Florida Atlantic Head Coach Lane Kiffin met with the media on Monday to discuss the Owls' loss to Buffalo, quarterback play, and opening conference play.
We have moved on since the game. You have to relive it a lot. You live it during the game so it is good when you win. Itís bad when you lose. You watch it again on the plane coming home. You watch it with the staff on Sunday morning. You watch it with the players this morning and you make corrections in practice, (then) you come here and talk about it again. It was very disappointing, surprising because I really felt like we played extremely poor in the first game. I felt like we improved up in Wisconsin, especially defensively. Put together, in our third game, the most complete game by far and weíre on the right track. And then, to go up there in a game that I really felt like if we kept improving we would winÖI donít get too low off a loss and too high off a win, just like I told you the week before. I look at the play of the entire team for the entire game. And then decide, ok do you feel good or bad. The week before, I said it wasnít about the opponent, we played great in all three areas: offense, defense, special teams. Guys improved. Guys did what we wanted. Guys had some discipline. This game really was disappointing. It could have gone either way. There were all kinds of plays in the game, drops in the fourth quarter that looked like they were going to be touchdowns. Tons of plays that could have decided to go the other way. We were fortunate to be in that position because I felt like we made a lot of mistakes.
They (Buffalo) didnít make many mistakes. They played very disciplined; not as many penalties. We had really dumb penalties, costly penaltiesÖpenalties that are not anything that the other team did. It is not like a great effort where I hit the guy late because Iím giving great effort and it is right out of bounds. We can deal with those when those happen. I get a facemask because Iím grabbing and happen to get his facemask. These are just lack of discipline. Late hit on the quarterback. It wasnít even close. Retaliation. A guy hits us, we hit back we get the flag, which usually happens to the second guy, 15-yard penalty. Our right tackle winds up six inches too deep on two plays, one that they get a personal foul on and we get a 15-yard completion so it is really a 35-yard penalty for lining six inches too deep. Jump offsides on short yardage on third down on defense. With all those things, look at all those things we did, terrible interception, these guys (Buffalo) played really, really well. Probably their best game as far as taking care of the ball, no turnovers, hardly any missed passes, hardly any negative plays, with all that, we were still right there. So, we are disappointed in that. I think it was good to see the players really were because I said to them, IímÖit was hard for me, a really hard loss to deal with because, it is not about me. It was hard for me because I know how hard these guys work, all the 6 a.m. beach runs, all this stuff, fourth quarter program, all the stuff they prepare each week. How hard training camp was so it is hard for me because I know they do all that and the easy things we donít do. We are in shape, we are strong, weíre tough and then we make these bad decisions. We throw the ball to the other guy. We make all these penalties, so now we are losing a game. You guys do the hard stuff. That other stuff is hard. It is easy not to punch the guy back. It is easy to be on the line of scrimmage. Hopefully, we learn from it. Obviously, very disappointing.
Going back and looking at the film, what did you see from Jason Driskel?
Missed some big plays. He would be the first to tell you. You miss plays sometimes. You miss a slant. We all do that. Thatís a 10-yard gain. We missed touchdown plays. The wheel route to the back we checked to it, man-to-man the guy gets rubbed on his way out. Nowhere near him and if we throw it to him it is a 60-yard, easy touchdown. The late double move on the safety to Willie (Wright), if he puts the ball where it is supposed to be, Willie is going to score an 85-yard touchdown. So, those are where it was really tough on him because he missed wide open guys that were huge plays. He managed the game fine as far as getting us in the right plays and stuff like that. But, he ended the game well. He had a good two-minute drive to go down the field. Made some good plays there to lead us to a touchdown. I think he would be the first to tell you that he missed some big throws.
Is the quarterback competition still on-going?
Yes, I can always go back and say why things happened. I just donít during the week. So, last week we really felt like after that game that Daniel (Parr) made some plays, but missed some plays, some reads, had a lot of completions but 15 were from behind the line of scrimmage. So, we opened it up that Monday, a week ago and said ok, now we are going to look and see whoever practices better is going to play. Jason practiced a little bit better. It wasnít a lot, but better, and so there is always competition here. We are always going to play the player that we think is the best at that time. We will do the same thing again this week and see.
Update on Azeez Al-Shaair
It is day-to-day. I told the players, there are no excuses. Injuries happen everywhere. These guys, it was like we were playing without Lawrence Taylor, the way guys were acting. Azeez is a great player and I think what they were missing is not just the plays that we know he would make and we really struggled there without him at that spot, significant plays, two touchdown plays. Would we have probably won the game with him? Yeah. But, that doesnít matter, injuries happen. Their quarterback went out. Like I told them today, I think our team assumed that because their quarterback was such a big part of their offense, that once he was hurt and looked like he wasnít coming back, that we were just going to win. And, I think that maybe that happened because the assumption was to go the other way and we come out in the third quarter and I hear players talking about it in the locker room, Ďquarterback is out,í all of the sudden that makes a difference. Well, you have to play the game. We come out in the third quarter, I would think it would start going the other way, people would think. Shoot. They were four-of-four passing. I think we only made one first down on offense and it was something like 120 yards to 30 or 40 or something. So, very disappointed in that third quarter. And, it ended up being a big part of the game.
