Head Coach Skip Holtz
Oct. 13, 2008
GREENVILLE, N.C. - East Carolina University Head Coach Skip Holtz addressed members of the media prior to this week's game against Memphis. The following are selected comments:
On The Virginia Game:
"It was a frustrating and disappointing loss for this football team. I thought the team played extremely hard. I don't think there's any doubt that they bounced back through the open date, and I thought they played exceptionally hard. We did not play exceptionally well at times and we didn't really play exceptionally smart, but we had plenty of opportunities in this game and we just couldn't capitalize on them.
"I give Virginia a lot of credit. I think they're playing extremely well as a football team right now. You look at the way the game unfolded and we had our opportunities early. Our defense was playing really well and created a couple of interceptions, putting the offense in some pretty good field position early. We just couldn't put the ball in the end zone and had to kick a couple of field goals. Who knows what would have happened differently if we would have been able to [put the ball in the end zone]. But we couldn't and kicked a couple of field goals.
"Then, uncharacteristically, our defense ended up giving up three big plays in the first half, two runs and a pass, which resulted in 21 points. We went in at halftime down by a pretty significant margin. We talked about coming out in the second half and being able to turn and take the opening drive down and put up some points and then have our defense get a stop and give us the ball back. We felt like if we could get it down to a one-score game through the third quarter that we would be in good shape.
"I thought the team responded extremely well. They went out there in the third quarter and played hard, played well on offense and defense, moved the ball, went up and down the field, and got it in the end zone a couple of times. We didn't make a lot of big plays, but we methodically moved the ball down the field. We got into a 28-20 football game and we were right there in the fourth quarter. I felt really good about where we were. I thought, as a football team, we had gained some confidence and were playing pretty well. I felt like we could take that drive and go down the field and score, putting ourselves in a position on whether or not to go for two. I felt really good with where we were in the fourth period. Unfortunately we couldn't get it done. We couldn't capitalize on some of the opportunities that we had.
"This is the third game in a row that we have lost where we have been within a touchdown in the fourth quarter. When you look back to N.C. State, we had our opportunities there in the fourth quarter and they scored on the final drive, Houston was 24-17 at one point and this game was 28-20 in the fourth quarter. We have had our opportunities and just have not been able to capitalize on them.
"A year ago we won eight games in the fourth quarter, four of them on the last play of the game. In college football, the difference between winning and losing is a very fine line. We've got to be able to find a way to finish these opportunities we've had in the fourth quarter."
On The Team Overall:
"As we get into this week, the attitude of this football team is extremely positive right now. I think their attitude is positive, but they're very frustrated. Their resolve to get it straight is very strong right now. They're upset and motivated with where we are right now. They understand as a football team, we feel like we are better than what our record is right now and how we're playing right now.
"But as I told them, you get what you earn in this game and right now we've earned a 3-3 record. We have to get to the point where we can continue to play a little bit smarter and eliminate some of the mistakes. I think they're playing hard and physical. They've bought in, now we just have to turn and play a little bit smarter with where we are as a football team right now."
On Position Battles:
"As we approach this week, we need to continue to compete for some positions. Some guys are playing really well for us on the defensive front and at linebacker. I think some guys really stepped in and did a nice job. Cliff Perryman was a pleasant surprise, to go back home and play against that caliber ACC team and play the way he did was great. There are some guys who turned in some great performances. Those who are not grading in the `Victors Club' at this point, we have to continue to find some answers and continue to challenge these players to perform at a level that it's going to take."
On The Three Straight Losses:
"When you look at the three games that we've lost, we've lost to two ACC schools in N.C. State and Virginia, who I believe are very talented football teams. I think the Houston team that came in here played exceptionally well.
"We're playing at a good level right now, but we're not playing at a level high enough to turn and be able to get over the hump in some of these games against pretty stiff competition."
On This Week Against Memphis:
"It's going to be good to be back home again as we've been on the road four of the first six weeks of the season. It's exciting right now for this team to come back home and play at home. It's also exciting for them to get into the conference games and schedule. We are 2-2 out of conference, which is one game better than we were a year ago. We were 1-3 at this time a year ago out of conference and we started the conference play at 1-1.
