Appalachian State heads to South Carolina for a Saturday game in Columbia. The Mountaineers (7-1, 4-1 Sun Belt) are coming off a 24-21 loss to Georgia Southern on Thursday which pushed the Mountaineers out of the Top 25.
Coach Eliah Drinkwitz held his weekly press conference on Monday, where he talked about the loss to the Eagles, the Gamecocks (4-5) and a few other topics.
Here's all that he said:
"Yeah, exciting week. We’ve got a great challenge ahead of us. Obviously a night game on the road with a tremendous SEC opponent who’s got multiple blue-chip recruits, great scheme, great coaches, beat the No. 2 team at the time, Georgia. So it’s going to be a tremendous challenge for our guys, a great game for us to refocus. A great opponent for us to refocus. A great opponent to work toward this week and we’re excited about the opportunity. So with that, I’ll open it up for questions."
On the major takeaways from the Georgia Southern loss:
"The game boils down to a couple of things. Obviously, in the first half, offensively, we had five possessions — the first five possessions, we punted. On three of those, we had third-and-short yardage we didn’t convert. Defensively, we had a pass interference call that gave them the ball on the 2-yard line, on a third down that didn’t help us. And then we had two explosive plays to start the third quarter. So if several of those things go in our direction, then it’s a different outcome. But we’ve got to continue to work to improve to eliminate those mistakes or those issues and we will. I mean it was a good ball game, 24-21 in those conditions. Neither team had a turnover. We’ve just got to find a way at the and to win the game, and offensively, we’ve got to do a better job in that two-minute drive. "
On having a group of players that have been in this situation before:
"Well I think their psyche is the exact same: it’s about 1-0, it’s about giving it 24 hours and moving on. There’s a lot of football left for everybody to play. So to think that a game that happens October 31st is going to be the final outcome of the season I think is a long way away. So you know, yes we’ll rely on our seniors, but we’ll rely on our coaching staff to relay the same message that we had yesterday which is, ‘Guys; it’s about we’ve got four more opportunities to be 1-0.” And at the end of the year, we’ll look back and we’ll stack it up and see where that measures. But there’s a lot of football left to be played, and we need to play our best football moving forward. And that’s the goal."
On South Carolina defensively:
"Yeah that’s the DNA of a Will Muschamp coached defense: they’re going to have a tremendous front four — all four of them are returning starters from last year. They’ve got two linebackers back. One of their starting corners is back, Jaycee Horn. So they have a lot of experience within the scheme. They’re going to deny the ball, playing man-to-man coverage. They’re going to try to outnumber you in the box, and it’s going to be a physical game. I believe Javon Kinlaw is one of the best defensive linemen in the SEC, which means he’s one of the best defensive linemen in the country. He will be a first-round draft pick, there is no doubt. He was a wrecking ball in the Georgia game and has been a very significant factor in their defensive scheme so he’s a guy we’ve got to contend with. The thing is they’ve got four returning starters up front so all of them make plays and penetrate and cause havoc so we definitely have our hands full and have got to do a great job of handling the D-line and controlling the line of scrimmage."
On the difficulty of producing quick scoring drives like App State did late vs. Georgia Southern:
"I think in the conditions that that game was played in, it’s extremely difficult to do. You know, my personal contention is if we would’ve tried to do that the entire game, the wind was such a factor, there was three balls that could have been intercepted just because of the accuracy of the throws. You know, I think it was one of those rare things where everything clicked and we were able to make some plays, make some catches, make some scrambles that were able to allow us to do that. But that was a challenging game for sure."
