Sept. 11, 2016
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LA TECH vs. SOUTH CAROLINA STATE
LA Tech Head Coach Skip Holtz
Q: We talked at half-time, sloppy first half, the turnovers, penalties; much cleaner second half.
HOLTZ: Much cleaner in the second half. I mean, the first half, we had 355 yards of offense and had four turnovers; two of them were backed up that led to ten points for them. We put our defense in bad field position twice, and then two of them inside the ten before the half and then the one fumble as we were going into the end zone.
So it was a sloppy game, but we came back in the second half. I thought we cleaned some things up. We did a much better job of protecting the ball in the second half and we got an opportunity to play a lot of guys in this game which is always good. I mean, we got a chance to give some guys some valuable experience, some guys that are one play away from being starters.
I think Trent Taylor is outstanding. He shows up each and every week. He had the one fumble on the punt return but I thought he played a tremendous football game and I thought Jarred Craft showed up and did a lot of good things. There were a lot of positives in this game. I think Xavier Woods constantly is making his presence felt. And then it's always good to get guys like Ronald Lewis and Cyril (Noland-Lewis) both in the game tonight and let them play quite a bit at corner because they are two upper classmen that just lack experience.
It was good to get a lot of guys a lot of reps tonight. Proud of the way they competed. We found a way to win the game. Because you know what, all over the country, there are people that are finding ways to lose games like this early in the season, and this team found a way to win.
So I'm just proud of what they did but certainly we have to clean some things up and we have to get better.
Q: Sixty passes tonight, was that the game plan going in? You had a lot of offensive plays obviously, but did you expect to throw it so much tonight?
HOLTZ: You know part of it was -- no, I didn't. But part of it was what they were doing to us. They did a really good job. I think Buddy Pough is great football coach, and they did a really good job of mixing up their coverages with us playing. They gave us some zero cover, some pressure, some cover one, two-deep, two-invert, three-deep, three-cloud strong, three-cloud weak. I mean, they gave us quarters, quarter-quarter halves, about every coverage that you could play, we saw tonight.
Just when they started pressuring me a little bit early, they put us into a passing game and then I just stayed with it because we were having some success. You know what, we've got -- this is the first game Ryan's (Higgins) played really in three years of any significant time. And so I hate the mistakes that he made, but hopefully we can learn and grow from them because I thought he did some good things tonight, too.
I thought J'Mar (Smith) did a really nice job there coming in there in the third quarter - in the fourth quarter. I thought he did a really nice job, went 4-for-4 tonight. Showed some poise. Really did a nice job. Overall, I was just really pleased with the effort and that we were able to win.
Q: You touched on Ryan, but again, 52 passes, 409 yards. Really the two interceptions, you take those away, he really didn't play poorly.
HOLTZ: No, the one, and really the one right before the one from the sideline when we got holding. We made a first down. Darrell Brown got called for holding, put us in the third and long and we threw it up against two-deep and the ball got tipped and they intercepted it.
But the one before half, those can't happen. Those have got to be great teaching lessons. We got three points on the board. Driven all the way down the field. We have got two time-outs left. Just run it, slide, take a time-out and we are in great shape.
It will be a great teaching tool for us tonight. I thought Ryan did some really good things but definitely the one play right before half I felt like was something -- those are mistakes that he had not been making. He's been doing a really good job protecting the ball, but like I said overall just pleased with the way that we came out and played especially in the second half.
Q: Good to see Jonathan Barnes come out and have a good night kicking field goals?
HOLTZ: Certainly was. He didn't kick the ball off tonight as well as he had last week. But as I told him, he's out here two hours before the game in 105-degree heat index, he's out here kicking a thousand balls. We've got to be a little bit smarter with that. He wears himself down a little bit.
He did a really nice job kicking the field goals, and we put him in position where he had to kick a couple of them tonight. So I trust Jonathan. I made the comment last week, if you had to kick a game winner and put the ball on the 39-yard line, he's the guy I would pick. I mean, I think he's a football player and he came out here, and I knew he would rebound and I thought he did a really nice job tonight.
Let me also say, this I don't know how many more questions, how much longer we're going to talk, but we get a 10:30 kickoff and how awesome was the student body tonight, the band, the people that stayed from the six o'clock kickoff all the way till now. I thought it was really nice to see. And the people that were here were loud, and I thought it was awesome that this many people stayed for a game that ended at one o'clock in the morning.
Q: And finally, you play Texas Tech next week. All they did tonight was put up 55 points but get beat 68-55 by Arizona State. So we might have a five-hour game next week.
HOLTZ: I know they can score a lot of points. I know they have got a really dangerous quarterback who can run and throw. I've been really impressed with him watching him on film this summer. I know what kind of talent he is.
