San Diego State coach Rocky Long spoke with reporters, including The Gazette's Brent Briggeman, during the Mountain West Media Summit on Tuesday in Las Vegas.
You’ve been the only coach in this league to consistently have Air Force’s number, with your team winning six straight games against it. How do you explain that? Have you just seen that offense enough over the years to understand how to stop it, or is just a matchup issue?
I don’t know that that’s right. That seems like too many. It doesn’t matter how many times I’ve seen that offense because I’m not the guy making tackles and doing all that. I know our team has great respect for that offense. They have great respect for the teams that run that offense, No. 1. And they have great respect for that offense. This is a personal opinion, and obviously I tell them this, but I think that’s the best college offense that’s ever been designed. You don’t have to have big guys. You have to have a little quickness and speed. You don’t have to have fast guys, you don’t have to have big guys because you don’t block anybody. I mean, the quarterback decides on who gets the ball, and they’ve got nothing but double teams or chip blocks and they cut, so they’re knocking people down. Nobody cuts anymore, so the defensive guys don’t know how to take on a cut block, so they’re all laying on the ground. And then the quarterback decides on who gets the ball and they don’t block two guys. Every other offense you’ve got to block everybody. You block everybody and hopefully your running back can make the free safety miss. In that offense you don’t even have to block everybody. And then normally they have really smart kids who make good decisions when they’re deciding on who gets the ball. They have really tough kids because of their training – they’re very aggressive and tough kids. I truly believe that’s the best offense ever designed for college football. I think it if wasn’t for public opinion, you’d have 40 or 50 teams in the country run it. But we have to sell tickets. You have to get people in the stands, and people in the stands want to see the ball in the air. OK? All of the sudden you’ve got the spread. Let’s throw it around and let’s don’t play football anymore, let’s play basketball. It’s 11 guys, but let’s play basketball.
When you look at what Air Force became last year with Arion Worthman at quarterback, I assume you’ve done plenty of study and preparation for this season.
Uh-huh, I’ve watched them.
How different was that offense with such a quick quarterback running the show?
Now, (Nate) Romine’s back, too, right? Romine’s a better thrower. The starting quarterback is a much better runner. He looks fast. I don’t know how fast he is, but he looks fast. Romine looks like he runs the offense very, very well, he just doesn’t have the kick-in speed. OK? One of them you have to worry about the pass more, the other one you have to get the ball out of his hands and make him hand it to the fullback or pitch the ball; don’t let him carry it.
For your program, what advantages are there with the Chargers leaving San Diego?
I don’t think there are any advantages. I think there are NFL fans, college football fans and there’s high school football fans. Now, there’s some crossover football fans, and we’re trying to attract the crossover fans – the ones who are liable to go to an NFL game as well as a college game or even a high school game. We’re trying to attract that group. The idea that because the NFL has left we’re going to get all these fans because they’re going to come watch us play instead of the NFL, that’s not true. There are so many that are such NFL fans, they’re going to watch it on TV. They’re going to miss their team, but they’re going to watch it on TV. There are a few fans around that really just like football, and hopefully we’re going to attract the ones that just like football that they’d rather watch us play and have a nice experience instead of driving three hours up the freeway, bumper to bumper, to go see a pro football team play. Now there are a lot of just true NFL fans. We’re not going to attract them. That’s just not the way it works.
Having played in an NFL stadium, would you find it preferable to move into something a little more college-sized?
I think it’s all determined on what the stadium looks like and how it’s built. If it’s going to be a 60,000-seat stadium but can easily be reduced to 40,000 with banners or anything like that, it’s a positive. The stadium we play in is a 70,000-seat stadium and no matter what you do to it, it’s a monstrosity. So we get our 35,000 people in there and it looks like nobody’s at the game. But the way they’re building the newer stadiums now with all the electronics and everything, they have a legitimate way to close it off. The one I’ve seen on video on the internet is the one in Atlanta. That is unbelievable. It’s going to seat 60,000 people for NFL, but they can get it down to 25,000 or something for Major League Soccer. And they do it with curtains and everything. I mean it’s a cool deal. So I say the deal here is all how they build the stadium. If they can do it like that where it will still feel intimate and all that, it will help the program tremendously. If it’s going to be this monstrosity where it looks like nobody’s there, it’s not going to help them. It will help them until it’s built, because they’ll talk about how they’re building a new, state-of-the-art stadium. I don’t think it’s a real good experience to come to the stadium we play in.
You always have strong opinions about the Group of Five and the Power Five and gap that has grown…
It’s getting bigger daily, by the way.
So where do you see this going, and is there anything that can reverse the course?
Yes. Well, first, I don’t see it changing with the way it’s going. But even though it’s much more difficult, I don’t think that prevents a Group of Five team from once in a while having a team that’s as good as any of them. It won’t happen a lot, but it will happen once in a while. When that does happen, not being allowed to show that that team’s good enough is a travesty in college football if they’re calling us all Division I teams. … Every once in a while there’s going to be a non-Power Five team that’s good enough to beat those guys. Nobody’s going to give them a chance to do it. … If you expand the tournament to eight teams, then all of their champions get in. You give a few spots to other highly rated teams and you give one spot to the non-Power Five guys. Now you’ve got a legitimate chance for a national championship. It might not be one out of 10 years, but there will be a time when a non-Power Five team is going to be good enough to beat them. And if you have one of those teams, you actually have a chance to win it. … The ones that don’t want that are the Power Five guys. They don’t want to take a chance at losing to a non-Power Five team. Why would they take that chance? Plus, if they let us in they have to share the money? Why would they let us share the money if they don’t have to?