We're excited. What a great opportunity, excellent football team coming in. Obviously, really fond of their staff and their head coach Tom O'Brien, one of the best in the business.
Clearly the trademarks of a Tom O'Brien coached football team. If they don't beat themselves, they're number one in the ACC in time of possession. They protect the ball really well in taking it away. I think they have nine takeaways over the last three games and given up only three, averaging about 29 points a game, but really balanced on offense. 150 rushing, 250 passing.
The three inside guys, the center and two guards, (R.J.) Mattes, (Camden) Wentz and (Zach) Allen are over 90 starts between them. I know Coach O'Brien is an old offensive line coach, and that is always his baby, and I know they're big, averaging about 318 pounds and a lot of seniors there.
Got a great trigger man in (Mike) Glennon who has been phenomenal in the last three games. Five T.D.s, zero interceptions. Their core group of running backs, we'll see a number of them. (Sharach) Thornton played an excellent game last week with 145 yards and just a number of receivers that we'll see. (Bryan) Underwood, a T.D. in four straight games. (Tobais)Palmer, (Quntin) Payton, so it's a good group on offense.
On defense, what can you say about them? They're getting off the field 25%. Holding their opponents to 25%. They led the country in interceptions last year, and they have six already experienced safeties. Really, experience where you want it at is the safeties. 37 starts.
They're big, strong and physical up front. They have the biggest defensive ends we've seen all year at 281 and 290. And (Brian) Slay's got 17 starts, and I like their linebackers. Strong, physical, downhill guys.
What can you say about the corners? They're long and (David) Amerson is as good as advertised.
The kicking game, just what you'd expect from Coach (Jerry) Petercuskie. Fundamentally sound. Excellent in coverage. Just did a tremendous job in all the little things. Their kickoff coverage unit is phenomenal. I think their placekicker has hit something like 57 PATs, and they have a vet as a punter as well.
So this is an excellent team coming in. Obviously going to be a great challenge for our program. So with that, I'll open it up to any questions.
Because you guys are in such a good position for the ACC standings and you have such a young team, have you had to remind them it's still early in the race and that consistency is key?
Yeah, I think, Heather, you cover this conference better than anybody. I think you know what I'm trying to teach them is the process.
Because the only way you can win it is to have a process and just go about your business every day and pay attention to detail. That is the only way you defeat complacency is attention to detail. Just all the little tasks that you do every day, just keep checking boxes.
It's way too early to even think about rankings or ratings. They just know this is an excellent team coming in in all three phases: Well-coached, mature, rugged, strong. It's going to be a great challenge for us.
The other question I wanted to ask you with was about the true freshman running back, (Shadrach)Thornton, I think you said was his name. What did you see from him on film? I think he surprised a lot of people?
Well, it was obviously a coming-out party. I think he not only got 145 yards on 21 carries, he showed explosion and burst, and did a great job of passing the line of scrimmage and hitting the powers and zones really good.
Obviously, he's running behind an excellent offensive line, too. So I don't know how much they're going to use those guys in terms of (Tony) Creecy, (James) Washington, Thornton. I know Washington has already started 17 games. But whatever they do, obviously we're going to have to be prepared for all three of them.
Have you had to take any steps or have you taken any steps in making your home stadium a more difficult place for opponents, a more intimidating venue?
Have we? I think we've got to get back to being the type of team that Floridians and the Miami faithful are accustomed to being and get back to that standard. Once we do that, the rest will take care of itself.
We have a great stadium. They've played the World Series there. They've played Super Bowls there. They've played National Championships there. The stadium is not the problem. We've got to take care of our business. We can't make any excuses.
Clearly we had a big win last week, but that's over. Now we have to take on another team and we have to learn how to do that week-in and week-out. That is the challenge for our team, to be honest with you, not the stadium. The fans will come out.
We put a great product out there. We have played meaningful games. The way you make them meaningful is you win, right? We've got to handle that. I've got to do that, and our staff and players have to do that.
But as a coach, do you feel that's part of your job to make that a more intimidating place, and you do that by wining?
I don't think there is any question. Here, again, that's why I wanted to come here. The standard is high. You've got a tremendous -- maybe the best talent pool to choose from in the country. You've got a top 40 institution, a small private school. The best, really dichotomy that you could possibly have in terms of a college town in Coral Gables but access to a world class city.
So we've got to get back to producing the type of team that's our fans are accustomed to. And the rest will take care of itself. It's a great place to play. It's not the place's fault. We have to get back to taking care of business.
Has it been intimidating at all since you've been there?
Has it been intimidating?
I don't think there is any question the Ohio State game last year was probably as loud and intimidating as anyplace I've ever been. It was as passionate and as loud as anyplace I've ever been in my whole career 18 years. I think I said that right after the game. Our fan base turned out and showed up that night for sure.
I'm just wondering. I apologize I didn't get to see the game Saturday. The question I have is when you have a game like that where you blow an early lead, and being totally dominated in the middle of the game, what brought you back? What turned it around?
Stephen Morris and Brandon Linder, and some of the offensive linemen stepped up, Shayon Green, and you have to have the element and three things. You have to have conditioning to withstand them and come back. You've got to have the mental toughness and the unity. And, I think we drew on all three reservoirs in that game.
But I think the biggest difference, to answer your question, the biggest difference was that we learned at Kansas State that if we get to that situation and everybody looks at the clock and trying to do something more than their job, that it just unravels.
I think what we had here was a bunch of guys that said I'm going to do my job six seconds at a time on every play for the rest of the game, and then live with the results. Feel good about living and trusting the results. I think hopefully we walked out of that stadium understanding that.
Statistically it looked like a breakthrough game for (Stephen) Morris. Did it look like that to you from the sideline?
He had a good look. He was confident. I think we protected him well, and certainly some of the throws that he made in the first half could have even had a better game. He would be the first to say he would correct that. Again, I think the biggest thing is staying with the process. Improving every day here. Not having one game high and one game low. Just stay even keeled and keep moving.
Playing so many freshmen, is it tough to get them to play consistently?
One of them is Duke Johnson. I asked you a couple of weeks ago about getting him more touches. I see he's leading the nation in all-purpose yardage. So I guess you're figuring out different ways to get him the ball and get him in play?
Yeah, we're trying to be careful with him because anybody can just say just keep giving him the ball. But the reality is I'm trying to keep his reps down because we are asking him to do a lot.
I think our staff to their credit has done a great job of keeping his overall reps down. Certainly he's playing a lot of football and asking him to do a lot. But I think in the overall scheme of things we want to keep him fresh the whole season and keep making progress.
So our staff has done a good job of keeping his reps down.
It helps having another quality running back like Mike James?
Yeah, those guys have done a good job. Certainly the way Mike played the other day, it's nice to see those two guys complement each other.