ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. --- Lobo head football coach Bob Davie held his weekly press conference on Tuesday in the Zia Level of the football press facility as a part of UNM’s weekly fall sports media luncheon. Here is what the head coach had to say about this week’s game with No. 17/16 Arizona on Saturday night at 5:05 p.m. at Branch Field at University Stadium.
Bob Davie: Well we stood here a week ago and said we would know a lot more this week I think so much of it is how you process a loss and the systematic way you go about what happens. And there’s a proper way to respond. We call it the above the line and below the line. There’s an above the line way to respond and a below the line way to respond. Certainly this week is about that. From my mindset and from what I try to talk to our players about is if we would have kicked a field goal with three minutes left in that game. Instead of fumbling and we would have won the game would that much have dramatically changed for our weeks preparation that we are in right now? Does that make sense? So if you can mentally, we aren’t that much different. If we would of won it or the fact that we lost it shouldn’t impact us this week in a negative way. If anything it should impact us in a positive way. So, there’s a systematic way to handle things and as you build this program that’s what you do. You systematically, week after week build.
What you try to do is look at: What went wrong? Why did it go wrong, and as simple as it sounds what can we do to correct it? Just as importantly you look at what went right. And there are certainly were so many things that we probably did as high level since we’ve been here. So with each experience you use it as a teaching opportunity and for the players it’s a learning opportunity. So that’s kind of how we approach it. In particularly when you are a young football team, I think frank told me coming up here, we played 60 players in the game. Twent of them stepped on the college football field for the first time. And that’s why as we continue to build we are still hit of miss. That’s not an excuse. People get tired of hearing about youth. Everybody has youth. Arizona State has a young football team. But that’s why we are little bit hit and miss and obviously the challenge this week becomes even more significant. Not so much of because of what happened last week but because of who we are playing this week. And then you combine the fact that Cole Gaustche is not playing. We are extremely hit or miss when Cole Gaustche is not out there. That’s just what we have been.
Now, have we rectified that because Clayton Mitchem has taken more snaps than he did a year ago before he played? We will find out. We are anxious to see Lamar Jordan play. But the whole thing now escalates even more because you’re playing a defense that has a lot of skilled, fast, fast players on the field. And we aren’t quite the execution style offense that we are with Cole out there. So everything is going to happen faster. And then their offense is really, really well coached. You know they run up tempo … fast, fast tempo. It’s their third year in the system they have averaged over 38 points both years. I think 468 yards a game for two years. And they think it’s the best offense they have ever have and the staff has been together a long time. So, we all know the challenge.
With that said there were a lot of positives in that game last week that we can build on. You know we had 15 explosive plays on offense we had 13 runs over 12 yards we had two passes. We hadn’t had that around here. So, it’s what I said we were in that it was two teams that were about carbon copies of one another. And it really did come down to the end almost going into overtime. We are an explosive team. We have more explosiveness than we have had but we also continue to be up or down. And our downs on defense are significant. It’s all of a sudden when there’s mistake it’s on a big play. And that’s why we have to keep doing what we are doing and keep getting better. I do think we can get better. I think we can get better in the second half of the game actually. So, we have a big challenge everybody knows that and I’m anxious. Anxious to watch Lamar Jordan play let see what he brings to the table. I’m anxious just to watch our defense play against as talented a football team as we will play all year. As good a scheme we will play all year. I’m just kind of anxious to see us show some improvement s and you know keep building this thing. So any questions I’ll be happy to answer, Rick.
A vast majority of yards were outside on pitches. Last year Kasey got a lot of his yards up on dives. Do you have confidence in the o-line …
Bob Davie: And I think that’s a great question, you know we didn’t run many dives up in there against UTEP. So much of it is how they play you know. Because we ran a lot of triple-options. It was a true read. And there’s a reason we brought the ball out. Plus we felt like just on the perimeter we may have had a little speed advantage on their defense on the perimeter. And that’s why we pitched the ball. We pitched the ball 16 times in this game. I don’t think we pitched the ball 16 times all last year. So it’s week to week and I think Arizona State will play us a little bit differently. But so much of what we do on offense is dependent on what they do. You can see the same thing happened last year in the first game. We are such a timing offense. Timing is so critical with us. We started a little slow last year against UTSA, who, they are really a good football team. The same thing happened this year for a different reason. We started a little bit wobbly because of the timing and once we got our timing I thought we executed the best we’ve executed since we’ve been here on offense. That was a heck of a job against a team that spent an awful lot of time on us and knows us pretty well. It depends week to week what we do. I doubt we get that ball pitched this week as much as we got it pitched last week.
