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By Liz Alper
Videos courtesy goaztecs.com
For video of Stacie Terry's, Kyahva Tenzino's and Isaac Lessard's portion of the press conference, click "read more" and scroll down.
November 6, 2018 (San Diego) - San Diego State women's basketball starts their season on Friday morning at 11:00 a.m. Head coach Stacie Terry joined football coach Rocky Long, junior linebacker Kyahva Tenzino and junior fullback Isaac Lessard in today's press conference.
"... I’m assuming that this (game) will be exactly the same," Long started simply. "a team (UNLV) coming in here with some very talented athletes (that) causes you a lot of issues. They average almost 30 points a game and gain about 400 yards a game. And supposedly we’re the favorite, but that doesn’t mean anything. It’s going to be a close game and we’ll see if we can win it at the end.”
Senior kicker John Baron II is a semifinalist for the Lou Groza Award. Long isn't shocked. “It doesn’t surprise me; he deserves to be on that list. I don’t know who exactly he’s competing against ... When things are easy, he’s liable to miss one, but when things are critical, he doesn’t miss. He makes most of them anyway. I think he has the ability to concentrate in stressful situations. Good players are able to do that. He actually performs better in those situations than he does when it’s not stressful or there’s no pressure...I think he has a chance to be drafted late, but he would be better off not being drafted because he’s going to have four or five teams fighting over him if he’s a free agent.”
Long talked about playing to have fun versus playing to win. “...anytime you play just for the fun of the game, you have a much better chance to perform well. I think this is part of the reason coaches sometimes affect their team the wrong way. I think whenever you’re in a winning program like we are and whenever you win games at a pretty good clip, all of a sudden some of the fun of playing leaves because of the outside influences and the coaching influences that start making the game a lot more important than it really is. Players hear that and they see that. I think at times it takes some of the fun out of playing. That’s really sad. But you get to a point in every season where you’re able to play just for the fun of the game, and players usually perform much better that way than they do the other way.”
Senior quarterback Christian Chapman returned in last Saturday's game against New Mexico and Long was pleased. “We were pleasantly surprised that he performed so well. I think he’ll even tell you that he was a little nervous at the beginning, but when the first pass you throw is right on the money and goes for a pretty good gain, you get over that feeling pretty darn quick. I thought he played really, really well. It’s good to have all those (injured) guys back. I think they make a difference and I think they’ll make a difference for the rest of the year.”
Running back Juwan Washington came back as well on Saturday, but was rusty. “I don’t think he was timid, I think he was rusty. He told me his mind was working faster than his feet. There were a couple of spots where he slipped and fell down because he cut off the wrong foot. That’s obviously rust. But he hit a couple of them and he scored touchdowns in situations that we haven’t been scoring touchdowns in since he’s been out. I think he’ll be much, much better this week.”
There will be a different approach to quarterbacks at UNLV on Saturday. “I will leave that up to coach (Jeff) Horton. I know the plan is for Christian to start; Ryan’s going to come in for a series like Christian did (at New Mexico), and I have great confidence that coach Horton is going to put the quarterback back in there who’s playing the best.”
Long praised tight end Kahale Warring. “I think Kahale is still a little a bit of a novice football player ‘cause he hasn’t played very much. He gets a little bit better every week; he’s actually improved his blocking. But he is an outstanding big athlete. He’s 6-6, 250 pounds, runs fast and has great hands. So he is a matchup problem for anybody. Then our offense has done a really good job with play-action passing where sometimes he just slips out there in the open and nobody covers him and he catches the ball. He’s had a big influence on the offensive success that we’ve had. He had a touchdown (reception) last week that was called back ... He’s got a lot of athletic ability with size and strength and speed, and he’s becoming a better football player daily.”
Tenzino won the Mountain West Player of the Week Award. “It’s great. It’s good for me to just be able to make plays for the team. I guess I’m starting to be a regular, but I’m still not used to it. I’m still happy about every little thing I get so I’m just excited and I can’t wait to see what happens at the end of the season, and to see if we make it to the championship.”
Is the UNLV game more important than any other game? “I think we just need to win every game from here on out. Obviously like coach Long says, our team has been going through adversity this whole year and it’s always going to be a close game for us. We’re not going to fight it anymore, it’s just going to be the way it is. The way we train, we’re mentally tough and we’ve been pulling out at the end and getting the win. If we can just keep doing that and make it to the championship, then we’ve reached our goal.”
Lessard originally was a linebacker and made the switch to fullback. “I was excited. I came in as a linebacker and coach Arnett and coach Horton had a meeting with me and told me about the switch, and I was excited. I was just excited to get back on the offensive side of the ball. I think I just have a better mind for that side.
“I like fullback. I like being on offense. I just think my mind works better that way. Obviously, I don’t score the touchdowns, but I like opening up the holes for the running backs and the receivers to score the touchdowns. I have more fun on offense.”
Lessard was happy to have Chapman and Washington back. “It was awesome. It just brings more bodies and more competition to practice. It’s awesome to just get the whole group back together.”
Lessard said playing on Saturday was "a great feeling."
What are the Aztecs' goals this season? “Our goal is to win championship No. 22 and right now we control our own destiny because if we win every game, we’ll be able to make it to the championship. Every game is a must-win so it doesn’t matter who’s in front of us right now.”
No matter what, Lessard always has faith in his team. “Yeah, I always feel confident in our group of guys. (It) doesn’t really matter the score or what time it is in the game, I know we’re going to pull it out. I don’t always know how we’re going to do it, but I always know we’ll get the job done eventually and we’ll come out on top.”
The Aztecs take on UNLV Saturday at 7:30 p.m. at SDCCU Stadium.