Oct. 7, 2013
Coach McNeill Press Conference
GREENVILLE, N.C. - Fourth-year East Carolina Head Coach Ruffin McNeill addressed members of the media Monday prior to this week's game against Tulane. The following are selected comments:
"I thought it was a very good team win. Watching the film, we did things I'm very pleased about. It was a conference game, but it was also a division game, which is even more important. Going on the road, conference games are tough. One of the things I realized last spring when I looked around the head coaching table was that there were a lot of good football coaches in that room and Stock's [Rick Stockstill] one of them, so I knew he had a very good and well-coached football team. We knew that, after the UNC game, there was a lot of emotion. It was very rewarding for us and it was a physical game, just like we expected. I thought we did a good job making adjustments offensively and defensively. Offensively we were 17-of-23 on third down, which for us is really an amazing percentage, as well as the 500 yards of offense.
"The offensive line did a really good job once again. I thought Ike Harris did a good job and we need him to continue to be consistent for us. Those guys up front did a really good job up front against (defensive coordinator) Tyrone [Nix] who has been known to move, blitz and stunt a lot - and he did.
"Defensively, at halftime, our guys did a good job of making adjustments. The thing about adjustments is that coaches can make them, but the players have to be able to make them. It's not about what we know, but [rather] what they know. I thought Damon Magazu had a Conference Player-of-the-Week type of game. He made 15 solos, by our count, four assists and a big-time interception. I was really pleased with his production.
"On special teams, we went into the game knowing they had one of the top return units in the country. Our coverage team did a really good job on that. I thought the return by Lance [Ray] was a game-changing type of return and we needed it.
"Our guys are in the last part of this three-game road stretch and we've talked about being road warriors. The guys have handled it well and have to do it again one more week before we return to the friendly confines of Dowdy-Ficklen [Stadium]."
"We're looking forward to Tulane. The biggest thing I think we need to continue to do this week is execute on all three sides of the ball. Fundamentals are always going to be big at any time during the year. Some people neglect fundamentals and go more to a schematic thought process. That won't happen as long as I'm here, and I hope that's a long time. I think routine plays are big.
"Defensively, they have a lot of speed and they play a lot of kids up front. They have mobile linebackers and eight starters returning from last year's team. Lorenzo Doss, their cornerback is a really good football player, as well as free safety Darion Monroe. He's really active and involved in both parts, whether it's blitzing or in coverage. Also, Nico Marley, Sam Scofield and Chris Davenport are linebackers, defensive backs and up-front people that are really involved and active on defense. They have a lot of blitz and attack tendencies, so we have to be ready for that up front.
"Offensively, Orleans Darkwa is a really good football player and is always one of the best [running] backs in the league. Curtis' [Johnson] has a multiple offense where they can spread you out, but you'll also see some tight sets where they'll run the football. They have a really good name everyone knows under center in Nick Montana. He looks like [his father] Joe a little bit. You say he can't run, and he runs. You say he can't make every throw and he makes every throw. He does a good job leading them. Up front, Sean Donnelly is one that stands out.
"They have one of the top kickers in Cairo Santos. I voted for him for the Lou Groza [Award] and he is very deserving. He's one of the best in the country."
On RB Chris Hairston Stepping Up In The Wake Of Vintavious Cooper's Injury
"I thought he did a good job of waiting for his opportunity and seizing the moment. He ran with relentlessness, which we need, and he also protected well. He caught the ball well and made some really vital first downs."
On The Familiarity Of Playing In New Orleans:
"It helps. Today, we did the schedule and we're staying in the same place and keeping a bit of the same routine. Three of our last eight games have been in the Superdome and it's a great venue to play in. I'm looking forward to going back down there and playing again."
On Dominating The Time Of Possession In The Fourth Quarter At MTSU:
"It's one of the things on offense that (offensive coordinator) Lincoln [Riley] has added his own flavor to. What's important for Lincoln is for us to win the football game. It's not stats or yardage. Being able to control the clock was big for us on all three sides of the ball. The offensive line is very important in allowing us to do that and I thought it was a big weapon for us. The biggest thing I tell them is we need first downs and touchdowns."
On The Differences Between Chris Hairston And Vintavious Cooper's Styles:
"I think everyone has their own style. Chris is more of a slasher and has really good acceleration. He's fearless like Coop. I think Chris has improved in his pass protection. I also think Breon Allen did a good job stepping in and showed his quickness a little bit. I feel good about those two guys [Hairston and Allen], but I hope we get Coop back healthy."
On How Encouraging It Was To See The Backup Running Backs Produce:
"It's good to see the kids step up. I think you attribute that to recruitment and getting kids in here who want to do it the Pirate way, from offseason conditioning to doing things off the field the right way. We demand a lot of them. On the field, when they have that responsibility tossed at them, they gain your trust. There's two parts of gaining trust: trust and the verification of trust. Has he done everything we've asked him to do? Check. Does he work hard in practice? Check. We tell our kids to always be prepared."
On Tulane Leading C-USA With 11 Interceptions:
"They do a great job of blitzing and they have the speed to lock down receivers on every play. It's not by accident. They really have an attack-mode type of defense. Watching them against North Texas, they did a good job of mixing up their different blitzes, and coverage-wise, blending in from coverage to man to zero blitzes with no help. To get interceptions, you have to have really good athletes, and they have really good athletes."
On Why The Run Defense Has Been So Successful This Season:
"You can't stop everything. You can be really good at 10 things, but with offenses spreading you like they do, you have to limit what you want to be pretty good at. They've done a really good job with run-gap integrity. It starts up front with the defensive line and linebackers and how they fit. They're doing a good job of doing their jobs. We need to try and control that part of the game."