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Utah State Press Conference Regarding Matchup Against LSU

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  • Staff Reporter

LOGAN, Utah – Utah State head football coach Gary Andersen, along with graduate transfer tight end Caleb Repp and senior cornerback Cameron Haney, addressed the media on Monday. The trio recapped the Aggies’ 34-24 Homecoming victory over Colorado State and looked ahead to the Aggies’ non-conference game at No. 5 LSU on Saturday. A complete transcript of the press conference can be found below.

Head Coach Gary Andersen

On the win over Colorado State:

“As we look at the tape, all three phases contributed and all three phases can get better. That was the key as I looked back at the game and evaluated it today. We watched the tape this morning with the players, so that process is not quite yet put to bed. We’ll do some corrections on the field this afternoon, but we’ll look at the good, the average and the bad, and get better as coaches and get better as players to help the guys continue to grow. They will. They’re excited. It was a big victory to get to 2-0 in conference. Those first two conference games for us, if you look back at them, there were just so many plays that either way can flip that game in our favor, or quite frankly, against us. In the three tight ball games, including Wake Forest, that we’ve had, that’s exactly what’s taken place. We’ve made enough plays to win two of those three games, and, fortunately, those were both our two conference games. More of those are coming. This is an extremely competitive conference. The Mountain West is a very good conference this year with a bunch of really good teams that are all on the same mission to get to the special place at the end of the year, and playing those big games in November. I’m proud of the guys. It was great for David (Woodward) and great for Savon (Scarver) to get the recognition that they got in defensive player of the week and special teams player of the week honors. It’s well deserved. They have some competition, because I’m sure there were some other great performances out there last week that they were against, so congratulations to those guys.”

On LSU:

“It is a big challenge, obviously. They’re a great football team. They’re battling like crazy to keep themselves in a top-four spot. To me, on film, they appear to be where they should be. They’re very talented, and they play very well. They have great athletes and are well coached. It will be a tremendous challenge. We’re walking into an early-morning kickoff, which will be a good thing for us. I like the opportunity to play an early kickoff. It will be a great place to play for our guys. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime type thing. This team gets to fly across the country and go play these guys in that setting, and play a team that is ranked high nationally and has a great fan base. It will be very loud. One of the big things for this game is we’re going to practice in 50-degree weather all week long, and it’s going to be 95 degrees in Louisiana with  high humidity. That will be our challenge, to make sure we hydrate and get ourselves to where we need to be in those positions, those spots. We may be used to that in August, but we’re not used to that now. Potentially, it will be a 40 to 50-degree swing in the temperature from what we’re used to playing in this week of practice. That will be something our guys will need to keep their eye on, and we need our trainers to make sure we’re ready to play the football game. It’s a great opportunity, and we’re excited to start preparing.”

 

On junior wide receiver Savon Scarver’s kickoff return for a touchdown against CSU:

“If you heard what I said on the headset when he started to bring it out, I didn’t think he was going to turn it around and bring it out. The funny thing is, a few of the guys around me heard what I said, which was basically, ‘I can’t believe we’re bringing that ball out right now.’ And then the next thing we know, the red sea opened. But that was the plan. Coach (Stacy) Collins coached it that way. He teaches them and coaches them to be aggressive. If Savon feels good in that opportunity, coach Collins has the ultimate trust in him to make a good decision. The blocking is not going to change no matter how deep they feel the kick is. They’re trained to go block like crazy. Savon’s going to make that decision, and his off returner is going to help him make his decision. They saw the green light and took the green light. I was wrong and they were right in a big way. So, that was a good thing.”

On freshman defensive tackle Christian LaValle blocking a player right by coach Gary Andersen in the kickoff return:

“That was a nice block. There were a lot of great blocks on that play. The guys had a fantastic effort, and Savon is just special. Guys make those plays in those situations. He’s very comfortable in that setting. He loves that position. He loves to be able to go make those plays, and he did a tremendous job. It’s much like David Woodward. Two times now, Woody has grabbed the ball from a guy and scored touchdowns. One time, obviously, it wasn’t a touchdown, but in this game, it was a huge play. You don’t coach that stuff. That just happens from special players making special plays. It’s awesome when they can get that done.”

