On the bye week last week
"It was a needed open date. We needed it for a number of reasons. It was an opportunity for us to self-scout and look at where we are statistically. We spent a lot of time looking internally on what we need to do better. Potentially, we could have four games remaining. We know we have three right now with seven wins. We have two left on the schedule and a bowl game. We had the opportunity to look at a couple of our future opponents. We were able to put some mock game plans together. We were able to get on top of recruiting. We went at it pretty hard on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. We were in full pads and scrimmaged quite a bit. We gave a lot of the young guys an opportunity to come along. It gave us an opportunity to get a really good look at them. It was really productive."
"I think UTEP is a very dangerous opponent. I say that because they need this game for bowl eligibility. With two games remaining, they are in a win or else situation. Not only do they play hard every game, but we are going to get everything we can get. They will throw the sink at us. They are in a one game season. It is a very dangerous game. The most important thing is that we understand what we are walking into. They are 8-2 at home over the past two years. They are very difficult to beat at home. This is going to be a heck of a challenge for us going on the road. I think Sean Kugler does a heck of a job. They are hard-nosed, physical and tough. They control the line of scrimmage."
"Offensively, their offensive line coach's son is the quarterback. Last time a coach's son came in here, he threw for about 400 yards on us. On the offensive line, they have four of five returning starters. Sean Kugler prides himself as an offensive line coach. They run the ball, control the clock and cut off your possessions. He does a really good job of managing the game. They have a tight end that leads them in catches. They have two wide receivers that are really explosive in Autrey Golden and Jaquan White. They are very explosive big-play players. At running back, they have had some injuries and they are doing it by committee. I will be honest, when you look at this football team, it is about their offensive line, with how they come off the ball and control the line of scrimmage. They really do a good job."
"Their defense ties in to what they do as an offense. They are a 4-2-5 defense. They play with five defensive backs. They are very active and pressure oriented. Most people who run a 4-2-5 have their safeties lead them in tackles. With UTEP, it is their two defensive ends and two linebackers. Their front six is very active. They are physical. They go against that offensive line every day. They play very physical up front. When you look at them statistically, they may give up some yards, but they lead the league in three-and-outs as well. They are going to put a lot of pressure on the line of scrimmage. They are going to force your hand. You are going to have to operate under pressure."
"Their special teams are probably one of their strong suits. They have a kick returner who is the active leader in kickoff returns. He is third all-time in touchdowns on kickoff returns. They have a punt returner averaging 15.5 yards per return. Their punter is second in the league, averaging 45.8 yards per kick. Their kicker is third in the league at 62 percent on touchbacks. They are really salty on their special teams. It will be a great challenge for us having to go there where they have an 80 percent winning percentage the past two years. As a football team, we just have to make sure that we are focused."
On running back Kenneth Dixon
"I do not think he is getting enough coverage. We have Jeff Driskel, who is a phenomenal story about everything that is good in college football. He is a young man that graduates and does everything he is supposed to. He found a new home and got a fresh start. Those are feel good stories. I think Kenneth is the same thing. He has an unselfish attitude. It is not about give me the ball. It is not about how many carries he gets. It is all about what we have to do to win. Deep down inside, do I think he would like to have the record? I do. I also believe it is from his heart when he says, `Coach, give that touchdown to the other senior. He has been hurt all year.' Those are things that do not happen everywhere. In a fast-paced world that we are in that is all about me, it is refreshing to deal with people like Kenneth Dixon on a daily basis. His story should be told."
On LA Tech's pass defense
"That is going to be a big focus if we are fortunate enough to get to [the Conference USA Championship.] If you look back at the first game, it was concerning. We gave up a lot of yards and points. We were trying to make some adjustments to the offensive line, playing two new guys. We were down 21-3 like that. I think it is going to be huge. When you look at Southern Miss and the way they throw the football, pass defense will be a focus point. That is why I think this open date came at a good time for us. I hated it being 10 weeks into the season, but once we got to it, it was nice to be able to take a deep breath. We were able to look at some things and give ourselves the opportunity to be a better football team going down the stretch."