Coaches Corner: Lincoln Riley

ECU offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley talks to our Josh Graham about the performance of his offense against Southern Miss and how the team is approaching the bye week.

Josh Graham: Your offense surpassed the 50-point mark for the third time this season last Saturday. After watching the tape, did they play as well as it seemed?

Lincoln Riley: "We did. We have been really excited about how we've started games this year. In every game, we've gotten the ball and scored a touchdown in every one except one. I think that sends a message early and we were able to maintain this week.

"We started off really good early on third downs, we've got it in a few holes early and we were able to convert a couple key third downs. And that was a big emphasis along with (scoring touchdowns in) the red-zone this week. A lot of the work that we put in paid off this week. "

JG: Due to wide margin, you got a chance to get an extended look at less-experienced players in a game setting. How do you grade the way they performed?

LR: "As a whole, a lot of our young guys played well. DaQuan (Barnes) made some big plays early in the game and really throughout the game. He's got a bright future here. He's still so far away from how good he can be, but he's starting to really come on and that's exciting.

"Breon (Allen) made his mark on offense and also on special teams, obviously. We know he can run around and make some plays and he's tough to tackle. He's just a good football player.

"A couple of the young lineman came in and played really well. Tre Robertson, J.T. Boyd, Taylor Hudson; those guys played really well. I thought (quarterback) Cody (Keith) came in and played well, (and) had two scoring drives.

Cedric Thompson got his first catch ever and played quite a few snaps at inside receiver. "He had a huge block on (Vintavious) Cooper's third down, touchdown-run that if he doesn't block as well as he does he probably doesn't get in.

"There's just so many. We've had so much attrition that there is so many, but those guys just keep stepping up and making plays and I think the expectation that these guys have offensively is to score and play well regardless of who we got. And I think that expectation has helped us handle some of these situations that we've been put in than maybe we would have in previous years."

JG: During the bye week, how much of Florida International do you expose to the offense, compared to internal focuses?

LR: "We played pretty well after the first bye week this year and I think we'll be in that mold. We'll certainly expose them to FIU and what they do offensively, and offensively and special teams for that matter, team-wide. But still our main focus is going to be what we can get better at.

"There's still so much more we can do, we can play much cleaner (and) guys getting better individually at things. We did the same thing before we played (North) Carolina. We certainly showed them a few looks, but I would say more of it was based on just us getting better."

JG: How has this bye week been different than the previous one, now that you are coming off of a win this time around?

LR: "Well, you sleep better. We got an edge in the bye week after the Virginia Tech game. Really the whole team did. I think that's why we got a lot better during the bye week.

"The thing that we got to guard against is we can't think that we got it all figured out. We got to keep that same edge and understand that we have one hell of a six-game stretch coming up, and we do expect it to be six games (including the C-USA Championship).

"We're not just getting ready for FIU. We're getting ready for this stretch run and we have to understand that our backs are against the wall and we're going to have to go fight, scratch and claw and we've got to be ready to do that. We've got to have that same attacking mentality that we had in between the Virginia Tech and North Carolina games."

JG: Wide receiver Justin Hardy won C-USA's offensive player of the week for just the first time this week. What are your thoughts on that?

LR: "Quarterbacks end up eating up all those (awards). But no, (Hardy) deserves it. If you can name a couple (games) this year, he's probably deserves it. He obviously had a huge impact on special teams (and) had a big first half catching the ball.

"He's hot right now, he's playing well and guys are finding him. He's had a nice few games stretch here and obviously, he's one of the top players in the conference. And not just this conference, but any conference."

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