Coming back down to earth after a brutal 36-10 defeat at home to UTSA, the Florida Atlantic football team will be heading up to North Carolina to face the Charlotte 49ers on October 27th.
Head coach Tom Herman spoke with media on Monday to evaluate the current state of the team and their preparations against the 49ers.
Below are some of the highlights from the session.
Opening statement on how the team performed against UTSA
"If we're gonna give the team 24 hours to celebrate a win, the same applies when the game doesn't go the way that you plan because Charlotte doesn't care whether we won by 50 or lost by three. They're getting ready to win a game on a short week and they're at home, so we've got the odds stacked against us. We've got to learn from the errors of our ways against UTSA and take immediate measures to correct those. I think as poorly as we looked losing that football game, what gets lost is we're still 2-1 in conference play and, for all intents and purposes, control our own destiny."
"I can't imagine two teams in the American, a 14-team conference, going undefeated. So we're going to have an opportunity. I don't know their future schedule, but I would imagine UTSA would be one of those themes that'll be in that game. If we can learn very quickly how to play more like them and use our talents to the best of our abilities, then we have every opportunity ahead of us to go play them again hopefully in December. But obviously, you're going to get the same results if you put the same team out there so we've got to become a different team. The silver lining, if there is one, I can count on one hand as a head coach the times that I felt like we got bullied in a game and got pushed around like literally maybe under five, and that was one of them, and that was disheartening. For all of the mistakes and dropped passes, missed tackles, and all of the comedy of errors, the one thing was they played more physically dominant than we did, and as a head coach, that stinks."
"We got to figure out why and we got to figure out how to fix it at a point in our season where defensively we're down five to six starters. Even the backups that had to become starters early in the season that I counted, starters are now down. And so now we're into the third guy and UTSA has a ton of depth. They've done a really good job recruiting and they've got close to a million dollars in their football collective. They've had a staff that's there for four years, they've got a six year quarterback that's been in that system his entire time so they are doing things the right way in both their football program and what's under Jeff Traylor's watch, but from an administration and a university standpoint, that's definitely the gold standard. We're not there yet, and we've got to accelerate this growth if we want any kind of different result should we be fortunate enough to see those guys again in December."
Herman's on the lessons the team's learned against UTSA
"Having physicality, for sure. And then handling adversity. We've got a team of front runners and I told them that right now. It's really easy when you win two in a row and you beat South Florida in-state, the whole nine. It's really easy to go to work the next day and really easy to think that you've done something and hopefully that bug has not bitten us. If it did, I'm glad because UTSA definitely swatted it off our butt, for sure…but that's the biggest thing. We got to play more physical and then we got to understand it doesn't get easier. There's always going to be challenges and we learned against Tulsa how to close out a double-digit lead, something we couldn't do against Ohio. Now we learned what it takes to come back from a double-digit lead and we were not up to the challenge Saturday night and hopefully, we will be should that situation arise again having been there before."
"But three of our four losses this season, are to teams that won their conference and/or played for their conference championship. So we learned something from all of them. We learned hopefully a very valuable lesson from UTSA and that all of those things that I talked about earlier, the investment in human resources and physical resources in that football program, the fact that coach Traylor has been there for four years and has had a limited amount of staff turnover and they've got close to a million dollars in their football collective. These are all things that point to where they should be, and we've got to catch them in a hurry. And we got to catch up with them having a sizable lead on us right now. But nonetheless, in order to achieve the things that we want to achieve, not just as a football program, but an athletic department and university, we got to go catch them, and we got to do things that they do and do them better. They recruit well, they coach well, and they spend well. We've got to do all of those things and more."
Status Updates on DE Marlon Bradley and DL Jacob Merrifield
"Marlon, we're still evaluating. Jacob has a high ankle sprain but you saw him play on the punt team. He did not practice today. We're hoping to get some some live workout tomorrow, at least to the point where we'll know if he can do anything beyond the punt team."
Preparations against Charlotte
"A lot better effort, intensity, and physicality than Saturday night. We've got good plans. We were not confused by UTSA and we will not be confused by Charlotte. This will be about execution, and when our guys up front and in the backfield carrying the football, when they do and perform the way that they're trained and use the tools that they've been given by their coaches, we've had some success. That side of the football, their numbers are impressive. They've got two NFL pass rushers that we're gonna have to provide some help for our offensive line with."
"The biggest thing would be to make sure we stay out of the chains, and don't get ourselves in third and extra long to where you have to drop back to get it or you gotta get it out of your hands because you can't block on them and hope you can run for it. I think one of the under-stated reasons for their defensive success is to go look at their offensive time of possession, their run pass ratio, they're staying on the field or possessing the ball. Teams are averaging at least one possession less on offense than their average when they do play Charlotte, so not quite a triple option, service academy type to bleed the clock but their offense keeps your offense off the field and keeps their defense fresh as well."
Being better at converting third downs and making stops on third down
"We got to do better. We're one of the worst teams in the country in third down offense. The stat that doesn't get talked about that needs to because it's how we call the game is our drive alive percentage. We have stopped kind of charting third down when you're in fourth down territory. So every second down, I'll tell coach Frye, I say everyone obviously we're like on the -8 or something like that. It's obvious if we don't get a first down here, even 4th and 1, we're not going for it. But in that field zone, every second down, I'll say to Coach Frye, "if you get it to 4th and 2, we're going for it". So that means 3rd and 7, he's got to make five. The stat book says you didn't convert that third down, but then on 4th and 2, if you convert, what's the difference, you kept the drive alive."
"That's a big stat that we keep here internally and we're doing an okay job of it, obviously. We got first downs, but that was the disappointing part in that game. It felt like we would get something going and it was like one step forward, two steps back. There were things that we were doing and making progress in the first drive. There were other moments in there that we had some explosive plays, we had put together a couple first downs in a row, and then we take a sack, then we drop a pass then we get stuffed for -2 on the run and then we were just not built to recover from that."
The Owls will be heading to the Schmidt Complex practice field on Tuesday morning to gear up their preparation against the 49ers.