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Q&A Session With SHSU Head Coach Willie Fritz
Courtesy: GoBearkats.com
Release: 12/29/2012
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Q.  What are you team's feelings about returning to the NCAA championship game?

COACH FRITZ:  We are really excited about the opportunity to go back to a National Championship Game, the NCAA, all of the people associated with the game in Frisco have just done a sensational job running the game and I know our players are pumped.

It was a tough to get here this season.  We played three home games and eight games on the road and then the playoff, we had one home game and two on the road.

So we are blessed to be back in this position and you know, I know Sam Houston is very proud of the back‑to‑back appearances in this game and as I said before, I just look forward to the challenge of playing an excellent North Dakota State team on January 5th.


Q.  Can you talk about how the offense, your offense, has evolved from the way you ran it last year?

COACH FRITZ:  We've got almost a new offensive staff.  My offensive coordinator and two of my assistants that were here last year did a great job for us.  They took new positions.


So when I look to hire a replacement, I wanted to find somebody that had some option background and did things similar to what we did.  But also, we wanted to try to improve our passing attack.


Last season, we were a very efficient passing attack, but we got into some third‑and‑long situations and second and long and people knew we had to throw the ball and we had some difficulties.  I was lucky to hire Doug Ruse, he was at Western Illinois University, I watched him firsthand in 2010 take it to us.


I liked what he did offensively and he combined elements of what he likes to do with how I like to do things.  It was a little bit bumpy at the beginning of the year like it always is when you implement something new but really took off by week four or five and played extremely well the rest of the season and a lot of that is the addition of Coach Lewis, Bart Tatum, my offensive line coach and Matt Barrett, our receiver coach, and combined with Anthony Johnson who coached our running backs last year and Kyle Segler who coaches our tight ends, he was here last season as well and really blended together, I think gives us a really potent offensive attack.


Q.  How did Brian Bell respond to this?  Obviously he's been a winner at your school, but you were looking to improve the passing game.  Can you talk about his development?


COACH FRITZ:  Well, I think that's also a big part of it, as well.  Each year you try to add things to your repertoire and Brian is certainly capable of dealing with whatever we throw at him.


He's a coach's kid and he's raised in a football family.  His brother is a very successful high school coach in Texas dad's is a very successful coach.  So, you know, like all quarterbacks, I'm sure he welcomes the opportunity to throw the ball a little bit more than what we have done in the past.  But he just makes very good decisions for us, we have got total confidence in him running our attack for us.

Q.  How about the way North Dakota State runs its defense? 


COACH FRITZ:  Well, they are very, very well‑coached.  They have got a different coordinator this year, but running essentially most of the same things.  You know, very talented.  They have got very good players.  They are quick and fast.  Play with great leverage and it's tough to out‑flank them.


I always talk about needing three different types of leverage over the top, inside out, outside in, and they really did a great job of leverage.  They tackle well in space.  They do a good job of disguising their coverage, and you think you might have an advantage in run game in an area or spin a guy down from the secondary or bring a corner, or slant that direction.  Just the total package, they are an excellent defense. 


Q.  Now that you've done this for the second year in a row what do you see as being the biggest difference for you this year?  One thing that maybe you do differently in terms of preparation, now that you've been on this stage twice now.


COACH FRITZ:  We are not changing our schedule a whole lot.  We played very well last year defensively.  You know, offensively, North Dakota State did some things that we had not seen a whole lot and obviously this season, we've seen a lot of those things a bunch, because people are, you know, it's a copycat profession that we work in; so they saw something that worked well and people have tried to emulate what they do.


I think it's just preparing for the unexpected, offense, defense and kicking game.  And I also think tweaking some things that you do.  You have a long time to insert some new things on offense, defense and also special teams, you know, with the layoff that you have from the last game, the semifinal game and the final game. 

We are going to have to be assignment‑sound and we can't put ourselves in the hole.  I watched last year's game this morning, and a couple times we had some nice field position and we get a penalty here or we miss a guy and all of a sudden, a possible positive play turns into a negative play.


We are just going to have to be very assignment‑sound and do a good job of taking care of the football.  You're not going to get it all in one play very often against them.  They don't give up very many big plays.


