It's that time of year again to play our cross-town rivals. This is an exciting time. The coaches are in there working on the game plan. There is a lot of good things out there. They have some good things and some good personnel and we're just excited about the game. We are looking forward to it.
Q. What on film has been the main challenge that Utah has had in the past?
They were hurt a little bit on the pass by the big tall receivers at San Diego State and Wyoming, that was the biggest thing right there. They played some very good pass coverage in a lot of games, in the Michigan game they played good pass coverage and also in the game they won two weeks ago. I just think that if they get to the quarterback and put pressure on the quarterback then their coverage is pretty good. Even their defense when they have given up some passing yards, they have still played pretty good defense. They have good personnel, their safeties are good and Kaufusi is good when he is healthy. I feel like they have a good defense personnel wise.
Q. Have they added blitzes to what they had last year?
Yeah, it seems they have a different blitz for every game. They come in with something a little bit different, a little bit special. They do keep the same package, but they add another blitz or two for each game. They did that to us last year, in fact they had a blitz where the safeties came right up the middle at the end of the game and we saw it coming and were able to check to the option and that is the play we scored on to win the game on that last touchdown.
Q. Utah is talking a lost about how much they hate BYU. What's your take on the rivalry, how do you feel as far as your feelings for the U?
You know I have a lot of respect for their team and their program but we are very anxious to play them and get after it. When I wasn't at BYU and was with other teams, I used to watch BYU and Colorado State play. I used to cheer for the conference, especially Utah, BYU, and Colorado State. Utah because I am from Utah, Colorado State because I played there and BYU because I went to school here. Now that I am here in the conference, if Utah plays anyone else I am for them, but I definitely want to beat them.
Q. Have you ever been involved in a rivalry as fierce as this one?
Each little area has its own rivalries that are interesting. The ones that have in-state rivalries seem to be the biggest ones. Alabama, Auburn is a huge rivalry. Boston College didn't have as big a rival because they didn't have an in-state team when I was at Boston College. When I was at IAA Western Illinois there were so many in-state teams that they were all rivalries. Louisiana Tech and North East Louisiana was a huge rivalry too. What makes it so big is that you have to live with the people until the next year and you have to talk about it all year, so that off-season is a long time. The state bragging rights is a big thing. The Wyoming, Colorado State is a pretty descent one, but I don't think it is as big because you are not in the same state.
Q. Have you counseled the players about what to say?
I have just told them to focus on the game and not get caught up in thing you have no control over. I don't know how they are doing, but I know you guys are baiting them pretty good.
Q. Have your friends and other people you talk to tried to get you to say things?
Everybody wants us to hate Utah, just hate them. Believe me in my heart I want to win this game with all my heart. This is a game that when you are getting ready for every other game this one always comes in the back of your mind. As I am getting ready for Colorado State and Air Force we watched Utah play those teams, and I am just taking note. I am trying not to but it is hard not to because you know it is going to be a big game.
Q. Would you rather be favored going into this game?
Actually we are underdogs aren't we? I have always done better when I am an underdog. I tell you the only difference last year is after the game when we won and we won the conference, I just about got crushed out on the field. I thought there has got to be a better way. We had the media there and it was senior day so we were giving out the blankets, I just thought it is too big of game to do all of that stuff. It was intense.
Q. Have you talk with your player about the stakes of the game? Like avoiding a losing season and getting bowl eligible?
I have never had a losing season as a head coach. I have not been a head coach as long as LaVell, but I've never had one. I have been around a lot of really good coaches that have had a losing season at times. I know that it is not the end of the world if that happens. I feel very confident in the upside of BYU. I have done a lot of things this year to try and help build the future of BYU and not just win this year. This was a unique year for us in that we graduated eight guys off of a good offensive team and we graduate our three best defensive players and they are in the NFL right now. We have had some really good freshmen that we could have played this year, but my feeling is to make this last a long time. As we prepared I felt we had a good team and we had some injuries and then the quarterback change. So I felt we have been pretty good, but I don't want to have a losing season and I know that even if we win this game that there is still a chance of that happening because we would be playing in a bowl game.
