COACH FLOOD: Happy Veterans Day to all the people who serve our country past and present all over the world. A special happy Veterans Day to those who are in active service as we speak. Proud to wear our shirt today for our Army ROTC. I don't know how many people know this, because I just found this out recently, that we're the only university I believe in the country that has all four branches of the ROTC on our campushere at Rutgers, and we're looking forward to having them at our game this week in full force for our Military Appreciation Day.
I was personally raised by a veteran. My father was in the Army. His brother in the Army, as well, and my grandfather was in the Navy. I certainly have an appreciation for everything they do to protect our country and allow us to live in the safety that we live in.
We've got a great opportunity this week to play a conference opponent in Cincinnati, coached by Coach Tuberville, whose résumé speaks for itself. They've got an excellent football team. I think you've seen that in the statistics and the games that they've won, and we're looking forward to the challenge.
Q. How aware do you think the players are being so close to bowl eligibility which the next win gets you to? Is that something you're aware of, they're aware of?
COACH FLOOD: I think they're aware of it. It would be hard for me to believe that they're not aware of it. But I think there's always the temptations to be distracted every week, and every week it's something a little bit different, whether it's going on the road or a homecoming game or maybe your parents happen to be flying in this week for the game and being at five wins.
I remember in 2005 when we were at five wins, and then we played -- I believe we played South Florida and lost, and then played Navy and won. Maybe it was in reverse order. But I remember the sixth win incited a rushing of the field, and that was a great day, I think, a great stepping-stone for the program that day.
But I think they're aware of it. Do those things serve as motivation? Of course they do. But the motivation is really only the motivation in preparation, how hard you work through the week. I think once the game starts, then your trained behavior becomes instinct.
Q. I guess at center and running back what are your expectations for Saturday with some changes on the depth chart and the injury report?
COACH FLOOD: Sure. I mean, my expectations don't change. The players change at times, and players earn the right to be starters for a reason. But as the next player goes in, your depth will always be challenged throughout the year and our expectations of the execution of our offense do not change. We've already been through this once this year with Dallas Hendrikson. He did a nice job of going in there and allowing us to operate on offense and actually played very well.
It doesn't surprise us. We're fortunate to have a senior in that role and somebody that we can trust who has been working very hard to be ready when needed, and this week as of right now, it looks like he's going to be needed. And at running back we have one injury in Justin, but we have one guy coming back in PJ. We'll know a little bit more about PJ as the week goes on, but he did practice last night. He did practice the full practice last night, which was about a two-hour practice. He came through that pretty well, so we're optimistic as we go forward.
Q. Does that include like some tough stuff with PJ for the Sunday practice?
COACH FLOOD: When you get to this part of the year, you don't really bang too much, but we weren't in pads last night. We were in spiders like we usually are. We'll be in shoulder pads tomorrow, but even then we don't hit very much this part of the year.
But he did all the things we would ask him to do, and I don't think it'll be the contact that'll be an issue.
Q. Brendon Kay leads the nation in completion percentage. Is that him playing really well or is that a combination of their offense and what they're trying to do? What do you see from Brendon on film?
COACH FLOOD: I don't think you can be that good or that proficient at anything without having some part in it. I think the quarterback position always come down to decision making, and to complete that many passes at that percentage, he's doing an excellent job of making decisions, and for somebody that didn't start the year as their starter, it's really a great testament to him and their coaching staff.
Q. Is this another test for your secondary because they're ranked in the top 30 passing? Almost 290 yards a game, more than they rush for actually. I know they're probably striving for balance but much more they pass the ball. What's the challenge?
COACH FLOOD: Well, I think the challenge will be twofold. This offense, they're the No. 1 rushing offense in our conference, and I think to play defense the way we play it, it has to start with stopping the run, and our corners are always involved in that. We don't have a cover corner at Rutgers. They have to be complete players.
So it's going to start with that, and then what this offense challenges you to do, which a lot of the spread offenses do, is to play assignment football. Although you get to it a different way, it's not that dissimilar to how you have to account for the option defenses, and you have to have your eyes in the right place, and you have to be in the right spot, and then ultimately you've got to lean and locate and make the play on the ball, and I think we've been getting better and better at that with our younger players in the secondary, guys like Delon Stephenson, a guy like Ruhann Peele, getting Gareef Glashen back a couple weeks ago, he's improving, he helps us.
