bleedCrimson.net: You went for it on 4th down late in the 4th quarter, didn't pick it up and your defense goes out, gets a three and out and gets you the ball back, you score the touchdown to take the lead and then the defense comes up with another big stand to seal the game. How big was that performance by the defense?
DeWayne Walker: We've played some pretty good offenses when you look at Hawai'i, Nevada, Georgia and then Fresno State so they've been ridiculed a little bit even though they've answered when they needed to. Fortunately our offense is able enough to score some points against some of these opposing defenses to keep us in games. It was just good to see these guys answer at the critical point of the game to seal the victory.
bc.net: In the second half you were able to answer Fresno State "runs", they scored the two touchdowns in a row it looked like the momentum was starting to shift but you come back and score a touchdown. They had the two big pass plays for touchdowns but you were able to answer those.
DW: That's the challenge that I put on the offense. We have some pretty good skill players and I think the recruiting the last couple of years from an offensive standpoint with Kenny Turner, Todd Lee's been here for a while, Taveon, our two new recruits in Bateman and Franklin, when you put all those guys in our offensive scheme of things and then you've got Matt who can do some things with his legs, we always talk about matching scores. There's good offenses on our schedule and we knew that especially with this last half of the season, our offense needed to answer to give our defense a chance to make some stops at the end of the game to give us a chance to win. We just have a lot of confidence that our offense is capable of matching points and that's what they did Saturday.
bc.net: Obviously we knew the second half of the season was going to be the more challenging of the two halves and your team has really elevated their play and continues to improve week after week and that's something that you don't necessarily see from every football team during a season.
DW: You've gotta give the coaches a lot of credit. We practice hard, our coaches do a great job of game planning. We do a lot of behind the scenes work as well as our players. I just think you have to give the coaches and players a lot of credit. They're in it all the way to the end and they're fighting. This is the part of growing our program and building confidence and being able to talk about things behind closed doors to show these guys that they can win on any given Saturday.
bc.net: A lot was made during the last week about Fresno State changing the way they practice and trying to get back to playing a more physical style of football but your team came out and really matched that physicality and intensity that Fresno State wanted to come out with.
DW: Yeah and I think it's tough to just all of the sudden, "Okay, we want to be a tough football team." Traditionally they have been. I think they've changed their scheme a little bit and they're throwing the ball a little bit more where before they were a run first, pass second. This year they were a pass first so I think that concept was something that I knew Coach Hill wanted to get back to. I think for us, we practice hard and we preach the physical part of the game every week and we've kind of tweaked practice structure just a little bit just to make sure our guys are feeling good and healthy going into the game. They were prepared. I had voiced my opinion on what Fresno State was saying behind closed doors and they wanted to get back to playing physical football and going back to the fundamentals and thought our guys matched it pretty well.
bc.net: You talked about tweaking the practice to make sure your team is feeling good and is healthy. Is this the maybe the most healthy that you've been this late in the season?
DW: Yeah. It's something that I've soul searched and researched this offseason. I think there's a lot of strategy to how you practice. You've got to look at the type of depth that you have. I think you have to look at how your players are feeling throughout the season. On Mondays for example, we'll bring them out and just stride them a little bit and stretch them. Then we watch the game tape and move forward to the next opponent whereas earlier in the year we would actually bring them out on Mondays and do a 20 to 25 play walkthrough and start getting them into a football mode. Tuesday we'd go full pads but now we just go helmets and shoulder pads on Tuesdays and we're still going but it's more of a day to get them acclimated to that week's opponent. We'll go push hard on Wednesday and then we'll put helmets and shoulder pads on them on Thursdays and walk through Friday. Really just trying to put a lot of thoughts into what it it going to take to make sure these guys are prepared and feeling well for Saturday, especially this time of the year.
bc.net: Saturday you take on BYU. They had a really rough game against Utah early in the season but since then they've really turned things around and are playing very good football.
DW: Yeah, they do a good job. Bronco is a heck of a good coach and those guys have been together forever. Their program has been successful forever. They just do things right and they reload. We're going to have to play our best game ever and hopefully they won't play their best game ever to give us an opportunity to get the game into the fourth quarter and see what we can pull out.
bc.net: Bronco mentioned in his press conference that your guys' relationship is a little more friendly than maybe his relationships with other coaches in the coaching fraternity.
DW: I just respect him. The thing that I really admire and respect about him is that when I was the interim head coach at UCLA for the bowl game, he got up at one of our luncheons and told [UCLA Athletic Director] Dan Guerrero that he should hire me to be UCLA's head coach. I've known Bronco over the years when he was at UNM coaching with Rocky Long and I've always respected the type of work that he's done defensively and obviously he's carried over into his head coaching career. I just really thought that was nice of him. We've talked on the phone about team building and some things that they do. I just have the utmost respect for him as a person and as a football coach.
bc.net: You spent a little bit of time as an assistant coach at BYU. LaVelle Edwards has just a massive coaching tree and so many good coaches have come out of that program.
DW: Yeah. I know the staff that I was on, Norm Chow was on the staff, Ken Schmidt who was a heck of a football coach was the defensive coordinator. Lance Reynolds was on the staff, Robbie Boscoe who was coaching quarterbacks at the time. There were just a lot of good football coaches. LaVelle has pretty much just established the system at BYU and Bronco is keeping that tradition going. It was just a great experience for me to see it from a different perspective to be honest with you. There's a lot of ways to skin a cat and it was just a great experience for me to be a part of that staff.
bc.net: What are some things that your team needs to do both offensively and defensively to be able to come out with a win?
DW: I was teasing the offense and I told them that if they really want to impress me, score 40 points against BYU. That was one challenge. Defensively we're can't let this game get away from us because this is a better defense that our offense is going to face this week so we're going to have to play well enough early in the game to give our offense a chance to get going and then obviously special teams. It's pretty much the same as our defense, not make silly mistakes to let this game get out of reach. If we can keep this thing in the fourth quarter, anything can happen.
bc.net: They're probably the best defense you'll have faced this season behind Georgia. How much of an advantage is it for your offense to have faced Georgia just two weeks ago and having faced that type of aggressive speed and size?
DW: I think it's pretty similar. Georgia, you're talking about Southeastern Conference, I think Bronco does a great job scheming. Their front seven is pretty good and traditionally they're always pretty good in their front seven so we're going to have to find a way to slow those guys down up front and try to find a way in the passing game to take advantage of their secondary if we can. Again, Bronco does just a good job scheming and not beating himself. We're going to be challenged to score the type of points that may be needed to win this game.
bc.net: Taveon Rogers had another kickoff return for a touchdown in Saturday's win over Fresno State. What all has to go into a kickoff return for a touchdown because even though it's just one guy bring the ball back, it really is an entire team play.
DW: Yeah. I think Coach Murphy does a great job with our kickoff return team and the bottom line is just trying to put a body on a body and letting Taveon try to find a crease and just his speed. That's what he's been able to do. I just think it's pretty amazing how many touchdowns that he has and people still kick to him. I told him, "Hey look, they're still gonna keep kicking to you if you score touchdowns." I know last week I told him I was getting bored watching him because he hadn't scored a touchdown in a while and sure enough he answered this past week at the right time. He has a knack for it and I just think the guys that are blocking for him understand that and it's good to see him make plays for us.
bc.net: So it's pretty safe to assume that if you were the opposing head coach, you would not be kicking to Taveon?
DW: Probably not, no. I probably wouldn't be kicking to him.