Fairchild: Rams' defense will rep against first-team offense this week

Chris Nwoke has 249 rushing yards over the Rams' last two games, averaging 5.4 yards per carry.

Chris Nwoke has 249 rushing yards over the Rams' last two games, averaging 5.4 yards per carry.

Nov. 7, 2011

Opening statements: “Well we’re coming off a bye week where we had three, what we think, were pretty good practices last week. We also had a lot of our football team participate in community service for the third time this year. We’re back at work today. We’ll use the extra day Monday to get ready for a San Diego State team; looks like a very, very talented team. Obviously, they have the premier player offensively in their running back (Ronnie Hillman) in the conference; very good, experienced quarterback, offensively. They’re running the ball very, very well; we’ve struggled of late stopping the run defensively so that will be the major area of concern this week. And then obviously defensively, Rocky Long and his defensive scheme present its own set of challenges for you offensively. So we will need the extra day to get ready. We’re looking forward to playing three of four at home down the stretch. We need a win badly and obviously we’d like to get things turned around this Saturday at home.”

 On Rocky Long’s scheme: “It’s just unusual because it’s multiple; it’s very pressure-oriented. They play both man and zone but they challenge you man-to-man. From a structure standpoint it’s unlike what you’re used to going against the majority of the year. It’s like defensively trying to stop Air Force; it’s so unique it’s hard to simulate and obviously you have some things from a protection standpoint that you’ve got to get worked out in a short week.”

On if Long’s current team looks like his old defenses: “Yeah, it does; it did last year (he was the SDSU defensive coordinator the past two seasons). Everywhere Rocky’s been he’s got his scheme and it’s unique to him. He knows how to call it and the adjustments to make. Like I’ve said, we’ve gone against it a number of years, way back when I was an assistant with Sonny (Lubick). It is unique. It’s tough to get ready for in a week.”


 

 

On if they need to have big plays against SDSU’s defense: “Yeah, it can be hit and miss; they can overload or stunt into a run. Obviously you can have some very limited plays in what you get so when you get a chance to make a big play, you do against this defense.”

On if TCU and SDSU’s defenses are similar: “They’re really different from a structure standpoint. They both play hard, they both run the ball, they both play man coverage, they both have the ability to pressure you. So you can find some similarities but the way they line up and some of the things they do is quite different from everybody else.”

On the importance of playing three of the last four games at home: “It’s really good. Obviously playing at home is an advantage. Like I’ve said all along our student section’s been great. Our fans have been great and hopefully we can get off to a good start and get them into the game.”

On if the team has taken a fresh approach to the final third of the season: “Each week is different. Obviously we’re not concerned with much past this Saturday with San Diego State. There’s still a third of the season left. At times I still believe this is a very, very good football team. Hopefully we’ll turn the tide this Saturday.”

On Ronnie Hillman’s improvement this season: “You know he was very, very impressive last year but I think he’s carrying the load this year. There’s no question he’s a very, very talented back; great vision, great speed, knows how to set his blocks up. Last year I think he came on the scene with those two receivers, not that they’re not good at receiver this year, but he’s the first option. You can tell if they can get him going; that’s what they would like to do.”

On if he is surprised with SDSU’s success this year after losing its top two receivers last season: “Not really because Ronnie Hillman is so talented and Ryan Lindley is very, very talented; anytime you have a back like that and a quarterback like that and obviously with Lindley’s experience -- he’s got to be a four-year starter I believe -- they were able to kind of be the focal point so to speak. They’re not without talent at receiver; just those two guys last year were special. They’ve got some guys on their roster that can play, no doubt.”

On what the extra day of practice gives the Rams: “It’s a few more reps during the week so you can get some things ironed out a little bit better on both sides of the ball. If there’s a particular run we’re not fitting well defensively, it gives you one more day to get that thing worked out. Same thing offensively as we go out there. We draw up the blitzes, we’ve made our video cut-ups we’ll install to the players; we’ll walk though. We’ll have that all done but if there’s something we’re not doing very well despite all that during the week, it gives you one more day to get that ironed out.”

On how much of last week was devoted toward SDSU’s defense: “Quite a bit of time looking at it. Our practices weren’t geared to San Diego State, although there were some things we did that carried over. Again, last week was more about individual time; more about repping the younger players.”

