Opening statement: That was a very disappointing loss. You feel like you did a bunch of things that a good defense does. We had some very nice plays. It's kind of frustrating when you continue to give up long plays that keep us from winning or make it very difficult. We go out there and play solid defense and all of a sudden, he bursts out of there. You get a guy out his gap. (It's) partly great execution (by N.C. State) and a one-armed guy (Tony Carter) trying to make a tackle. We had four plays that weren't very good. We had a 65-yard TD run on the second play and we had another 48-yard run. Both of them should have been five-yard gains at the most. We had a couple of calls that put our kids in difficult situations and that wasn't the best defense that we could have been in on the play because of the particular play they ran. We still should have made the tackle and the thing you always say is that you are going to pop out for a few yards but somebody has got to make a tackle. If we don't give up a long one, we have a chance to keep them out of the endzone. When we did that, we did keep them out of the endzone.
Other than that one touchdown we gave up, we gave up another when they took possession on our 37-yard line. The only third-down and long conversion they made all day they made on that drive. It was third-and-thirteen. We ended up giving up a third-down conversion. They make 16 yards and we should have had him stopped. It was a matter of a guy wanting to get a first-down. We had three or four guys on him and he still gets the first down. He drove us. We've got to play with a little more determination than that. If they don't get that than it's fourth and short and they have to decide to go for it or kick.
Other thing we did good was fighting in the fourth quarter. One of the things we had challenged the players with during the week was finishing. We had been doing not so good on finishing the halves – especially the first half. Second quarter we gave up three points and the fourth quarter we gave up no points. We held them to 28 yards on the last three possessions – we blocked two punts and forced a safety. That's about a strong of finish you can have. It's just like we told them coming in, there's going to be five or six plays that determine the game on both sides of the ball and you don't know when they are going to occur – you've just got to make them. You never know what will happen.
We've still got a lot of room for improvement, a lot of things to build on. A lot of people didn't play. One of our starting corners (Gerard Ross) didn't play – he didn't even dress out. We had one that we didn't think could play but he did. (Tony Carter) showed an awful lot of courage to go out there and play strapped down like he was. Then we had some other people banged up and we lose (Kamerion) Wimbley, who is our best pass rusher. Not only did we come out with a loss but we came out losing one of our better players. We don't know his status at this point. They'll do an MRI and it will probably be tomorrow before they get it back.
Our goal was to win the Atlantic Division. That's kind of a hard way to do it for somebody else to get beat so you can get into the championship game but you take it anyway you can get it. The important thing now is we got to get back and learn from our mistakes and become a little sounder and get ready for a strong Clemson team.
Q: How did Trevor Ford do after missing so many ballgames?
A: The first play he was in, he busted a coverage. He had a guy running wide open on third and long when he was in there. That kind of scares you to death. Very calmly and politely…well, there's no use in lying; if he wants to play anymore he's got to do his job. But the first time back in four weeks he's a little rusty. He's played now and that's something to build on. I wish we had played more of the young guys too.
Q: Do you mean more young guys overall?
A: Well, defensive backs. You get in that kind of a ballgame where it's on the line like that and you don't substitute as much as you probably should.
Q: Is J.R. Bryant the only healthy cornerback that you have?
A: He's not even healthy. He's been in a blue shirt (at practice) for three weeks. He's had no contact for three weeks. James (Colzie) is the healthiest guy we've got and he's too slow and fat (laughing).
Q: With all of these injuries, is it sort of a test of will power for your guys now?
A: For some. It's awfully hard to play up to the level you expect of yourself Saturday when you can't go full speed during the week. Even racecar drivers get to have some practice rounds. But that's what we've dealt with and we have to handle it. It's built a very strong mental thing. We're stressing mental toughness. We're not playing as physical right now as we have in the past. We've got guys with shoulder and neck problems. It's hard to stick them in there sometimes. It's like with Carter on that first play. He couldn't wrap that arm. Then later on he goes out there on a field goal block and lays out and lands on his shoulder and he made some nice tackles. People that hadn't experienced that don't really know what courage it takes to go out and play like that. I am really proud of him for that.
Q: How impressed have you been with Brodrick Bunkley?
A: He's played very well all year long. He plays hard. The thing we said when we got started was that we didn't know we were going to have him for sure. He wasn't in shape - mentally or physically - and he has really pushed himself to become a very good football player.
Q: How good of a game was that he had against N.C. State? Not too many defensive tackles end up with 10 total tackles.
A: He'll tell you he didn't have a perfect game. One of the runs, if he had been in his gap he would have made (the tackle). But I don't think he put pads on (any) day last week. It's just been one of those crazy years where we don't really have many healthy bodies. The healthy ones are the guys that I'm real scared to put in.
Q: Is tackling the most disappointing thing to you about the loss?
A: Well, we had fewer missed tackles this week than we did last week. I thought during the game we had a lot more than we did. But we have to consistently get people in the right gap with all of the formation changes, the motion, the shifting. We will have the same thing again this week.
Q: Does it concern you that you have given up a 100-yard rusher in four of the last five games?
A: Well, that doesn't matter. Well, yeah it does. The running status and passing status – winning is the most important thing. We didn't do that. They had eight yards passing at the half. The third quarter was the quarter that got us. They had 10 points and one of the field goals was after they got the ball on the 37-yard line. All you got to do is fall down three times and kick a field goal. The only way you can prevent that is block the kick and we didn't do that. The third quarter when they got their touchdown, we went into our goal line defense a little early and called a blitz on it. Their quarterback hit the guy for the touchdown. We had the same situation and our guy fell down. Our guy was wide open. You got a 14-point difference right there – one falls and one stays up. Those are things…we've just got to fight through it.
Q: On the punt where they called the timeout, it looked like Fred Rouse was pointing out that they were going to fake. What happened on that?
A: I think Sam McGrew was the guy that spotted it. We had several other kids that saw it too. We had a couple of people that alerted us for it. They had (faked a punt) against us in, I think, 2000 that went for a touchdown. Something like 85 yards.
Q: How do you best handle the situation with not having all of your players healthy?
A: You coach them in the meetings and you get them to mirror and watch what's happening. You study film more. It's not like they have never been in a game – of course, J.R. hasn't been in many and neither has Carter. You just have to do it from a different perspective. They don't get to go against the scout team or even the offense. But everybody goes through this. We aren't the only team that has injuries. We are fortunate to have not lost any more than we have.
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