Not anymore. The wins are so good that it doesn't bother me anymore. I think when you get to winning all the time, you start fretting over ugly wins. When you're looking for wins, and you need wins, I think getting them any way, you take them. Look at yesterday. Oklahoma fell. Virginia Tech fell. You could name others that you didn't expect that fell. It's just gotten to where you might lose every time you walk out there nowadays. So in answer to your question, it doesn't bother me anymore.
Can you remember a game where you've been beaten as badly on the stat sheet and still won?
We've had it the other way before. I can't think of any other time like that.
Your last three games this season are against teams that beat you last year. You're not used to being in this position, but how much do you think the kids will think of it? Will you bring it up?
You'd like to bring up anything you think might motivate somebody. If I felt like it would motivate 'em, I'd sure bring it up.
Do you think that after the last two weeks, your team's frame of mind is where you want it to be?
There's no doubt about that. It's to that point. This time a year ago, you couldn't determine who was going to win the ACC championship. You had to depend on somebody else to beat somebody else. Now at least it's in your hands. If you win out you're it. We've got nobody to blame. No matter what happens, if we don't win it, it's in our hands. We don't have to wait for somebody else to do something.
How much do you think your pass rush helped your pass defense in your last two games?
We chose yesterday to cover receivers rather than blitz. I don't think we ever brought over four people. I don't know if we ever brought five all day long. We brought four, sometimes we brought three. Mickey and them felt like, they told me, that they can't afford to blitz this guy (Georgia Tech QB A.J. Suggs). He kills people when you blitz him. The people who have blitzed them, they had really hurt. We didn't blitz much. When you say how much has our pass rush improved, it must have improved a lot, because at least you get in his face, as we did some yesterday, yet only rushing three and four. Maybe it has improved. It's vital if it did.
Well, we think that Montrae Holland is probably one of the best linemen in the country. One of the best on our football team and one of the best in the country. You lose him for the game. Now you take Matt Heinz who is a redshirt freshman and you take Meeks who's a redshirt sophomore. They lack experience. They're good football players, though. They're good prospects. You can just say they lack the experience that we had been playing there all year. I think they must have done a pretty good job. I looked at the film, but I didn't grade the positions. I'd say they're going to grade out -- I'm sure they're going to grade out OK. I'd hope they grade out good or better than good.
You're 10 games into this season. Do you do anything to watch possible fatigue with three more big games left?
I would be on the lookout for that -- definitely. I would definitely be on the lookout for that. But the thing that I'm more concerned with right now is injuries. Boy, you'd hate to have a gob of injuries right now, because you are getting down into the end of the year. You are getting down where you must keep your eye on fatigue. I don't feel like this team is fatigued. I really don't feel like they're close to it. We've kind of managed our time. We had open dates early in the year, and we tried to utilize those in that spot. Right now, I don't think we are a team that's fatigued, but it's something we must keep our eye on. The injuries scare me more.
You probably expected Adrian to struggle more against Tech than against Wake. Can you evaluate his performance Saturday?
You know the thing I like the best is he didn't do anything to lose the game. Go back to two of our top quarterbacks ever. Go back to Charlie Ward. His second game -- we won it, I'm sure, but he had at least four turnovers. I don't even remember who it was. (Clemson in 1992). That was the game we took him down and told him, 'Sit over there Charlie, and watch out whose got what shirts on. We've got dark and we've got light.' Then look back at Weinke's second ballgame. Does anybody remember Weinke's second ballgame? (Six interceptions in the 1998 loss to N.C. State). I think when you start looking at what can happen, the best thing last night is he didn't do anything to get us beat. He missed some open people at times. You wonder if the ones that he missed, he thought he saw somebody in the way and threw over their head just in case. It sure would make me feel good if that was why. You go back to the Notre Dame football game. You have a 10-10 football game and all of a sudden you turn it over four times, and you can't overcome it. Notre Dame, the very next week, turns it over five times, and they can't overcome. What did he do best? He didn't get us beat.
How much of the offensive struggles yesterday do you attribute to Adrian's inexperience and how much had to do with other factors, including Tech's defense?
