ECU football re-opens quarterback competition

GREENVILLE, N.C. (ECU) – GREENVILLE, N.C. – Third-year ECU head football coach Scottie Montgomery addressed members of the media on Monday prior to this weekend’s home game against Houston. The following are selected comments:

Opening Statement:

“After the game there was a lot of conversation about winning the football game at the line of scrimmage and I didn’t think we did a good job of it. We didn’t win the line of scrimmage. But, I think the most important thing that I saw when I looked at tape was that we didn’t win on the perimeter. I thought our offensive front at times, gave us enough time to win and throw the ball down the field effectively and check the ball down effectively. We didn’t get it done there. I thought in our defensive front, their running back changed the line of scrimmage for us. He did a really good job. I thought our defensive line maintained the line of scrimmage for most of the day but (Ryquell) Armstead became tougher and tougher as the game went on and it really changed the line of scrimmage for us. I think one of the things we have to do offensively, and this has been the second or third week in a row that I’ve talked about is, that you have to take offensively what the defense gives you. We did not do a good job of involving our backs in the run game. Once we were down by two to three touchdowns, it became hard to involve them in the run game. However, they should have had a much bigger involvement in the pass game. We didn’t do a good job at all of checking the football down. Defensively, like I said before, we did not challenge the receivers on the perimeter like we’ve challenged them all year. It was very unfortunate to see some of those balls being caught for 12, 13, 14-yard gains in front of us. We can’t have that happen at any part of the game. The things that I warned about during this game, stopping the run, being able to make contested plays on offense, and then finally, not allowing their special teams or defensive team units to come up with a touchdown, we could not overcome that.”

On Houston:

“We are quickly moving onto Houston, which is another great football team. I think the maturation process for me is not getting too high after victories and not too low after losses. We’ve got a great football team coming in this weekend. We’re so happy to be back home and playing in front of our crowd and playing in Dowdy-Ficklen (Stadium). We also got a chance this week, because of it being fall break, to spend a little bit more time with our kids. I think it’s good for our kids to have a little bit of a break here and get going back in a positive manner. If you talk about Houston, you have to start with one of the best players in the country, Ed Oliver. As we’ve looked at them over the last couple days, we’ve seen teams try to put together five, six, seven different types of schemes to stop him. But he’s still been a big problem for teams so we’re going to have to do a good job. In their front, I really like how active they are with No. 22, Austin Robinson at linebacker and they’re really talented on the backend. Offensively, they present a challenge that we haven’t seen this year. It’s one of the ones that we’ve been recruiting at and getting better at, with increasing our team speed, is being able to handle mobile quarterbacks with the ability to throw it downfield. We’ve done a good job on recruiting. We’ve got to make sure we can handle that this weekend. The chunk plays are definitely something that is on all of our minds. We need to make sure we continue to improve to reduce those chunk plays, and we will. In special teams, we’ve got to get to a point in time where we’re playing equal to or better than our opponents and that’s not where we are right now.”

On The Frustration After Sunday’s Performance:

“It’s very frustrating, we didn’t compete at a high level. I can’t see that if you look at the tape, that it was anything like the Pirates of past. I thought our guys, they competed through the echo of the whistle. We’ve got to do a better job of helping them schematically to give them an opportunity. There was no quit in any part of the game. But it’s frustrating because we didn’t go out and execute, especially early in the game. There was a fourth-and-one early in the game that should have been executed, there was a third-and-long that should have been executed, there was a punt return that we should have executed. So, the fundamental part of it was really frustrating. Because it came back to a lot of fundamentals in this game and those are the things we can correct, and we will correct those moving forward. We’ve come off a tough loss before, a couple of times, we’ll come back and do it again and play well this weekend.”

On Who Is Calling The Offensive Plays:

“Tony (Peterson) calls the plays for us. My biggest involvement this year has been in the run game and it will continue to be that way. I’ll continue to have an involvement as far as the passing game is concerned and moving forward, we’ll do things to try to make sure we’re balanced a little bit better between the run and pass game. But that’s no different than on the defensive side of the ball. There’re things that I like and I dislike and I’m going to get them fixed. But I thought our biggest challenges this year were going to be the run game, so we spent a tremendous amount of time on it and our defense. Those are the things we recruited to, the things we felt like we could get better at. So that’s where we are now. Are there critical situations in games where I will call the play? Absolutely. But every down play calling, I trust our coordinators. We have to do better than what we did this past week, there’s no question about it. That’s what they’re hearing from me and we all understand it. We’re trying to give these guys the best chance they can have. But for me, I’m trying to make sure that we continually get better. Because we’re not going to win games the same way that we traditionally have won them here. We’re in a different type of league. We’re going to have to run the football. So, a lot of my time goes to finding ways to run the football. Trying to be innovative in our personnel and our formations so that’s what we’re continually going to do. Then defensively, making sure that we have a package together that we can challenge people on the inside and the outside.”

On Quarterback Game Plan:

“I can tell you a little bit more about that on Friday. What we’re doing is, I think the passing game has been directed a little bit more towards Reid (Herring) to this point, that won’t happen anymore. The passing game will be directed toward all three of them. They will get an equal amount of reps this week in practice. When you look at 190 yards of offense and about a third of it coming in one play from one player, another good decision coming from another player, and a lot of plays not going how we would have liked from another player, it’s time we paid attention to it. The most important detail is that we start fast in practice tomorrow and we need to start fast in the game on Saturday. Then we’ll have a better idea of where we’re going. But this will be a game plan that’s directed in totality toward all three of them and what they can do, versus a passing game and a running game. So, this will be a little bit more toward what all three of them do really well.”

