Coaches Corner: Rick Smith

Our Michael Prunka talked with East Carolina defensive coordinator Rick Smith about becoming bowl eligible in Miami and preparing for Tulsa on Saturday.

Q: How was practice after getting back so late?

A: Well, we gained an hour. I was back at my house by a little after one and we didn't come in this morning until 10. I got six hours so I'll be fine. The kids will be fine.

Q: You were able to hold FIU to less than two yards per carry on 43 carries. What were some of the keys to that?

A: Well, they were 1.7. The key to it was really the nine sacks. But, you flip it over, the quarterback accounted for their longest run. The quarterback scrambles up the middle. As far as the tailbacks handing the ball off, we pretty much shut that down. They had one, I think, for 12, but no runs over 15.

Our key is to understand gap integrity—what gap do they have? John Wiley, at halftime, told me at halftime told me that we probably have to make different calls to help a little bit. We put in what we call Cowboy and even Cover 1, which really helped our kids stop the power play.

Duane Price did a great job in the press box telling us how they were blocking. The adjustments at halftime really helped. Those guys do a great job for me. Sometimes I don't see as much as I should because I'm thinking of the next call. They're all working together.

Q: What are the kinds of things you do in practice to prepare to have your defense on the field for 40 minutes a game?

A: Well, Jeff [Connors] does that. They're in great shape. I'm going to go back and look because we're giving up, on average, five points in the fourth quarter. I hate to have to count the 14 we gave up to Southern Miss because the twos were out there, but they're playing great fourth quarter defense.

Q: What are you focusing on against Tulsa to make sure they don't control the clock like Tulsa did?

A: Well, we've got to get off the field on third down. That's how you get off the field. We were very good on third down. We were 65 percent. But, if you don't play well on first down, then it's third-and-short. Short's hard to stop. We still have to play better on first down—stop the run and affect the quarterback when he's throwing. That's how you do it.

Q: Tulsa likes to throw the ball a lot and they distribute the ball evenly to a lot of players. How are you going to stop that?

A: We're just going to do our package. We looked at the third down stuff they do today and we worked on their favorite third down routes tonight. Our kids did a good job [Sunday] night and will continue to. We do third down defense every day. We do it first on Sunday night. We'll do it again Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. We really spend a lot of time on third down.

Q: What else are you looking for in Tulsa's offense?

A: When they get short yardage, they do the same things we saw last week against FIU. They get into two backs, they run the power and the lead out of two backs, two tight ends. We'll have to spend some time on third-and-one and third-and-two.

Inside ECU Sports Top Stories