JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (Oct. 3, 2016) – ETSU football held its weekly football press conference on Monday as the Bucs are gearing up for this weekend’s Southern Conference road game at VMI.
Head coach Carl Torbush, sophomore linebacker Austin Gatewood (Ooltewah, Tenn.) and sophomore kicker/punter JJ Jerman (Seymour, Tenn.) met the media to recap last Saturday’s game versus Chattanooga, while looking ahead to this weekend’s matchup against the Keydets.
Below are comments from Coach Torbush, Gatewood and Jerman.
HEAD COACH CARL TORBUSH
Obviously, we ran into a really, really good team in Chattanooga on Saturday. They have done a great job building their program over the last several years. Coach Huesman and his staff have done a great job getting that program where it needs to be and they are one of the top FCS programs. We knew going into the game that we were going to have to play at our very, very best to have a chance to win, and quite honestly, I don't think we played our very best.
I thought we played good at times and thought we played hard, but I think there were times we didn't play as well as we needed to play. If you look at the ballgame, for about a quarter and a half, it was nip and tuck. We played with them as well as we could play. We had a chance to get in the end zone on our opening drive and then had a pass intercepted, which probably that is what started our downfall a little bit.
Defensively, they are a good-looking football team that ran extremely well, and we knew that. I think we did a pretty good job, but like I say after about a quarter and a half, they got to us. We couldn't block them very well in the passing or the running game. Obviously, if you look at the stats, they had 21 more plays than we did. They had 397 yards, but 100 of those yards of that came on two big plays.
We did a really nice job against them on third down possession, but just like Kennesaw State and Wofford, Chattanooga went for it on fourth down and was able to convert three of its four opportunities, hurt us at that time. Our starting field position was the 24-yard line and they started at their own 41. I think for the second straight week, we lost a lot of field position in the kicking game, and that's something that we've got to address this week and get better. We can't kick the ball and then lose field position on the kicking game because any time you give a team a short field; the percentages go way up in having a chance to score. That's exactly what Chattanooga was able to do.
We did a good job against their running game with Derrick Craine, because he is really a good player. He'll probably be an all-conference guy before the season is over with, so I thought we did a good job of slowing him down. I was very impressed with their quarterback. He throws the ball extremely well. He has a soft touch, who reminds me of Austin (Herink) throwing the ball some, but he has very good running skills as well so he has a great career ahead of him.
For the second straight week, our offensive couldn’t build much momentum. We started out strong, but then after a quarter and half, we were not able to move the ball very much at all. We just got beat this particular week by a better football team at this stage. I think our players understand what it's going to take to get to where they are right now, and that's obviously what we want to do.
We want to be able to compete with Chattanooga and the other teams that compete for SoCon championship, and for us to have a chance to get in the playoffs, that's what we're going to have to do. For the last two weeks, and really the last four weeks, I think we've been able to experience what it's going to take for us to win on the FCS level, win a SoCon championship, and eventually get in the playoffs.
IS THERE ANYTHING YOU CAN TAKE OUT OF THESE LAST TWO GAMES THAT COULD MAKE YOU A BETTER FOOTBALL TEAM?
I think so. I think it's just like last year when we played Montana State. Our guys know they can compete with them. It's not like we're just outclassed. Our guys understand right now we're still young, which is not an excuse; it's a complement, because every time we have a success or failure at this point, it will help us be a better football team on down the road. I think our guys understand what it's going to take to win in this league. They also understand what it's going to take to beat the best teams in this league.
I think we just got through playing two of the top teams in this league right now. Injuries could change that, but until somebody proves them different, Chattanooga is here. Like I said, they're ranked third in the country for a reason. They won a bunch of games in a row for a reason, especially SoCon games. I think our players understand we can play with these guys. We just need to get older. We need to get better. We need to continue to play with confidence.
The worst thing we could do right now is get our head down. Right now we could be 0-4. You look at the first two games that we won. We won them close and that's the way I like to win them. I think it gets you tougher mentally and physically.
Coach Wachenheim done a really nice job since taking over the program last year. VMI is really competing hard and they are extremely well-coached. They make very, very few mistakes. They do a good job of limiting their mistakes and forcing you to make a bunch of them. They are very disciplined in what they do, they don't get bent out of shape, and defensively they tackle extremely well. They don't miss a lot of tackles.
Their quarterback Al Cobb is their leader and he’s a very good player that throws the ball extremely well. He’s the guy that makes them click. He’s a drop back guy. He's not a scrambler. He's going to sit back there and throw it. He has taken some hits early on, but he’s very tough and he’s able to move around. Their wide receivers do a really good job of running routes. They catch the ball extremely well. Like I say, they'll stay in the pocket. You'll see very little sprint, maybe just a little bit, but most of the time he's going to stay in the back in the pocket.
