Oct. 14, 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 Southern Miss. The following are selected comments:
"It was a tough loss. The thing that was tough about it was, when we watched the film, the kids played extremely hard. It was a strain, which is different from effort. They strained on every play of the game and I was very proud of that. It was our third game in a row on the road. Time ran out on us and we didn't come up on the positive end of that.
"We saw some positive things from all three sides of the ball. Defensively, we had some stops and had third down improvements. We held them to some field goals and responded to some of those changes effectively. There were a few times when we had to make a stop and we did. The offense saw some tough things in the first half, made some adjustments at halftime and moved the ball better in the second half. When we had to have the drive when we were down by 10, we drove down and got a field goal and then a touchdown. Special teams tied in with all phases from the coverage team to the return teams. The outcome is the one everyone sees, but there were some positive things in there that we can build from.
"We told our players that every goal that we had in front of us is still attainable. The most immediate goal in front of us right now is Southern Miss at home at Dowdy-Ficklen [Stadium]. Even more immediate than that for us coaches is to have a great game-plan today and a great practice tomorrow to make sure we do what we have to do to be successful on Saturday."
On Southern Miss:
"They're a program that, since I've been a player and a coach, is always a tough football game. I know they've had a tough season thus far, but you also know how they've built that program. Their community believes in their program like this community does here.
"Defensively, they return six players from last year's ball club. They've always been big inside, always could run and they still have that. I had the chance to watch [their film] against Nebraska and Boise State. You can still see the speed that they have up front at each position. We know we'll have to be ready to contend with that. DeBarriaus Miller is a defensive back that we'll have to keep an eye on. Alan Hawze, their middle linebacker, shows up really well on film.
"Offensively, they have a transfer quarterback from California in Allan Bridgford. I know he's had a tough beginning, but Sonny Dykes, whom I coached with at Texas Tech and is not the head coach at Cal, likes him. We have to make sure we are ready for whatever he will bring. They spread the football offensively like we do and stretch you both vertically and horizontally with screens, and also add the run game as well. It will be an offense similar to the ones we've seen all year."
On Placekicker Warren Harvey:
"Warren Harvey is our kicker and we're proud to have him on our team. He is a football player who happens to be a specialist. He's not a specialist who happens to play football. He had a tough day the other day. He is like the quarterback or the head coach on the team, because you get too much credit when you do well and you get blame when you don't do well. The first thing he wanted to do was take the blame upon himself. No one player or group wins or loses a football game. That's the way we feel here at our program."
On Vintavious Cooper's Performance:
"I'm glad he was able to play. Our offense has run close to 300 plays in the last three games. Even bigger than that, those five big guys up front haven't come out of those games. I was proud of Tay. He was a leader the whole game and never says a word except giving his offensive line praise."
On Cooper's Condition the Next Day:
"He was beat up like a boxer like he is, always. No excuses, no complaints and there will be no comparison - that's our deal. He went through Coach Connors' workout and he was ready to go to work last night. He'll be getting a full load on Tuesday."
On How To Get Warren Harvey's Confidence Back:
"The biggest thing we told him is that we believe in him. Warren has earned his way here. When you have earned and nothing has been given, he's not afraid of it. He has a belief in faith and God. He's one of our top students - period - here at East Carolina. He has great parents and his brother, Addison, is one of the best video guys I've been around. Last night, we put him in the same situation with no time on the clock, and he drilled it."
On How He Feels About The Offensive Line At This Point In The Year:
"They've done a great job all year. They had a tough night the other night, but that team blitzes. They've played 300 reps in three games and we still have a chance to win our division. They played well together. A lot of our other stats would not happen without them."
On How Much Conditioning In The Offseason Pays Off At This Time Of The Year:
"It's the key. Getting Coach Connors back here has been a blessing. He is a combination and mixture of a drill sergeant and a scientist. He has the unique ability, which is hard, to have an intense level in his training program. But at the same time, be able to talk to someone and not at someone. After he works them and takes them to a point where they could not go by themselves, they respect him and tell him that they love him."
On How He Assesses The First Half Of The Season:
"I like where we are right now. We've lost two games by eight [total] points. There have been some experiences that have happened to us during that six-game stretch, positive and tough, that we have learned from. Developing our team is where we'll head from here."
On Wide Receiver Justin Hardy:
"He's as humble of a kid as I've ever been around - the epitome of what we want in a student-athlete. He's as competitive of an individual as I've ever seen. Sometimes, people mistake kindness for a weakness. Justin is that way, but when it's time to put on the helmet, buckle up the pads and tighten up the belt buckle on the pants, he's full of fire. He thinks about the team first in anything he does."
On The Level Of Respect And History Between East Carolina And Southern Miss:
"As a player and coach, it has always been a big-boy pad day. It is not a place for anyone with a faint of heart. It was always one of the most physical contests that I've played in and been a part of."
On Having Jeremy Grove Back In The Linebacker Rotation:
"He's such a physical, old-school football player. We have to make sure he feels good about it and he's getting more confident after his injury. We will keep integrating him into getting more reps and workload. Jeremy is a big part of our team. His presence the other night was big and the more he plays, it will become even more important."
On Military Appreciation Day This Saturday:
"It's an honor to be able to do the things we are able to do in this country because men and women sacrifice their lives for us at a moment's notice. For me to go out and have a chance to be a part of something I love, around our kids and coaching is due to the bravery and courage of our military. I know we'll have a grand welcome at the game."