How has practice been this week?
We had a good Tuesday and we needed one. There was a lot of disappointment obviously on the team Sunday and deservedly so. We sat in there and had some very candid conversations as coaches as players and back and forth. A lot of the guys said good things about what they needed to do better.
Obviously, I owned it as the head coach and asked them to own the things that they knew they could fix. That's what this week has been about. Going out there and putting our best foot forward. Looking back on what you can learn from is the only thing you're going to get out of that. I'm really excited to get into this next game and playing against a team that obviously has nothing to lose. We're going to have to go out there and going to play really well.
You prefer to learn from a win, but in this case, what are the key things this team needs to learn out of defeat?
We didn't execute at key moments. Put ourselves in a whole in the beginning and rallied back. I was proud of them for that. It was a back and forth game. I don't think at any point I felt our guys lose anything from the back and forth part of the game. Sometimes you can get down in a game and you see guys get frustrated. That didn't happen. We just didn't execute, didn't make some plays at key moments. We had some opportunities obviously to win the football game.
I think the biggest thing the guys took out of it, we've been talking about it since January, we've got to be a team that doesn't beat ourselves, we've got to be a team that's opportunistic. When we have an open receiver we throw it to him, we catch it, we capitalize. If we get a pick in our hands, we've got to catch it. If we have a kick we can make, we've got to make it. Obviously I've got to do everything I can to help the guys. That's the kind of football team we've got to be to reach our goals.
Ryan Finley continues to throw the ball well. He's now completing 71% of his passes. He's 17th in the FBS with that. How different is it for a quarterback at home, seeing him under calm cool conditions to seeing him on the road to prove that he's the guy?
I thought playing in a loud environment, I thought Ryan handled himself pretty well. He made some big throws to get us back in the game there. The throws he made to Staff on both of the sideline throws I thought were really good. He's just a poised kid, I shouldn't say kid, he's a college grad already. He's very poised. I think he understands not just the offense, but the way our offense coordinator thinks.
He's kind of a step ahead sometimes with his questions. Being at home he's going to be in our element. I know he's excited to get on the field and play again.
Offensive line has to take a step forward as well. When you play on the road it's a little bit of a tougher environment. How would you evaluate the way that they adjusted to playing at ECU?
In the first drive I was disappointing. We had a procedure penalty and that hurt us as a 3rd and 3. After that, they settled in from that standpoint we ran the ball effectively at 6.9 yards a carry. Ryan wasn't on his back very much. Their quarterback got hit a lot. I though Ryan was upright most of the game. Those things were good.
There was some movement things that happened in the game we didn't handle well early. I thought coach Ledford adjusted well.
State continues to do coach is back to back 200 yard rushing games, 5 straight games rushing over 200 yards dating back to last season, how good of a job has coach Drinkwitz done adjusting to the personnel he inherited with this offense?
Yeah, it's fun to watch him. He puts it all together and he really uses his coaches well. He leans on them for information, gives them assignments. They come back to him and meet. They've got really good chemistry in that room. Just seeing how he puts it together. "All right, I've got to get Jason in this, okay I need to get Nyheim this, all right Matt needs this one."
How he works the call sheet, I like that quite a bit. I think as it grows Steph obviously becomes a guys because of what he did last week that we've got to get more touches to. That is a good problem to have for him.
You keep running the football like that, your offensive line has to be doing some good things. This is still a relatively new group in terms of playing together.If they can stay together week after week, coach, are their best days ahead of them?
Yeah. The starting five has played 2 full games with tachometer now. We hope that we can continue that trend. Garrett Bradbury is still playing his first year of football as a starter next to Tyler Jones and Joe Scelfo has really stepped in like he's been here for a long time which has helped us so much. The right side of our line I think is a little further along I think than our left just because those two guys have played more together. Just continuing to build that chemistry. Your whole line eventually can just feel what the other guy is going to do and it takes time.
When you see the defense out there playing, Airius Moore, 4 1/2 tackles for loss in the ECU games, now got 6 total. His play it just seems like he's starting to take it to another level.
He's a really smart football player. He's got great change of direction, he's not a 40 yard dash guy. In short shuttle type stuff, he's very explosive. He understand plays and he can diagnose plays, then he pulls the trigger. I know he would tell you there's a couple more that he left out there that he would have had. One of them was the route he got picked on, he could have had that in the back field.
