Oct. 23, 2012
The following quotes have been excerpted from Army head football coach Rich Ellerson's press conference, held Tuesday, Oct. 23, 2012, in the Randall Hall auditorium.
Army Head Coach Rich Ellerson
(Ref.: opening statement)
"The good news is we have a game this Saturday. Ball State is coming to town and is a very good football team. Based on the way we practiced this morning, our guys are resilient and excited to play. We're trying to get better. We know if we want to play better, we need to coach better and practice better. We did both of those things. We're going to keep the arrow up. They haven't cancelled the season and my key still worked to the office this morning, so the arrow is up. Let's go get after somebody."
(Ref.: the team's mentality and ability to remain positive)
"They are staying positive. Come out to practice and you'll see it. Obviously, we're trying to accentuate the positive, and there is a lot of positive. If you watch play-in and play-out, you'll see our effort and how competitive and combative we are. There are still 10,000 things we need to bet better at. Here we are, the eighth week of the season and we're still able to have a good, fundamental and long practice. We need to have that with a young football team. We need to be able to do that this far into the season with as many guys banged up as we have. Guys were focused, excited to get better and are responding to the coaching. We're not miserable with each other. That's all good stuff and speaks to the resilience of our football team. We're going to get better. We're in a race here to backfill some things that we're clearly deficient in that are being exposed by some really gifted folks. We are gaining on it."
(Ref.: scouting Ball State)
"The thing that's most remarkable about Ball State is the passing game. Their quarterback (Keith Wenning) is a guy who you'll see playing on Sundays one day. His has great arm strength, accuracy and poise. He sees the game very well and is the center of a very practiced offense. They play together very well. That's not to say they are one-dimensional. They have a very big, physical running back who has a kind of different style of running. He has a lot of patience in what they do. They're a complete outfit. They don't have `a' receiver; they have a couple of them. Willie Snead already has over 60 catches, but there's a guy behind him with 54 catches. They can spread the ball around."
(Ref.: how the defense will play Ball State)
"There are different challenges, no doubt. You have to defend them within the scope of what we're already doing. You're going to lean a little differently. Your down and distance calls might change a bit. They won't let you get away with that very much - if you lean too far, they won't let you get away with it. They're not afraid to run the ball in passing situations and vice versa. They do a good job of getting into the right play. They'll do a little bit of what we do, get up on the ball, hard count you and stop to look at what you're doing. If you're leaning too hard, they'll get out of that play and do something else. You can't be obvious in what you're up to."
(Ref.: learning how to win)
"You do the things that correlate with winning. Obviously, we're hyper-sensitive to the scoreboard when the game is over. During the course of the contest, we have to be completely focused and absorb those things that correlate with success. That needs to be reflected in how we practice and coach with a sense of urgency. We're a long way from where we should be or where I want to be. Nobody is saying `boy, are we good.' We know we're behind the curve, but there's good stuff that we can build on. The best news of all is we have a lot of young guys out there who are playing their first football, and they want to be coached and want to be better. Nobody is more frustrated than they are. To their credit, they're looking forward to the next opportunity. They know they can do this."
(Ref.: team goal of being consistently good and occasionally great)
"We're a long way from that, obviously, but yes, that is the direction we want to take the program. So many of the initiatives I've put in place are geared to set us up for that. You can point to a lot of things as to why the scoreboard is upside down. That starts with me, but we are determined to make this work. The difference between where we are and where we want to be, we're really close in some areas. In other areas, we have a long way to go. To manage some of the physical matchups that we're going to have to deal with, we have to be very well practiced fundamentally. We need to be better with the football on offense. The idea that the ball is on the ground as much as it was last week makes you want to pull your hair out and start screaming up and down. The number of missed tackles needs to be corrected too. Part of tackling is fundamental. There's a level of unconscious competence that frankly, we lack. The good news is, we're still able to practice very fundamentally, grow and work on those things. Something like what happened last Saturday created a tremendous sense of urgency in the minds of our guys. We're not just out there punching a clock and going through the motions. There's a real sense of urgency because they know how painful this stuff is when it's not right."
