Head Coach Skip Holtz
Sept. 14, 2009
GREENVILLE, N.C. -East Carolina University Head Football Coach Skip Holtz addressed members of the media prior to this week's game against North Carolina. The following are selected comments:
On West Virginia's Jarrett Brown:
"Looking back and going through the film, I tip my hat to West Virginia and the job that team did. I was really impressed with Jarrett Brown. I was impressed during the game and I was even more impressed after sitting down and watching the film.
"I was impressed with his poise, strength, power, athletic ability and the way he threw the ball. I told somebody after the game that I think I'd rather play Pat White than play Brown again. Brown has so many weapons because he can run the ball and throw it very well, too. With Pat White, you didn't need to rush him as hard, but you had to corral him. If you don't rush Brown, he's going to sit back there and pick you apart. He was really impressive."
On East Carolina's Defense Against West Virginia:
"Defensively, we played pretty hard up front I think we just gave up too many big plays.
"We're a zone coverage defense. I really thought from a zone coverage standpoint, we did a lot of good things. We had 10 zone coverage sacks in the game when Brown dropped back and had nowhere to go with the ball. He was forced to take off running and he would scramble for 20 yards or get out of the pocket and turn and hit us with a big play.
"The negative with what we did in zone coverage was let the ball behind us resulting in four big plays. That defeats everything you're trying to do. That's why we played zone defense instead of man, to prevent the big, deep play. Looking back and knowing that we were going to give up four big plays, I probably would have been much more aggressive and not given Brown the space to run around."
On His Team's Approach To Its First Road Game:
"Overall, I was really pleased with our team's focus, attitude and effort in the game. I was really pleased with a lot of positive, intangible things this team did in its first road game of the season."
On East Carolina's Offense Against West Virginia:
"There were some things, obviously, I wish we would have done better on both sides of the ball.
"Offensively, I think we ran the ball decently at times. I think the passing game was a little bit out of whack. It's never just one guy. I know Patrick Pinkney is going to take the brunt of it being the quarterback. As a quarterback, you probably get too much credit when we win and too much blame when we lose.
"We had four dropped passes in the game. We only had 16 completions, so when you drop four of them, that's not a good percentage.
"I think their defensive tackles gave us some problems with pressure. When you look offensively, I think the passing game was a little bit out of sync. That's something we have to address and get ready to go for this weekend."
On East Carolina's Special Teams Against West Virginia:
"Outside of the missed field goal from the six-yard line, I think that's one of the best games our special teams have played since I've been here. I thought the way our kickoff team covered kicks, I thought they did an excellent job. Our punt team was tremendous in the way they protected the punter and got down the field. Dekota marshall's effort was incredible on Saturday.
"Our special teams caused two fumbles and gave our offense some good field position. Our punt return had a couple nice returns as well. They returned it back to midfield one time. Travis Simmons had a great return for 38 yards that gave us a scoring opportunity. I thought our special teams across the board played exceptionally well."
On Being In A Close Game In The Fourth Quarter:
"We started fast and it was 10-0 at one point. But there were a couple big plays and some missed scoring opportunities. Even with all the negatives we talked about with giving up the big plays, not being able to contain the quarterback and missing out on some scoring opportunities, halfway through the fourth quarter, it's a 28-20 football game that you're right in the middle of. It's unfortunate that it ended the way it did. From a team standpoint, there are some things we have to get straight, but there are a lot of positives to build on."
On His Team's Attitude After The Loss:
"You worry about your team's attitude when you reach your first loss, especially a team that has high expectations and goals. Meeting with the players Sunday, they're a little bit down as expected. But I think their attitude is right where you want it to be. Their attitude is that we've had our opportunities and we have to keep getting better. We have to keep improving and making plays.
"One of our seniors at the end of the game, when West Virginia was running out the clock and we were putting in some of the back-ups on defense, told our players to not just go through the motions, but to make these reps count. He wasn't standing in the back and pouting. That is exactly the attitude I want them to have."
On Playing North Carolina This Week:
"With all that being said about West Virginia, the challenge escalates that much more this week for a number of reasons - it's an in-state game that is very emotional for our players, fan base and alumni. With the North Carolina and East Carolina fan bases being so intertwined, there's an awful lot that goes into this game emotionally. It's going to be difficult.
"When you look at North Carolina, it's a very good football team. I'm impressed with the athleticism Coach Davis has put together over the last few years. They've always had some good players, but now, top to bottom, I'm very impressed with their athleticism."
On North Carolina's Defense:
"Defense is the strength of this football team. They have nine returning starters from last year, five of them we played against here two years ago. It's not that their only year starting is last year, they've been starting for two years. There are some really good players in the bunch.
"The defense has only given up 174.5 yards per game, 10.5 first downs per game, eight points a game, 14 percent conversion rate on third down, which is unheard of, and 1.9 yards per rush. This is a very good defensive football team. They remind me a lot of the Virginia Tech team we played two years ago that finished No. 1 in the country in total defense.
