Mike Harley blog: We have to pay attention to the little details
Presented by the fan community of CaneSport.com and Gonzalez Cartwright
WR Mike Harley will have a weekly blog all season at CaneSport.com. In this edition, Harley talks about what he's working on, the App State game and its aftermath, and the team's mentality heading into the Michigan State game:
We all came into the Appalachian State game dialed in and ready to focus on the task at hand - that was to beat Appalachian State and to come out with a `W.’
The talk was about the things we always do - compete and execute plays. No one was down, in their feelings after Alabama. It was learn from our mistakes, offense learn from mistakes, defense learn from mistakes. We just learned and applied it to the game plan.
Offensive-wise, it was about preventing drive-killers and just executing plays, making plays. Guys playing smart, finishing in the red zone.
Last week we mentally prepared, physically prepared, and were feeling great.
I was locked in as every athlete should be - the past is the past, focus on the task at hand, on to the next. I did a good job with it, went in clear-minded, ready to play football. That’s not hard for me at all.
Preparing for App State was the same thing as preparing for Alabama.
They’re giant killers, look at the stats, the history man. They probably lost two games every season the past six years. Conference champs. They beat teams like North Carolina, beat some good teams. As you saw out there, we won by two points. It was a good game, tough game. Those guys are talented, and they play hard.
We didn’t take them lightly, as you shouldn’t. I didn’t take them lightly at all, took it like they’re the No. 1 team in the country. You take someone lightly, that’s when all hell is going to break loose. I expect the unexpected. I did everything I could do to be ready to come out with a `W.’
I feel the most disciplined team and dialed in team is always going to come out with the `W.’ I played on a team when I was younger with a lot of talent and surprisingly we lost to certain teams that were not that much equal in talent but were well coached, disciplined and focused. So over the years in college, I know the most dialed in and disciplined team will always come out on top.
Going into the game,, we had the basic routine on Friday. Friday night , I just watched film from the previous game, learned I can run this route better. Sometimes I watch college football that will be on TV on Friday night, try to learn from the mistakes another receiver did or something like that. T
That’s pretty much it. And bond with my teammates, have fun playing cards and hydrate. We were playing Tonk, me and Brashard (Smith) and Jacolby (George), a pickup game, a new style game. It’s a little Uno and things like that, normal card games.
Game day, there were good vibes on the way there. Coming off the highway, coming down, you see the stadium, see a lot of people tailgating.
`Okay, this is going to be a big crowd today.’ See a lot of people out there tailgating, team family members at Cane Walk. It was a great experience. We hadn’t seen that at all last year. It actually felt good just to get off the bus and feel the energy there. And just us feeding off the energy in Cane Walk brought a good feeling, good energy into the locker room for us to go out and get the `W.’
The game was good. Man, hats off to Appalachian State. They played hard, their defense had tough guys.
For our receivers, we had adversity - details, little details. We had a good performance, but it wasn’t a great one. The details, we had missed opportunities, dropped balls. Bad reads and things like that. But overall we got the `W.’ We learned from our mistakes in meetings. If we had done all the little things right, it wouldn’t have been a close game.
I'm glad we got the `W,’ got a good feeling. We now just want to apply it to the next game.
We weren’t surprised at all by how hard they competed. They played very hard.
They were pressing us receivers on third down, certain coverages. They were pressing us, so as a receiver for me I felt kind of disrespected by that. We had a lot of opportunities to capitalize on that, but something would come up. It was adversity.
Shout out to special teams, man. Special teams wins games, like coach says. Offense and defense, but special teams always comes clutch. That last drive we stuck together, got past the 30, trusted (Andy) Borregales to come with the win and he made the field goal. That’s all that mattered at the end of the day.
They got the ball back, I wasn’t nervous. Our whole sideline wasn’t nervous. Probably our fans, others watching around the world were nervous. Things like this, fourth quarter, two minutes, we just scored and our defense has to hold them down. That’s when we know. We’re not nervous. We’ll handle this, are going to get the `W,’ so that’s a good thing.
That confidence comes from practice for sure. Tuesday practice is hot, we’re grinding and I just know going against the ones we have to make something happen. Just our defense, trusting coach Diaz making the play calls, got the stop. We all knew. We knew they’d find a way, knew coach Diaz would make the right calls. Everyone was trusting their training and made some stops and the rest is history.
For me, earlier in the game I dropped a pass on a slant coming across the middle. It was little details. I didn’t take my eyes to the ball. I say `Hey, Michael Jordan Missed shots, Michael Irvin dropped balls.’ That's not making an excuse for myself,. I just go over film, learn from my mistakes and apply whatever I put on Greentree to the field.
The drop over the middle probably would have been six points, honestly. It ate me up. My inner self is just like `dang, I let my family down.’ That’s how I feel. I don’t know how other guys think about it. For me it was `I let my team down with that drop.’ That ball comes to you, that’s the quarterback trusting you. That’s coach Diaz trusting you. That’s coach Lashlee trusting you. That’s the program trusting you. I dropped that ball, okay next play, I got a next play. God blessed me with the next play to make something happen. I just keep chopping wood, learning from my mistakes.
It’s hard to shake that off though. You’re in the game, the moment. You catch two balls before, `I’m in the groove again.’ Dropped ball, boom. Got to reboot, play the next play.