Q.  What do you think is the biggest benefit for having been on this stage in Frisco, Texas before?


COACH FRITZ:  Well, I just think that going up there, the venue that we are playing at, how things kind of work, I think more so it helped us with the whole playoff atmosphere and the whole playoff schedule.  You know, it's a little bit different.  You're only able to dress 60 guys at playoff games and not as many people really on the sidelines for you.  And the fact that it's win or go home.


I just think having the experience of going through that, that was the first time for us as coaches here at Sam Houston and our players to go through the playoff format.


Q.  How different do you think your team is from last year?  Do you think they are better than you were at this time last year?


COACH FRITZ:  I think in some areas we are.  We had a five‑game stretch in there that we played well and it is the best that we've played since I've been here, I think we outscored our opponents 264 to 34.  I had an opportunity to play a lot of guys during those games, as well, and we really were clicking on all cylinders during that time.


But the trick is, you've got to do it each and every week, you've got to do it on January 5.  We are a more veteran squad.  We have played in a lot of big ballgames over the last couple years.  So I think our guys are used to that aspect of it.  We just have to prove that we are a better team than we were last year on January 5.

Q.  It's kind of a rigorous playoff run when you have to play three straight in three weeks and going up against some pretty physical teams.  Were you guys pretty beat up after that or were you still relatively healthy after that?

COACH FRITZ:  You know, I think everybody at that stage of the season is pretty beat up.  We've got a philosophy around here, next man up, and next guy's just got to go in there and play.  That's why you don't play with 22 guys in football.  You have a lot more on your squad.


I think it was good for us to have some time off.  I gave our guys eight solid days off to get healed up and go home and decompress and get ready to get back after it on the 26th.

Q.  Can you talk about North Dakota State's offense?

COACH FRITZ:  They are really talented offensively, their whole team is.  Brock Jensen does a super job.  They have got a couple backs that have rushed for yards ‑‑ they have quick receivers.  They play a team football game.

I've said this before and I'll say it again.  I think that Coach Bohl and I share similar philosophies on how to run a football program, and sometimes it's not glamorous.  I know some people like those teams that throw the ball 50, 60, 70 times a game.  That's not how we do it.  They kind of look at the two teams that are playing for the FDS National Championship and seems like they have the same type of formula.

They are so very strong offensively and very good in the kicking game.  Anybody that's still playing now is pretty darned solid.  You know, I really got a lot of respect for our defense obviously.  You look at stats and two of the teams we play are in the top three in FDS football in total offense, in Baylor and Texas A&M.  So that also kind of plays into the statistics, as well.

Q.  Can you talk about just with Timothy Flanders?  Seems like when he's going and when the offense is going, the run game just flourishes.  Can you talk about how important maybe that's going to be?  Is that something that you guys want to try to get more consistent than last year? 

COACH FRITZ:  That's a big part of our offense and they complement each other and we want to be able to run the ball and they did a good job of stopping us last season and having more people at the point of attack than what we had.

When Tim gets going, that opens up our whole offense, and he's had another great year for us, and you know, that's a huge part of our offense.  When you can throw the ball ‑‑ we are going to have to throw it on first down, as well and there are going to have to be situations in which run down and play the run and packing the box.  Have to be able to spread it around and throw it, as well.  They both complement each other without question.

Q.  How would you say right now that you guys are playing compared to beginning and middle of the season to where you are now at this point?

COACH FRITZ:  Well, I think we are playing well.  We didn't have a great second half against Eastern Washington, but I think we played well.  We had a very good game against Montana State and had a four‑ or five‑game run in there during the season that we played better than we played since I've been here.  The trick is doing it on January 5.

Q.  Why all the road games this year?

COACH FRITZ:  We had two conference teams that changed leagues.  We thought we had an opportunity to still play them.  They pulled on us during the season last year, and it's tough to get games when you're 14‑1 and so we were scrambling trying to find a game.  One of the only teams that had an open date was Texas A&M so we went over and played them in front of 87,000 fans. It was a great experience. The change in conference alignment in the Southland Conference that put us in this situation.

Q.  You talked about how these are really two new teams that are playing each other.  Do you get anything out of last year's Championship Game at all? 

COACH FRITZ:  Well, you watch it.  Strong teams have got strong tendencies.  Woody Hayes used to say that all the time and I believe it's true.  You have to look and see, here is what they did last year, here is what we did last year, here is what worked, here is what didn't work.  We got a lot of time for this game, so we are watching as much tape as we can through 2011 and 2012.

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