Calhoun started by saying having back-to-back Friday games allows the team to get into a rhythm and doesn’t really throw off the weekly schedule.
Quarterback Donald Hammond III, who has an ankle injury, is able to stay engaged with the team at practice from the sideline. Calhoun added that staying dialed in with the team in film study will have a huge impact and provide him an opportunity to reflect and improve even without getting reps at practice.
On UNLV: “you don’t have to be on the field longer than ten seconds to realize they have high-quality, exceptionally-talented football players on both sides of the football.” Calhoun highlighted UNLV’s high profile matchup against USC and their ability to go toe-to-toe with them is a testament to how good the Rebels are this year. Calhoun expects several of the players the Falcons will face this Friday to be playing on Sunday next year.
When asked about why there hasn’t been a 100-yard rusher yet this season Calhoun stated they have had the luxury of spreading the ball around to a lot of great players as the primary reason that hasn’t been achieved.
Injuries on defense were also discussed. Calhoun said they are preparing for any contingency and just want to make sure Air Force has someone ready to step up and fill a hole anywhere on the field. He was specifically referring to possibly moving one of his cornerbacks to the safety position.
Calhoun has been very impressed with his offensive line in particular this season. He believes “both your offensive and defensive lines are kind of the soul of your football team, the drive, the culture, the work ethic. ”
Coach Niumatalolo said Navy has not made a decision on who will start at QB, and will not make that decision until Saturday. Zach Abey is in the mix for the start under center.
When asked how he gets his team back to “Navy Football” Niumat said: “We have had lots of self inflicted wounds. It’s hard enough to win in this league. Eliminating mistakes on offense and getting the ball to the right players is key and even then we still need to make blocks. We have given up too many plays on special teams, we need to stop giving up layups, symbolically speaking. If we turn the ball over and miss assignments, we aren’t going to beat anybody. We just want to give ourselves a chance.”
Niumat, shouldering all of the burden in typical fashion, was quick to take the blame for the teams performance thus far this season: “Yea the guys can play better, but we can coach better too. If our guys are making mistakes then why? Is it too complicated? Are the guys learning in drills? It’s not just players, it’s coaches too, we’re all in this together. We’re still the Naval Academy; we have to bring it every week, we can’t just show up and put our feet up.”
He wrapped by saying “We need to eliminate the mistakes and get better this week. Houston is going to bring it, they haven’t scored less than 41 points; no one has been able to stop them. The game plan is play great defense, but also keep them off the field.”
Offensive coordinator Ivin Jasper said the team “needs to be consistent on offense and put drives together. We gotta block em’, hang on to the football, and make good decisions.”
Running Game Coordinator Ashley Ingram had high praise for his offensive lineman Ford Higgins, who he said “always plays at 1000 miles per hour and plays hard, explosive, and aggressive. He’s played really well and seen almost every snap this season.”
Both Ivin and Ingram had a lot of nice things to say about Houston defensive lineman Ed Oliver. Ingram went so far as to say he’s one of the best players in the country and will definitely draw a lot of attention.
Tre Walker said the younger slotbacks who lost out on a start to Malcolm Perry, who was moved from QB to SB this past Saturday against Temple, need to not take it personally. Walker said they need to use it as an opportunity to get better and show the coaches they are ready for their shot.
Head Coach Jeff Monken expressed his relief at being back home. He discussed the challenges of being on the road, especially when you have to travel cross-country, stating it takes a toll on the team. He added ”It’s just nice to not have to get on a bus on Friday morning and go spend the night at a hotel away from our home city. I think just to dress in our own locker room and play in front of our own crowd and play in front of the Corps of Cadets is really special for us. And playing at Michie Stadium – this is a great place to play college football.”
Monken was disappointed with the slow start the Black Knights had last weekend against San Jose State, but was very pleased with how they bounced back in the second half stating “Fortunately in the second half we got some turnovers and we were able to recover all of those fumbles. That made a big difference as we had a short field then. I was proud to see our guys capitalize on those opportunities, be able to get some scores and be able to come away with a victory.”
He’s also happy with the progress his defense has been making over the course of the season “”I think the defense is getting better. We’re missing fewer tackles. The takeaways on Saturday (were) the difference in the football game.”
Monken was also eager to shower praise on his star quarterback “”I think Kelvin (Hopkins Jr.) has done a great job with our football team. You just don’t know what you’re going to get with a guy in a position for a first time. That’s not exclusive to quarterback, that’s with a lot of positions.” He mentioned he was most proud about how well Hopkins has taken care of the ball so far this year and “(Hopkins has) really shown some toughness and the ability to run out of tackles and that’s been encouraging for us and has helped our offense move the ball.”