That's what I love about him, he's always studying film. He wants to be a coach so the game isn't just the game to him, it's more than that. He shows that in his preparation.
The final drive for ECU that got them the go ahead touchdown, it was impressive to see converting the third downs. You're evaluation of where the team was and even some of your better players during that drive to just not be able to shut that down?
It was disappointing. We kicked off and got them inside the 20 on the kickoff. It was an 85 yard drive and we had multiple chances to stop them. We didn't get enough plays made at critical moments. There was a pass interference call that was pretty good defense. A lot of times that doesn't get called. That's just the way it is on the road, you don't get those breaks. You've got to find a way to win the game at the end and we didn't.
It was kind of an odd game for he NC state defense. Your pack did have 13 tackles for loss. I went back and tracked it today, Ecu had 31 first down plays, 9 of which were negative plays. The pirates average is 3 yards on first down. I tell you that before the game, do you feel pretty good about your chances?
Yeah. First down defense was not a problem. There was some critical penalties that were problems. There were some big plays in the first half. We gave up 5 explosive plays in the first half, none in the second. Just got us behind the chains. We've got to tackle better. I thought there was 3 or 4 moments where didn't play like we have been. It was hot, and there's fatigue and all that but we can't play like that and win a game and a close game.
What was your feeling about your teams ability to make explosive plays that first couple of games?
It's better than it's been. I think that was one of our goals. I knew that we'd be able to run the football, that's something that our kids believe in. We have good backs, we have good run schemes, when people are going to try to load up and stop it, we've got to be able to go over their heads and make plays and we haven't been able to do that consistently since I've been here. The first 2 games we've had some explosive plays in the passing game so it's been great to see that.
What's the difference between a sideline penalty and a sideline warning, other than the 5 yard penalty?
I wish I could really tell you what I think about that penalty, but I would get fined. It's the biggest confusing thing that's ever happened since I've been coaching. Our guy was not in the referee's area, he was not in our coaches box, he wasn't a coach for us at all. There's a lot of TV people over there. There's a lot of recruiting type staff that's over there. There's boosters that are over there. You're not allowed to be in the coaches box or on the white lines that the referees operate in and he wasn't in either.
Somehow, he got run into, he wasn't even watching the game, yet the official fell down and threw a flag. That's how it happened. That's was a big penalty especially when I had no control over it. Nobody did anything wrong. It's disappointing. It's one of those things, hopefully the officials will learn from and hopefully we won't have to deal with again.
Steph Louis had 142 yards receiving in this football game, coach, I think it's a confirmation about what you've been saying about him all fall. You were really singing his praises. Sometimes with a young guy like that, he has a big game, the lights go on, all of the sudden, he becomes a big factor. Can you really see him building on that performance?
Yeah I can because he's one of out best practice players. He works harder in practice than any kid we have. It's important to all of our guys but he demonstrates how important it is everyday. He visibly shows up with an attitude that I'm going to be great. He out works people, he hustles, you never have to talk to him about his attitude or his finish. I love what he does. I think he's got an unbelievable ceiling in the game and he's going to keep getting better because George McDonald is a really good receiver coach.
Can you explain the call, we were on offense and one of our player's helmets came off. There was a major penalty assessed. Can you explain that call?
In college football, if your helmet comes off, they consider you no longer a part of the play. Your supposed to stop playing at that point. That particular player continued to play and finished a block on somebody so that's a penalty for blocking without your helmet on. It's a player safety penalty. That kid, obviously was trying to be tough and finish a play. You can't do that. If your helmet comes off you have to stop playing at that moment.
One sack on Philip Nelson...
The problem we had when we won on the pass rushes, we weren't coordinated with when the coverage was tight. You wanted him to have to hold it for another split second. When we didn't win we had great coverage. It's got to tie together to get a sack. You can have the best coverage in the world. If you don't have any pass rush, he's going to hold the ball and someone's going to get open eventually, or he's going to scramble and throw it away. We did hit him a lot. We hit him hard. To his credit, he kept playing an threw a lot of nice passes. I think that's a good quarterback that they have down there too.
