The Owls are hopeful to move within one game of bowl eligibility this weekend in a homecoming matchup against Western Kentucky. FAU Coach Lane Kiffin met with the media on Sunday for his weekly presser. Below are the highlights from that session.
Opening thoughts on win over FIU in Shula Bowl XVII
I was very pleased with (the game), especially the second half. We have been a really good first quarter team, for the most part, since after the opener (at Oklahoma) and then have fallen apart, obviously, over the last five games, later in games. It was good. It was the same feeling from the year before, to win in decisive fashion by playing good football. Similar things to what we did the year before with no turnovers and five penalties or something like that, and running the ball and stopping the run: 439 yards rushing to 96, you are going to win every game if you do that. That is probably why I was most excited after the game besides the rivalry part of it, that we finally played how we should have been playing all year long.
Statistically, last night's was the best game for Motor (Devin Singletary) and Kerrith (Whyte). Is part of that the two-back system and keeping both guys fresh?
I think that helps, but we did a good job upfront. When you play the way we played, which was designed going in, that we were going to play Dre (De'Andre Johnson) almost in a wildcat-type mode, where a lot of it is on the ground, quarterback pull, that is really hard to defend obviously. It has given people problems for years. When you play like that, now people start jumping out of gaps, seeing another gap with quarterback runs and that can really help the running backs.
On the ground game, how much credit does that offensive line have to receive for that? It seemed like whoever had the ball and whatever was being run, it was working. One constant there was the O-line kept blocking.
Those guys deserve a lot of credit. When you play like we do with the tempo, it is hard on those guys too because every other position subs. Like we talked about the running backs subbing. Every position subs and those guys are out there, until we put the backups in, 72 straight plays, except rotating the guard.
You mentioned your plan with using De'Andre. Do you lose the element of surprise now? Is that a concern that teams have now seen it and they can prepare for it or is it just that tough to defend?
No, I don't know that that would have been a huge surprise. We actually, in the fourth quarter last year against them, played (John) Franklin which was purely run. De'Andre can throw the ball fine. That was the game plan. I told the guys, it was crazy how the number worked out. I told them a few days before the game 'hey we are going to run the ball in this game. It is that type of game. I wouldn't be surprised if we had 60 carries in this game.' It was funny that we hit exactly 60. So, sometimes the plans work.
How would you describe the quarterback situation going into this week? Is it competition? Is it De'Andre will get a lot of the first team reps? How would you describe it?
I don't know that. We are in the fourth quarter of the season. Our Monday practice is just a walk-through tomorrow. We have a few days to figure that out.
I know that Vladimir Rivas said last month that he wasn't bothered by that groin injury any more. Are his struggles especially within the 40, do you think that is just a freshman being nervous?
I don't know that. I've never been able to figure out kickers. He had a streak there where he was kicking really well, so I'm not sure.
Do you think after seeing the way De'Andre came in and kind of elevated the team there, are you a little bit maybe more open to a two-quarterback system, within this year and this particular circumstance and maybe it is De'Andre in the red zone or something like that?
Yeah, we are open to anything to win. There could be a two-quarterback system, sure.
Is that difficult for you to say?
I don't really believe in substituting during the series. I think you get a different snap count and also when you go tempo that is a one-for-one sub so the other team can jog people on and sub. I don't really think of it within a series, but potentially, like that is how we went into last night's game. We were going to play both.
Maybe more so dictated by game situation, if you are coming from behind having a passing quarterback in or if you are even or ahead, De'Andre fits well.
I don't know. I have not figured that out yet.
Between Johnson and Jalen Hurts are there any similarities there or is that a big stretch?
Well that is the SEC Offensive Player of the Year, that's a pretty big comparison, as a freshman. They are different players. I'm not saying that De'Andre is not really good, they are just really different talents. Jalen is built like a middle linebacker. His ability to run between tackles would be different. Exterior running, I see some similarities.
I know I asked about Willie (Wright) last night. If he can't go, who else can play slot, other than DeSean (Holmes)?
We saw Ladante (Harris) play it last night. Both those guys.
And punt return, if Willie can't go do you have a rough idea yet of who we could see out there or is that more something you would see this week?
You saw our two guys last night, once Willie was out, (it was) DeSean (Holmes) and (Devin) Singletary.
You guys stopped the run really well. They were under 100 rushing yards. Who really played a sound game on that defensive line or at linebacker? What did you see out of the front seven?
I thought the usual guys. Obviously, Rashad (Smith) always plays. Probably the surprises maybe have been Kiki (Akelies Leroy). Kiki played really well in there. He has always kinda done that whenever he has been in scrimmages or service team. That was good to see. He played 20 snaps in the game and it was very productive.
On the subject of defense, what are you seeing from Jaylen Joyner? Seems like he is starting to come more into the mix.
Freshmen, especially not mid-year guys, take a while sometimes. Very talented player that we have kinda pushed to the front and he is playing over some veteran guys. Hopefully, he will keep progressing him.
Hunter Snyder looked like he played one of his better games. Is that what you saw and are you seeing a difference in him later in the season as opposed to the beginning?
Yeah, I think getting healthy has obviously helped. He played really well.