bleedCrimson.net: How was bye week for you and the team?
DeWayne Walker: We [coaches] worked on Sunday and Monday, gave them [players] Monday off and then practiced Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday and then gave them the weekend off. We brought them back Sunday afternoon and had meetings on Sunday, had a little light practice yesterday [Monday] to get them back into it and we're back full tilt today.
bc.net: Did you notice any difference in your team, maybe a little more energy after having a few days off?
DW: We did. We noticed yesterday they had a little more bounce. I've been just preaching to these guys, we're going to keep fighting and we're obviously going to play a lot of very good teams in this last half of the season and let's see if we can knock a couple of these teams off and kind of be the spoiler so to speak with some of these games we have left.
bc.net: What are some of the things that the coaching staff was able to identify in the bye week as areas you want to focus on this week in practice?
DW: I know a lot of times during bye weeks everybody wants to say let's go back to the fundamentals and those type things and there's merit to that but we really wanted to focus on execution and just looking at where we were health-wise and really try to look our mental health too. That was an area we really wanted to focus on and make sure the coaches and players, really not let this disappointing first half of the season really just put us in a situation where we start questioning our own ability and making sure this record is not going to define us. We've still got a lot to play for. Keeping guys positive and energetic, especially getting ready for this week's game.
bc.net: The first half of the season there were some games that your team was favored to win or at least expected to play even with and to not be able to do that, how much strain did that put on the team?
DW: It's just a little disappointing, I think we could easily be 3-3 right now but at the same time I think that some of these teams we were favored against were a little better than we anticipated and maybe we weren't as good as we anticipated. I know there were some games that we shot ourselves in the foot but at the same time you have to be realistic about where you are and where some of these other teams are. When you look at it, I think San Antonio, they'll lose some games, that was probably the one that stings the most. They lost to Rice this last weekend. UNM is 4-3 right now so they're probably not as bad as people thought they'd be. I was a little disappointed in Idaho so I think the two games that probably sting the most are San Antonio and Idaho. I thought those were two games that we could have won. You can't look back you've just got to keep moving forward.
bc.net: How much do you play up the underdog role over the next three or four weeks or do you think that's a little bit of a dangerous thing to do?
DW: I'm not so sure that this is the right time to do that. I think our kids understand that you want to play to win the game so I don't know how much of that that you really try to build up. You just try to build up taking one game at a time and something that I've preached to them is that the best team that plays on Saturday is the one that normally wins. It's not about the team that may look the best on paper, it's the team that plays the best so that's something that we're going to talk about probably moreso than anything else.
bc.net: Utah State is very good this year on defense. What are some things that you think the team has to do to be successful against their defense?
DW: We're going to have to really be creative in our play calling moreso in this game. I don't think we can just line up and call plays against this defense. We're going to have strategies and know that they're very good up front, their front seven. I think their front seven helps their secondary a lot. But their defensive front and their linebackers are pretty good. We're going to have to scheme these guys up a little bit and try to milk the clock a little bit and slow the game down and move the sticks and then we'll pick and choose our spots to take shots and try to catch them sleeping.
bc.net: Chuckie Keeton is a dynamic player for them at quarterback but you've faced him before and you've also had a chance throughout the first half of the season to play similar type quarterbacks. What will you be able to take away from those games to help prepare you for this one?
DW: I think we can definitely take some of the things we've done well against these style of offenses. Obviously he gets the ball first, he's very athletic and they have the college run game piece in their offense but they also have your traditional. So that makes it tough when you have an offense that can do both. It goes back to limiting you a little bit in what you can do defensively but whatever we do we need to execute and we need to tackle and not give up explosive plays in the passing game.
bc.net: What is the number one thing you want to see from your team when you take the field on Saturday?
DW: Effort. Effort, competing. I don't to sound like I'm throwing the towel in on this year. I want to see these guys compete and fight and just enjoy having the chance to play against a good football team and compete and we'll look at the score at the end of the game.
bc.net: Going into the season a lot of people felt like the WAC might be down a little bit this season just based on the teams that had left over the last couple seasons versus the teams coming in this season but when you look around at the WAC at the midway point but this might be one of the stronger seasons the WAC has had from top to bottom.
DW: There's no question. I think LA Tech, arguably, you can put them in the same category as Boise State when they were in the conference. I don't think their defense is as good as Boise's but I tell you what, averaging 50 points per game, you can put that football team against any of those teams that were in the conference when I first got here, Hawai'i, Boise, Nevada and Fresno State. I really think Utah State is working into that area of having one of those teams that would have easily competed at a high level when those teams were in the conference and San Jose State has improved. When you look at it and you look at Texas State with Franchione, he gets it and he knows what he's doing. San Antonio will probably lose some games throughout the rest of the conference but it's not what a lot of people expected. This is a little stronger conference than what people anticipated coming in.