September 9, 2003
Head Coach Rocky Long
Question: Will the offenses have the advantage on Saturday?
Rocky Long: "I would think the offenses would have the advantage. Both teams should understand their offensive schemes by now. They probably have things that were successful in spring practice and fall camp that they can use against us."
Q: Are the two defenses exactly the same?
RL: "I watched BYU's defense on film, and it's exactly the same. They're performing a little bit better than we are right now, but we've played two different kinds of teams too. They've played two primarily running teams and we've played two primarily passing teams. All 11 starters are back for them on defense. They're really picking up things well right now. They have excellent players who are executing."
Q: Is there an advantage to playing a conference game this early?
RL: "There's a lot of positives if you win because you can sit atop the standings for a month before anybody else can pick up a victory. But last year we played Air Force early and we were at the bottom of the conference standings for a month. That's the only advantage I see. I would much rather play all of our non-conference opponents before our conference opponents because you have a much better feel of your team. You know the strengths and weaknesses of your team a lot better after four or five games. Both teams are in the same boat though. They're still learning about their team, and we're still learning the personality of our team."
Q: Are you going to try and redshirt Fola Fashola (who is out for the season with a torn ACL)?
RL: "We're going to try. It shouldn't be too hard because it has to be in the first third of the season, and obviously it's in the first third. Now, his injury is a significant injury, and how well he'll recover remains to be seen. There's a lot of hard rehabilitation he'll have to do to get back."
Q: Does the win from last year help at all psychologically this year?
RL: "I don't think it makes any difference. Every game is a different game. Even though we have a lot of players back from last year's team, they are still developing their personality for this year, as every team does. Every team has its own personality no matter how many players you have back, so it doesn't make any difference."
Q: Will (senior quick guard) Calvin McDonald return to the offensive line this week?
RL: "Robert Turner will continue to start for us. We're going to let Calvin see what he can do this week. Calvin doesn't feel a 100 percent yet. He's going to do what he can, and if he's performing at a normal level, he'll get to play on Saturday. If he's not performing a normal level, obviously he won't play. Robert Turner has done a good job the last couple of weeks and he's in better playing shape right now. Calvin's been doing a lot of rehab but he's probably not in playing shape to count on him going the whole way."
Q: Can you talk about the running game to this point with DonTrell's injury last week?
RL: "I think D.D. Cox performed better last week than we all anticipated. We were worried about having a legitimate backup for DonTrell. And if they were both perfectly healthy right now, they would be splitting time right now. Adrian Byrd also played some and did a nice job. He's not as elusive, but he's more powerful. He runs more like a fullback. He lowers his shoulder when he gets to the hole and if they knock him down they knock him down, but if they don't, he keeps on going. But he's not going to make anybody miss. He runs like (former UNM standout and current Houston Texan fullback) Jarrod Baxter used to."
Q: Has (BYU quarterback) Matt Berry improved from last season?
RL: "He's better than when he played against us last year. He looked like a real polished quarterback against an excellent football team in the second half versus USC. The first half, USC got a lot of pressure on him, and obviously quarterbacks don't perform as well under pressure, but he looked good in the second half against the same pressure."
Q: How is it going to be to coach against (BYU defensive coordinator) Bronco Mendenhall (UNM Defensive Coordinator from 1998-2002)? What is he going to bring to the table as far as knowing your defense on a personal level?
RL: "I think that both offenses know the defenses so well now that there's really no advantage to the scheme. The teams that have seen the defense before have a legitimate way of attacking the defense. They will know our personnel a whole lot better than we know theirs. We have so many players returning that Bronco will be able to tell them the strengths and weaknesses of our players, and he knows both our offense and our defense. So they know our personnel better, but I think that's the only advantage. He also uses the same signals as we use. Our offensive coaches know our defensive signals because they see them every day in practice. So both offenses are going to know what defense the other team is in."
Q: Do you think they will change their signals for this weekend?
RL: "Well, you can go into a huddle or send players in. You can change your signals, which can screw up both the coaches and the players. Or you can run a player in and out and he can screen the defense as he runs out. I would guess that both teams would be sending in runners. There's a huge advantage for the offense when you know the signals. We know their signals, and they know ours. Both offenses will have a very astute plan on how to attack the defense. If the defensive players play at a high level it doesn't matter what you do."