Countdown to Kickoff
Coach Mike Shula's Utah State Game Week Press Conference


Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Mike Shula

“We’re excited about this week. We’re excited about this game coming up, giving ourselves a chance to be 8-0 somehow, if we can find a way to practice well. And we realize how tough it is to maintain the ability to win week in and week out. That’s going to be our focal point this week. This is a team we don’t know a lot about even though we played them last year. They’ve got a different coaching staff. They’re doing different things. We’re in the process now of learning as much as we can. We need to make sure we realize the importance of preparing like we have so far this year. We’re going to rely heavily on our seniors again as well as our staff to make sure this football team is ready to play.

“We’re a little bit beat up, without getting specific talking about players, just overall this time of year with bumps and bruises and things like that, so we’ve got to make sure we’ve got guys getting treatment and getting them ready to play.

“I know today we passed out the information on our game against Florida State coming up in two years. I might as well address that right now because I know I’ll get a couple of questions on that. We’re excited about that game. I know it’s down the road. Our focus obviously is this week, but we’re excited to be able to play a program like Florida State’s with the tradition of winning that they have there. It’s a team for sure that you’ll find out a lot about your football team and how the measure up when you play against those guys.

“But this week, again, we have to have three solid days of preparation and get ourselves ready to go.”

Mike, do you allow yourself to at least, when you get back in on Monday, check and see where you guys are in the BCS, and, is it okay for you guys to sort of be scoreboard watching after games to see where you are?
“You know, the guys may do that, but I think guys that are going to do that do it anyways. Guys that are big college football fans and watch games week in and week out are going to do that. For us, we’ve never talked about it as a team. We’ve never talked about it in front of our players because those are things we can’t control. Our guys like watching football for sure, but the things we can control, again, are what’s in front of us, and that’s Utah State this week.”

Mike, you talked after the game Saturday about the offensive production. Do you just try and execute better? What do you emphasize in practice to get better offensive production this week?
“It’s definitely a concern. We’ve got to get better in a lot of areas. We’ve got to get better, as you said, offensively. With our running game we’ve got to be able to stay on blocks longer, make sure we communicate a little bit better. We had too many missed assignments last week offensively. We’ve got to throw and catch better; can’t turn the ball over. You look at certain categories, plus territory and third downs, and those things we’ve got to improve on. The overall execution of each and every play and look at how we can do it better, that, for sure has got to get better if we’re going to have any chance to win.”

Coach, how do you convince your team against an opponent like Utah State that your team needs to really take them seriously and use this as a good opportunity because if you aren’t impressive or for some reason you slip up in this game, it cancels out what you’ve done before? How do you get that in there because naturally you would think that there might be a letdown?
“We start by recruiting the right kind of guys, number one, the guys that understand what it means to come here and what it’s going to take week in and week out to maintain a high level of play to give yourself the best chance to win. Our approach isn’t going to be any different this week. As coaches and as players we’re going to work as hard as we can on the field. We’re not going to let any mistake go un-noticed without getting it corrected. The biggest thing, too, and we haven’t been here in the last two years at this point in the season: everything is right there in front of us. The ability to stay undefeated is a difficult thing to do. As you’ve seen, there are not many undefeated teams right now. Don’t let all the hard work that started from day one of the offseason go down the drain by not preparing to give yourself the best chance to win. That goes from the offseason, spring practice, fall training camp and then all the hard work this fall.”

Mike, it’s one of those football axioms that good teams make their own breaks. Can you say that that applies to your team and how has that been different from the last two years when they didn’t seem to go your way as often?
“Is that saying that we weren’t a good team two years ago when field goals didn’t go in or fumbles didn’t go our way? I’m not sure. All we talk to our players about are: just get to the football as fast as you can. And whether or not you’re defense or you’re special teams, offensively, finish and do all the things that you’re asked to do and not try to do more than you’re asked to do as far as forcing things. And then whatever happens happens, but, just like when you coach, you try to cover all the scenarios. You’re not going to be able to cover everything that you’re going to see on the field on game day. But you have rules and you have guidelines for your players and you hope that they react in a positive way so that if something different happens then their rules will take over and they’ll do the right thing. It’s a game, so anytime in anything you’re doing, any kind of game you’re playing, there’s fortune. There’s misfortune and good fortune. We want to be there if it happens to be good.”

Kind of along the same lines, could you talk about what kind of maturation evolving in the defense that it’s played so well in the two biggest games in the touch situations?
“These guys have grown together. They’ve played a lot of football together, DeMeco (Ryans), Freddie (Roach), Roman (Harper), Anthony Madison, Ramzee Robinson, Charlie Peprah. So they know a lot more about how they’re going to react. They can look each other in the eye when they’re in the huddle and on the sidelines knowing they can count on each other. And I think because of that there’s more of a calmness in situations maybe where a couple of years ago where guys were a little more inexperienced, didn’t know that much about each other, there was a little more discouragement when something bad happened. And the fact that they’re bigger, stronger, faster than they were two years ago. I think all those things are reasons why our defense has played well.”