GREENVILLE, N.C. – Fifth-year East Carolina Head Football Coach Mike Houston addressed members of the media Tuesday morning prior to Saturday’s road contest at Appalachian State. The following are selected comments:

Opening Statement
“Obviously disappointed in not being able to finish off the game the other night and get a win in our home opener. I thought there were a lot of positives from the game and the players were ready to play. I thought we played very hard and played really well for stretches throughout the game. We put ourselves in a position in the fourth quarter with the lead and the ball to be able to put the game away. We had a couple of opportunities deep in Marshall territory that we were not able to take advantage of and that came back to bite us. We just did not finish the game in the last six or seven minutes the way we wanted to. We don’t have much time to dwell on it. I talked to the players on Sunday about the 24-hour rule and putting that one behind us. We’re fully focused now on a very good Appalachian State team coming off a double-overtime loss at UNC. We’ll travel up this weekend to Boone and it’ll be a very challenging environment. It’s a tough place to play and a very good team that we’ll be facing. It’s a great opportunity for our team. The kids are excited about the matchup. I’m sure it’s going to be a great atmosphere on Saturday and the players will be excited to get back out there and we’ll ready to go.”

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On the status of the quarterback position
“I think I had a question this morning regarding that and no position in our program is any different than any other. There’s always competition and we’re always going to do what’s best for our team and our program to give us the best opportunity to win on game day. I thought Mason (Garcia) did some really good things Saturday and obviously, he’s got some things he’s got to get cleaned up. He played better than he did the week before. I thought Alex (Flinn) came in and did some good things. I also think there’s some things Alex has to clean up. So, both of them are pushing each other daily to improve. The biggest thing is our entire offense, and our entire team has to push itself daily to improve.”

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On the passing game struggles
“We had a couple of drops by a couple of receivers on Saturday with well-thrown balls. We had some breakdowns in protection that caused us to abort some passing plays. Mason did a great job of creating some positive yardage off those situations. And then we’ve got to throw the ball a little bit more accurately in the pocket. So, I don’t think it’s one thing that you can look at and I think everybody sees that if they watch it closely, that there’s lots of things.”

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On comparing this season’s 0-2 start to 2021
“I think coming into the season, we knew we had a very challenging non-conference schedule, very similar to 2021. I remember 2021 vividly. I remember them booing our quarterback off the field in his home stadium. I remember everybody telling me all week that I needed to bench him, and I needed to start the backup. That weren’t going to go anywhere if I didn’t do that. I remember a lot of similarities. I also know that was right decision not to and that quarterback is playing for the Seahawks now. I just think everybody needs to support the kids that are on the field and support the players.”
On Appalachian State
“I think we’re playing a group that has always prided itself in the way they’ve ran the football. Shawn (Clark) has done a great job up there with that program. Obviously, we faced them 2021. They’re a hard-nosed and physical football team. They did a great job this past weekend in Chapel Hill running the football effectively. The run game is different than what we’ve seen in the first two weeks and so the challenges are a little bit different. Our game plan will be a little bit different. I think they do a great job of throwing play-action passes off the run game. Joey (Aguilar) came in for the opener and has done a good job of bringing some continuity to that offense. He played very well this past weekend, and you can tell he’s an experienced, veteran guy in the pocket.”
On Appalachian State’s run defense
“I think every matchup is different, and every week is different. I think North Carolina did a really good job this past weekend running the football. I think it every week it just depends on how they’re going to defend you. We’ll see this Saturday how they choose to come out and defend us and what that presents for us as far as opportunities for our offense.”
On the play of his cornerbacks
“I think they’ve done some really good things and they’ve made some mistakes. Unfortunately, when you make a mistake at corner, everybody in the stadium sees it. They’ll grow and they’ll learn from that and play better from that. I think certainly they both have ability and they both have desire to go out and play at a very high level.”
On previous experiences playing in Boone
“I think the last time that I played there as a coach was 2007. We played them week after they knocked off Michigan. It was a rowdy environment then and it’s a very passionate fan base. It’ll be sold out and beyond capacity on Saturday. It’ll be loud and hostile but that’s great. You love playing in those kinds of environments. I think they give the home team energy and I think they give the visiting team energy. It’s going to be a lot of fun to play on that stage against a really good football team and I expect it to be a highly competitive game.”

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On returning close to where he grew up
“I’ll have a lot of friends and family there. That’s about it. I’ve got a lot of friends that played there, and I know several of their coaches very well. There’s a lot of connections for my family and myself regionally but that’s about it.”

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On the series between East Carolina and Appalachian State
“I think these games are great. I wish that we could somehow figure out for all the FBS teams in the state of North Carolina to play. I think the two schools are very similar in that Appalachian State and East Carolina are both football schools with passionate fan bases. Our traditions may be a little different as far as the conferences that we’ve been associated with over the years, but both have had a lot of success in their respective situations. I think it makes sense for us to play. I know that Coach Clark and I’ve talked about it and I don’t know much say he and I have in it. We both think it’s a good matchup. I think the more you square off against each other, the more it could become a pretty good rivalry.”

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On the team’s penalties from last Saturday and how the team is working to clean them up
“I think the vast majority of those penalties were avoidable. The ones that were there are very avoidable. It’s something that we’ve got to clean up. The players understand that. We’ve had accountability, we’ve had film, and now we’ve got to clean it up on the practice field. You’ve got to do the things that are important to winning and eliminating those penalties would have allowed us to stop a couple of drives defensively and allowed us to continue some drives offensively. It’s something that’s very important for us to get fixed. We’ve got to fix the execution stuff. We’ve got to get the 11 guys on the field playing together better and that’s the big focus of this week’s practice.”