Coach is there a written rule or philosophy that your staff teaches punt returners on where to feel the ball and where not to in a certain position or time in the game?
Bob Davie: I think that’s a great question. That’s a fair question. You know what the rule is. You know you put your heels on the 10- yard line. You never back up but there’s always a judgment call. Just like our first punt of the game when we punted it to them. They had their heels at the ten and the ball was floating, floating, loating and they backed up and caught it about at the 7. Almost the same situation on the other hash. So, the dead rule is heels at the 10 but there is that window when that ball is really floating and you want to be aggressive and catch the ball. Now, there were three minutes and 10 seconds left in the game. You hate to get back on your heels and say ‘let’s not put anyone back there’. You hate to tell the kid not to catch it. You know in hindsight you probably wish we would have. But that’s not really the way you want to approach it. There’s three minutes left in the game. They have three time outs left. The ball rolls down to the one- inch line and now they are going to get the ball back probably inside the 40 and kick a field goal to win the game. You know so you want to catch it. You want to get field position. I don’t question at all with him backing up because it did look like the ball was just floating. What he did a poor job of is the technique. You know his shoulders were turned instead of just square. He got a little discombobulated and he was sideways. He actually did it on the first punt so he just has to get squared up and he’ll make that catch 99 out of 100 times. So it’s unfortunate. And just like your philosophy with the game that one’s over. What you have to do is: Why did it happen and work on the fundamentals and the technique. So, I hope I answered that.
One thing in week one is a lot of missed tackles…how do you fix that?
Bob Davie: Well that’s exactly right. When all the dust settled we had something like 30 assignment miscues and we had over 20 missed tackles alone in that game. A good example is a guy, Daniel Henry, number 14, that we think is really going to be a good player. I don’t know that I’ve seen this. He missed the first three tackles that he was in the game. To have that many opportunities … and I’m talking about on three consecutive plays. You know we did miss a lot of tackles. They missed a lot of tackles. Some of that is the first game but when it’s been a recurring thing. I can see where if you’re sitting in the stands your saying, ‘Man, here we go again.’ And I think that’s fair. So it’s the combination that I think it always is, of a lot of things. And those backs were good and they ran through us a couple times in the game. Well, not so much in the interior. We are actually pretty strong right up the gut. They ran through us on the perimeter a little bit more and they creased us. It’s something that there’s no excuses for and we have to solve it. And for us to win in this program, that’s what we have to become. And I think we have enough guys to do it. I think you’ve heard me say that 100 times. I really do think that the potential here is much higher than it’s been on defense.
So there’s no chance that Cole will play, because a pulled hamstring?
Bob Davie: He pulled his right hamstring. He pulled his left one in the spring. Absolutely no chance he will play. The best case scenario is that he’s back for New Mexico State. I was kind of thinking late last night of how many games we’ve played here in three years that have come down to the final series of the game. And we have not had our starting quarterback in there. It’s unbelievable. And I think everybody in that stadium would have liked to see number 8 in there, late in that game when we had the ball down at about the 40 yard line, just to see what was going to happen. But, that’s the reality of what we are. It’s not unexpected that Cole is not playing the second game. It is the second year in a row. But, think back. And we should probably do some research Frank, how many games we have been down to the last series of the game and we are out there with a back-up or a third quarterback or even a wildcat quarterback. And it’s been a lot. And that’s why we continue to recruit quarterbacks. That why we’ve give Lamar Jordan a lot of reps. And that why Jujuan Lawson, we’ve taken him off the scout squad because if we get to that point it will be Jujuan Lawson.
Coach what would you say are the keys to this game?
