it would have been last weekend. In this program we put so much emphasis on conference games, and to lose a game like we did against BYU, that takes as much out of you as any game can. We played one of the top teams in the country last Saturday and if we were emotionally drained, it sure didn't show on the field."
Q: How much of a difference is it to know that Paul Dombrowski is going to see time at quarterback compared to last year when he was a late substitution for Buck Pierce?
RL: "It's scarier. Last year going into the game we had a misconception that they were putting a rookie quarterback in the game, and they if we put pressure on him it would increase our chances of winning the game. And it turned out to be just the opposite. Not only was he not acting like a rookie, but he put the game on his shoulders and helped his team win the game. Both of their quarterbacks are quality players. The preparation is a little different this year because at least you know what you're getting into, but we also have respect for what they're capable of doing."