Nov. 25, 2013
Press Conference Audio
Captains for this week on offense will be tight end Gator Hoskins and quarterback Rakeem Cato. On defense, captains will be defensive lineman James Rouse and defensive back Monterius Lovett. These guys have all been captains before, but it will be critical that the other 15 of them step up and provide great leadership. As you all know this will be a great challenge for us. East Carolina is a really good football team that is very well coached. Ruffin McNeill has done a tremendous job down there. They have beaten both NC State and the University of North Carolina. That is a big deal for those guys. ECU's success starts with quarterback Shane Carden. He is having an MVP type of year. They have a 1,000-yard rusher in Vintavious Cooper and they have the best group of receivers we will have seen all year. Of course, wide receiver Justin Hardy may be one of the best receivers in America. They are a very talented team that we have to make sure we do a great job preparing for. Their defense is very athletic and quite similar to ours. They've made great improvements to their defense. Outside linebacker Derrell Johnson is very athletic and a tremendous player coming off the end. He creates a lot of pressure with his pass rush. It's going to be a great atmosphere and a great game. Two good teams going at each other and we'll see what happens.
On Marshall's senior day falling on a game day with huge significance:
I think it's great anytime you can play at home with this type of game, with this type of magnitude. It's great to be able to play at home when you have a short week like this. It's a quick turnaround. This is already Tuesday for us. Today will be a Tuesday practice so we'll pad it up and go. Having the opportunity to play at home is great. We have some great seniors and getting the opportunity to honor them is important. We have some seniors who have done a tremendous job. There were three or four of them here when I got here and that's about all that's left. Those guys deserve a whole lot of credit. For us to be able to honor them in Huntington on our last game of the regular season and possibly get a win is huge."
On the leadership of the senior players:
When you talk about having a good football team it's normally because your seniors are playing their best football. Defensive lineman Brandon Sparrow is playing the best ball he's played since he's been here. Monterius Lovett at corner is playing great and had a tremendous year. Offensive lineman Garrett Scott has played extremely well. Alex Schooler is playing his best football at offensive guard. Wide receiver Devon Smith, a transfer, has played extremely well for us. Defensive lineman Alex Bazzie, running back Essray Taliaferro and tight end Gator Hoskins all have played tremendously. That is a group of seniors all playing the best football of their career. They have become great leaders and have taking ownership of this team. That's when you play your best football.
On the classic Marshall versus ECU game that brings out the best of both teams:
The last two years of this series have provided excellent games that have come down to overtime. Anytime you have two teams that are so evenly matched, great games will happen. If you go down the C-USA stat sheet, Marshall and ECU are one-and-two in just about everything. ECU is a very well-coached team. They have tremendous athletes and it's going to be a fun game. I've said all along that I came here to have the opportunity to win championships. That's what this fan base, the school and the city wants. Here we are. We're here in late November and we have the opportunity. I'm excited about it. I know our team is. We're looking forward to it.
On the ECU defense:
Defensive coordinator Rick Smith has done a tremendous job with them. Coach McNeill hired him as the defensive coordinator and I'm sure coach McNeill has his fingerprints on it too because he is a defensive coach. They have some different personnel in there just like us. They have some new faces that are playing extremely well for them. They are very sound, tackle well and are very well-coached. They are an athletic bunch, similar to us. Chuck Heater and our staff have done a tremendous job, but there are also 12-to-14 new faces out there. We have to nominate the all-conference players and we have 5-or-6 freshmen for us on defense that have made big time contributions. Linebacker Neville Hewitt is a new guy, defensive back Tiquan Lang is a freshman and safety Taj Letman is also a newcomer. You're going to get better when you can get the newcomers out there and coach them up well. ECU has some of the same things going on for their defense.
On the performance of D-lineman James Rouse:
I saw him in the spring prior to when he torn his ACL. He's a dominant player. I think defense tackle coach J.C. Price has done a tremendous job at managing him with his reps and the way we practice with him. We call him the old man and we try to take care of him. We try to limit his reps in practice and try to always know what's going on with him. He didn't play a whole lot in the second half of the Florida International game last Saturday. When we can get him out of there, we do. I'm glad he's been able to hold up and play because he's a great player. Since I've been here he's been hurt just about the entire time. He was hurt two years in a row. It's amazing for him to still have the desire to go out there and play after what he's been through. To come back and want to play football after all the adversity he's been through is amazing. He's been through back surgeries and Achilles surgeries. Most people that go through what he has gone through would have hung up their cleats a long time ago, but he's stuck in there. He's truly an amazing story with what he has done. He's just a wonderful kid.
