By Stephen J. Nesbitt, Daily Sports Editor
Published September 6, 2012
Air Force senior quarterback Connor Dietz was part of a backfield corps that rushed for a nation-high 484 yards last weekend. Dietz finally slowed down this week, just long enough to sit down for a press conference in Colorado Springs, Colo.
This transcript, courtesy of a Air Force Athletic Department video, touches on Dietz’s game, his roots in Ohio State country and more:
Question: Growing up in Columbus, Ohio, I bet you grew up a big Michigan fan.
Connor Dietz: Not at all. But I was never really into the whole Ohio State-Michigan rivalry. I was a college football fan, and obviously it was Ohio State growing up, but once I came here it’s pretty much all Air Force. I don’t really see how you can be a fan of someone else when you’re playing for another team.
Q: Would you say that your hatred for Michigan is a little more close to home than other players on the team?
CD: I guess you could say so because of my roots, but I’ve never really despised them. I’ve got a couple of guys who played at my high school that play up there (redshirt freshman Keith Heitzman). They’re obviously a great college football team. It’s going to be a good challenge, but as a competitor this is what you want, and as a team this is what we’re looking forward to.
Q: In addition to what you do offensively, how much can the pace of what you do help you in a game like this?
CD: Our tempo, our conditioning, we’re going to have to use everything to our advantage that we can. Being aware on offense of where we’re going, when we’re going there. Trying to keep the tempo up is going to play a crucial part, that’s for sure.
It’s not one of those games where it’s going to be a first-quarter game or a second-quarter game. We’re looking to play four quarters, and that’s what we think it’s going to be.
Q: Michigan has big-play ability. Is this the kind of game where you try to hang with them, and the longer you hang with them the better chance you have of winning?
CD: Any time you’re in a big game, you want to come down in the fourth quarter and have it be a one-possession game. From there, anything can happen on any given Saturday. We’re going to play our game, be us. Michigan hasn’t seen us, we haven’t seen them. We’re gonna go out, be the best we can be for three quarters, and then in the fourth quarter see where we are.
Q: How would you assess your play last Saturday (in Air Force's 49-21 victory over Idaho St.)?
CD: I played OK. It’s nice to come out the first home game and get the nerves out and get the first win out of the way, but I didn’t play too well. I could have been a little smarter with some of my throws. In a game like this, coming up, some of those throws we’re going to have to hit for home runs instead of 30-yard gains.
Some of my rushes, I could have ran a little harder, maybe broken one or two more tackles. … There’s a lot of things when you come back in on Monday and turn the film on. It’s a whole new game; it’s like you didn’t even play the last game, you’re watching something brand new.
Q: When you look at the schedule, people say, ‘Oh, this is Michigan.’ Is it hard to just tell yourself this is a normal game?
CD: It’s kind of hard. Obviously, we’ve all been looking at this game since last January — me especially, being from the Midwest. It comes down to: It is another game. They were talking to us about the crowd and everything, but they play every home game there in that kind of atmosphere, so I think we can go in and play one game there. A lot of guys on this team have had experience going into big-time games like this — Oklahoma, Notre Dame — so it is another game and we can only control what we can control. There’s no use worrying about other things.
Q: Is it dangerous to face a team like Michigan when they’re coming off a game they feel a little bit embarrassed about?
CD: I think facing a team like Michigan is dangerous no matter how they feel or whatever game they came off of. They have playmakers on both sides of the ball, more than one, obviously. There’s not really a good time or bad time to catch them; every time you play a team like that it’s going to be a four-quarter grind and you’ve got to come to play with your hard-hat on.
Q: Are you going to have to match Denard Robinson step for step for your team to have a chance this weekend?
CD: (laughs) Nah. I never really understood why people compared quarterbacks … because you never play against each other, so I never understood why it’s a quarterback versus a quarterback thing. I think it’s Air Force offense versus Michigan defense. And while Denard Robinson is a huge part of Michigan’s offense, it’s Michigan’s offense against Air Force’s defense. So I’m not going to try and focus on anything like that, I’m going to try to focus on my job with our offense.