Vince Lombardi knew something about achieving success as legendary coach of the Green Bay Packers.
“The will to win is not nearly so important as the will to prepare to win,” Lombardi said.
East Carolina’s football team went to work getting ready for N.C. State’s visit at noon Saturday following a 52-7 win over Western Carolina in week one.
Tuesday and Wednesday are heavy days in the Pirates’ practice schedule and first-year ECU coach Scottie Montgomery was pleased with Tuesday’s session.
“We had a lot of energy, a lot of emotion,” Montgomery said. “It’s good because you can coach really hard. Sometimes you can coach them harder off of a victory than you can off of a loss. We had the ability to get some stuff corrected on Sunday night.
“Monday is our big preparation day [for coaches]. A lot of our [players], since it was Labor Day, I walked downstairs and a lot of them came in on their own, of course, and were looking at tapes, trying to get prepared for our next opponent. We had a good, productive day of practice (Tuesday). I thought we had great energy. Our show [scout] teams did a good job. Offensively, we were sharp, and defensively, we were physical.
“Like I said before, we’ve got to start stacking those types of practices and continue to get better.”
The Pirates were busy again Wednesday.
“It’s a situational football day,” Montgomery said Wednesday morning. “We’ll have some third downs and some red-zone opportunities. We’ll do some good-on-good. We really want to make sure that we are prepared defensively from a tempo standpoint, the tempo that they can bring to the stadium. We’ve done a good job with our show team of trying to create that atmosphere to give them a lot of speed and a lot of tempo and a lot of physicality.
“We’re putting some of our better offensive linemen that are in the two-deep on our show team to try to give them that physical matchup. Then, our offense, trying to stay good-on-good as much as I can so we can get a good look at how physical their defensive front is and we’re trying to keep the competition level as high as we can.”
What about that will to prepare that the winning coach in the first two Super Bowls regarded as so vital?
“We’ve got a really hungry group,” Montgomery said. “Their will to prepare I think was created by Coach C (strength and conditioning coach Jeff Connors). He’s put them in great shape so when we get them, they have the ability to finish. We’ve kind of made them understand if we go as hard as we can during practice, sprinting on and off the field as we take the field, as we leave the field — all those important things — we don’t have to condition. Sometimes we just condition to condition. You’re conditioning to play football so if every man is sprinting 40 to 50 yards per play and I feel good about that at the end of practice then the conditioning has already been done.
“They’re really, really willing to prepare, not only from a physical standpoint but, like I said, you go downstairs and there was nowhere for me to kind of take one guy into a room and talk to him about anything [Monday] because all the rooms were full of guys trying to get ahead in their game plan”
Duke vs. State
Montgomery never beat the Wolfpack as a Duke player in four games from 1996 to 1999. As wide receivers coach for the Blue Devils, he was 1-2 in games with NCSU, winning the last two meetings in 2009 and 2013.
What got things turned around?
“Quarterback play, you’d have to say,” Montgomery said. “We got better and better at quarterback. … They were the toughest knock-down, drag-out fights I believe. One I was in, Russell Wilson and Thaddeus Lewis were the quarterbacks.”
That matchup took place in 2009 with Lewis passing for 459 yards and five touchdowns in a 49-28 Duke win in Raleigh.
“The last time we played (38-20 Duke win in Durham in 2013), both defenses played really, really well,” Montgomery said. “If I recall right, there weren’t many big plays in the game. At the end, I think we made a play on special teams. All three phases gave us the ability to at least try and compete and get over the hump with them. . . . Duke has gotten a lot better defensively and offensively since that first year or two when Coach [David Cutcliffe] was there. I think everybody will tell you it’s been a definite change since Coach got there to where they are now.”
Boise State connections
First-year N.C. State offensive coordinator Eliah Drinkwitz came from Boise State and worked with Wolfpack quarterback transfer Ryan Finley while with the Broncos.
“The quarterback is a really good player,” Montgomery said. “He understands the system well. They can get into anything. I would call the system multiple. They can shift and motion. No. 1 (Jaylen Samuels) can line up at the tight end position, at the back position, at the receiver position. It gives you a hard cover sometimes because you’re looking at personnel changes without personnel actually changing.
“They have a tremendous amount of speed in the backfield with [Matthew] Dayes. They have a tremendous amount of speed with Nyheim [Hines] in the slot. They can really, really run. . . . I’ve watched them a lot. There’s a particular corner route where Nyheim is running in the red zone. As soon as his head turns around, the quarterback has the ball right where it needs to be so their timing is great offensively. . . . Coach [Drinkwitz] has always been good. He’s got a good pedigree. He’s been around some of the best coaching minds. Everywhere he’s been, he’s been really, really successful. That’s why Coach [Dave] Doeren (NCSU head coach) went after him with such vigor.He’s a great football coach.”
Drinkwitz was a quality control assistant at Auburn in 2010 when the Tigers won the national championship.
This will be an important recruiting weekend for the Pirates.
“It will be a big recruiting weekend on both fronts of prospective players coming in and also just in the state,” Montgomery said. “We understand how far we have to go and how hard we have to work. This is just another leg of the journey but we’ll have some good recruits in town and we’ll treat them with a lot of love. We’ll try to give them the same atmosphere that (recruits) got last week, probably an even better atmosphere. We had some rave reviews on kids that came last week. We’re really, really happy about it.”
Noon start — adjustments
Saturday’s noon kickoff will be six hours earlier than the season opener but Montgomery said it won’t be a big adjustment for ECU.
“For us, not a lot,” Montgomery said. “We practiced in camp at multiple times just so we could be ready to adjust. We’ve just got to get up, eat and go play football. It takes a lot of the thinking during the day out of it. Sometimes it takes the stress off the coaches a little bit. You just get out there, you call it and you haul it. Sometimes when you play at six or seven or eight o’clock, you’re thinking all day of what you can be doing and sometimes it tightens people.
“We’ll be ready to go. We’ll wake up, we’ll eat and we’ll talk to them a little bit and then we’ll come try to play a good football team.”