JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (Sept. 4) – Coming off its season-opening 31-10 win over Limestone on Saturday, the ETSU football team held its weekly press conference on Monday afternoon to recap the win and preview this weekend’s match-up with reigning FCS National Champion and No. 1 James Madison.
Head coach Carl Torbush, redshirt sophomore defensive end Nasir Player (Columbia, S.C.) and redshirt junior wide receiver Drake Powell (Clinton, Tenn.) met the media inside William B. Greene, Jr. Stadium on Monday.
Below are comments from Coach Torbush, Player and Powell.
HEAD COACH CARL TORBUSH
ON OPENING THE NEW STADIUM LAST SATURDAY NIGHT
Last Saturday was the most important game, in my opinion, in recent ETSU history. To have an opportunity to play on our absolutely wonderful, beautiful new stadium with a sold out crowd speaks for itself. We are excited to start the season off on a positive note. Obviously, we are very thankful to be in our new stadium. All of us know and can see it's a gorgeous place, and it's something that we can all be proud of.
We never need to take it for granted because we know how hard it was to get. We now have a great place to showcase ETSU, to showcase Johnson City, and our region. It’s absolutely a wonderful facility and we are thankful for all the support. The crowd was loud. I want to thank our student body because they were loud. I challenged them to help Limestone get a penalty to start off the game. Limestone didn't get a penalty, but they did have to use a number of timeouts because of the noise. The student body needs to be credited for that as they were the 12th man for us, and they did a great job on that.
ON JAMES MADISON
James Madison is an extremely well-coached and talented football team. I have known head coach Mike Houston and a lot of his staff for a very long time. Mike has done a wonderful job throughout his career. If we weren't playing them this week, I'd brag on him even more, but we know what we're getting ready to go into. He's a great guy. Obviously, he’s been successful everywhere he's bee. I'm very happy for him and the career path that he's made.
They have some really, really good football coaches and really good players. When you combine it all together, it’s the reason they are the defending FCS National Champions and it’s the reason that they beat FBS East Carolina last week. It was not a fluke.
They have great football players and a tremendous amount of starters coming back. It starts with their quarterback. He's a returning starter. He's a preseason All-American. I think he was third team All-American last year. He's the one that makes things tick. Obviously, the running back gained over 250 yards against East Carolina last week, and they had another running back gain right at a hundred, so they rushed for over 400 yards last week. They have an outstanding rushing attack with two really good running backs, but you have to start with that offensive line. They are big. They're strong. They're athletic. They're exactly what they need to have offensively to continue to have a chance to win another national championship.
Defensively, they are very fast. In my opinion, they're an FBS-type defense. When I say that, I think they have a chance to compete against teams like East Carolina week in and week out.
They have built what we want to have here at ETSU. They have a beautiful stadium. They have been able to compete on every level. They are the defending national champions from last year. They will be ranked number one in the country as we head into Harrisonburg this week. We know we have our hands full, but it's an exciting opportunity for us.
We want to see where we are as a football program. If we want to see where we are as a football team, if we want to see what we need to do to have a chance to be competitive on a national level, then this is a perfect opportunity for us. We know we're going to have our hands full, but that's what college football's all about.
ON THE DIFFICULTY OF THE UPCOMING SCHEDULE
I don't want to look too far down the schedule because I'm afraid I'd be in the hospital by now. Our next three or four weeks are going be a telltale sign of where we are as a football program. We know what's in store for us these next few weeks. I do feel like this is a game that will show us – just as I thought Montana State was two years ago – where we are as a football program, and exactly where we need to go to have a chance to win a national championship.
How many times will you get an opportunity during the regular season to play the No. 1 ranked team in the country in the FCS level? They are the defending national champions. They are going to be ranked No. 1 in the country again when the polls come out today. They just beat an East Carolina team, who year-in-and-year-out, is a bowl contender. Again, our guys know what's in store for us, but they also know this is a great opportunity to play the top-ranked team in the country.
ON HAVING THE OPPORTUNITY TO PLAY THE NO. 1 TEAM IN THE COUNTRY
I got the chance to play against No. 1 Florida State several years, but we never knocked them off. We thought we had a chance several times. I've been coaching close to 40 years and even to have a chance to play the top ranked team doesn’t happen often.
It doesn't happen many times in a lifetime, so it's a situation that you can look at as a great opportunity or you can be scared to death. We are looking at it as a great opportunity. I think our guys, if they are the type of football players that I think they are, and they're as mentally tough as our coaching staff and Al Johnson and the rest of us have tried to make them, we're going into James Madison and compete. I do think we'll play hard and give it everything we have. I think our young men will be excited about playing James Madison.
ON WHAT MAKES PLAYING THE NO. 1 TEAM SPECIAL/EXCITING
I think the biggest thing is you don't have to coach much during the week. You know, you don't have to holler at them, you don't have to get on them. They know what's getting ready to happen. If they can't give us everything they have during practice for the next three days, then we have a problem. I don't think we do, because I could see it in the dressing room as soon as the Limestone game was over with… it was like, ‘phew, we won the ball game, we broke the new stadium in right, we got a win.’ We did the things we needed to. Now let's move on to what we need to do to have a chance to play the top-ranked team in the country.
