Louisiana Tech coach Skip Holtz met with local media in Ruston, La., on Tuesday.
Here are his comments leading up to Saturday's game between Tech and Western Kentucky.
“What I told the team after the (Mississippi State loss) is that what we have lost is an undefeated season. The conference championship and so many things we aspire to accomplish in this program are still available. We have to get better and use this as a learning experience, but I am very optimistic about some of the things I saw.”
ON THE TECH DEFENSE VS. MSU
“On the defensive side of the ball, I thought we played really solid football. We gave up a couple big plays a little bit later in the game. Amik Robertson was a bright spot to say the least. He had the interception that led to one of our early touchdowns. As a freshman in that environment, it certainly was not too big for him. I love his attitude, the way he loves the game and the way he plays the game.
"I thought he was a tremendous bright spot. Safety Darryl Lewis continues to play extremely well. I thought Brandon Durman had one of his better games at linebacker. I think he is really starting to emerge in that role as a leader and doing a really nice job. I thought the defensive line played well.
"We gave up some yards rushing, but most of it was around the edge. I feel like we are getting better and it was against an SEC team.”
ON THE TECH OFFENSE VS. MSU
“Offensively, I thought the offensive line played well. We challenged them to be able to come off the ball and run the ball. I think the emergence of Michael Rodriguez at right tackle was a pleasant surprise. We have known a lot about O’Shea (Dugas) and (Josh) Outlaw and Ethan Reed, but it was nice to see him come along.
"I thought the running backs played extremely hard. Jarred Craft, Boston Scott and Jaqwis Dancy all ran really hard. With the wide receivers, it was kind of a quiet passing game, although Kam (McKnight) got involved in the backfield on the goal line. It was really kind of a quiet day outside of Marcus Gaines, who made a couple big plays for us.
"I thought J’Mar (Smith) had some critical mistakes, but he is not in panic mode. He is playing the game under a lot of composure and a lot of poise, but we have to stop him from overthinking everything, which is part of what a young player does, especially one that has the responsibility on his shoulders. I am still encouraged by a lot of what I see, but I just think we have to do a better job of putting J’Mar in a position to succeed and he has to eliminate some of the self-inflicted wounds.
"We have to get better in the red zone. We had five trips in the red zone and scored two touchdowns. We have to eliminate some of those mistakes to be able to operate at a high level if we want to be able to compete with the first half of our schedule, which is going to be very challenging.”
ON SPECIAL TEAMS VS. MSU
“I thought on our special teams – Jonathan Barnes kicked the ball very well with his field goals. Brady Farlow continues to do a nice job with the punting game. I did not think there was much opportunity in the return game and that is what great kickers do – they take your returners out of the game.”
ON FACING WKU
“From last week, we looked at it and learned from it. Hopefully, we got a little bit upset about it and we come back to go back to the drawing board today getting ready for Western Kentucky. This is a game that has had a lot of conference implications the last couple of times we have played. We have played them four times in three years and the home team has held serve. They have been great battles and close games. I don’t see how this game will be any different.
"These are two of the better teams that have represented the East and West two of the last three years. I think this has all the makings for rivalry week. I think our team is excited to get into conference. The challenge we have is that our first game on the road happens to be a conference game, which is going to make it a little harder.
"Mike Sanford is the new head coach at Western Kentucky. I think he is an excellent football coach. I followed him for a long time. I followed his father for a long time, who happens to be on his staff. I think Mike is a bright, young football coach who has an awful lot of energy and does a really good job of coaching.”