Sept. 17, 2007
GREENVILLE, N.C. - East Carolina University Head Football Coach Skip Holtz addressed members of the media prior to this week's game against West Virginia. The following are selected comments:
"Looking back at last week's game, it was hard-fought but difficult to accept because I feel that our team put everything they had out there. I don't question their effort in any way and I have no doubt that they want to be good. We continually challenge our team to do the little things that will make us great. It is hard to play both with not only the passion and effort we ask of them but also at the level at which we want them to play. I give Southern Miss a lot of credit. They came out and made the plays that they needed to make. They needed some stops there at the end and they got them as well as driving 80 yards down the field at the end to win it. I believe that we had plenty of opportunities. We can't point at any one part of our team because everyone just didn't get it done. Our offense had three drops on the last drive and our defense allowed them to convert on many third downs.
"We have a lot of things to correct and a long way to go to get to where we can compete at the level we need. I said earlier that we were going to find out a lot about this team in September but as I told our team; September is not over. We will find out how we handle adversity and whether or not we are emotionally tough enough to deal with the caliber of our schedule.
"I was very encouraged by our special teams. Outside of the kicking game, our dirty dozen played very well. I was concerned before the game because we took all of the starters off of special teams with the exception of the return men. Melvin Patterson and Michael Hickman did a nice job and a lot of these guys that have been backups played extremely well. To qualify for the dirty dozen you can't play on offense or defense and you must be on at least three special teams units. We had nine guys who did that on Saturday and I am looking to see that number grow. We did a good job of covering kickoffs and I believe that it was the best it's been since I've been at East Carolina. The punting game was also solid and our punt return showed us some flashes of just how good it can be.
"Though there were some nice individual performances, I don't think anyone really played for four straight quarters. We came into the game wanting to start fast and we had our best offensive opening drive of the season. However, we drove down the field only to miss the field goal. Our focus was where it needed to be and the crowd helped out with that. I don't think we handled the momentum swings in the game very well and in the second quarter, everything seemed to be against us. We regrouped at halftime and came out like gangbusters but again didn't handle the momentum swings very well, especially the third down they converted to keep that drive alive at the end of the quarter. We need to be able to stop 3rd-and-15 if we want to get a win.
"Finally, I need to thank the student body, fans and alumni because they were awesome for the second week in a row. It was such a sick feeling walking off the field because we wanted to go sing that fight song and celebrate. We wanted to see everyone who has been so supportive walk out with a smile on their faces. Playing at home is definitely a huge advantage for us."
On West Virginia:
"We have a great challenge this week as we are playing an incredible football team in West Virginia. Breaking down their offense, they have one of the fastest teams that I have seen on tape in a long time and they put you in space. I have had the opportunity to coach our team against White and Slaton for the past two years. I think they have great talent, speed and athleticism. If you add Devine to the mix, he may be better than Slaton as he is averaging 15 yards per carry. Their players on the offensive line are very athletic because they can run and be extremely physical.
"When you look at their defense, they are different because they play a three-down line scheme. We saw a little of it against Southern Miss but [West Virginia] is much more aggressive with it this year than in years past. They are bringing the linebackers off the edge much more which creates more pressure, sacks and tackles for loss and they are playing more coverages as well. They bring many of their starters from a year ago back and it will be a heck of a challenge.
"This is a game that has been hard-fought the last two years as we lost 20-15 up there two years ago and played them very close here last season. I know it's going to be a tall order trying to slow down their running game for a third-consecutive year."
On the Mindset of the Team at this Point in the Season:
"It's time to start holding people accountable. We are in the midst of discussing some changes right now at a couple of positions. If we can't create a winner three weeks in a row it's time to ask if we are playing with the right people. We have to assume a positive attitude and get our players to believe again. They have worked harder than they ever have before and we are closer than we have ever been, but when you look at the record we are still 1-2. We have to keep pushing forward in our attempt to get better."
On Stopping West Virginia's Rushing Attack:
"Everyone tries to do things schematically against their running game. It is like playing Navy in that people leave their base defense and go to a three of four-down line. What we have done the past two years is stick with what we know. We will have to play fast, run to the ball and tackle in the open field. More than anything, if you have a mistake in the secondary, it ends up being a long day. They have the breakaway speed that not many people can catch because they make you defend the whole field due to the option. We have challenged our players to play base defense but our secondary is not as experienced as it has been in years past, so our guys will have to step to the challenge. We don't need missed assignments due to guys not knowing what they are supposed to be doing. Keeping it simple is what we will try to do."
On the Kicking Game:
"Both Ben [Hartman] and Matt [Dodge] will compete this week, similar to what I did last season. I think we need to get more consistent on both sides because two out of six field goals is not acceptable, especially when all but one of the kicks have been inside the 20. If a player at another position performed in such a way, we would make a change. I think both [Murphy] Paderick and Dodge will compete with Hartman for the kicking duties. Matt's average punt looks good on paper but we have benefited from the ball rolling. If people start catching those, we are in for a long day. I would rather have the 40-yard punts instead of a mix of 30 and 50. Ultimately, we need to put that competition into our practice so that we can find out who will be ready to play against West Virginia."