ECU Head Football Coach Ruffin McNeill discussed Saturday's game at Navy.
Oct. 17, 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 Navy. The following are selected comments:
"I thought it was a great program win for us Saturday. It was also a great team win.
"Our team and coaches were very excited and enthusiastic for the game. It started last week in our physical and mental preparation. Both groups, players and coaches, did a very good job of preparing for the game. We've done a great job of preparing all year I think. Saturday, it clearly carried over into the game.
"It was a week where there were some outside influences and negativity flowing. To be able to block those out as a team and group was big. That's a very difficult obstacle to overcome. Our team and coaches did that.
"My satisfaction from the game came from inside the locker room. The faces of our players and coaches after the game were great. Just watching them after the game was where all my satisfaction came from. All the credit goes to the coaches and players and how they prepared.
"They overcame obstacles, which was tough following the Houston showing. That locker room and those faces were my satisfaction. To see that accomplishment was very big.
"In our coaches meeting today, I started by saying what a big program win it was. Those guys are upstairs right now watching film. Our coaches are very hard workers. [Assistant Athletics Director/Strength and Conditioning] Coach [Jeff] Connors and his guys work very hard. Our players work extremely hard. Not many people fully realize how much work our guys have put in.
"Having success was very important for our program because of all the time and hours they've put in. As I've mentioned on a number of occasions, this is one of the hardest-working groups I've ever been around. I was happy to watch them have success. That satisfaction of seeing our coaches and players after the win was great.
"Success builds confidence. We have not reached the pinnacle or anything like that, yet, but the success does build confidence. I was happy to see that."
On The Strong Third Quarter
"Last week during the game, I thought we played extremely hard. Even when tough things happened during the game, the team and coaches really kept playing hard.
"There are periods in the game we call continuous play, or rising on all three sides of the football. We had 16 continuous plays of offense to defense, defense to offense, offense to special teams and special teams to offense that accounted for 28 points for us and zero for Memphis. That was the longest string we have put together since I've been here. We keep track of those continuous plays on a board on the sideline during the game. That run was big for us. Our guys made plays.
"Our special teams did a great job Saturday. They are the glue that holds each group together. They gave our defense great field position and our offense, with the punt returns, good field position. They did a good job on kickoff returns, too. We broke two past the 30-yard line. Those guys did a great job overall."
On Overcoming Obstacles
"One of the biggest things to me was that the young men on our team learned a life lesson. Things I talk about to the media and fans are learning life lessons. They learned about keeping your head up, continuing to fight and facing adversity head on. Tough times don't last, but tough people do. This is another week where we have to make sure we're ready to go."
"Antonio Allison is probable for this week. He hurt his ankle last Tuesday but practiced last night, so I hope he'll be ready to go. Danny Webster is probable. He hurt his thigh during the game but came back in and played. He's a tough nut who I think will be ready to go. Reggie Bullock got some work last night coming off his thigh injury. Ty Holmes also practiced last night. I'm anxious to see both of them back this week.
"James Craig is very vital to our special teams and he's questionable right now. He's tough like Danny. If James can get back, he'll be back. Chris Baker had a knee issue and we think he'll be back Tuesday or Wednesday.
"Michael Bowman, who I just saw, rolled his ankle a little bit when he got caught up in a kickoff return Saturday. Emanuel Davis will hopefully be back. He was very physical during the game the other night and did a great job. Michael Dobson has an ankle deal.
"Jeremy Grove has a shoulder issue. We thought he could go in the game Saturday, but after warm ups, we held him out. It was hard on him because he's a tough guy. He was banged up, we thought he could go, but decided against it after warming up. Bill Wallace, or Braveheart as we call him, hopefully will be back this week after his shoulder deal."
"We have no breathing room with Navy this week. They've had a tough road and we know they'll be ready to go. We have to be able to match that same excitement and preparation we had last week.
"They beat us very handily last year here. [Head coach] Ken [Niumatalolo] has done a great job running that program. I know they've had a tough few weeks, but we also know the discipline and physicality of that football game and what it brings to the table each game.
"I want us to have the same excitement and focus this week that we had in practice last week. We want that to carry over into this Saturday."
On Navy's Defense
"Navy uses a 3-4 defensive alignment like we do. Buddy Green is a fine coordinator. They have three starters returning from last year's team. Up front, Jabaree Tuani is a returning starter and team captain. He's their leader in sacks and tackles for a loss. Matt Warrick, an inside linebacker, is the leading tackler.
"In the secondary, Kwesi Mitchell is a returning starter. Tra'ves Bush is a rover who they move around and do a lot of things with. He's also one of their leading tacklers."
On Navy's Offense
"It starts in this offense just like it does in ours, with the quarterback. I like Kriss Proctor. He's a really good athlete who is fast, just like the previous quarterback. What Ken has added to the wishbone/flex bone is throwing the football. Kriss is a lefty who is really mobile. He can drop straight back, roll out and, of course, run the option game. He's the leader. We'll have to make sure we keep him under wraps.
"At fullback is Alexander Teich, who we played against last year. He's a tough runner with speed inside. We have to make sure we have a lot of guys concerned with him.
"With this offense, we have to make sure we have guys focused on each possibility - the dive, the quarterback and the pitch. It's assignment football. We'll have to put a special eye on Teich regardless.
"Gee Gee Greene is a slot back and three-year starter who is very athletic and fast. He's involved in both the pitch and pass games.
"Up front, they return three of the five starters from last year and have about eight who have started during their careers.
