The Owls will look to keep the Shula Trophy in Boca Raton this weekend against arch rival Florida International. With the contest approaching, FAU Coach Lane Kiffin met with the media on Sunday for his weekly presser and below are the highlights from that session.
Do you feel the rivalry week adds something to the players' preparation or is that stuff overblown?
I think it does. Rivalries, especially when they are close like this, almost the same city like UCLA/USC. Different than maybe rivalries Alabama/Tennessee. These kids have played each other so much and so many local kids, I think that adds to it.
What do you remember from last year, coaching your first Shula Bowl against them?
I know we played really well. The kids were very excited. I didn't know about the trophy in the end zone thing, but you could tell how excited they were to go get that. It was very meaningful.
What was the conversation, if there was one, with De'Andre Johnson on him not playing on Friday?
There wasn't one. We don't have conversations during the game with players. There is a lot of stuff that we are doing. We have confidence in him. It is a situation where I thought we had to throw the ball vertical at the end of the game there, almost a two-minute type of mode. We knew Chris (Robison) couldn't run very well. So, we went with Chris in that situation. Where if it had it been a situation where we were able to run the ball more we would have went with De'Andre.
With Chris, is there an expectation that he plays this week or as of now is it more that you are hopeful that he plays?
I would sure expect him to play. Obviously, as you saw he played at the end of the game. So, with another week, I would think he could play.
With the offensive issues that you guys have had this year, looking back at Jason Driskel, you mentioned a lot last year that Driskel got you into the right play and would get you moving quickly and get everybody aligned right. Are the problems that are slowing you down this year are they the type thing that Driskel would have fixed or are these different animals you are facing?
I think this is our second year of this system, going really fast and all the things that go with that, kinda the Baylor system. I think as you learn that, you realize there is a lot of value to the quarterback pre-snap not post snap. Pro style is more post-snap, but pre-snap is about getting guys going, getting in the right formations, because they have to get the calls to the line, not old school where you huddle. It is very different from that aspect. I think we are realizing, like I have said before even though Driskel wasn't an NFL first round type of talent, the things he did with the offense were very valuable.
Along those same lines, it seemed like the problems might be multiplying. I don't think you were very happy with your receiver play last week, the offensive line got a bunch more penalties … Are you surprised that there are so many issues that seem to be affecting you guys late in the season?
Yeah, the receiver play is a huge issue. I think that was a big deal getting decent kids back last year during the year, halfway through the year was a big deal in how we played down the stretch. Losing both those guys has certainly showed up. We don't have depth. When guys are playing well, you can't rotate. You don't rotate guys, guys get tired, and that is why you see us play better a lot early than we do late in the game.
Motor (Devin Singletary) had 19 carries Friday. Is that in the ballpark of what you and Charlie (Weis, FAU's offensive coordinator) want? Or do you think there is more of a need to get him the ball more with the passing game struggles?
At halftime we looked at it and said 'ok we are running the ball really well, whatever he had, I think nine yards a carry at halftime and said hey we are struggling in the passing game, if you take away the jet sweep type stuff.' Rafe (Peavey) really didn't complete much down the field in the game, whether that was his fault, or drops or protection. (We) really thought in the second half, let's run the ball and that was kind of the plan in the second half, to try to ride the running game.
With Motor (Devin Singletary) can you take us through that punt play again? Is he the backup punt returner if Willie (Wright) can't go like if he is cramping or did Motor just volunteer to go out there on instinct?
He is not the second guy to go in. He has practiced back there. That was just really, that was why I was so frustrated with the situation. I wasn't watching. I was over exchanging some information with the quarterbacks and receiver adjustments. All of the sudden, he ran in there. That falls on us as coaches. That was a disaster situation. It was like a turnover. I feel horrible about that. It was very frustrating because we always talk about putting our players in the best situation to win, obviously we took a possession away from them right there.
What can you see about what you see about how Butch Davis is doing at FIU and how he got them at 6-2 and unbeaten in the conference?
He is doing a great job. It started last year and it carried over in the second year. He has really done a great job wherever he has been. (He is) really a good coach. He recruits really well and hired a really good staff.
You have been in a lot of third and long situations that turned into passes that were, if they had been completed wouldn't have picked up the first down without the run after the catch. Is that taking what the defense gives you? Is that what's designed? The long passes, the deep shots haven't come. Is that by design where you are trying to set something up and it is just not getting there potentially?
There are things within those reads. They aren't necessarily passes, where you are reading what they are doing. They are playing upfield so you are trying to call something thinking the run is going to pop because of how they are playing. Unfortunately, we read those wrong from a quarterback's standpoint. Obviously, that resulted in not positive plays.
You said the quarterback read those wrong?
Yeah, those are run pass options as you see where he is throwing the ball off and then plays upfield. Unfortunately, he got those wrong.
What about called shots downfield? It seemed you hit a lot of them against ODU, but they have been missing the last couple of weeks. Are they being called and being switched out of? What is the plan there?
There are some things in the games where you gotta look at what they do. You don't want to sit back there and take a bunch of shots. Number 45 (Jaylon Ferguson) leads the country in sacks. There were some in there as you saw, when you take them and throw an interception on them, like at the end of the first half, it kinda scares you out of them.
I'd rather have Weis Jr. Than Briles next season if Durante, Davis, Willie, and Bryant stay healthy. It's a higher upside offense than Briles against tough competition. Briles offense ain't beating legit teams without a rea passing threat.
What is definitely missing is the pace. From a pace standpoint, this looks much more like the spread that Kiffin ran at Alabama - they wanted to go a "little" fast, but not break-neck. We have also been pretty stale with our "trickeration" plays, and we rely WAY too much on expecting to hit Bryant in the flat almost every big down we have where it is expected to be a short to intermediate pass. If I pretty much know it is coming, surely a DC for the opposing team who is getting paid to coach football does, too.
If anything, we either have it a little too complicated or the QB isn't comfortable based on how much time we spend standing at the line of scrimmage with basically the ENTIRE offense looking at the sidelines. And of course an o-line that pushed people backwards last season helped a lot!!!
FIU postgame presser