ON DIFFERENCE BETWEEN PLAYING JAMES MADISON AND GOING TO MONTANA STATE IN 2015
We had a lot of 17 and 18-year old guys that went out there to play against Montana State in 2015. Montana State’s quarterback transferred to Oregon after we played them, and they had some big, strong, physical guys. The score may not have indicated it, but we did fight. Our guys fought and I think they understood what they needed to do to have a chance to be competitive. I think we found out real quick what we needed to do to improve, so that was the measuring stick there. I think we've had basically two and a half years to see where we were then and where we are now. I feel strongly that there's no doubt we are a bigger, stronger, and more physical football team now.
I think we are more ready to have a matchup like this. We are going to find out on Saturday exactly how close we are, but we're going up there to have an opportunity to win the football game. How we perform will determine that. What our guys and coaching staff need to do, is go to James Madison, play up to the best of our ability, not beat ourselves, and let's see where we are when the game is over.
ON JMU’S SIZE
JMU has a great football team. They have size and athleticism. I think we have size and athleticism. The only thing we can do is play within ourselves, play up to the best of our ability and play hard. If we come out, don't make mistakes, put our best foot forward and play as well as we can then whatever the score is after the game, is what it is.
Obviously, in my opinion, there was probably a lot more stress last week playing Limestone than there will be this week against James Madison, because probably the only ones that think we can win are going to be the players, the coaches, the parents and the closest people to the program.
NASIR PLAYER – REDSHIRT SOPHOMORE – DEFENSIVE END
ON PLAYING THE NO. 1 TEAM IN FCS
It makes it more exciting; because it's the first true test we had this season. They won the national championship last year, so this is a great chance for us to see where we are as a program. If they're the number one team, we get to go out there and go against the number one team to see how we stack up against them. It's definitely more exciting.
ON THE OVERALL PLAY FROM THE DEFENSE ON SATURDAY
It's all the system. We all have to our job. We all have to be on the same page for it to work. We can't just be getting a good rush, and they're not playing coverage, and we can't get a bad rush while they're playing good coverage. It's not going to work like that. We all have to be on the same page. So I think it was a group effort. It wasn't just one group or one player. It wasn't only the D-line. It wasn't only the secondary. It was a group effort. We all came ready to play and did our job. We were all playing our assignments. We all knew what had to get done, and we went out there and played to the best of our ability. We all stayed together and made sure of that. It’s why the outcome turned out like it did.
ON THE UPPERCLASSMEN STEPPING UP DEFENSIVELY IN SATURDAY’S WIN OVER LIMESTONE
If you're an upperclassman, we know that, the young guys on the team are looking up to us. If we don't set a good example, then they're going to think that they can get away with the same stuff that we get away with. So we can't be out there acting like the rules don't apply to us. We have to do everything that the coaches preach. Everything they harp on us about, we go out there and do it, and make sure that they know that they need to be held to the same expectations.
DRAKE POWELL – REDSHIRT JUNIOR – WIDE RECEIVER
ON PLAYING THE NO. 1 TEAM IN FCS
Like coach Torbush said, anytime you get the chance to play the number one team in the country (at any level), it makes it special. That's like a red-letter day because you don't get that all the time. For me it's a first (to play the No. 1 team). I'm looking forward to it probably more than any other game, because they are the best. To beat the best you have to put them on the schedule and play them. We want to be the best just like anybody else in the country, so when we get an opportunity to play them, that's a red-letter day for us.
ON THE IMPORTANCE OF HAVING A STRONG START ON SATURDAY
I don't want to put that into consideration. I just want to go out there, play inside myself, and play football like we always do. I don't want to think about, as we have to play like Superman and go out there and do things that we're not capable of. I think we need to go out there, play football and look at it as another game.
If we can go out there, get some confidence and get going early that'd be ideal. If things don’t go our way early, we still need to go out, stay calm, keep playing and fight until the end.
ON HAVING MORE STRESS LAST WEEK THAN THIS WEEK’S MATCHUP
Absolutely. This last game there was so much stress. The new stadium and how we needed to go out there and open our new home with a win. The entire community was talking about that game and we needed to keep them behind us. That was a lot of pressure for us. Now going in and playing the No. 1 team in the country, a lot of people look at it as a measuring stick for our program. For myself, I want to go out there and just play ball. The fact that it is the number one team in the country is huge for our team, but I think we just need to go out there and play within ourselves. Whatever happens at the end, we can look at ourselves in the mirror at the end of the day and say we played ball and played a good game.
ON ANDREW HEYWARD AND ANTHONY SPAGNOLETTI EACH RECORDING THEIR FIRST COLLEGIATE TOUCHDOWN ON SATURDAY AGAINST LIMESTONE
I think that was Andrew's (Heyward) first collegiate catch and for it to go the way it did was awesome. I couldn't be more excited for those two guys, because as they make more plays and do those kinds of things they are going to gain more confidence. If we can get them more and more confident in making those plays on a consistent basis it will make our offense that much stronger. I couldn't be more excited for those guys. I know Vincent (Lowe), (Austin) Herink and all of us were ecstatic because it was a huge moment for both of them.
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