Rusty Stivers sighed and took a moment to think about the question before answering.
What did he like about his team's performance in a 31-17 loss to Laney (Oakland) in the 2018 season opener at Modesto Junior College stadium Saturday night?
"We got pressure on their quarterback," said Stivers, standing in the standing near the visitor's sideline moments after the game. "That's about it."
"If you think of our preseason schedule, we play the best of the best," said Stivers. "So, if we can become hardened and get closer as a team there's no reason why we can't compete and win the league title again."
But before league play, there's the non-conference schedule. And things only get tougher for the Pirates. After traveling next week to Rocklin for a 1 p.m. contest, they hit the road again the following week to take on power City College of San Francisco before home dates against American River and San Mateo.
Laney took the opening kickoff and marched inside Modesto's 10-yard line, but the Pirates held on fourth-and-2 and took over on their own 10. Nearly four minutes later, Modesto capped an 11-play, 90-yard drive with Jacob Perez's 19-yard touchdown strike to Kane Rogers for the game's first score. That lead was short-lived. Fifty seconds later, the Eagles tied the score when quarterback Jordan Brookshire hit Angelo Garrett from 38 yards.
Modesto looked impressive on its first drive but never again recaptured that momentum as Laney's defense consistently pressured Perez.
"When a team only rushes three or four and they play soft in the secondary and they're able to play soft and get pressure on the quarterback, that's a recipe for disaster," said Stivers. "That's basically it. And they were more physical inside and on the perimeter and it's hard to come up with a stirng of positive plays when that's the case."
"I knew coming in we were lacking experience in a lot of areas on the offensive side," Stivers said. "Laney's one of the best defenses we play year in and year out, so hopefully it exposes things, which it did, and we can really hone in on some details
"Pass pro we need to get tougher and more physical up front. And the quarterbacks started feeling like they had to scramble early because they felt like they were getting pressure and we did have some guys open downfield."
"Are those mistakes made because we make them or is it because Laney was just that much better than us defensively," Stivers wondered.
Modesto pulled to within a touchdown when Troy Dayak connected on a 28-yard field goal just over a minute into the third quarter.
John McDonald, who rushed for 124 yards on 16 carries, scored on a 29-yard run to make it 24-10, but MJC countered when Perez and Rogers connected again, this time from 53-yards out to make 24-17.
But Laney continued to swipe away the momentum, making it 31-17 when McDonald broke free for a 23-yard jaunt.