“We have a high standard here at East Carolina. We expect a lot out of our teams and program. We’re not happy with where we were last week. We felt like we had opportunities in the last two games especially, but there’s a point where you have to have all three sides contributing and we didn’t get that done. We talked about taking care of the football and taking it away on defense. We talked about cutting down our penalties and making plays. What I saw on film was that we’re doing too much ‘don’t do and not to’ instead of ‘to’s,’ and you see hesitation. We can’t have that. Maybe that’s just something we have to let the guys go and let them play. This is the most adversity I’ve seen on a team that I’ve coached or been around. Some of us are going through that in our personal lives, but at the same time, we know we have three games left in this fourth quarter (of the season). We’re looking forward to South Florida. It’s a big game. All of them are big, but this is a big one for us.
“Last night (at practice), the kids came and I thought we had another good Sunday practice. It’s very important that we have a good work day today and the rest of this week with preparation for South Florida. Willie (Taggart) has them playing well. They lost to Navy last week, but they were on a three-game (winning) streak. What Willie has done is he has gotten Quinton Flowers’ mold around his ability. He’s very, very athletic, one of the most athletic quarterbacks that we’ll face, and Willie has shaped the offense around him. Marlon Mack is probably the best back that we have faced and will face. He’s averaging over 100-plus yards per game. He was excellent last year, but he has really been productive this year, too. They also have another guy, D’Ernest Johnson, at the running back position, who catches the ball really well. I think he’s second on the team in receptions, but he’s also a guy who contributes in the run game as well.
“They have a really experienced center. You watch Brynjar Gudmundsson and he has 32-career starts as a fifth-year senior. They have a great tight end, Sean Price. We remember him from last year and they use him in a lot of ways, kind of like the way we use Bryce (Williams). Offensively, they’re doing some really positive things.
“On defense, with Connecticut and South Florida, you notice a size difference. Auggie Sanchez is a linebacker we saw last year (who is) very aggressive at 6’2, 245-250 and Jamie Byrd on the back end with Nate Godwin. They’re both very active. For us, it’s making sure we execute offensively and defensively. The biggest thing we talk about is the ball – taking the ball away on defense and taking care of the ball on offense. On special teams, they have two of the top returners on both units (kickoff and punt returns) in the country. It’s a big week and big game for us.”
On USF’s Improved Running Game:
“I mentioned how Willie (Taggart) is using Quinton (Flowers), the quarterback, but Marlon (Mack) is a good running back as well. They’re experienced up front and they’ve been injury-free too, which helps. For their offense and ours, the center position is very important for making the directional calls and identifying the linebackers. Marlon is a special running back. He really has great vision.”
On Marquez Grayson’s Performance at UConn:
“We were worried about Marquez a little bit, but we put him in the game and saw him on special teams the week before. Chris (Hairston) did get banged up, but he’ll be all right this week. I was happy to see Marquez back from his injury, but we still have to be careful with him in practice. He’s a downhill and slashing runner that we need. It’s good to see him add that size. Anthony Scott missed last week with a groin injury, but he’s back so that will help, too. Chris has taken a lot of punishment this year, but it’s good to see Marquez back.”
On The Quarterbacks Pressing In Recent Games:
“Those two guys came into the season not expecting to play. James (Summers) is going to be our Justin (Hardy) with the ball and we’ll see what he can do. Blake (Kemp) was going to be our backup or the third team guy, but they both hung in there and they both played. That position, in this offense, is critical. We make no excuses, but that position does have to make plays for us.”
On The Adversity He Has Faced And Advice He Has Sought From Colleagues:
“I was talking to Donnie (Duncan) and he said, ‘Just be yourself. It’s 90 percent how you handle it and 10 percent is what happens.’ Donnie calls it command influence. They’ll watch you and they’ll go as you go. Because they (the players) care so much about the team, and us you see them pressing a little bit, but we just need to let them know that it’s okay to make a mistake. You don’t want to make too many of them, but don’t handcuff yourself. Keep making plays each day and I approach each day like I have been.”