"It's good to be 1-0 for the first time in three years. I'll open up with that statement for sure. We played a very explosive ball game. They were some things we talked about going into the season, about getting ourselves a victory in our first game, but also to start off quickly, to make a bang and make a statement right from the start. I'm really pleased with how our special teams played. They played solid from start to finish. Our kick-off coverage team was dynamite. Our punt return team was great, too. They really set the tone of the game. Then we had some big plays made. Maurice Drew, on the first play from the offensive line of scrimmage, goes 64 yards for a touchdown. That can get any team excited. Marcedes Lewis had a great start to the game. We wanted to get him involved early. So we had some good continuity and flow early in the game. What I was more impressed with from that game was that whenever we had a scoring opportunity, where the defense made a big turnover for us, or we had great field position because of our special teams play, the offense took advantage of it. We had a lot of short scoring opportunities and took advantage of every one we had. Justin Medlock was solid. He was almost perfect, would have been perfect if we didn't have an illegal procedure on the one call, where he had a about a 43-yarder and made it. Unfortunately he missed the second attempt. He kicked the ball well, had it deep in the end zone on the kick-off coverage team. So it was all good what he did. How about the start of our punter? Aaron Perez, his first punt was 45 yards. That's a good start for a first-time starter, a redshirt freshman. A lot of new players playing. "Defensively, we did some good things, playing with new people. It was good to see our experience back at linebacker. Those guys playing – Justin London and Spencer Havner. Jarrad Page had a solid game. Dennis Keyes, in his first start, had a great game for himself. We played all five corners, and all of those guys were excited to play. It's a good start to the beginning of this season. Now, were we a perfect team? No. We had some mistakes that we can play better at, and you know that's always going to be the case in your first game. But it's a great start to begin the season. We can play a lot better. This team is a very good football team. One thing that we noticed on Sunday watching the game as a team and as coaches, we left a lot of production still on the field. So we can get a whole lot better. "As for Rice, they're a difficult opponent. It's their first game. We don't know exactly what they're going to do. What scares you about Rice is that they're the #1 rushing team in the country last year, and that's not a good thing when you've had those struggles in the past, particularly from last year. I do know they've made some changes offensively. They run with two different quarterbacks. I'm sure they're going to do some of the scheme they've done in the past, which is the option, and the quarterback run game, which is what they've been doing traditionally for a long time. But they're also opening up their offense for the throwing game. This is their first time out of the gate, and we don't know exactly what you're going to see. You're going to see probably a very efficient run team, that's always been very efficient, which is going to be a great chore for our defense to keep getting better to be able to defense the run. And we don't know exactly what you're going to see from the throwing game. So it's one of those unknowns again, their first game and our second. We have to build on it being our second game, by cleaning up some of the issues we had in our first game, and playing that much better going into week two. I know that's a mouthful to tell you guys right from the start, but you can tell we've been working hard already. We're ready to get ourselves to focus on Rice and get ourselves another victory by the end of the week."
What did you think of Drew Olson's performance?
"Drew played a good game. His decision-making was very good. Throwing the football he showed some mobility, which is what we've seen in our pre-season camp, and we've talked about in our pre-season camp. That he looked quicker and more fluid on his feet. He made a nice throw to Marcedes when he was flushed out of the pocket down the sidelines. He's a senior. He's performing like a senior. He's playing winning football. He's not doing anything we're not asking him not to do for our offense. That's one thing. He understands our system better than anyone on the field now. He's operating it pretty well."
With Justin London, was it a matter of him being over-excited, or was his ankle still giving him a little trouble?
"It might be both. He's not 100%. He's probably 90 to 95%. When you have surgery like that, it's difficult to get all of your explosiveness back. He does show signs of his explosiveness, but he does have some stiffness, too. He's going to keep getting himself back in shape. I know he's excited about playing. He's feeling the best he's felt in about a year, in terms of his playing. He'll get better as he continues to play and understand the speed of the game."
