Coaches Corner: Lincoln Riley

Inside ECU Sports caught up with East Carolina offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley to discuss the team's 42-28 win over North Carolina State and the upcoming Black Friday showdown versus Marshall.

Q: You obviously executed on third down—75 percent against N.C. State. Do you expect Marshall's defense to be a little bit tougher on third down?

A: Hopefully not! We'll take 75. I expect that we'll have to make plays. We made some really nice plays on third down last week. We had some really nice throws and catches, some nice runs. We, for the most part, did a good job of getting in some decent yardage situations, which always helps.

But we're going to have to make plays. They're a good enough defense that they're not going to give it to us. Their guys are going to be hyped. Our guys are going to be hyped. I would suspect both teams will play well and prepare well. Whatever we get, we'll have to earn.

Q: The running game really got going against N.C. State. How do you plan to turn it up against Marshall?

A: It was good. That was certainly part of the game plan to get that established and we were able to do that early and that helped open up some other things. [Vintavious] Cooper got going early and ran really well.

I thought we did a really good job of controlling their front, which we knew, going into the game that was going to be a big part. Their defensive line was one of the best we've seen. Our offensive line really responded. We probably played one of the more complete games up front. Then, I think the skill guys—running back, quarterbacks and receivers—everyone kind of fed off them.

Q: What changes, if any, do you see in the Marshall defense from last year?

A: Well, there's a few scheme things. Not a ton. They're playing with some confidence right now. Personnel is actually quite a bit different. They've got some guys back up front. They got the No. 11 kid healthy. I think he was banged up last year. He's been a good player for them.

They're a little different in the secondary. They've got some guys back there playing well. But, they've got a little bit of confidence. Maybe a little bit kind of like our defense. They've got a little bit of confidence, they're playing well together and they've strung up some good games. They've been playing finesse now and getting lined up real well. They've been doing a nice job.

Q: Where do you think Marshall is strongest on defense?

A: I don't know if I'd say there's one area that's a lot better than the others. They're all solid. There's not any glaring weaknesses that I see. They got some good players up front and they've done a good job rushing the passer. I think they had seven sacks last week. But also controlling the run game.

They're doing a good job. They've got some guys that can get back there and play man coverage. They can sit back in some zones. They're doing a good job mixing that up. There's just no where that you just say "man, they're really weak here and we can absolutely expose that."

We've played a few defenses like that this year where you've got to play well. N.C. State was like that. We had to play well. The things we got were not things that N.C. State was giving us. We had to execute and we did that.

Q: Do you think one of Shane Carden's best attributes is that he doesn't force anything and you guys, as an offense, let it come to you and take what's there?

A: He's gotten better at that. Especially with having new guys and sometimes having a bunch of young skill guys like we have. Not a lot of people have talked about it, but we've started three sophomore offensive linemen here in the last few weeks, too.

I think last year he may have tried to force more things to make things happen. Now he's mature enough to understand that we've got guys that can make plays and he's got to trust them. He's been patient when he needs to, but also been aggressive when he needs to. He's in a nice grove right now and we want to keep playing like this. We expect that we will. I believe we can, but you can't take it for granted either.

Scoring points is hard. It's hard to do. I want our guys to be confident, but I also want them to understand and appreciate how much work it takes to do that week by week.

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