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September 11, 2017

Chris Ash

Piscataway, New Jersey

COACH ASH: Let's start just again, thank you guys for coming. Really appreciate every Monday you guys come and when you come after practice and show interest in our program. Again, I want to thank you guys for that.

We're in a normal routine and just normal routine on Monday. I'll just give you a quick review again of the game on Saturday after we got a chance to review it as a staff and watch film. Talk a little bit about the next opportunity, the next game and then take questions from there.

Just start by giving my thoughts on Saturday's game after reviewing the film. Not a lot different than how I felt Saturday standing here before you after the game. Was disappointed in the way the game looked and felt, not in all areas, not in all three phases but overall disappointed. You know, the first game of the year, I felt that we made huge strides in a lot of areas. Felt better. Looked better. We played better even though it was a loss, felt really good about it.

Usually as a coach, you really hope that you make a steady improvement from week one to week two. Unfortunately we took steps back in week two and that's the disappointing thing for us as a program. That's myself as the head coach, our staff, the players, you know, everybody is disappointed because we didn't obviously plan on that or prepare that way. But that's the way it turned out on Saturday.

You know, encouraged by several things that did happen in that game. One, I think defensively, we continue to play pretty good defense. I think our rush defense has improved from last year. We're still playing really tight coverage, forcing the quarterback to make throws in tight windows and challenge receivers, and that's the style of defense we want to play and we'll continue to do so.

We do have to start creating more turnovers and getting takeaways on defense. We did get the one with the fumble which was a timely fumble. But we need more than that and that's an area that we need to get better at.

Special teams-wise I think there were a lot of improvements also in that phase of the game. Start our place kicker. We made two field goals. Made our extra point so we were three for three on our kicking opportunities there. I thought our kickoff coverage was pretty good. We were sticking into a really stiff wind. Every time we went out on kickoff coverage -- but we got pretty good hang time, pretty good coverage and there were very few yards on the returns from that standpoint.

Had big plays on punt return and kickoff return. We gave the offense the ball and positive field position on their side of the 50 in that game. So are all things that we look for with our special teams.

Offensively, we just struggled to get into a rhythm. We had some positive moments in the game. We'd get on a roll a little bit and then we'd lose it and we just couldn't consistently execute or perform the way that we want to. Disappointed in that, and that's something that we've got to get figured out on how to do that moving forward, because coming out of the Washington game. I would have felt like we were in a rhythm and doing some good things and again, we took a step back on Saturday.

Looking ahead to the next opportunity, we've got a game here against Morgan State next Saturday. We have to get better. I mean, that's what it is. We looked at that after game one and unfortunately we didn't do it in all phases but we have to get that done this week and next Saturday against Morgan State.

But we practiced yesterday. We come in on Sundays. We meet, we watch the film and we go out and practice. After that practice, I feel just as positive about this football team right now today as I did before we started because of the response that I saw from these players. They are upset; they are disappointed. They went out and had a very focused practice yesterday. Flushed that out of our system and we've moved our focus on to the next opportunity to go out and play and get better. If we wouldn't have approached it that way, I would have been nervous.

But I feel very positive about our ability to bounce back and continue to improve and go play really good football this year based on what I saw yesterday from this program and how we responded to the challenge that we had on Saturday.

Just quickly, staff update. Just want to inform everybody on this. Yesterday Coach Kill had a minor medical setback. He's going to be fine. Saturday in the game, early in the game, after the first drive, got tumbled up on Kyle's late hit on the sideline. You know, was really discombobulated a little bit in the first half from it. Had some headaches Saturday night and not -- this isn't confirmed or not necessarily been identified as the reason yet but had a minor seizure yesterday morning. But he's fine. He's still waiting to get released from the hospital but he'll either be back here this afternoon or tomorrow, whenever he feels up to the task.

It's a minor setback, and fully anticipate he'll be back with us here shortly after he recovers from it. But no concerns about him not being able to do that, just so we're all clear. He feels great. It's one of those things where life situations or medical situations come up with a lot of people and this happened yesterday. So with that, I'll go ahead and open it up for questions and move forward.

