GREENVILLE, N.C. – Fourth-year East Carolina head football coach Mike Houston addressed members of the media Tuesday morning prior to Saturday’s American Athletic Conference regular-season finale at Temple. The following are selected comments:

Opening Statement
Disappointing weekend for us at Dowdy-Ficklen. Not what we had wanted. So, hats off to Houston for playing an outstanding game – not the result that we desired. We have evaluated everything and met a good bit on Sunday afternoon, and kind of put that behind us and worked on the things that we need to improve on and quickly turned our attention towards a much-improved Temple team. It’s going to be a challenge this weekend up in Philadelphia. Just watching the last five, six weeks of their season, they improved drastically from the beginning of the year. Quarterback (E.J.) Warner’s playing at a very high level especially for a young player, of course he has really good bloodlines. I think defensively Temple is very strong, as usual. Very good upfront, long on the back end. And I think they’re looking more and more like what Temple faithful, traditionally are used to as far as just a hardnosed, solid, very good football team. So, it’s going to be a challenge going up there and competing this weekend, but one that our players are very excited about. Our coaching staff is working very, very hard to make sure that we’re prepared. Expect us to have a good week of practice and go up there ready to go.

On What Went Wrong Saturday
I think it’s almost kind of the perfect storm kind of deal. I think you have to acknowledge Houston … an extremely talented team. That’s the reason they were picked to win our conference this year and ranked in the top 15 or whatever preseason. And Dana said after the game, that’s by far the best they’ve played all year. And I do think they put a big emphasis on this on this game. And something you got to start with, giving them credit for coming out and playing very, very well. We obviously did not. I don’t know that it’s one thing as much as just a lot of things that we allowed to interfere with our preparations. I guess the best way I would put it is, we did not feel like we were mentally prepared to play the way we need to play to win a ballgame like that. And that’s on me, that’s on all of us. It starts with me and staff, and obviously the players, they have a strong desire to play much better than that. So, we all discussed through all those things on Sunday and just focusing back in and I’m determined to do a great job this week… and tried to start doing that already of just making sure that we are on top of everything as far as our preparation… because our process, and our preparation has proven to result in us being prepared to play very, very well on game day and I think maybe we just weren’t quite in sync Saturday.

On Temple
You look at the last half of the year, and I think they’ve played very, very well. They have what is a pretty typical, big, physical offensive front. They’re, you know, 6-5, 6-6, 6-7 across the board. They have a big strong running back that we saw last year. Receiver-wise, they have several wideouts that have good speed, very good hands, good route runners. They have two really, really solid tight ends. To me the difference in this simple offense versus last year is the quarterback E.J. Warner. He reminds me very much of the way his dad played … NFL Hall of Famer Kurt Warner. He’s very decisive with his decision-making, very accurate thrower, very calm in the pocket, doesn’t make a lot of mistakes, doesn’t take sacks – gets the ball out quick. I think surrounding him with what they had returning, he’s really made that offense go the last half of the year and the game against Houston he threw for 450 yards, and they had the lead with under a minute to go and (Clayton) Tune hit the long pass with I think 40 seconds left to give Houston the lead. So, I think we’re going to see a very challenging offense. You mentioned the special teams play, the fake field goal against Houston was obviously a big turning point in that game. They’ve done a good job all year on special teams, we’re going to have to be very well prepared in the kicking game. And then I mentioned their defense in my introductory comments. It’s, it’s a big, strong athletic front, I think they’re top five in the country in sacks this year. So, they’re generating a lot of pressure with their front four. We’re going to see a combination of three down, four down, some bare front. They’re long and athletic on the back end, so they’ve done a good job of limiting people all year, they did a great job against Cincinnati last week. So, I think it’s going to be a challenge across the board. I think it’s going to be a physical ballgame. It’s going to be a tough ball game – going to be one of those that it’s going to be very competitive back-and-forth game. And we’ve got to play very, very well.

On the Offensive Line Facing Temple’s Defense
I believe in our kids every week. They’ve done a good job all year long. So, there wouldn’t be any reason for me to think otherwise. They’ll be prepared and ready to go.

On the Balance Between Analyzing the Loss and Moving Forward
For me, I watched (the game) multiple times. I don’t really care to watch it again. But I spent a lot of time with the staff making sure that we were all on the same page as we watched it. And then we spent a little bit of extra time with the players watching it Sunday afternoon. My goal was to get it flushed from us on Sunday. We had a little bit of a longer team meeting with the team before we went out on Sunday. I think I thought that they were very motivated on Sunday. We’re all ticked off at it, we’re all ticked off the way we played. Nobody wants to go out there and look like that. I certainly don’t want to – I’m not accustomed to that and it’s not how we will represent this institution, this athletic department. So, everybody’s determined to play better. Everybody is ticked about last weekend. Anybody that’s upset about how we played, I promise you’ve slept more than I have since last Saturday.

On Playing in the Environment at Temple
That’s why it’s so important that we have the correct mindset and mentality when we leave here on Friday. Our team prepared to play with the right mindset, we’ll have great energy on the sideline, we’ll have great energy on the field. That’s what we’ll have to have. That’s the way we want to play. That’s the way all of us want to play and so that’ll be a big key for us.

On the Importance of Having a Good Game Going into the Bowl
It’s the same as it is every week. It’s the biggest game of the year, it’s the only game we have this week. So, we have very much of a 1-0 mindset you know. We want to finish strong and regular season, and everybody does, so that’s it’s obviously very important to us.

On Keaton Mitchell’s 1,000 Rushing Seasons
It’s obviously a big emphasis. It’s why this group is important to us and important to the program is they’ve done a lot of things that haven’t been done a long time. It’s a great accomplishment by Keaton, but as you said, it’s a great accomplishment by a lot of people. I can promise you this, he would much rather have it in a win. That’s the most important thing … anything personal goal-wise and stats or anything like that, that’s stuff for the postseason. Right now, his focus is 100% on trying to get a win this week against Temple.

On Not Getting Pressure on Houston QB Clayton Tune
Well, I think it depends on what snap you’re looking at. Because there were times when we’re bringing eight people when he got had to get it off pretty quick. It’s a mix playing against a guy like that of pressuring him or playing coverage. Obviously, we need to do both better.

On Playing Different Players vs. Just Trying to Win Against Temple
Our goal every single week is to go 1-0, that’s it. The best players play.

On Laith Marjan Handling Kickoff Duties vs. Houston
It’s been a competition all year, consistently throughout the year. Owen (Daffer) has been kicking the ball with better hang time and the distance has not been negligibly different. Two weeks ago, I thought that the hangtime was not nearly there and the distance was not there. So, we allowed them to compete throughout the week last week and Laith was the better performer in practice and so he kicked off the two times we kicked off on Saturday, They’ll both compete again throughout the week this week and whoever gives us the best opportunity to be successful will be the ones on the field but it’s entirely up to the kids and the way they compete.