About the kicking situation trying to assess, it's tough to get a good evaluation on who you want in there. What's your evaluation on that process right now?
Coming out of camp, I felt like Conner Haskins, just had a lot of poise. They were pretty even. The pressure kicks that we did during camp, Conner made more of them than Kyle, that's why he was our field goal kicker going into the game. Kyle was right neck and neck. I've had Kyle handle our extra points because I wanted to continue to work with him. To Kyle's credit, I told him, if Conner goes in and is not having success, we're going to give you another chance. He came in and made a field goal. I think kicking off in the game helped him.
He'll continue to do that as well just so he can keep hitting that ball. He's had a good week of practice, so it's Kyle this week and hopefully he'll run with it. He was a quarterback in high school, he's a really good athlete, he's ultra-competitive. He did not have a great freshman year and he suffered a pretty significant leg injury during the spring. He missed a lot of time and development. He's now starting to have an opportunity again and I hope he seizes it.
James Smith Williams, the defensive end played 32 snaps and he spent some time in the ECU backfield on Saturday, local guy, from Raleigh. How do you feel about his potential as a pass rusher?
James is fast. For a kid that's 6'5, he can run a 4, 6 or better. James has got to get a little bigger. He's about 240ish. We need to get him a little heavier. He's going to be a really good player. He had a pretty good opportunity in that game on 4th down on a bootleg and didn't make the play that would have been a big stop on one of their 4th downs if he would have went for it. For a young player, once they make a play like that, they'll make more of them. It's the confidence factor. James is a guy that we love. He's a great student, he's a hard worker, he cares a lot about his teammates and his coach. See if he can get bigger for us.
Nyheim Hines, we know what he's capable of. He had 5 opportunities the other day and old dominion has had some kicking issues. Their main guy got injured last week. Coach, if Nyheim can continue to get that many opportunities, do you feel good about his chances to pop one?
Yeah. I would hope so. We've got to do a better job blocking for him for one. He missed handled a ball at the end. He had a sore ankle and wanted to go in the game probably, in retrospection shouldn't have had him in there on that last kickoff return. That really hurt our field position. That unit has to block well for him to have an opportunity. If we do our job, he's going to make people ... The first guy is not going to tackle him, I can tell you that. If we just give him a crease like we've done, he could really do some damage.
Old Dominion, this will be the third time playing them in as many years. Coach, do you see a lot of similarities when you watch the tape, are there some differences within this season?
Defensively, they're the same. I will say their d-line is a lot better than it was last year. A lot of the same guys are back, they've just gotten better. They've got a middle line backer that's pretty productive. On offensive, they're different. They've got an athleted quarterback and he's only 51% completion. He's scrambling a lot.
They've got a great tailback. Lowery is a really great player. Over 1,000 yards last year. Had over 100 on AP and would have had more if they would have given him the ball more. They got behind and kind of had to start throwing it around.
Quarterback David Washington, you talked about a quarterback that wants to run it, that maybe that's his comfort zone. We see that over at Louisville with a quarterback they've got, Jackson. What do you do to contain a guy that feels comfortable running the football?
You've got to really do a great job as far as the pocket first of all. They're going to drop back with him and they're going to be in empty. They're going to be in 4 wides. Our D-line is going to rush different. You've got to collapse the pocket. You can't run past him and open up an inside lane that he can escape through. In the quarterback run game, whether it's speed option or whatever it is, our safety's, our nickles, those guys have to be involved. We'll just have to see how he attacks us. He used a lot of tight end formations against App., against us, he's not done that. I would expect that he's going to open it back up so the guy's got a little bit more room to operate. We'll see. You've got to tackle that guy. We've got to get him where we can get the ball out and create a little bit if doubt in his ball security.
App State was able to run the football a little bit being able to get to that second level with your run game.
It's big. I feel pretty good about Matt Days or Reggie on a safety right now if I can get those guys to the second level. That's going to be a challenge. I think the strength of their football team defensively is their front. Our line is going to have to do a good job. Their middle line backer is productive. If we can get past those guys, they don't do a ton on defense. They've just got a few pressures, a couple coverages and they play hard. They use their hands well. We've got to do a good job finishing blocks.