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Monday's football press conference quotes

November 1, 2004 · MT Media Relations

HEAD COACH ANDY MCCOLLUM

Talk about taking a three game winning streak on the road: "Confidence plays a little bit into it. We have some young kids growing up, and that happens when you have as many young guys playing as we do. Each game they get better and better. Playing at home is always a plus. But, to be where you want to be as a team, you have to win on the road. In this conference it is tough to win on the road. It still goes back to how we play, and what we have to do is play well and error free. On the road you have to take care of the football and play well defensively. We are starting to get better, but there are still some things that we have to improve on. New Mexico State is a tough place to play, always has been. They do a great job, and we have a tough challenge ahead of us."

Do the players see this game differently since they have been at home for the past two weeks? "No, they are going to practice the same way they have practiced for every other game. There won't be any difference. We just have to get some guys healthy. We are banged up pretty good right now. It was a physical game that we just won on Saturday."

Is there a relationship building between the senior defensive linemen and the younger defensive linemen? "I have been proud of our leadership by most of our guys. We have guys that are leading by example on the field. On defense, Thomas Johnson, Jerry Vanderpool and Alvin Fite are three seniors who have played in a lot of games here. I think they have done a good job. Dennis Burke has played in a lot of games. Those guys are doing a good job by leading on and off the field. When you start looking at the freshmen that have made big contributions for us, you have to look at Sean Moseley, Erik Walden, Antoine Owens, Bradley Robinson, Roy Polite, Damon Nickson, Brandon Nix and Stephen Chicola. They are all freshmen. Terry Jackson is in that group. DeMarco McNair is in that group. They are all key guys in a lot of ways on this team. In every game, they gain more confidence and they get better."

Why are the young defensive linemen maturing so quickly? "Sean Moseley has played well all year. Antoine Owens is someone we moved to defensive line half way through practice. He came here as a linebacker. All of them have played all year. They have skills. The have caught up on the speed and physical aspect of the collegiate game and it shows this year. Every snap they are playing their tails off with great effort. You can overcome a lot of things with just great effort."

Did you see that effort when you recruited those freshmen? "Not all of the time. Antoine Owens was a guy we had in camp and recruited. We didn't think that he played hard all of the time. Erik Walden may be the same way. That is the way it is sometimes. Brandon Nix played at a 1A high school and was always bigger and stronger than everybody else. Sean Moseley was a linebacker in high school, and he was a linebacker for us as a freshman. These guys are understanding the game and are playing with great effort right now. That is why they are making big plays."

Ninety percent of your scoring drives are longer than 70 yards. What does that say about your offense, especially the offensive line? "They are taking care of the football. I think we only had one turnover Saturday. Early in the year, you saw us making too many turnovers against teams on the road. That is tough to overcome. But, it is also a growing process. We have a young quarterback and young running backs. Eugene Gross is just a sophomore. On the offensive line, we basically had just two starters back. You have Marcus Gates who has never played center. Quinton Staton was a defensive lineman until about a week before the first game. Joe Evilsizer is an older guy that hasn't played. Those guys have really come on. Ryan Hornsby has given us some good reps. Brian Smith is a newcomer that has given us some good reps. Stephen Chicola is making big plays for us as a true freshman. Those guys up in the box are learning more every game. I like the way they have developed as a group. They have been growing together, and that has been a key for us. Long drives is a matter of executing and making plays on third down. This past game I thought we made some key plays on third down. What impressed me about our guys was containing the ball and controlling the clock while the wind was in our face."

Has Chicola's play been a result of offensive calls or what the defense has been giving you? "It is the same thing as the whole offense. It is what the defense gives you. Having a tight end that can run and catch with the ability that he has is a plus. He is still a young guy learning the offense. He is a very quick learner and very competitive. He has a tremendous work ethic, and comes from a tremendous high school. He was very well coached in high school. He is a mature kid for a freshman. That has all benefited him. He has come in and made some plays."

Is there a pride factor in the players you recruited coming in and contributing as freshmen? "There really is. It is all about recruiting. We have got some good older kids. To have this many young guys playing right now says a lot about the future. We have basically eight seniors on the team, and around four that are playing. That is a big key on evaluating and make decisions on some of these guys. We have some redshirts right now that we think are going to be key players, especially on the offensive line. We have a couple sitting out right now that we think will contribute. It is a good young class. They have a good work ethic about them."

Has there been any discussion about the conference standings? "All we can control is how we play each week. That is what we are going to do. The toughest part was our first two conference games being on the road. We didn't execute well enough to win those games. When you play on the road, you have to execute. We played two tough teams on the road right off the bat. We made too many mistakes and hurt ourselves. When you are on the road, you can't make those mistakes. We have to have a good week of practice this week and not beat ourselves."

Talk a little about New Mexico State's quarterback Buck Pierce: "Buck Pierce is someone I have a lot of respect for. He has done a great job. He can run and throw. He is a physical guy and makes good decisions. We know what kind of ability he has. He is playing really well for them right now. He has it all. He's got the arm. He can run. He is tough, and we have a lot of respect for him."

Talk a little about New Mexico State's touchdown to interception ratio: "They have a great offensive scheme, and they have done a tremendous job. They are a physical football team up front. They always have been. They can run and throw very well. It is a very tough offense."

Talk about New Mexico State's defense and your offensive scheme: "It depends on how they play us. They give you a lot of different looks. They are physical on defense. It still goes back on how they are going to play us on whether we run or throw the ball."

How important is it to be .500? "We don't talk about it. It is important that our kids are fighting their way back. It is important that our kids are growing as a young team. People talk about being .500. If you go back the last couple of years and you have to open against Georgia or whoever, there was a reason we had to fight back. It feels good that our kids are playing well at home. It feels good that we have young kids growing up. We are executing, taking care of the ball, and making better decisions. To see a defense play the way ours played Saturday is a good feeling. We just want to get ready for the next one."

Does shutting a team out give you momentum? "It should give them confidence. We had opportunities early in the year, but we gave up a big play or had a breakdown. To shut out an offense like Utah State says a great deal about our team. We just have to continue to carry that attitude. Anytime you win and play well you just feel better about yourself."

QB CLINT MARKS

On New Mexico State being his first career start last year: "It was my first start and I was a little nervous, but all I wanted to do was play my best. My very first play was a touchdown pass to Kerry Wright and I will never forget that moment."

On the Blue Raiders' long drives this year: "At times we have hurt ourselves, but we've been doing a better job lately. It's important to move the chains and sustain long drives because it wears down a defense and keeps the other offense off the field. Don't get me wrong, if we score on one play that's great too. We have been pretty good on third down this year and that is a big key to why we have had some long drives."

Playing on the road: "We take everything one game at a time. We don't prepare any differently for a home game or a road game. We are just concentrating on New Mexico State."

Being second in the SBC: "We don't talk about that at all because that is not where we want to be. We just have to keep taking it one game at a time and let it all play out the way it does."

On New Mexico State as a team: "We always have some physical games against them and I am sure it will be the same on Saturday. They are a real gritty, tough football team who really plays well at home. We will have to play turnover-free football and make some plays in order to have a chance at winning."

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