On what he does to prepare a team for a 10 a.m. game:

“We had quite a few of them when I was at Wisconsin. It’s early, and we know it’s going to be early. Our guys are used to getting up. They’ll eat breakfast, and we’ll line up and go play. It is an early kickoff for us, but we’ve had practices that are early. We have offseason workouts and conditioning that are early. We’ll talk about it and make sure we’re prepared for it. We’ll get them to bed a little bit earlier that night, which the time zone is back an hour, so that helps them. We won’t travel any different. We’ll land, get to the hotel, eat dinner, spend some time together as a team and give the guys a chance to get with their family members if they’re there and give them a couple hours to spend some time with their families which, obviously, they won’t get on Saturday. Then, we’ll jump out of bed bright-eyed and bushy-tailed at 6 o’clock, 6:30, whenever that is, go eat breakfast, have a quick walk through and jump in, throw on the pads and away we go. Nothing over the top that’s really different.”

On if they changed anything in the kickoff return once Colorado State stopped kicking it to the returners:

“Coach Collins didn’t really change the personnel. The one time coach Collins put (Gerold) Bright back there to catch it was to see if we could catch them a little bit. We’ll have some potential tweaks for that in potential situations. If they give us a window, there are things you can try to get on blockers earlier. Our guys are very well-trained in those special teams situations to adapt their blocking schemes to the kick. They actually can see the kick when it goes over their head. They have an idea of where it’s going. Is it going to the left or to the right? You can just see the demeanor of the kicker. It’s different if he’s trying to pound it out of the end zone or kick a deep ball or pooch it up there. He’s definitely winding up different and his approach to the ball is different. So, there is some coaching going into that, and we’ll try to be as aggressive as we can at that position. The biggest thing is when you pop it up in that scenario, you don’t want to put a player in harm’s way just to catch the ball and get smacked the second you catch the football. You want to give him the opportunity to either fair catch that ball with good position or catch it and have a couple blockers and potentially get great field position.”

On who stood out against Colorado State besides junior linebacker David Woodward and senior running back Gerold Bright:

“Troy (Lefeged Jr.) and (Dalton) Baker were our defensive players of the game. They both played extremely well. The play that Baker made was a 60-yard sprint to recover a fumble. That’s an amazing football play. It wasn’t just that play that made him the co-player of the game for this week, but he played at a very high level. Those are potential season-changing plays, not just game-changing plays, but season-changing plays. When it’s as tight as it is in that scenario, it’s tied up right there, (Cameron Haney) keeps on fighting and fighting and fighting to get the ball out in that situation, the ball lands on the ground and we end up getting it. So, those two guys played really well. Troy was physically down on the box more this week, and made some plays for us. It was great to see. Tipa (Galeai) continues to play better. He just has more opportunities to make plays, and he’s taking advantage of those scenarios and those situations. Gerold Bright had 179 yards rushing and his longest run is 15 yards. Come one, now. That’s a tough young man battling for those yards and just grinding it out. Jaylen (Warren) was hurt, so he had to just keep on going and plugging when he was extremely tired, but he kept playing. I don’t want to leave guys out. Caleb (Repp) played his best game overall from what the offensive coaches have told me, and from an assignment standpoint and everything that comes from that. He, obviously, had a big touchdown. There were some tremendous individual efforts in all three phases that gave us an opportunity to win a tough ball game in tough conditions.”

On junior quarterback Jordan’s Love performance against Colorado State:

“As always, the reflection on the quarterback when he throws a pick is always why did he throw a pick? There is a lot that goes into that. Jordan is very competitive. When he needed to use his legs, he used his legs in an extremely positive way for us to move the chains and keep the ball going. His demeanor was extremely good. He stayed in the moment. He did everything he could to turn around and help us win a football game that was played in not the greatest of conditions. Quarterbacks don’t wake up in the morning and say, ‘I hope it’s raining sideways.’ Catching the ball and fielding the ball and all those things that come with it become very difficult.  We thought he played well, and definitely gave us an opportunity to win the game. Jordan is our guy, and as he goes, we go. It’s going to be like that, especially with the type of offense we run. He made some big plays to, again, allow us a chance to win.”

