“We're coming off of a very productive open week for us as far as getting a lot of work done with our young players, and especially working on the fundamentals of the game, so that was really good, and now we're preparing for a really good East Carolina football team.”
What does your defense need to do to do better against East Carolina than Virginia Tech last week and than you did last year against them?
“Well, Virginia Tech did a great job of getting pressure on the quarterback, and the Carden kid did a great job throwing the football with the pressure and didn't get rattled. So we understand they're going to make some plays, they're going to catch some balls, and what we've got to do is do a great job of tackling in space and create some turnovers. That's going to be very big for us in this game.”
How do you feel about your secondary going into this game against those East Carolina receivers?
“I feel good about our secondary, but there's more to it than just that. I think our secondary will match up just fine. But Virginia Tech has got a good secondary, also, and so they still got exploited in some situations. So it's still going to be about 11 guys making plays.”
I know East Carolina coach Ruffin McNeill has a Texas Tech background. He was there with Mike Leach. Does their offense resemble the Leach offense, or is it a different kind of passing game?
“Oh no, it's definitely Lincoln Riley was there with them at Tech, and it's in that tree of offenses, whether it's Leach or Dana Holgorsen. Lincoln is a part of that tree, and that's where the offense originates from, and then I'm sure Lincoln has put his touches on it as he's gone.”
Can you talk about Shane Carden and how important he is functioning in that offense?
“Yeah, I mean, this guy, I think he's pretty special. I think he's very, very comfortable in the system, and you go back all the years that Mike was at Texas Tech and you watched all of the quarterbacks that came through, the older they got, the more efficient they were, the much better the offense was, and Carden has done the same thing.
“He's really a good, good football player. He really is, and he understands the system fully. He can run it at top notch speed and be very comfortable. He's got a lot of confidence in his receivers because he's got really good receivers. He knows where they're going to be, and therefore they're able to make a lot of plays and they're very explosive.”
I also wanted to ask about the rivalry in a sense. I know this is just your third year here, but East Carolina has always had kind of a chip on its shoulder about North Carolina. Is it hard to match the intensity they bring as they see themselves as the underdog with your guys and convince them this is a game that's really going to be intense?
“Well, I don't think our guys have to be convinced that it's going to be intense. I think they understand that. I think we're the underdogs going into this game from my understanding, from what I hear about everything. You know, we're going to go into a place that's going to be sold out; a hostile crowd. You know, I don't know. I've never really thought about any team that you play, their fans really liking you, so it's kind of the same way every time, and so they may be a little more rabid than somewhere else. There will be some noise and it will be an environment that should be a lot of fun to play in.”
What did you see from East Carolina last week in that upset win over Virginia Tech? What did you see on film?
“Well, one, offensively all the pressure that Virginia Tech got on them, especially early in the game, didn't affect them at all. I mean, they still threw the ball up and made plays. But the quarterback didn't get rattled, and when they needed to make a play, they went right down the field and made a play to win the game.
“Defensively I think they're much, much improved. I think they're much better than they've been since I've started playing them, which this will be about seven years now, and I think they've done a great job on the defensive side of the ball. I think that's the kind of hidden thing that people don't realize is they're doing a great job of stopping the run. Nobody has really run the ball effectively on them, and it's made teams try to be more one dimensional.”
What did you guys work on during your bye week getting ready for this game?
“Well, we went back to fundamentals of football: tackling, tackling in open spaces, the things that are going to carry us on through the season, catching the football, running with it, blocking. Just all of the true fundamentals of the game of football that you're going to need not only for this game, but that you're going to need throughout the season. And as young as we are, we need as many reps as we can get.”
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