Coaches Corner: Lincoln Riley

Michael Prunka stopped by Monday's practice to talk to offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley about East Carolina's devastating 52-28 Black Friday loss to Marshall.

Q: Looking at the tape, what were some of the biggest problems that led to the lack of execution against Marshall?

A: We didn't start fast. I think we got a little down and disappointed. Things didn't go our way early and they were able to build a big lead on us. Right there at the end of the half, we settled in and started playing a lot more like ourselves. We had a couple of tough turnovers that the ball bounced there and didn't go our way. It was pretty much a back and forth deal after that. We just spotted them too much of a lead and weren't able to make a comeback.

It was one of those games where we didn't play very well. Not nearly as well as we have all season. Give Marshall credit. They played a good ball game. We'd love to play them again, but we know that's not how it works. We're looking forward to playing more like we have the previous part of the season. We're ready to do that again in this bowl game.

Q: What kind of things can you do right now to make sure you settle in quicker against Ohio?

A: Just do what we've done all year! Offensively, we've got to be one of the top-five teams in the country on scoring on the first drive. That's a little bit more the exception, not the rule. We've been really good at that. We're going to be who we are. We've got a chance to be the first offense in the history of the school to average 40 points a game. That's hard to do.

It's not changing. It's getting better at what we do—doing a better job coaching, doing a better job playing—and being ready to play this bowl game, which we certainly will be.

Q: What did Marshall's secondary do that held back Shane Carden and the passing game?

A: Not much. We missed some throws we normally make and we dropped some balls we normally catch. That's probably the difference there.

Q: With hindsight being 20/20, what adjustments do you think could have been made to overcome Marshall's passing defense?

A: Throw it better and catch it better.

Q: With Vintavious Cooper, Breon Allen and Carden, the running game settled in pretty nicely. How is it an advantage knowing you can have three very capable runners on the field at the same time?

A: It's huge. The more you have to put out there and threaten the defense with and force them to defend, the more holes you're going to find. If they try to take something away, you've got to be able to execute and take advantage of it. Being able to run the ball with those three different guys threatening the defense has been huge. It's been a big part of the success we've had this year and it will certainly be important going into this game.

Q: You were 2-2 on fourth-down conversions. What impact does that have on your confidence for going for it in those situations?

A: Huge. That's one thing I think we've been—top-10 in the country in fourth downs every year since we've been here. Our guys have a lot of confidence on fourth downs. They know it's an important down, but you still have to go make a routine play. Our guys are very good, have a great mindset and have a lot of confidence. Coach Ruff has a lot of confidence in us as far as going for it. When we feel like the odds are in our favor, then we're definitely not going to hesitate to pull the trigger. Q: Did you get a chance to check out the Rice vs. Marshall championship game? What did Rice do East Carolina didn't?

A: I watched a little bit. It was buzzing around. We had a recruiting weekend town. We had a few official visit guys. Most of our time was there, but I caught bits and pieces of it. Rice caught the ball better, didn't give the ball up, made better throws and played better than we did.

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