Coach Mendenhall Press Conference - Idaho State
The following is a partial transcript from head coach Bronco Mendenhall's weekly press conference, including comments from wide receiver Cody Hoffman, defensive end Matt Putnam and offensive lineman Houston Reynolds.
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In regarding our last game after watching the film vs. Oregon State, I think our team took another step forward. I think we are gaining momentum, I think we are adding balance offensively and I think we continue to play consistent defensively. Our improvement is showing not only to our players but to our coaches. There is a sense of urgency to see how fast we can help this team reach its potential with five regular season games to go. That is our focus and our mindset. We are looking forward to getting back on the practice field to clean up and polish the parts of our game that we know can be improved. We look forward to playing at home again.
Do you believe the game at Oregon State was the most complete game the team has played on both sides of the football?
I think it was a relatively similar game defensively to how we have played previously with probably our best offensive game. If you put it in that context then I would say yes. We did not reach any of our pillars or our goals in special teams which is a focus for us. That part we were a little bit discouraged with. It was complete if you put offense and defense together, that part I would probably agree with.
Can you talk about what Matt Putnam's return to the team has meant?
Matt has already proven to be a big boost. He tipped a number of passes in that game, one of which caused an interception, and recovered a fumble just by sheer effort by trying harder than anyone else out there. He wanted the ball more than anyone else and you could see him pass players and dive on it. I think it means a lot to Matt to be with our program, even if it was just to come back and be a scout team player to practice and help our team get better says quite a bit as a senior. He is making the most of his opportunity to this point and is really one of the great success stories. He adds another element of just enjoying playing the game to our defense and cherishing every opportunity he gets to play.
How would you say the secondary has played to this point?
The secondary is coming along I think. The main routes that Oregon State ran were mostly taken away which were deep crossing routes and others. We got beat on a post route which basically had Corby Eason by himself. Other than that I was pretty pleased. I think we played consistently and kept the balls in front of us and most the calls were designed to do that to make sure the points were about what they were defensively. I think they are coming along and certainly have a chance to improve.
Based off of the last two games, is Riley the starting quarterback moving forward or is it week to week still?
It will still be week to week. Riley will start again this week against Idaho State but it will still be week to week. The way he is currently playing, I am impressed with and he is making a lot of good plays and helping our football team through two and a half games. He will continue to battle and compete but that doesn't mean that tenure or the starting job becomes his regardless of how he plays. It is week to week and he will be listed as the starter for this week.
With four-wins, what momentum have you been able to build over the past few weeks?
It is shaping out to be a season similar to some of our other double-digit win seasons we have had. Because there is talent and potential the execution is now starting to catch up with some of that will and talent. That is really what we have been pressing and we would like to see it continue. The team had played hard early where the talent wasn't exposed. Now the talent is being utilized, the will is still there and the execution is coming. When those three things meet that is when we become a good team and that is what we are capable of.
This week's opponent doesn't have the same type of momentum going in to the game this week as others, are you concerned about the players looking past them?
I certainly hope not. The focus is so much on improving our own performance and reaching our own potential. There wasn't much talk about playing Oregon State last week, it was just about our team getting better. Our opponent this week doesn't change this week at all and that is how I will approach it.
How much of Riley's personality, taking hits and running him the way you do, how much of his game frames risk in your eyes?
I think Riley has to be himself. That is part of Riley leading our team. If he isn't taking hits and his helmet isn't coming off he probably isn't as effective, and that probably sounds counter-intuitive. Our players like our leader at quarterback to be one of them so to speak and he is, he is a football player. He is not afraid of contact and not afraid to take a hit. He is very composed and super competitive. Our team likes that and it is one of his strengths as a quarterback. When elements like that do happen and he bounces up and isn't afraid of who hits him, no matter if he is outsized or not; he puts his helmet on and plays again.
Do you see any of Harvey Unga when you see Michael Alisa?
Yeah there are elements there that are similar. Michael is a little bit leaner and probably has a little more top end speed right now. The mindset and how difficult he is becoming to tackle and being able to break tackles and fall forward; we like big running backs that can break tackles and that is what Michael is doing now.
WR Cody Hoffman
What was the experience like having a lot of supporters for you at Oregon State?
It was great. Definitely playing on the road and having all of those supporters, it means a lot for them to make the trip to come support me and the Cougars.
What has been the biggest difference now that the team is starting to score more points over the last few weeks?
I think the momentum that Riley brings to the offense. He brings leadership that makes everyone want to play harder because everybody knows he is going to sell out for every play for them and so everybody wants to do the same to keep the momentum rolling.
DE Matt Putnam
You have been around the team a long time as a senior, what is the momentum like now?
I think it is just like what coach was saying. For the past four weeks it has just been about us. We haven't really focused on the other team but we are doing what we can to be the best we can be. We are just trying to get ourselves better each week.
With Idaho State passing a lot, does that change the defensive line rotation?
Maybe just a little bit. Hebron Fangupo and Romney Fuga are run stoppers, so it might be a little bit different where I can come in and try and bat some balls down. At the same time they can go in and destroy someone and it isn't like they aren't pass rushers. It will probably mostly the same as long as we stay healthy.
OL Houston Reynolds
What is Riley doing to help the offense find its groove?
I think Riley is a fighter. I think above anything else when he has the ball there is always a chance that even when things don't go right he can make something happen with his feet. It changes the way you feel about it and it has been a great experience to have him back there. He is there and committed, when you know guys are committed you fight for them.
The team has won four games in a row, do you like where the team is at this point?
Yeah, I feel like we are in a good spot. We have played really well and on the road to reaching our potential to continue to play well. I feel like we have figured some things out and as long as we continue to perform and do the things we have established we will be okay.