Certainly we're hard at work getting ready to go play the University of Maryland. They're playing great right now, coming off two victories, especially one on the road. Senior defense that's playing great, second only to Florida State in every major category defensively as far as the conference is concerned. Then certainly they're very explosive on offense. Tremendous speed and skill at the wide receiver, tight end position. Be a great challenge for us. But we look forward to the opportunity.
Even though your quarterback is a fifth-year senior, on Saturday he'll be making just his 20th career start. Talk about what you've seen in his play this year.
Certainly he's gotten better each and every game. Last year was his first year starting. We had some growing pains about midway through the year. A lot kicked in.
He started off this year, had a couple of miscues early there in the Tennessee game. But he's come back and played well the last three games he played.
He set a record throwing the ball against Miami. Came back in the second half against Florida State. I think threw for over 200 yards actually when we needed him there mostly in the fourth quarter. Converted three straight fourth-down conversions.
He's very confident right now in what he's doing. Our team has a lot of confidence in him. He's performing at a high level.
Tom, could you talk about the effect of an open date after the big win against Florida State. Would you have liked have gone back into action after that momentum or do you think people would have been talking about that game all week and not concentrating on Maryland?
I think we've had more success here after adversity than we've had success. I think it's better for us to have taken that time off and to let them enjoy themselves a little bit. It was such an emotional victory, especially coming off the heels of a game in Miami that we certainly could have, should have, would have, whatever, against the University of Miami. That helped.
Plus certainly midway through the year we have guys with bumps and bruises, banged up. We're trying to get as healthy as we can as we go back into the second half of the season, six straight ACC games. I think it comes at a pretty good time for us.
If you were listening to Randy Edsall about Stefon Diggs, obviously you've seen film of that Virginia game where he kind of took it over. What kind of thoughts do you have on him?
Certainly you have to know where he is. He's very dangerous in the kicking game. The good thing for us we played Miami, Florida State, who also have guys who are dynamic in the kicking game. I think he probably has as much impact on the conference this year as Sammy Watkins did a year ago coming in at Clemson.
I know our defensive coaches, they're hollering every day at practice pointing out where No. 1 is. He certainly has our attention.
One of the issues that you've been able to manage this year is several injuries on your offensive line. They seem to still be effective. Can you talk about the people who are involved in what's going on there.
Well, I think Jim Bridge did a great job last week against Florida State. We lost three starters. One of them is gone for the year.
Hopefully we can try to get the other two guys back here somewhere the second half of the year. To put that group together and do what they did against Florida State, only giving up one sack, was a great night for those kids. <>P Duran Christophe, who started some last year, started the year in the backup, he was pressed into a starting role. But I think the play of two young guys, Cam Fordham played right guard, we put (Joe) Thuney in, who is a redshirt freshmen at center, Cam Wentz played right guard and center against Florida State, got into a little rotation. Those guys did a great job.
On the other side of the ball in the second half against Florida State, your defense really seemed to come alive. What was the difference between the first half of that game and the second half, and how do you expect that to carry over the second half of the season?
Well, we had some problems getting them adjusted on the sideline in the first half. At halftime we did a better job of getting the defense on the same page of what they were doing.
Once we were able to play some of the Florida State runs better, and the other thing we did better we were able to get pressure on (EJ) Manuel. He got out of the pocket and killed us last year. We contained him better with secondary contain, pressuring him, getting four sacks on him.
Hopefully it's something we can build on and get better at. That's the goal every week, get better in practice and get better each Saturday we play.