In the second of critical back-to-back contests for the 2019 C-USA East race, the Owls will host Marshall Friday night at Schnellenberger Field. Coach Kiffin held his weekly media teleconference Sunday evening. Below are the highlights from that session.
Obviously, a good win versus a tough team, a divisional team that won the [East] Division last year. I think they had an eight-game win streak when we got here. It was good to win and get the long year from that last horror that felt like we had screwed that game up, up there a year ago in so many different ways. It wasn't pretty. It wasn't real clean, a lot of penalties, but at the end of the day if you go plus three – you get three turnovers and you don't give up any – and don't even put any balls on the ground all day, you are going to have a good chance to win. Defense did a really good job of bending, but not breaking, especially in the second half with the shutout. To be on a four-game win streak, get ready on a short week here for a team that is always very talented. I have always said and thought in our two years playing here that these guys look as good or better than anybody in the conference from a players' standpoint. I know they started off a little slow on offense, but they really did move the ball lately and have a lot of really good players.
After reviewing the film, how do you rate Chris' [Robison] play Saturday night?
Very average, for him, he had been playing great. So, kind of came back down to earth, a few missed throws … If we make a couple of those where the ball gets tipped, another one where he has got the guy down the middle for a touchdown, it is much different. Definitely not his best game.
How was he on the sidelines when the offense was struggling in terms of composure?
He was fine.
[Glenn] Spencer's variable fronts and all the different kinds of looks that teams have to prepare for, that has to come in really handy on a week like this where Marshall doesn't have as much time to look at what he could do. Is that a fair assessment?
Yeah, you're right, I guess. It is a short week, but I'm sure these guys got a jumpstart in the offseason and obviously familiar with [Coach Spencer] from a year ago.
What did you see different in the defense between the first half and the second half?
We just made some plays there in the red zone. We still gave up some yards at times, but we were able to stop some things and didn't let them score.
Right now is left guard still an open competition or can you commit to Desmond Noel starting against Marshall?
Desmond will probably start, because B.J. [Etienne] has gotten most of his snaps at right tackle, which is where we rotated him in the game, but he could very easily go back over there.
Defense forced three turnovers Saturday night. Can you talk about how they are rounding into form under Coach Spencer this season?
I think the rough start (was) with two of the top offenses in America right off the bat. Ball State is a pretty good offense too, statistically. We are coming back down to earth number-wise a little bit more, giving people a lot of different looks and some issues and the result has been more turnovers.
With the kickers, what went into the decision to go with Vlady [Vladimir Rivas] (for FG) over [Aaron] Sharhari?
He kicked better.
Do you view that competition, realistically, as something that may go all season?
Yeah, the blocked PAT was because Vlad was late with operation. That guy, you can't block that guy off the edge you know he is going to be free, so you have to beat him with operation. That was his slowest time of the day operationally. We want him to be more consistent.
Did you talk to Chris about his touchdown pass to [John] Mitchell? Was he throwing to Mitchell?
I don't think so. I think he lucked out. It looked like he was going to get picked off. It looked like the guy was going to undercut … and intercept it. We got lucky there.