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Story by Liz Alper
Videos courtesy goaztecs.com
For videos of David Wells and Trey Lomax's portion of the press conference, as well as men's soccer head coach Lev Kirshner's portion, click "read more" and scroll to the very end.
October 17, 2017 (San Diego) - San Diego State football was handed their first loss by Boise State on Saturday night (31-14), so there was a lot to talk about at this week's press conference. Head coach Rocky Long, senior tight end David Wells and senior safety Trey Lomax sat down with the media. Men's soccer head coach Lev Kirshner also joined in.
Long didn't see the team on Sunday, the team's day off, but met with them yesterday. He talked about their mood. "they all watched the film together and hopefully they all learned a lot of things from watching the film. But it’s really not anything earth shattering that happened to us. It wasn’t an X and O thing. They [Boise State] played more physical at the line of scrimmage and I don’t think it was a lack of will or want to but they played with a lot better technique which means that they played with a lower pad level and better leverage. When you play with lower pad level and better leverage, you’re able to get off blocks and make tackles. We never overcame that on offense. On defense, our guys played pretty well up front until late in the game when we had to stop them to have a chance to win and we couldn’t stop them. The same thing happened: Their offensive line played with lower pad level and extended and stepped with the right feet and our fundamentals weren’t as good as their fundamentals. What happens is, they are a more physical team because they did it better than we did it.
“I don’t think after watching the film that I have any question in my mind that they are going to try hard. They tried hard last Saturday. I didn’t see anybody give up, I didn’t see anybody quit, I didn’t see any of that so I know they are going to try hard. The level they play at, I don’t have any idea what level they are going to be able to play at.”
Junior quarterback Christian Chapman took a beating on Saturday night; five sacks and 24 hits. "He’s a competitor, though, he’s all right,” Long said.
Again, the question of San Diego State's young offensive line was brought up in relation to Boise State's more mature defensive line. “...I think some of it has to do with their techniques. They are older, more mature guys up there than our guys that were trying to block them. That has something to do with it.”
But, Long says, it's not the best he's seen from the Broncos. “No. In fact, I think it’s very comparable – we’ve played a couple now, I think we’ve played three really good front sevens. Now, they played better against us than the other ones did and I don’t know if that was them or if that was us.”
Are injuries plaguing the offensive line? “I think this time of year, everybody is beat up. I think more veteran players are able to play better when they are not 100 percent healthy because as you get older and more mature, you play that way a lot so you’re able to play at a high level no matter if something hurts or not. When you’re young and it’s the first time you’re kind of hurting, it’s very difficult to be mature enough and tough enough to overcome a slight injury or two and play at a same high level. Veteran guys learn how to do that, NFL guys learn how to do that because they do it forever. Most of the time when you get a freshman or redshirt freshman playing, he’s never been hurt especially when he’s the biggest guy on the field. And all of a sudden you get a little twisted ankle or you get stepped on or you have a sore knee or something and they can’t perform on the same level because they have never learned how to. So, we’re more experienced now on assignments and all that stuff but we’re a very young football team up front when it comes to playing with nicks and bruises.”
Long warned the media: "...This game is no more important than next week’s game or last week’s game. And I think we approached last week’s game, maybe subtly, but I think we approached last week’s game as more important. And our team did not handle that the right way. So you guys can build it up all you want, this game is important but it’s not going to make or break our season and it’s no more important than next week’s game.”
Finally, moving on, Long talked about Fresno State and their new first-year head coach Jeff Tedford. “I think he and his staff have done a great job coaching because when you watch them on film, those are very talented players that have gotten a new lease on life. It doesn’t mean it’s a better approach; it just means it’s a new approach. They’ve taken to the new approach by the new coaching staff and they’ve had some success and now they’re playing at a high level with a lot of confidence. But when you watch them on film, they’re a very talented football team. You wouldn’t have known that after last year, that they have that kind of talent out there because those players weren’t playing with the same energy or want to that they’re playing with now. They have a new starting quarterback that is playing at a very high level and you don’t win without your quarterback playing well. They have a quarterback that’s playing well so they’re playing at a much higher level. We’re going to get a very confident team coming in here because they’ve won the last three and last week, they won 38-0 which was their second shutout of the season and held a team that rushes for almost 400 yards a game to about 100 yards in that game. They’re coming in with a lot of confidence and a lot of energy and they’ll be very positive. It’s going to be a heck of a football game.”
