Coach Long on the most improved teams in the Mountain West Conference

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Coach Long discusses which teams he thinks have improved the most in the Mountain West Conference

- Welcome back, everybody to Aztec Football with Rocky Long. I'm Mike Pomeranz. And Coach, as we talked about a moment ago, you're getting ready for the Mountain West conference. When we look at the conference overall, who in your mind are the most improved teams?

- Well, I think there's two. I think Utah State's vastly improved and I think Hawaii's vastly improved. Hawaii's five and one right now. And last year, I don't know how many games they won, but not very many. And they're already one game away from being bowl eligible. And then Utah State's been playing really well, especially on offense. They're gaining a lot of yards, they're scoring a lot of points. And they struggled a little bit last year too.

- When you take a look at Boise State, especially offensively, what do you see them running, and any changes in comparison to years prior?

- Well, they're running the same offense. And they do a lot of things with formations. They don't run a lot of plays, but they try to confuse you with different formations. What they're really doing is, the quarterback is playing really, really well.

I mean, he's playing better than he did last year. They have a couple of really good wide receivers, but they always do. And they have a couple good running backs, but they always do. And their offensive line of scrimmage is pretty good too, and a couple of tight ends, but that's the way they always are. I think the biggest difference between them this year and last year is the quarterback is playing at a much higher level than he did last year.

- How will that change, if at all, the approach you take to them defensively.

- It doesn't change anything. We're going to try to do the same things against what they do, and see if we can execute as well or better than they do.

MIKE POMERANZ: Some teams will play to their own strengths. Some teams will play to what the perceived strength is of the opponent. You stay with what brought it.

- Well, I mean, obviously put a game plan in. By the formations and the kind of things that they do on offense, you put a game plan in. But mostly it's doing what you do and try to do it as well as you can, good enough to win.

MIKE POMERANZ: How about them defensively, what do you expect?

ROCKY LONG: I think I think they're very strong up front. I think they've got a good front seven that's very difficult to run against, which makes our job that much harder, because our chances to keep the ball away from them, and control the football, and maybe get some first downs, and score a little bit. I think that they're playing very good on both sides of the ball. I think they're a top 25 team.

- Really? When you look at the Broncos passing game, are they more inclined to stretch the field with the long throw, or do they like to work underneath?

ROCKY LONG: Well, they do both. All the good teams do. Now, if you're going to play a soft coverage, where you put a bunch of guys deep, they'll throw it underneath and let the receivers catch the ball and then try to make big plays out of making guys miss tackles. If you come after them and pressure them, they're going to try to get you in a one-on-one situation.

They're going to throw it up deep and make you try to pay for that. So it's a cat and mouse deal. I mean, they're looking at what you're doing, you're looking at what they're doing, and you're trying to get the quarterback a little off kilter so he doesn't complete 75% of his passes, like he is right now.

- With this young quarterback doing what he's doing-- young, relatively speaking, because everybody in college is a little younger than I am-- is he the kind of player you think you might be able to confuse with different looks or maybe out-muscle him with physicality?

ROCKY LONG: Well, no, this guy's been the starting quarterback for them for three years. So you're not going to confuse him. He does a nice job of reading coverages and throwing it to the right guy too, so you're not going to confuse him very much. Obviously, we have disguises in coverage against everybody, but now, he'll see them better than most.

MIKE POMERANZ: When you're looking at yourselves as an offensive unit, and you've got a relatively now inexperienced back, without Jawun Washington, you do have perhaps a somewhat seasoned offensive line. Does it limit what you're able to do with that back, in relation to the fact that you do have so much experience up front?

ROCKY LONG: No, not really. I mean, you're counting on running backs using their natural ability. Running backs, good running backs have good vision. And so if they find a seam somewhere in the general vicinity of where it's supposed to be, they're good enough to plant their foot and get up in there. And I agree with your offensive line is probably our strength.

And for us to have a chance to run the ball and have a chance to win the game, they're going to have to play really, really well against a good defensive front. But that's where we want it to be. We want it in the hands of the running back and we want our offensive line against their defense line.

- You know I ask you this virtually every week, so I'm going to ask you again. What are the keys for you to pull out a W against Boise State?

- Well, I think on offense, we've got to keep the ball away from them. I mean, their averaging over 500 yards a game. Their averaging 43 points a game. They're throwing it for over 400 yards a game.

And you've got to get pressure on the quarterback on defense. But on offense, we've got to keep the ball. We've got to make consistent drives down the field. That eats up the clock. And get a score of two, so that we can maybe take a chance or two on defense.