McNeill's Weekly Press Conference
Oct. 10, 2011
GREENVILLE, N.C. -Second-year East Carolina University Head Football Coach Ruffin McNeill addressed members of the media prior to this week's game against Memphis. The following are selected comments:
"They executed with precision. Their kids played with a lot of confidence. I told [Houston head coach] Kevin [Sumlin] after the game good luck and I hope we meet again in the championship game.
"We played our worst game of the season, on all three sides of the ball. That falls on me. I take full responsibility for that. I'll get it straight and we'll get it straight. We did not play anywhere close to our abilities.
"We had a great week of preparation physically. The meetings on Friday and Saturday were sharp. We didn't play well.
"We got down and faced a team that was really clicking at a high level on all three sides of the ball. Case Keenum is one of the best quarterbacks in the country. I hope people realize that. Saturday was the second time I've faced him and he's even better now. He's a big-time leader for them. He executes with precision.
"[Houston defensive coordinator] Brian [Stewart] had the defense playing well. It was their best game of the season. The special teams did a good job, too.
"Right now, we have to make sure we stay tight as a football team. Like I told the team, I have everything handled with the media. I can take care of that and feel great being able to do that.
"The thing we have to do is make sure we stay tight, focused and pulling for one another. I think we have done that. We did that right after the game and on the field at last night's practice. We had a great team meeting yesterday and film session. I was very pleased with that.
"When things are going well it's easy to handle. It's easy for everybody to handle when things are going well. Right now it's a little tough for us. I look forward to handling adversity. I've been around adverse situations most of my life. I look forward to handling this one and fighting back out of it, contending for the division championship and playing in the championship game.
"That is unwavering with me, even after the tough game Saturday. The challenge of getting back is one I relish. That comes from my faith and belief in what we have and what we're doing.
"We'll keep evaluating and reevaluating, which we did yesterday. We'll get it right and get it going."
"Derek Blacknall and Reggie Bullock are questionable, Derek with his back and Reggie his leg. Ty Holmes had a wrist injury. He played in the game Saturday and did a very good job for us. Brandon Williams, a freshman linebacker, also did a great job for us Saturday filling in for Holmes. We'll know more about Holmes' injury after today. Hopefully he'll be back this week, but he's questionable right now.
"I know they're a team that's having some struggles right now as well. Offensively, Taylor Reed is the quarterback. He has had a tough year so far, but we have to make sure we're ready to go. He has only thrown one interception so far.
"We have a lot of things to worry about with Memphis, but we also have to continue to focus on fixing East Carolina.
"At running back, Billy Foster was a wide receiver for them last year and they moved him to the backfield, like we did with Torrance. Now Foster is the starting back. He is very explosive and will also return kicks for them. Artaves Gibson is a true freshman right out of Memphis. I can remember Landon Hoefer, one of our graduate assistants, bringing his name up. Hoefer thought Gibson was a really special player out of high school. He's a backup running back. Keiwone Malone is a guy who transferred from the University of Alabama and will be a wide receiver.
"The one offensive lineman who really stands out on film right now is Ronald Leary. He's a four-year starter for them. They have a lot of new guys up front.
"Along the defensive line, Dontari Poe is the standout guy up front. There has been talk of him possibly entering the NFL Draft early. He has that kind of talent. He moves around and is active. Offensively, we have to make sure we contain him. Frank Trotter is another defensive lineman. He's a senior who is steady and does a good job for them up front.
"Akeem Davis and Terrence Thomas are the linebackers. They are active guys who move around and blitz. They got into a lot of blitz looks against us last year. They were really one of the first teams to do that against us. They'll still do that a little bit with Davis and Thomas. Cannon Smith played last year [as the starting quarterback] and now he's a tough hitter. He'll be a safety who we'll have to make sure we keep our eyes on."
On The Week Ahead
"Tough times don't last, but tough people do. I know we do that here. As far as I've been talking about facing adversity, we'll look it square in the eye and deal with it. My hat is off to Houston and I look forward to hopefully seeing them again in the championship game."
On The Quarterback Situation
"During the game, Dominique was the first one on the sideline cheering on Rio. I think that tells a lot about Dominique. We felt he was struggling, so we gave Rio a shot. Rio came in and did some good things, but Dominique is our quarterback.
"There is competition every week. We hope Dominique and everybody on the team understands that, but Dominique will start this week."
On Playing With Confidence
"We've had some tough games and not been successful four times. We'll just keep building on it step by step and get some success. As soon as we do, you'll see the same confidence within us.
"That's something I have to build in them. I tell them how much I believe in them. We tell them how much we believe in them. We just have to keep working.
"I've been here before. We'll handle it and dig ourselves out."
On Houston's Execution
"If Reggie can't go on Wednesday, he won't play. That's the rule. If he can't go three practices, I can't put him in the game. That's what I've gone by my whole life in coaching. If you can't go on Wednesday, it's pretty impossible to play in the game."
On The Offensive Line
On The Opportunity To Be 2-1 In Conference USA
On Rebounding From A Loss
"Success and confidence go hand in hand, though. The kids have to listen to me. There will be outside noise, but they have to listen to me. I care about them unconditionally. I told them I believe in them and what we expect. I take pride in being the leader of this football team. If they will listen to me and drown out the noise, because there will be some, they'll be fine. But success certainly helps."
On Players Who Have Stepped Up Following Saturday's Loss
"We had a great team meeting with a lot of guys stepping up. I was proud of those guys. They had a great practice last night. Now it's time to make sure we carry it onto the field each day."
On Dominique Davis' Performance This Season
"Dominique just needs to relax and play. He doesn't need to worry about what anybody else is thinking. He needs to worry about what I tell him. I'm the one who loves him unconditionally, so worry about what I'm saying and just play.
"That's true for some other guys, too, not just Dominique. Everybody just needs to play.
"We thought we played well in some games, but this one we didn't. We had great physical and mental prep work, but got in the game against a team that was executing on all cylinders.
"We just have to make sure the kids keep listening to us. We believe in them. They know that."
On The Running Game
On Playing On The Road Again
"It's easy when things are going well. It seems like when times get tough, things seem to multiply a little bit. I expect this group, because I'm part of the Pirate family, to stand behind us at all times. I would love to be at home this weekend in front of a sold-out arena, but being on the road is something you have to deal with, too."
On The Upcoming Schedule
"We work as hard as any staff I've been around in 30 years. Our coaches and players work as hard as any group I've ever been around. When you work that hard, the group needs a little bit of success. We have to get that this week.
"I'm not relieved, though. Every game is going to be a tough one in this league. The teams we've played have been very good, but I think we have a chance to be very good, too."