COLLEGE STATION -- The Texas A&M football team talked to the media at their weekly press conference. The team is preparing for their game against Louisiana Tech at the Independence Bowl in Shreveport on Saturday.
POSTPONED GAME TURNS INTO TOP 25 MATCHUP
A scheduled season-opening matchup between two unranked teams has morphed into a top 25 battle thanks to Hurricane Isaac. Texas A&M and Louisiana Tech, both new members of the Associated Press media and USA Today head coaches polls, will face off on Saturday in a game originally scheduled for Aug. 30, but postponed to Oct. 13 when both teams had open dates. The game, featuring the 4-1 Aggies and 5-0 Bulldogs, will kick at 8:17 p.m., and will be televised nationally by ESPNU.
• Saturday’s matchup will mark the first time that Texas A&M has ever faced a ranked Louisiana Tech squad. Texas A&M has faced the Bulldogs as a ranked team three times previously -- in 1998, 1999 and 2002. It will be the first time the two teams have faced each other as ranked teams.
• It will be the first top 25 matchup in the city of Shreveport since 1993 Independence Bowl with No. 21 Indiana and No. 22 Virginia Tech. The Hokies logged a 45-20 win.
• It will be the second matchup between the Aggies and Bulldogs in Independence Stadium in Shreveport, La. The Aggies opened their 1999 season with a 37-17 win over Louisiana Tech in Independence Stadium. Saturday’s matchup will mark just the second time A&M has faced Louisiana Tech away from Kyle Field.
• Texas A&M has never lost to Louisiana Tech, owning a 10-0-0 record against the Bulldogs since the first meeting in 1981.
• The Bulldogs are also a familiar opponent for first-year Aggie head coach Kevin Sumlin, whose Houston Cougars rallied for a 35-34 victory over Louisiana Tech in Ruston, La., last season. The Cougars trailed 34-7 with five minutes remaining in the third quarter, but scored the game’s final 28 points for the victory.
HEAD COACH KEVIN SUMLIN
On the importance of the win
“It gives players confidence in each other. That’s really what’s important, the ability to keep playing and look back afterwards and see that you need to keep playing no matter the situation. There are all kinds of situations that presented themselves in that game that told you we should lose, whether it was six turnovers, not being able to get off the field on third down, driving 99 yards or being down by 10 with eight minutes left to go. All those situations that presented themselves, our guys had to deal with that and then win the football game. It really creates confidence in each other. Until you are in that situation, the growth of your team doesn’t happen. On another level, it brings confidence in the team to the quarterback and the guys who are making plays. From that standpoint, it gives the team confidence that they do have enough talent and that they have the players on the team so they can win any time, no matter the situation.”
On errors in the game
“You can’t live with six turnovers. That’s not us. We haven’t been like that and hopefully we never see that again. You talk about how that happens and why that happens and the ability to do that. The other thing was our third down defense which has been great all year long. I thought we were pretty good on first and second down but our third down defense wasn’t where we were all year. The turnover margin was huge. We punted one time. We won’t stack it offensively. To punt one time in a football game, we did some things that hurt ourselves. To turn it over six times and our defense only give up 27 points with that many turnovers tells you what we’re capable of Our message yesterday was “We still won the football game because you played until the end but you made it harder on yourselves.” Our guys understand that. It’s a learning process. As it played out, the ability to make those plays at the end of the game creates confidence. As a coach, you can’t create that in practice. You can practice it, but it doesn’t mean anything until you go win it.”
On Jonathan Stewart
“If you look at our group of linebackers, it’s a combination of him and Sean because of what we ask them to do. One of them is on the field at all times. Very rarely are you going to find neither of them on the field. Those guys are getting us lined up. They are doing everything for us. The combination of those two is extremely important. They play as much or more football than anybody in big games. On the fourth down play, Sean Porter took up three blockers. The whole thing collapses because of how fast and how tenacious he is playing. He takes up three blockers and Jonathan Stewart is around the corner and makes the tackle. That’s what I am talking about. It’s one guy who is giving up himself so someone else can get the play. Those types of things, as your team sees that, create trust. That’s the biggest difference in our team right now.”
On LA Tech
“I see a better team. I’m not surprised at them being ranked. We played them last season as a conference champion. They lost three or four very close games last year to some ranked teams. They were a series away from beating TCU in a bowl game. They are not going to be intimidated by us one bit and they shouldn’t be. I think they are probably a bit low being ranked and for our football team to be playing a top 25 team, we are excited about that. I think they’ve done a great job with the team. They’ve played in big football games and this is a chance for them to make a statement on national TV so we are going to get their best shot.”
On emotions after the win
“Twenty minutes before the end of the game, we were losing by 10 points. It’s okay to celebrate. In a situation where all I’ve heard about is what happens to our team and how we don’t handle things very well at the end, there’s a reason to be excited. Football is an emotional game. Emotion is a big part of what we do. You’ve got to be able to have that kind of energy and emotion to play. We talk about three things in order to be prepared to play. We prepare physically, we prepare mentally and to be a great player you have to prepare emotionally. Preparing emotionally is your job as a player. I don’t have a new Rocky speech every week. At this level as a mature team, at a certain point you have to prepare yourself emotionally to play at this level of big time college football. Everybody is different when learning to prepare emotionally and the coaches can help, but if you can’t play with emotion and be on edge to play, that’s what you see happen. That’s the challenge in college football: consistency. How can you come out every week and play with the same emotion and energy? That’s the challenge as a coaching staff. It’s always been that way and it will never change.”