Wellsm one of the senior leaders of the Aztecs, was disappointed in his offense's play last weekend. “Obviously, we’re disappointed in how we played, especially as an offense. We don’t think we did well at all, all the way across the board. You can say that about everyone. I don’t think I played my best game either and I take a lot of responsibility for that. You can tell a lot of things changed and you could see a fire under some guys. When we went out to practice, there was a lot of energy especially out there on offense and we just wanted to get better. We have to get better if we want to win because we’re facing a good team this week, that’s really it.”
So what went wrong? “I mean, we just got ‘out-physicalled’ the whole game," Wells said. "If you watch the film you can see it, it’s plain and simple to see we weren’t staying on blocks. We didn’t do well in pass protection and we didn’t make plays when we had to in the beginning of the game. We started to get a drive near the end of the game but it was too late at that point. Our defense was worn out because they were on the field for most of the game. Boise controlled the ball and we did not control the clock at all and we didn’t control the pace of the game. It’s something we could definitely work on as a unit, being tough at the line of scrimmage, know what we’re doing every single play and don’t take a play off. It’s partly my fault that it happened as a senior and part of the offensive line. I have to be able to talk to these guys and get them going throughout the week and make sure that they are going and I have to make sure that I back myself up too and I do my job well, too.”
Lomax was a bit more optimistic about moving forward after a loss. “Just like Dave said, I think our team is pretty optimistic about dealing with the adversity that could make or break a lot of teams so I think our team is ready to bounce back and respond. We know how big this week is and the impact it has on our season so guys are ready to come in and work and get a win this week.”
Fresno State is tied for first in the conference with the Aztecs. Lomax said this doesn't matter. “You could look at it in that sense but conference games are conference games and you want to win every one of them. As far as the record stuff, you look at it and you know where you’re at and you know what the game means. Each conference game you have to go in with the mentality that it’s a must-win game.”
SDSU takes on Fresno State Saturday at 7:30 p.m.
Aztecs men's soccer has had a less-than-stellar season so far. Kirshner was asked if this was a "hangover" from last season. “A hangover, I wouldn’t say that. Unexpected, disappointing. Those are the two adjectives I think I’d utilize. We lost five senior starters and we truly believe that we had everything inside our program to simulate or replicate what we did last year, there’s no question in our minds. Things took place in between those five seniors where we have a young man that’s a freshman all-American who’s not capable of playing the rest of the year and was playing at 75-85% at his fittest this year. That’s a freshman all-American at the center of the pack. Then one of our young men decided to try to go the pro route and he would have certainly been an All-Pac-12 center midfielder this year. So now two Pac-12 center midfielders are not in our group, with five senior starters out. Then a young man graduated in four and decided not to come back and he was a significant player for us off the bench and he certainly would’ve been playing for us. Then our starter currently at center midfield has a pulled hamstring. So you look at some of these things and it’s just a difficult year ultimately, and it’s not an excuse and there’s never going to be excuses played in our program, but that’s the reality of what we’re facing this year. So hangover, no. Unexpected, yes. And there’s no way that Aztec Soccer ever looks at a 4-9 season and goes, ‘Yeah, okay.’ We’re disappointed. But the locker room’s not lost, the physical effort is there on the field, they executed the game plan to almost a T on Sunday night (in a 2-1 overtime loss at UCLA), and the goal was scored and put on the top three plays at ESPN, so we’re still getting good press somehow.”
Men's soccer takes on UC Santa Clara at 7:00 p.m. on Saturday. This will be a game possibly covered by ECM, so check @ECMagSports on Twitter for updates about what games we'll be covering around East County.