Miami Hurricanes Pregame Press Conference: Florida Atlantic
Head Coach Mark Richt – September 6th, 2016
"We’re getting ready for Game 2. We’re not ready for it, but we had a good practice this morning. Tuesdays are typically the tougher day of the week - full pads, lots of run game, play-action pass, things like that on a day like today. We did a good job. I thought the first half of practice was actually very good. I thought the second half of practice, we started to break down a little bit, a little bit similar to our ballgame [against Florida A&M], when it came to penalties. We had one penalty in the first half, maybe five or so in the second half or whatever it was. I think we, to a slight degree, lost a little focus in the second half of practice. We have to get better doing that.
“We’re getting ready to play the Owls of Florida Atlantic. Coach Partridge is doing a wonderful job. You just look at the tape to see - guys playing hard, playing physical, their defense is very, very stout. They're very tough up front. Good run-stoppers. They don't play a lot of one high safety looks, where some safeties in the box are being a free hitter. They try to hold up with the front seven. They have a safety near the box, but he's not as close as somebody people put him because they are strong at the point of attack."
“Trey Hendrickson is their returning starter who was No. 2 in the country in sacks - 13.5 sacks last year. Very physical against the run, too. Most pass-rushers are that – they’re pass-rushing specialists - but he's not. He is an outstanding pass-rusher obviously from his stats, but he's also very strong against the run.
“I think it’s [Azeez] Al-Shaair, No. 2, their linebacker – he was a freshman starter a year ago, played extremely well last year and you can see him already, I think he had 10 tackles in the first game. Very productive guy. Their safety No. 18 Young is a very physical guy and the leading returning tackler of the guys on the perimeter. Lot of inexperience behind him and alongside him.
“Offensively, they go about as fast as a team can go. They do a really good job of getting a lot of plays. We're going to have to communicate very quickly to our defense, get lined up quickly and be ready to play ball. Their punter, Dalton Schomp, had 22 kicks over 60 yards last year. I think he led the nation in yards, average per punt – I think it was around 48 per punt. That's amazing. He really can boom it, so it will be interesting to see how that goes. We’re looking forward to a great challenge. We know they'll be ready. We're working hard to make sure that we're ready as well.”
On if he enjoys the adversity of facing a team like FAU…
"I'm human. I like it when I don't have to fret too much about things when I look at tape, but these guys present a challenge. They play defensively a coverage that is just a little bit different than most everybody. They have a lot of confidence in their cornerbacks, they play a lot of press, and play kind of a quarters coverage behind it. Those safeties are freed up to strike in the run game. Like I was saying, they don't have a safety right inside the box, but they kind of have two safeties in the middle, so to speak, and two corners out there. At times, both those safeties are on the line of scrimmage, so sometimes you get nine guys in the box in a two-receiver set, which is way too many. You would think you can hurt people throwing the ball in those situations, but the corners have been so good in press coverage and man coverage, they’ve been able to do that. That’ll be one of the challenges of the game - can we throw and catch good enough against some really tight coverage downfield? We'll see how it goes."
On if he likes playing teams from in-state to help build rivalries and fan interest…
"There are a lot of teams in this state who can play. You can play just about a whole schedule here in this state. I don't get too involved in making the decisions on the schedule. Most of the schedule has been laid out for me, and I've always been a guy who says, ‘Tell me who we're going to play, where we’re going to play, what time and let's go.’ If it's good for the state, that's great. There are different reasons why you schedule different people. They're an outstanding team, though. I can say that."
On the balance between short drives for the offense and keeping the defense fresh…
"The bottom line is, like you said, there were short fields, a couple of one-play or two-play drives, hitting long runs and things of that nature. You can't really control that. You control by trying to let the clock tick in between plays, but that’s not really how we operate - although we can do that and we have done that at different times. The other thing is, the defense is allowed to have short drives too. They get a turnover on the first play or they can go three-and-out. They're allowed to do that. It works both ways."
On the evolution of Boca Raton and FAU since he was there in high school…
"I grew up [there] from 1973 to 1982, because it was my home even though I was here at Miami. From 1973 to 1982, I lived in Boca Raton. That was my permanent address at the time. Our house was a half-mile from Florida Atlantic University. When we first got there, it was just a lot of open space, really - not even close to having a stadium or anything like that, or the sports complex. There wasn’t a whole lot between the Boca Raton Airport and where we lived. There was a little Florida Atlantic, and it just wasn't what it is today. It's amazing how the campus has changed and how the athletic department has grown.
“Coach Schnellenberger had an awful lot to do with getting that football program off the ground. I remember when they hired him as a consultant to try to decide who to hire. We actually spoke a little bit about it. I’m trying to think of where I was, whether I was at Georgia or whether I was at Florida State at the time…I can't remember the year. I talked to him once, and we talked small-talk for a minute, and then he called me back another time and he said he realized who should be the head coach. I said, ‘Well, who’s that? He said, ‘Me’ – meaning himself. I said, ‘That doesn't surprise me, Coach.’ He basically hired himself to be head coach, and has done just wonders for that program."
On losing linebacker Jamie Gordinier to a season-ending knee injury…
"Gordinier getting hurt early in the game, it was sad. Any time a guy gets hurt and can't play the rest of the season…they work so hard. There’s so much work between January and now. You get to that moment of truth early in the game, you get hurt and you're out of the season, it's heartbreaking for those guys. That also puts pressure on the rest of the team. [Pat] Bethel jumped in there as the No. 2 on the punt block team and blocked a punt. It came out good for him, but we’ve lost depth across the board on defense and on special teams. We hurt when guys get hurt. We know it’s part of the game. Guys have to rise up. Even that, it puts pressure on your second team, it puts pressure on your scout team, it puts pressure on your special teams. The more attrition you have, the tougher it is for everybody to stay healthy.”