Sep 2, 2013
The following quotes have been excerpted from Army head football coach Rich Ellerson's press conference, held Monday, Sept. 2, 2013, in the Randall Hall auditorium.
Army Head Coach Rich Ellerson
(Ref.: Opening statement)
"It was good to get a win, but that's ancient history for us now. We're using the extra day for a little bit more preparation, a little more catch up. We had our traditionally Tuesday practice this morning. Guys are reasonably healthy, excited to play and are working hard."
(Ref.: On having no turnovers or penalties against Morgan State)
"The bar is very high. That was one of our major pushes in the offseason. We have an opportunity to take a giant step forward in the mental game, and if we got that right, it would manifest itself and the ball would not be on the ground. We would have zero procedural penalties, and we would have great assignment fidelity. That's not to say no penalties, but no procedural penalties, and we were able to have no penalties. We're not surprised the ball wasn't on the ground; we practice like that routinely. We make personnel decisions based on those abilities and that kind of consistency. Are we going to turn the ball over this year? Maybe, but not often. The assignment fidelity is one of those double-edged swords. We weren't as good as maybe we'd like to be, but we really had some curveballs thrown at us last week, and our guys' ability to apply concepts and rules and unwind things and deal with a challenging style of play from their offense that we hadn't necessarily anticipated, that involved the quarterback's legs, that involved the option, which had multiple formations to include the balanced and the unbalanced eligibles. Defensively, we weren't surprised to get and odd front, but they did an awfully good job of firing corners and running linebackers through, then they jumped into an odd front and into an even front. Every side of the ball was tested in terms of their ability to be right and apply rules and unwind things. The guys stayed on task and were very decisive. I wouldn't say they were always right, but they were decisive, and that will cover a lot of mistakes."
(Ref.: What do you expect to see from a familiar opponent in Ball State)
"Ball State does a great job of coaching. They're a veteran outfit, they know their offense, they know their defense. Certainly they'll be able to adjust for us just as we've adjusted. We're not quite the same team they saw late last year. They're going to look at us and make some adjustments, and we're trying to compliment who we are. We're not going to leave our offense and defense for them, and they won't for us."
(Ref.: On Ball State scoring 58 points last week)
"And they did it against a very good (FCS) football team. There were seven (FCS) teams that upset (FBS) opponents last week. The team they were playing, Illinois State, is that caliber of an (FCS) team. They'll do that to somebody. It was a very contested game for a half, then some of those turnovers in the kicking game got the score up. I think Ball State was going to win that game, but the score got as far away from Illinois State as it did because of the kicking game and the turnovers. Those count too. That's good football and Ball State plays good football; they play well in every phase of the game. They're not going to give it away. You're going to have to go take it from them."
(Ref.: Anything to be especially careful about when game planning for Ball State)
"What you didn't see last week was their run game as dominant as it has been in the past. They've got two very gifted running backs and their quarterback uses his legs judiciously, but he uses them. They do a few things up front in how they block people and how they manage people that's a little bit unique. What you saw last week with Illinois State is that they had some very gifted players on their defensive front, they had a lot of folks up there, so Ball State's quarterback went to work. They could change the scoreboard in a second with the skill they have at receiver. These guys have clearly practiced with each other, they're all on the same page, they don't have a receiver that you can say `if we just take him away, we'll be okay.' Their signal callers do a great job. First and 10 is not a run down for them and third and long is not necessarily a throwing down. They're not afraid to run the ball when everybody thinks you're supposed to throw it and vice versa."
(Ref.: Where this game ranks as an early season test)
"It's a tall order. We're playing a team that wins eight, nine, 10 games a year, on the road. People have talked about Ball State as being the Boise State of the Midwest. They're a well-coached, well-practiced football team that has playmakers on both sides of the ball. It's a tall order, but that's what we signed up for."
(Ref.: Any concern on the number of touches Ray Maples had against Morgan State)
"We're an option offense, so our opponent is going to decide a little bit who gets to touch the ball. They were clearly trying to keep us away from getting the ball pitched."
(Ref.: Could he have run inside similar to last year)
"Some of that stuff was just not there. The way we were able to give it productively was to Larry (Dixon). Those were productive gives and then of course the quarterback's legs showed up. We were good on our reads. We're an option team, so they can kind of decide who gets to touch the ball. But I'm not worried about that. We've got a lot of guys that are good with the football."