"Right now, really, when you look at it, we're probably one game better than we were a year ago. But that wasn't the goal coming in. The goal coming in, as we talked about it, was a conference championship, to compete and see how good we could be out of conference and see if we could improve on our record from a year ago. We've done that to this point but we've got to get into conference play.
"Memphis is a heck of a football team. They are sitting there with a 3-4 record right now. Just like we could sit here and argue that we are a couple plays away from being undefeated, they could argue they are a couple plays away from sitting here as a 6-1 football team.
"They lost a game last week against Louisville that they outgained Louisville, almost doubling their productivity as an offense. Louisville scored three non-offensive touchdowns, a fumble recovery, a blocked field goal and a kickoff return. I think Memphis pretty much dominated the football game."
On Memphis' Offense:
"When you look at Memphis as an offensive football team they've got a great quarterback, Arkelon Hall, who has a gun, reminds me a lot of Darrell Hackney from UAB a couple years ago. Hall is a big, strong, durable quarterback who can throw the ball extremely well. They've got a great tailback, Curtis Steele, who is averaging 6.2 yards per carry throughout the season. To put it in perspective, I thought Jonathan Williams had a great day for us on Saturday, and he averaged 5.0 yards per carry.
"They have the tallest receiving unit in the country, and probably one of the most productive. When you look at Carlos Singleton, who is 6-foot-8, and what he's been doing there, he's been great. Going against him, I look at what this receiving corps did to us a year ago, and they threw for over 400 yards of offense and scored 40 points on us. It's hard to believe this, but I think they're a better receiving corps than they were a year ago. They've made some additions to it with everybody coming back and now they're all juniors and seniors. They've got guys who were all-conference a year ago who are backups right now in the '08 season. They're rolling a lot of people at you and they're big, tall and athletic.
"When you look at their offensive line, they have four seniors up front. One of the starters from a year ago is now a backup. They've improved all along the line and they are a seasoned group.
"You talk about their four senior starters up front, and they have 11 starting seniors on this football team. They have 21 seniors on their two-deep. It's a very experienced and mature football team. When you read the bios, it's like this guy started all 44 games of his career, this guy started three years in a row and this guy was all-conference a year ago. They all have an awful lot of experience and they are a very high powered offensive football team, which is averaging about 460 yards of offense a game."
On Memphis' Defense:
"From a defensive standpoint, the heartbeat of their defense is Clinton McDonald in the middle. He has seven sacks. For a three-technique, he is very active. Most of the time when you see somebody who is as active as he is, that player is on the end where he is not getting double-teamed as much. But McDonald has found a way to do it. He is one of the rare two-year captains that Coach West has had there at Memphis.
"They're very active up front and their linebackers are very athletic, big and physical. I think Winston Bowens in the middle is a real presence for them.
"Their secondary is probably their most improved area over a year ago. I think they're playing more man coverage, are more aggressive and probably have more overall team speed than they did last season. Both safeties return, but their corners are new and making a real impact.
"I've heard Coach West talk about how proud he is of the progress this team has made. They started 0-3 and they won three in a row before losing the last one to Louisville. When you look at it, statistically, they just made some mistakes. But I think Coach West is extremely excited about where his football team is right now and it's going to be a heck of challenge. You're into conference play and there are no `gimmies.' Every game is going to be challenge and it's going to be who does the best job of following the plan that week, doesn't turn the ball over and makes the minimal amount of mistakes. I think our players are excited about having the opportunity to come home and play here again, especially after our showing from last week. We're excited to come home to Dowdy-Ficklen, with all the support we've had here this week."
On The Cornerback Situation:
"Right now I think Dekota marshall is probable and Jerek Hewett is doubtful. I think it's very doubtful that he'll play this week. That would definitely be a blow to us when he is our only senior at corner. When you look at the other corners we have, they're all freshmen and sophomores. This is not only a game where you're going against some very athletic wide receivers and a junior quarterback who likes to throw the ball around, but also you're potentially playing it with a full field of sophomore and freshmen cornerbacks. That's not exactly the way you would like it, but at this point in time, that's kind of what we have."
On A Quarterback Rotation:
"I'm not really set right now with who I'm going to start, but Rob [Kass] will definitely play. The rotation and what were going to do will be mostly determined during the week of practice.
"I think Patrick is a captain and an upperclassman that has really played well. I really want to be loyal to Patrick and what he has done for this program. At the same, as I said, if we're turning the ball over and not following the plan, we've got to turn and look at what our other options are.