On Rouse expressing to teammates that any game could be your last:
He relays that message to our kids multiple times. He understands and nobody knows better than he does. It's been his last multiple times. He just keeps overcoming that adversity and he's such a great kid. He needs something good to happen for him because he sure deserves it. He'll get another year. There's no question of that. He'll have one, but he has to make that decision. I hope he comes back and I think he will. He's a tremendous kid and an asset to our program.
On the match-up of the two top quarterbacks in C-USA:
I think both of them are outstanding quarterbacks. Carden gets the ball out of his hands extremely quick. They do a great job with him and he can beat you with his feet if nothing opens up downfield. He can break containment, break out of the pocket and people are missing sacks on him. He's a little bit like Cato. When he gets out on the perimeter his head doesn't go down, his eyes go up. He makes plays when kids shouldn't make plays. When plays break down into a scramble situation is when Carden is at his best. Both of these quarterbacks are the heart and soul for the offense. He's completing about 73-percent of his passes. He's a great player and well-coached. He does exactly what they ask him to do.
On Cato using the great quarterback match-up as fuel:
It doesn't take Cato a whole lot to get excited about competing. That's just him. He'll be out there today in practice competing as hard as he can because that's the mindset he brings. I think Cato is a better quarterback this year than he was a year ago. Our offense is much more productive than it was a year ago. He's become a more complete and better quarterback. Bill Legg deserves some much credit for that. He has done a tremendous job with him on and off the field. He's just a much better quarterback. Unfortunately for us, so is Carden for ECU. It's going to be a fun day. It's going to be two great quarterbacks going at each other. I know both of them are very competitive and it's going to be fun to watch.
On what has Cato playing so well, with 17 touchdowns and one interception in last four games:
I think Bill Legg and of course Cato himself. Cato studies the game and he prepares. He's constantly thinking football and preparing. Bill Legg has done a great job at preparing him as well. Cato has exceptional football smarts. He loves the game, he competes, he works at and again Bill Legg deserves so much credit for his development.
On the loss to Middle Tennessee being an eye-opening game for Cato:
He's a competitive guy that hates that taste of losing. They don't want to go there. I'm not saying he needed a wakeup call, that's not it at all. He played pretty well in that game. He's just a competitive guy that hates to lose and that's a good thing. This football team, including Cato, has found ways to win games instead of finding ways to lose them. They've started to develop that. They hate to lose, refuse to lose. That's a good thing and a good quality to have on your team right now.
On ECU quarterback Carden's ability to scramble:
You have to be able to get push and prevent him from being able to step up and get out of the pocket. The ends have to get their quarterback depth so they don't overrun it and give him lanes in there to escape. There's no doubt that he creates issues when he gets out of the pocket. When you have the opportunity to get him on the ground and sack him you better do it. If you don't then you will have problems. It's going to be a great challenge for us.
On Marshall facing dual-threat quarterbacks all season and the preparation for it:
It's no different. We'll prepare and coach up the same way we did when we played other running quarterbacks. From (Ohio's) Tyler Tettleton to (UTSA's) Eric Soza, we've seen a lot of quarterbacks who can beat you with their feet this year. Again, we have to do a great job because when Carden gets on the perimeter good things happen for ECU and that's not good for us.
On the message to the fans in showing support for Friday's game:
It's been 11 years since we've had the opportunity to play a game of this magnitude here at Joan C. Edwards Stadium. Our team loves to play here. They love looking up in those stands and seeing a lot of Kelly green. The message to any football fan out there is that if you want to see two really good teams go at each other, then Friday would be a great opportunity for you. We need our fanbase to show up and our kids feed off of it. I can't tell you how excited they are to play on Friday and they're looking forward to the crowd that we will have.
On the history of this series and it being sad to see it go:
I think it's a great rivalry and a great game. Athletic Director Mike Hamrick might be working on something to get that to continue, I'm not sure. That's up to Mike and what they decide to do. There will be some good rivalries with Middle Tennessee and Western Kentucky coming in and the direction this league is going. There will be plenty rivalries out there.
On the importance of Friday's game:
Ultimately, at the beginning of the year this is where we said we wanted to be and probably had a pretty good idea that it would be against ECU. This is the position that you want to be in this point. Our kids know that we now have ourselves in this position and now we have to go and prepare like crazy for it. We need to go play our best football. We have to go out there and get better as a team, like we strive to do every week. Hopefully Friday we will play our best game to date. It's going to take that to beat this football team.