JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (Sept. 26, 2016) – ETSU football held its weekly football press conference on Monday as the Bucs are gearing up to host third-ranked Chattanooga this Saturday at Kermit Tipton Stadium. Kickoff is set for noon.
Head coach Carl Torbush, sophomore linebacker Kahlil Mitchell (South Pittsburg, Tenn.) and junior wide receiver Dalton Ponchillia (Nashville, Tenn.) met the media to recap last Saturday’s game at Wofford, while looking ahead to this weekend’s matchup with the Mocs.
Below are comments from Coach Torbush, Mitchell and Ponchillia.
HEAD COACH CARL TORBUSH
RECAPPING THE WOFFORD GAME
Last weekend (at Wofford) was a very, very physical football game and they are a physical football team.
I want to congratulate Coach Mike Ayers – who coached here at one time – for putting together a team that knows what they need to do, they know what they want to do, and he's developed a program around it. Obviously, what they do with their offense is a lot more than most wing-bone teams throw at you, because of that, they were able to move the football.
The keys to the game were the time of possession, rushing yards and number of plays. Wofford controlled the ball for right at 40 minutes to our 20 minutes. They rushed for 350 yards and held us to negative-7, and ran 33 more plays than we did.
Defensively, we did some really nice things. We were able to hold them to 5-of-15 on third down, but as we said going into the ballgame, that's really not successful because then they go for it on 4th-and-one, and they make it. They were able to make four of their five fourth down situations, which kept them on the field and kept our offense on the sideline.
Offensively, Wofford has a very strong defensive line, and our guys had a hard time blocking them. Because of that, we really never got into a rhythm on offense and were forced to put our defense on the field for the majority of the game.
I was proud of guys for the fight they continued to show throughout the game. They continued to work hard and didn't give up. At the end of the ballgame, I felt like we had performed well. I'll be shocked if Wofford is not one of the top two or three teams in our conference by the year's end.
The thing we told our team is not to put your head down. We need to keep moving forward, and I think they've done that. I felt good that we came back with much excitement and enthusiasm yesterday. A lot of that has to do with who we're getting ready to play this week.
This, in my opinion, is our cross-town rival. I would hope they feel the same way, or at least I hope at some point we make them feel the same way. I think in all other sports it's already like that.
They have an outstanding program. Coach Huesman has done a great job with that program since he's been there. They've won the conference championship three years in a row. Right now they're ranked third in the country. Nobody's been close to them yet this year. They're among the national leaders in a lot of categories, both offensively and defensively.
Right now they're playing with a great deal of confidence. They have their program where we want to get our program. That's about what it amounts to.
Defensively, they run extremely well up front. They may not be as big and bulky as what we saw last week at Wofford, but they will be more athletic. They are able to run sideline-to-sideline – both with their front four and their linebackers – that's something we have to be concerned about. They have a lot of guys ranked among the leaders in sacks, so obviously they can get to the quarterback a great deal. That is one thing we have to do a better job at. First of all, we need to stay out of third and long. Second, if we get in third and long, we need to give our quarterback a chance to be productive, so we know what we're dealing with there.
It’s not often we get to play a team that is ranked as high as Chattanooga. I think the last time we beat a top-ranked team was in 2001 when we beat Georgia Southern, so we're talking about 15 years. Teams don't get this opportunity often, because you don't play that many teams that are ranked as high as they've been ranked. Chattanooga has been in the playoffs in back-to-back season. I compliment Coach Huesman, his staff and their players on understanding what it takes to win consistently, because they have become the marquis team in our conference over the last several years.
ON CHATTANOOGA’S OFFENSE
Offensively right now they're hitting on all cylinders. They can beat you running and throwing the ball. Their running back Derrick Craine is a great player. He’s the same type of player – to a degree – in what we saw with Detrez Newsome (Western Carolina). Craine is going to give Chattanooga a lot of yards rushing. He’s very mobile and has great speed. But they also spray the ball around really, really well. They lost a very experienced quarterback in Huesman last year, but they have continued to play well with Bennifield this year. He throws the ball well and can also beat you running the ball. They have four or five wide receivers that can make impact plays. I think their offensive line is really good. We've recruited two or three of them, so I know how good those guys are.
ON HAVING A BIG CROWD ON SATURDAY
I want to make sure we challenge our student body, all of our fraternities and sororities, former lettermen and our community to fill up Kermit Tipton Stadium this weekend. We need the crowd to be loud and wild. We need to make sure that we make the crowd part of what we need to do as a football team. I thought Kennesaw State did a great job of that, and we need to follow suit. I think that's going to be very important. I'll be really, really disappointed if we don’t have a big crowd on Saturday.
SOPHOMORE LINEBACKER KAHLIL MITCHELL
DID YOU FEEL LIKE YOU TURNED A CORNER WITH YOUR PLAY AT WOFFORD?
I really did. I felt like that game definitely challenged me as a player. Being a smaller linebacker, it was a challenge to go in and fit my gap against their big offensive linemen. I think I answered that question pretty well. I just need to get better on my form tackling and make the most of my opportunities when I get them.
ON THE RIVALRY WITH CHATTANOOGA
With me growing up near Chattanooga (South Pittsburg), I know about the natural rivalry. By coming here to ETSU, it wasn’t hard adopting into the rivalry. I'm pretty sure that all our players get the gist of the rivalry with Chattanooga.
ON IF HE WAS RECRUITED BY CHATTANOOGA
I was recruited by Chattanooga late in my senior season. ETSU recruited me pretty hard, and I'm glad I made this decision to come here.
WHAT DOES CHATTANOOGA DO OFFENSIVELY THAT YOU GUYS NEED TO LOOK OUT FOR?
They spread the ball around pretty well. They have really good offensive linemen. Derrick Craine, their running back, he does a good job of sticking his foot in the ground and getting north and south behind that big offensive line. Their quarterback is a first-year starter and de does a very good job of slinging the ball around to all their weapons. We have to keep our head on a swivel and know where the football is going at all times.
We have to stop the run, because that's what a lot of teams get you going with. They try to run it and run it, and then they beat you with the pass. I'm just ready to face Chattanooga. This is going to be the biggest challenge that we've faced all year. They're a great team and we're looking forward to playing them.
JUNIOR WIDE RECEIVER DALTON PONCHILLIA
ON LAST WEEK’S GAME AT WOFFORD
It was difficult. We never really got moving. Once you find that rhythm, it makes things a lot easier for the rest of the game. We never got a great rhythm going. There defensive line was very strong and physical. We have to figure out how to handle it this week.
We're ready to get back to work. It was a frustrating game. We're ready to get back to work, and get ready to prepare for Chattanooga.
ON MOVING FORWARD TO CHATTANOOGA
We'll learn our game plan a little bit more tomorrow at practice. The coaches have been planning hard, so I we'll have a good game plan going into this week.
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