Scottie Montgomery previews Saturday's home game vs. Tulane

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GREENVILLE, N.C. – Second-year ECU Head Football Coach Scottie Montgomery addressed members of the media on Monday prior to Saturday’s home game against Tulane. The following are selected comments:

Opening Statement

“I thought the start to the Houston game was our demise. On offense, we came out with an aggressive game plan to start the game and unfortunately we couldn’t hit the big plays that we had schemed up. For a couple of weeks, we had done an excellent job of executing in practice and we got to the game, we did not execute. We’ve got to do a better job coaching it, making sure our execution on our first drive after our defense gave up a score. Then I thought our defense turned and got a stop and I think that the next series for offense was probably our most critical series that got us down 14-0. We turned the ball over which turned into points.

“As I looked at the end of the game and looked at it on the way back home, the things that jumped out to me in the game were that we had 33 first downs, to their 16 first downs. We had 140 yards on RPO’s (run-pass-option), which Gardner [Minshew] did an exceptional job most of the day of getting the ball out. It’s nothing but an extended hand off. Forty-plus minutes of time of possession to 19 minutes and 12-of-22 on third down offensively. If you get into those numbers that is above what you would normally see, not only a number, but also the percentage of what we were able to execute at. It came down to a few things; three turnovers on offense, and five plays for 240 yards on defense were the difference in this game. And those turnovers that we talked about directly resulted in 21 points for the team. But any time you start as slow as we did, get down 21-0 in the first quarter of a football game you find yourself in a dog fight trying to fight your way out of it the whole time.

“I did think we have some superlatives on offense. John Spellacy is continuing to show how good he is going to be here as a true freshman. He had to hear all week from me, from everybody else, about the guy that he was going against; Mr. [Ed] Oliver is what we called him in the building because of how well he played. John did an exceptional job against him and only gave up one pressure. He gave up a sack that had a little more to do with the scheme of the play. But throughout the game, I thought he did a good job of leveraging Oliver, a good job for us in our pass protecting and also in the few runs that we did get handed off in the game. Gardner Minshew set some school records for completions and attempts. I thought he threw the ball well for the most part. There were a few plays that we still missed and we can get better, but I thought he did a good job in the football game of giving us a chance to get back in it if we wouldn’t have dug such a deep hole in the first quarter.

“Defensively, we’ve got to do a better job in our coverage. I think our defensive front and the guys that play close to the line of scrimmage did a good job of holding up against the run. They [Houston] thought they would have a great opportunity to come in and put together some quarterback runs and different runs of sort. To see a quarterback that runs a lot beat us with his arm is very hard to watch. Coverage definitely has to get better; we’ve got to coach it better. There were two to three dropped coverage’s in the game that resulted in huge plays. So defensively, we still have a ways to go. I said after last week I don’t think it’s fixed. Offense, defense, special teams wise we have a long way to go to get better but we do have some things that we can build off of from this past game.”

On Tulane:

“Moving to the Tulane game, coming off a really, really tough closely fought battle against Cincinnati. It was a very clean game, no turnovers, just back-and-forth all the way to the last three minutes where Cincinnati had some breakout runs. I think the yardage was about 360-to-360 at that point in time. So both teams played extremely hard. No. 1 [Jonathan Banks] at quarterback does a really, really good job not only running their option packages, and it’s a gun option package not one of the ones you would see from the academies. They do a really good job of using the run action pass with him. He’s also their second-leading rusher and he’s completing about 55 percent of his throws. So, he will take off rather than just throw the ball away, he will take off and scramble. I think our hardest thing for our defense this week is going to be to get him on the ground. Even when you get him in your grasp he has made a lot of plays of standing up in the pocket with people on him throwing the check bounce. That has resulted in some huge plays.

