GREENVILLE, N.C. – Fourth-year East Carolina head football coach Mike Houston addressed members of the media Monday morning prior to Friday’s non-conference contest at BYU. The following are selected comments:

Opening Statement
“A big weekend this past weekend in Greenville and in Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium. Big home win for our program being able to knock off a quality opponent like UCF that’s coming into the game playing very well. Very pleased with the game plans that the coordinators were able to put together and the way the kids were able to execute them. I thought our players had a great week of preparation the last couple of days mentally getting ready to play the way we wanted to play. I thought they did an incredible job and from the get-go. I loved the way our team played together. It was very complementary in all three phases. We played with a lot of intensity and a lot of energy. The sideline was really energetic all night and it carried over to the field. Several big performances Saturday night but to win a game like that together and to do it at home, it’s obviously a really good weekend. Not a whole lot of time to celebrate though with a quick turnaround and a short week with a Friday night game on the road. It will be a very challenging environment in Provo, Utah, against an extremely talented Brigham Young team. They’re coming off a couple of tough losses. I do expect them to get a couple of guys back this weekend. I think it will be one of our stiffest challenges of the year going on the road and trying to get a win this Friday night. It’s going to be a great week of preparation. I’m confident that our players will be focused throughout the week and very motivated. I expect us to be prepared to play well on Friday night.”

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On the challenges that this road trip presents
“I addressed everything with this game yesterday with the team when we met yesterday afternoon. You’ve got to try to take the momentum from Saturday night with just the positive; you’ve won two games in a row, both conference opponents at home. You try to take that momentum with you. I think the players are very motivated to kind of keep this thing on a roll, but it is a challenge. We’ve got to really maximize the front end of this week and for the players, I have stressed to them that they’ve got to get a good night’s sleep. Hopefully, they took advantage of that last night. We got them out of here a little bit earlier last night, so that they had a little bit more free time to get themselves recovered and they do a great job with just taking care of their bodies in the front end of the week. We’ll do our heavy work today and tomorrow and really try to be fresh going into the game Friday night. It’s a lot of stress on the coaches right now because you’re losing 24 hours. There’s not going to be a whole lot of sleep here at the beginning of the week, but they can catch up on the flight. It’s a challenge but it is what it is and it’s the way the schedule is so you go get ready to play.”

On the evolution on the winners’ dinner on Sunday night
“Well, for us it’s kind of the culmination of the previous week. We watched the film from the previous night’s game on Sunday when we get in here in the afternoon. We have our workout on the field, which was pretty short yesterday, then the winners’ dinner is a meal together. On a weekend when we don’t come out on top, the players just have a training table meal but with the winners’ dinner you have the coaches, the coaches’ families or kids and the players and it’s just a real positive, energetic environment. Everybody has time to kind of talk to each other and catch up. So, it’s a great way to celebrate a successful week. It’s something that I started a couple of schools ago and it’s something that I think it’s important to foster that family atmosphere with everyone. It gets a chance for the families to see the players and the players to see the families so that’s positive.”

On Marlon Gunn Jr’s blocking ability
“Well, I don’t know if I’ve had a freshman that does or doesn’t do as good a job as he’s done. I do think it’s impressive because most of the time, when you have a freshman running back in there, they’re going to blitz him. They’re going to force him to hold up in protection and I think Marlon has done a really good job. He’s obviously got a little bit of size to him and pretty strong, but his understanding of protections is impressive. There were a couple of times on Saturday night where it was something that looked one-way pre-snap and turned into something else post-snap, but he did a good job of adjusting. I think that’s been very impressive and is a big key to why he’s getting to play so much.”

On Holton Ahlers’ performance
“I thought he was as good as he’s been. His decision-making pre-snap and post-snap execution was good. As far as mistakes, they were minimal. I think it was a very solid performance. I think he’s been playing really well the past couple of weeks. The challenge now is building on that and continuing to play at that high level because he’s playing at a pretty high level right now.”

On the other quarterbacks learning from the sideline
“Well, that’s what you hope. That’s what we talk to them about each week. They’re one play away from being in there and they’ve got to be prepared to play each week. They’re heavily involved in the game planning, and they’re heavily involved in all the meetings just like Holton. They’re involved on the sidelines signaling with some of our graduate assistants. They’re a big part of everything even though they’re not in the game.”

