Like our sports coverage? Donate to help support ECM’s sports section! Type in “Sports” as your donation!
Follow @ECMagSports on Twitter for live sports coverage and stories!
Check out our sports section for more sports stories!
By Liz Alper
August 28, 2018 (San Diego) - With the Aztecs taking the field for their first home game of the season against Stanford on Firday night, head coach Rocky Long, senior defensive tackle Noble Hall and junior tight end Parker Houston spoke with the media today.
“Every day we get a little closer to game day, so every day we get a little more excited or a little more nervous or whatever you want to call it," Long opened with. "As a coach you’d like to practice more, but it’s time to play.”
Long spoke on whether any true freshmen would be playing this week. "We’re going to take five true freshmen on the trip with us. We don’t have any plans on putting them in the game right now... I’m sure that some freshmen will play this year that wouldn’t have played in the past, but right now they’re down on the depth chart, so we don’t count on playing this week. But if we had a couple of guys get hurt, there could be a freshman or two put in there.”
Long says that there's no difference between the SDSU and Stanford football programs. “I think we have similar philosophies. I think they want to control the ball. They want to be able to run the ball and keep their defense off the field. I think that’s their philosophy, I think that’s our philosophy, too. I think both programs believe that being able to run the ball is key to success. There are a lot of other people in this country that have different philosophies than we do and they win games, too. So there’s not one perfect philosophy, but our philosophies are very, very similar.”
A big problem for the Aztecs defense is Stanford running back Bryce Love. Long talked about him for a bit. “I thought Bryce Love was as good a running back as there was in the country last year. I don’t know how much better he can get. You know, we’re walking into a tough situation. Not only do they have him, they have a bunch of experienced players back and they’re good football players. David Shaw’s a great coach and he’s got a real good coaching staff. There’s a reason they’re ranked 13th in the country. It’s not because they’re not any good. It’s because they have a really good football team coming back with experience and good coaching. That’s why they’re picked 13th and they should be picked 13th.
“I’ve been lucky over the last couple of years to watch a bunch of good running backs and all of them have a little different athletic ability that the used to the maximum. They all have great vision, they all understand the defense because they all understand where the place is supposed to go to but they know who to look at that prevents the play from going that way, so they take it somewhere else. When they find a seam or a hole, they accelerate through it and then once they get into the open field, they can make a one-on-one tackler miss every time. So I’ve been lucky the last four or five years. I’ve watched a whole bunch of great running backs and he’s a great running back. He has all those qualities.”
So how do you contain him? "You want the truth, right? You do not. You put your guys in as good a position as you can put them in, so that you’re not outnumbered and then your guys have to play well. When you have an outstanding athlete in a position, he will win most one-onone situations... You cannot take a great running back away. There’s no way to defend a great running back other than not being out-numbered or out-positioned in the blocking scheme. We will not be out-positioned or out-numbered on the blocking scheme. Whether we can tackle him or not, that is up for question. So there is no legitimate way to stop a great running back other than your line of scrimmage is better than their line of scrimmage.”
Last year, Stanford lost to SDSU in the first game of the season. Will they be out for blood? Long says no. “I don’t think you develop a rivalry in two games. I don’t know what coach Shaw’s opinion of that is, but my opinion is there’s no such thing as revenge in athletics. They’ve got a great football team and we’re going to come in and we’re going to play as hard as we can play. And after the first snap if you had that factor as a motivation, it is over in football because you run into each other. Once you violently run into each other, all of that stuff is out the window.”
Long is concerned with having a very young team heading into Friday's game. “The concern is that we’re inexperienced and they are not. The last two years we’ve had a veteran mature old football team around here and now we have a young inexperienced football team around here. We’re playing a very veteran experienced football team that is really good at the same time. So I have concerns with our immaturity as a football team.”
Long expects a good year out of running back Juwan Washington. “I think we expect to Juwan to have a great year. One game does not mean he’s not going to have a great year. But we expect Juwan to have a good year because he’s a very talented running back in his own right. He actually has a veteran offensive line in front of him.”
Hall talked about the difficulties his defensive line faces in Stanford's huge offensive line. “It’s going to be a battle for us, but I feel like we’ve been doing the right things to get ourselves prepared for that technique. I feel like we have a good scheme on defense, so I think we’ll be able to handle it pretty well..."
He's very excited for the season to start. “(It’s) crazy exciting. We waited a whole year to see these guys again. I know they’ve been thinking about us, we’ve been thinking about them the whole year. We’re ready. We’ve been working since January 24th for this."
Houston had a funnier take on it. “We’re tired of hitting each other. We’re excited to hit somebody else in a different color uniform … Our defense schemes our offensive plays, so it would be nice to hit somebody else. But hitting each other makes each other better. It’s just preparing for the next thing.
Houston says it's good to feel nervous before a game. “I feel like if you don’t have butterflies, something is wrong. I get butterflies before every game no matter who we’re playing, no matter what game it is. But as soon as that first hit, that first kickoff, first kick return it’s go time."
Now a junior, Houston spoke on leading the Aztecs. “Two guys that have been here, David Wells and Nick Bawden, were two huge leaders that we lost and they seemed to always bring something to practice every day, so I’m trying to replace that, bring the juice, bring the energy every day. You feel a little more comfortable because we’ve always been the best in our high schools and you just kind of get back into that role where you’re the leader again. You’ve got to do what’s right, you just got to show what’s right and go out there and play.”
The Aztecs take on Stanford on Friday night at 7:00 p.m. at Stanford.