BOCA RATON, Fla. -
Before we get started, on behalf of the program I need to say this: Condolences go from us to anyone who is close to Jose Fernandez and anyone in the Miami Marlins organization. I can’t imagine what that would be like to lose one of our football family members.
Last Saturday’s game versus Ball State
After watching the game, I am proud of how hard our guys played. The effort was there. The effort was there from the beginning of the game to the end of the game. Our goal is to be more consistent. That is what we are fighting for and that is what we will fight for this week, a more consistent performance. [There were] signs of improvement, but not enough. Not enough to get a victory and we will fight for that this week.
Moving on to get better in practice and Florida International becomes the focus. A rivalry game, a trophy game, records go out the window. None of that matters in a game like this. Start of conference (C-USA) play speaks for itself. It is a big one for us and our program.
Quarterbacks, let’s talk about them. They are playing two quarterbacks. [Alex] MGough started off the year. Maurice Alexander has also come in. If you look at the explosive tape, McGough throws a nice ball. I couldn’t tell you what decisions come into play with them and I don’t know if that will change with the coaching change that they have down there. Jonnu Smith is as what we expected. He is a great player and continues to be a great player. Alex Gardner has been explosive so they are a spread offense with a ton of potential. On defense, Anthony Wint jumps out and Deonte Wilson leads a group of athletic players. They have a system that they believe in on special teams. They play hard and they have a really good punt returner.
Our Mission This Week
It is all about fighting for consistency and getting ready to play Florida International.
What do you think changes in a team when they go through a coaching change?
I’m focused on getting ready to play Florida International and about getting our team ready.
Do you guys have a general game plan or what that looks like [with the coaching change]?
We will go off the film. They named an interim coach from inside so we will go with what we have got and tell our kids to apply their rules as it comes up.
Did the stoppages of play [last Saturday] affect you guys at all?
With the coaching change at FIU, does it make it more difficult for you guys or does the scope of it change at all?
Not, at all. As I said, they promoted from within. We will prepare with the same film and things that come up, like every week that you don’t see on film, you have to apply your rules.
How would you describe the FAU/FIU rivalry?
It means a lot to players, coaches and everyone in the program. Anytime you have two schools that are this close together, the players know each other. The coaches know each other. Ice [Tim] Harris’ son [Tim Harris, Jr.] is on the staff. I can go on and on. This game last year our kids prepared the right way and I anticipate them doing the same this week.
Is it easier to play a rivalry game after a loss like Saturday?
We are one mission at a time. Like I said after the game, you have 24 hours, win or lose, to move on to the next game.
Did you notice a difference out there on Sunday at all?
We had a great practice yesterday. They came ready to work.
14-point lead at the end of the first quarter. Is there any reason why things started to go south after that?
It is really just fighting for consistency. Driskel continued to play well. Driskel had a nice game. We have to get a 3rd-and-1 on the goal line and we have to get a 4th-and-1 at the end of the game.
When you look at tight games like the one on Saturday and you look at 3rd-and-1’s and 4th-and-1’s, can you look at those and say we need to be better at those to win games both last year and this year as well?
I’m not going to go back to last year. We are on this year, right. The 3rd-and-1, a touchdown instead of a field goal certainly helps the score, obviously. We are stating the obvious. On 4th-and-1 with 5:33 on the clock helps you continue that drive.
How much on the short yardage plays does the fact that the line hasn’t been together in the same spots affect it or is it where it shows?
It makes it challenging, but we have to find a way to overcome that. The “O” line depth speaks for itself. It is a challenge for us right now. It is our job to continue to find ways to execute in those key moments with the five guys that are the field at that time.
But is short yardage more difficult for a group that hasn’t been together?
Regardless, whether it is short yardage, 1st down, 2nd down, end of game, end of half, first play of the game, you have to find a way to execute it with the five guys on the field.
How is Tarrick [Thomas]?
Unfortunately, he is going to be out for the season.
Adjustments – is he [Travis Trickett] able to make the adjustments right now?
Like I said after the game. I’m really proud. We improved on offense Saturday night. We need to get those key 3rd and short, 4th and short. We did adjust. We were a better offense [Saturday]. Driskel played better. What Garin [Justice] is doing with the offensive line and who we have in. I’m proud of what they are doing. We need to fight for consistency. We need to fight to get better.
How are Kelly [Parfitt] and Roman [Fernandez]?
We will find out from the doctors as the week progresses, day-to-day.
Same sort of idea as last week – Hopeful?
With Buddy [Gregory Howell], he has had explosive plays but he has also had a lot of one yard, two yard, no gain. What you attribute to the difference there?
I would be willing to bet that if you took Adrian Peterson’s tape you would see some one- and two-yard gains. That is part of football. So, we are looking at the mosaic of Buddy. Buddy is having a heck of a year. I’m proud of a lot of things Buddy is doing right now. Buddy is a polarizing leader. He is having a tremendous impact on our kids’ effort. He is fighting to help the group become more consistent. We are a better team with Buddy Howell.
In what way does his leadership show there?
One is play. How hard he plays. No matter what, he is fighting for everything he can possibly get, every rep, regardless of the situation, Buddy is going to encourage and or get after his teammates when necessary. He has proved that more and more in the past month. So, I’m glad that he is with us. I’m glad he is on our team. As we get ready for Florida International, which is our focus, he is going to be a great asset this week and as we move forward into further preparations.
What did you think of Josh Kendall on Saturday?
Josh [Kendall] is one of the guys that stood out on film. Shalom [Ogbonda] had what I thought was one of his best days of his career. Josh Kendall, who is young in his career, was a bright spot for sure. We are excited about Josh. Josh will contend for a lot more playing time this week.
You mentioned polarizing to describe Buddy’s leadership. Is he off-putting to some?
The context that I meant is that he is able to bring everyone with him. So, maybe a poor choice of words.
The Play of Shalom [Ogbonda]
It was fun to see him be so gap accountable, which is so critical on defense. He made his plays because he did his job and did it with great technique and great effort. And because of that, he made a lot of plays, which I appreciate. He didn’t have to leave his gap or do something extra. That is another great example we can say to our guys that if you just do your job the plays are going to come (and) the wins are going to come. What we are working on is going to come. He played the hardest I have seen him play. I’m proud of him cause he got challenged a couple of weeks ago in his preparation and in his approach. He was doing some very good things. Again, he was very inconsistent. He took a huge step towards being a consistent player on Saturday. We need to keep seeing that out of him. His preparation showed on Saturday. That is a great example for us to use.
Kerrith Whyte seems to be having a good year with all-purpose – You must be pleased with him?
I am. There were some questions, why, why, why…I’m proud of him. He is now starting to do what we have seen on the practice field which is great. He is explosive. He is someone that we will continue to get touches to.
Kickoff Return He seems to be…
On the sidelines, Kalib Woods said over my shoulder, we have a heck of a kickoff returner guys, we need to keep fighting to give him shots. That’s fun. When I was at Pitt, we had a guy by the name of Lowell Robinson, when I was a special teams coordinator. He saw it and he went and 10 other guys on that unit blocked a little extra harder because they knew at any point that guy could go. You are feeling that happen with Kerrith, which is fun.
What about Jay Warren?
He is healthy. He is fighting. He is a great teammate and I love Jay. I’m glad he is with us. Right now the touches are going with who we want to get the touches to.