On the individual work: “I think we gained from it. We’re hitting that time of year where you starting to wear down a bit. You typically shorten practice somewhat and you don’t have as much time for individual as you’d like. Having a bye at that point in time was a good thing.”

On injuries: “We got guys rest. I don’t anticipate, from an injury standpoint, getting anybody back that we didn’t have available at UNLV, our previous ball game. I don’t think we’re going to lose anybody; that’s just where we’re at right now. I thought Paul Madsen came in courageously and played; the week off helped him. Like I said, it helped Jake Levin. We’ll see on (Elijah-Blu Smith) where he’s at.”

On if he expects to get Elijah-Blu Smith back this week: “Well, Blu was available last week. He could have played a limited role last week. He’s got to get to where he can help us out there.”

On if he expects Madsen to play: “Yeah, I do. I didn’t expect Paul to play as much as he did at UNLV. In fact, I wasn’t sure he was going to go as much at all. So we’re very pleased with what he did.”

On how close Mychal Sisson is to returning: “Don’t know for sure. Like you guys saw at the indoor (practice facility) he’s running in a straight line. Pretty soon, I don’t know the timetable with (trainer) Terry DeZeeuw when he’ll start changing direction. Once that happens, he’ll gravitate toward some individual work then we’ll have a pretty good idea of how far out he is.”

On Ryan Lindley: “He did kind of what they all do. He had a redshirt year but they threw him in there, I believe my first year as a head football coach. He was playing as a redshirt freshman bouncing around. He had his ups and downs for a couple years and then you could really see the light come on the last two years and I really think he has a future.”

On what he likes best about Lindley from an NFL standpoint: “He’s got good size, a good arm. He stands in the pocket. He can make every throw; you saw that more last year when they stretched the field. He can put the ball from a hash mark all the way out to a deep cut; he can throw the deep ball. He’s in that (NFL) style of offense, too. He’s playing underneath center, he’s doing some of the play-action thing he’ll need to do. I’d be surprised if he doesn’t get a real good look.”

On the CSU senior class: “They’ve really done a nice job this offseason. Live I’ve said, this has been a really, really fun team to coach. They want to do the right thing; they want to put the work in. It’s been an impressive senior class that way. We’ve really trained well. You go back to the mat drills and the work we got done in spring drills. They really took ownership during the summer. That’s what good football teams do. Obviously we don’t have the wins to show like we’d like but they’ve gone about it the right way. I’ve really been proud of them.”

On if there is one thing that explains CSU’s inconsistency: “Well we’ve got a lot of starters that are hurt. We’ve lost a lot of starts from guys. I don’t do the statistics because nobody cares but that’s lent itself to some of the inconsistency.”

On what he wants to see improved over the final four games: “I don’t want to even look down the road that far. This Saturday, obviously, we’ve got to play better run defense to give ourselves a chance to win. When you play against this defensive scheme you’ve got to limit negative plays offensively. I’m not just talking about turnovers; I’m talking about sacks, and somehow you’ve got to grind out a 2-yard gain. It can’t be a minus-2; it’s got to be a 2. We’ve got to clean it up offensively in terms of our negative plays, and defensively we’ve got to stop the run. There’s no question if we don’t stop the run we don’t have a chance.”

On if tackling issues are the biggest reason for the poor run defense: “That always is the major case. We gave up a couple big plays at UNLV where we had guys there to make the play. We’ve just got to get more hats to the ball. We’ve got to wrap up a little bit better. It’s an attitude thing, too. You’ve got to fly around. Early on the first four games we were flying around pretty good, then it’s slowly gone the other way on us. We’ve got to go the other way, there’s no question.“

On if they become a more dangerous team because the players might think they have nothing to lose: “I hope, however you word it, that’s how we let it all hang out here, play absolutely as hard with the greatest of effort. I think our team will. You can sense when guys are hesitant this time of year when things aren’t going right; I don’t sense that with our team. I think they will play very, very hard this Saturday.”

On if this is a desperate game for his team: “They’re all desperate. The opening ball game (at New Mexico) was desperate.”

On if there will be more trick plays or abstract play-calling: “We’ve always kind of done that offensively. But whatever it would take to move the football we’ve got to be able to do.”

