Florida Atlantic Head Coach Lane Kiffin met with the media on Monday to discuss the Owls' win over Old Dominion, Jason Driskel's performance, the bye week, and secondary performance.
On Old Dominion Contest
We did a lot of really good things in the game. I was very proud of the players for handling success. This was the first time that I feel like we played really well and then came back the next week and played really well. That was good to see. Obviously, led by the ground game. Another record day by doing that. We were fortunate to stay healthy, for the most part, up front. I think that they are playing really well together up front, which is neat to see because that was a concern in the spring. One of our most concerning position groups that we talked about was our offensive line. Those guys have done a good job in there. Obviously, the back ran well and continue to take care of the ball. I think only one fumble, all year, from that position. That has been good. The turnovers, four interceptions, [was] a big part of the defense. We thought young quarterback, if we pressured him, played a lot of man-to-man, force hard throws, not give him easy throws that we would have a day like that. We really had another easy one in our hand that we didnít know and flipped it away. It would have been five interceptions. That was good. Concerning parts: tackling on defense, again. In the back end we missed too many tackles and our passing game. That was probably as bad as it has ever been. Those are concerns. We have a bye week to get better at some things. Those will be the two big emphases, the passing game and tackling on defense and special teams, probably kickoff return. We had one good one, but we have not done real well in that area. Kinda the only area in special teams that we havenít done a great job at.
Did Driskelís running catch you off guard?
Not really off guard. We see him run because obviously we practice the plays. He did look faster probably than normal after he got through the linebacker levels. That was good to see. Not taking anything away from him, I think part of (it) was that he did a great job, and that the offense early on had a lot of plays, so the play count really got up there. I think the first series might have been 16 or 17 plays (17). When you do that, the defense starts to get tired. Those shorter runs become longer runs, like you saw in the game by him and our backs.
How would you evaluate Driskelís game passing-wise?
Not very good, but I donít really look at it as just him. I look at it as everybody. We got pushed in the pocket, which is a big deal, because we said we canít get pushed in the pocket because they have these really good defensive ends. They rush up field wide, so we are going to need to be able to step up. We didnít help him. Too many times miscommunication on routes. Our guys not doing the right thing. It takes everybody in the passing game, just like it takes receivers and quarterbacks in the run game. No different. So, that has been a concern, really basically every week. And, really every scrimmage. We have a bye week to fix it.
You are mostly healthy, you have won two straight games, is this a bad time for a bye week?
Yes and no. From that standpoint it is because you do have momentum. Everyone just assumes you have a bye week, you are going to play really good after a bye week. The team we just played had a bye. At one point, I donít remember what year it was, there was a stat that actually after a bye, I think it was in the NFL, that teams had lost more than what they had won. When you are playing really well it would be good to stay in rhythm, but we will embrace it instead of sitting here and talking about what good we have done winning two games in a row. We are looking at it as a challenge. So what? Now what? What are we doing this week? We have given them specific areas. Our coaches will meet with every single player over the next two days to give them exact things about how they can get better and what they need to do to help us build a championship program.
Is this kind of a preseason camp-type week? Is that how you look at it? And, will you prepare for UNT?
A little bit. We wonít do any North Texas. We look at it as trying to get everybody better. And, then also we met yesterday [and asked], are we playing the right guys? Are there roles on offense, defense and special teams for guys that maybe arenít playing? Do we need to look at someone in a different position? Stuff like that. We are just really challenging everybody here to see what we can do to get better and not sit around and feel good about ourselves.
What was the reasoning of putting Franklin in at quarterback, just to get him reps and experience?
It was a package that we had ready. It was actually ready two weeks ago too. Just the way the game (Middle Tennessee) was going we didnít end up going to it, because Ö we didnít really feel like doing something different because we were running the ball so well. Anytime you put a new guy back there, you are reading things and you have a chance for the ball to be put on the ground, things like that and didnít want to turn it over. It presented itself in the game, a chance to put him in there. He has been practicing that stuff for a while and does a good job.
Update on Zyon Gilbert
He is fine. He returned and played. He is fine.
Rashad Smith may have had his best game out in the flats defending passes. Do you ask him to do a lot of things?
We do. He plays in our base package. He plays in our nickel package also. We kinda look at him at times almost being a dime package where he can cover guys. In this game too, we were very concerned about the quarterback scrambling because he had done that. Cause he is young, plus he is good at it. I believe, by our count, our first team defense gave up zero scrambles. That was really good and that is part of it. We were spying him so that he felt like he couldnít scramble.
When you discussed getting more people in, is this also a week when you take another look at some of those guys that came late to camp?
Yeah, it is. We have discussed that. There are some good players that arenít playing. That doesnít mean that we are playing the wrong guys. We gotta find a role for them and see if they can.
Is this team more talented than you thought when you took over after watching them on film? Are they showing you more than what you thought you had here?
I donít look a lot into that. By coming in and saying ok, this is who we are until we coach them. Iím not saying we are better or worse than any coaches. I just think that you have to see how guys are in your systems. Sometimes people play better in certain systems. But, I would say on that, probably yes from the standpoint of the offensive line. I think watching the backs I knew what they were, but the offensive line is playing a lot better. They did that down the stretch, they played a little better last year too than they did early on, especially the last game of the year.
You said that your defensive backs could play in any conference. What have they done this year to make you say that? What about them is special?
When we got here Zyon (Gilbert) wasnít here yet. He is part of that group. We looked at them as a really good unit. Probably, one of the strengths of the team. I didnít realize, we donít have much depth at corner, at all. We only have five scholarship corners, but we have really quality, in the four guys that were here and are playing really well. We are actually using all four of them at some times.