Q. Could you talk about Brett Elliott and what types of challenges he presents as apposed to Lance Rice?
He's a little bit more mobile, he' bigger, I think he has a little stronger arm or at least it looks that way. I don't go to their practice so I am sure that the Utah guys could fill you in more on that. He's young right now and he is playing with a little more confidence and it seems they are throwing the ball more when he is in there then when they had Rice. He's a big kid and seems hard to bring down when he is in the pocket.
Q. Who's injured right now, or will be missing Saturday?
Brandon Heaney is out, Ben Archibald, C.J. Ah You is out, Brady Poppinga is questionable. I think I am going to get David Christensen back and Ryan keel is healthy and will probably play a little more than he did last week. James Allen is questionable even though he missed last week. Jernaro will play, and so will Kukahiko. Justin Jory is out, he broke his foot so we redshirted him.
Q. The offense struggled last week, how hard is it to put the mistakes that were made behind you and look forward to this game?
It is completely different. We played so good the two weeks before that I felt we were back on track, there were some issues with some things. Roby watched the film with Matt and I sat down and watched the film with Matt, just to hear what he was thinking as he watched it. Then yesterday him and Lance (Pendleton) came into me as I was leaving and said that they wanted to see some film, so we sat down for two hours and watched Utah, which I felt was very productive. It's interesting because those guys want to learn and Todd Mortensen has been that way all along, and I can tell they are gaining experience through the film session but I can also tell they are young players because of the questions they ask. Matt learned a lot and wanted to go out and play them again, I just told him to save for next year.
Q. Do you think your success against San Diego State and Wyoming was due to their defenses or were you guys really that good?
I think we were pretty good on those days, I think Colorado State scored some points against San Diego State, and we played them better than Colorado State did. I felt like our defense did a pretty good job., because San Diego State had been playing pretty good defense going into that game. I also thought that Wyoming was playing better and we scored 35 points there and we only punted once. As I look at Utah they didn't do that even though they won. I just feel that the reason New Mexico won is because we have a young quarterback and they had some looks that he hadn't seen before and got hit in the head. The game was so close that I felt like I didn't need to take too many chances, we led most of the game and thought that we were going to win the game on defense. I am not blaming Matt Berry I am saying that from a defensive standpoint they did a good job with us and then also against Hall from San Diego State.
Q. Do you expect Utah to do some defensive things that you haven't seen before?
Utah could do that, but I am thinking why? They have the number one defense in the conference, why would they change their defense? What we just saw we just studied so if they came out and ran what these other guys did we would be ready for it because we just saw it. So Utah might do that but I am thinking why?
This is a tough job to take over from LaVell. He left a whole bunch of stuff out there: haven't lost to New Mexico at home since 1971, haven't had a losing season since 1973. That's why he is on e of the greatest coaches in the history of NCAA football and people should remember that.
Q. Did anybody tell you to do it your way and go ahead and redshirt these kids don't worry about that other stuff?
They just said do it the way I want to do it and I felt like that is the right way to do it. I don't know if LaVell would have done it that way, but that is the way for us to do it. We have a lot of good kids coming back and could be pretty good. Our schedule will be as tough as it has ever been next year.
Q. With Ricks College shutting down and not having the recruiting from there with the academics and honor code, what do you do to fill that vacancy?
Well its different. That was some place you could always send a guy to if you got over committed scholarship wise. Now it's a little bit different, we have some guys from Dixie and from Snow, but the academics is different, it takes a little more time so we will recruit more high school kids and find new ways to find the guys.
Q. Would there be any advantage to recruiting more non-LDS players who could then stay for all four straight years?
We're always looking for the best players we feel would fit into this environment. You can't bring them in and let them think that the Honor Code isn't as important as it is. People think that we have done that, but that is not the case. When you do let them know there is some hesitation because there are some differences in lifestyles. If they are a good kid they don't want to lie to you and say that they will follow the Honor Code and then when you shut the door they don't. We don't want that either because that will come back to haunt us. If a kid has high standards, whether he is LDS or not, we are looking for those kinds of guys. We felt we had a really good recruiting class last year with a combination of both.