DEFENSIVE COORDINATOR MARK SNYDER
On Saturday’s performance
“We did a lot of good things. Obviously we need to tighten down our coverage a little bit on the edges. That was the glaring takeaway. We weren’t as productive on third down as we have been up to this point. A lot of the culprit was that we were playing too soft on the edges. Other than that, I was pretty pleased.”
On LA Tech’s offense
“We are going right into another offense like Arkansas and Ole Miss. This is the third time in three weeks that we will see this kind of offense. They are very similar in what they do. All of them have good running games which is difficult to defend because they do have the ability to run the football. What’s making it difficult for me, as a coordinator, is that they can run the football extremely effectively. I learned a long time ago that when they throw the ball, two good things can happen for us: we can either intercept it or it’s incomplete. For them, they can only catch it. If you allow them to run it, it’s either a first down or not. That’s where we have to tighten up our coverage. Their quarterback runs their offense very unselfishly. He has not turned the ball over. It seems like it doesn’t bother him if he has to hand the ball off to the tailback. He’s playing really well for them right now. They give him some high percentage passes and then they will go deep on him. They give him some high percentage passes to throw. They don’t put him in harm’s way and the running game is clicking right now, so it’s making the world go around for him.”
On upcoming absence of several defensive players
“The next guys have to step up. Donnie Baggs will play well for us. Donnie had his best game in defense and in special teams on Saturday. He’s coming on at the right time. He’s going to have to step up for us. Floyd is going to have a major role this week. There’s no doubt about it. I probably should have put him in the game Saturday night. Looking back, how could I have helped myself? I should have put Floyd in the game.”
On fourth down stop late in game
“I’m a little like Jonathan. I thought it was going to be a quarterback sneak again because they had given that to us on fourth down earlier. Maybe that’s why they went away from it. That was a tight, tight spot. Sean Porter came off the ball and blew into the back field and created a pile. Jonathan Stewart shot his gun at the perfect time and ended up winning it.”
OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR KLIFF KINGSBURY
On Louisiana Tech
“Having played them last year, we just know the quality of opponent. Like I said at the first press conference we had, we are not going to overlook them. We’ll be ready to play them Saturday. They are a team that the effort jumps out. Their coaching staff is tremendous. They don’t give up easy ones and cause turnovers. We really have to take care of the football.”
On the number of turnovers
“Johnny only had three turnovers. We had six, so it was an overall problem. It was just part of the game. It happens. We have to be more careful with the football and take care of it. I don’t think there is one thing you can point to. They did a good job of tackling the football and making plays on it. We have to get better and improve.”
On Johnny Manziel’s interceptions and overall performance
“I can tell what happened most of the time. We talk it out and then move on. He’s got a short memory and you have to have that. As you can see, he went back and played great when he had to. He was just being young. He’s got to have confidence in what he’s seeing. He’s gotten a lot better since game one and will continue to get better. He’s hard on himself but he gets over it quickly. He knew he would make mistakes and he wanted to go out there and win it for his teammates. He never blinked.”
On Ben Malena
“He is what you want to coach and why you get into coaching. Watching him practice, and the things he does on special teams, he would take every rep he could and that’s what you want out there. He has great energy on the sidelines. He’s a team guy and sat around and waited for his time to play. He’s definitely the type of player you want on your team.”
JUNIOR OFFENSIVE LINEMAN LUKE JOECKEL
On blocking for Johnny Manziel
“It’s a little different than we were used to but we’ve gotten used to it. The Florida game was kind of a shock. In practice, Johnny does a great job of getting the guys the ball quickly. However, practices are different than games. Johnny is going to take however long to make a play and he’s done a great job of that. We’ve had some huge play times where he’s stayed back there a long time and made a play out of it. The offensive line has just done a great job of maintaining blocks and just locking in with our guys and not letting them go.”
On progress of the offense
“I think we’ve progressed. All five of our starters have really bought into everything. Coming in to this new offense, it was so much different from our old one but we all bought in. Coach Anderson has done a great job of making us by in. We brought a physical aspect to this offense. I think we are starting to run the ball a lot better. Everyone just bought in to the system.”
On attitude during the Ole Miss game
“We just realized that the entire game we were just killing ourselves. We only punted the ball one time but we had six turnovers and we realized it was just killing us. They had a good defense but we knew we could run the ball against them. We knew that we could throw the ball against them. They were going to have a hard time stopping us. We just had to cut down errors and mistakes and we could move the ball against them.”
SENIOR LINEBACKER JONATHAN STEWART
On the rescheduled game
“We anticipated that we might not get to play them the first week because of the weather. We’re excited to go back and get to play Louisiana Tech this week.”
