Utah State’s Matt Wells Ready For “Rivalry Week” Against BYU
Can the Aggies win back-to-back games against the Cougars?
Utah State gets a test against rival BYU
Utah State head coach Matt Wells, senior offensive lineman Roman Andrus and senior linebacker Suli Tamaivena addressed the media this week as the Aggies prep for the big game against BYU.
Here is his transcript, which will be followed by the video.
“It’s BYU week and it’s always an exciting game and a week for us. It’s a rivalry week for us. It’s something that I know our guys will be excited to play in. As I look at BYU, I have a lot of respect for Kalani Sitake and the rest of that staff.
I’ve known a lot of those guys for a long time and have had relationships with those guys. They’re a very physical team on both sides of the ball. They have an experienced senior quarterback (Tanner Mangum). Mangum and (Squally) Canada really make their offense go. Sione Takitaki is doing really well right now and I’m really impressed with him.
Butch (Pau’u) is back and a force to be reckoned with in the middle. You look at their defense and they’re so strong up the middle. (Khyiris) Tonga is very stout. (Corbin) Kaufusi presents a ton of problems on the edge. The front seven on both sides are very good. This will be a challenge for us and for our defense in seeing something different.
As you go back and study them, (offensive coordinator) Jeff Grimes, I’ve known him for a long time and have been very good friends with him. There’s a ton to prepare for them. I’m so glad we had a bye week. You see their offense and back in Jeff’s early days when he was at Arizona State with Dirk Koetter, the fly sweep was a big part of their game plan. You can see the toughness factor with them.”
On having the Utah State-BYU games being more of a rivalry than what it was like in the past:
“I’ve always have been reminded of what coach (Gary Andersen) used to say and that was, ‘You’ve got to beat them a few times before it becomes a rivalry.’ I don’t know if I can as the head coach stand up here and declare it a rivalry. I know it is in our locker room and our school. The games lately have been very competitive. I look for another competitive game on Friday night.”
On recruiting and it being a factor for getting recruits:
“I don’t look at it in terms of that. It’s really one game, one trophy and a lot of pride for your players, fanbase and your alumni. It has absolutely zero effect on the Mountain West race, which we have to jump right back into next week. It is what it is and the team that wins probably uses that in recruiting, I’m sure. I don’t think it will sign you a kid.
I don’t think a kid is going to commit just because one team wins. Recruiting is still about fit, atmosphere and what kind of atmosphere they want to be in, the scheme, the opportunity to play and a lot more factors in the end result on Friday night. I say that before we play and there’s more things involved there.”
On managing the excitement in the locker room for an in-state rivalry game:
“When you talk about that, it’s not even part of the equation until the last 24 hours. You don’t have to be at your emotional peak until 7:05 p.m. on Friday.
Today is Monday, so it’s about preparation, practicing really hard and trying to win the game today, in terms of preparation, and how much extra video you’re studying. We’re coming off a bye week and we have to pick up where we left off at the end of the week. That’s more important at the beginning of the week. You start locking in a little bit more mentally and emotionally as the week builds.”
On always being hard to prepare for running the ball against BYU:
“That has to do with their defensive line. They’re strong up in the middle with their two tacklers and they’re space eaters inside. Their linebackers are really good. Corbin (Kaufusi) on one end, and is he ever going to graduate? Then, here comes Devin (Kaufusi) behind him and he’s the same type of player. I have a lot of respect for that family, first of all.
They’re always good, long, tough and can run. It’s more of who they are. There have been times where we’ve struggled to run the ball. That usually dictates if you play well on offense or not. I can think back to all of the years back and when you have been able to run the ball some, you usually play better on offense. That’s not this game; it’s every week.”
On aspects on BYU’s game you’ve noticed improvement from last year:
“I think what goes hand-in-hand is the way the linebackers play. They fit off of the defensive linemen. They’re really good tacklers in space and very physical.”
On BYU offensive coordinator Jeff Grimes conceiving a controlled passing attack:
“They move the pocket and are taking shots. There is a great variety and you see some quick games. They involve (Matt) Bushman and there have been times they move the pocket and a dash series with Tanner. He throws it really well on the run and has been impressive. The thing you can see is he’s a very visionary quarterback.
He’s coached well and is probably the best quarterback we’ve seen all year in terms of his eyes – eye control and looking off. That tells me he’s coached up well, but it also tells me a little bit about him. When you see him dumping down, he finds his running back. Their running backs are some of their leading receivers. There is evidence of him dropping the balls down and he’s going through his full reads. He does a really good job with his eyes.”
On if a bye week is actually less busy than a regular week for the coaching staff:
“It’s just different busy. It’s a mixture of resting your players, the guys that have played a lot of snaps, getting them the right mix and the practice and physicality. We practiced the young guys quite a bit and had a full scrimmage on Thursday with some of the younger guys. A lot of the assistants were out Thursday, Friday and Saturday, and the coordinators were out Friday.
You have a mix there and then getting those guys some rest over the weekend. Kind of our normal bye week. Everybody thinks you’re off, but you’re just working different. We’re no different than most teams and I guess we are, but we practice a little more different than most teams do on bye weeks.”
On having the same bye week structure that you’ve had in the past:
“In terms of practices, meetings, self-scout, recruiting, rest and conditioning? In terms of all that, internally, yes. We’ve played different opponents coming off bye weeks and have had bye weeks where we play on Fridays. We’ve had bye weeks where we’ve played on Saturdays. That changes a little bit of the game week practice. For the most part last week, we stayed on our routine that we’ve had the last six years.”