Weekly Coach Martin Interview :: 09/09/14 Congratulations on the victory on Saturday. I’m not sure when the last time the Aggies came back from being down by three scores to win. What was the feeling like for the team?
Doug Martin: Well, you’re right, that was huge. I don’t know that we could have done that in the past. Certainly last year we would not have had the character or the talent to do that. I was really proud of the players and the way they hung in there. More than the 17 points down to me was when Georgia State came out and started the second half off by driving right down the field and scoring and putting it up to 14 points again and our guys still didn’t blink and they kept hanging in there and playing off of each other. When our offense was struggling in the first half, our defense kept us in the game and in the second half when our defense started to give in a little bit our offense picked it up and that’s the way we’re going to win football games. Obviously a pivotal moment as you mentioned on defense, the pick six from Rodney Butler, something that the Aggie defense has not been able to do in quite a while, just in terms of generating momentum for the football team.
DM: Yeah that was big. That gave us energy going in to halftime. It made it a 17-10 game and energized the whole locker room and at halftime our guys felt really good about where we were. Jay Eakins made a great play to tip that ball up and then Rodney got the interception. Our defense has done a great job of causing turnovers, we’ve got six in two games. That’s really big. You talked about wanting to stop the run, it’s been a big focus for you. You held them to 162 yards rushing and you would probably agree that if you do that every game you’re going to have a great chance to win every football game.
DM: That certainly was an improvement Saturday. We did a great job all the way up to the first drive of the second half. We gave up a long run for a touchdown, that was the one breakdown we had but it was a big improvement and we’ve got to continue that. That’s going to be the toughest task for this week because we’re playing a much better rushing team than what we’ve played in the first two games. After struggling to stop the run last year your team has dobe a good job against two solid running teams. How much confidence has that built for your young defense?
DM: I think certainly they are a very confident group right now. I think more than anything it’s validated what our coaches are doing, the way we practice and we spend a lot of time in practice on fundamentals defensively. Running to the ball and tackling, running to the ball and tackling and it gets monotonous for the players at times but I think now they’re starting to see the results of it and buying in to what we’re trying to do. The final drive of the game, the game winning drive, you get the ball back after giving up the lead. What were you talking to your offense about, what was Coach Brandon talking to the offense about?
DM: The big thing was to be calm. We had all sorts of time. We had two minutes left and we still had a timeout left and two minutes is an eternity in college football with the clock stopping every time you get first downs. Just understand that we can still run the ball in certain situations which we did effectively, and understand that we have to make plays. That was indicative of what our offense can look like all the time and should look like all the time. That was the best we had played the whole game was that last drive. You’ve talked a lot about the quarterback play and how much it has improved this year. How important was it to be able to execute on that last drive for Tyler Rogers?
DM: It was huge. Two minute offense is something we practice every day, good on good. We had just about the same situation on Wednesday in practice and Tyler took offense down and scored so that’s just a brick that we put in place in the foundation of building a program and Tyler’s progression as a quarterback and something he’ll be able to rely on and hopefully recreate. You hear a lot about some of the biggest improvements that a football team makes is from week one to week two in a season. If that’s the case with the Aggie football team, what would you say those improvements were?
DM: I think in the kicking game we improved. We returned the ball better in our kickoff return. I’m pleased with where we are in the kicking game. We haven’t really been tested yet but we’ve improved greatly. I think the other thing is just the turnover margin. If we can continue to win that turnover margin, that was something we were absolutely terrible at last year and the first two weeks of the season this year we’ve won it both games. When you look ahead to this game against UTEP, a program that’s in a similar situation to yours, trying to build from the ground up. You faced them last year, you were in the game for three quarters and they kind of ground out the win. What did you learn about UTEP and the way that Coach Kugler likes to coach that will help you this week?
DM: I think what you’ve got to understand is that it’s going to be a physical, tough football game. Them running the ball as well is they do is not an accident. That’s who Coach Kugler wants to be and he wants that toughness and that mentality and that team has taken on that personality. You’d better be ready to buckle that helmet on because the toughest team will win this football game. That’s what it’s going to come down to. It’s going to be a street fight. What have you seen from them based on their first two weeks of play that has really stood out to you? Obviously they’re a top 15 rushing team and their running back Aaron Jones leads the nation in rushing yards per game.
DM: Yeah, the running back Jones is exceptional. He can play anywhere. He’s got great balance, he’s got great vision, he runs through tackles. You’d better get several tacklers to the ball or you’re not going to bring him down. Then just the team speed. I think they really run well as a football team. Defensively they’ve got good team speed and offensively they’ve got weapons. How do you prepare your team to enter that environment at the Sun Bowl? You had a road game last week but I don’t know that you can necessarily other than the travel consider it a true hostile environment like you’ll be facing on Saturday in El Paso?
DM: I think it’s just another step in the process here. Our young guys haven’t played in that type of environment. That’ll be hopefully exciting for them. Our first game at home we had a good crowd and they were loud and enthusiastic and this will only build up going into this week’s game. The next two weeks are going to be like that. If you can’t get excited to play in these games then they don’t need to be playing. Coming off a pair of victories and especially the way you won Saturday, how much do you encourage that continued enthusiasm and how much do you temper it? What’s your philosophy when it comes to that?
DM: Well, the thing I talked to them about is I don’t want an enthusiastic football team because enthusiasm comes and goes. What I want is a passionate football team that plays with intensity because that is steady and that’s always going to be there. When you bring passion and intensity to something, you’re going to succeed. That’s what we’re looking for. It doesn’t have anything to do with the enthusiasm of the crowd or anything like that. Larry Rose was injured in the game against Georgia State. What’s his status looking like for the game against UTEP on Saturday?
DM: He should be good. He’s going to practice today. He had just a bruise. It was more on Saturday that he had a bit of a bruised leg and he wasn’t doing a good job of taking care of the ball. He put the ball on the ground a couple of times and I just felt like we needed to go with a little bit more experienced back in a situation like that down there. He’ll practice today and hopefully be good to go on Saturday. How nice is it to be able to have not just one running back like a Betancourt or Hall but to have two that can come in and fill that place when your top guy is either injured or not having a great game?
DM: That’s really big and we actually have another guy in Marquette Washington who was redshirted last year who we’d really like to get in the game. He’s a little bit bigger back than those guys but it’s huge when you have depth at any position and we certainly have it at running back. One of the players you identified in our preseason interview that you felt could have a big year for you was Jerrel Brown and through two games he’s shown that. What has he been able to do that’s given him that success?
DM: He’s just steady. He comes to practice every day and works hard and prepares well. You always know what you’re going to get with him. He’s not going to be a flash in the pan. He’s really consistent i how he plays and he plays at a high level.