Maurice Drew said the offensive line was better this year, the second year working with Coach Tom Cable. Could you talk about what you saw in the opener, the timing, how that worked?
"The timing. Well, the first play was pretty explosive. Let's just put it this way. We feel we have a more athletic offensive line than we've had in the past. There are a couple of new starters. We have some young sophomores starting for us, and they're very athletic kids. They can get up on people a little bit easier than it's been in the past. As for timing, I just think we're covering up people a lot better than we have in the past. The timing really hasn't changed. As long as we can cover up defenders and Maurice can weave his way through the line of scrimmage, then they're doing a tremendous job. On that first play, Maurice wasn't even touched. He ran through there for 64 yards, and that shows you some guys doing their job in the run game scheme, including the wide receivers."
After watching the tape of the game, was there anyone who stood out more than you thought? Anyone step up like that?
"There were great number of guys who stepped up like that. Some special teams players who, for the first time, were playing in their first collegiate snap. Kyle Bosworth had a tackle on a kick-off coverage. Seeing Rodney Van on the first kick-off coverage be the widest guy away from the play scream down the field and make a shoestring tackle at the 13-yard line tells you about the effort this team has made in the special teams area. Robert Kibble had a great sideline tackle where he blew the guy out of bounds. Here's his first collegiate tackle, and he's not afraid to go out there and make that kind of play. He's a freshman safety. There were a number of guys that have done those types of things. It just proves that this freshman class we brought in this year, they don't bat an eye. They are guys with tremendous character, that believe a lot in their own skills and abilities. The game wasn't bigger than them. It was them just going out there and playing and making those kind of plays. John Hale, he goes out there and makes a key tackle on a fourth-and-four play. He and Spencer Havner, on a little swing pass toward the end of the game, make that play. It shows you the headiness of a young player playing in your first game in a critical situation like that, they didn't bat an eye about it. It's a great start for the season. Were we perfect? No. If I had my choice, it would be to have 84 plays on offense and 50 to 55 on defense, and it was vice versa. Our offense didn't get many opportunities, but the opportunities they got they were explosive and made those plays. Defensively we kept them on the field too long. There were some things that they did from their offensive standpoint that were difficult to defend. So there are some things we need to get better at, even in the wake of this obviously very important win."
Maurice Drew talked about patience in finding his holes. Is that something you've seen developing with him? Did he look any different than he has in the past?
"It's probably what he means by his own timing. That's being patient and just letting blocks develop. That's just the experience of a third-year player in your system. He's more patient with his reads, and not trying to make something happen before it's developing. That's really an experience factor that he's talking about for himself. He's a tremendous player. He's a guy, like I mentioned after the game, you want the ball in his hands. He makes something happen. Whether you throw him a pass or he catches a punt, or you hand the ball off to him in the backfield. He's just one of those dynamic players that has the potential of taking it to the endzone each time he touches the ball. I'm glad he's playing for us."
With Rice's option offense, how important is it for your defensive ends to have a good game and contain?
"It's important. But it's just not the defensive ends. If you're talking technicalities, defensive ends sometimes have to honor the dive. They have to honor the inside fake, and tackle the ball carrier, depending on the defensive scheme you're in. No doubt the perimeter of our defense has to be sound. We have to have somebody for the quarterback and somebody for the pitch. Most importantly, we have to tackle. It starts with the dive play, though. They do a nice job of running their option scheme where you have to have discipline in your defense. If you don't have discipline, that's where they can hurt you. This week is really to build on our responsibilities in stopping that type of run game. But that's not it. That's another thing. They are spreading out and throwing it a little bit, too. So it's going to be a challenge for our defense, just because it's Rice's first time out and you don't really know exactly what they're going to do. You have to be ready for it all."
Did you do any prep work for the option in camp, and if not, is it hard to get ready for an option in one week, and are their crackbacks typical?