"Right now it's very difficult to look Rob in the eye, as much as he has played, as much experience he has and the way he has played in his opportunities, and tell him that he doesn't deserve a shot. I just don't know at this point what the rotation is going to be, but both quarterbacks will definitely play."
On The Possibility of Jamar Bryant Returning This Season:
"No. That will not happen this year.
"There are some variables that go into play, some things that Jamar has to continue to do and some benchmarks he has to hit in order to be able to remain a part of this football team. If he does, I would love for Jamar to be a part of this team next year, but there are some things he has to turn and do in order to make his way back on."
On ECU's Depth Chart Versus Memphis:
"There are definitely some things and there has been an awful lot of talk. As I said and we have talked about it as a staff, we have some guys who are very talented but, if they're not playing at that level, we cannot keep things status quo. I don't think we can reward talent, we have to reward productivity. We have to make sure that the guys who are playing, are at that high level and are grading in our `Victor's Club' as we sit down and do the grading.
"We have an obligation to put guys on the field who are going to play at that high level. Our obligation is to the most productive players. When I look at guys like Jay Ross, Zack Slate, C.J. Wilson and even Linval Joseph with the way he played this week, we've got an obligation to put people on the field who are going to turn and play at that same high level. When I look at the offensive line and Sean Allen, Cory Dowless and some other guys who are being really efficient and playing really well for us right now, but we have to surround them with other high-level guys.
"We've looked at some of the shakeups that we could make and there are possibilities on the offensive line and wide receiver. You could see some changes in the secondary and at quarterback. There's going to be a lot of competition continuing to go on this week.
"I certainly don't want to call what we're in a `slump' because I think we've lost to three pretty good football teams and we've been in the games, but just haven't been able to close the door. We've got to continue to find answers and guys who are playing at that high level. I don't think sitting here at status quo and rewarding talent is the answer. I think we've got to find people who are motivated to go out there and play at a high level."
On Virginia's Big Plays:
"Really, the big plays with the runs were a couple of missed tackles. I can handle a physical mistake. I have a hard time standing in front of a team and yelling at a team because of physical mistakes. It's not desire, want-to, focus or that they didn't know what they were doing and made a mistake. As I continue to say, if they are better than us, let's make them earn it. If Virginia makes somebody miss, break a tackle, tip-toe down the sideline and we can't push them out of bounds on Saturday, than in a lot of respects, they were better than we were. To pinpoint the big plays, really, they were more physical mistakes than mental mistakes, which is something I can live with.
"I was proud of the way they responded to those big plays. The way they responded was the way they went in the third quarter and fought our way back, got back into it and competed to get into a football game. At that point in time, on the road against an ACC team, it would have been real easy to fold your tent, go out there and go through the motions. I think they came out in the third quarter probably more determined than ever to execute, focused on what they had to do and to turn and make some of those plays. I thought our defense played much better in the second half than in the first half. I can handle some physical mistakes but I thought the way they responded to the adversity we were facing was much better than in the Houston game.
"But most of those big plays were missed tackles by our safeties who have tackled extremely well this season up to that point. They also did some good things from a scheme standpoint, putting four receivers to a side trying to get an edge. When you miss a tackle there, that makes for a long day."
On Jonathan Williams' Play:
"I was pleased with the way Jon played and I think he brings something to the table. He is becoming a more physical runner and more confident in what he has to do in there as a football player. He is getting better in pass protection. He did have one of the sacks in a third down situation because he had a bust, but that's part of what the experience is when you give younger guys reps. But he'll be better this week because of it.
"I think he has matured as the season has unfolded and that he's going to be one heck of a back. Right now he'll continue to be the starter. I know this is a very difficult role for Brandon Simmons to play because he is a very physical and proud player. He is a senior who has done some very good things for us and he is a big part of this team from an attitude and moral standpoint. We have to make sure we don't lose Simmons, but I also think we have an obligation to put the best tailback out on the field. Right now that's Jon Williams with the way he's playing and the things he can do in the open field when he has the ball under his arm. So he will continue to be the tailback right now. Norman Whitley will continue to play some, as will Brandon Simmons. It will still be by committee, but Jon has stepped out to the front a little bit."