The Gazette's Brent Briggeman talks with Air Force offensive coordinator Mike Thiessen:
Now you get Navy. Do you like this week? Playing a team who knows you so well and who you know so well?
The best team normally wins this game because they’re just better. Nobody’s getting tricked or anything, it’s just a straight up who’s-better type of game and those are fun to be around. There’s a lot on the line and it means a lot to everybody and there’s a lot of pressure and hype. This is as good as it gets.
I realize the quarterback is just one of 11, but right or wrong teams are often defined by their quarterback. Do you feel like this is Nate Romine’s opportunity to get his signature win?
I don’t think he cares about that. We’ll talk about signature seasons when it’s all over, but I’m not sure about signature wins. You can have really good seasons and lose one game along the way. But it certainly means something to every cadet.
He’s won games in four straight seasons. Which one stands out to you?
Army, as a freshman.
Because it was a service academy game?
Because it was our only win, really, when he started a bunch of games. He beat CSU at the end of the year as a sophomore, helped us there. Last year he got hurt against San Jose State. Utah State, you want to talk about signature wins, if the quarterback is the guy you’re looking at we went on the road and beat a really, really, really football team that had an 11-game home winning streak. He’s been in these situations, maybe not many service academy games, but he’s beaten good opponents. But like you said, he’s one of 11.
I’ve seen that called a sloppy win. I wouldn’t say I agree with that just knowing how other teams have struggled there. What did you think?
A little bit. I think the defense played about as good as they’ve ever played, honestly. I thought we were average on offense. I think we did the things that mattered when it came to taking care of the football and scoring. When we got on their side of the field we scored. Other than that, we didn’t run the ball great, we weren’t a great throwing team. We had two big plays, but overall it was not a very efficient game for us on offense.
With the passing game, you’ve talked about having there when you need it. You had the ball with 2 minutes left at the 10 and you came down and scored. Is that what you were talking about?
We were trying to run the clock out and get to halftime. We were on the 10-yard line with two minutes left and they had all three timeouts left. We popped a couple of runs and all of the sudden we’re at the 40-yard line and it’s a different scenario and we are able to take advantage of a throw. But it certainly gives you the ability, absolutely. Those seven points turned out to be pretty big.
Do you think personnel-wise that we’ll see a back emerge in terms of workload and carries?
I think we are who we are right now. I don’t think we’re a team that hands it off to a back 20 times. We’re an option team, which means everybody carries it. We’re a team that plays a lot of guys. We’ve got two fullbacks that roll, we’ve got two tailbacks that roll, two slots that roll, two receivers that roll. Whoever’s in there will get the touch. We’re going to spread it around. It’s going to be a fullback, quarterback, pitchback game.
Should I read anything into Ronald Cleveland starting? Why was that move made?
Because he’s a good player. Just like some weeks Jacobi will start and some weeks Tim will start and some week D.J. will start and some weeks Shayne will start.
But he’s earned that level to where he’s an equal with Tyler Williams? He’s not a backup?