Coaches Corner: Lincoln Riley

Inside ECU Sports talked with offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley after his squad scored a dominant 55 points on North Carolina.

--- Offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley ---

Q: Is that the best execution you've seen from one of your teams since you been the offensive coordinator here?

A: I don't know. I haven't really thought about it like that. We've had some pretty good ones. It's up there. I don't know if it's first, but we played well. It's great to bounce back. We played, strangely, a little bit better than we did against Virginia Tech, which I know a lot of people aren't going to believe that. In games like that, where you have two good football teams like there's been on the field in out last two games, the margin of error is so small. If you do a few more little things right, the outcome can be drastically different. We did the little things better. We made a lot of corrections over the bye week, just cleaned up a few things. They did a great job of taking that from the practice field to the game. I was proud of that. They fought and they fought and it was a long day. We got a lot of plays in and they kept swinging away and really just competed their tails off. It was a great game.

Q: You were very balanced in the game. Talk a little about that.

A: We've tried to get the running game established since the ODU game. We got established pretty early against FAU. Didn't have many plays, got a lot of short fields. We got it established early against Virginia Tech, but weren't able to sustain it. We were able to do that [Saturday]. It's a big part of what we do. We feel like we've got the personnel where we can do that. I was proud that we were able to sustain that throughout the game. There wasn't many spurts where we weren't running golden the ball well. I thought the guys embraced the tempo. Just a lot of tiny things that we didn't do quite as well against Virginia Tech that we worked on hard over the off week and you saw results on the field.

Q: There were numerous bounce backs on Saturday: one being Shane Carden throwing three interceptions against Virginia Tech and another being Vintavious Cooper only getting four touches in the second half of that game. Talk about how they were able to bounce back so well against North Carolina.

A: It's what we do. The whole offense, not just those guys. We have belief in what we're doing here. Our coaches believe in our system and the way we run it. Our players believe in it and there's not one game, good or bad, that can change that. Our belief runs much deeper than that. For guys like that, individually, there's no question in our minds, including Tay and Shane's, that those guys would bounce back along with the rest of the offense. They've done it before. Shane didn't play very well against Tulane last year and bounced back and played pretty good against Marshall. Tay had a little bit of a tough start to the season as far as not playing a whole lot last year and kind of getting used to it and finished up and had a great year. Those are the kinds of guys that we have here. Responding wasn't an option. It wasn't something we thought about. We knew we would, as a group and individually.

Q: Numerous players stepped up, too. Lance Ray had a great game. There were also a lot of new faces stepping up: Quataye Smyre, Breon Allen, Jimmy Williams. How encouraging is it to see that?

A: It was exciting. Some of those guys were making their first real playing time. A great atmosphere and the kind of game it was to see them step up and make plays—I think it speaks to the kind of leadership we have on this team. We've got a lot of really good football players and good people and leaders that they can follow. I think when you've got that your young guys have a chance to progress even faster. What's been really impressive is the way this recruiting class, you look at it not just offensively but team wide, you've got a lot of true freshmen that are really starting to contribute to us. I think that speaks to the recruiting effort here—how that's getting better and better, the development of players and the leaders are also grooming those guys when they get on campus, as well as the coaches. I've seen those guys step up. It's made us better, it's made the older guys better. It creates more competition, which makes guys better. It's just really healthy for the program.

Q: Was the game as well executed on tape as you thought as it happened?

A: It's never as good as you think it is and it's never as bad as you think it is. It always works like that. I know there's a lot of things we can do better. A lot of people wouldn't have believed or guessed that we would have done that and we knew it. Maybe a lot of people won't believe that we can play a lot better, but we can. We can coach a lot better and play a lot better. I told them today that if that's the best game we play all year, I'll be incredibly disappointed and the coaches will be incredibly disappointed. And they will, too. I didn't have to say that. They already believed that. That's because they believe in what we're doing and have a pretty strong belief in the system and the way we do it. We've got a long ways to go. We've got to get a lot better. I said "one game doesn't change your mentality. If it does, you don't really believe it."

Q: Not only was the game more balanced than it has been all season, but Carden was finding more people in the air. Talk about Carden finding 12 different receivers and using all your offensive weapons.

A: When you get to 101 plays, more guys are going to get involved. It was that kind of game with their offense being a little bit like ours—quick strike and a lot of times you're going to get it back fast one way or another. That created more plays. The fact that we executed a little bit better, you had more opportunities. It was great—guys stepped up. We made a lot of plays that we make here out here in practice every day. I think one of the biggest things was we did a much better job of carrying over what we did on the practice field to the game field, whereas Virginia Tech, we practiced our butts off. We practiced really well, we just didn't carry it over as well. I think they saw the importance of that and the kids responded and did that. I think that's why you saw a lot of guys step up and play well.

Q: What have you seen on tape from Middle Tennessee so far?

A: They're a good football team. We've seen a lot of their offense because we've had some common opponents with them, so I know they're pretty good offensively. Similar to us in a lot of ways. Defensively, they've got a really good defensive coordinator. I went up against him in the Cotton Bowl a few years ago and they whooped our tail. He had a really good defense at Ole Miss. They've got some athletes in the secondary. I've seen they're a hard-hitting defense. They're well coached. They don't make many mistakes. They've played well for a large part of the season. I know they didn't play maybe quite as well as they hoped up at BYU. When you go to Provo, not many people play well up there. They are certainly going to be a challenge. I think they are one of the better defenses in this conference.

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