“Defensively we’ve seen this front now so many times this year dating back to West Virginia, this grizzly front, where they can move into a bear back out to a grizzly front. We are going to have to do a good job because on the perimeter these guys are one of the first teams that we have seen that plays a lot of man-to-man coverage. A huge matchup this week will be our receivers versus their defensive backs not only in the red zone, but also out in the field. Our quarterback is going to have to be extremely accurate but we do have some opportunities to get some one-on-one matchups that we think we can have a good chance of making some big time plays down the field. In all, they are a really good football team. They battle all year, they’ve been in some good games, they’ve won some big games by big margins and they’ve been in some tough games. So this is one of those games in which we have got to go out and play our best. We’re going to need all of Pirate Nation to come out and give us that same atmosphere that we had for homecoming. If we could get that again our young players will be on the sideline and it will just be a great feel for our guys to come back home and play in a great environment. I really think that was the difference in the BYU game.”

On Scripting Both Thomas Sirk And Gardner Minshew To Play Against Tulane:

“That is a decision that we will make a little bit closer to game time. Or should I say that is an announcement of a decision that we will make a little bit closer to game time.”

On The Decision To Play Minshew More Against Houston:

“I thought two weeks ago against BYU, what we saw in Gardner was a much calmer quarterback than we did in the first couple of games that he was in. Any situation he showed up in games, I thought he was a little bit frantic in the pocket. I thought he was a lot calmer in the pocket last week and I really think he was settled. We did a good job with talking him through a few of his reads and I think he settled himself quite a bit. I thought that he earned the right to play against BYU and I thought that I’ve said that before. We planned to give him the third series and had scripted it but we didn’t know it was going to go that way the first two series, but we had it scripted. Then I felt like we had got into a little bit of rhythm with him whether it was the interior runs connected to the RPO’s or just some of the third down plays that he was making. I thought that we had gotten back into a little bit of a rhythm but we will have that announcement a little bit later.”

On Why The Team Struggles After Having Good Practices All Week:

“It’s a tough question. I think the one thing is we have got to continue to grow our leadership on the team both vocal and active. I think that we have had some of our captains in the lineup, back out of the lineup, whether it is injury or playing and there has just been no smooth transition of leadership from one guy to the next. I really think that what we have to do to play better is that this is a team that has got to start fast. I say that and this is a team has come out and started fast, got drives and points, but defensively we will give up a big play. I think this is a team that has to get better stopping the big play because the momentum shifts in the game really affect this team due to the lack of guys that have played a lot of football or a lot of the leadership that is on the field. We have to get better at that but I think the more the younger players like Alex Turner, John Spellacy and Aaron Ramseur can and will become vocal.”

On The Status Of Mydreon Vines And Bobby Fulp:

“Mydreon had a high ankle sprain and I think we would be optimistic if we would say he would be back this week so we will find out a little bit more about him. Bobby dislocated a toe and we put him in a boot, so hopefully we will get him back.”

On Having Jimmy Williams Back Feeling 100 Percent:

“Well he was good for the first half and then as soon as we stopped playing just for that little bit of time his back tightened all the way up on him. We are trying to keep him loose. There were a couple of times when his legs went out from under him. He just wasn’t quite his normal self in a couple of situations. Hopefully we will get a little bit more out of him this week but his back has been causing him quite the pain. The biggest deal is we have got to get him to the point where he can practice all of practice without causing more pain. He loves to practice and when he is not practicing, of course, he feels like he is missing reps. So we got the game, he got tackled a few times, really pressed hard to try to get a couple of first downs and unfortunately at halftime he started feeling bad and as the third and fourth quarter went on his back began feeling tight.”

On Honoring The Military For Military Appreciation Night Against Tulane:

“I think it’s important that we understand the importance of our military. You bring up all that is going on in the country and it’s kind of hard to believe what’s going on. But it’s also hard to believe that we have 17 to 19-year-old men and women that are willing to go risk everything and sacrifice everything so we have certain rights, certain beliefs and that we can go out and have the freedom that we have because of these young people and their sacrifice. It is going to be a great deal, definitely, just to show a level of appreciation. But I just think that it is unreal, I remember where I was at 17 to 21-years old and to have the kind of courage and the heart to give up the great things that happen to 17 to 19-year olds to go fight for your country and to stand up for the beliefs for people that you don’t even know. I think it’s great.”

