Montgomery speaks on loss to SMU, previews Navy

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GREENVILLE, N.C. – First-year East Carolina University Head Football Coach Scottie Montgomery addressed members of the media on Monday prior to this Saturday’s home finale against Navy. The following are selected comments:

Opening Statement:

“Turnovers have been the biggest contributor to where we are in the season. We have tried to address it and we’ve worked in several ways to fix the problems. I thought, early in the game, it was back-and-forth. We really had a good chance to go up and be dominant in the game when it was 7-3. The way that you work on turnovers comes down to just taking care of the football and not having tipped balls and all of the things that have plagued us this year. We had some mental errors in that game that directly impacted those turnovers. Those are definitely things we are going to have to clean up if we’re going to move forward with everything that we’re trying to get done. Also, when you have turnovers, the score impacts more than what people think. Defensively, it impacts you when you look up at the scoreboard and 14 points have been scored and you really had nothing to do with it. That impact had a huge effect on us in the third quarter.

 

“As we move forward, we have to continue to understand that there are certain players that we have on this team that are playing exceptional football. I don’t want their success to get lost and marred in some of the problems that we’ve had until this point. It’s unpleasant to be where we are – very uncomfortable – but we are laying the foundation and there are no shortcuts to excellence. I think laying the foundation can sometimes be the hardest, and most times, the most uncomfortable part.

 

“Speaking of offense and defensive, I think that our special teams and Shannon Moore has done a good job of growing it from where we were and knowing the people that we have. We’ve had some great contributors. They had another great game this week from similar guys. I thought Joe Carter helped us again and we also saw Devin Carlos jump in and really, really help us from a special teams standpoint.

 

“The thing that we have to do to make sure we’re better moving forward is we are going to have to make sure (we do) all the details that we talk about doing. You can’t just say, you must do. Schematically, I feel that we need to help some of our players a little bit better. Our players, coaches and the whole program combined, it’s the details. Those details don’t only show up on Saturday. They show up on Friday and throughout the week. Right now, we’re struggling with the detail of taking care of the football. That’s not just carrying it. That’s everything that comes from protection, route-running and where the ball should go. All of those things combined, we’re falling below the mark.”

 

On Navy:

“Moving on to Navy, they’re a really well-coached team. I think Coach Ken (Niumatalolo) and his staff has done a good job of putting together a great defense and one of the best offenses that I’ve seen in this capacity. They’ve been in some tough games. If you’ve watched (their) games this year, a lot of people have been in right places with these guys throughout the year going back to Air Force and Tulane. The difference-makers for this Navy team are the toughness they have at the quarterback position. Their backs have really, really helped them. They can come out of a game throwing it five or six times or they can throw it a lot depending on where they are in the game. A lot of teams have done a good job with them defensively, however, because the purest form of what they do – the option – they’re doing it. Everyone else has tried to add to it and take away from it. I think they know what they’re doing. They know the adjustments and they do it well.”

 

On Motivation For The Chance To Spoil Navy’s Conference Championship Aspirations:

“We’re going to try to pull motivation from everywhere we can get it from. Our guys are some resilient guys. To me, it comes down to one thing. This is going to be a possession game. I’ve said it over and over and everywhere that we’ve been: we can slow the game down and we can speed the game up, but it comes down to possessions. You can’t afford to give Navy a possession from a turnover standpoint. When you can take the ball from Navy one time, potentially two times, it greatly increases your chance to win the game. That’s what this week is about. The motivation to beat Navy is great, but the motivation to go out and execute a game plan is what we have to be motivated by this week.”

 

On The Conflict Of Not Having Zay Jones’ Accomplishments Marred By The Lack Of Team Success:

“When you sit in my chair, you see the big picture a lot more than anyone else. I’m ‘in the know’ where a lot of other people are guessing about what’s happening here or there. I know what’s going on. I know who’s working hard. I know the issues at this position or that position. I understand the big picture of where we’re going. As I see it all, I have to recognize greatness. Some of you guys have seen the movie The Matrix. You see all these different things going on and you see glitches. I have to see it all. I’m very happy about how he’s played and performed, and the same with how others have performed. It’s conflicting to start with because this isn’t where we want to be. There’s no question about it. There are a lot of things that we want to do better. In the middle of it all, I see the shining light that Zay has been in. I know it’s been tough for him and it’s especially tough when you’re a senior. It would probably be a lot different for him if he was a junior and having this type of success, but I see what he’s doing and I respect it.”

