COACH FLOOD: Good morning. It's good to be coming back off a win last week. I thought we had a good session last night in the stadium near the start of our game week against Cincinnati. It's a Big East championship game that we are really excited about as a program. Coach Jones and his staff have won this conference three of the last four years, and I think we know that it's a tremendous challenge for us to go to Cincinnati and try to be 1-0 this week.
They have a very impressive team, as well-coached a team as I think there is in our conference, and I think around the country, a very well-balanced team. When you look at them on offense, they average around 34 points a game. On defense, they give up less than 20 points a game. They're top 20 in the country in kickoff returns, top 20 in the country in punt returns. Their coverage teams are very impressive when you watch them on film.
On offense, they have five seniors and three juniors, so there is no mistaking why they're having the success they have on offense. They certainly have a wealth of experience.
On defense, schematically, structurally, very similar to us in terms of what they do and how they do it, and they've got really good players. It's certainly where it all starts up front. By a guy named Dan Giordano. I feel like he's been around about seven years now that I've been coaching against him, but he's a senior and defensive end for them, a fine football player. They've got fine football players at a lot of those places on defense. Their linebackers 51, 4, are their top two tacklers are great football players.
This is a great challenge for our program and something we're really excited about.
I think any time you can get to this point in the season and go into a Saturday game and know that you're playing for a championship, I think that is what you dream about as you're growing up as a football player, as you're coming through this profession as a coach. These are the games that I think are really enjoyable not just for the fans and the fan bases, but for the programs and the players as well. Questions?
Q. At this point this late in the season, does it become any more difficult to keep the team focused on the game ahead?
COACH FLOOD: No, I don't think so at all. I think when you are playing an opponent like we are this week, and again, I'll say it one more time: A team that has been able to call themselves the Big East Champions three of the last four years. They have your attention right away. There is nothing else on our mind this week other than trying to be 1-0 this week and executing our game plan againstwhatever game plan they show up with.
Q. Could you give an injury update guys like Civil, Jamison and Federico?
COACH FLOOD: Civil right now and Jamison are probably 50-50 for the game. That's how I put it. Until I see them do something on the field, I don't know that I can say it's any better than 50-50 that either guy plays. I'll defer Kyle Federico until tomorrow when I see him kick. We intentionally didn't do anything with him yesterday.
Q. Now that you've looked at Cincinnati a little bit is their offense a lot different with a new quarterback?
COACH FLOOD: It's really not. It's the same offense. Whatever the reason for the change is, you can certainly ask Coach Jones that question. That's his decision to make. But when you have the opportunity to put a quarterback in the game who is a fifth-year senior and has been in your system and taken a wealth of reps, though there may be practice reps or spring, whatever it is, they certainly had confidence in Brendon that he could do the job, and he did a great job last week.
Q. How many similarities do you see in that offense from last year when Rutgers was really able to shut Cincinnati down in that game?
COACH FLOOD: I think it's a better version of their offense from last year. I think those players that were on their offense last year that were juniors are now seniors. I don't know their team intimately to know the personalities. But just watch the way they play. Their running back, George Winn, the number one rusher in our conference, currently, just watch his body language on the film, he's a tremendous leader for their football team. So I thought they were excellent on offense last year. I think they're a little bit better this year. So it's going to be another great challenge for our defense to match up with them.
Q. If Jawan can't go, are you comfortable with Savon being a work horse guy? We haven't seen him carry that many times. Are you confident what happens in the pecking order?
COACH FLOOD: Very confident that safe on would take the bulk of the carries in the game if Jawan couldn't go. And then after that, you'd see P.J. James, and anything beyond that, we'll have to work out this week, because you don't rep more than three guys. And with Jawan and P.J. taking the reps in practice, we'd have to figure out what the depth would be beyond that. I would be very confident that Savon could take the bulk of the carries and do a good job with us.
Q. Is Brandon Coleman developing into a number one type receiver right now? He's only a sophomore. Him and Gary seem to have a great connection, and he's climbing up the school all-time touchdown list.
COACH FLOOD: We don't use those kind of expressions, number one receiver, number two. We don't have those classifications in our offense. I think what Brandon has done, similar to what Jawan has done, is he's proven he can make big plays. I think that's valuable. When you have somebody that proves that over time with a body of work, however you want to say it, you have to as an offense and play caller make sure you give him opportunities in the game to make those plays.
Q. Do you believe in any kind of psychological hangover when you go to certain buildings or stadiums? You've been in Cincinnati for 2006, '08, '10they were all ugly games for Rutgers. Do you put any stock in the fact that you have not played well at Cincinnati and now you have to go to Cincinnati andplay well?
