Obviously excited for Nik [Sade]... at the same time disappointed he's having to kick so many field goals. Like to turn a lot of those field goals here into touchdowns as we finish our season.
We've got a big game with a team in Duke that's really playing smart football, not beating themselves. Have tremendous playmakers in the return game and at wide receiver, and both quarterbacks that they've played are extremely athletic, and you can tell they're just a well coached team that doesn't beat themselves.
Our players are excited for the challenge. We look forward to going on the road and playing a game that's a rivalry game and focus has been on us. We've been in four of the games we've lost in the fourth quarter, whether it was tied and we were down by a touchdown or less, we know we're close, and we're just going to keep grinding and fighting and find a way to win those close games as we fight down the stretch.
You mentioned you've been close in a bunch of your games. What's it going to take to be able to pull one of these out here in the next couple weeks?
It's just a play here or a play there throughout the games. Each game has been a little different, and whether it's a catch or a throw or a block or a tackle or a defensive back, going up and grabbing one, there's really no single one thing.
It's really just the word finish. We need to finish, and we need whoever the player is at the moment of truth to play with a little bit more confidence and just make that play, and we're close. I mean, the guys had a great practice today.
Outside of this building, a lot of people don't know how hard these guys are working and how they're continuing to stay the course, and it's a process. And when you go through coaching change and injuries and all the things we've gone through, these guys are getting better and they're fighting, and they're going to continue to fight.
I think you said earlier this week that you were going to take a look at both Brandon and Pete this week in practice. How have they looked so far, and is Brandon still going to start this week?
You know, we've still got to keep working those two guys. I'm not going to announce that, but they are both practicing and they're both doing things well. They've both made mistakes and plays throughout the season.
The big thing as a quarterback that we talk with our guys is just managing the game. It's that critical play when things break down; if you can't make a play, you don't have to force a play. Both those guys have learned a lot, I think, in their starts this year. We've got four games to put it together, and we'll just kind of see where it goes.
We've still got two more days to make a decision on that.
I just wanted to ask you, I know this is your first year at State. When you go out on the recruiting trail in state, do you [battle] with Duke very much? They have 28 North Carolinians on their roster. Do you find yourself going after the same kids?
Sometimes. Obviously the higher academic kid, they're going to be recruiting them in state, and their profile, their footprint has to be bigger because of their academics. But we do run into them occasionally, and they do a tremendous job, I think, identifying guys that fit their culture and their academic standard there.
But in the state you run into all kinds of people. There's five of us that are Division I schools, and there's many times that a kid will have an offer from all five.
This is going to be a rare Duke-State matchup, I don't think you play again for another six or seven years. Does this kind of matchup ever have any impact on kids you're both recruiting?
Yes and no. I think if a kid doesn't know our staff and the insides of what we're doing, I think if all they look at is the score of a game and whether we win or lose, that could be a deciding factor.
But if they've been going through this thing with us for the whole year and know us and know our vision and how we're working and what's going on, then maybe not. I think it just depends on the timing of the recruit.
What are the things about Duke that stand out to you? I mean, their offense has been efficient this year, and in some cases from time to time it's been explosive. You say they don't do things to beat themselves.
How do you attack that?
Well, you've got to execute at a high level. You can't give them things because they don't give them to you.
They're dead even on turnover margin. They're second in the league in giving up sacks. They're fifth in scoring offense. They've got the best returner in our conference in Crowder. Their quarterbacks are very efficient in the passing game.
What we have to do is we have to run our system and execute. We have to do the things that we can do well and minimize our mistakes. And when you play a team like Duke, they're going to capitalize on mistakes, and we know that. So we've got to do a good job of not giving them anything, making them earn things, and they are a good finishing team.
I think everybody knows what they've done this year in the fourth quarter. We know it's a four-quarter game regardless of how it starts.
How does their defense in general look to you?
They're sound. They're very sound. They play hard. You see a lot of guys running hard to the football. ,P> The defensive end No.84 Kenny Anunike is an explosive player, nine tackles for loss. Their corner, Ross Cockrell, I know he's banged up, but he's a very good cover guy. But they're sound. They're where they're supposed to be. They don't give up a lot of big plays.
Like I said, they're going to make you earn things. Very rarely are those guys uncovered. They contend catches and you've got to make good throws.