On What The Team Is Hoping To Accomplish With Postseason Out Of Reach:

“Get better. Try to find a way to see some of our young players. We are going to definitely try and build on some of the young players, not turn our back whatsoever on our older players, but I really want to see some more of young players. Really start to see more of Tahj Deans in our last game and on our defense want to see a lot more of our young guys. See a lot more of Bruce Bivens, but we have got to find a way to get some meaningful reps for some of our young people”

On Giving Reid Herring Some Time:

“Hopefully, but it is not one of the situations that we are thinking about more than Gardner. I think that it is important as we move forward that Gardner gets as many reps as he can get because I think that what we saw is a guy that if we can keep him clean, he can operate at a high level. We’re going to have to add some speed to some of these throws that he has because I believe as quickly as he’s getting the ball out and as accurate as he is, if we could just get a little faster and a little quicker in certain areas where you see other people catching balls and running slants, going 75, 80-yards. We can catch it and get behind people but we are getting caught in a few of those big plays. Some kick returns that look like they’re going the distance and we’re maybe getting ran down. So Gardner is probably a guy that we want to see a little bit more rather than automatically jumping to Reid. Now Reid’s reps in practice have gone up over the last two-to-three weeks, but it’s more about Thomas and Gardner right now.”

On Trevon Brown Being A Guarantee Next Year:

“Yes, he will be eligible to play football next year.”

On The Frustration Of The Running Back Position Nine Games Into The Season:

“It’s frustrating because I do feel and I do believe that there are certain spots on the offensive line that have created some seams and we’ve been getting the minimum of some of these plays. We’ve got to get more than the bare minimum and our backs have worked hard but no one is really separated themselves. We thought that we’ve gotten some good runs out of Darius [Pinnix] and he plays hard and we do have to do a better job of schematically giving him some opportunities to get to more space. But right now what they [other teams] are doing is the last couple of weeks are loading the box on us a lot more. We haven’t been able to get it split out to the perimeter as well as we were the last week, but it is a little frustrating that no one has stepped up. I had high hopes for a couple of the guys in the room. I still have high hopes. I don’t give up on these guys. But we definitely would like to see a much better rushing attach at this point.”

On Establishing The Run:

“It’s critically important. I have said it from day one we have to be able to run the ball. I’ve always been trying to get around 150, 160, 170-yards rushing because you are taking pressure off of your offensive line in passing situations. You’re taking pressure off of your quarterback. He doesn’t have to make a read every single time that he is back in the drop-back so he does need some time and opportunities where he can just hand the ball off. Then you really help your run action game to help get guys wide open. The first play of the game against Houston, that really only happened because we had the ability to show a big heavy run set. The next time we came back to that heavy run set and we ran the ball, we were able to get two high safeties and you’re getting Darius and some of those other guys in some situations where the box is a lot lighter, even in the run set. So they go hand in hand.”

On Regretting Not Keeping A Timeout At The End Of The First Half Against Houston:

“No. We have several situations that we practice a lot. Any time you get a third down and you still have the ability to get another first down on the field, what we like to do is try to call a timeout with plenty of time or as much time as we could have, try to get a great call on third down to score. But if we don’t score you see we had under routs that were going right at the sticks. If we get the first down with 38 seconds we can rush the ball, kill it, still have two plays to get to the end zone because we can get to the end zone with a first down. But if you don’t, if you try to maintain and continue to let the clock roll down what happens is you only get one play, you don’t get a chance to run in your bonsai field goal kick. And the unfortunate part of the bonsai field goal kick is that the holder and everybody was on the same page and Jake [Verity] was not looking at the game clock, he was looking at the play clock. So he thought he had about 14 seconds to get ready where everybody was looking right at the game clock and that’s why everybody was so frantic and Jake wasn’t quite ready to kick the ball. If I could have done anything different I would have told him ‘that’s not the game clock, that’s the shot clock’. So no, I wouldn’t have done that differently. I just wanted to get a chance to get a first down there, run up quickly, spike it, have two plays to the end zone and the ability to kick a field goal.”