One-on-one with Coach Houston as Pirates brace for UCF

Sports

GREENVILLE, N.C. – Each week the 9 on your side Sports team, as the official station of the Pirates, goes one-on-one with Pirate football coach Mike Houston.

Coach Houston also addressed members of the media Tuesday prior to Saturday’s road game at UCF. The following are selected comments:

Opening Statement:

“It’s good to be back. Good to be back in another game week after a good break and bye week for our program. As we talked on the conference call (AAC) yesterday, it was a productive bye week. I thought the players handled it very well. I thought we had three very productive practice days as well as getting some much needed rest and recovery. Came back and had a little bit more of a substantial Sunday practice than normal coming off the rest, so got a really good game week prep started on UCF. I expect us to have a very focused week of practice.

“The players are very excited about the opportunity on Saturday night in Orlando. Certainly, we have a tremendous challenge taking on the two-time defending champion UCF program, which is probably again this year the most talented team in our league. They had a bye week last week as well. They had a tough loss at Cincinnati the Friday after we played Temple on Thursday night. So, they’ve had plenty of time to make adjustments and get things corrected. Just looking at them over the gamut of their first six games, they’re a very impressive football program. They have talent in all three phases. They’re very explosive and they run very well in all three phases. What they do well, they do very well. So, we certainly have a tremendous challenge ahead of us on Saturday night, but as I said earlier, we see it as a tremendous opportunity. We will be excited to go down there and compete starting at 7:02 p.m., which is the kick time in Orlando.”

On The Status Of Darius Pinnix:

“We’ll say recovering. He will have another evaluation this week and we will see where we are at that point.”

On The Possibility Of Redshirting Pinnix:

“The biggest thing we want to do, and Darius and I have talked about this, is we want to make sure we get him healthy first. Until we get him healthy, there’s no need to make any decisions.”

On What He Saw From The First Six Weeks:

“We did take a look at some things in all three phases. I thought that was very important, given it’s the first year with the program. Looking at what we’re doing and at our personnel. See if there’s any adjustments that need to be made either in the scheme or in the personnel. I thought we used this past week very productively to address some areas that need to be addressed.”

On Whether This Week Will Be A High-Scoring Game:

“Well, I think that you go into this game looking at what we need to do to be successful. How that relates to what the score ends up being, that will be dictated by the play of both teams on Saturday night. We’ve got to play a complementary game in all three phases and there’s certain things that we need to do in order to have a shot to win the ballgame on Saturday night.”

On How UCF’s Speed Concerns Him:

“Well, it’s what you all want. It’s what we were at James Madison. I equate them very much to what we were up there at the FCS level. Because you look at them, it’s not that you can say if we stop this guy, we’ve got a shot. They’ve got weapons at every skill position on offense. The offensive line returns three all-conference players this year along with two other experienced players. The backfield, they’re going to play multiple backs, all of them have home run capabilities. So, we’ve got to do a good job of defending their scheme and deciding what we want to take away and how we want to try to take it away. The biggest thing we’ve got to do, at least initially, is match their tempo. We’ve got to do a great job of getting the call, getting lined up, playing together and then doing a great job of doing our job. It’s going to be a challenge, but it’s a challenge for everybody. It was a challenge for Pittsburgh. It was a challenge for Cincinnati. It will be a challenge for us on Saturday night. We’ve just got to have a great week of preparation.”

On Simulating UCF’s Tempo In Practice:

“It’s hard to. We’ve seen teams like this over the years. Certainly, they do it very well. They’re snapping the ball every eight to nine seconds. We’ve been able to watch some of the TV copies to time just how quickly the ball is getting snapped, because it’s hard to see that from the coaches’ video. I know that the officials and everybody else is struggling to keep up, which makes you question how they officiate a ballgame if they can’t even get into place before the ball is snapped. There are some things that we’re going to do this week to try to simulate that. We’re going to do some stuff against our offense. Our offense can play pretty fast when it needs to as well. Then there’s some things you can do with your scout teams to give a little bit of a quicker play rep than normal. We’ll be prepared on Saturday night.”