If players are making those assumptions, as a coach how do you fix that?
We talk about it at the time. Hey, letís not change anything. There probably was an issue there that we built up, as you give scouting reports and we talked early in the week and then again on especially on Friday, in the hotel before, that their offense goes through this guy (quarterback). The guys is really a good passer. You could see it in the game. They run a lot of quarterback runs. They scored on one of them versus us. Probably, in their mind we built that up so much that for us to stop him, not to injure him, but to stop and once we stopped him they are going to struggle compared to when he gets going. So, maybe it is part of that. But, when it happens you have to say it has nothing to do with it, you have to execute. We still gotta run the plays and execute the plays. We told them again today, guys you have to learn from that. You saw how much energy there was when he was going out on the sidelines. I told them you canít assume anything. Assumptions are death. There is nothing you can assume and you gotta play every week. I told our defense. Our defense has been on this great little run of a game and a half of only giving up one touchdown between Wisconsin and Bethune-Cookman. That doesnít mean anything. It is a new game. You have to come every Saturday. And, we didnít do that.
Looking forward to this game, first conference game. You know when you first got here you said you didnít know much about the conference. Have you educated yourself, not only on Middle Tennessee but on what the conference is like in terms of style and that sort of thing?
We spent a lot of time in the offseason on all of our opponents and the ones in the conference that we play. I think that gives me a better idea, offense, defense, special teams. What their styles are. What they do. That is kinda a preview. Yesterday, we can pull that back up and kinda have a head start and then having, two different times having coaches meeting or media day where you are with those guys you get a sense of it too.
Are you happy with Saturdayís ratio of running plays versus passing plays?
I would have liked it to be 100% run and no pass. I felt like every time we passed there was a chance something bad was going to happen, we were getting sacked or we threw an interception or an incompletion. Every time we ran, something good happened, almost. I was disappointed in the second half, especially the third quarter. At halftime, our two running backs were at 9.9 and 17.7 a carry. That is like video game numbers. Iím shocked that we didnít have more success in the third quarter. We did call some runs. I think it was six runs for 10 yards. So, I thought that it was similar to the game the week before that once we got going and we got some drives going there that they really struggled to stop the run. We were having big runs that no one was touching them. We got touchdown runs that are not down in flag football. Iím disappointed, Iím not saying about the play calling, more that we didnít run it more effectively. That goes into it as a play caller, if you have six plays for 10 yards in the third quarter it is harder to run the ball. You start thinking about throwing the ball more. Nothing to do with the play calls, I just wish we had going with success and could have had what I thought could be a similar rushing day to what we had just the week before.
How do you balance the fact that you are running the ball well in the game but that you need to get the passing game going to help with the rest of the season? How do you balance that?
What I would like to happen is that in the Bethune-Cookman game, once it started going our way, in games like that to say, ok it is going really well, alright we should be able to work on our passing game and have a really efficient passing day. Unfortunately, I didnít think that we threw the ball that well against them either. Obviously, you work on that in practice but you would like for that to happen in the game. In competitive games where they are tight, obviously you arenít going to call passes and work on the passing game when you are trying to win the game. By far the biggest problem on our team and the biggest disappointment from what I would have said after a week of spring ball was probably our strength. You start taking away all those jet sweeps and bubble screens all those throws and start looking at these numbers it is not a very productive passing game down field. So, we have got to get better. I have said it all along that when you play good teams you are going to have to make those throws to win. Just look what has happened. We didnít make them. Or, it is a totally different game.
Are you considering taking over play calling or putting more emphasis?
No. No. I have a lot of confidence in Kendal (Briles) and our offensive staff. He has been doing this for a while and is really good at it. Sometimes things take time. New receivers coming in during camp. Kamís (Kamrin Solomon) second game back. So, I think we will improve.
On third down stuff, itís important for quarterbacks and receivers to get that timing down. Isnít it more difficult to get that timing down when they keep going back and forth between quarterbacks? Is there a point where you say this is our guy and live with it?
There is eventually, always. You donít keep going back and forth all year. But, you are just trying to find the right mix. We saw some of the same issues. We were 3-of-10 on third down. We made three third downs. Two of them were runs on 3rd-and-long. The third one was a tight end pop pass that the tight end breaks a tackle to get and we donít make another one the rest of the day. That is kinda scary. Now, we have gotta make plays too. There was a critical third down, on third and six, that we sprint out, run the route, there is (DeAndre) McNeal right there to catch the ball to get the first down and keep the drive alive instead of punting, and possibly seven points, and we drop the ball. It is not just the quarterback. It is everybody.
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