I tell you, there were three things it had to do with. His inexperience might have been the least one. Let's say one of them was his inexperience. Number two was field position. I can't remember having as bad of field position. I checked our field position when I looked at the film today. The closest we ever came to getting the ball on their end of the field was the 50-yard line. One time we got the ball on the 50. Probably scored. I don't remember if we scored or not. (The possession ended in a punt after three plays for five yards). First time we got it was the nine. The second time we got it was the nine. The third time was the 20. Next time we got it was the 20. The next time we got it was the 28, and I think we scored when we got it on the 28. (The possession lasted two plays and ended in McPherson's 72-yard touchdown pass to Craphonso Thorpe). The next time we got it back to the 21. It went that way the whole second half. We had the worst field position I can ever remember. I can't remember a good field position of getting the ball. That was the second thing. I think the third thing was us calling a pretty conservative game plan, because we were afraid we would turn it over, because of the bad field position. It ended up pretty dadgum -- I'm sitting there nervous, chomping at the bit, and I look back and it was probably the thing to do.
You were able to play a pair of young offensive guards, and get them some real playing time. How important was that? You have less experience returning next year at that position than anywhere.
There's no doubt about it. I wish we were able to play them all more, because again, you lose a lot of these guys next year. We have been able to get Alex Barron a lot of work. We have been getting Ray Willis a lot of work. Nobody else. Now then, you've gotten a couple of guards some work, that'll be back next year. Did our center (backup center David Castillo) get in the game last night? (Castillo played one snap in place of Antoine Mirambeau). You're exactly right. I wish there was some way we could get more playing time in for these guys. We haven't been able to get as much as we'd like. But there's nothing we can do about that.
Yesterday, your defense made a huge play, changing the momentum of a big road game. Do you think Stanford's performance might help this whole team's confidence?
Boy, I tell you, that was beautiful. I think you can put it in perspective this way: had we done that in the Notre Dame game and the Miami game and the Louisville game, we might be undefeated right now. Those are the kinds of plays you're looking for. Had you done it against Louisville, you would have won. Had you done it against Miami, you would have won. Even maybe Notre Dame. That's how important it is.
Because of the way your defense has played in the second half of these games, are you more encouraged than you've been at any point this season?
I would say yes. That's what we've been looking for.
You talked last week about winning the fourth quarter against Wake Forest. You won the second half again this week, shutting out Georgia Tech after halftime. Do you think your defense has started to come around and show the ability to do that consistently.
I think so. You sure hope so. You really can only evaluate it one game at a time. Again, you look at all the upsets yesterday -- why did Oklahoma allow 28 points or whatever they allowed. Why did so-and-so do this. You sure hope so. You sure hope it's the start of something.
You were able to stick with Nick after he got off to a slow start. How important was that to your conservative game plan?
Oh yeah. We'd planned to play Willie Reid a bit more. Willie we think is a real fine prospect, and hasn't been playing much. It's been Greg and Nick. We talked all week to Willie. 'Willie, it's going to be Nick and you. You're going to play the same role that Nick's been playing. When you come in, you're going to have to go without us losing anything. Well, the first series he was in there, we threw to one time and he dropped it. The second time he was in there, he might have run the ball, and he got hurt. So he was out for the rest of the game. Nick really had to carry a lot of the load. We did end up playing Leon Washington some at the end, when Nick got hurt. I don't know what the status of Willie is right now. (Reid suffered a separated shoulder. His status for Saturday's game against North Carolina is unknown). That scares me.
Have you given any thought to what's going on in Chapel Hill? They beat you 41-9 last year and have really struggled this year. Have you followed that at all last year?
Well, no, I haven't. I just started looking at them. I looked at them a little bit today. Of course, you see a team that lost nearly everybody on defense. They really got decimated on defense through graduation. Then you lose your quarterback. Something like that can cause that to happen. That's the only thing I can think of.
Do you get a sense of your players' feelings about the revenge factor heading into this game?
Losing that game like they did -- you sure hope so. Again, I will not approach it as a redeeming type of thing. If they were 8-0 you might throw that in there. But they're not having a real good year. The thing we must be careful with is let's not have happen to us what happened to Oklahoma yesterday.
