December 9, 2003
Head Coach Rocky Long
Question: What do you think of Oregon State running back Steven Jackson (12th in NCAA in rushing)?
Rocky Long: "I think he is one of their very good players. I think they have a whole host of good football players. Depending on who you talk too, they have six or seven guys that are going to get drafted, possibly two or three that might be first-round draft choices. He's big and fast, and can break tackles. He's really the only guy who runs the ball for them."
Q: Is there any reason why Oregon State's quarterback (Derek Anderson) has thrown so many interceptions (13)?
RL: "There was a lot of pressure on him in the USC game. There's been a couple of other games where he faced a lot of pressure. He's much better now than he was earlier in the season. He handled a lot of pressure at USC, and threw a couple of bad balls, but most of them were good. He threw for over 400 yards against one of the top three defenses in the country. He took a beating, but he hung in there and threw the ball well. They have a couple of good wide receivers and an excellent tight end. In the preseason, there were some polls that picked Oregon State to win the Pac 10."
"I was told that the quarterback wasn't very good if he got pressured, and the most disappointing thing in the world when I watched the USC film was that he threw the ball pretty well no matter how many times he got hit. The last four or five games of the season, he's been handling the pressure just fine. Early on, he would throw the ball up for grabs if he got pressured, but he's matured a lot as a quarterback."
Q: What do they run defensively?
RL: "They're a lot like Washington State. They're base is a 4-3 and they run only a couple of coverages, the two-deep zone and quarters, where they read routes and jump routes. Their corners are young but they have gotten a lot better too. They have a corner (Brandon Browner - Pac 10 Freshman of the Year) who is 6-4, and when you watch the USC film, he bumps and runs three USC wide receivers and knocks them to their knees. But they're not complicated, and they count on their athletic ability to make big plays. Statistically, the teams are very comparable in rushing defense, points given up and total defense."
Q: Why has New Mexico struggled to run historically against Pac 10 teams?
RL: "Because their defensive linemen are so big and strong and fast. Most of the teams in our league play defensive linemen that are small and fast. The big linemen are hard to find and they get heavily recruited, and most of the time, we're not in that recruiting mix."
"On the flip side, we're better running the ball better this year than we have been in the last few years we've played Pac 10 teams. We're better on the offensive line and our running back is maturing into one of the better running backs. It will be hard to run the ball against them, but I also think it will be hard for them to run the ball against us. You combat their size by getting three yards a carry, every once in a while get eight or nine yards, and then use the play-action pass."
Q: How much better do you think the team is on pass defense than earlier in the season? Do you think the team will be ready for Oregon State's passing attack, which is ranked sixth nationally in passing offense?
RL: "We're a lot better now than during the first four or five weeks into the season. However, as we went through the season, we played a lot of good passing teams early. As the season went on, we played a lot of teams that tried to run the ball, and stopping the run is what we do best. Wyoming is an excellent passing team, but we played them in a blizzard, so it will be interesting to see where we stand."
Q: How are you keeping the team focused during the down time before the game?
RL: "This is the hardest thing I've had to do as a coach because we've had so much time off. It's going to be over a month from our last game to when we get to play, and you only get 15 practices. Plus, you don't want to wear your guys out. Right now, our guys are complacent, because we've only had an average of three practices a week the last three weeks. You don't want anyone to get hurt, so you practice just like it's before a game on Saturday. It's really good the younger guys because we let them go at each other for about 25-30 minutes a practice. As a coach, you don't want to get them too worked up, because we don't play for another two weeks."
"There is a real chance the team can get rusty. I think we're experienced enough as a football team that a series or two into the game, we'll be just fine. The speed of the game is going to shock our guys during the first two series of the game, because they haven't seen game action in so long. It's hard to keep them focused and working hard because the game still seems so far away. For Oregon State, they just played last Saturday, so it's just like a bye week for them."
Q: How has the team's mindset changed from a year ago?
"I think it has dramatically changed. Not so much for the guys who weren't there last year - they are just as excited as everyone was last year. For the guys who went last year, they are going in with the mindset that Vegas is a nice place, but we're going to play a football game. Last year, I think they were so excited about going that football was a second thought - it's not a second thought this year. There is a little disappointment that all of the activities are the same as last year, but I think they are more excited to play the game. Last year they were just excited to go anywhere."