ECU Football: UCF Game Week Coverage
GREENVILLE, N.C. (WITN) - Get ready for ECU football’s season and home opener against No. 13 UCF on Saturday, Sept. 26 with WITN Sports coverage throughout the week.
Kickoff: 12 p.m. inside Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium
ECU Depth Chart (Released Tuesday):
Video Link: https://youtu.be/z0FTFhy1EQM
Second-year East Carolina Head Football Coach Mike Houston addressed members of the media Tuesday prior to Saturday’s season opener against No. 13 UCF.
"Game week is finally here. I know for much of this year, we’ve all wondered if this week was going to come. Certainly, there’s been some ups and downs and some adversity for everyone in their lives throughout 2020. We’ve had all the start-stop at the start of preseason camp, but what we’ve all seen across the country the past few weeks is that you can play college football this year and finally it’s our turn. The players are extremely excited. I could sense just a difference in them on Sunday, when I met with them and when they got out on the field. This is what they’ve been working for. Even though we missed out on spring practice, a lot of our winter conditioning, a lot of our spring and summer conditioning, they’ve been working very, very hard since they got back, and we’ve made tremendous strides to get to where we are today.
"Obviously, we’ve got a great opponent coming in here Saturday. UCF is one of the top teams in the country. We saw witness of that this past weekend when they took on a much improved Georgia Tech team, who I watched against Florida State the week before down in Tallahassee. UCF was very impressive in their blowout win this past Saturday in Atlanta, putting up 660 yards and scoring 49 points. Tough opponent coming in here, but it’s good to start off with what has been the best team in the AAC over the past three seasons. You get the chance to start off with them at home. It’s an exciting matchup for our players. They’re excited about it. They’re excited about being at home for the opener. Can’t wait to get out on the field.
“I expect us to have a good week of practice this week. I expect us to come out fired up and ready to go on Saturday for the 12:05 kickoff. It’ll be good to be back to some Pirate football.”
On The Confidence Level In The Defensive Line
“I think the kids are ready to go out there and play. Unlike last year, we’ve put an emphasis on building some depth there on the defensive front. There’s been some great competition throughout preseason camp. We’re going to play a lot of kids on Saturday and we’re just ready to go compete.”
On How Fluid The Depth Chart Is
“Around here, you’re competing every day. You could see some adjustments between today and Saturday. There’s still some competition going on. There’s been a lot of guys who have been out that are coming back. This is really their first week where they’re back practicing a lot. You could see those guys involved. I think that’s the great thing about our roster right now, we have a lot of competition across the board.”
On Talking With Other Coaches About New Protocols
“We’ve talked to several programs both within our conference and outside of our conference. Just about everything from gameday operations to the sideline to just the feel of a stadium that’s not full to postgame. It’s so much different and there’s been some things that have popped up other places that hopefully we can learn from those experiences and avoid some of the things that have gone wrong in some places.”
On What Concerns Him The Most About UCF
“Obviously their talent, speed and athleticism across the board in all three phases. It’s going to be a challenge. You watch them from the opening kickoff on Saturday against Georgia Tech and like I said, I think Georgia Tech has an improved roster. But the speed differential was drastic. I think it’s something we experienced last year down in Orlando, so we have a good feel for it from that game. Beyond that, I think that handling the tempo of their offense is something we’re going to have to do a great job with this week. We’ve been able to start on that a little last week, using our offense to help us there a little bit. But also, I think our scout team has done a good job of trying to simulate an up tempo deal. I think it’s going to be limiting the dynamic plays they have on offense. Hopefully we can have some of our own offensively.”
On How Important It Is To Withstand The Early Surge
“I think it’s critical to stay in the fight. We’ve been talking about that and we’ve been kind of equating it to, when I meet with the team this afternoon, to Mike Tyson in the early 90′s, late 80′s. He knocked out so many opponents early in the match. It was really until Buster Douglas took him into the latter rounds that he finally lost. It’s kind of that mentality that you’ve got to compete and go at them from the get-go, not get behind like we did last year, which you’ve seen so much. I thought Georgia Tech did a decent job with that last week. They had three drives in the first quarter that all got down into the red zone. The disappointing thing for them was only coming away with seven points. If we can get a fast start offensively and keep it as a really competitive game, I think that will really help our kids' confidence.”
On The Decision To Have Crowd Noise Being Pumped In
“That’s a conversation I’m going to have, that’s a conversation our administrators are going to have. They’ll be taking care of those throughout the week.”
On The Competition At Running Back
“Demetrius Mauney has been a guy that has been out and missed some time during camp. He’s coming back so there’s another guy that is going to be in that mix. But I think there’s been a lot of competition there. It’s something where we want to play a lot of guys in the backfield. Now you’re getting into competition in games so certainly performance on the field will affect some of that. But it is good to have multiple options.”
On How The AAC Guidelines Will Impact The Weekend
“It’s obviously going to impact it a lot. We’ve had the results of our first COVID-19 tests yesterday. We got those back today. I’ve already got my memo for my second COVID test tomorrow. So, we’ll get the results back on Thursday. Then Friday morning, we’ll go in for our third test. Those parameters are in place to try to ensure as safe of a bubble as possible. After we get that third test back on Friday, we’ll try to keep our group and our travel team together as much as possible for the rest of the day Friday and Saturday. We have protocols for how we’re going to meet, how we’re going to eat, how we’re going to travel, who’s rooming together, who sits at the table when you’re eating. We have so many protocols for all of these things to try to create as much of a situations that when we take the field on Saturday, the guidelines in place from the AAC should allow us to have a group on both sides that is COVID negative. That way, your risk is just minimal during the competition. I think that’s where you’ve seen some difficulty around the country from some conferences that are not quite as rigorous testing throughout the week and not as strict on protocol.”
On The Status Of Noah Henderson
“He’s battling some stuff, injury-wise. We’re hoping to get him back pretty quickly. He will be unavailable this week though.”
On Thinking About The Emotions At Game Time
“I’m sure that will come as the week wears on and we get closer to the true kickoff. Right now, we’re still very much in the preparation phase. There’s no doubt, with everything we’ve been through, the uncertainty, I think all of us will have a feeling of excitement. You have so many guys playing in their first college game for us this week. I think those guys will be a little nervous, but still excited to get out there and compete. I’m excited to watch our team compete. Our roster is a lot different than it was a year ago. I think it’s a group that you’re going to see improve as the season wears on. But we get our first look at them this week against an opponent that’s as good as any one we’re going to see. So, I think we’ll have a great chance to watch them compete this Saturday and I’m excited about the matchup.”
On Whether It’s A Disadvantage That UCF Has Played A Game Already
“I think there’s good and bad to both. Certainly, a team with the youth that I have, you’re always going to improve from game one to game two after being able to get some game experience. So yes, I wish we had some game experience heading into this game. At the same point, there’s still probably some unknown about us as far as UCF goes, where we have a little bit of confirmation on what we thought we were going to see because we saw them play. All in all, I wish we had played one by now, but it is what it is. I’m just glad to be playing on Saturday.”
On Whether There Will Be Rotation On The Offensive Line
“We have some solid guys as far as depth and competition going on. Certainly, when Noah comes back, they’ll have another guy added in and that can only help us. You’re going to see a couple of guys playing multiple spots to try to keep us fresh throughout the game. Certainly, you see more quality depth this year than we had a year ago.”
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