GREENVILLE, N.C. – Third-year East Carolina Head Football Coach Mike Houston addressed members of the media Monday prior to Thursday’s American Athletic Conference home game against USF. The following are selected comments:

Opening Statement:
“Quick turnaround. Obviously, a tough loss the other night. The kids played very well. Competed very well. Certainly, had our chances to win the ballgame late. Lot of good and obviously have some things we need to get fixed. They’re pretty obvious, but the one thing that is good to see is continued great effort, continued physicality and I thought the guys continued to play well together. Tough loss to a very, very good team on the road. Those games are hard to come by in this league and so to have two tough ones in a row right now that you feel like you should have gotten.

Pirates to ‘Paint it Black’ for Thursday home game against South Florida

“We have a quick turnaround on Thursday night and it’s a big home game for us. Very, very good South Florida team coming in here. They really pounded Temple Saturday evening down in Tampa. Anytime you have a 45-minute time of possession and run for, I think their yardage gained rushing was 454 yards. Obviously, a dominant performance this past Saturday night by them. They’ve been playing better and better every week so it’s going to be a dogfight. Good football team coming in here, the kids will be ready to go. Got a big practice this afternoon.”

On What Makes South Florida Difficult To Prepare For:
“Well, I think their offensive line is drastically improved. Big physical group that moves very well, very well coached. I’ve known Allen Mogridge for two decades, he does a great job, always has. It’s what you would expect in the second year, to see that kind of improvement on the offensive front. They have a big, powerful back, they have a couple of smaller more fast backs. The young quarterback is dynamic. He’s a multiple threat guy, he can throw it and he can run it. Does a good job in the quarterback run game and does a good job scrambling when the play breaks down and extending plays. He extends plays and throws it well on the run. He extends plays with his legs on the ground. They have some talented receivers. They’re going to be a tremendous challenge for us on Thursday night.”

On Finding The Balance Between Getting Rest And Getting Ready For Thursday:
“Obviously it got compounded drastically with everything from Saturday night. We got back sometime Sunday morning; it wasn’t early Sunday morning either. It was up into the morning. Yesterday we looked at the film with the kids. Did a walk-through. My biggest concern yesterday was trying to get a little bit, but not getting anything on their bodies and try to get them some sleep last night. We got here very, very early, had dinner, and let them go and get some sleep. Today is critical. Tomorrow is critical. Hopefully the weather cooperates. You’ve got to do the best you can. It’s a challenge. Doesn’t matter how much the staff is prepared for the game, the kids have to be prepared for the game.”

On The Improvement Of The Defense:
“I think you’ve seen it. I think you saw it last year throughout the year and you continue to see it this year throughout the year. The kids are playing very hard, they’re playing together. They’ve embraced how we want to play. But there are going to be challenged on Thursday night. They’re really going to be challenged on Thursday night. We’ll need to improve again.”

On What He Did During The Delay To Keep The Team Game-Ready:
“We have a rain plan that we always have. I saw the forecast, even though the weather guys said it was a minimal chance of that stuff, still we had a plan. Once it got past hour two, then you had to adjust that plan because you don’t carry that much stuff. We sent somebody to go out, you can’t really just say we’re going to order a bunch of sandwiches, you’re feeding an army. We brought in some bread and sandwich meat, some snacks and some bananas, fruit. Gatorades and all of that stuff. Kind of fed them dinner in the middle of this stuff because after a while, you knew it was going to be a long night. Just tried to get some food in them, keep them off their feet, get them out of their pads. They stayed in their pads for the first weather delay and the first part of the second weather delay. Tried to talk to them about staying off their feet, stay hydrated, try to get rest. A lot of them were watching film on their phones and stuff like that.

“I thought they stayed pretty dialed in because I’ve been through those things before. That’s the longest one I’ve had, but we’ve had some long ones before, and that’s really the key, how they handle it. I was very pleased with how they handled it. Again, that shows how much we’ve matured. They came out ready to play. I thought we played well early. Obviously, we had a stretch there where we had some mistakes that really cost us there in the second quarter and got us in a hole. But we fought back from that and gave ourselves a chance to win the game.”

On What Needs To Be Done Better On Late Game Possessions:
“The execution obviously. I thought we had a great opportunity there with a 1:20 and two timeouts. Had a drive going, had a very makeable third down. Just a better decision right there because we had a play that didn’t make it and ended up having to punt it away. Then when got it back, we didn’t have very good field position and have to be careful there that you don’t give the ballgame back to them. But we were very, very aggressive with our play calling there because I felt we had the momentum. What a great job to get ourselves in that situation and our kids felt we had the momentum. We just have to execute better right there. You had the play call, you had the situation, we just have to execute better.”

On Playing On A National Stage Thursday Night:
“Well, I’d be very disappointed if they weren’t ready to play. That’s the first thing. That was my message to them yesterday, that will be my message to them today. Yeah, we’re excited about the opportunity, but at the end of the day, a lot of that stuff is we’re excited to be back at home. We really hope we have a great home crowd. It’s tough on Thursday nights so we really need the students to turn out. It should be a great atmosphere for them. A lot of that stuff, you can’t worry about it. We’ve got to focus on South Florida, that’s the big thing. The other stuff is kind of the outside of the realm of the locker room kind of stuff. So, we’ve got to focus on South Florida and trying to play well and how to win the ballgame.”

On Whether The Short Week After A Loss Is A Benefit To His Team:
“Yeah, to a degree. I wish it wasn’t as short as this one has turned out to be, but it’s good to get back out there and play.”