“They’re an impressive club. Their quarterback Jaren (Hall), obviously highly talented and having a very solid year. A couple of his receivers have been in and out of the lineup. Puka (Nacua) has been back the last couple of weeks. It’s obvious that’s a guy (Hall) feels very comfortable with and is a big-time playmaker. Seeing their skill on offense, it’s a big physical offensive line. The two tackles are probably NFL prospects. Defensively, they have a big and physical front. Tyler (Batty) is a 270-pound defensive lineman. They play standing up a lot in some of their packages. It’s kind of the way we do with Jeremy (Lewis) and just looking at them in total, they look like what you expect from a BYU team when you think about BYU over the years. I know they’ve dropped a couple of games, but they’ve got guys coming back that have been injured and I expect them to be ready to play very well on Friday night.”

On the wide receivers’ performance
“I think that all of our skill kids on offense took it as a challenge that they will see man coverage and they were going to see guys that are really high-end players and had that size and length. I think they responded to it, and I think that’s a credit to how hard they’ve worked and how well they execute with Holton that C.J. (Johnson) and Isaiah (Winstead) had really solid nights.”

On C.J. Johnson moving to the inside receiver position this year
“I think that number one, you had a void there where Tyler (Snead) had been such a huge part of our offense the last several years. You can do a lot of stuff with that position and suddenly, you move C.J. inside and he’s different from Tyler. He’s going to create a different kind of matchup problem for a lot of guys. I think it was a combination of having Isaiah, Jaylen (Johnson) and Jsi (Hatfield) out wide that could play on the outside and at the same time having a need inside. I think that moving him to the slot, and we have moved C.J. around a lot this year, he’s played outside, he’s played inside, but it changes up how they can play him. I think it’s something that has really benefited our offense, but I think it just shows that C.J. is a smart football player. He understands concepts, he understands schemes and he’s made himself very versatile.”

On the defense’s performance
“We were probably facing our biggest challenge of the year last Saturday night. It’s a very talented offense that was playing at an elite level, putting 70 points on what I think is an improved Temple team the previous week. I think we were challenged, and I think that our kids were excited about that challenge. UCF made some plays Saturday night, but I thought our kids play in and play out, they competed at a very high level, and they played together, but they just executed our scheme and executed it with intensity and focus all throughout the night. I thought that was the real key. It’s one thing to game plan and you have these ideas, and this is what you want to do and getting them to understand it, but it’s another to go out there and execute the game plan at the high level and to do it with the energy and intensity that they did it. That’s the reason you force those turnovers and that was the story in the ballgame – four forced turnovers and our offense did a great job taking care of the ball. The challenge is, we’re facing a different kind of team this Friday night, a different kind of offense, but still a very potent offense. It’s having that short memory and using the performance last Saturday night as confidence and motivation but understanding that we’re going to get ready to play again this Friday night and it’s going be another big challenge.”

On his different demeanor after the last two wins
“I think you look at where the wins were and what you’re coming off of and just everything revolving around it. It is what it is in our profession. When you win, it’s sunshine and rainbows to a degree and when you’re struggling or you have a bad performance, like we did at Tulane, there’s not a whole lot of sunshine and rainbows. We were very determined going into the Memphis game and got a big win against a very good opponent. I think we followed that up with a great week of preparation and to this to this date on this season, our best performance of the year on Saturday night – winning a tough conference game against a quality opponent and doing so by three scores. I think just two completely different situations, but you couldn’t be more pleased with last two weeks and again, that’s the challenge because you’ve got to have a short memory. This is going to be our toughest road test of the year on Friday night. Our players know that, and our coaches know that. They’re very focused on that. I expect us to have a great week of preparation and I expect us to go out there and be ready to play at a very high level Friday night.”

On playing at a high altitude
“I’ve asked other coaches about that, and the consensus is it’s only an issue if you make it an issue. They’ve said that there’s no noticeable effect on the on the player.”

On playing in front a large crowd on the road
“The biggest positive is that Coach Kirkpatrick has played out there and he has played a night game out there when it’s really rowdy. I think that just over the years, we’ve done a pretty good job with just simulating that and it’s the reason we do play the music at practice. We play it at a pretty high decibel level during those team periods and it forces the kids to communicate without verbal communication. It forces them to use hand signals and that forces us to do things on a silent count. That’s going to be our big focus this week is really dialing into that and doing a great job with that, and it’ll be a challenge Friday night, but it’s one I think our kids will be ready for.”