Bob Davie: Eliminate the hit or miss. On offense with Clayton in there, you think back to Utah State last year and we put the ball in the ground and excuse me the first series of the game we put the ball on the ground. Can we eliminate the hit or miss. We are on defense we play a couple plays and then we spring a leak and then it’s just home run because you are playing a home run kind of team on both sides of the ball. Their offense is as explosive as any in college football period. And then there defense athletically is really, really fast at attacking. So the hit or miss percentage goes up in this game. So we can’t just have the ‘Oh my God what just happened’ moments, where it’s just a home run on either side of the ball.
Coach, long term what’s your theory on playing the Arizona States, the Arizonas, the Texas Tech these regional games like you do New Mexico State?
Bob Davie: I think it’s great I think we play on e of them a year and we play it on the road. And we probably make a million dollars for doing it, truthfully, if I’m being totally candid. I hope we’d sell this game out at home to make it advantageous for us to play Arizona State at home this year. But I think the reality is moving forward. And our schedules set up this way. You play one of these a year. You go make a million dollars for playing and I think you’ll see that. I know it’s reflective of what our schedule is in the future.
Coach I get to interact with the fans after the game’s over. There’s a lot of frustration playing and one fan called me after the game was over and asked when are we ever going to see this turn around. You articulate for fans how close you think this program is?
Bob Davie: What I would say to that is I understand. You don’t think I, you don’t think I don’t think that? I would say again if we kicked a field goal at the end of that game and won that game which we didn’t would it be that dramatic. Are we closer? If we would of kicked a field goal it probably would have been one of the greatest comebacks in this schools’ history. We rushed for over 400 yards. We have 60 players and 20 of then played for the first time they have ever played. So, I would hope you look at the big picture like I do. And say, if we would have kicked a field goal, would we be that much different right now? Would we all feel okay, we are turning this program around? You know that’s fair. We all want to win. And I think in the end I know we are making progress. So I’ll let you answer that one with a fan.
The entertainment value of the great was way up. That’s brand new…no one leaving the stadium. That was a fun environment and people were staying until the very end. That alone was huge, huge.
Bob Davie: I think we are that. I think we are fun to watch and I think that if you are looking for excuses not to come follow us you certainly have them. Just look at my record since I’ve been here. That’s plenty excuse to say I’m not coming or I’m not behind this program. But if you choose to look at the positive, it’s a pretty good product we are putting out there right now. It’s a pretty exciting brand with a lot of youth. And I think the future is extremely bright. You can look at it however you want to look at it. I try to be as honest and realistic as I can. I’m pretty optimistic right now, I really am about the future.
Coach it was a great game. It was entertaining. For me it was. But the point is, I have a question for you, it will be the 29th time we play Arizona State and our record is 5-22-1. The last time we beat them was 1942 and the last time we played them in here in University Stadium it was 37 year ago 1977. So my question is for the guys going tobe in the stands Saturday night coming out to this stadium even though you said to one degree it is a hit and miss what’s going to be the ingredient. Because I believe if we do win this game it will be the biggest upset in the 21st century for Lobo football.
Bob Davie: You just blitzed me. That was an all out blitz right there. Play our butt off. Play the best game we’ve ever played probably in the history of this program, right? Is that what it is? You know you’re playing a team that won the Pac 12 South last year. It’s the best offensive team Todd Grahams’ ever had on offense. He’s been around some good offenses. I think we got to play the best game in the history of this program in order to win the game. Agree? Fair? Would it be the biggest win in the history of this program, beating Arizona State at home?
Coach, one thing I did see that went right is Dakota Cox, he was all over the ball. What is he doing that the other guys aren’t?
Bob Davie: I think that’s a good point. I think Dakota Cox, we have him at about 20 tackles. You know he doesn’t make maybe the Brian Urlacher just knock them back into the stands kind of hits or the real flashy plays. First of all he is a true sophomore that plays much more mature and plays beyond his youth, where some of the other guys out there play like immature guys. He’s just a man. He’s been around football all his life. His Dad played at USC. He never takes a lazy step. He’s a unique player. He’s a young guy that plays like an older player. He’s never out of position and never takes a lazy step. And the rally we had a lot of guys that were out of position that ended up hurting us again.
