GREENVILLE, N.C. – Fourth-year East Carolina Head Football Coach Mike Houston addressed members of the media Tuesday prior to Saturday’s American Athletic Conference opener versus Navy. The following are selected comments:

Opening Statement
“Good to get a big home win on Saturday night, great crowd, great atmosphere in the stadium, very pleased with the way our team played. Good to get to 2-1 on the season and good to win that game the way we did. It’s good to go into conference play with those kinds of wins back-to-back. Obviously, there’s a challenging opponent coming in here this week in Navy, coming off a bye week, they’re always a challenge and expecting nothing different this week. That game up there in Annapolis last year, could have really gone either way and they’ve got a lot of guys back off that squad. We’ve got our work cut out for us this week, but you’re not going to tell the kids already on Sunday evening they turned their focus to this game. Our older players they understand, number one it’s a conference opener, but number two, they all understand what the Navy football program is. Coach Niumatalolo has done a phenomenal job there for a long time. He’s been there for 25 years, the last 15 years as the head coach. They’ve just done a great job year in and year out. We know that we’re going to be challenged Saturday night and we’ve got to play our best game of the year to have a shot at getting a win. We’re looking forward to having another home game, should be great weather finally getting fall temperatures in here this weekend and looking forward to a full house again, should make for a pretty rowdy environment. It should be a great matchup and looking forward to it.”

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On preparing for Navy’s triple option offense
“Well, the thing is, we knew ahead of time that it’s going to be a challenge. We spent time this summer with our game plan. We literally practiced against Navy’s offense every practice during preseason camp every day. We’ve been working it on Sunday nights, just trying to make sure our guys staying dialed into the game plan. It’s not like we’re starting cold, which did help for Sunday, we we’re able to at least go through the game plan against their offense. I think their defense presents its own challenges, but we had a pretty good practice Sunday night. A lot of guys were around the facility on their own yesterday watching film. We feel like we’re at least prepared for practice today. Now the challenge is just how do you replicate what they do? We can have guys go out there and line up and run through their plays, but not as much what they do is how they do it. I think they do a great job with execution. Their line play is just so hard to replicate. That’s going to be a challenge this week, getting our scout teams to give us as good of a look as possible and get them to play as fast as possible, which is not going to be anywhere near as fast as Navy runs their offense.”

On Roy Tesh’s experience against the triple option
“He was with us at Lenoir-Rhyne when we ran it. He was with us at The Citadel and we ran it. He actually coached on offense for a year at Lenoir-Rhyne, so he understands the offense, but all that time coaching defensive line, when you run it, that’s what you go against during spring practice. That’s what you go against in preseason camp. We had multiple teams in both leagues that ran a similar offense, he’s got a lot of experience against it. The thing is that he doesn’t have any eligibility left. None of the coaches do so it’s how good of a job can he do preparing his players to face that offense? That’s the challenge but I don’t care what job you give him, he’s going to do a phenomenal job of preparation, and making sure his guys are ready to play. I expect those guys to be prepared for Saturday night.”

On having an experienced defense to face Navy’s offense
“I think our guys know what to expect. I don’t know about pressure as much but like I said, I don’t worry as much about them not understanding what we’re up against. I think that’s probably a positive more than any kind of a pressure thing, I don’t have to worry about our guys not being ready to play, they know that we’re going to have to play at a high level this weekend to have a shot. All those guys have those experiences. Some of these guys were there on the field in Annapolis in 2019, which is one of the most embarrassing losses in my coaching career. In 2020, we had the close loss here at home. We finally did get a win in the series up there last year, so these guys have been in this game, they understand what we’re up against and so I feel like it’s an asset to our team.”

On the individual defensive responsibilities against Navy’s offense
“I think the most important thing is being able to try to match their physicality, extremely physical offensive line, and then it comes back to just doing your job. No matter what we have called, everybody has a responsibility and that’s probably the two most important things for that group up front this week is matching the physicality the Navy offense and doing their job play after play. It only takes one guy, not being responsible for his responsibility on a certain play and that’s when you see the huge plays. That’s kind of been their MO for years, is they’ll go for three yards, four yards, and then they’ll go for 70 yards. We’ve seen it, time after time over the years on both sides so that’s the real challenge is being able to just sit there and down in and down out be that disciplined and that physical.”