On Preparing For The Crowd Noise:

“We’ll be prepared for that. We had to do a good bit of that in preparation for the NC State game. There’s nothing that can prepare you for North Dakota State and that kind of deal, so we’ve had to prepare for some pretty loud environments in the past. We’ll try to do a good job of simulating it this week in practice. I’d anticipate it being a very loud environment on Saturday night.”

On If Any Previous Opponents Compare To UCF’s Speed:

“Probably not that we’ve played. I think they’re probably the best team that we’ve played to this point. I’d be interested in seeing how they would matchup with Temple, but they’re probably the best team we’ve played to this point.”

On Playing Another Night Game:

“That’s the advantage, that we’ve had so many. The guys did a pretty good job the last couple of kickoffs we’ve had, against Old Dominion and Temple, of handling that schedule. So, I think they’ll be fine with that. I think everyone will be antsy to get it started by 7 p.m.”

On What His Favorite Kickoff Time Is:

“Two-o’clock. It’s perfect. But that’s very selfish too. It means I get to sit in my recliner and watch the games with my boys and Amanda at night after the game. But everything’s dictated by TV and factors like that, so it is what it is. I’m sure, since it’s homecoming at UCF, it’s going to give them all day to tailgate. That’s why I say I expect it to be a full house and I expect it to be rowdy on Saturday night. Which is great! You want to play in games like that. I’d much rather play in a stadium that’s loud and rowdy as opposed to an empty one. We’ll be excited for that.”

On Whether Last Year’s Game With UCF Can Be Used For Motivation:

“I’ve said it many times up here, every year is a new year and every team is a new team. We haven’t really factored that into any of the previous games and I don’t think that has any bearing on this one either.”

On What Makes Teams Successful After Bye Weeks:

“You do have extra time. You should be fresher. You have a little bit of extra time to prepare. So, it’s not a real quick turnaround. It’s been an advantage for us in the past. At the same time, they’ve had an extra week to prepare as well. So, I don’t know if there’s any advantage for either one of us in this particular matchup.”

On Whether Any Players Stepped Up During The Bye Week:

“I thought we saw some guys that maybe were inexperienced during preseason camp, but have some experience now, maybe come forward a little bit more this past week. Now, we have to see how that translates to a game field. But I think, just as we’ve seen in the past couple of games, you’re seeing more and more guys put themselves in a position to contribute on the field and that’s good for everybody. We’re going to need that depth on Saturday night. The thing that stands out to me, we talked about their pace so we’re obviously going to have to play a lot of guys on defense, but is their defense. They rotate so many guys on the defensive line that I don’t know how they keep up with them. It’s a tremendous job they’ve done recruiting to have that type of depth on the defensive side of the football.”

On The Approach Offensively To Combat UCF’s Speed:

“Well I think it’s being productive with your drives. You obviously want to get into the end zone every time you get a chance. So, every time you get the ball, you want to score. But I think the big key is having productive drives. What we talked about, as a staff, we don’t want to do things to beat ourselves and that’s in all three phases. But offensively, we don’t want to have the big negative plays. You don’t want to have the turnovers. You don’t want to have the quick three-and-outs. You want to have the productive drives. I think that’s going to be essential for us on Saturday night in this ballgame. You identify those things in all three phases. I think we did less of those things in our last ballgame than we had in the game before. I think we’ve gotten better at that as the season has gone on, making fewer mistakes. But that will obviously be important on Saturday night.”

On Seeing More Younger Players Play In The Second Half Of The Season:

“Yeah, and we’re preparing for that and we used part of last week to prepare for that. I think we would only be wise if we can get more guys playing. Some of the guys that we are making an effort to redshirt, we are starting to try to work them in. We’re not going to play anybody unless they’re ready to play. But if you can play some guys on special teams or spot play them on offense or defense and give yourself more depth, I think that’s something you need to try to do for your program and for your players that are playing.”

On Whether There Will Be More Defensive Substitutions:

“Well I think we’re going to play more people. It’s hard to sub versus that offense because of the speed that they’re snapping the ball. You can’t sub unless they sub. If they sub, we’ll have a chance to sub. But if they don’t sub, you’ve got to play with what you have on the field. Most of that will be from drive to drive rather than within a drive.”

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