GREENVILLE, NC -- First-year East Carolina University Head Football Coach Scottie Montgomery addressed members of the media on Monday prior to this Saturday’s home game against Connecticut. The following are selected comments:
“I thought our guys played with effort and enthusiasm against Cincinnati. However, effort and enthusiasm without execution produced a failing result.
“Offensively, we are moving the ball up and down the field and had a great day from a yardage standpoint, but the name of the game is points per game. The turnovers are also having a direct impact on the scoreboard. I think Jimmy Williams is continuing to grow as a consistent playmaker and we are also seeing the benefit of moving James Summers to the running back position. He has helped our run game quite a bit.
“Defensively, we have to tackle better. There is no question that the tape showed this to be our greatest struggle. We are also struggling to generate any pass pressure and this put stress on our defensive coordinator to call more pressures, which in turn puts stress on our secondary in coverage. We were in a man coverage game plan so that is inexcusable. The explosive plays were the difference for them when you look at our defense.
“I thought we continued to make huge strides in special teams and have over the last couple of weeks. Joe Carter has emerged as a staple of our special teams and we are glad to see how he is competing every day.”
“Offensively, they are not the UConn I remember from a few years back where they get into 12 personnel and come downhill the whole time. They have added some nice pieces to the puzzle. Noel Thomas, Jr. is a fantastic player. He accounts for about 60-70 percent of their offense in the passing game. I think he has 70 or more receptions at this time of the year, which is very hard to do. Usually, guys have that many at the end of the season. He stands out on the field as much as anyone on their team. Their quarterback mainly distributes the football to him because he deserves to get it. The other guy I like a lot on their team is tight end Alec Bloom. He doesn’t have a ton of receptions but his end line blocking gives them something a lot of teams would love to have.
“Defensively, one of their impact players is Folorunso Fatukasi. He does more than just sack the quarterback – he dominates the line of scrimmage. Junior Joseph is another big-time impact player for their defense and Jamar Summers gives them size at the cornerback spot.
“I think the “X-Factor” for their team is Bobby Puyol. He is a really solid placekicker and you all know how much special teams tape we watch here. He can convert nearly anywhere on the field and has done a nice job for them.”
On Frustrations in the Cincinnati Game:
“We thought we had our team in a really good spot coming into the game. The locker room was on fire beforehand and we came out and put together a really good first drive. It just didn’t end with a touchdown, which was frustrating.
“One of the most frustrating points in the game was the penalty that negated an interception and that has happened two-straight weeks. As a coach, that is frustrating when you have guys doing exactly what you have coached them to do. That was a very telling time in the game.
“You want to be able to get pressure on the quarterback and we did not get that done. We also missed a lot of tackles, even multiple tackles on one play.
“The fumble heading into the red zone was heartbreaking for a lot of reasons. We had moved Anthony (Scott) into a backup role and needed to spell James. Anthony had done a good job of running the football for us in practice and was working really hard on taking care of the football. He even double arm-wrapped the ball on the play that he fumbled going to the ground. For that kid, it is very hurtful to see that. He had a fumble earlier in the game after which the team rallied around him and said ‘we believe in you.’ After that, everyone wanted him in the game and he didn’t put his head down but went right back to work. It was tough for it to end like that for him.
“We had fourth-and-one late in the game and I will go for that every time for the rest of my career. I’ve had a chance to look at it now and I don’t care to speak about it. It should have been an easy pickup.
“We used our timeouts correctly in order to get the ball back with about two minutes left. It was third down and we were in man-to-man coverage but they score a touchdown on us in that situation. It certainly didn’t lose the game but it made it extremely tough for us to win after that. We would have had to score twice in two minutes with no timeouts.”
On Other Options at Running Back:
“In terms of the running back situation, you are going to see Shawn Furlow. We are going to give him some chances. We are also going to give Derrell Scott some opportunities once he gets healthy from a hamstring injury he has been dealing with this week. We are going to keep Anthony with us because there is some point in the season where we will need him. However, at this point we are going to see what Shawn can do.