It's going to be a challenge. We're going to have to play -- we're going to have to play really well because it's definitely -- they are a hard team to stop and they can put up a lot of yards and a lot of points.
LA Tech WR Trent Taylor
Q: How do you feel being here this late, first of all?
Trent Taylor: Yeah, it's a little past my bed time right now. But we did what we had to do to win the game tonight and there's definitely some things we can clean up as a team. But I mean, a win's a win. Never take that for granted and we're glad to come away with it. We'll fix all the problems we had tomorrow watching film.
Q: What problems do you feel you guys had tonight?
Trent Taylor: We just had a bunch of turnovers in the first half. I think we had around four, which against a good opponent, that will get us way behind in the game.
So I mean, we have to find a way to eliminate that all around as an offense. We'll find that out tomorrow.
Q: Can you attribute that to a nearly four-hour delay?
Trent Taylor: That's an excuse that you could throw out there, but that's not what we want to do. I mean, you can't -- there's no reason to have four turnovers in one-half. There's no excuse you can throw out for that, so we've got to find a way to fix it. Yeah, no excuse. We've got to find a way to fix it.
Q: What did y'all do during the delay?
Trent Taylor: Watched some football games. Played some ping-pong table. We were in here chilling, having a good time. I don't know how the other team was in the away locker room but we were good to go in here, eating some food, hanging out, waiting on the game.
Q: You got a lot of action, ran for a bunch of yards and made three touchdown passes?
Trent Taylor: Any time you've got a chance to strap it up and play, you want to take advantage of it. I love the game of football, so anytime I'm out there, I want to play to the best of my ability. We executed pretty well as an offense in the second half and started rolling for us.
Q: When you got out thereafter the delay, did you sense that there was maybe going to be an issue with starting fast after basically sitting around for four hours, or how did y'all feel coming out four hours later?
Trent Taylor: Yeah, it could have been a problem. The leaders on the team got together and made sure that we were bringing the juice out there a little bit more than normal to make sure everybody bounces back and we're not coming out there sluggish, which could easily happen.
So I mean, I was just out there yelling, trying to get everybody going as much as possible, which we were kind of slow in the first half but we ended up picking it up.
Q: What specifically did y'all see coming in? I know you went through some short pass and screens tonight, but it seemed more so tonight, to get the ball on the perimeter.
Trent Taylor: Yeah, they like to do a lot -- they do a lot of movement on their defensive side. They like to switch it up with blitz blitzes and whatnot. We just thought the best way to attack that was just throw the screens and get the ball to our playmakers out on the edge. We believe that our athletes are better than theirs, so that's what we went with and we were able to execute it.
Q: What's the difference with J'Mar versus -- did you feel anything with J'Mar last week versus Arkansas?
Trent Taylor: I know having J'Mar out there at Arkansas, had to be just aware of how aware his head was out there. I was making sure that I would catch him going in the game and made sure he was all right with his head on straight.
I mean, having Ryan out there, he's a senior. He's been through it. So I mean, I knew he could handle it. I could focus more on my job but I mean -- shoot, yeah, Ryan's a senior, so yeah, he knows what he's doing out there. We were able to open up the playbook a little bit more and get our offense rolling tonight.
Q: How do you think Ryan did look out there, first start in three or four years.
Trent Taylor: I think he did pretty well. We were talking a little bit on the sidelines. We were mentioning that me and him were both trying to do a little bit too much out there and I mean, that's not the mind-set that we need to go out there with, and I think me and him will grow from that from today's game.
Q: Three-touchdown performance, so how does this game rank?
Trent Taylor: I don't know, it was a good one. I mean, it was against a lesser opponent and we just did what we had to do as an offense, and luckily the ball got in my hands a couple times and I was able to score. So which it could have landed in anybody's hands for the end zone, so I'm just glad I was able to take care of business when it came my way.
Q: How does it help with confidence going to Texas Tech on the road?
Trent Taylor: I think it's good to get our first win under our belt for the season. We know what kind of talent we have on this team just from the Arkansas game, a game that we should have won. And just coming out here, against a lesser opponent, proving that -- proving to everybody that we are better than them. It's not something that's going to be given to us; we went out there and showed it.
So, I believe in this football team and I believe we can play with anybody, anybody in the country. So we're ready to attack Texas Tech next week.
LA Tech QB Ryan Higgins
Q: After not being the starter last week, but getting your chance again, how are you feeling after tonight's win?
Ryan Higgins: It was nice to get back out there and gel with my offense. And there was some mistakes; it was nice to shake off a little bit of the rust.