On if a win over UNC (which beat South Carolina to open the season) is helpful in gameplanning:
"I really don’t think so because every team is so much different than the first game they played of the year. For South Carolina, they lost their quarterback. Their starting quarterback got injured that last play of the game and now they’re playing a true freshman, Ryan Hilinski, who was an outstanding player, one of the top quarterbacks in the country coming out of high school last year. And so they’ve kind of meshed their identity. They play two quarterbacks. They also play a young man named Dakereon Joyner. So they’ve now become a different style of offense. They’ve got a tremendous wide receiver, Bryan Edwards, who I think — I mean, he’s an NFL player for sure, probably a first or second round, third-round pick. They feature their running backs. Rico Dowdle is a North Carolina kid, is planning to be back. Tavien Feaster is a guy who transferred from Clemson, so they’ve got a tremendous stable of backs. Point being, they’ve now created a new identity offensively than they had that first week.So I think their a different team in terms of offense. Defensively, they played really well except for the last two drives of the game against North Carolina. I think it was a 24-21 ball game (was a 24-20 UNC win) or something like that at the end. So I don’t know if there’s a lot you can take away."
On if he lets himself appreciate the fact that his first head-coaching loss came so late in his first App State season:
“No. I don’t worry about anything regarding to me at all. This isn’t about me, it’s never been about me. It’s about Appalachian State. It’s about our football players. It’s about our staff and our program and what we’re trying to do. Whenever the good Lord tells me I’m no longer coaching football, I’ll look back on all the significant things that have occurred in my life. But right now, I go home and I take care of my baby girl throughout the night, and I wake up and come back to work, and we’re trying to find the best plan that we can to be 1-0 this week. So no, I don’t worry about anything like that. The only rule I allowed myself to break was I was ticked off about that game (with Georgia Southern) for 48 hours instead of 24 hours. But we’re moving on now, ready to rock and roll. I’ve got no time to look back and pat each other on the back. We’ll do that when I have a rocking chair, maybe.”
On if the South Carolina offense leans more to the pass or the run:
"Well, I think they’re both. I know Coach Muschamp has challenged them to be more effective in the passing game the past two weeks. But they’re still a team that’s built on running the football, specifically they’ve got a really good offensive line that’s big and physical. They like to (use) what we call a G scheme, where they’re pulling two offensive linemen and letting the tight end down block and they do a nice job of creating an extra gap so you’ve got to overflow there. And they’ve got RPOs off of it. Ryan’s got a really quick release. He sees the field. If you leave Bryan Edwards one-on-one, just ask Vanderbilt, you’re going to give up 140 yards and a touchdown no problem, and that’s what happened. So you’ve got to kind of pick your poison. If you give corner or safety help to Bryan, then you’re giving them a gap in the run game with the pull schemes. If you take away the extra gaps with the pull schemes, then you’re leaving him one-on-one. So they do a nice job of putting players in conflict, put your defensive scheme in conflict. We’ve got to destroy blocks, run to the football. We’ve got to be physical at the line of scrimmage. We’ve got to make tackles. We can’t let a missed tackle turn into a 60-yard gain, which is what happened to us in the past. Which has happened several times on our explosive runs. We’ve got guys that are there, designed to fit, and we’ve missed tackles. So the point of emphasis yesterday was to get back in and tackle. And if we don’t tackle, then we’re going to give up explosive runs against these guys."
On how South Carolina beat Georgia:
"Well I think their defensive front was extremely havoc making, caused a lot of negative-yardage plays. They had two turnovers, one for 7 points. I mean the final score of that game was 24-21, something low scoring like that (it was 20-17), and 10 of the points came off of turnovers. So the ability to turn the ball over and the ability to score with those turnovers. The quarterback got knocked out, they played Dakereon as the primary quarterback who did a nice job in the second half. I thought he did an outstanding job of coming in, running the offense, running the football, throwing the football, doing what he needed to do, controlling the clock. I think the biggest thing, when you watch that game, is the defensive line, the way they were able to handle Georgia’s offensive line. And then their corners making the two interceptions. In fact, it was Israel (Mukuamu) that had both of those interceptions."
On having a non-conference game in the middle of conference play:
"You know, we’re just excited about the opportunity to play. To play in a great venue like South Carolina. And wherever the schedule falls, that’s our job so I’ve got no real opinion on it."