On the importance of the secondary against LSU:

“It’s a big deal in this game. Speed and space are something we talk about all the time. At some point in speed and space, the coaching is over, but we do all we can to help them get in those spots. Running to the football and having more than one guy around the football as much as we possibly can, and having those guys be able to keep an eye on the ball and be able to close it down and try to keep them in a phone booth instead of giving them a third of the field to be able to make you miss. It’s hard for any position group or any single player to tackle a guy when there’s a bunch of grass out there. That’s what LSU’s offense is designed to do, and that’s what our offense is designed to do, is to get people in space and make them miss once you get the ball in your hands. It’s not just their wide receivers. Their running backs are very talented. They’re strong, powerful players who have the ability to make you miss. You’re throwing that film on and basically, the offense starts the game and all of sudden it’s like 35 to nothing, or whatever. They score really quickly. They score awful fast. You have to be able to, hopefully, find a way to try and confuse the quarterback a little bit. He’s a very talented player. He’s been in this thing for a long time and done a lot of good things. But, we have to try and get him off his absolute knowledge of, ‘Okay, I’ve seen this on film 35,000 times and here we go. It’s the way it’s been for me and how I’m taught to be able to do it.’ And then, we have to be able to tackle well. That’s a big, strong, physical offensive line. They’re not who they are and they’re not ranked where they are because they’re not deserving. There’s not a bunch of chinks in their armor where you sit there and say, ‘Okay, we’re going to exploit this guy.’ You’re going to have to earn your right in all phases.”

On LSU associate head coach and defensive coordinator Dave Aranda and safeties coach Bill Busch:

“Corey (Raymond) is there, too. So, three of those guys on their defensive staff at LSU have been here at Utah State, and really got a good, fresh start here that catapulted them to where they are today which is awesome to see. But, with Dave, specifically, Dave was at Hawai’i and we, obviously, coached against Hawai’i that year. Coach (Greg) McMackin, who I’d known a long time, was the head coach at Hawai’i. When we had the opportunity to hire a defensive coordinator, I was looking around and asking people about defensive coordinators. I had met Dave at a camp in Hawaii, a high school camp, and we spent three or four days together at the camp coaching the D-line and talking back and forth, but I didn’t know him at all other than that. Those three days were big, though. Coach McMackin said, ‘Gary, there is one guy you need to hire and it’s Dave Aranda.’ So, I got talking to Dave and got to spend some time with him. At that point, we were in a transition. We were in a transition from a four-down front moving to a three-down front. It’s the same deal you do every year. You get your best level players, and we had Kyler (Fackrell) and Zach and Nick Vigil, and had a lot of outside linebacker and linebacker-type guys, so we wanted to get into the odd front. He hadn’t really done it, but we wanted to develop it. Dave’s done a tremendous job from that point on of just evolving the odd front, the even front and using his guys. He does it all now. He was awesome for me at Wisconsin. He’s had his opportunities and he’s taken advantage of those opportunities. Bill’s done the same thing. Corey’s been there for a long time at LSU. Now, all three of those guys are together. Dave’s a great coach and a very good person, and a family man. I’m happy for him. I’m glad we were able to give him that opportunity, but he took advantage of that opportunity at the end of the day. He had some great defensive series, had some great defenses at Wisconsin. And, obviously, at LSU, he’s had some great defenses. He’s a great person and a great coach, and I’m happy for him and his family for what’s going on.”

On how David Woodward has been able to become as good of a player as he has:

“It’s a God-given ability, it’s the care factor for him to be able to practice the right way, and to have film study the right way. There’s nothing like being in the moment and doing something over and over again, and getting good at it, whether it’s sports or whether it’s your job, or whether it’s getting an education. All those things tie into it, and David has a huge care factor in all those areas. That’s what I think really allows him to make the plays he does. David has his own style, you know, and he plays within a style. I credit coach (Justin) Ena for allowing David to play in that style. David is like Bobby Wagner. Bobby was, I don’t want to say a freelancer, but Bobby was able to go ahead and do some things where you might not be able to say on the board, ‘Well, you’re supposed to be here, but you were over there and you made this play.’ His instincts are a big part of playing linebacker. We’ve tried to build a lot of the defense around his abilities to be able to use his instincts. We just don’t want him to be on a train track, and say, ‘You’re the A-gap player every single time, and you need to get there whether the ball goes there or not.’ So, coach Ena and David have worked together to allow his game to be played with his natural ability, his instincts. But, his daily care factor is huge to be a really good football player.”