On what this game means
“We’re excited, not just because we’re both ranked but just because we have another opportunity to play the game. We have another opportunity to improve off the mistakes we made last week. We made far too many mistakes last week. We want to come out this week and prove that we are a much improved football team from last week and last year.”
On the mistakes from the last game
“The biggest mistake we made defensively was that we were unable to get off the field on third down like we had done in our previous games. We had success on first and second down and then we’d give up a big play that allowed them to keep their drive going. That was probably the most important reason that they were having so much success on offense.”
On what needs to be done with missing players this week
“Other guys are going to have to step up. We can’t think about how unfortunate it is that they won’t be able to participate this week. Other guys are going to have to step up and show they can do it and show why they’re here at Texas A&M.”
On La. Tech’s offense
“They’re very explosive. They average around 50 points a game. We’re going to have to come out ready to play. You can’t just look at this team and say ‘Oh, it’s Louisiana Tech’ and expect it to be a cakewalk. We’re going to have to fight all four quarters and have to be very prepared to win this game.”
Family that passed away
“We want to let you get focused on Alisson Ledet. Her dad, uncle and two brothers passed away in a plane crash on the way to Ole Miss. We want everybody to keep her and her family in your prayers. It’s such a tragic moment. We don’t want to let the Ole Miss game overshadow what happened to the tragedy that happened to her and her family. So if you could keep them in your thoughts and prayers it would be much appreciated.”
JUNIOR DEFENSIVE LINEMAN DAMONTRE MOORE
On La. Tech’s offense
“They’re a pass happy offense. They might try and sneak in a run every now and then to keep you honest. We’re just going to have to read our keys and we’ll be alright.”
On overcoming adversity from the Ole Miss game
“It’s an overwhelming experience. It means a lot to help us build confidence in ourselves and realize that we’re not the same team that we were last year. It was such a trending habit for us last year, it’s good to see us break it. We pride ourselves on keeping our heads up and building mental toughness. We just need to execute our schemes and hope the ball falls the right way.”
On the missing players this week
“I look at Donnie Baggs and all those other young guys to step up in practice and take that leadership role for the game this week. We have a lot of talented guys. We recruited really well. Everybody’s working hard. Whoever the coaches decide to put in at game time is going to be the right decision. They’re not going to put us in a bad situation.”
On the versatility of the defensive lineman
“Spencer (Nealy) is a very versatile player. He played defensive end last year, I believe in high school he played end. Just to see him move around and play all the positions on the defensive line. It goes to show how talented of a player he is and how versatile he is. Watching the development of other guys coming in and working hard, seeing everybody get better is a really amazing experience.”
SENIOR DEFENSIVE BACK STEVEN TERRELL
On the increase in interceptions
“Guys have been able to step up in make plays. We were in the position a lot last year and we just couldn’t finish it. Every defense has to work on getting interceptions in practice. It’s just been coming to us this year. We’ve been working really hard on it and focusing on it. We do a turnover circuit every day in practice. It’s the little things like that in the game of football. You change the little things and it can make a big impact.”
On La. Tech’s offense
“This week is going to be a test for the secondary. I love it when teams spread it out and throw it around, especially going up against this quarterback. I don’t think he’s thrown an interception yet this year. He’s taken care of the ball really well. It’s going to be a challenge, but I’m ready for us to go try and get some takeaways this game.”
On confidence of the secondary
“It gives us a lot of confidence knowing we didn’t play our best game and still came home with the victory. The biggest thing is you just have to focus on the next play. It doesn’t matter how good or bad the last play was, you just have to move on and go to the next one. At the end of the game, Toney Hurd made a great interception. This week we’re going to have some more moving parts since Howard (Mathews) can’t play, but as I say before every week, we have guys that can play both corner and safety.”
On importance of Jonathan Stewart to the defense
“Stew is a really smart guy on the field. He is the quarterback of our defense. He reminds me a lot of what Michael Hodges used to do here a few years ago, getting everybody lined up and really understanding the defense. As a leader aspect, he does everything the coaches ask of him. He’s a great leader.”
SENIOR OFFENSIVE LINEMAN PATRICK LEWIS
On Johnny Manziel’s poise in the fourth quarter
“You could tell that he was shaken a little bit, but Johnny is poised beyond his years. He was able to recollect himself and bring himself together to bring us back on those drives. You go through adversity in those games and you just have to remember that you have a job to do. He did a good job of collecting himself and guiding us as an offense and getting it done in the end.
On what Coach Sumlin has already done for the program
“It’s been exciting. He came in here and changed a lot. He’s changing the culture here at Texas A&M. He’s taught us to not be complacent and accept the minimum. We want to go beyond the expectations we have for ourselves and what he has for us. It was really exciting when we got the new uniforms. The attitude he brings to the team is what’s going to keep this team going forward.”
On going back to Louisiana
“It’s really exciting to me. Louisiana is home. Just to play on Louisiana soil is going to be fun and really exciting for me. I can’t wait. I don’t think Jonathan (Stewart) could be any happier. He gets to play in his hometown. Half the stadium is probably going to be rooting for him. I’m excited for him as well.”
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