"It was nice to have an open date for a number of reasons. We were able to spend some time with our families and the staff was able to get away from it all. This is the first day since August 2nd that we haven't had to be in the office so we were able to recharge our batteries a little bit. The players also had a couple of days to get away from it. We met on Thursday and then they were able to get away on Friday, Saturday and the first part of Sunday. Hopefully they recharged a little bit with everything they have been through physically, mentally and emotionally in the last 11 weeks.
"One positive thing that happened during the bye week is that we were able to clinch a bowl game without even playing. With UTEP losing, only six teams in the conference are eligible for the six guaranteed bowls for Conference USA. It automatically puts East Carolina into a bowl game this season. At this point, we are playing for where we are going bowling. You know at this point that you are going to go but you just don't know where yet. The outcome of this Saturday's game with Tulane has a lot to do with that.
"I have some concerns after bringing the team back this week. Coming off an open date and then not having school the next few days is going to change the schedule. The last time we went through that was the fall break which happened to fall upon the NC State game. I don't think we handled that change well as a team and it is something I have a concern about. Another problem is some of the injuries. After having some days off then coming back and seeing where some of the players are, we still have a number of guys out right now. There have been a bunch of bumps, bruises, strains and sprains that have had the opportunity to heal. However, Marcus Hands, Fred Hicks, Danny Muhwezi and Willie Barton are all out and will not play. Some of the guys on the bubble that we are hoping to make it back for the last game like Brandon Setzer, T.J. Lee, Khalif Mitchell, Nick Johnson, Quentin Cotton, Jeremy Chambliss do not look like they will be able to go Saturday. Chris Mattocks is also a question mark. I'm concerned about it because those are about eight players off the defensive two-deep that have made significant contributions this year. We are about to go play an explosive offensive team."
"Matt Forte' is obviously a great running back. He is the focal point of their offense and is the leading rusher in our league as well as the nation. He is powerful, balanced and speedy. Their offensive line has improved tremendously as the year has gone on. They are riding some momentum right now, having won their last two games, and are playing some really good football right now, especially on offense.
"Their passing game is based off the run then play-action. (Anthony) Scelfo, their quarterback, is very accurate off of the play-action as they get their safeties downfield into the running game. They are very good at what they do and very patient with what they do. We all know that Forte is going to carry the ball. The difficult thing then is to stop him.
"From a defensive standpoint, they are very good up the middle and against the run. They held LSU to 39 yards rushing through three quarters earlier in the season. Their two inside players are very good and their middle linebacker is their leading tackler. Additionally their next five top tacklers are all safeties. They incorporate a five-defensive back system which creates a lot of confusion and those safeties are like bonus linebackers. We haven't seen that from many teams this season. They are centered on stopping the run and have done a great job of that.
"We have some injuries on defense and are not the same defensive football team that we were at the beginning of the season. If we were completely healthy, I would say our strength would be playing against their's, but with so many injuries I just don't know how we would play against the run. This will be a great challenge for us and we are looking forward to it. We still have a lot to play for this season and although we won't know the outcome of the [UCF] game when we kick off, we have to take the approach that we are playing for the conference championship. We haven't won six conference games here since the 1970s and that would show great growth for our program. I think this team is very motivated and I hope the feeling that they had after the Marshall game lingers. It was certainly one of the worst losses we have had since I have been here because there was so much on the line for us."
On Matt Forte' Compared To Other C-USA Backs:
"He is a lot like Smith from UCF. However, I think he is bigger and more physical than Smith. Both are durable, carrying the ball 336 and 330 times. They are both so good at what they do. [Forte] has balance, athleticism, power and speed. He is also [Tulane's] second-leading receiver out of the backfield. He doesn't beat you on the perimeter like some of the smaller backs but is more of a true I-back."
On The Team's Plan For Thanksgiving:
"We are going to give them the day off. The first year I was here, we kept them in Greenville but since we have so many players from North Carolina, I think we can get done what we have to and give them the opportunity to go home. We will take our day off on Thursday. We have meetings today and will practice hard for Tuesday and Wednesday. We will bring them back Friday morning and practice pretty extensively, just like a normal Thursday. It is the same schedule we incorporated last year against NC State. It would be nice to have them all here together but a number of them expressed the desire to go home, especially those that live only an hour away. A lot of the players that live further away will just jump in the cars with the other guys so that everyone has the opportunity to have a family Thanksgiving."