– Louisiana Tech head coach Skip Holtz
spoke with the media Tuesday in advance of this week's Conference USA home game versus Rice at 6 p.m. CT on Saturday, Nov. 10 at Joe Aillet Stadium in Ruston.
Head Coach Skip Holtz
"Having to sit back and look backwards is always hard after a week like we just had, but sometimes it is the most beneficial thing and really healthy thing that you can do. It is in these hard times that you have the opportunity to learn the most about your football team and where you are going and kind of what you have been through and the things that you need to do to get cleaned up."
On last week's game at Mississippi State:
"Looking backwards at last week, I certainly commend Mississippi State for the game that they played and the job they did. Their defense I think is for real. It is as advertised. When I sat up here a week ago and said they were top five in the country against the run, giving up two yards a rush and then you look at total defense, scoring defense and you look at six of their opponents including the Auburn's and the A&M's of the world all were 10 points or less. That defense is for real and as advertised. I think they have got great talent on that side of the ball and they are playing really well together."
"The thing that probably was the surprise to me was how well they played as an offense. It was a combination. I certainly think there is some things that we need to do better, but I was really impressed with the way that they were able to throw the ball. I know the criticism that they had received earlier about not being able to throw the ball, but they threw four touchdown passes and I think three of them were those plays that you are there, you jump up, the guy goes out, the ball is thrown the only place it could, it is caught. You tip your hat and you say great play. It is 7-0 and we are down. Let's put the ball on the tee and keep playing. You just have to compliment them for making some great offensive plays and they did."
On the team's performance in Starkville:
"As well as Mississippi State played, my frustration was more the way we played. I do not think we played as disciplined of a game as we have been. I think we have to look at what we can control. The first play of the game we were in man coverage, we uncover a wing and they throw a screen pass behind the line of scrimmage and he runs for 40 yards untouched. Those are the things that are the frustrations that we have got to get cleaned up. We have got to worry about what we do and not our opponent. I think our opponent is that good. I think it was a very difficult situation to go play in. But I think that we can definitely learned an awful lot about some things that we need to do to get better moving forward."
On Jaylon Ferguson chasing the NCAA sack record:
"I do not know how you don't talk about Jaylon Ferguson
even in a game that had very little positives in it. Jaylon only had a two sack night, which for most people would be careers, but for him it is almost a ho-hum. He only had two sacks against a really good football team. Obviously, with every sack he continues to separate himself from the Conference USA record and the Louisiana Tech record with just setting that bar higher and higher for somebody to follow behind him. But he also gets closer and closer to that national record. He is four sacks away from tying the national record at this point. He was released as one of the semifinalists in the Chuck Bednarik Award, which goes to the outstanding defensive player of the year. You go through and look at the award winners in years past and the names on it come from Alabama, LSU, Penn State, Notre Dame, Southern Cal. I mean it is the best defensive player in the country and he is one of I believe only two group of five players that is on that list. The other being from Houston. I think that it is a tremendous honor for him to be mentioned in the names that are being mentioned, but it is a real testament to him for the sacrifices he is made to come back and the effort in which he is playing with and leading this football team. With as many accolades as he receives, I think he would be the first one to stand up here and tell you that it is all about the team and how disappointed he is in the loss. I think it will be guys like Jaylon Ferguson
that will pull us through the game last week into this week with the incredible amount of focus and determination to say, 'That's not us. That's not how we play and let's get back out on the football field and play.'"
On returning home this weekend to face Rice:
"This week, we have Rice coming in here at home. When you have played nine football games and six of the nine have been on the road, believe me, the adage there is no place like home is sweet music to our ears right now to have the opportunity to come back home. To play two of our final three at home is something that we look forward to. It is the Red Out this week, which is always a special week with the red helmets and also with it being Military Appreciation Day, so we will have an opportunity to give back and say thank you to so many men and women our country that give us the opportunity to put our heads on our pillow at night and sleep freely because of the sacrifices that so many have made before them and are making presently. It is an opportunity for us to say thank you to the men and women of our military, but also to honor the school in the tradition with our annual Red Out this week."
On facing Rice:
"Having Rice come in here, I know everybody wants to talk about records, but for us right now I do not see any problem motivating this team and this team getting up and chomping at the bit ready to play. This is one of those weeks that we can put the ball on the tee and say, 'Can we get them here tonight.? Let's play this game tonight.' I think this team is ready to play again. I think we are embarrassed for the way that we performed, although there were some great performances as a whole. I do not think that we played very well and I think everybody is going to be really excited to get back and get to practice, get better and figure out what we need to do to get this thing back on track as we come back home and play a conference game this week."
On individual performances against Mississippi State:
"I thought there were some individuals that played good games. I thought the offensive line played a really solid game. The running backs ran extremely hard. I look up front and that defense was giving away two yards a rush. We averaged four and a half. Jaqwis Dancy
only had three plays, but he was averaging eight yards a carry when he got hurt on the play on the sideline. Kam McKnight
averaged 4.4. Justin Henderson
averaged four. I think it is a testament to their hard running and it is a testament to our offensive line against the biggest challenge we had all week, which was going against one of the top rushing defenses in the country. I am really proud of what we were able to do there."
"I think on defense, there were some good individual plays, but as a group we did not play very consistent, which is very out of character for the way we have played up until this point, along with them making some of the physical plays that they made, which is a real testament to Mississippi State and the way they played."
On bouncing back with three games left in the regular season:
"It is hard to play non-conference this late in the year. You are trying to play for something. You are trying to build confidence. Right now, that is certainly not the way to do it to go play the way that we did on Saturday. I think everybody is just excited and ready to get back out on the field and go play the game. We still have an awful lot to play for. I look at it right now and there are two teams in the west that still have a mathematical chance to win the west. There are two teams in the east that have a mathematical chance to win the east. So there are four teams left out of 14 and Louisiana Tech is one of them. We have an opportunity with three games left in the conference. We have to go 1-0 and find a way to win this one this week. If we could find a way, we still have a way to win nine games in the regular season, which has not been done here in quite a while and even the possibility with a bowl game to win 10, which has not been done here since we have gone Division I-A. As bleak as the weekend outlook was last week, I think it is certainly bright on the inside with an awful lot to play for and an awful lot of excitement and energy from our football team ready to play this weekend."