So is it a challenge? There's no question it's a challenge. This is a really good offense and a really good football team.
Q. Anything new you can tell us about the place-kicking competition?
COACH FLOOD: Here's what I can tell you about the place kicking competition: As of last night Kyle had the better practice. But the decision, we'll make it a little bit later in the week.
Q. You mentioned how they're the No. 1 rushing offense in your conference, but they don't have a rusher averaging more than 56 yards a game. How unique is that challenge when you're not just expecting one guy to carry the load? How unique is that challenge and what does it present schematically for your defense?
COACH FLOOD: I think it speaks a little bit to kind of what I was saying. You have to account for it as almost like an option offense, and you have to have your assignments and your eyes in the right place and play your gaps. If you try to do too much, if you try to do something outside your role on defense, you're going to leave yourself susceptible to giving up a big play.
They've got talented running backs. They've got three. The Abernathy kid we know quite well; we've been playing against him for a while. And they've got two others that play quite a bit. The one they played this week, he's maybe a little bit shorter but a thicker guy, a 200-pound running back, very tough to tackle, low to the ground, good center of gravity type of guy.
I don't know that it presents any challenge other than you'd better get them on the ground when they're in place. They roll those guys through there pretty good. They've got three guys they trust to carry the football, and all three have been productive, and that's why they're the No. 1 rushing offense in the conference, but they're going to run the quarterback probably six to ten times a game, too.
Q. At the cornerback position you don't have a definitive starter listed. Is that going to be open all week? Do you have a time frame when you want to have a set rotation going into Saturday?
COACH FLOOD: We'll have a rotation before the game. At that position right now I don't get caught up in who goes out there for the first play as much as maybe the media does and the fans do. Certainly every player on our team wants to be the starter. There's a competitive nature to these players that I totally understand. But at that position we're going to play four to five players, and then when you get to 3rd down we'recertainly going to play four or five players. Who goes out there for the first play, we'll get that sorted out as the week goes on. But regardless of who it is, all those guys are going to play quite a bit and be a big part of what we do.
Q. Is it close between them, that group, right now?
COACH FLOOD: I think it is.
Q. Defensively obviously they're very good statistically. How much different are they philosophically from a year ago when you were able to run the ball effective on them?
COACH FLOOD: Defensively?
COACH FLOOD: Yeah, defensively, I think the biggest difference this year defensively is not so much in the way they line up, but they play a little bit more base defense this year and a little bit less pressure. Last year they were a little bit more pressure-oriented in their scheme in terms of what they did.
The constant, though, is I think they're very good up front. They have one of the better defensive lines in our conference, and that has been a constant I think for them for probably three to four years.
Q. What have you seen from their offensive line that's allowed them to be so successful this year?
COACH FLOOD: It certainly starts with experience. Four of their five players are back from last year from the group that we played against. I couldn't tell you if those guys started the year like that. But four of the five guys up front that we played against last year, they're back with them, and that gives them some continuity. They're physical, and then I think their scheme creates space, and ultimately offensive football is about creating space, and defensive football is about dictating daylight and taking that space away.
I think they've got a good scheme. They've got big, strong kids up front who have experience, and the advantage of experience always allows you to slow the game down.
Q. You have Darius listed as doubtful on the injury report. How does that change the three technique position? Can Milewski handle the full starter's workload, or does it become more of a rotation position?
COACH FLOOD: I think David can certainly handle it. David is valuable to us. He plays a lot on 3rd down, as well, and I think the biggest change is moving Max Issaka in there and activating him and getting him probably a little more playing time than he's had all year, and Max is a guy who's very physically talented, hasn't been healthy enough to really give us a lot of reps yet this year, but I think this is a week where he's going to help us.
As you get to November, every week, your depth, the depth of your program is going to be tested, every week, and it's not just us, it's everybody in the country.
Q. From what you've seen out of PJ last week, how much of an idea do you have right now of how you'll be able to use him on Saturday?
COACH FLOOD: It's really more about what I saw last night, and I was pleased with what I saw last night, and that was the first time we'd put him through a full practice.
Now I think the real test is how he recovers today, and then what he can do tomorrow. If he can go out there tomorrow and do it again and look really good like he did last night, then I'll be a little bit more confident.