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ECU Football: Georgia State Game Week Coverage

Published: Sep. 29, 2020 at 4:22 PM EDT|Updated: Sep. 29, 2020 at 6:54 PM EDT
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GREENVILLE, N.C. (WITN) - Get ready for ECU football’s second game of the season at Georgia State on Saturday, Oct 3 with WITN Sports coverage throughout the week.

Kickoff: 12 p.m. inside Center Parc Stadium in Atlanta

TV: ESPNU

ECU Depth Chart (Released Tuesday):

ECU depth chart vs. Georgia State
ECU depth chart vs. Georgia State(WITN Sports)

TUESDAY

Mike Houston Zoom Press Conference Video Link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R4XHzg-XKug

Second-year East Carolina Head Football Coach Mike Houston addressed members of the media Tuesday prior to Saturday’s game against Georgia State.

Opening Statement

"We’re in the middle of another game week so we’re well into preparations for Georgia State. Obviously, it was disappointing not to be able to get the win last week against UCF in the season opener and conference opener. But I was very impressed with UCF and I think we all knew it was a good football team coming into the game. I think it’s a better team than they had last year because obviously everyone knows about their offense and the numbers, they put up there, but they’re improved defensively over what they were a year ago, especially in the secondary. But just a very solid football team.

"I thought that our guys were ready to play. I felt really good about our preparations coming into the game. I felt good about where they were Friday night, Saturday morning. Excited to play, ready to play. We came out and started the game off very well, with the opening drive, taking it down and scoring to make it 7-0. The defense did give up a scoring drive on their opening drive as well but did settle down and played pretty solid for the bulk of the first half. I’ve talked about it in numerous interviews and I said it going into the ball game, ball security is going to be big and turnovers are going to be big. We had three turnovers in the first half. Our defense did a great job of holding them to just a field goal off those three turnovers, but the culmination, I do think, gets told towards the end of the half. We did not finish the half very well, giving up a pair of scores quickly, the first in the closing minutes of the first half and then they came out and scored on their opening drive of the second (half). We really struggled to get back in the game after that.

“There were a lot of bright spots. A lot of guys playing their first game as a Pirate. A lot of guys were playing their first college football game ever. Lots of positives coming out of it. There were a lot of things to correct, a lot of things to work on, but still we have the first game under our belt. It’s good to finally be playing football again.”

On Georgia State

“We have a challenging game this week. Georgia State is very, very impressive on film. I’ve known (Georgia State Head Coach) Shawn Elliott a long time, going back to when he was an assistant at Appalachian State, and I was an assistant coach at Lenoir-Rhyne. Our paths have crossed numerous times over the years. Knowing him and his personality, on film, I see a team that looks like a team with a coach that’s been there a while and has built the roster. I think they play his style, very, very physical up front on the offensive line. Very, very physical up front on the defensive line and with the linebackers. Very aggressive defensively. Tall, rangy, very athletic quarterback. Brad Glenn, the OC was also an Appalachian State guy. He was at Western Carolina when I was at The Citadel, so they have a style of stand-up athletes on offense that Brad likes. Dual-threat quarterback that will give us a lot of problems in the run game and the pass game. (Destin) Coates is a very talented running back, an older kid that runs with some power and has speed. I really thought they worked Louisiana Lafayette pretty good for three and a half quarters. Lafayette broke a couple of big plays in the fourth to send it to overtime and was able to win it in overtime. I promise you, that’s one they kick themselves about letting get away. Talented opponent, on the road, it’s going to be a great challenge. It’s going to be a great test for our squad, and I look forward to us having a great week of practice and getting ready to play on Saturday.”

On Getting Ready For A Dual Threat Quarterback And Is Taji Hudson Going To Be Used On The Scout Team

“It’s funny you say that, because we were talking on Sunday night and I said that he (Georgia State quarterback Cornelious Brown IV) looks like Taji in a couple of years if you played him at quarterback. Because of the athleticism, because of the ability to throw it and run it, and the size. Obviously, a drastically different offensive scheme than we saw last week. Different quarterback than we saw last week. I do think the combination of Taji and Ryan (Stubblefield) will be able to get us ready for the game. I do feel good about our ability to give our defense a scout look. He’s a talented athlete just like Taji so there are a lot of similarities.”

On What It Would Take To Make The Team Believe It Can Win On A Weekly Basis

“You look up and it’s five and a half minutes left in the half and it was 13-7, it was 10-7 for much of the first half. If you could have avoided those turnovers, if you could have gotten to the half like that, it would have done so much for the confidence heading into the second half. We watched the game with the players. I watched it with the linebackers and Coach (Blake) Harrell on Sunday afternoon, we had enough time to get to about that point before practice. We cut it off and the last shot was the scoreboard. I said what do you think and Xavier (Smith) said it didn’t feel like we were that close and it was a one-score game right there. I do think that getting over the confidence piece is a big factor for our older guys, for our younger guys just getting the experience. I think just having a positive result, game-in, game-out and series-in, series-out, having us hopefully put it together for a win. When we win a tight game and make plays down the stretch. All of those things are critical to the development of our team.”