“Physically, Shawn has been great all season. He has struggled a little bit with picking up the playbook where Anthony probably grasped it as quickly as anyone. Shawn is now to a point where he is learning more and doing more. It’s his time and his opportunity. If a guy can protect the football, that’s half the battle. I accept the responsibility of putting people in the best position to help us win and I believe Shawn can do that for us.
“I love what I do and I am passionate about coaching young men. It’s very hard for me to tell one of our guys that we are moving in a different direction and that you are not going to be the one to carry the football, but it is the responsibility of the head coach to do that.”
“On the pass interference call, I saw their guy catch the football, cross the 40-yard line and then saw the flag. The only explanation I received was the official felt our guy impeded their receiver. It was a critical juncture in the game because they knew that our player would be down and they would go right back at him. That’s the way that games go. We have to be careful to keep the young man’s spirits up because I think it was defended as cleanly as I’ve seen a slant route defended. I apologize for being animated on some of those calls but I stand with my players because I am passionate about coaching them.”
On the Team’s Morale:
“It has been a tough stretch but our guys are competitive. They see what everyone else sees whether it be the coaches, media or fans. They question things that happen to them when they go back and watch tape. If we play good football, don’t turn the ball over and hold coverage, we aren’t talking about a lot of this. A lot of our mistakes have either been physical or times when we didn’t execute and our guys have accepted responsibility for that. Now we have to make sure that it doesn’t happen again. If that means changing personnel, we will continue to do that.
“This is big person football. We are competing at the highest level. If you can’t be consistent doing that, you won’t be accountable anyway. Our leadership on the team knows that our young guys feel like they are making some plays. Our young players don’t really lose confidence because they don’t know any better and, in turn, that affects the older guys. The biggest thing we are working on right now is our leadership with the seniors and making sure they remain confident because some of them are grading out as high as they can. That doesn’t matter though if there is a turnover, blown coverage or missed tackle. A lot of guys are confident in themselves, but we need them to be confident in each other as well.”
“I thought our quarterback, as well as some guys on the defense, were great after the game. We do have a lot of guys on the team who have done exactly what we have asked from day one and upheld the standards. Some of our players have even helped the coaches out with the attention to detail. This will help them not only this year or next year, but in years to come.”
On The Team’s Goals At This Point In The Season:
“I have never put emphasis on a set number of wins. I want us to be the best football team we can and we have not done that in my opinion. My standards never change. We don’t want to just let things happen and say we will fix them later. Our team standard is to win at everything we do. We haven’t won on Saturdays and that is a clear reflection on what we do during the week. We have to continue to improve in that aspect.”
On Getting A Win To Turn Things Around:
“There is no question about it. Everyone in the stadium knows that at Cincinnati when we were driving the ball with about eight minutes to go, they knew what was about to happen. But the moment the ball hit the ground, there was an audible gasp connected not only to the situation but the person it happened to. That put our defense right back on the field and greatly lessened our chance to win the game. A win this week would go a long way in solving a lot of things.”
On Changing Personnel To Generate Defensive Pressure:
“Our personnel are our personnel. Our coaches are working as hard as they can and we will get better. There are a couple of things we will change at the linebacker position that will help us not only generate sacks but also tackling. Tackles for loss and sacks are great but tackles on two-yard gains are more important over the course of the game. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen in this last game. We had many opportunities in the USF game where we were in the backfield and in position to get guys on the ground, but we didn’t get that done. We have to find guys who can.
“We have to be able to generate a pass rush more with the people on our defensive line than calls. Those calls are stressful. I have a 19-year old out at corner right now who is playing as hard as he can. When he is in coverage for 3.2 or 3.3 seconds, people don’t understand how long a time that is before the ball comes out.
“This isn’t the NFL where you can sign guys in free agency. It is our job to make the guys we have here better.”