Before heading off to New Mexico for Saturday's game, BYU head coach Gary Crowton and New Mexico head coach Rocky Long addressed local media at the Tucanos BYU Coaches Luncheon on Wednesday. Following are excerpts from the two coaches' statements and the ensuing question and answer sessions.
New Mexico Head Coach Rocky Long
I think they're a very explosive football team and it's going to be extremely hard to stop them. The only chance we have of even slowing them down is to keep the ball away from them.
Q: Do you suspect your players will have an easier time getting up for this game considering you're not coming off a loss like last year where you had been eliminated from the bowl contention?
A: I don't think our players will have any trouble getting up to play because they haven't had any trouble to this point. We haven't been as good as we had hoped to be and our players haven't played as well as we thought they would at this point. But they've come to work everyday and they've gotten themselves ready and excited to play every week. I don't think it has anything to do with this game being any different, I just think they'll come ready to play because they have all year.
Q: Does Brian McDonald-Ashford's injury affect how you prepare for BYU's offense?
A: No, not at all. Staley is as good a running back as I've ever seen on tape. Other than he'll get the ball maybe more often now because of the injury, it doesn't change our preparation.
Q: If there was one thing you think you need to stop on BYU's offense, what would it be?
A: It'd be nice if they didn't complete a pass.
Q: How, if at all, is your offense different with Casey Kelly running it?
A: It's been pared down a little bit. We're not doing as many things as we were before he became the starting quarterback. The basic ingredients and the basic philosophy of the offense has stayed completely the same. We've just game-planned a little bit more and did things that he was comfortable with that we thought would work against the defense. Rather than having the whole package available, it is more of a game-plan package that he's responsible for.
Q: Is that going to be sort of the same thing this weekend?
A: We hope to expand it a little bit with him this week as compared to last week, but it won't be anywhere close to the whole package.
Q: Playing against a team that is scoring so well and is ranked and everything, does that give any added incentive for your team?
A: I think it's a conference game. In the conference right now, we still have a chance. They still have a chance. Everybody in the league still has a chance. So this being a conference game makes this exciting and important for our football team. I don't think it has anything to do with BYU's ranking.
BYU Head Coach Gary Crowton
Just to open up with a couple things. I was very happy with the win. I know they're 0-5, but I think they're a very good 0-5 team. I think they'll do well the rest of their schedule. The way we played, I was a little disappointed in how we played early in the first half defensively. The coaches challenged our defense in the second half, and I thought they played an outstanding second half. I was very pleased with how they responded and I'm hoping they continue to do so going into this game against New Mexico. Special teams wise, I think we're playing very well other than our kickoff cover. Our kickoff cover is inconsistent. We're working on that. We're in the top 25 in the country in a lot of our areas in special teams. The biggest thing that stares us in the face is kickoff cover. It's more inconsistency than anything and that's what we're working on. We might move some people around. I really think Payne's done a pretty good job. He pulled the field goal and then pulled the point after. That's when I decided to make the change with Aaron just from an experience standpoint. With Matt being a freshman, it gives him a chance to sit back and look at it and get a fresh start, which he got this week. I'll probably go with Matt Payne going into this week, but I don't hesitate to put in Aaron if there's any problems. Matt's kicked well all season. He's missed a couple 50-yarders but he's hit one too. That's tough for a kicker anyway. I feel like I'm still hanging in there with him, I'm not down on him.
As far as Brian McDonald-Ashford, I'm not so sure it's a year-ending injury like at first we thought. He had very little swelling and a full range of motion. There is a possibility with a brace he could play but we won't know that until some time next week, but he definitely will miss this game. Other than that, I think we're pretty healthy. Brandon didn't take any severe shots on the shoulder so his shoulder doesn't feel too bad. Ryan Denney's toe is getting better all the time. I think we're in pretty good shape everywhere else. Teag will be ready to play. He practiced yesterday and he'll be ready to play. I won't make the decision as to how much until after Thursday's practice.
Q: With the adventures on kick returns, how much would that be enhanced if you had someone who could kick it through?
A: You always want someone that can kick it out of the end zone and our guys are very capable of doing that. Sometimes you play night games and the air gets colder and the ball doesn't travel as far. They do it in practice often. That's one of the things we're working on. That's a thing Aaron or Matt has to do more consistently. The other thing, we have to get off blocks better. What we don't want late in the game is when we get in good shape and they bring it back to the 50 and make it a short field for our defense.
Q: Penalties played a big part in the game both ways, are you preparing them in any way?
A: We always work on the penalties. We had 12 penalties and they had 13. We have to adjust to how the officiating is. We didn't have any holding penalties on the line. We didn't have any illegal motion penalties. We don't want a lot of penalties. That was one of those games where they were calling a lot of things both sides. We have to adjust to the officiating. I think we're a pretty disciplined team, they were just calling a lot of things.
Q: Have you been on a team before where you've had so much luck on fourth down? I think you've only missed one of nine this year.
A: I've been aggressive on fourth down in the past. I think we as a coaching staff make calculated fourth down calls. At the end of the first half, it was fourth-and-four, I thought about going for it, but I didn't feel like I had a play that I was sure was going to get the first down. The first two fourth downs in the third quarter, I was very confident we had a play that would work based on something we had seen.
Q: You mentioned the coaches challenged the defense at halftime, what were they doing differently in the second half as opposed to the first half?
A: They run a lot of formations at you. You have to have a plan for different formations, and we had one. I listened to the things we were doing and we had a good plan for it. Recognizing the formation as they came out was taking just a little bit longer than it needed to. When we got lined up, we weren't quite there and set up. We were just a step behind. In the second half, they recognized quicker and they got there faster. All we had to do was make their quarterback hold on to that ball a little bit longer. We had better coverage and we started to get the quarterback.
Q: Does it say anything for BYU's defense that they actually held Utah State to less total yards than Oregon?
A: I think our defense is good. I knew Utah State would come out. It was an in-state game for them. They have no conference, so this was a big game for them. I make no excuses, but we won, and we won by 20 points. I felt like they made a game for it, but they have every game so far.
Q: Could there be a lack of a sense of urgency on the defense because your offense is doing so well in the last couple of games?
A: If you look at the whole picture defensively, we played very well in the Nevada game. We played very well in the Cal game. We played very well in the UNLV game except for one series. This last game, everybody was predicting a shootout, and that's what they got. We're both playing hard as separate units, but together as a team. When the defense needed to rise up in that game, they did. And the offense was down two scores and they had to come back. I don't want to over-analyze that, the game is over and we won. We could be a prettier 5-0, but it gives you things to work on. New Mexico brings unique challenges. They lead the league in sacks. They have people around the ball all the time and they're pretty good in the run game. If they get you in down and distance problems, it's hard to run the ball. We have a whole new style of defense coming up against us and offensively, they're going to be conservative, but they're going to try and get some big plays.
Q: With all the different defensive sets they bring out, how does that make you change your ways of making a game plan?
A: You've got to have some kind of core base that you start all your protections on and where your run game is and we think we have that and hopefully it's the right way. I think we tried to find a base that we can work from, something we can be consistent on. Then we tried to find a consistent weakness that they have. Hopefully we've found them and we can execute them.
Q: Do you expect to see the option this week?
A: I do expect to see the option. They did not run any option last week with the new quarterback. They ran it with the other. I expect to see it because this quarterback now has had more reps and has had more time to work on it and he should be better at it. I can't see them not running it.