"These are some pretty good football questions. We did do some preliminary work in camp with the option. We didn't spend a lot of time with that, since we played San Diego State and that was the most important factor for us. We just have to make sure we're playing with discipline. That's the biggest key for us defensively. You don't know exactly, again, what this team is going to do. But you know they're going to have the ability to run the football. You just don't junk a system that helped you lead the nation in rushing. So that's why we're going to base our preliminary assumption that that's what they're going to do first, and then expand from that point out. We'll just see how things develop during the course of the game. It is a great challenge. It's a challenge our players talked about yesterday that we're ready to accept and build on from our first week."
Marcedes did get off offensively. One of the huge question marks in camp was the wide receivers. They really didn't get the football the other night. How important is it to get them involved offensively?
"This is the first time that we went the opposite, getting Marcedes involved and keeping him involved, to most prognosticators for three years out there. I don't think it's a big concern. We're going to throw the ball to receivers. It just so happened in this game we wanted to get him (Lewis) involved early, and he made a few big plays for us that gave us some scoring opportunities. That's how the game played out. We threw the ball less than 20 times in the game. That's not what we normally would do. We didn't throw hardly any drop-back passes at all in this game. We did some movement passes, and the drop-back things we did throw were to Marcedes, and he happened to make some great plays with them. I don't think there's an issue whether we're going to get the ball to the wide receivers. I think it's more of creating a balance in our system. Yes, we have a great tight end that we know we'd like to make sure he's involved in what we do on a weekly basis. This week we anticipate spreading out the balls to make sure this defense particularly plays honest. We know because of last week's game Marcedes is going to draw some attention. So everything works out in its own way."
What's your opinion of the play of the defensive line?
"They played good. We played in two or three different fronts. The young guys struggled a little bit, particularly our inside tackles. Nathaniel Skaggs had his first career start, and played a number of plays, and he played like a young player at times. But he made some good plays. Chase Moline came in and played very, very well, given his experience, in his first time playing in a collegiate game. Kenneth Lombard played well. The best young player that played was Nikola Dragovic. He was the defensive player of the game, on his first start. He played lights out. He played a great game. It was a good start for those guys. We just need to make sure that whatever front we play in is making sure the linebackers and d-line are on the same page. And San Diego State's offense was a tough offense to go against. That was a very mobile quarterback at 6-6. He showed more speed and quickness that I thought he had, just watching on tape. They have a good tailback. Lynell Hamilton is a very good back. They have an experienced group of receivers. So it was a difficult offense to defend. But it was a great test for our young players."
"How much more do you need out of the receivers, and especially Joe Cowan, seemingly dropping the ball at the goal line?
"He was surprised by that. The ball was on the money. It was one of those things. Sometimes balls flash up on you. I don't want to beat this into that we're disappointed in our wide receivers. Marcedes made great plays early in the game that gave us scoring opportunities. We threw the ball 18 times, and Drew threw it 15. David Koral threw it three times. It wasn't a big throwing opportunity game for us. So I don't want to make that a big deal. We're going to throw it normally between 25 and 30 times a game. We do spread the ball out to those wide receivers. I don't see any issue right now. It does seem to magnify itself when you have guys with no catches or one catch, but that's no big deal."
Were you having problems getting the plays in at times? Was it frustrating for you?
"It wasn't frustrating. It was the first game, where you know some things like that could happen. We had five penalties the whole game. Three of them on offense were delay of games. Those are issues you always continue to work through. You're going to have those issues in your game because of the 25-second clock. There are some officials that set that 25-second clock faster than others. Those are things that happen. We had some penalties on special teams, and those were the biggest negatives. We had a personal foul on a punt coverage team. We took three points off the board on a lineman jump, on the one field goal that Justin Medlock then missed. It was a team effort. We only had six penalties for the game, for I think 50 yards. It's something we spend a great deal of attention to. We don't like penalties, because at some point they become factors in a game. But for your first game, that's going to happen some, when you're playing with some new players."