On LSU quarterback Joe Burrow:

“He’s got experience, obviously. I think he’s very at home and at peace, and likes the offense that he’s running. He loves the RPO’s, more so than anybody that we’ve played this year, even more so than Wake Forest, who plays a little bit of a different style, which was very effective. This guy is going to stick that ball in there and is really going to look and see, and just has tremendous trust in pulling the ball and throwing it late on some of the RPO’s to let them open up. You can take windows of RPO’s away with different things, and I try not to get too technical in these discussions, but there are opportunities to take windows away early, but then they’re going to come open later. He does a nice job of playing that chess match, if you will, with the backfield, and with the defense as a whole. As far as the RPO’s, he throws the deep ball nice, he gives his receivers an opportunity to make plays, and he’s also athletic enough to get himself out of trouble. Teams have tried a lot of different things against him. They’ve tried pressure against him, and I would say that’s been probably the least effective part for the defenses. He’s carved up pressures and really given his skill players a chance to catch the ball in space, and that has not gone well. Texas and some other teams have tried to drop eight a lot, and that’s where the chess match comes in. Can you get him off his point with a three-man rush and cause some problems, or is he going to sit back there for five or six seconds with a really good O-line and still have the ability to pick you apart? He’s a great fit for what they do, he’s a great quarterback, and he’s surrounded by extremely talented kids.”

On how difficult it is to prepare for a defense with as much depth as LSU:

“Again, you don’t look out there and say, ‘Hey, there is just an average guy, we can work to take advantage of him.’ They fly around, they play hard, they have high expectations to play hard defense every single week. You just don’t see a bunch of missed assignments, you don’t see a bunch of errors, and you don’t see a lack of communication for the most part. They’re used to playing against a fast-paced offense, which, that probably helps them and will help them against us I’m sure. Playing fast isn’t something they’re not used to. Hopefully, we can get into those situations sometimes and cause some confusion, that’s always the goal, but they’ll have the same goal for us.”

On whether Dave Aranda’s defense is similar to the one he ran at Wisconsin:

“There are some similarities. He still likes a lot of the odd-front things. I haven’t watched that much of it, that would probably be a better question for the offensive guys, but I know they’re still playing a lot of the tight front and they’ll play some even things. They do a nice job of mixing it up and changing things week in and week out, yet staying within their structure. I’m sure that after a bye week they’ll have a couple things for us to deal with.”

Graduate Transfer Tight End Caleb Repp

On the Colorado State game:

“We played well enough to win, but obviously we left some stuff out on the table that we should’ve picked up and just executed better at it. We played well enough to win the game, but we have to do better this upcoming week, and the following weeks after, because it’s only going to get tougher from here on out. We just have to pick it up in practice and focus on what we need to execute more in.”

On his touchdown against CSU:

“The safety was just giving me soft coverage, so I went up inside and around him. Jordan (Love) looked back at me and he just threw it up, and I went up and grabbed it, and made a play on it. I was just doing my job. I like going up for the jump ball.”

On breaking the ice on his first Aggie touchdown:

“Getting my first touchdown of the year was pretty fun. I’ve been waiting for it for a while and it finally came around. I was just being patient and letting the plays come to me.”

On LSU compared to other teams he’s played in his career:

“You can’t discredit LSU, they’re definitely one of the best teams in the country. Talent-wise, they’ll be one of the best teams I’ve played throughout my career, so it’s going to be a fun matchup. Just like any team on any Saturday, they can be beat, so we’re going to go out there and do our best to execute our plays and focus on what we need to focus on and take our shot when we can. Just wait back and wait for them to hopefully make some mistakes and just capitalize on it and just go from there. We’re not going to be intimidated by them or anything, we’re just going to go out and make our plays.