Q. No concern about him coaching this weekend?
COACH ASH: No, not right now, today. Unless something came from a doctor or he needed more time to recover. You know, right now his focus is on getting back with our football team. Our focus is on getting better and our next opponent, and right now nobody is even thinking about that.

Q. Who runs the offense in practice or if you got to a game and he wasn't there?
COACH ASH: The whole stuff. It's a staff effort. It's always been a staff effort. When I'm a defensive coordinator, that's the way it is.

As a coordinator -- if you've got a really good staff, the coordinator is a coordinator by title. He sets the meeting times and ultimately has to make the final decisions. But when it comes to practice, preparation, game planning, it's a team effort.

And I think the offensive staff has done an outstanding job working together as a team effort. Game planning is going as normal, here yesterday, last night and today. So there haven't been any hiccups or adjustments from that standpoint.

Obviously because of the medical history of Jerry, we've had contingency plans in place if something like this were to happen and this was a long-term situation that would cause him to miss work and you know, right now, we're pretty confident and feel like that's not going to be the case.

Q. From a quarterback-psyche standpoint, Kyle, did you have a conversation with him, pick up the pieces from that game?
COACH ASH: Yeah, Kyle is a mature guy. I mean, he knows he didn't play a very good game. He'll be the first to admit it. I think he did after the game. He watched the film and just like you know, a real guy would do, when it's over, you didn't play very well, you own it.

That's what I like about Kyle. If he didn't handle it that way, I'd be concerned, but that's not the way he handled it. He knows it and he knows he's got to play better. He wants to play better. As coaches we've got to help him do that and the pieces around him have got to help him do that, too. We've got to play better at the offensive line position. We've got to play better at receiver. We've talked about that before. It's not just the one position.

Unfortunately as the quarterback you're the one that gets all the glory or all the blame. That's life and he gets that. You know, it's not his first rodeo. He gets it. But for him to play better, we have to play better up front. We didn't play up front like we had the week before.

You know we stood here after the Washington game talking about it was probably the best game our offensive line had played. Can't say that about week two and that's disappointing. You know, it hurt us in the run game and Kyle took more shots, not necessarily sacks, but more hits in the game against Eastern Michigan than he did against Washington. We can't have that.

Q. You said after the game, you wanted to watch the film to talk more about Bolin's performance. What did you think after seeing it, and what areas does he need to improve upon?
COACH ASH: Well, just like I mentioned it's not just Kyle. I mean, the whole offense; if I'm a quarterback and I'm worried about getting hit, I'm not going to perform as well as if I'm feeling pretty comfortable back there. He took more shots and got hit more in this game than he had the Washington game.

He's got to get used to that. It hasn't happened to him in a while. Probably forced some throws and made some decisions that he'd like to take back. You know, he had some bright spots and some good spots and he had some spots that he wishes he could have played better; we all do.

But it's not just him. We have to, as a staff, you know, we evaluate, again, what we're asking our offensive line to do, our quarterbacks to do and make sure that we can do it consistently and continue to improve from week-to-week. That's probably the one -- the two areas that we feel probably most disappointed in that our O-line and quarterbacks took a step back after game one.

Like I said, I'm as positive as I've ever been about our ability to get that done based on what I saw on film and how I saw our players respond yesterday.

Q. Going back to Jerry, ironic that this happened a week after we're talking about him, whether he's downstairs or upstairs; is there any thought of seeing what happened to him and what could potentially happen to him that he does move, or will he stay down on the field?
COACH ASH: We'll have those conversations later. Those are always in the back of my mind. We've had lengthy conversations about those issues all the way up to this point.

You know, really the safest place on the sideline is standing behind the offense. When you watch the film, he was about seven yards out in front of the ball and Kyle scrambled on the third and ten play, got hit, actually was an Eastern Michigan player that ran into Jerry and he fell on top of another one.

So that's how it happened. But he was out actually in front of the ball in the safest place on the sidelines behind and I think he figured out after that play, he needed to stay behind the offense and that's what he did primarily from what I saw the rest of the game.

You know, we'll have those conversations moving forward if we feel that that's the best thing for him and for our offense.

