GREENVILLE - Third-year East Carolina University Head Football Coach Ruffin McNeill addressed members of the media prior to this week's game against UTEP. The following are selected comments:
"We watched the film and it was a tough-fought game with North Carolina on Saturday. It was a difficult game to lose. Coming into the game we felt that we had prepared well over the last week. In every game there is about five or six plays that can turn a game or make a difference for you. In this game those plays didn't go our way. The team was disappointed with the loss. We felt good going into halftime although you always want touchdowns instead of field goals when you get close to the red zone. Settling for field goals was a feeling of mixed emotions for us. We were glad to see Warren (Harvey) make them and get some confidence, but on the other hand we wanted to capitalize and get touchdowns when we are in position to score them. We were facing in team in North Carolina that had their backs against the wall. They were coming into the contest having lost two tough games and we knew that we would catch the best shot that they had to give. After halftime we gave up 17 points and we couldn't get points on the board ourselves. I think our defense played very stout especially upfront against an offensive line that had a few future NFL players. Our linebackers did a very good job of filling the gaps and limiting the North Carolina running game. The problem is we gave up too many long plays on defense and that is never a good thing. We also missed some tackles and that was the first thing that defensive coordinator Brian Mitchell and the rest of the defensive staff mentioned when we looked at the film. Not to take anything away from North Carolina, but we feel like we are a group that normally tackles well and that was not the case on Saturday. I thought we played very hard on defense throughout the game. Our offense moved the football effectively at times in the game. We ran the ball well in the first half. In the second half we had four or five plays where North Carolina took advantage of us and we didn't respond in the nature that we wanted to. One of the things we have talked about with the team is to stop hesitating. We also need to feed off each other better from offense to defense, defense to special teams and special teams to offense. If positive momentum happens in our favor we need to continue to feed off each other. If something tough happens than one of the other groups have to be able to pick up their teammates. For us to be the team that we can be the players need to feed off each other. We are looking forward to preparing and getting back on the field in front of our supportive fans for the UTEP game. Just coming home will not be the cure all though. We need to make sure that we practice and prepare well this week."
"We have only turned the ball over once in the last two games. The turnover did hurt us, but at the same the time you don't want to hesitate. When given an opportunity to make a play, I would like the team to take their shot. At the same time I still wanted the team to continue to take care of the ball and play under control. There is a fine line that I would like the team to be on. Warren Harvey kicked the ball well for us all game long and has for the last few weeks. In general we have been very good at not picking up penalties and playing smart football this year."
"Dayon Arrington has been dismissed from the football team. We made that decision yesterday when we gathered all the information after meeting as a staff. Since my staff and I have arrived on campus we have handled these issues with decisiveness, precision and quickness after we gather and evaluate information. We handle each situation differently. It has been documented that we feel the representation of our program, athletic department and university should be held up above everything. We call it our "Pirates in Public" program. It was Dayon's second offense during his time with the program here so we made the decision and spoke with him about it last night. I have been very steadfast about how I feel about this university and representing it in the proper manner and it starts with me as a coach and I hold the players to the same standard. It is always difficult to make a decision like this especially with a player like Dayon that has invested a number of years to being part of our program, but it was something that needed to be done. How I feel about the perception of our university goes without saying. I take the representation of our team, athletic department and school very seriously."
"UTEP has an explosive offense that returns most of the starters from last year's teams. They are going to try to spread the football. Nick Lamaison is their veteran starting quarterback. The team has speed at the wide receiver position with Michael Edwards and Jordan Leslie. They return most of their offensive line from last year. UTEP uses a committee of running backs in Nathan Jeffery, Autrey Golden and Xau Williams. On defense, they have an attacking front seven that emphasizes movement and blitzing. We have to make sure we are ready to face pressure similar to what we felt last week against North Carolina. Horace Miller, Germard Reed and Greg Watkins are all explosive players along the defensive line. On special teams their punter, Ian Campbell, has a strong leg and is very good at changing field position."
Concerns With UTEP
"UTEP has played as tough of a non-conference schedule as we have. They have a veteran team and are well coached. Their offense has the speed and ability to stretch you defensively. Their quarterback is mobile and moves well in and out of the pocket. The committee of running backs that they use throughout the game does a great job of reading their offensive line. Defensively they use a lot of stunts and blitzes so we need to be ready to handle that and identify who is coming from where at all times. Special team wise we need to limit them with our coverage and get big returns."
The Seven Sacks Given Up To North Carolina
"Our offensive line had protected well in our earlier games this season against Appalachian State, South Carolina and Southern Miss against similar defensive lines that were aggressive and liked to attack. North Carolina has a strong defensive line and in general our protection held up pretty well. Shane (Carden) will readily admit at times that he needs to just get rid of the football. Part of that might also be on me telling him to take care of the football and not letting players just be players. I don't want him hesitating, but I also don't want him to make mistakes. So we need to find a way for him to do both. In general, protection comes down to the offensive line and running backs doing their jobs, the quarterback getting rid of the ball quickly and the wide receivers running fast and efficient routes."
Scoring Touchdowns in the Red Zone
"I feel like we have a very good red zone package and it is something we practice weekly on Sunday nights, Wednesdays and Thursdays. We just need to make sure we are efficient, realize where we are on the field and be patient with what the defense is allowing us to do."
The Running Game
"We want to be able to run the ball and keep balance in our offense. We feel good about all our running backs and all the different things that they are able to do. We also have guys upfront in our offensive line that can establish a new line of scrimmage, get us some push and aid in our running efforts."
Return of Michael Brooks
"Michael returned from injury and played defensive end against North Carolina. He has the ability and size to play that position. He played well with his hands, played extremely hard and was able to rotate in and give us another defensive lineman in our regular rotation. Michael can play both end and tackle - along with Lee Pegues and Terrell Stanley – and gives us depth at two positions."