(Ref.: How much does the opposing team's defense dictate what you do on offense)
"If we're running an option play, (Ray Maples) is one of the options, but they can take away an option, that's the nature of the offense. The good news is, when we were moving the ball, there weren't a lot of touches because we were hitting our heads on the goalposts pretty quickly. In the second half, we were three-and-out and nobody got to touch the ball very much. I think defenses can make a choice and say `they're going to beat us doing X as opposed to Y.' Based on Ray's productivity, I could see why somebody would want to say `let's see how this new quarterback is; let's see if he can run a lick and let's see if that fullback's gotten any faster.'"
(Ref.: Quarterback Angel Santiago throwing on the first play from scrimmage against Morgan State)
"It had a lot to do with the field position we were given, being on our own five yard line. We would like to be a team that throws the ball when there are opportunities arise as opposed to out of necessity. That's coming."
(Ref.: Impact of Geoffrey Bacon in the secondary)
"He's a decisive football player. We played with great decisiveness on the back end. Guys were very deliberate in terms of what they were going to do with their feet and eyes. To be honest with you, they weren't always right, but they weren't going to let anything get in their way. Geoff was one of those guys. Obviously, he's a leader on our football team, not just on the back row of the defense. He could start for us at a lot of positions, but he's at a place where his leadership makes a difference and his play-making ability can show up."
(Ref.: Defense's ability to stop a rushing offense)
"That remains to be seen. I'm not particularly happy with our rush defense from a down-in, down-out perspective. There were way too many plays of four, five and six yards that needed to go for less than that. There was a fourth and four when they (Morgan State) just ran us over. There's lots of work to be done there. Some of that can be attributed to the fact that, frankly, we hadn't practiced against much of that stuff recently. Obviously, we touch on a lot of things in the preseason, but as we started to narrow our focus on to what we thought was most likely to come from Morgan State, it was not what we got. The power running game is something we consistently touch on, but they brought a power running game to include the quarterback's legs and the potential of an option and unbalanced formations. There was an awful lot out there for the guys to unwind. We're not unsettled by the fact that we didn't play the run as well as we would have liked to and need to, but there were some disappointments out there both in how some guys played and how we managed some things. That coin has two sides as well. There were an awful lot of guys who did go in and play extraordinarily well without a lot of preparation, so that's good news. We're going to keep working, progressing and believe in what we see."
(Ref.: Quarterback Angel Santiago's ability to make the right read)
"He wasn't perfect, but he was very good on his reads (against Morgan State). We were spoiled here for a while, having been extraordinarily good with our reads over the last few years. However, we didn't take a giant step back by any means. For a first outing with all of the butterflies you associate with the opener and being relatively unfamiliar with what you're getting, I thought the reads were very good. As I say, when you run an option and your opponent understands the option like coach (offensive coordinator Gordon) Gregory does, they know how to keep the ball out of the pitch-back's hands. If that was in fact their plan, it worked in that regard. They were challenging our quarterback's legs and our quarterback's legs look like they can hurt you."
(Ref.: Play of rookie wide receiver Xavier Moss)
"We saw right away in preseason that we have a special guy here. Obviously, he's a shadow of what he'll become over time. Fortunately, he's a guy who went to our prep school and is a little bit more mature than a typical freshman. In playing that position, it gives him a chance to be a more impactful player than he might otherwise be. If you're looking for a great interior defensive lineman to come in and save you as a freshman, that's tough. A skilled perimeter player is more realistic. I'm encouraged; we continued to be pleased in the practice environment and it showed up right away in the game. We're determined to change ourselves, and Xavier's presence, along with Chevaughn Lawrence and a senior group of receivers who are much improved, we'll be saying `oh boy' to those opportunities instead of `oh heck.'"
(Ref.: Morgan State opening the second half with momentum)
"Give your opponent some credit. That had much less to do with us; we weren't trying to take the air out of the ball or anything like it. Some things that they were daring you to do, physically, we couldn't hold up. We have a little bit of an advantage in terms of numbers, but they had a couple of guys in there who we had trouble handling."
(Ref.: Thoughts on Army's special teams unit)
"We won the kicking game decisively (against Morgan State). We kicked and punted very well, as well as having an effective coverage game. They didn't have any punt returns. We're going to be tested this week. Ball State's return game, both punt and kickoff returns, is very dangerous. One of the things I'm concerned with right now is punt coverage. We're doing a great job of punting the ball and hitting our spots with good hang time, but if you hit one that's just a little bit wobbly and it drops, we have to have more guys down the field and in the right place or we'll get exposed. In the kicking game, (Daniel) Grochowski can put that thing through the back of the end zone, and I'd rather see that this week than give these guys a chance. Beyond that, we blocked a punt (against Morgan State), which is a game-changing event and always is. That was good stuff."