"It starts with the front four, who all return. Marvin Austin is an absolute beast. He's a great player who beats blocks frequently. Robert Quinn on the perimeter is all over the field. We thought our tackles were challenged last week? They're really going to be challenged this week with the pressure their defensive ends can bring off the perimeter. The front line is so big, strong and athletic. Our offensive line is going to have a heck of a challenge this week.
"Quan Sturdivant in the middle is a big, fast, physical, hard-nosed football players. I've really been impressed with him. He has been all over the field, especially last week against Connecticut. You can really tell he has taken a leadership role. He's a great player.
"When you look in the secondary, Charles Brown their lockdown corner. I don't see a lot of weaknesses in this defense. They're going to play man coverage, get after you and put pressure on you. At the end of Saturday's game against Connecticut, when Connecticut did an onside kick and recovered it, Connecticut got to about midfield and North Carolina just came after them. Then Connecticut started going backwards. This defense is going to be a heck of a challenge."
On North Carolina's Offense:
"Offensively, their numbers are not as impressive as the defense's. I know that T.J. Yates has been one of the most impressive quarterbacks I've seen since I've been here. I've felt that way about three quarterbacks during my time here - with Brown when we left West Virginia Saturday, about Case Keenum of Houston and when Yates left here two years ago.
"I think he's a great competitor. He was just a young player at that point. He has really matured.
"I know they're struggling a little bit at this point offensively, but it's certainly not because of him. He's throwing the ball well. They're young at wide receiver and have basically a new offensive line.
"I think Shaun Draughn is a special running back. When you look at their offense, they have running backs capable of big plays and a quarterback who is capable of throwing the ball down the field."
On North Carolina's Special Teams:
"Looking at the special teams, they're very solid and our special teams will be challenged with both their return games.
"I think their kicking game is good. They put a lot of pressure on your punter. We're going to have to spend more time on the kicking game because of all the pressure that they get. We're going to have to look at doing some different things to help our punt team out."
On Injuries Last Week:
"The main injury is that Dominique Lindsay hurt his shoulder. At this point, we just have to see where it goes. They're going to do an MRI and look at his A-C joint. He's kind of doubtful this week.
"Emmanuel Davis, who we have missed at the boundary corner position, should be back and we'll get a good gauge on him during practice this week.
"It's the same thing with Levin Neal. He started running with the team last week and we're just going to see where he is.
"Hopefully we'll get those two back in the secondary and that'll help sure some things up."
On If His Experienced Team Is Living Up To Expectations:
"At times they are. You look at it and Derek Blacknall doesn't have any experience. He's a redshirt sophomore who started at strong safety and played the whole game. It doesn't matter how experienced some players are when you have to put 11 guys out there. That's the great thing about this game.
"It's the same thing on offense. Kevin Gidrey has never been a tight end. He had been a fullback for us but now he's a tight end.
"There are flashes when we're as solid of a football team as I expected us to be. When you look at the four big plays and giving up the deep balls, West Virginia had 509 yards of total offense, but 267 of them came on eight plays. For 60 plays, I thought we were a great defense. Four eight plays, I think we had a couple of break downs and there are some things we have to sure up.
"On offense, it's the same thing. There's not one position that's hurting us. We're just not clicking. I don't think we need to change our personnel. It's just that right now there's just a little something missing.
"In the first half of both games, I've been pretty pleased with our offense. We talked as a staff yesterday about evaluating what we're doing at halftime. We're not doing anything different at the half than we have the past four years, but for some reason, we just haven't been able to gel. I don't think it's that our guys are getting tired.
"I think there are a lot of things we have to improve on. This is a team game where you can have nine guys playing their tails off and two making mistakes - then you don't look very good. Only one guy on defense can come up and play the run, but if quarterback throws the ball up into the end zone and it turns into six points. That can make 10 guys look like they're not playing well, when really those 10 guys are doing exactly what they're supposed to do.
"It's the same on offense. If one guy misses his block, and the defender makes a tackle in the backfield, it's a loss of five yards. We've got to keep practicing and getting better. I don't know any other way to do it than to keep our noses to the grindstone and stay persistent. We have to continue to take game-like reps on the practice field."
On What Playing North Carolina Means:
"It is a big game. We're all intertwined and live among each other. It's kind of like the Appalachian State game in that it is a huge rivalry game.
"I'm excited to have the opportunity to play this game. I understand the significance, magnitude and history of this series. Not just on the football field, either. It extends to the way this university has been developed. I know there are a lot of things that makes this a huge rivalry game. I know, and our players know, the importance of this game.
"Many of our players were told they weren't good enough to play at North Carolina. This will be a game that they put a chip on their shoulders for. I'm excited to go play this game.
