Florida Atlantic Head Coach Lane Kiffin met with the media on Monday to comment on LA Tech, bowl eligibility, third down defense, and the Lane Train.
Same old story. Good practice again. Good energy. Good start to preparation. This is going to be a difficult game. I donít look at the conference record of these guys. The last seven games come down to one possession game in the last four minutes of the game for them. They have lost three games by a point. They went into another one in overtime. And, had South Carolina beat. I didnít realize that until I was watching the game. They were ahead. South Carolina basically had to throw a miracle pass. They have a guy covered over here. He just happens to turn to his right and chuck it over there, otherwise they were going to win at South CarolinaÖI have always said that in coaching we get too much credit when we win and too much blame when we lose as coaches in close games. Things happen. We have to go on the road and play a team that is playing really good defense. Offense isnít putting up what they did last year, they move the ball and at times well. So, a very big challenge for us to have a chance to win this week.
Was there anything different about the team, today, after they got the sixth game and bowl eligibility?
No, you guys can ask about that. I donít think they think that way. Maybe initially. Maybe you think that way at the beginning, especially when we were 1-2 or 0-2 and then 1-3. Hey if we just get to six we get to a bowl, but once we started going I think that I hope that their expectations changed. Hey we can do a lot more than that. I donít think that there are any guys satisfied with that. We just have fun with them. The skit with the bowling. Kicking them out of the locker room like we were mad at them. That was really just kind of to let them enjoy the moment. Donít mistake that for this was a big celebration because of the bowl. That game to me was much more about beating a team that had played really, really good except for one game all year and a team that we had never beat before. Three 10-win seasons in a row prior to last year.
When you started working with these guys in the spring, did you think you would get to the point that you are now in terms of the amount of scoring and the offense as quickly as you have?
I donít think probably that quick, especially after the first couple of games. To get to the 800 yards and all that stuff. I donít think even I had pictured that. But also, since then we havenít been great on offense in the two games. We have made big plays. Just like last game, we made big plays. We arenít making many first downs where we have four or five gain run. So, we have to keep getting better and obviously our passing game is still struggling there.
What were you seeing on third downs, defensively? You guys had a couple of breakdowns. Will you address that this week?
We did. I think it was a story of two halves. I believe in the first half they went 6-of-8. In the second half, I canít remember exactly what it was, but it was a lot lower. Like 20 percent. Again, two games in a row we played a lot better in the second half on third down defense and then at the end of the game there we have got to put them away. We let them hang around too long. On offense, we have a drive that we can put it away and we get one first down and then go three and out after the first play. On defense, they go 75 yards, three penalties, three fourth down conversions in that drive, including a fake punt and then a fourth and 10. We should have the guy stopped. The guy makes a great throw and a great catch and we put ourselves in a tough spot. And then referring to the end of the game, coaches and players. Coaches have got to do it too. Our job is to put our players in the best position to win. Upstairs we have a lot of charts. I heard (Jason) Driskel say it after the game. We do a lot of walk through work and situational work. We pride ourselves on that stuff. Use a great system of championship analytics. We go through it every week. Upstairs eyes went to the wrong chart. There is one that shows you after a made first down where the clock has to be 2:40 and there is one says when you get the ball so there is a stoppage of play. So you are not getting the initial 40. I think that is 2:05. After the first snap I realize, ďHey guys this doesnít feel right.Ē Iím not great at math, but this donít sound right. They kept saying, ďYeah it is right.Ē Started with delayed knees to buy a little bit of time. We did that and our guys did a good job taking the safety. Holding on that as well, because we practice that because they are going to have to decline the penalty and it gives you a little extra time. That could have been a disaster. Everybody is accountable. I told the players that is on us. Now again, we still would have had to make the first downs. So, we could easily have ran three plays and not make a first down and be in the same situation.
Willie Wright Ė why do you think he is having so much success as a true freshman?
(He is) a very confident kid. Doesnít seem the stage or the game doesnít overwhelm him. When he first got here, we were in fall camp and he was calling out offensive linemen for not running to the ball and stuff, which is very unique for any receiver, let alone a freshman. I just think he is very competitive and has very high standards.
Walking around campus what is it like to see the excitement building around the football program?
Due to the fact that I donít walk around this campus, the entire season, I really couldnít tell you that answer. I donít do much walking around campus. We come here early and leave late so Iím sure it is pretty exciting. Again, we have warned our players about that too. Just did it again, the last message donít listen to it. They are going to tell you how great you are. It doesnít mean anything. You have to keep working. We have some really good teams left.
So, you havenít see the Lane Train rolling?
Someone sent it to me, but I have not physically seen it, no.
What did you think of your giant head plastered on the front of it?
I got to see a lot of it because in the end zone copy of our game. The coaches copy you have a sideline. You got to see the play and then it shows the end zone so you can see the linemen better. Itís towards our student section, end zone camera so every time I saw like four heads.