(Photo by Mark Philbrick/BYU Photo)
The following is a partial transcript from head coach Bronco Mendenhall's weekly press conference, featuring comments from wide receiver McKay Jacobson, linebacker Jameson Frazier and defensive back Preston Hadley.
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I was impressed and pleased with the way our team improved on Saturday. I liked the balance that our offense showed. I really thought Riley (Nelson) had a strong game in his first start. The complement of the running game, the quarterback mobility and passing the football made us much more difficult to defend. I think it provided a spark and some inspiration to our team. It gave us some momentum going into a road game that we haven’t had in a while. We are looking forward to taking on Oregon State and improving our team at the halfway mark.
Can you talk more about Michael Alisa, what he brings to the offense and his role?
I would hope to see him in the continued role that he had. Averaging over five yards per carry is exceptional. We have been looking for in a running back to run between the tackles with a physical presence from the beginning of the season until now. Mike has been so impressive on special teams and in practice that it appeared over time that he deserved an opportunity. Through his work, consistency and production over the past six weeks it gave him the opportunity and he made the most of it. It was really fun on the sideline; once the players saw how hard he was running it generated a lot of excitement and enthusiasm, not only for him but also for the team. I think it affected the offensive line as well. They became more excited and really enjoyed the game more and finished blocks because of how he was running the football and the physical presence he was showing.
The second half didn’t seem quite as strong as the first half against San Jose State, what happened?
The game wasn’t executed quite as cleanly. There was also a point where I thought we were on the verge of running away with it and having a pretty commanding lead. Either through turnovers or giving up a third down conversion the momentum changed, not that I thought there was a gigantic difference in play, just not quite the same plays were made that were in the first half. That is a good lesson in terms of sustainability.
How do you make the decision of when to be more aggressive vs. being more conservative?
It's just a feel for how the game is going and what threats the opponents are presenting to us. We were still moving the ball effectively and they weren’t able to move it affectively unless we had a mistake. Field goals weren’t going to win the game for them and certainly 16 points weren’t going to win the game for them. I expected we would have had one more score or maybe two. That would really be the only thing I would say I was disappointed with for the second half.
You are going back to where you played and coached, is there any sentimentality or emotions going back?
I have mixed feelings. In playing Oregon State in 2009 in a bowl game there wasn’t many sentiments or emotions, it was just playing a bowl game. After the staff was fired at Oregon State coach Mike Riley took over. I didn’t know him well until some of our Nike trips. Holly and I really like he and his wife. I am looking forward to seeing Mike. There is a lot of mixed feelings in terms of a lot of memories at Oregon State. It wasn’t a time when Oregon State football was very strong when I was there. As a coach it was a very difficult place to win. There wasn’t a lot of success stories but there was a lot of work and a lot of friendships. It seems that so much time has passed since then and it is hard to even go back to that place. I don’t really have much of choice now since we are going back so it will take me back there mentally and I am not quite sure how I feel about that.
You have been very successful in close games in your tenure; do you have any thoughts as to why?
I have thought about that a lot. I don’t think I have a fantastic or very clear answer. I think our record is very good in games decided by a touchdown or less. I think a lot of times it might be the maturity of our players and their ability to handle chaotic situations a little bit better. That may be tied to age or life experience or even preparation. I don’t have a strong enough feel to tell you which one it is for sure.
These are all non-conference games; do you have a different feel as to how a team is doing at this point in the year?
I really don’t. When you look at Oregon State they have lost to some pretty good teams, Arizona State, Wisconsin, etc. I think they are gaining some momentum. They just scored 37 points. I have watched three games so far and they are a talented football team that is coached well. How we will matchup not having any common opponents is a little bit of a mystery.
Can you get more specific on Riley Nelson’s game and what he did well and what was better than the past?
With the type of quarterback that Riley is, he buys more time specifically so when under pressure he is able to elude the rush and give the receivers more time to get open which then makes us more difficult to defend because he can throw it to a receiver who’s route has been adjusted. It is harder to cover an adjusted route. The next thing is when he does feel pressure if the coverage is solid it usually means there is a buffer between where the offensive line is and the coverage is and he can run to occupy that space. Usually he has a first down before he gets tackled. He threw the ball in drop back well and the only thing I would fault him on is ball security. Other than that, I think he did a nice job executing the game plan.
How is the safety position making progress?
It is making some progress. Their eye control and play action pass defense was much better on Saturday. I think we are making progress there. Productivity has been solid but not great. Travis Uale does an awesome job getting us lined up correctly. Daniel Sorensen is making more plays, but in general that position could still perform at a little bit of a higher level.
WR McKay Jacobson
What did you think of Michael Alisa’s play on Saturday?
He ran hard. That was the biggest thing I noticed. He really stepped up and our running game really helped us a lot. It starts with our guys up front and our offensive line opened up holes. Mike is a strong runner and did a good job.
Is there different play calling for Riley Nelson at quarterback?
I think there are some different things we are trying to do. We are trying to call plays that fit Riley’s skill set. Offensively we are progressing and executing better and better.
LB Jameson Frazier
The second half of San Jose State was not as dominant, any reasons why?
I think it was just focus and making sure we were doing our assignments. We weren’t letting up too much, it was just we were not able to shut them down and put the dagger in like we wanted to. I think they were able to do some things on us as well.
When the offense runs the ball well is that nice for you guys to get a rest on the sideline then?
Definitely. I am always happy for the offense when they do well. I think it was great to see the running game open up more. We have a bunch of running backs now that can run the football so I am excited to have them with the ball.
How nice is it to have Jordan Pendleton healthy enough to play vs. being on the sidelines?
It’s great. He is a great teammate. Honestly when he was on the sideline he was the biggest fan. It is great to have him whether he is on the sideline or on the field. Of course when he is on the field he has a greater impact but he is a great player to play with.
DB Preston Hadley
Is it a good experience to play several BCS teams from the SEC, Big 12 and Pac 12?
Yeah it is really exciting. Growing up you watch all those teams on TV and it is humbling to be out there playing with them. We know what we are capable of and we know our potential.
Oregon State has won just one game this season but do you think they are a talented team?
I think they have great players and are a good team. They are definitely not a team we can overlook. I think in college football any team can beat any team. You can never put it on cruise control in any game.
Do you think you will need to play better this week than last week against San Jose State?
Each Saturday we have to keep playing better and better than we did in the previous week. They have seen us and will know what’s coming so you have to keep getting better and better.