On Chris Nwoke being the No. 1 running back: “I like what Chris has been doing. Raymond (Carter) is practicing and playing well so we’ll get him in there. Chris is our No. 1 back; we started him last week but both of those guys are going to play.”

On how important Nwoke has been over the last two games: “You can see him getting into a little bit of a groove in the UTEP game, definitely this past week (at UNLV). I thought Raymond came in and did some nice things. Again, they both have some packages that they do so they’ll both play.”

On his decision to put Nwoke back in the game after his fumble at UNLV: “It’s always a feel. I thought he was certainly running hard. I thought Chris would pound it in there and get it in the end zone.”

On if that decision was based off Nwoke’s maturity or in his feeling about him: “Both. Chris is more mature. Obviously he’s played a little bit of football; he’s earned that right based on how he played that game. Again, it’s a feel thing. There wasn’t any doubt in my mind he was going to score.”

On Nwoke’s improvement over the season: “He is that type of back that there’s not a lot of pretty. He’s going to wear you down, so the more carries he gets I think the better chance he has of wearing down second-level defenders and the better he feels. He can just get in a groove; that’s the way those types of backs are. Obviously the more we can get him the football the better he is going to do.”

On how close Nwoke is to being the back he had envisioned him being: “I think he’s looked like that at times. I think our offense looks like that at times, then we’ve all been inconsistent. Like him, like our offense, it’s just doing it more often than not.”

On if the coaching staff will be bolder: “I guess you could say that. Obviously there’s not a lot to lose. We’d like to get this thing turned around here and play decent down the stretch. We did some things obviously a little different on both sides of the ball at UNLV, just subtle things that we’ve taken a look at. You’re right that’s this time of year. I don’t know if I would call it desperate but you just roll the dice a little bit.”

On if that changes how they prepare for the game: “I don’t think it’ll change our preparation. We have a pretty standard way of going about practice. The only thing different this week is we can do a little more against each other because our offense does some similar things to San Diego State. We can find some periods where we can give them a better look than a look team, running some plays.”

On if he watched the Broncos game: “No I didn’t watch it. I know they won; that’s all I know.”

On if he looks at adjustments to his run defense: “We look at it and, ‘What do we have to do to stay in our gaps better and get more guys on the ball carrier?’”

On the attitude of the run defense: “I have always felt like defensively, football in general, but running the ball is almost just will. If you’re a running back and nobody blocks anybody we’d still expect you to get yards just in your attitude and the way you approach it, and the same thing defensively. You get the mindset that no one’s going to run the ball against you. We’ve just got to get back to doing that.”

On WR Matt Yemm: “He’s meant a lot. Matt’s a guy who can play every position. He’s already caught a touchdown this year. You take guys like Matt for granted because if someone gets nicked in a game he’s so sharp; he’s like a coach out there. He can go play any of the spots. We’ve been fortunate to have him on the team. Great kid; outstanding family. We’ll miss Matt Yemm, no doubt about it.”

On how he would describe the team right now: “We had a good workman-like approach the last week. I was looking for things. Like I said, you always look for a couple guys maybe missing class, or lack of effort because there’s no game on Saturday when you practice last week. We had some good practices. Our team’s got a good attitude. We’re doing the right thing and we’ll get through this.”

On what his message is to the fans: “We’re working hard. I’d like to think this is a better football team than the record shows but we are nicked up. We’re getting a roster here that will help us get to the top of the league. I think the kids see it; they sense that. We’ll just keep working.”

On if the Rams are better now than they were four years ago: “I think this whole program’s better. And it’s not me it’s the way assistant coaches have recruited, it’s the way the administration has helped facilities and resources. I’ve said all along I wish it had happened quicker but it’s going to happen and we’ll get it done.”

On negative plays on offense and their effect on third-down conversions on both sides of the ball: “We’ve had our moments on both sides. We’re a better third-down team than we were last year. Without looking at numbers, every week you can tell. We’re able to get more pressure on the quarterback defensively, which helps. We’re probably a little better man-coverage, team which helps. Offensively we’ve had some stretches where we’ve been decent at converting it. Losing those two tackles hurt us obviously, in terms of protection. That’s an area we would like to continue to improve, there’s no question.”

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