On Jordan Love as a QB and player:

“He’s not scared to throw the deep ball, and he’s done it several times to different players. It’s fun when you have a quarterback who is not scared to throw it up, and you can just go down there and make a play. That’s the best feeling when you have the opportunity to make a play and be able to impact the game in a big way like that. It’s fun when you have a quarterback that likes doing that.”

On his decision to transfer to Utah State:

“It wasn’t really much of an experience, I just went in the transfer portal and then coach Andersen hit me up. (BYU passing game coordinator/quarterbacks) coach (Aaron) Roderick hit me up and some other school did, as well. They wanted me to stay at defensive end, but I wasn’t really trying to do that, I was just trying to go back to offense. I had a relationship with coach Andersen and coach Roderick, so I just focused on those two a little bit and then I was just like coach Andersen, ‘I like him, he’s my guy,’ so I just went with him. He knew I was a receiver, he knew I wasn’t really much of a defensive end; I can hold my own, but I’m just better suited for the offensive side of the ball, so he’s my guy.”

On if he asked to play offense at Utah:

“Not too much. A little bit, but I liked the defensive line, they were just fun to be around. Not playing and being on that side of the ball, I was satisfied, but I knew from last year I wanted to do more and at least try and get one good year of college football in, so that’s why I wanted to go back to the offensive side.”

On getting open against really fast LSU players:

“I just look at the defensive coverages as different coverages. I don’t really look too much into who it is as a matchup, because as a tight end you play against linebackers and safeties, so you don’t get a consistent matchup. As far as their speed, I’m not really too worried about it because I don’t think it’ll totally affect my game as a whole. I don’t feel like I need to be too worried about them changing my game or anything. If anything, it’s just how fast they’d get on me when I catch the ball, they would just swarm faster to the ball but other than that I don’t think it would change too much of my game.”

On Utah State’s offense with two tight ends:

“Carson (Terrell) and I can both go downfield pretty well. We can stretch the field in different ways, so our offense is set up to stretch the field and to get it out fast, so that’s what we like to do and focus on.”

On how to prepare himself and his teammates for a venue like Tiger Stadium:

“It’s just another game, so you just have to go out there and play. This last game against Colorado State, we thought we were going to go out there and play in front of nobody because of the weather, but you still have to treat it like it’s another game.”

On the number of fans that showed up to the Colorado State game:

“That was really crazy. I really didn’t think anyone would show up. To have that much support from the student section was cool, and I liked that.”

On the LSU defense:

“I watched the tape from the Texas game. They have a sound defense, they don’t really make many mistakes and they have good players. You just really have to find the holes in it. Every defense has its holes, so you just have to find it and take advantage of it. You can’t really focus too much on what they’re doing, you just have to focus more on what you’re doing, because if you try to play to their strengths it’s just not going to work and they’re going to beat you that way, so we just have to play to our strengths.”

Senior Defensive Back Cameron Haney

On the team’s defensive efforts against Colorado State:

“I feel like we got put in a couple of compromising positions field-wise in the beginning of the first half, but we battled, we fought, we bent, but didn’t break. I feel like throughout the course of the game it showed, and toward the fourth quarter we were able to get the victory, and I’m proud of our defense and how much we were able to overcome. That’s just a testament to our coaches and how much we do in practice and the culture that we have around here.”

On the injury that he was facing at the beginning of the season:

“It was a muscle I pulled in my calf right behind my hamstring, so it was kind of tough for me to run full speed. I was going to practice and rehabbing it, just testing my limits every day until I could finally go about 85-90 percent.”

On how facing off against a talented receiver like Colorado State’s Nate Craig-Myers can help him prepare for this week’s game against LSU:

“He was a great wideout, and it’s a great experience for a person to go against these higher-tier guys. We’re the underdog, so when I train and practice, I treat every wide receiver and every person that I go against as if they’re the best wideout that I’ve ever faced. So, me going against the Auburn transfer (Craig-Myers), I prepared for him like I prepare for anyone else, whether it be a five-star or maybe a two-star coming out of high school. It really doesn’t matter. That was more of just a matchup of who really wants it. I came out on top.

