Aug. 31, 2004
HEAD COACH ROCKY LONG
What is your biggest concern entering Friday's game?
"With a lot of the inexperienced players, our biggest concern at the start of the game is that we can handle ourselves well enough to keep ourselves in the game. If we get through the first quarter and it's a competitive football game, it's going to be a competitive football game to the very end. The biggest concern is if we can't move the ball on offense and we make assignment mistakes on defense because we have so many new starters. In that case it gives the other team a huge advantage, and if they play well, they will have a huge momentum. But if it's competitive after one quarter, our guys will settle down for the rest of the game."
How has practice gone?
"It's an up-and-down deal. One day I'm all excited about the first game, and the next day I want to cancel it. We've been real inconsistent in practice. Sometimes we look like a good football team, sometimes we don't, and this is on both sides of the ball. I would like to say it's inexperience, but it's also our concentration level."
"My biggest concern is how we play early in the game. The speed of the game will be a shock to about half of our starters because you never get the true speed of the game in practice. No matter how hard you try, no one practices with the same intensity that you play with in the game. I think the speed of the game is going to be very difficult for us early on in the game. But we're talented enough that we will settle down. After about the first quarter we'll settle down and play like we can play. I just hope that it's still competitive at that point."
On Washington State?
"If they play their base defense, it will be real important to get the running game going. We think we have a good offensive line and we have several good running backs. It will take some pressure off Kole (McKamey) if he can hit wide open receivers. It we can run the ball and do some play-action pass, it usually mean wide-open receivers. Now, if they decide to stack the line of scrimmage and prevent us from running the ball - which they can - then the pressure is on our inexperienced quarterback and our inexperienced receivers. We didn't run the ball very well last year against them and they didn't stack the line of scrimmage, so I would assume they wouldn't stack it this year.
"They have a lot of new starters on defense, but those guys still played a bunch last year. Their defense was by far the fastest defense we played against last year. It will be interesting to see if they?re as fast as they were last year. It's real difficult to play against a fast defense unless you can physically manhandle them up front, and we?re not going to do that. My guess is that our biggest challenge is their overall team speed.
"Even their new starter at quarterback played in nine games, and in a couple of games, he played 3/4 of the game because their starter was hurt. So their new starters have seen some game action."
What has been the biggest surprise so far this season?
"We've had lots of good surprises. We have a lot of good young talent in this program, so the future is good. I think this is the most talented team we've had, physically. This team is more talented than last year's, physically. They don't have the experience or the game-toughness that last year's team had. How quick they get it depends on how good we're going to be. Hopefully it will come after the first quarter in the first game. It's easier for them to come around if they have success. If they have success, all of sudden all of that other stuff kicks into high gear. If you don't have success, it really slows down your progress, because it's such a mental deal.
"My confidence level is that we?re going to be an awful good football team at some point. I have total confidence in their athletic ability and in their work ethic. We're going to be a good football team, I just don't know when. I hope it's after the first quarter on Friday, but I do know that we will be a good football team."
SENIOR LINEBACKER NICK SPEEGLE
Question: Is this team ready for the season opener?
Nick Speegle: "Definitely. We?ve been waiting since the end of last year for this game. As a team we've been working really hard to get where we are, so I think we?re as ready as we need to be."
Q: You guys graduated a lot of defensive players last year, what is the primary focus to keep the unit as strong as it can be this year?
NS: "This season the defensive line has been a concern, but I think that coach Long has done a good job of fixing that. What the defensive line lacks in size they make up for with their speed."
Q: Do you think that the preseason schedule is too tough for you guys?
NS: "No, I don't believe that any schedule is too demanding. It will allow us to see what type of team that we have. We need to step up to the challenge whether it be against ranked teams or not. Every game is important."
Q: In the past, nationally televised games have given you guys a problem, why do you think that is?
NS: "I think part of the reason is the excitement of the game and often times this can lead to a lack of focus towards the goal at hand. As a team we have been put in that situation more over the past few years so I believe the experience will help."
Q: How big of a deal is it playing at home with such a large group of fans supporting you?
NS: "It's so amazing to see the amount of people that support us during our games. I think that it will be extremely beneficial for the young guys playing for the first time."
SENIOR OFFENSIVE TACKLE CLAUDE TERRELL
Question: You've only been able to play against your teammates in practice, are you ready to play your first game?
Claude Terrel: "Yeah, I'm getting tired of running with Nick (Speegle) and the other guys. I've been doing that for several weeks and now I'm ready to hit some Cougars."
Q: There are a lot of expectations for the offense this year - talk about that.
CT: "On offense we have a lot of key players coming back. We have three starters back on the line, and we have our core of backs coming back also. We do have new quarterbacks and new receivers, but I think the transition should be easy for those guys. If we are able to establish a running game, it will be easy for them to get into the game."
Q: Do you think DonTrell (Moore) looks better this year, compared to the other years?
CT: "I believe so, he seems like he has gotten a lot faster and quicker when he's hitting holes and his bursts up the field. So I'm expecting big things from DonTrell this year."
Q: How do you think Kole (McKamey) will do coming out as the starting quarterback - is he ready?
CT: "I think he will do good. He has a lot of confidence, he has that finesse and that aura to him. I think he sees this as his opportunity and he wants to take full advantage of it. So I expect him to do a great job for us and if we protect him up front that should make his job a lot easier."
Q: The Lobos have never won a game on ESPN, so what are your thoughts on finishing off that streak?
CT: "That's our goal, to come out Friday and get a win on ESPN. It's a new day, a new game and a new season, so we want to come out on Friday in front of all our fans and get that win on ESPN."
Q: Last year, the game was close against the Cougars - does that give your team confidence, knowing that you could play with these guys?
CT: "No question about it. We're fully aware that we can play with these guys and we did last year. We just made too many mistakes to get the win, so hopefully we can eliminate those mistakes and get the "W" here at home."
Q: Is it important to get off to a good start and win that home opener on national television?
CT: "That would be huge because around here we tend to start slow and finish fast. So if we could start fast and finish fast, that would obviously give us a good season. We just have to come out and execute and win the game."
Q: How was the offseason for you and how do you come into the opener?
CT: "I feel great coming into the season. I made the transition to tackle this summer, so I'm just ready to play. I've got five home games left here in Albuquerque, so I'm excited and I can't wait to play."
SENIOR SAFETY JOSH BAZINET
Question: What is it like playing at home with such a large group of fans supporting you?
Josh Bazinet: "Playing at home has a way of getting the team excited and pumped up for the game. The fans have a way of giving us momentum, and that in turn radiates into excitement on the field."
Q: What do you think will be different from this year's match-up against Washington State compared to last year?
JB: "Washington State is a lot more experienced then we are this year, but I think that we are extremely ready for this game. We want to come out with a win and beat these guys on national television."
Q: Do you think that your preseason schedule is too difficult this year?
JB: "I believe that no schedule is too difficult. If you want to be the best, you have to play the best. Our first three games are against top-25 caliber teams, so if we come out strong with a few wins right from the start, we will be in a good position."
Q: You guys lost a handful of players since last year, what is the biggest area of concern for this year's team?
JB: "Size is an issue on the defensive line, but they have been working extremely hard and make up for any weakness with their quickness. Every team is going to have areas of weakness, but it is just a matter of working through it and getting stronger."