 

On How ECU Has Prepared For Navy’s Offense:

“The biggest deal with Navy is the cut blocks. You’ve got to spend time on cut blocking. We’ve never seen cut blocking from our offense. During the first two or three weeks of preseason camp, we started with cut blocking drills, whether it’s on the interior or the exterior. The open date was also very beneficial to us where we were able to go get two full days of what they do. It helps our show team more than it helps our defense, just to get them acclimated to how we want it ran. We have spent more time on Navy than we would have spent on any other opponent.”

 

On The Importance Of Resiliency Against Navy:

“It’s a big deal, but that’s driven by the coaches. The coaches have to do a good job making sure that happens. The assistant coaches have to do a good job of maintaining the room and the coordinators have to do a good job of maintaining the building, and making sure when their side of the ball is on the field that they’re doing what’s asked to be done. I thought there was some great execution in our games at times, especially on offense and more than a few times on defense. Collectively, it just wasn’t there. It is up to coaching to make sure that we take care of the football, and then collectively, we’re resilient enough. That’s the type of game we were just in.”

 

On The Quarterback Situation:

“I’ll know more about our quarterback situation tomorrow. It’s kind of hard to tell right now. I will say that Gardner (Minshew) was fine. He practiced yesterday. Philip (Nelson) did not practice yesterday. He’s still having a little bit of tenderness in one of his shoulders. We feel like they’ll both be able to practice, but we don’t know completely where the quarterback situation will be until we get to actually see more of a body of work.”

 

On When ECU Begins Fixing Turnover Issues And Offseason Development:

“Research starts with it. The first thing you do is a find program that has gone through it. You can guess this and try to fix that, but what I’m trying to do is find the programs that have had it, reversed it and what they did. I’ll be on the phone and doing as much research as I can. Knowing where the turnovers are coming from is going to be critical and whom they’re coming from. Do we know how they’re coming? Is there a certain part of the field where we’re stacking routes and balls are getting tipped? That’s not what’s happening. Our turnovers, as far as interceptions are concerned, the majority of them have happened outside the hash, which is very unusual. When you have them like the two at South Carolina or the two this week (against SMU), those are unusual interceptions. We have a lot of research to do.”

 

On What He’ll Say To The Seniors:

“Thank you. Like I said, I’m ‘in the know.’ I know what they’ve been through. I know the people that they were here with. I know some of the friendships that they have to relinquish. I know the issues. I know how hard they work. I know what they’re trying to do away from the field. I know that, for the most part, all of them are going to graduate and they’re working really hard to get that done immediately. They’ve answered the bell on what I’ve asked them to do. I didn’t want them to have a senior year where we didn’t play as well as we did and then they didn’t get the benefit of being an ECU graduate or a great person. They’ve done everything that we’ve asked them to do.”

 

On If He’s Seen The Players Staying Committed Despite Not Being Bowl Eligible:

“If you had been at Sunday’s practice, you would’ve thought that we were already bowl eligible. Does that come from just wanting to work and get better? Absolutely. Was it focused? Yes. Did a lot of it have to do with Navy? Yes. They like to play football. They love being Pirates. It’s just very unfortunate that we are where we are right now.”

 

On What Has Made Zay Jones The Player He Is:

“His transition into our belief system was seamless, 100 percent. It got even better on the field. He’s been able to grow away from the field as well. You like to have a lot of great players, but when you have a great player – I was one of them I’d like to think – and you come in with a new staff, there is some resentment no matter what. We didn’t reach that with him. I know I may have had some resentment and wanted to know what was going on. We didn’t think that he would be in a situation to maybe having a chance to break this record because of so many catches that he needed and the things you have to do during the season to stay healthy. This has probably been his healthiest season. I commend the staff for trying to figure out a way. His transition has been most important and it’s very impressive to me.”

 

On How His Teammates Will Embrace Zay Jones If He Breaks The Record:

“They love him. The building him and it’s because when he goes out to work, there is no talking, laughing or joking. He’s exactly what a lot of them want to be. What he’s done is he’s kind of shaped the room, not only shaping the room, but also recruiting. Who could you put in a room recruiting when receivers come in and parents come around? They want to see Zay. They want to be around him. It’s no different for the guys around him. They want him to get the record really, really badly to the point where if there are some routes that are changing in games or this is leaning this way, we’ve heard many guys come up and say, ‘we think if we put him in the slot here, we can get double coverage off of him.’ That’s just a testament to who they are in that room and the way it’s being coached.”

 

On If Zay Jones Is An NFL Receiver And What He Could Do At That Level:

“He could dominate and play for a long time. He has multiple seasons left. He has to have, of course, an injury-free career. His skillset is dynamic. He has a large catch radius. There are a lot of reasons why we’ve had so many (NFL) general managers in this building this spring and fall. That’s usual. We’ve had first-round draft picks other places I’ve been, but we never saw general managers. Everyone knows what he’s capable of, but now he just has to go through it.”

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