At what point did you think this team could be special and at what point did you really start to believe that?
I first saw it during camp, when I first got back from playing baseball this summer. The competitiveness of our team on offense and defense really picked up during practice and that's what I noticed right off the bat. If we stayed healthy that would help. After the UCF game when we pulled that game out as a team I really realized how much of a team we were and how together we were on offense, defense and special teams and as the season went on we played some big games.
When did you start to believe this team could win an ACC Championship? Was it at Georgia Tech or was there a specific time?
I believed that before the season started but I really saw that probably after the Georgia Tech and how we came together as an offense, how we came together as a defense and on special teams during that game. That was definitely a big game for us.
You talked about the intensity of practices during camp. Was that something you noticed being significantly higher than it was at the start of camp last season? Was there a different feeling?
A little bit of both. I think more than anything the leaders on the team, the older guys, really wanted to push the younger guys. And we made sure we did that from day one and practice helps the team out. Practice makes perfect. We're never perfect, but we strive to be great on the field every Saturday.
During the last two seasons it seemed like you had to put up big numbers for the team to be in ball games, but the Central Florida game was very different in that regard. Did that change how you felt about how things had been and then how this team was different?
That's a tough question. Like I said earlier, that was a great team effort for our team and we need that. At the same time, each week we need to do well on offense. That's what we're going to continue to do for the rest of the season.
R.J. Mattes said Monday that he loved the drive late in the second half against North Carolina when you guys were running the ball. As a quarterback, how much did you enjoy that?
It was definitely exciting, but we need to capitalize on that drive though. We didn't do a good job at the end, we were on the two-yard line and went offsides. There is no excuse for that. We have to do a better job there but it is good that we can get first downs running the ball.
When you face a defense like Maryland that likes to mix it up with formations and blitzes, who does that put more pressure on? You, or the offensive line?
Pressure, it's not pressure. We just have to understand what we're doing. That all comes through preparation through the week. We have to prepare well and understand what we're trying to do and understand what the defense is trying to do and recognize and just go from there.
Do you ever talk with any of your baseball teammates? Do they send you an email or anything?
Yeah I get text messages and calls from teammates and coaches. They watch every Saturday, but right now I'm just focused on winning.
Russell, you are the leader of this team, especially on offense. Can you sense how badly your teammates want to win this game Saturday?
Definitely, it's important for us and this program but at the same time you can't put too much pressure on yourself. You have to stay focused on one thing at a time, one play at a time and ultimately see what the end result is. But every day through practice we have to focus and have a great week.
Coach O'Brien mentioned Monday how he was glad you guys weren't in classes all week. Does that help you guys this week?
It helps. It gives us an opportunity to watch a little extra film, an opportunity to relax and get off our feet a little bit because that game was pretty intense. Every play was pretty crazy. This game will be a lot like that too, we know that going into it so we have to be ready for that.
Maryland does a lot of blitzing and so on. You've watched film on them now, do they blitz anymore than any other team you've faced in the ACC? Is there something special about them?
First of all, they have senior leaders and juniors that are really talented players. That gives them an advantage on defense in terms of what they can do. They've been in the system for a little bit. They definitely bring some unique stuff and we have to be prepared for that.
At this time last year Maryland was 2-9, they have to be one of the best turnaround stories in the ACC. From what you've seen on film, how much better are they than a year ago?
Experience has a lot to do with it. They have more experience on offense and defense and that helps. Every year is different, same thing with here. We have to focus on us. It's hard for me to say how much better they are, I think they did a great job last year in terms of defensively. I can't say they did a bad job last year.