“As the head coach, it’s my job and responsibility to get people in the right places. It’s my job to make sure they play hard and I really have to do a better job. It was a game that I thought we could win all the way to the end. We had 520 yards of offense. We had 28 first downs. The second half, defensively, we played lights out. We had more explosives (plays). We had an opportunity to win that game and we didn’t do it. We lost the turnover battles; we lost the penalties (margin). That’s been our edge ever since I’ve been here. We’ve never had the most talented team but we’ve always played as a team. We’ve got to get back to where we’re the least penalized team. We’ve got to get back to where we’re winning the takeaway battles. We’ve got to get back to where we’re making those plays at the end of games where we win. We’re accustomed to winning these close games. We have to make sure it’s a culture that stays here, not a culture where we’re going to get penalties. We’re going to put this team first.
“I thought Driphus (Jackson) played well enough to win. He had 359 yards. It was great to see him. But the turnovers were critical. We’ve got to get rid of the ball and we’ve got to take care of it. I thought Nate German continues to get better every week as a wide receiver. He’s done some amazing things this year that made big plays for us.
“Our running game; we really couldn’t get it going. We rushed for nice yards but it was only three, five, yards, six yards (and) three yards. We got our running game off track. We need to keep working at it. I thought the defensive line really did some nice things. They created consecutive possessions to where we got sacks.
“All you can do at this point is play for pride. You have to keep working. That’s where we are. We went to three straight bowls. Nobody likes the position that we’re in. We wanted to go to a bowl game. You sit around as the head coach and you reflect on how to improve and it’s on me to improve the team. But, this was the first year that, I think, I let this team get too worried about the prize. I used to talk to them constantly about (how) winning football games is like climbing a mountain. You know you want to ascend to the top but you have to keep your eyes on where you are and not at the top. I think I let these guys look up too much on what the prize could be instead of worrying about where we were day-to-day.
“I’m proud of these guys. I’m proud of these seniors. They’ve done a lot of winning around here. I expect that we will play well. Charlotte’s a team that when we play the way we’re capable of, we can win. We have to get back to being the hardest working, smartest football team in Conference USA.”
On reflecting on the season:
“The improvement has to start with me. When you have a bus ride home you get your notepad out and you go to work on all of the things that you have to improve on and the things that need to change. If you look at the personal fouls that we’ve had this year, that’s new to this program. That’s not something that we’ve had a lot of. We can’t have it. It’s not a culture that is going to exist here. It’s a culture that can’t exist if we’re going to win these close games. We’ve been selfless and humbled. We’ve been hard-working and accountable. We’ve got to get those values back.”
On the experience that the freshmen received this year:
“Experience is the best teacher. It truly is. We’ve got a lot of young men that at the start of the year, we didn’t think we would have to play. But they’re playing and it’s my job and the coaches’ job to have them ready where you have step up. That’s the game of football. You don’t win with a healthy football. We have to get them in the right place to get the results we want.”
On talking to the team about the Charlotte game:
“We talked to them after the (UTSA) game about how we’re playing for pride right now. We’re playing for the seniors; to get those guys out right. The juniors are going to have a chance to put their stamp on the future of this program.”
On the senior class:
“They truly are, even with this tough year, the winningest bunch to come through Rice. The results of the 2012, ’13 and ’14 teams; if you look behind me you see a building going up. That’s what this senior class has meant to Rice University. They are incredible people. They are hard-working. They’ve done everything that we’ve asked them to do. They’re amazing young men that are going to graduate and make this a better world. I’m proud to be their head coach and we need to figure out a way to win it for them.”
“The one thing in football too, nobody deserves to win. You have to earn it. We have to get back to where we’re earning these wins by doing everything right. We were wonderful when we were the hunters. We haven’t responded well being the team that’s being hunted. That’s where we have to grow with this program also.”
“Stu played 12 plays this week. It was nice to have him back. I think it was eight the week before. He’s still limited. Caleb’s doing everything that he can to get back. He just didn’t make it. So we put Sam Pierce in the game and tried to finish out at right tackle. But, Caleb did all he can do. I’ve got to applaud him for trying to help out this team.”