(Ref.: feelings of embarrassment after losing to previously winless Eastern Michigan)
"That's somebody else's gauge. We knew it was a game we had a chance to win. If we're embarrassed, it's because of the way we played at times. Some of the things we failed to do were embarrassing. It's embarrassing to drop the ball. It's embarrassing to miss that many tackles. Give your opponent some credit. Those things aren't happening in a vacuum. They're happening against a gifted guy. If we're fundamentally competent, we have a great chance. It was a one-possession game going into the fourth quarter. We had a chance to have the lead at halftime, but we dig ourselves a heck of a hole coming out the gate. We didn't play well in any phase in the fourth quarter. Sometimes you can carry so much of what we're experiencing and feeling outside the lines into what's happening when we snap the ball. What you have to respond to is what's happening when the ball is being snapped - the effort, the precision or lack thereof, the fundamental competence or lack thereof. To the degree that is fundamental, we can address that in the practice environment and plan to do so. The players are responding to that."
(Ref.: finishing the season strong versus getting some of the younger guys, the future of the program, more reps)
"We're just trying to find a way to win a football game. We have our heads down. You're right; we think there are opportunities for (freshman quarterback) A.J. (Schurr) to help us win a football game, and we're not afraid to put him in there. That will be the intent though; it won't be to do something developmental for some future football team. We're trying to have the best football team we can this week and will keep that mindset going forward. That keeps everybody going, engaged and stepping forward."
(Ref.: Raymond Maples' most recent performances)
"It's wear and tear. It's nothing specific. Having as many touches as he has and the number of times he's been tackled and who has been tackling him, he has his fair share of bruises and strains. We have to help him a little bit in practice. The good news is he's played so much and is an accomplished receiver and one of our best blockers out of the backfield, as well as a dynamic ball carrier. The wear and tear of the season has taken a little bit out of his step, but we were all pleased with what we saw in practice today from him. He's focused. A younger Ray Maples would have had a harder time with some of the things we're experiencing as a football team. He is one of those guys who is handling these frustrations and disappointments better than he would have. He's a more mature competitor. There's nobody that wants to win more than he does."
(Ref.: players who have filled in for injured Nate Combs on defense)
"We didn't ask quite as much from them as we might have asked from Nate. They did ok. Holt (Zalneraitis) is out again this week after being banged up a bit. The good news is Jarrett (Mackey) played his best game. He's certainly not back to where he was prior to his injury, but he's clearly much more comfortable playing. He's making some plays. Some of the responsibility for getting guys lined up and making those adjustments up front fell to him, and he handled it just right. We've expanded Zach Watts a little bit. He didn't play as well as he has played, so we have to be careful how we manage their job descriptions going forward."
(Ref.: whether or not Saturday will be another high-scoring game)
"Given the nature of Ball State's offense and our defense, our offense is going to need to stay on the field and b productive. We said that last week and didn't pull it off. We weren't consistently good enough in the kicking game and on offense to win a game that was going to be like that. We know we're capable of that, but we need to take that step forward. We've done it at different times during the season. Ball State is very dynamic on offense. Just because you do everything right doesn't mean they aren't going to get a first down."
(Ref.: Trent Steelman's record-setting performance last week and his career as a whole)
"Obviously, you've heard me talk about him as a physically tough competitor. He's a team captain and what this season has served up, we need him to be all of that and have some of those games where he doesn't blink. He made some great plays on Saturday, but we need a couple more plays. We need to eliminate the negative plays. He nodded his head and knows it's on him to get it done. He's carrying himself so well and is much more mature as a competitor. He's a little less emotional in terms of the highs and lows, but is consistently excited to play. He's consistently physically tough and competitive. We're going to need that."