On the secondary’s physicality through the first three games
“That’s kind of what we hang our hat on is being a physical football team. but that’s what Navy hangs their hat on too. You’ve got two good football teams that are facing off, and it’s just kind of a clash. Two similar styles and I know we’re in the spread and we do things differently defensively, but Ken (Niumatalolo) very much believes in a lot of the same things I believe in as far as how you win consistently. I think what that’s going to create is just a highly competitive football game, but we’ll have to be at our best tackling and taking on blocks and we’re just going to have to be at our best Saturday night.”

On if the defense needs to tone its aggressiveness down
“I think they’ve got to pin their ears back and play some football. I think we’ve got to attack. If we don’t attack Saturday night, we’re going to get our face kicked in. That’s what’s going to happen. We better attack and we better pin our ears back and we better go at them with everything we’ve got.”

On Juan Powell bouncing back after giving up a touchdown in the first quarter last week
“Juan is very confident. It’s always the balance as a player, especially at certain positions. I think corner is one of those positions. You can play 80 plays at corner and have two bad plays, and everybody in the stadium knows about it. It’s very similar to playing quarterback. He’s got a short memory. He’s got a lot of confidence in himself. He had the wrong leverage and didn’t wrap up. He missed a tackle. He didn’t let that affect him, he came back and played a very good game the rest of the game and I’m positive he has learned from that and will be better for it.”

On the run blocking mentality of the wide receivers
“I think that our blocking on the perimeter has been much improved this year. Part of that is we have a couple of bigger guys on the perimeter but also, I think some of the new guys, some of the new staff, some of the guys returning being a year older, I think there’s just been a higher standard of accountability as far as blocking on the perimeter and blocking for each other. You’ve seen the benefits of that, the screen game has been improved, we had one screen for a loss the other night but other than that, we’ve been pretty effective in the screen game. Anytime you see a running back have a long run, I promise you there’s downfield blocking involved in that. I think those guys take pride in it; we talked about being a better player without the ball on your hands than you are with the ball on your hands. I think when you get guys that are doing that, that’s when really they turn that next corner into being a complete player.”

On J.D. Lampley’s growth in his first three collegiate games
“Well, I think it’s pretty impressive that he’s playing at the level he is. As a true freshman, you just don’t see that very much, especially on the lines, just because the speed and physicality is so much greater at this level than it is the high school level. I think J.D. being with us through the spring helps. I think he’s got some God-given ability and he’s a big kid. He’s a strong kid, he has very good athleticism, he runs well, he’s smart and he’s got something to him. He’s got an edge to him, he plays with a chip on his shoulder, he plays with some toughness and has a good motor, I think all those things together, allow him to be competitive very young, and he’s going to make his mistakes but he’s going to make a lot more positive plays than he is negative.”

On the importance of Military Appreciation Day
“The reality is that none of us would be here living the lives we lived if it weren’t for our military, protecting us and defending our country. I think I got even more of a special appreciation for it after my time at The Citadel, I have very close friends who are in various branches of the military. We’re going to have a lieutenant colonel come and be our motivational speaker Friday night, as part of this week. I think it’s something that’s very important to us. We talk about it a lot, not just this week. I mean, we talk about it a lot with the team throughout the year. We talked about it on 9/11 this year. I think it’s just something we all need to understand and just slow down every once in a while, and say ‘thank you’, because we’re allowed to live this life in this country because of the sacrifices of the men and women that serve in our military.”

On Navy having an extra week to prepare
“They had two tough games to start the year and they made some mistakes in those games that allowed them to not be as successful as they want to be. Like I said before, Coach Niumatalolo has done a phenomenal job there. He is demanding, he has high expectations for his team’s play. I think you’re going to see different a Navy walk in here than what was on the field against Memphis. I can promise you; they are going to come in here like a well-oiled machine. He and his coaches, they do a phenomenal job, so I think that’s what you’re going to see. Will they have some wrinkles for us? Yeah, I promise you they’ve had some wrinkles for us that they probably worked on last summer. I just think that they’re going to come in here playing at a very high level in all three phases not just offense. Coach Newberry does a great job defensively there. I think they do a great job on special teams. They’re very aggressive in both of those phases as well. I just think you’re going see a very sharp football team come in here and I think it’s going be a great matchup.”