"The kicking game is always solid. Jon Teague has made six-of-nine field goals this season. The punter, Pablo Beltran, is very solid. Gary Myers averages more than 15 yards per punt return.
"We're going up to Maryland. We've worked extremely hard defensively. With any offense that's different, we try to make sure we sprinkle in as much as we can during spring practice and fall camp."
On East Carolina's Offensive And Defensive Lines
"Offensively, we have to keep growing. Our offensive line has been patchwork for [offensive coordinator] Lincoln [Riley] and [offensive line coach] Brandon [Jones]. In the first half at Memphis, it was about finding continuity.
"We had two guys starting in positions they had never played before. Jordan Davis started at left guard and Josh Clark, a backup tackle and guard, stated at center. The first half showed that newness. In the second half, Brandon did an excellent job making adjustments and corrections. They did a really great job up front. I was pleased with that group.
"I was also pleased with the defensive line group. They did a great job surging, getting around and applying pressure. I thought we flew around well on defense and made plays.
"Offensively, we stayed the course, despite some tough times early, and finished strong.
"It was a great program and team win Saturday. I was very excited, especially seeing those faces in the locker room after the game. I couldn't wait to see how we would do. It was a chance for all of us to practice what we preach and live what we said. That's what being a Pirate means to me. We said what we would do and who we are and had a chance to prove it."
On Revenge Following Last Year's Game
"We will not focus on that for one second. The score spoke for itself. We just have to make sure we play hard. They beat us handily. I just want us to execute on defense and take care of the ball on offense."
On Differences In This Week's Practice Due To Navy's Offense
"Yes we have to change things a little. The defense has to have more full-gear days because of the blocking schemes. We have practiced against the option all year long, at least sprinkling it in when we can. But this week has to be different. There's not much our offense versus our defense can help. Our defense has to see as many reps as possible. We've tried to expose them to that already.
"The scout team meets with our coaches and we show them film. They have to duplicate this offense to a tee. They can't be one inch off to the left or right. It comes down to the scout team being very studious in the film room.
"They have to be able to do exactly what Proctor does at quarterback. They have to have the same mannerisms the offensive line, fullback and slot backs have.
"It may also call for us to move some guys who normally play at the tight end position for the scout team to the scout team offensive line to show our defense some more speed up front. We're going through right now trying to find a quarterback who can run the option and give our defense a good look.
"On offense, we're trying to show them as many looks as possible that they might see from Buddy. They used both even and odd-man lines against us last year."
On What Makes Teams Successful Against Navy
"I'm just getting to the film on Navy. They've done a good job controlling the Navy offense. They've also been able to score on offense.
"Somebody asked about Navy quitting. Those guys defend our country; they're not going to quit. I'm not going to get caught up in that at all. They are a tough group of men who I respect very much.
"They do a good job on all three sides of the ball. It's very important for us to play well on all three sides of the ball."
On The Strong Start To The Second Half At Memphis
"We were fired up the whole game. I told them to maintain the course. I also told them to live what they had been talking about. We said we were going to do it, so we needed to do it. I just reminded them of that.
"No matter if it was a tough time of the game, there was still excitement on the sideline. There is a fourth aspect to our team to go along with offense, defense and special teams and that's our sideline. We generated excitement on the sideline the whole game, whether tough things happened or not. On film, you can see us getting warned to move back our guys on the sidelines because they were cheering so much.
"At the half, I just told the guys to keep living what they said they were going to do. I learned that here at East Carolina. That's what being a Pirate means to me."
On Reaching The Halfway Point Of The Season
"I want us to be a group that keeps working and grows from its experiences. We learned a big life lesson Saturday. We have to stay the course, keep fighting, face adversity and go at it. Nobody demands more of their football team than I do. Nobody demands more of the coaches and players than I do. Nobody demands more of them in the weight room than Coach Connors.
"It was big for them to have success Saturday and big for us to continue that. I want us to keep developing as a football team. We have to stay the course and stay tight. I can't wait to see them play this week. I cannot wait to get back on the practice field this week."
On Torrance Hunt's Performance
"Torrance will be starting the game Saturday, but it's good to see Reggie back. Michael Dobson also played really well at Memphis. He got hurt in the last play of the game Saturday. We'll start to see that three-man rotation if Michael can make it back for this week.
"Torrance did a fine job for us. I think at that position, you have to have some rotation. If Reggie can make it back I think he and Torrance will make a good combination for us. I hope Michael can go, too, because he played well."
On Defensive Looks To Use Against Navy
"It's really assignment football anytime you play a team like Navy in whatever defense you play. Air Force uses a 3-4 defense. Rutgers was an even-man defense. They've been exposed to just about everything. It's all assignment football and attacking. We have to tackle great. We have to have great pursuit and great swarming to the football."
On The Conference USA-Mountain West Merger
"I like coaching football. That's a lot of teams. It's going to be great competition. I was able to face a lot of those teams when I was at UNLV. They'll do some things differently than what we're used to, but similarities, too.
"I haven't really looked into that yet because I have work to do here with our team. To have competition like that is something I'm looking forward to, though. I just love the challenge of coaching football. This is all I've ever done for 31 years. This time of the year is all about coaching and watching film.
"I think a lot of things are still happening and merging, but I leave all that up to Coach Holland. My thought is just play some ball and coach them up."
On Playing At A Service Academy
"I think it will be neat. I traveled to Air Force on a couple of occasions and it's a good experience.
"I have a lot of respect for all the academies. Most of my family has served.
"Carrying over what we did in the game last Saturday and playing with excitement, playing hard and playing aggressive will also exciting. We have to carry over the same excitement and focus this week."