On Whether It Was UCF Making Plays Or ECU Making Mistakes

“There was a little bit of both. You had the plays like Ja’Quan McMillian down the left sideline against No. 1, the kid from Oklahoma (Jaylon Robinson). Great coverage, a jump ball. Ja’Quan goes between the hands and I was expecting the ball to come out, but the kid makes a great catch. That’s one of those things where Ja’Quan played it well. Coach (Steve) Ellis will give him one or two small things he could have done to play it better, but that’s pretty good coverage. That’s a situation where it’s a great throw and catch, congratulations and move on. The touchdown when it’s 13-7, they’re going really, really fast and we’re not quite set. They’re not set, but snap the ball and score a touchdown where the safety gets beat. Our safety, he was just not in the right coverage. So, you had a little bit of both.”

On The Message To The Team About Georgia State’s False Positive COVID Tests

“I told our team on Sunday and I had gotten word on Saturday night. I couldn’t tell you guys yet, but I was pretty sure that was coming so I told our team on Sunday that I expected to play the game this week. That whole deal, you feel for the players. You feel for those players that lost a game and what they went through right there. Thank goodness they got it corrected. I’ve got a couple of guys in that situation and you feel for them. It’s hard enough going through this protocol, these procedures and following everything the way we do it and then there’s hiccups and you have stuff like that happening. It’s tough mentally on the kids and those are the ones I feel for.”

On The Status Of Chris Willis

“We’re hoping (he plays). I think there’s a good chance. We’ll see.”

On How He Felt About The Performance Of The Young Defensive Line

"So many of them were playing their first college snaps ever. Even, I called D’Angelo McKinnie our veteran, he played the first defensive snaps of his career on Saturday. Here’s the things that I liked. We had very, very few loafs. We track loafs; we have up-downs for loafs on Sunday. We expect maximum effort and we had minimal loafs on our defensive front on Saturday. That is huge because those are the kids normally you have some problems with. Because they’re big guys and you’re teaching them to play hard so that’s a plus. We had guys like Xavier McIver, he showed that he has the physical power and presence to hold up interiorly against a very good offensive line. That was positive.

“Some of the negatives. Just the speed of the game. Adjusting to it, especially in the tempo situations and being able to execute the call at a high level. You had some issues there. I think that will improve with every snap those players take. You know, Kareem Stinson was playing three-technique on Thursday and he played five-technique on Saturday. His first snaps playing there came on Friday afternoon during the walkthrough. For him to go out and play 20 snaps, have one loaf, that’s got to be a positive. Anyone that has not played in the trenches they don’t understand what it takes to compete down in there. I came out pleased with the way they played on Saturday.”

On The Offensive Backfield

“Well I think anybody that watched the game can see Rahjai Harris and Keaton Mitchell belong. Everybody understands why we were so excited about them. I hate that Rahjai had the long touchdown run called back for the penalty because your first college touchdown, you always remember those moments. I think that both of them are going to be in the mix this week. We’ll see how practice goes this week, but you’re going to see both of them on Saturday.”

On Darius Pinnix

“Just really feel for him and his family. I told him it’s been a year and a week or so since my father passed. I’m 48 years old. He’s 21 years old, you hate seeing someone go through the loss of a parent at that age. He’s doing ok. I’ve been in contact with him constantly. He is back here with us right now. We’re going to try to support him and be there for him and take care of him as a human being with anything and everything we can possibly do this week and the weeks to come. That’s the other thing. Everybody checks in on you when something like that happens, but two or three weeks down the road, sometimes that sets in. He lost a mentor of his late this summer and then to have lost his father last weekend, he’s had a rough couple of months. We’re all praying for his family and trying to do anything we can to support him right now through this time.”

On The Wide Receivers' Performance In The UCF Game

“I think that UCF had a game plan for C.J. (Johnson) coming into the game and doing some over/under stuff on him. That No. 31, their nickel, he’s a pretty special player. That was a very impressive performance in the way that he was able to handle Tyler (Snead) in the slot right there. That’s why I said I’m impressed with them defensively because in the secondary, I thought they were much improved, and I thought they did a really good job of playing our guys on Saturday. We did have some issues with getting some separation. I thought with Audie (Omotosho), it was good to see him make a couple of big plays. Shane Calhoun made his first college catch. But certainly, we struggled a little bit there getting open on Saturday.”

On Whether There Is A Feeling Of Relief After Getting A Game Under Their Belt

“For sure, at least we played. We played. For much of the summer, we wondered if we were going to. To be able to go out there and be able to play a game in a stadium that had the feel of a college football game, obviously it was a challenging opponent, but it was exciting to be able to get out there and play that one. Now we’ve got to get ready. Once it starts, that’s the one thing about the season, once it starts, it’s a whirlwind. Saturday goes straight into Sunday, Sunday straight into Monday, Monday straight into Tuesday, it doesn’t stop. You’re going to blink and we’re going to be on a plane on Friday afternoon heading to Atlanta. I do think that now getting into a flow and getting into the rhythm is important.”

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