Coach, you did say a lot about defense. And I know the defense from one half to the other was just incredible from 340 yards to and just 100 yards in the second half. You would say the defense played pretty good..wouldn’t you say?
Bob Davie: We played a little better … yeah, we did. The first thing in the first half, you know the first drive of the game we had them in two third downs. And it’s our fault we busted two defenses and gave them two third down conversions. In the second half we were four at four on third- down defense getting off the field and really shut them out except for the last touchdown there after the fumbled punt. And they had 120 yards in the second half. We did get better. We did get better as the game. You know after the turnover we turned the ball over with Jhurell Presley. We were able to get off the field again with our offense and have a chance to win. We were with the goal line standing in the second half. And you know we are the type of defense that once we get a little confidence and momentum going we have enough athletes where we can be pretty good. But we have to create our own momentum by not having busts and not giving up those big home runs where air comes out of the stadium and sidelines and everything else. We got to go execute and earn the momentum. But it was a little better in the second half.
Coach do you tailor the offense to Clayton? I know you aren’t going to completely change what you do but…
Bob Davie: A little bit but not anything that you are probably dramatically going to see from a fans standpoint that it looks different but certainly Cole and Clayton are a little bit different just in how they run the triple option. You know Cole built a little bit different. You know longer arms and longer legs where he really rides that thing in there longer makes it really hard to see who has the ball. Clayton doesn’t quite do that as naturally. And then Lamar Jordan is a little different. You know he’s a little bit quicker jumping out of that mesh. So I don’t think its anything dramatically that you’ll see, but just in the way we tweak things, particularly in the running game it’ll be different with Clayton or Lamar in there than with Cole. And I’ll say again I think Cole executing our end game against UTEP has by far been the best it’s been. It was pretty fun to watch.
I talked to Kimmie Carson a little after practice today and I loved what he said about stopping the run. There was an attitude about it, that “we didn’t like it”. He said he Dakota told guys in the huddle this can’t be. Do you see something a little bit different about this group?
Bob Davie: Kimmie is a great example you know Kimmie jumped on that field for his first time and as hard as he tried and as much as he tried he was fundamentally so bad that he had no chance. It’s another example of a bunch of guys wanting to do it but just aren’t coached up enough yet and disciplined enough yet to be able to do it. He is the perfect example. He loves it … he is a contact football player. He’ll hit you. He’s got a bright future. He just doens’t have it down yet to get him coached up fast enough to be good enough. But we do have so many of those guys that it is our responsibility now as coaches. It’s not about the past. There’s nothing about the roster. ….we got all of it and we got to coach them and we gotta coach them fast and Kimmie Carson is the exact example of what our defense is. A perfect example. So he can talk all he wants which I love, he got to get the technique to get better and get in the right gap cause you get creased by these big time backs in the play. …
Coach is (Jhurell) Pressley at full speed? It looked like he didn’t go the full game.
Bob Davie: No, he actually fractured his thumb. I mean we put the ball on the ground again at the end. But his only problem is his thumb. I’ll tell you he can go. We’ve got some team speed here now. We have built up our explosiveness.
With Cranston out do you move somebody up do you just go with Jaden and I.B. (Isaiah Brown) and SaQwan …
Bob Davie: Yeah, its Jaden, I.B., SaQwan, Donnie Duncan is next in there. We got a little bit of depth in the secondary. Hopefully Cranston is going to be back in a week or two.
What did you tell your punt returner to make him feel a little bit better after that game? How do you coach that?
Bob Davie: You know I told him it was my fault. And he stepped up in front of the entire team and said, “Coach, it wasn’t your fault it was my fault.” You know, I said it was my fault because you’re a young guy that we obviously haven’t had you in that position enough to get your shoulder’s square and use the right technique and that’s coaching. And he stepped up like a man, and said, “No Coach, he said no I’ve done that 100 times and I’ve been told that 100 times. It was my mistake.” And then I called him Sunday morning and you know it’s just something he has to get through. Nobody feels worse than he does.