Q. Myles Nash played both on tight end and the defensive line --
COACH ASH: You saw that.

Q. Yeah, what was the reason behind that?
COACH ASH: Depth. Depth. We had some injuries come up on the D-Line and we had some depth issues and we didn't know if we needed to play him or not in the game. But just the way the game played with the tempo and the reps that we were having, especially in the first half, we needed him. Myles has worked on defense some in training camp; you guys had asked the question before about Myles going over and playing some defense earlier. Well, we were trying to find out what the best position would be and we were also trying to get him some work in case we got into this type of scenario.

We can go out and play with one tight end or no tight ends on offense at times, but we can't go out and play with two defensive linemen. We need to make sure we have got enough out there.

To his credit, he's stayed in tune to what we are doing defensively. He's gotten some reps and actually went out there can did a really good job. Really proud of him, his growth and maturity as an individual and as a player and his willingness to do whatever he needs to do help his football team play. It's a great credit to that kid.

Q. Are you and Vince worried that teams might try to copycat Eastern Michigan, what they did with the quarterback, playing on fourth down, just to try to take Janarion out of the game? I'm not asking what you would do, but are you going to do things to combat that?
COACH ASH: We're all set to combat. We had a plan to do it after we figured out what Eastern Michigan was doing in the game. Never came up again. But my hat's off to them. They did a great job. It's smart. We figured out when it was like fourth and ten that they weren't going for it. That's what they were going to do. But that's not necessarily something that we were prepared to have happen in that game. As the game went on, and it happened a couple times, we knew exactly what we were going to do. So yeah, we have a plan for that, if that happens again, which, you know, I'd be surprised if it doesn't.

Q. The secondary, I think you mentioned the defense played pretty well, especially in the red zone, but out of the red zone they gave up a couple long passes in the first two games and a couple pass interference plays --
COACH ASH: They don't bother me at all. I'm a defensive back coach. I've been doing it for a long time. We play an aggressive style. We have to finish a little bit better on some balls. A couple of times we had a post safety that needs to be back in the middle on some deep balls but pass interference calls, as long as we're playing aggressive, they are going to happen.

What we are not going to do is back off and play soft and let them continue to nickel and dime us in front of us and chip away that way. We're going to make a quarterback have to beat us and you know, there's a couple parts of it; I think we're playing the run a lot better right now. So when you do that, what are offenses going to naturally start to do? You know, take more shots.

This game, I watched Eastern Michigan's offense against us and they basically were almost a carbon copy of what Indiana did to us last year. If you remember the Indiana game, they did a lot of seven-man protections, three-man routes, protected the quarterback, threw the fade or back-shoulder fades. This was almost identical. And they have some of those same components in their offense, anyway.

But it was pretty evident to me that they must have studied that game from last year, which, you know, everyone's going to, and their offense is almost identical to what Indiana's was and did the same thing.

So yeah, it will continue to come up but am I concerned about it? No. I have complete faith in our whole secondary, especially the three corners that are playing, to do what we ask them to do. I mean, you look at our pass defense last year, we finished 18th in the country and I don't anticipate us taking a big dip from that this year.

Q. You fell behind 14-0 to Howard last year. You've seen --
COACH ASH: Don't remind me.

Q. You know the point is, Howard won to open the season. Is that enough incentive to -- I know it's Morgan State but is that enough incentive --
COACH ASH: Just so we're all clear. There's not one game that we're going to prepare for differently. We're not going to have, you know, a lack of respect for.

I know a lot of people may think that's what happened against Eastern Michigan. That's not what happened against Eastern Michigan. We had a good week of preparation. I thought our players were focused.

The end of the day we didn't make the plays we needed to; they did. It was not one of our better performances like we want, but we're not going to slight Morgan State. We didn't slight Eastern Michigan.

You know, we do use comparisons. You know, Howard beat UNLV the other day, or the week one, I believe it was, which was somebody told me like one of the biggest upsets in terms of point spread or something like that. I don't even know what all that is, but that's what I was told.

You know, we're focused on our football team. We have to get better. We have to take pride in our performance. We have to take pride in our consistency in our performance and that's our goal. We call it the mystery. Every coach's mystery is how do you get your team to perform, take pride in that performance and do it consistently every snap, every game, regardless who you play, where you play them, what the situation is. We did not do that last week. Our focus is we have to get that done this week.

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