And I believe I made some mistakes early in that second - or the first half, like Trent said, really just me trying to do too much. Almost trying to make up for missing last week. Just me going out of my way and making mistakes that we don't need; easily fixable, but again, me just trying to do more than just my job.
But in that second half, calm down. Took care of business and I felt like we ran a lot smoother.
Q: What did Skip say in the locker room to calm you down before the second half?
Ryan Higgins: Really just emphasized, we just need to take care of the ball and if you do your job in this offense, and get the ball to our skill players in open space, like Trent does, everybody, it's easy. We're able to move the ball really well and we just look fluid when everybody is doing their job and not trying to do too much and he just made it clear that, look, just settle down, the rust is off, just do your job and the big plays will happen.
Q: From your perspective, what happened on the exchange and the two interceptions, I believe it was late in the second quarter?
Ryan Higgins: The red zone, the fumble, the ball -- I'll take all the blame for it. The ball was just soaking wet and it was still raining at that time. It was just -- it was just tough to -- don't know exactly what happened with the snap but it was tough to come up with.
And then the interception to Carlos on the right side, just an under-thrown ball, tried to guide it in there. Really wasn't too open. I just was trying to, again, make a play and to Trent in the end zone.
Again, just trying to make -- do a little bit more than what I could have. We had points. It was a stupid decision. Easily could have run it, thrown it away, anything. And we still have the time out and everything. Could have had three points. But I made a poor decision and cost us three points before the half.
Q: I asked Trent this earlier. Having a nearly four-hour delay, do you attribute that to the slower start than what you guys were planning on having out there?
Ryan Higgins: Of course, like Trent said, you could say that, but that's definitely not -- that's no excuse for what we want to do and what we're trying to do. But it was tough sitting in there and then hearing, okay, another lightning strike, it's going to be another 45 minutes or whatever. It was tough.
As it got longer and longer, you could tell, people were getting a little bit restless and frustrated. But it shouldn't matter in the end.
Q: What have the last weeks, months been like for you, leading up to this start, last start since 2013? What's been the emotions you've been going through the last several weeks and months?
Ryan Higgins: It's been a roller coaster. It's been really, really hard at times and amazing at times. To be back out there on the field, regardless, supporting J'Mar that first week in everything, and every week. It was tough for me to sit there and do nothing pretty much. But J'mar put us in position to win and played well.
And really just getting back out there this week, going with the ones again, is just, I don't know, just surreal. Can't really describe how lucky I am to still be able to do this.
Q: What would you say you learned about yourself in this whole process?
Ryan Higgins: I just really learned, again, how lucky I am to be given this opportunity at all. Really, how easily it can be taken away. And like Coach Holtz says, "Prison is filled with good people that made a 30-second bad decision." And I'm just, again, just lucky that I'm still here and no one was hurt or -- it just could have been a lot worse, and it's really a humbling experience. Really, just, I mean, I'm -- I really appreciate it a lot more than I did, and I'll never take it for granted again.
Q: In that second half, how cognizant were you of some of the mistakes you made? I noticed a couple times you scrambled, threw the ball maybe a couple times. Were you processing that time, let's not force the ball, take the easy throw, out of bounds, or take the two-yard gain instead of trying to force?
Ryan Higgins: Yeah, of course. Again, that first half is trying to do too much to really just -- to make a statement. It cost me twice. And in that second half -- and I'm my own worst enemy. I was in my head, but at that half-time, I just really calmed down and focused and realized that, you know, this is nothing.
The rust is off. Just get back out there, do your job and really, was just all about good decisions and taking care of the ball and we were able to move down the field pretty easily.
Q: First start in three years, and despite getting the win tonight, are you truly satisfied with your performance?
Ryan Higgins: As far as my performance, no, and - and I could blame the weather, slick ball and all kinds of stuff on some throws. But I'll never really be satisfied unless I complete every pass and throw for a hundred touchdowns. I'll never really be happy. But the second half, I thought our offense did well and I'm really just excited for this next week and I know we're going to have a good week of practice and try to build on this momentum a little bit and go get us a win in Lubbock.
South Carolina State Head Coach Buddy Pough
POUGH: We thought that Louisiana Tech was a good bit better than the team we played against last week, and for us to have the success we had in some phases of the game I thought was better for us.
We are just trying to work our way through these first couple games, first three games actually right now to see if we can be the team that we want to be once we get to our league in about another two weeks. I've got to take my hat off to Skip (Holtz) and this crowd. That (Ryan) Higgins kid was pretty good.
Q: Do you think the rain delay had anything to do with your performance?
POUGH: You know, I don't know. It was the same for everybody. You do what you can. You know, the circumstance was one that we couldn't fix so we had to just do the best we could under the circumstances.