Fresh off a stout defeat of Old Dominion, the Owls will have a tough test on the road against WKU this weekend. Kicking off the period, Coach Kiffin held his weekly media teleconference Sunday evening. Below are the highlights from that session.
I thought obviously the score showed a very lopsided win. I know that people say that ODU only had one win, but really people hadnít really done that [lopsided victory]. Maybe the closest was UAB, but for the most part everybody else were in very close games going into the fourth quarter - Virginia, Virginia Tech. So, Iím proud of our guys from that standpoint. They went out early as a favorite and handled business. To only give up three points the whole day, especially having two one-play turnovers on offense to put the defense in a bad situation, was good. And really the only bad thing out of the game Ė for a game that was lopsided and not a high play count game because we took the starters out at the start of the fourth quarter with only three quarters of playing Ė we got really beat up, like a 100-play type of game. That is really the only disappointing thing.
Obviously, Chris [Robison] left the game early. As of now, is there any update that you can provide on his status?
We are on three years of this. You know what I am going to say. We have a bunch of people that we hope play. We will do our best to get them back, because a lot of people came out of that game.
What were your biggest takeaways from how Nick [Tronti] played in the quarter-plus that he was in?
I thought that he did some good things. Sometimes when the quarterback is a running quarterback and you call running plays with them, they have an aggressive mindset and they have to be careful not to carry that over into the pass game. He kind of rifled some balls in there really fast, versus playing a little calmer in the passing game and throwing with a little more rhythm. He commanded the offense very well though. On the throwing, I wish he would just relax a little bit, especially the post route to [DeAndre] McNeal, he ran it off, could have taken an extra half second.
We all know how Willie Wright has struggled since that big hit in the Shula Bowl last year. Talk about what he has been through this past year and then his mood after scoring that touchdown [versus ODU].
I think it was great. We had him sing the fight song because I was excited for him. He has been through a lot. It was good to see because he has had two really good weeks of practice and has been making some big plays in practice. It was great for that to carry over in the game.
With Tronti in there and the lead, did you try to scale some plays back to try and eat some clock or were you trying to get him some passes to get into the rhythm of the game? How did you approach his play?
We werenít going to go super fast. We didnít want a huge play count. We were in command of the game. But at the same time, we wanted him to throw a few times not knowing whether Chris would return or not down the road. Anytime that you have your No. 2 in there that hasnít thrown a bunch, you like to throw a little bit with him so that he can get some confidence.
Can you talk about Deon Humphrey coming into the game? Was that performance related?
Humphrey has done a good job at practice. He has done a good job when he has gotten into games so you may see him rotate in at right guard, like we do at other spots.
Deangelo Antoine had another big week, at least statistically. What have you seen out of him that makes him such an important player?
I think he is very savvy. I think he is a natural player. He has got good vision. He knows when to slow down and when to speed up on guys, like his reverse. I think he is just a really good natural player. I wish that we had him longer than just one year.
On Antoineís long touchdown it seemed like you knew that it was going to be six before he even left the backfield, what did you see to let you know he was going all the way?
I felt like once the end would close over there, he was kind of cheated out, at the last minute started coming down that he would close and be nobody left over there with one blocker for each guy. As long as he got that edge, I thought that he would have a good chance to score. It was actually the exact same play that Marshall scored on them. Same exact play.
Going back to Willie, obviously D-Lo [Deangelo Antoine] has taken that spot for himself, can Willie play outside too. Does that give you hope that with a couple of weeks of practice that Willieís confidence is back and that he can contribute over the next few weeks?
My hope would be that we would get where felt really good about six guys, two at each spot, so we can get the play counts down and guys wonít get so tired. It was an issue last year. To me, I think that was why we were ahead every game except the opener and then went 5-7. In Marshall we were up 14-3 this year at one point in our only conference loss. (Wright) playing better is going to strengthen us at that position so he could play more and D-Lo could play less.
What does it say about the players and your staff that you could use so many guys against ODU?
I love when games go like that and you get a chance to put in players that donít get to play that much. I think we do it as fast as anybody. Because one, I want to stay healthy, and two I want those guys to get opportunities and I think it helps your locker room a lot. You see people around the country handle those situations a lot of different ways. You look at Dabo [Sweeney], he does a great job of getting as many guys as he can in and not worry about the final score and the statistics versus some other people up there that do it very differently.
It wasnít too long ago that we were talking about how you were going to get all the running backs carries and those things tend to sort themselves out. Where are you now with the depth of running back?
Very. If you go from the beginning from Larry [McCammon] was a starter, he was out, BJ [Emmons] was the second, he was out. Malcolm [Davidson] goes out. Muscle Beach [Daniel Leconte] was out, and there are four guys right there. How many people have running backs after four go out? And actually, at one-point James Charles was out, so five. I guess we were fortunate that we started camp with a lot of bodies.
Can you talk about the play of Leighton McCarthy and his two sacks?
He played his best game by far ever since he's been here, he was player of the game on defense and played very aggressive. He'll be the first to tell you we challenged him because he wasn't playing that way early on in the season. It may have been my favorite thing of the game, defensively, was how he played, the mentality that he played with.