On whether the Colorado State game was one of the more physical games that he has been a part of:

“They’re a very physical team, and we are, too, so we knew what we were getting ourselves into. It is just part of this whole culture that we’ve built as a defense and as an offense that we’re really hard-nosed, tough and blue collar. You get a gash, you get a cut, we’ve still got to keep going. You saw Gerold (Bright) when he was injured, everybody was lifting him up. When you see an injury to these big, premier players on a team, you really don’t see the people coming together to help them, you really just leave them alone. But, in this game we needed the win, so we just sucked it up and went out there and kept fighting.

On David Woodward stripping the ball from the CSU running back to score a touchdown:

“I was on the far side, and I was covering someone so I realized it when I turned around. I saw a big scrum and I thought the referees were going to blow it dead, but they were still moving it because, like I said, Colorado State is a physical team, they wanted the extra yard. Then I just saw Woody strip the ball and run with it, and I was just happy. That’s our blueprint, that’s our defense right there. We don’t ever stop.”

On looking back at how much has happened during his five years at Utah State:

“Throughout these five years, I feel like the biggest thing would be just continuing to grow, and knowing where we were at five years ago to now. We’ve put it out to the world based on last season that we’re good enough to win 11 or 12 games, so now we have to match that this year. I think we’re doing a great job this year. I’ve loved every moment, and we just ride it out with everybody. We’re a big family, so it doesn’t matter if I came here with 20 people and ended up with two people in my class, it’s just the Aggie Family.”

On having the opportunity to defeat a Power 5 program on the road this week:

“If I give it my all and put my best out there, I feel like not too many wideouts can handle that. When we go out to LSU, it is nothing new to us, and we understand that we have to finish games. That’s been our problem, when we play against Power 5 opponents, it’s always, ‘Almost.’ We just need to go to practice, look at the blueprint, take it slow, understand what we have to do and that’s to win the fourth quarter. So, when we go out there to Louisiana, we will definitely have a different game plan, we will definitely have a different attitude and we’ll see what happens.”

On how he helps some of the younger players prepare to play in a large venue like LSU’s Tiger Stadium:

“I just tell them in practice, just imagine that out there. Listen to the crowd, listen to the 100,000 before you get there so by the time you get there and the lights are on, it’s easy for you. Another thing that I tell them is that it’s just you and your one-on-one matchup, just do your job at the end of the day. The fans are there to distract you, but we have a big fan base here, as well. It’s really nothing new, it’s just a bigger place. I just make sure that everyone else is calm, collected and ready to do their job and execute.”

On whether he prepares any differently when playing in a morning kickoff:

“No, since the summer I’ve been imagining and dreaming of games like this, so whether we play at night time or play in the morning, I always do my same sort of pre-game rituals, so to speak. I always start that Monday with the mindset and understanding what I need to do that week. Now, we’re playing this early-morning game, some people might not have a morning rush, but I understand that LSU is there to win, as well, so everybody needs to be up and ready and juiced. I really don’t feel the need to be motivated by anybody, I just motivate myself and care for my teammates that much. I don’t care what time it is when I step on the field, I feel like I’m here for everybody, for Logan, for our program, for Utah State, so whatever time it may be, I’m ready.”

On his overall experience playing at Utah State:

“It’s been kind of a roller coaster, depending on the different seasons that we’ve had. My first year here I felt like, I was just a freshman, I was 17, I was just trying to learn the system and what it means to be an Aggie. Trying to get out of the high school persona and step into a more collegiate role. The next year, we had a rough year and I was able to play in games, and I was able to be a part of some winning games that year that we went 3-9. I feel like that year changed me for the better, because it made me more mature. It made me realize more of the role that you have to play on a college team. It’s not just all about going out there and making plays, it’s about the film, the studies. It’s about going and talking to your coaches. It’s about putting the work in on and off the field. It’s not just about talking about it, but working so hard that you don’t have to talk at all. Others can see your work, and that speaks louder than anything to me. Then the next year I was able to play and I was able to start games, we went 6-7 and we lost in the Arizona Bowl. I wasn’t able to play that game, but that year was very good. The following year was very good, even though I didn’t get to play as much that season. They were moving me around in different spots, which I accepted. Now, I’m here and I’m flourishing. I feel like I’m in the best position of my life right now.”

Article sourced from provided press release.

 

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