bleedCrimson.net: You had your second bye of the season. What did you see development-wise from your team this week?
Doug Martin: I liked the way the guys worked and responded this week. They’re still practicing hard and they’ve got a lot of energy about them still. We worked pretty hard on the kicking game this week to try to get Max Johnson back on track for the last two games. Most of the staff was out recruiting so it was a skeleton crew here so it was a lot of work on fundamentals and just getting guys healthy. The biggest thing was recruiting this week.
bc.net: The last two seasons you’ve had two bye weeks, this time you had them pretty late in the season. How beneficial has that been having two bye weeks late in the season, particularly for this team because it’s a fairly young team?
DM: That’s the big key right there. With how many true freshmen we’re playing, those bye weeks were really helpful because this is the time of year where the freshmen, the season starts to get really long for them, their bodies start to break down a little bit because they haven’t had that year in the weight room yet. It came at a good time as opposed to early in the year it wouldn’t have had as much meaning for us. That was a blessing for us.
bc.net: As far as the health of the team. You’ve had pretty good luck this year with injuries and not having as many season-ending type of injuries this year. How is the team’s health going into the last two weeks of the year?
DM: I think we’re in about as good a shape as you can be at this point. We haven’t had many season ending injuries at all. I think we had [Andy] Cunningham and King Davis as the only two. Most of the guys that have been injured have come back pretty quickly and I think that’s a testament to two things that haven’t happened here before. One is the nutrition and the way we take care of the players food-wise and nutrition-wise is much better than it has been in the past. And the weight room with Coach Decker, I think he’s done a great job maintaining our guys throughout the season and keeping them strong and I think that’ll pay off for us for years to come.
bc.net: In terms of the weight training, you have the new weight training facility that was completed over the summer and you were here last year and in 2011 before the new weight training facility. What has been the biggest difference and the one thing you have been able to do with the new facility that you wouldn’t have been able to do before?
DM: I think it’s just the equipment is so much better in there now when you look at all the racks have that video system on there to where every lift is video taped and the strength coach, even if they’re not there with them when they do the lift, they can look at it and correct them and show them the mistakes they’re making. So it’s a much safer environment and it’s a much better environment for the kids’ technique and learning. Then the technology measures the speed of the bar going up and down so we can really find out what players really have explosiveness and which players need to develop that. The whole room, there’s just so much more to it. We can do so much more in there that we can do, not just for us but for every sport.
bc.net: This is the final home game for the seniors. You’re in a little bit of a unique position in that a lot of the guys aren’t necessarily guys you recruited but having been the offensive coordinator in 2011, you do have previous experience with some of them. What has this group of seniors meant to the program?
DM: They’ve done a great job of leading and I think they’ve done a great job of showing the younger players the work ethic that needs to be happening here and they’ve been a really good group and they’ve been a productive group. When you look at guys like Ume who’s been a four-year starters and Jay Brown and Shapiro and Matthews have all played a lot of football, both tight ends as well. They’ve been a group that has played a lot of ball. It’s a shame that they haven’ teen able to go out with a winning season because we were so close to getting that done. It would have been great for them. At least they did get to use these new facilities that we have now and I think that was a big reward for them for all of their hard work. And all of these guys are going to walk out of here with a degree and that’s the biggest thing.
bc.net: How much work were you able to get in with the quarterbacks during the bye week?
DM: Some, it’s been a point of emphasis really all year long. The disappointing thing about that is that both of those guys are really talented. It’s not like last year where I just felt like we didn’t have the talent at that position to really be where we wanted to be. Now we have the talent but we’re not developing as fast as I’d like to see us develop. That’s got to sped up. We have two games to get that done. Both of those guys certainly need to improve and that’s the area I really haven’t seen. I think we’re about the same in that area as we were at the beginning of the year and you need to start seeing improvement if those guys are really going to be what you need. We’ve got guys who are being redshirted, Nick Jeanty is a guy who is being redshirted who will be good here also. This spring we’ll be right back to competing to see who wants to be the quarterback.
bc.net: In these final two games how much work will each of the two quarterbacks get and what’s your plan for the final two weeks?
DM: Tyler still gives us the best chance to win because Andrew is so far behind in the passing game as far as being able to throw the ball. I hope that both of them will play but that’s really the issue. Who gives you the best chance to get the ball in the endzone and score. Andrew’s made some progress, not as much as I’d like to see in the passing game and Andrew needs to cut down on the interceptions. That’s really the only thing he does wrong. He gets us in the right play, run and pass, he can handle the offense really well, it’s just decision-making at times with him.
bc.net: Will Larry Rose be available for the game on Saturday?
DM: Yeah, he’s been practicing and completely cleared and we’ll probably get Brandon Betancourt back. He’s been practicing after coming back from an MCL injury. We won’t have Xavier Hall, he’s out with a high ankle sprain.
bc.net: When you look at Monroe, they had a competitive game against UL Lafayette and they’re a very good team as well.
DM: They’re a really good defensive football team. I think they’re giving up about 26 points per game. They’re playing good defense. I think in total defense they’re first in the conference. Rushing defense, they’re second in the conference. That’s where their strong point it. That’s how they stayed in the game against Lafayette and that’s the same with most of the games they’ve played. They really have a lot of team speed on defense. They play a 3-3-5 setup so it’s a little bit different than what you see most weeks and that’s going to be the challenge for us to move the ball and get points on the board. If we score points we have a chance to win. We just have to get some points on the board.
bc.net: What are some of the challenges that a 3-3-5 defense will pose for the offense and in particular what does quarterback need to be on the lookout for?
DM: The biggest thing with that defense is it’s very fluid and very seldom do they just stay in the 3-3 look. They’re going to line up like that but at the snap they’re going to blitz and slant and angle the front and move people around. The biggest thing is your offensive line has to be really sharp and collecting that on the run. You’re not going to see it before the snap, you’re going to see it after the snap. That’s where they get a lot of offensive line problems and they get negative yardage plays. That’s how they really make a living. They get you in long yardage situation and it gets tough. You’ve got to make sure you stay out of those situations.
bc.net: For Larry Rose in particular, you mentioned they have a tough run defense and he’s had a very good year, I don’t know if he’s had more than a handful if that many, negative yardage plays.
DM: Yeah, Larry’s really good at making the first guy miss. He’s very elusive. Even if you don’t block it perfectly he has a way of making yards for you. That’s why he’s so valuable. For him to stay healthy and be able to finish this game would be huge for us. He’s the guy that can make things happen. When sometimes there isn’t even a hole there he can make it.
bc.net: What do you want to see out of your team coming out of the bye week versus what you saw coming from your team coming out of the last bye week?
DM: When we came off the last bye week it was against Texas State and we played a really good football game against them. We played with a lot of energy and with a lot of passion and the game went down to a one score game and that’s what we need to do again. We need to have that electricity from inside. Our players need to be excited about playing, we need to get this win for our seniors and I’m still waiting to see us play a game where we don’t beat ourselves, that’s the issue particularly offensive. We have just continually beaten ourselves and taken ourselves out of scoring position with turnovers and penalties and that type of thing and that’s been the difference with us maybe winning six games this year and not.