The Owls are in hot pursuit of the C-USA crown, and will host the Florida International Panthers for Shula Bowl XVIII this Saturday. To start the week, Coach Kiffin held his weekly media teleconference Sunday evening. Below are those highlights from that session.
WKU had won every conference game but one, which was a last second field goal Ė 50 something plus field goal against Marshal. I was pleased to come out of there with a win, a two-score win. Our defense played really well at times, with the turnovers. [They] stopped the run for the most part, but gave up a couple explosive pass plays that we have got to get fixed. I thought we ran the ball with some consistency especially in the second half, offensively and were a few plays from really blowing it open. We were up by two scores there in the third [quarter] and had a couple of shots to, especially after a turnover on their side of the ball but didnít get any points out of it. This week, obviously, rivalry game with the Shula Bowl. We are going to need everybody to have a great week, play really well and records really donít mean much in these games.
Even though the goal is a conference title, do you think there will be or maybe already is a sense of relief around the team knowing they have six wins and are bowl eligible?
I donít think so. You would have to ask them that. I hope they donít think that way. It is not the way we train them to think. I have never talked about a bowl game being our goal. That should be a given, really I think. The goal is always to win the conference and that is still at stake. Because we screwed up the one game with 30 seconds left in the game with a touchdown or else, had that game, which we know one play, or one thing cold have totally changed that game. We would be sitting here with a two-game lead in the conference with the tiebreakers. It is what it is. Makes it a little harder.
With that said is there a part of you that wants to emphasize that there is a bigger picture? You are 6-1 since you opened-up with Ohio State and UCF.
Yeah. Should be 7-0. Letís get to 7-1.
You said last night [Saturday] that you werenít feeling too good after Western went up 14-0 early. It really seemed like Lucky Jackson [WKU receiver] was really able to have a beat early against the defensive backs. Do you attribute that to anything in particular?
He is a good player. I think he had a huge game the week beforeÖthe quarterback made some plays. We screwed up some coverages and they took advantage of it.
What do you think was the turning point in particular? Do you think it was the Kiki [Akileis Leroy] sack and fumble recovery or maybe even Matt Hayballís punt? What did you see from the sideline that gave the team a spark and turned things around?
For sure it was Kikiís sack and fumble and touchdown return. It is 14 nothing and they have the ball. That was huge. It seemed like we, from that point on, played a lot different.
With eight minutes to go, you guys had the ball and were able to run it. First, what did you learn about your running backs and also did your offensive line find a bit of an identity there?
They did some good things, especially there in that last drive as you are talking about Ė four-minute drive, 60 yards, that was good. They had not always been a strength of ours necessarily, being ahead and being able to close out games. You canít go tempo, huddle and slowdown, so that was good to see.
You are talking about the offensive line there, right?
It has been a while since we had seen a deep throw to Willie [Wright]. We are so use to the jet sweeps and short throws. What went into that play?
It was a double move on the other side. We pumped that way. The safeties need to run over to the other side, and they left Willie open.
In the past, you have mentioned that too often Chris [Robison] held the ball too long on the RPOs. Did you see a difference coming into the practices and the WKU game in terms of the RPOs?
He did better. He had one actually that he did the same thing on that he had to throw it away late. He is doing a better job with them. The last two weeks they have been good for us.
What are your early thoughts on FIU?
We are just getting started on them. Again, records donít mean anything or common opponents. They have won four of their last fiveÖ outside of the bad weather, Middle Tennessee game which they were ahead at halftime. We are going to have to play really well.
Staying on with the Shula Bowl [FAU vs FIU game]. Do you do anything different when it comes to controlling the players emotions with this big rivalry game especially when a lot of these players grew up with the FIU players?
We donít. We talk the same about all games. Control your composure. We did probably our best job with lack of penalties this last game, which was big. Hopefully, we have that fixed and that continues on.
As running backs keep going down and BJ Emmons keeps rehabbing, do you see a point where he does return this season?
Iím almost sure he is going to return during the regular season. I thought I said that the other week. They are going to actually let him do some practice stuff this week.
If he practices this week and everything works out, is there a chance he could play against FIU or do you think he is still too far away?
If everything worked out, that means he can play. If he practices and everything works out, then he would play.
When you go to the [Nick] Tronti package, is that scripted at what part of the game you want to use it or is it just a feel for what is going on. How do you make that decision?
Itís multiple things. In the end there [WKU] is a four minute. We put him in, in a four minute, because it is obviously harder to defend quarterbacks who are really good runners and then sometimes, we put him in as a changeup, like we did earlier in the game to setup the reverse pass.
Is it generally scripted that he is going to be in at some point? Do you let him know going into the game, we are going to use you we are not sure when? How do you prep him for that?
We practice his plays. We donít say they are going to happen, but we practice them and then if we feel like calling them, we go to him.