A Word With The Rock

"So you have to put that all in perspective, and realize that there is a game next week, and you have to get this game over with and get onto the next one." -- Rocky Long

Rocky I want to talk to you about Bronco Mendenhall and your relationship with him.


I think you feel good that somebody that you have coached with and is a friend of yours has risen to the head coaching ranks. I don't know about pride but you feel good about him being in that position, and he'll do a good job because he is a good coach.


Is there any kind of relationship with Bronco?


When you coach together you either don't like each other or become friends, and Bronco and I are friends, and probably one of the reasons we are friends is we have similar philosophies on defense and how you play defense and we agree we are in the right schemes. We have developed a friendship and I hadn't called him since July so I called him last night. We didn't talk about the game, but we talked about a bunch of other things.


Sure, there are plenty of things to talk about.


Actually we talked about how we lost to TCU, his heartache and my heartache.


Is there a head coach in your like you to Bronco. Who is your mentor?




Former Lobo Coach



I don't really know. Not anybody really in particular, because I've had the opportunity to work with a bunch of good head coaches. I learned some of my philosophy when I was working here with Joe Morrison and Joe Lee Dunn. Don Matthews has been a head coach up in the Canadian League for years and years and a lot of the stuff we do on defense is his philosophy. So you take bits and pieces and develop your own philosophy.


I never thought of the 1982 defense at UNM and you were sitting there learning along with the other coaches and here it is today in a different form.


Former Lobo Coach Joe Lee Dunn


Yeah, there is a lot of what Joe Lee still does that is involved in our defense and some stuff from other coaches I learned. Every coach has some kind of influence on you both good and bad.


What do you do against a team like BYU that runs a defense that is so familiar to you does it make it easier for the offense?


It should make it easier for the offenses. Because they have seen this style of defense in spring ball, two-a-days, and all this week in practice, so the offenses will have a real good idea how to attack the defensive styles. So the offenses have the advantage going into the game but the players are the ones that decide who wins or lose.


Coach do you start out thinking yourselves in this situation, do you think about changing your defense; or just continue doing what you do?


You think about changing things so they aren't locked in on you, but in my opinion that isn't very smart. You have a philosophy for a reason. You believe in your style of defense, you trained your players in your style of defense. So you run your defense and hopefully you execute better than the offense, because if they execute better than you they will have success.


I want to talk about the players. We read on the message boards or get phone calls and it seems like the coaches always get the blame. They should have ran, when they threw, they should have thrown when they run. They should have punted rather than attempted a field goal. Sometimes it comes down to players making plays, how do you coach them to make plays?



First of all you try to teach them the fundamentals and the right way to do things, then you scheme to get them in the right positions to make plays. Now players have to make the play, but ultimately when they do something wrong assignment ways that is the coaches' fault. You have either asked them to learn too much or you haven't taught them well enough that week that they make an assignment error.


Physical errors we live with, because that is people… sometimes they don't make the catch, sometimes they don't make the tackle, they give up something they shouldn't give up. But when it is a mental error, that is the coaches' fault… but that when you run it, throw it, punt, kick a field goal; for every five hundred against your decision you can find five hundred that are for it.


For instances, the 4th and 1 that TCU converted for the touchdown, who feels worse in that situation?


I think both players and coaches feel bad, my experience tells me that the younger you are and in this case the players, they get over it a lot quicker than the coaches do. It sticks with the coaches a lot longer, and that might just be an age or generation difference.


How do you correct problems with that play? Do you look at that play in particular and say okay this is what we have to do different next time.


We look at every play over and over again, especially if there is a mistake, and then we try to determine why the mistake was made. We're we asking some young guys to do too much assignment wise, which is kind of our guess. So we are going to eliminate some of the things we are trying to do and get a little simpler for them… this way they know their assignments and they are the ones that make the plays. We expect them to learn what we teach them, but when they make an assignment error than they obviously didn't learn it and that is a coaches error.


Coach you were talking how turnovers happen and they all even out at the end, and we were asked the other day how you were at the TV taping Sunday night after the loss. You seemed really cool on the air, is he like that all the time? Is that what it is like to be a head coach, you just roll with it day after day?


You don't really roll with it, but you have to keep things in perspective. It bothers me as much as it bothers anybody when we lose. It probably bothers me more then it does most people when we lose and don't perform well, but you have to realize you're working with young people. I was an athlete at one time and guess what when I was an athlete I made all kinds of mistakes, so you understand they will make mistakes. You don't want them to make mistakes but you understand it. The only unacceptable mistake that an athlete can make is to not try hard. If they don't try hard they will not play, but if they are trying hard and make a mistake that's what athletes do. They put themselves up there to be held up to ridicule and glory, and most people aren't willing to do that. So you have to put that all in perspective, and realize that there is a game next week, and you have to get this game over with and get onto the next one.


Does it feel strange to have people saying the Lobos aren't playing to well, but you're off to your best start since being at New Mexico?


I don't think we are playing very well that last two weeks. I think that is a daily thing as well; if we win we are playing well, if we don't win, than we aren't playing well. For example, everyone is talking about how poorly we played on defense. To be honest with you they had 7 possessions in the 1st quarter, 6 from the 50 yard line in, 2 of them inside our 10 yard line, and that score could have easily been 49-0 nothing in the 1st quarter and the defense did some darn good things to keep it to 28-0 and give us a good chance to come out. We had the most three and outs we've had all year long with 9, so the score doesn't always indicate how people play.

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