COACH FLOOD: I don't. I don't. I certainly remember all three of those games. I would agree with that 2006 game, it was ugly. It was not something we had anticipated or we were very pleased with. I think some of the other games were a little different. I thought we performed well on defense in one of those games and not so well on offense. In the other game we performed well on offense, and not so well on defense.
Any time you go on the road, there are unique challenges. But the challenges are to me, based on the people that you're playing, not really the building. There's always a crowd advantage. There will be a spirited crowd there on Saturday. And those are things we'll have to deal with as an offense more than anything. But the building itself, I don't concern myself with that.
I remember being at Hofstra, and we had not beaten Delaware in I couldn't tell you how many years. My last year at Hofstra, we went there, and the kids played the best game they had ever played. So I don't think those type of things are an issue.
Q. Do you guys take pride in being unbeaten on the road this season?
COACH FLOOD: We don't think of it like that. The time for those types of thoughts is really after the season is over. There is no time during the season to look back and say we're proud of this. Right now we're in in-season mode. And week to week we're making adjustments, corrections, trying to adapt our plays and our game plan and our personnel to what we think we'll be able to do this week and execute at a high level.
Our job this week is to be 1-0. The game happens to be on the road. We want to be 1-0 this week at Cincinnati. But any of those generalizations we'll look back at the end of the year and see what we're happy with and what we're not.
Q. Is Brandon getting enough targets right now in your estimation?
COACH FLOOD: I think he is. I think Brandon's been a productive player. In more games than not, he's been able to affect the outcome of the game in a positive way for us. I don't know if there's a magical number on it. I'm more comfortable saying when you're running the ball well, if you're going to give it to one running back, you'd like to have over 25 carries. I think that gives the running back a chance to affect the game. But with receivers, I think it's different. It's a little bit more coverage determined.
Q. Does it start up front with Cincinnati, eight sacks allowed and in 23 sack this is season, both sides?
COACH FLOOD: There is no doubt. It absolutely starts up front. It starts up front on both sides of the ball this week. I think when you get to this part of the season and you're playing championship football against other championship football teams, you have to win the battles up front. Because if you don't win the battle up front against Cincinnati, they're the number one rusher in our conference, so they're going to run the ball.
For us, if we're not able to effectively run the ball, if we don't do a good job blocking that front, now you're throwing the ball against a defense that knows you're throwing it, and you're getting their best pass-rush moves. Doesn't matter who you are or who they are, when they know you're throwing the ball, the protection gets a lot harder.
Q. I know you only had three offensive possessions first half against Army. But in nine games you have 23 points in the first quarter. Any new theories on the slow production in the first half, particularly the first quarter? That is basically two and a half points a game in the first quarter.
COACH FLOOD: No, no theories on that, and really no theories on the third quarter either, other than I think we're getting better as the game goes on which I think is a positive. That's a good thing.
Like I said last week, I think we've played at a higher level on defense earlier in the games, and I think that's an experience issue. Certainly the first drive this week was, although you're never happy when the other team scores, it's certainly not a surprise. You have to catch up to the speed of an option football team, and it's not -- you cannot simulate it.
I thought we did a really good job in practice with our scout teams last week of getting about as well as we could and simulating about as well as we could. But that first drive is always tough to defend when you play those option football teams.
Q. Are you tempted to try to change things up offensively to get the production you're looking for? I'm talking about early on.
COACH FLOOD: No, I think if we leave who we are, we'd be throwing away a lot of experiences that I think we've learned from as the season has gone on here. You've got to know who you are in all phases of the game. When we come out this Saturday we've got to make sure we put together openers and a game plan that we feel good about and that we've got to go out and execute.
Q. Getting back to Savon. What's he done over the course of the season to progress and instill you with confidence?
COACH FLOOD: He got dinged up. He was out for a little bit. Now that he's back and healthy, I thought he did an excellent job on Saturday of being a decisive runner. I was pleased with the way he ran the ball on Saturday. Like I said, going forward, if Jawan doesn't play this week, we have the confidence that Savon can take the bulk of the carries and be a winning player for us.
Q. Khaseem's performance, the Big East weekly honor, can you talk about that?
COACH FLOOD: Khaseem is as good a play maker on defense as we've had here, certainly in the eight seasons that I've been watching the defense we've been fortunate to have a few of those type of guys. Khaseem runs really well.
If you asked me what was the most important thing that Khaseem and Steve did, those two inside linebackers, they did a great job defending their legs. They weren't on the ground very often. If you can stay on your feet and run to the football the way Steve and Khaseem both do, I think that's what allowed us to play better and better defense as the game went on.
Q. What about Lorenzo? Does it make it any better he's a safety and not such a big impact in the run game?
COACH FLOOD: I think what you're saying is accurate, but when you play an option team, that's his role. His role was to be a run player first on Saturday, and he was put in a spot that's a critical spot in defending the option, and he did a great job. He did a great job on Saturday.