Coaches Corner: Q&A

Following ECU's heartbreaking 15-10 loss to Virginia Tech, Inside ECU Sports caught up with the coordinators during the bye week.

--- Offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley ---

Q: With the bye week, is your squad focusing more on themselves or are they getting ready for UNC a little early?

A: A little bit of both. Mostly ourselves. We know we're a quarter into the season now. We looked back over the first three games and look at things we've done well and look at things we need to do better—identify those things, have a practice plan for those things, look at personnel and look at ourselves coaching. It's a week where you look back in the mirror and be honest with yourself and figure out things you need to get better and get go get that done.

Q: Against Virginia Tech, it seemed like the tempo dropped after the touchdown on the opening drive. Why was that?

A: It was a game of not many possessions. We didn't play as good after the first drive as we did the first drive. To have good tempo, you have to get first downs and take care of the ball and drive the ball. We didn't have a hard time getting first downs. We got the drive started, we got going pretty early. I think we only had one three-and-out the entire game. We got going, but shot ourselves in the foot with negative yardage plays and then, obviously, the three turnovers. Against a good football team, you can't do that. We didn't play nearly as well as we hoped or expected to play and we know we have to play a little better.

Q: Vintavious Cooper only got the ball four times in the second half and only two of those were carries. What caused that adjustment away from the running game?

A: Nobody got the ball much. I think we only had five drives in the second half. Nobody touched the ball much. When you don't have that many plays, you're not going to have many guys touching the ball. We're going to try and spread it out to all our weapons and let it go, but we've got to hold the ball and sustain it to get it to those guys.

Q: Even though the Hokies were putting more and more pressure on Shane Carden, what caused you to lean more towards the passing game as the game went on?

A: Just the way the game developed a little bit. There was a lot of things that were right there for the taking and things we normally do on a routine basis. We were just a little bit off and they did a good job at making us pay for our mistakes.

--- Defensive coordinator Rick Smith ---

Q: The defense looked good against the Hokies. Are you using the bye week to have them focus on themselves post-Virginia Tech or are you getting a head start on UNC?

A: Well, we basically just focused on fundamentals today: trying to stay square, tackle better and wrap. Today wasn't a very good practice. We had chances to win the game defensively and we didn't do it. Our goal is to out-play our opponent's defense and we did not out-play Virginia Tech's. As far as I'm concerned, we didn't do our part either.

Q: Well what were you most pleased with on Saturday?

A: Basically, I was pleased with the way they handled adversity. Our offense turned it over three times and we went out and fought our butt off and did not give up a field goal or a touchdown after our offense turned it over. That's one of our goals is to never give up a touchdown after a turnover. We had a fourth down stop, which I was proud of. On the sideline, I don't think they doubted that we could win the game. I thought they fought to the very end. That's what I was most proud of. They played together.

Q: What are your thoughts about how the rush defense emerged against Virginia Tech?

A: Part of that was John Wiley and Marc Yellock and Duane [Price]—all four of us came up with a good game plan and we felt like that if we stopped the run, we'd win the game. It's one of the few times in my career that we did that well against the run and did not win the game. We didn't play well enough on third down. Third down and long we played extremely well. We were 75 percent successful on third and seven or more, but third-and-medium—third and three, four, five and six—we weren't good enough. That hurt our offense because we gave up field position. If we could've stopped them on some of those third-and-medium drives, it would have helped out offense.

Q: What kind of things are you looking at fundamentally to get better at third and medium?

A: We worked on some base stuff out of our third-and-long and third-and-medium packages just trying to polish it up and correct the mistakes we made Saturday.

Q: What are your thoughts on how the linebackers did with pass coverage?

A: They did really well. Those two kids played lights out. Zeek [Bigger] and Brandon [Williams], I'm just so proud of. Really, they played better than I thought they would, but I never had any doubt that they'd play just like starters, which they did.

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