"Today it's the biggest game on our schedule. It'll be more emotional than probably any other game on our schedule. But in significance, I have a difficult time putting it ahead of our conference games and other goals we're trying to accomplish."
On His Team's Other Options At Quarterback:
"We talked about our other options are. At this point, I don't think this is all Patrick. If the four drops are caught, he's 20-for-40 . If the defensive tackles don't get to run free, Patrick completes five more passes to go 25-for-40 and we're talking about how he had a heck of a day and we're not having this discussion.
"Patrick is going to take the brunt of it when the offense is not going well and a lot of the credit when the offense is doing well. I don't think this is all Patrick. But it's something we've considered and talked about.
"After these first two games, we have to make sure we're getting the most out of the quarterback, tight end, tackle and the rest of our positions.
"We've talked about playing a couple of the young quarterbacks like Josh Jordan. Do you play him, simplify your offense and get him some experience? We've talked about moving Rob Kass back to quarterback. The unfortunate thing about moving Rob is that he is giving us 20 good reps at the fullback position. If you take Rob away from fullback then you take a hit at that position. I don't have all the answers at this point and that's what this week of practice is all about."
On The Offensive Plan Against North Carolina:
"You have to try to highlight your strengths and find their weaknesses. It's tough to find weaknesses on North Carolina's defense.
"One of the positive things about our offense is that it is multiple and can do a number of different things with two-back, one-back and no-back sets. We're going to have to look at the best way to attack North Carolina. We will adjust a little bit to give our players the best chance of success. We're still going to run our offense, but there will have to be some wrinkles put in it."
On Jamar Bryant's Injured Hand:
"Jamar Bryant played a great game. He dislocated his finger on a catch over the middle on third down. He came out, the trainers popped the finger back in and Jamar went back into the game. He played a great game. He's a tough young man. He made a great play in the end zone on the first deep ball that Patrick threw that I really thought was inbounds.
"Jamar played a heck of a game and he should be fine. He may be one of the toughest receivers I've ever been around. He had surgery on his thumb two years ago and the doctors told him it would be a minimum of four weeks before he could catch a ball. In about five days he was out at practice. He's a competitor. He won't miss anything."
On Patrick Pinkney's Go-To Receivers:
"Jamar and Dwayne Harris are the two Patrick has the highest comfort level with. Alex Taylor is doing some really good things and playing well. Alex is starting to play a little bit more of that role. That's also a role we think Kevin Gidrey can play.
"I think our wide receivers, running backs and tight ends did an excellent job in camp. We probably caught the ball better in camp than ever before.
"In the first two games, we have 28 completions and eight drops. Those numbers will get you beat in the passing game. We're just not being consistent enough.
"Dominique Lindsay was one of our best receiving threats in the backfield and with him questionable that takes away another threat. We can only work with what we have, tough, and continue to develop that talent."
On East Carolina's Running Game Against North Carolina:
"With them giving up just 1.8 yards per rush I think we can improve drastically and still not be as productive as we were in the opener against Appalachian State.
"Against West Virginia, when we handed the ball to the running backs and let them run downhill, I thought we ran well at times. We did not run well consistently. When you start adding in lost yards, sacks and the last two possessions when we're trying to overcome two scores and you're throwing every down, your running stats don't show up as much in the end.
"When we break down the film as a coaching staff, I think that's probably one of the better things we did on Saturday was to turn and hand the ball off. That's going to be a challenge this week with their front four.
On The Strength Of East Carolina's And North Carolina's Defenses :
"I think there are two good defensive football teams playing and two offensive teams that are struggling a little bit. Neither one of our passing games are where we want them to be. I think it'll be a heck of a football game.
"I don't think this game is going to be 42-41. When you look at both team's defenses, I don't think that will be the case. I see it playing out as a low-scoring game. One mistake could be the difference in this game."
On Frustrations On Offense Against West Virginia:
"We did have some great field position a couple times with the two muffed punts and good punt returns. Our return team set us up on the 30-yard line once and at midfield once. We just weren't able to convert.
"The thing we didn't do was turn the ball over or take sacks. We would have liked to get it into the end zone, but as long as you're able to get points out of it, you can keep yourself competitive. You really shoot yourself in the foot when you're down on the six-yard line and miss a field goal like we did Saturday."
On The Kicking Competition:
"I let them compete during the week and Ben Hartman had a better week in practice statistically. We give them a certain number of kicks during the week from different areas on the field. We chart it all and that determines who is going to kick. They will compete again this week."
On An Emphasis On Special Teams This Week :
"It's going to be a focal point this week. They have blocked some punts. They're good at what they do. They have some very good athletes and they come after you.
"They're one of the few teams I've seen who really pressures the spread/shield punt that everybody is going to now. They really do a nice job with it. We're going to have to work hard this week. We're going to look at putting in a few wrinkles this week to help our punter."