The energy from the team and my teammates shifted to me and helped me along. Down the road, in the fourth quarter, on that winning drive we needed for that field goal, I actually caught a first down on a third down to help us move on.
So I knew I can’t be down. It’s a football game. You are going to have a dropped pass, going to make a bad read,. Play the next play. I faced adversity with a dropped ball, just played the next play, kept my head on strong.
Getting the win was a good feeling. We need to get on that winning train and just keep going. Build confidence, that’s it. Just confidence.
THERE WAS FRUSTRATION AT WAY GAME WENT
The game was very frustrating. We have to learn to control our emotions. On the sideline D’Eriq King would be a little frustrated, Corey Gaynor would be frustrated. I’m frustrated myself and I have my brothers to pick me up. It’s like energy, that energy shifts to me to give to D’Eriq King - like it’s going to be alright, we have a new drive. Just the energy shifting around to get all the guys up.
But yeah, a lot of guys were frustrated.
We wanted to dominate. We want to dominate every game. Coming in, home game. You play in the backyard, you want to dominate. It’s football. You never know what’s going to be thrown at you, man. Adversity came quick for a lot of guys, for the offense, for the defense. We just stood on 10 toes and got the job done.
HOW WE GOT HERE
Fall camp was great, competitive, very competitive. We felt confident going into the season as we should, having all the guys back, more experience, more leaders a great feeling.
I wouldn’t say we haven’t clicked yet, it’s not finishing in the red zone, drive killers, mental errors, little mistakes, drops, bad reads, some play calls that aren’t good. We’re just adjusting.
It’s frustrating at the moment. But you look back at it, watching film and talking to your coaches, going over all the mistakes, it’s `Oh, wow, self-inflicted wounds.’ So it’s something we can control, which is a good thing.
HOW WE FIX IT
We’re coming out with a game plan, executing every day on Greentree and going out there and competing to come out with a `W.' this week.
Our goal is to win every game. Just you never know. In life, period, we have to know how to regroup, get the guys ready and focus on the task at hand. We can’t focus on the past.
Now it’s about urgency. Everybody being urgent, nobody selfish. Learn from our mistakes and apply it. Just attacking the game plan every day, and it’s going to stack and add up to Saturday.
We know we’re better than the way we've played the past two weeks. And that’s a good thing when you know you’re better, that’s a good thing I think.
It was a good feeling for a lot of people, the whole team because we got the `W.’ But honestly, going in the locker room, coach Diaz was like hooray, hooray, we won, congrats, congrats. But we know, I can’t speak for the whole team, but I know 60, 75 percent of the team knew it was a win, which is good, but we could do a lot better.
We were happy about the win, but we weren’t sold on it. Winning, it’s not simple. But a lot of guys are like `Okay, we have to step it up.’ Because we could have popped a lot of numbers, a lot of scores on this team we just played. We know what we have to do.
WHAT I’M WORKING ON
I am working a lot this week on understanding coverages and attacking leverages, just basic Day 1 things that a wide receiver coach and receiver go through.
Coach Likens is the type of guy that is heavy on us with details. We missed a lot of opportunities this past weekend because of details. So he’s going to push the issue with details. Just details like taking the right angle on a block, squaring up guys on blocking, catching the ball high to the tuck, things like that, hands, just defense’s coverage changing up, certain routes depend on the coverages. Just detail things.
I learned a lot about the importance of little details last year toward the end of the season. I missed out on a lot of opportunities, I was like `Wow.’ But it was little details that you’ve been doing since high school. Everything I do out on Greentree, I have to trust it and apply it to the field.
Speaking for me, I’m my biggest critic. I don’t give myself excuses, learn from my mistakes. I’m human. But at the same time, it’s something I can control, that’s something I’m going to correct.
It’s easy to forget the little details from practice. It’s college football. Trust your training, that’s what coach Lashlee and coach Diaz say. Some other guy will come in the game, you trust the training but want to do a little extra. And you step outside your boundaries, that’s when things can go wrong or your performance will go down.
You know, it’s good to be relaxed going into a game, but you don’t want to be too relaxed. Have your guard up, trust your training, go out there, keep your head on a swivel. Play football, be smart. Just be smart.
FOOTBALL’S HELPED ME IN LIFE
I thank God my parents put me in sports. I always say without sports I wouldn’t really know how to handle adversity, how to handle real life situations and problems, things like that. Getting put in sports at a young age, learning a loss is a loss, if I make mistakes, drop balls or playing quarterback at a young age throw interceptions, just something bad happens in life I feel the game of football helped me understand life way better.
At a young age I learned from life in general, what I’ve been through. And sports life as well, playing football since three years old. I apply that every day, try to tell the younger guys it is what it is, things happen. Just learn from your mistakes, control what you can control and move on. Better days ahead.
It’s never going to go perfect. No one’s perfect, nothing is going to go perfect. But certain things you can control.
OUR MINDSET HEADING INTO MICHIGAN STATE
This weekend we just have to win, do the little things right and win.
Compete, empty the tank, man.
Hold nothing back, don’t take anything for granted.
They (Michigan State) play hard, big guys, tough. They play the same kind of defense Appalachian State played, so it was a good review for this exam that we’re about to take Saturday. We got the head’s up on them.