"Air Force is playing well. They have a lot of guys back and have a lot of experience. They look like they're making very good decisions, like they know what they're doing."
"Air Force is a good football team. It's going to be an exciting game coming back here and playing for the second straight week. I have fond memories of the last time we played Air Force at Edwards Stadium, but not-so-fond memories of going to Colorado Springs and playing them last year. It is going to be an exciting game. Both teams know what's going to be at stake."
Q: Why do you think this rivalry has become so intense the past couple of years?
A: "The first year I was here I was worried about them controlling the clock because their offense does such a good job of staying on the field and controlling the time of possession, so you have very few possessions. We had to make sure all of our possessions counted. I remember on-side kicking after the first or second touchdown, which then, if they milk some time trying to come back, they would be under pressure because they're not a passing team. Last year they did the same thing to us.
"Both of us know that the strategy is possessions, which makes the kicking game very critical. Our players were embarrassed last year, and two years ago their players were embarrassed, and this is the third meeting for me. That is why this game is so intense, it is a conference game and we're both very familiar with one another."
Q: Is there extra incentive to win this game?
A: "I've been saying this all along, we need to win our conference. The way my season ended two years ago, I've still got a lot to learn. My first year here, when we went 12-2, everybody was always talking to me about the BCS and how hard it was to play at Hawaii and all of that. So, the next year, in the off season I concentrated on Syracuse, a BCS team, and Hawaii. Well, we won both of those games and lost to Nevada. Then we went into conference and didn't do very well. So, I've been preaching to the coaches and players the importance of winning the conference, and that you've got to take those games one at a time. You can't overlook anybody.
"Right now wur conference is very different than whatit was in the past. As you look at the parity in the conference, Utah is playing well, Air Force is playing well, Colorado State is playing well even though they didn't play well this past weekend, but we all know they're a very good football team. San Diego State is 3-1 and playing well and UNLV is playing well. Our conference is very good. It's not the same conference as back when we were in the WAC. UTEP isn't in our conference and New Mexico is a lot better than they used to be. The conference is a huge thing, so every conference game there is incentive to win. Every conference win is important, especially with our schedule. Our conference only has three bowls, so you have to do well in conference."
Q: How much did you're game plan for last week have to do with playing Air Force this week, for example, protecting Rey Brathwaite and sitting Scott Jackson?
A: "That's a good question because we could have played Scott, but if he played he would have been really beat up for Air Force. It would have helped us in that Stanford game, but now he's ready to play and healthy this week. Now Hanale (Vincent) is more prepared if something happens to Scott because he's had a whole game. The same thing with Marcus Whalen, I could have played him a little more, but I tried to bring him along during the game. I also could have played Justin Jory a little bit more, but he wasn't quite there, and Kukahiko wasn't quite there. We didn't push anybody to get back. We wanted them to be ready for conference.
"When we lost to Southern California, it became hard for us to break into the BCS because we had one loss and we're not in a BCS conference. Believe me, I had all intentions of winning the Stanford game. It just didn't work out that well. I don't think we played very well, and I addressed that earlier. Right now, as a conference game, this is where I want everybody back. I want everybody playing and I want everybody going forward.
"This is a good team we're playing. They won eight games last year, and they're 4-0 this year, so we have a lot on the line. If we win this game, then we're 2-0 in the conference and we're in good shape."
Q: What are your thoughts on the progress of freshmen John Beck and Philip Niu?
A: "If you can remember back to the first game that Matt Berry played as a redshirt freshman, against UNLV, he didn't play well. Against Colorado State, he fumbled three times inside the 20 right at the beginning of that game. Then all of the sudden he started playing well in the San Diego State and Wyoming game, and then the new defense hit him and he took a step back against New Mexico.
"If you look at John Beck, he really played well for his first game. It's very unfortunate that we didn't win that game. What encouraged me was that we were inside the 20 at the end of the game with a chance to win with him at quarterback. Yeah he made some mistakes. He got sacked at the end, and he gave up that interception the series before, but I was very encouraged.
"Philip Niu fumbled once trying to get extra yards, but he played pretty well. Philip Niu is coming on, which will take pressure off of Daniel Coats."
Q: How will the option affect the defense?
A: "It's a perimeter game. I've been meeting with the defensive coaches trying to get a feel for the game, and how we're going to try and attack it from a team standpoint. They are a perimeter team. What they do is attack the perimeter. What we have to do is shut down the perimeter. Last year we weren't very good on the perimeter. BYU is usually good on the perimeter, but last year we weren't because we concentrated too much on the pass because No. 5 beat us with the pass a couple of years ago. That was probably the mistake we made last year.
"Bronco understands we need to take care of the perimeter. The next thing that must be taken care of are the special plays -- the reverses, the throwback to the tackle, the double passes. This offense makes it hard to be aggressive, but on the same token if you're not, it's going to be like last year, which was very frustrating."
Q: Tell us about blitzing the wishbone?
A: "The biggest thing with the blitz is to cause protection problems and disrupt the run. They don't have a lot of protections. It's all off of play action. When you do blitz, it puts single coverage on the outside. Our blitz will have to cause problems in the run game, and in doing that if we are singled up on the outside we need to make sure we have good match ups on the outside. We feel like we have good corners. Jernaro (Gilford) is playing well and so is Chad Barney. We have height, speed and size at corner. Without giving up too much of our game plan that is where it starts. It tells us how many people we can commit to stopping the run."
Q: Has your team been preparing for this game all year?
A: "Yes, because since the time we lost that game that is when we lost our confidence, and we had to try and rebuild ourselves."
Q: Are you concerned that if you lose this game the conference could get away from you?
A: "I'm always concerned about that, but I'm not thinking like that. My concern, so that doesn't happen, is to push and prepare. I feel pretty good about our game plan. I'm excited about it, and I'm anxious to see what it looks like in practice."
Q: Do they have an advantage starting a senior at quarterback?
A: "They should have a great year because they have a senior at quarterback and all their guys coming back. Next year they will lose all of those guys and have to rebuild, so they won't be picked as high in the conference. But this is a year where they have a lot of guys coming back."
Q: Is the triple option more difficult to run than your offense?
A: "There is more to it than just running the offense for a young quarterback. You also have to learn the game. A couple of things are handling the noise, handling the 25-second clock, handling the speed. Learning how to play is a lot more than just running the offense. John Beck read the offense really well. He was just late on about 1/4 of the plays. That first play to David Christensen across the middle that he threw behind him, he took a five step drop instead of a three so the ball was late. It's close and that is the difference between playing a young guy compared to a veteran quarterback. Their veteran quarterback, he's got a lot of experience just like Colorado State's veteran quarterback has a lot of experience."