On It Being An Open Competition At Quarterback:

“It will be open competition. It’s not about us not naming a starter, we need to see who can play the best in the game plan that we created for all of them and that’s exactly what we’re doing.”

On Performance Against Temple Being An Anomaly Or A Trend:

“We’re resilient. I think that if you’re not careful, they can become trends. You need to pay close attention to everything that happens. If you don’t respond like we’re responding at the quarterback position, things can become trends. But you have to respond, you can’t react. I think we’ve had some knee-jerk reactions in the past, this is not a reaction. I think this is one of the situations where getting back to an even keel, we’ll be fine.

“Defensively, once you look at the tape, we were 10 of 17 on third downs, against a team that played really well against us, we’re not taking anything away from them. But there were so many small detail and minor mistakes that we have not made, and we will not make. Moving forward, we can get that cleaned up.

“Offensively, one of the things we have to do is be a complete offense. We’ve gotten so one-dimensional with Reid at times, because he’s not using one of his greatest gifts. Until he starts using one of his greatest gifts, being able to run the football, that’s the way you’re going to look. Did he have a bit of a banged-up ankle a couple of weeks back? Yes, but as I’ve said before, our protection in this game was much better than I thought it was coming back. He was getting the ball out in 3.6, 3.7, 3.8 seconds. We get the ball out traditionally around here in 2.5, 2.6, 2.7. At that point in time, with the guys we have and their ability to run, you have to pull the ball down, go run and get seven, eight, nine, ten yards. We’ve lost that a little bit and there were a lot of opportunities to have that. Now if we hadn’t responded, and sometimes we didn’t respond in a quick enough fashion or we’ve had knee jerk reactions before, I think our kids took it really well. I was really impressed with our team in Sunday night’s meeting because they had some things they wanted to say to each other about fundamentals, about their performance, about being locked in. I think that’s different than talking about all this other stuff, it was really detailed. Even on the sideline, I was really impressed by Holton (Ahlers) and Kingsley (Ifedi) in trying to help each other and talk about what they saw when they were out there.

“So, there’s some growth in the team and I really don’t think it’s trending in one way or the other. I think you’ve got to be able to bounce back like we’ve done at one part of the year, bounce back again like we’ve done in another part of the year. It’s just very unfortunate because we had such a sharp week of practice. We practiced better last week than we played. There’s going to be some adjustments there. I’ve had to answer questions from our coaches and different people of whether we were fatigued. I don’t think it was any of that. I think we got off to a bad start and it changed our game plan defensively, it changed our game plan offensively, and we weren’t able to go out and execute.”

On The Status Of Dorian Hardy:

“He’ll be back up. There’s a lot that we’re trying to work out with him, to find out every detail. Michael Swift is out for the week, he tore his ACL. It was one of the only injuries we had coming out. That is not the reason that Dorian is back up. When I say he’s back up, he’s back with the team. I decided to leave him home last week with some of the things that went on. So, he’ll be back with us this week and we’ll go forward to see where he is as we move through the week. I’m not saying that he’s at a point to play in the game this week and I’m not saying he’s not, I’m just saying he’s back in the building and he’s back with us.”

On How Quarterback Situation Affects Practice:

“There will be a little bit of a change in practice. It won’t necessarily be longer because there’s an NCAA rule that says we can only have so many hours per week. But there will be a little bit of a change in practice to make sure everyone is getting the right amount of reps. To be clear, we’re not benching anybody. We’re trying to see who’s the guy that will go out and perform at the highest level to give the rest of the team the opportunity to win. That’s where we are.”

On The Team Studying Field And Working Out During Fall Break:

“We have a little bit more leniency on Monday and Tuesday, but in the heavier part of the week, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, we’ll jump back in it. They’re over here anyway. They had a lift this morning and this the only place they go anyway. There’s not a lot of people on campus so we’ve been able to focus a lot. I think this will light a fire under people and have them go do the job they’re supposed to do. It’s about film work. When you go back and look at what we didn’t do well in the game, as far as being fundamentally sound on some things in special teams, we have to pay close attention. Offensively and defensively, they’re watching a ton of tape. That’s what they do. But my challenge to all of them, is we need to watch more tape of special teams. Kirk Doll works really hard to put them in perfect positions. A lot of situations this past weekend we were in some great positions and fundamentally, we broke down. Whether it was fatigue, whether it was the part of the game, whether it was the talent they had, it doesn’t matter. I thought Kirk put us in some great situations, so we’ve got to get into the meeting room and film study for special teams.”

On Reid Herring’s Health:

“He’s not 100 percent, but at this point of the year, in game five or game six, no one is 100 percent. I don’t think anyone on my team doesn’t have something that’s bothering them. We’re not going to feel good, but you have to play through some of those deals and I think he understands that. I think Tony (Peterson) and Reid had a great meeting. What I want to see from Reid is not just the way he plays, but the way he leads. You have to have a sense of urgency in the way that you lead. You have to put your thumb down on people in routes, put your thumb down on people in protection. That’s what great quarterbacks do. That’s what we need to see him do. I think some of our other kids have that quality and we need to see that quality on the field.”

On How Many Quarterbacks He Will Use Against Houston:

“We will still potentially use multiple people. But I want the guy that has the quality leadership that we talked about, that gives us the best chance to win to be in the game most of the time. That’s what we want. But this is a different era. As you can see all over the country, there’s a lot of quarterbacks playing at a lot of places for a lot of different reasons. They’re just trying to give their team the best chance to be successful not only this year, but in years to come.”