When you look at the league this year, and the upsets that have occurred, what does your undefeated record in the league tell you about your team?
I nearly hate to say it, but I'm going to say it anyway. If we could win out, we're going to look back and say, 'Golly, we could have beat Miami, we could have beat Louisville, we could have beat Notre Dame.' If we had just done better, it was there. It's not like we got beat 51-7, like we did last year, or whatever the score was. We haven't won out yet. These wins like Georgia Tech, they're going to look mighty pretty at the end of the year when you post them up there. People don't realize how you won it. They're going to look pretty good.
You said earlier that you were convinced that anybody could lose any Saturday. Do you think players understand that?
Some of 'em probably do, but I'll bet you a lot of them don't. I failed to mention, I think the biggest upset of the day would have been if Notre Dame would have lost to Navy. Navy's having a terrible year. From what I understand, they led Notre Dame the whole game. Anyway, that does fall in the category. Do your kids realize. Again, let's use Notre Dame as an example. They lose to Boston College and they nearly lose to Navy. They must be having a hard time realizing it could happen even after it already happened. I think some of them do have a hard time with that.
The field position you talked about earlier, can you attribute some of that to penalties?
Yeah. Both of us. It seemed like every time one of us kicked to the other, especially punts, it ended up as a penalty. One of the reasons is -- ol' Peter Warrick is probably one of the best return men we've ever had here. And every time he ever ran one we got a penalty. The reason is, he changed direction so many times. He changed direction so good, and so easy, that about the time you're fixing to nail a guy, the runner changes direction, so the guy you're trying to block turns around all of a sudden and you get him in the back instead of the front. The guy we have can change directions pretty good, and the guy they had, boy, he was a good change-direction man.
What will you do behind Nick if Willie Reid is out for a while?
We'll have to get Leon Washington ready to go behind him, and get Tommy Clayton ready to go behind him. If that got bad, we'd have to move one of those fullbacks back there and go to a one-back set. We've had to do that in the past, but not lately.
When you talked to Stanford last week after his return from suspension, was he remorseful?
Yeah. He was very -- for getting in the doghouse, he was remorseful about that immediately, and very evidently. He did everything he was supposed to do to get out of the doghouse.
He's one of your most outspoken players. When you see him talking, do you want to try to quiet him for his own good?
That didn't have any bearing on his suspension, but sometimes I'd rather for them not to talk. Sometimes he's good, sometimes he's not real good on his comments.
Has any information emerged on the robbery of your locker room?
That's the first time I can remember that with our team. Andy Urbanic is on that pretty good. The good thing is they (Georgia Tech) had insurance on everything.
Going back to Adrian, how important is it for you to go back this week and have a less-conservative game plan before the tough stretch that comes up in the weeks ahead?
We need to be able to play our game this week. We need to be able to play our game. A lot of it will be field position, because there's no sense in just throwing a ballgame away. Remember, I told you right after the Notre Dame game, if I had it to go over with, any time I was backed up inside my 20, I believe I'd run it and just punt out. That was because of field position. I hope we get decent field position this week so we can go ahead and air it out and do the things we want to do with the football.
Could you talk about Adrian's escapability? He ran away from a sack or two against Tech?
That is really good. That is something that is innate. If you don't have that innate ability, it might take you three years to learn it. Especially getting stripped from behind. He got stripped from behind at least twice yesterday. When he decided to run, the guy caught him from behind and took a good whack at the ball -- which is very smart. Every time we watch television, we see somebody coughing it up because of that. He didn't give it up a time. That is good. Your qualification of innate has a lot to do with it. He just happens to do it that way.
Adrian's ability to throw the ball away and avoid turnovers has impressed a lot of people. Is that something you coach into a player, or is that just something a player understands?
I think, when we threw the ball -- I remember two times in a row where he threw the ball. One time we threw an out and he threw it way short. Next time he threw a corner and he threw it way over his head. I haven't asked him, 'Did you see something there that made you do that?' I do know this: when we were throwing from the position we were throwing, his backfield coach would talk to him on the phone, warning him, whatever you do, don't throw an interception. Whether that affected his over-cautiousness, I don't know. It might have, or it might have been he just missed 'em a couple of times.