Cobb has a crew of weapons he can get the ball to. They're running back, is a very, very solid football player and a tough runner. He has some quickness and good balance. He's done some good things. Their offensive line has some guys who can run around well and they have quick feet. They are very tough, they roll their hips extremely well and they stay on their blocks well. I've been impressed with them.
Defensively, they're basically a 50 front, a lot like we are. They move around some, but they're basically going to line up. They're going to make very few mistakes. They're going to tackle extremely well, and they rely on you to make a lot of mistakes. They'll sit back and they like to make you drive the ball 75 or 80 yards. They feel like within 75 or 80 yards, you're going to do something to stop that drive – whether it be a fumble, an interception, or minus yardage tackle. They've been competitive in every game they've played and we will have our hands full this weekend.
ON BEING ABLE TO DISRUPT VMI’S PASSING GAME
We are going to have to get pressure on Cobb. When Mercer gave him some problems, they did it with pass rush and sacked him some. We can't sit back there and let him pick us to death. We can’t give him a lot of time to throw the ball. We need to know where the ball is going at all times. We don't want him to be able to look here and then throw somewhere different. We want him to look here and have to throw here because the pressure's coming on him.
We'll have some opportunities for interceptions if we play well. He doesn't throw very many, but if we play like we're supposed to play and cover guys like we're supposed to then we can force some turnovers. The things we don't want to do are leave somebody open by a busted coverage. If we're sound in what we're doing, which we are, and our guys upfront get some vertical push and get after the quarterback we can be successful on Saturday.
Now the thing you can't do, you can't sit there and just go to sleep on the running game because they can run the ball well. They use it wisely. They will get that thing going north and south and east and west. They will run more empty than anybody we've seen so far, so they have a wide-range of choices to choose from. At the same time, we have to stop their throwing game, and we have to do that by pressuring the quarterback and getting him off rhythm. We also have to be very sound with our tackling and not let them get behind us.
SOPHOMORE LINEBACKER AUSTIN GATEWOOD
ON FACING VMI QUARTERBAKER AL COBB
He's a winner, a competitor and he throws a really good ball. Like Coach Torbush said, their entire team is very competitive and they are not going to quit. They won’t back down from anything. We have to come ready to play.
ON FACING A PASS HEAVY OFFENSE IN VMI
We have to get pressure on the quarterback, and force him to make that first throw instead of checking down and finding another receiver. Our defensive line is doing a great job pressuring the quarterback and we have to make sure we stick to the game plan for all 60 minutes. I think we will be well prepared for sure.
ON THE TEAM’S ATTITUDE AFTER BACK-TO-BACK LOSSES
Everybody is still positive and confident that we are a solid football team. We played two really good programs in Wofford and Chattanooga the last two weeks. We need to get keep getting more and more confident as the year goes on. Tomorrow's a big workday for us at practice, so we will come in and be ready to prepare for VMI.
THE DIFFERENCE FROM LAST YEAR TO THIS YEAR
At this time last year, we were still looking for our first win. Now we're sitting at 2-2. We just have to keep our confidence up. I think the confidence level compared to last year is so much better. If we can just keep chugging along and get better every week, I think we will be fine.
SOPHOMORE KICKER/PUNTER JJ JERMAN
ON THE TEAM’S ATTITUDE AFTER BACK-TO-BACK LOSSES
Obviously, we were really excited after the first two games. I haven't really seen much changing, and obviously you want to keep winning games. We did play two really, really tough teams, which is a good learning experience for us and we needed that. Like Austin said, tomorrow is an important workday for us. Depending on how well we practice these next few days will basically determine how well we do in the game on Saturday, so we need to have a great practice tomorrow.
THE DIFFERENCE FROM LAST YEAR TO THIS YEAR
I can notice a big difference. Our camaraderie is a whole lot better this year. We have more of a brotherhood – which we didn't have a whole lot of that last year toward the end of the season – and that’s understandable. Last year was our first year playing, so we were just getting to know each other. This year we all trust each other. We haven't had any problems. That's one key aspect to why we've been doing so much better than we did last year.
LOOKING BACK TO THE KENNESAW STATE GAME, HOW OFTEN DO YOU THINK ABOUT THAT GAME-WINNING KICK?
I thought about it a few days after the game and it gave myself motivation. Now, it's in the past, so I have to focus on the future. Obviously, it was a great way to start the season off for the whole team. It's a huge confidence booster – for me – and the entire team. My main focus now is to just keep doing what I've been doing. That's helping out the team and that's what I'm here for.
HOW TOUGH HAS IT BEEN THESE PAST TWO WEEKS NOT GETTING ON THE FIELD TO SCORE POINTS?
It's been a little difficult, but that's just how football is. We played two really, really good teams the last two weeks. Both Wofford and Chattanooga’s defenses were really stout. I just have to remain patient and can't get frustrated. My job is to go out there and score points for my team. I have to continue working hard and be ready when my number is called.
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