Third-year East Carolina University Head Football Coach Ruffin McNeill addressed members of the media prior to the team’s upcoming bowl game against Louisiana. The following are selected comments:
"We are excited to be here. It is always good when you get the chance to play in a bowl game. Part of our goals when we started to play in fall, was to get into a bowl game and it is always a great feeling to reach a goal. I am very proud of this football team.
"In fall camp we divided the season into four quarters. Each one of our quarters totaled three games. We felt like this approach would be the best for the team and the program to keep our focus on reaching our larger goals.
"In our first quarter, we went 2-1 overall and 1-0 in the conference. In our second quarter, we went 1-2 and 1-1 in the conference. At that point we realized the adjustments and the changes that we needed to make in order to improve as a football program such making Shane (Carden) the starting quarterback and having Vintavious (Cooper) take over as the running back. We finished 2-1 in the third quarter, but we went 2-0 in the conference. We closed the fourth quarter strong by going 3-0 overall and 3-0 in the league. I am very proud of the way we finished in winning five of our last six games. I thought going 8-4 was good. Ideally we wanted to be better, but I was proud of our overall record. I was also pleased with our 7-1 conference record and being the Co-Conference USA East Division Champion.
"The players and staff have done a great job of cancelling and drowning out the noise this year. And noise can be in a variety of areas including listening to all the positive or the negative that comes with a season.
"The team was resilient and able to bounce back when adversity hit at all points through the season. I like the competitive character of this team. They are not afraid to compete and welcome the weekly challenge. One of our main intangibles from day one was the amount of teamwork that we exhibited. This team bought into the concept of teamwork and that is a very hard thing to do.
"Our next goal is to now play our best game on Dec. 22 against Louisiana. We are looking forward to going to New Orleans next Tuesday. In anticipation of this game, we have divided our bowl practices into segments.
"We knew that we had 12 practice sessions to work with so we made the first five days our fundamental and development practices. We went best-on-best for those days, but we also focused on developing our younger players by allowing them to scrimmage against each other on four of the five days. These scrimmages were for both our players that we are redshirting and those players that were on the travel squad that had not gotten a lot of reps through the season.
"The remaining seven days have been devoted to preparing for our game against Louisiana. The process we are using is to slowly add a piece or section daily, so we don't get the players too far ahead of where the team needs to be mentally. We feel this is the right approach for our group of players.
"We ran this week's practice like we would for any game-week throughout the regular season with a Sunday practice. We gave them Monday off, practiced Tuesday and Wednesday, and will go again today and then again tomorrow morning.
"This group has done a great job of having a coachable attitude. They have done everything that we have asked them to do and have really enjoyed the process. The outcome and goals are there and will be if we stick to the process.
"During our Monday press conferences throughout the season, we talked about circumstance and vision. The circumstance is what is happening right now and that is what we have asked our players to grasp in working toward our bowl game. Once we go to New Orleans, we want to play our best football game. That is the vision that we have been talking about.
"The key to this game is to play with great tempo and speed against Louisiana. Louisiana also likes to play fast and enjoys that style of play. We expect a very physical football game. That is what our team presents on all three-sides of the ball. I have also found in the past, in bowl games, that execution and fundamentals are elements that can never be neglected and we have stressed both throughout our week of practice.
"We are looking forward to the game and the continued process. We are not there yet, but we have a few more days of practice left to get better. Bowl games are exciting. It is a reward for our players, coaches, families, all of the support staff, school administrators and of course our great and loyal fans."
"Terrance Broadway, who is a transfer from Houston, is their quarterback. He runs the ball extremely well and is an excellent passer. He really runs their offense well and is a smart football player.
"Alonzo Harris and Effrem Reed are their running backs. They both have good speed, but Harris is the bigger of the two backs.
"Harry Peoples is the top receiver. He is the guy that we need to make sure that we keep our eyes on and have a plan for him. He is Broadway's favorite target. Peoples is an excellent route runner and is very dangerous after the catch.
"I think one of the keys to their team is the play of their offensive line. They are very big. We have faced our fair share of large offensive lines this year in North Carolina and South Carolina, but Louisiana's will still rank as one of the largest we are facing this season.
"On defense, they switched to more of a 4-3 base in their near upset of Florida and have had great success with that system ever since.
"The top defensive player is free safety Rodney Gillis. Gillis ranked among the nation's leaders in interceptions this season and was second on the team in tackles. He is a very active football player that has a nose for the ball.
"Christian Ringo, a defensive tackle, leads their team in sacks with seven. Justin Anderson is their tackle leader with over 100 stops this season.
"Louisiana is very creative with their defense and blitz quite a bit. The way they attack the line of scrimmage with their linebackers reminds me a little of the way Houston plays.
"They are also very solid on special teams. Brett Baer is both their kicker and punter and does well in both roles."
On Vintavious Cooper's Impact on the Offense